Saturday, December 30, 2006

I'm the first mammal to wear pants, yeah

#10 - Live On Two Legs (Pearl Jam) 1998

I wrestled with this one for a long time...Admittedly not an "original" Pearl Jam fan, my first encounter with Mookie Blalock was a "Ten" t-shirt worn frequently by a girl in high school that I wanted to date (but never did). Fast forward to the spring semester of my sophmore year in college where a new roommate carried a dusty collection of "old" Pearl Jam albums, including this gem. Always a fan of the grunge, Ten hit me like news of a long-lost brother: How could I have missed this in my high school years? How sheltered was I? Spending weeks listening and sifting through his collection, I was mezmerized by Vedder's "highly distinctive timbre" and the raw, live energy that was captured on this album. How I wish I could have seen Pearl Jam live during their heyday! Several of the songs on "Two Legs" sound best captured here live, but none more than Do The Evolution, which loses it's true angst when it is distorted and disfigured on Yield. It's as brilliant a song (and as scary) as Off He Goes is beautiful, and ironically I put Vedder up there with Sting as some of the most vivid story tellers in music. Pearl Jam was (is?) a true existential band, always emotional, in the moment, never leaving anything on the table. That's exactly how I enjoy this album...
Top Tracks: Hail Hail, Red Mosquito, Off He Goes, Betterman

Many years have passed since those summer days...

#11 - Ten Summoner's Tales (Sting) 1993

Of all my top 25 albums, this one has been in my possession for the longest amount of time. I owe my affection for his work to my stepmother, who has been a long-time fan. I remember hearing Fields of Gold for the first time during a mid-inning break at a Braves game in 1993. It instantly (and secretly) became my swoon song for all of my 15 minute infatuations during middle school. It still is, and like so much of Sting's work, this album exemplifies his unmatched ability to craft song around story.
Top Tracks: Fields of Gold, It's Probably Me

Friday, December 22, 2006

Fighting the Yule-tide Snubbery...

#17 and #16, Bing Crosby- White Christmas and Oak Ridge Boys- Christmas

Two family favorites that are rich in nostalgic and sentimental value. On his album, Bing sings many of the Christmas classics (White Christmas, I'll Be Home for Christmas, Silver Bells) and also throws in a hidden gem (Christmas in Killarney). The Oak Ridge Boys are a classic four-part barber shop style band with a flair of rock-and-roll and lots of Christmas creativity. My favorite tracks are Little One, Christmas is Paintin' the town, and Santa's Song. It is safe to assume that one of these two albums will be filling the Courter airwaves during Christmas time.

Now I can already hear the question being asked, "Is the 4-days until Christmas spirit clouding his judgment of these albums?" Rest assured that I have asked myself that same question and the answer was "No." I also asked myself whether these albums would be included in a mid-summers top 25 countdown and the answer was "Oh Yeah."

To omit them because of the proximity to the Christmas holiday would be Yule-tide snubbery.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

# 11 - Caedmon's Call - Caedmon's Call

I swore that I was through with terrible Christian subculture that had become part and parcel of existing in the South. I wasn't leaving the faith, but I damn-sure wasn't wearing the t-shirts or listening to the God-awful music. Then I found Caedmon's Call.

Caedmon's came to Union in February '96 when I transferred into Union. My roommate was a talented musician and had corresponded with the more ornery songwriter of the large group. I went to their show and was shocked at the sadness, or at minimum, the tempered expectations that filled their songs. This bunch sang about real things: Breakups, dealing with a friend's suicide, the oppressive expectations placed upon young believers. I could get with this.

Three vocalists (Derek Webb, Cliff and Danielle Young) nicely blend with an array of talented musicians. Acoustic-driven with plenty of B3 (I think) and Gwar-like stage theatrics (kidding).

Derek Webb remains one of my favorite songwriters, even more so after he left Caedmon's about 4 years ago. He continues to talk about racism, poverty, Darfur, torture, etc., in his solo work, and Caedmon's has never been the same since his departure.

They wrote sad songs, hopeful songs, but most importantly for a "pie in the sky" industry, they wrote sober songs. I needed that at 19 and probably still need that. Webb, Andrew Peterson, and others continue that tradition, but it was Caedmon's Call that saved me from the likes of both Ray Boltz and Sister Hazel, which is reason enough to rejoice.

# 12 - Faithless Street - Whiskeytown

Because I'm not as well-versed as many of this blog's participants, I was unaware of the concept, genre, what-have-you of alt-country. I found it in Whiskeytown, probably a few years after everyone else. "Faithless Street" has 21 tracks of pure country gold. Lots of drinking and heartache, plenty of references to Tennessee and baseball parks - what more do I need?

"Faithless Street" has accompanied me on every roadtrip I've taken to East Tennessee, and it is a near perfect, road-tested album.

Favorite tracks: Midway Park, Faithless Street, Lo-Fi Tennessee Mountain Angel.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

now it's autumn

there was something in the air. it was fall, and finally starting to feel like it. the chill that night brought was just enough to make you want to stand a little closer to that college cutie that smiled at you every time you stumbled into your advanced acting course late.

i was a theatre major at james madison university. this meant your life consisted of arguing politics, competing with your friends to see who could make the most obscure mix tape for your friends, and skipping class to sleep because you had just spent the entire night in the theatre hanging lights, learning lines or directing and had every intention of doing it all again tonight.

i was walking home, through that brisk air, back to my apartment. there were five of us, five actor/director/tech guys, so our domicile became the unofficial hangout of the theatre department (not the musical theatre department. they spent their time drinking smirnoff and working out harmonies to songs that dont need harmonies: "hey ya!" is a fine example), and i contribute this solely to the fact that, since there were five roommates, one of us was always awake at any moment of the day or night. we never locked the door. people would just stroll in and see who was awake. you quickly lose your sense of shame when your friends and acquaintances are always walking into your room unannounced, but youre never i guess it all balances out.

as i approached my apartment, i noticed the glow of candles coming from my place: andrew, the sunshiny-rainbow that he is, was having a get-together. but i heard this beat. this soul-singer vocal, and a familiar voice. my stride immediately synced up to this song. it was the soundtrack to right-then-and-there.

when i walked inside, i just sat down. i didnt say hi. i didnt say anything. i sat next to the stereo and listened to this entire record start-to-finish. it was amazing. i, just like everyone else in the world that has ever seen an eighties movie or heard the radio, had probably tapped my foot to their biggest single many parties before. but i had never given them another thought after their eight-minute dance classic had ended, and the next familiar tune started blasting through our hosts craptastic stereo speakers.

i previously listed "gran turismo"as being one of the most influential records on the way i think about writing and recording music, but the record playing in my ears as i sat on our hand-me-down couch would forever change the way i think about a songs' driving force; the rhythm.

the way this band shapes the songs backbone, the drums and percussion--drum machines weaving in and out of an acoustic trap set played by an actual person--the way everything bounces in and off of the song, angered me. i got so upset that i had never thought of it before. i was perplexed by it. it's so intelligent. it's not just 'kick-snare-kick-snare' and hi-hats all the while. it became so obvious that there's so much more to it, to the point that this interplay between samples and live drums became the model that i based the percussion in MY programming for the sad lives on; working very closely with a drummer to use the rhythm as a springboard for dynamics in a song.

in a tv interview, the singer was once asked who the laziest member of his band was. when he replied "ian curtis," the audience booed.

but he was right. joy division was so alive. so intense. so real. so delicate, yet powerful. but when he died, the band that he left in his wake was unsure of itself. they were uncomfortable in their new roles, and it showed for a very long time. it's my opinion that it wasn't until my number 8 record came out that they really knew how to be themselves. for once, they were actually sure of themselves and proud to be New Order.


NEW ORDER-get ready

RELEASE DATE: October 16, 2001
LABEL: Reprise / Wea

Does love light up your Christmas tree?

#12 - Pop (U2) 1997

This was the album no one liked...except me. With some of the catchiest melodies within the U2 catalog, Pop stands out as an album that takes chances. The lyrics are some of the best Bono has ever penned, and the disco-driven rock stands out well above their peers.

Favorite Tracks: Discotheque, If God Will Send His Angels, Gone, Please.

I have held the hand of the devil...

#14 - U2, The Joshua Tree (1987)

Overly earnest
Still good after all these years
Despite Edge's hat

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Best 30 Records of 2006: A Cougar's Tale

So it's yet again time for another list. Here are my Top 30 albums of 2006 for your perusal. I hope all have wonderful holidays. May your Christmas money be spent at the record store. And may there be just enough left for one special gift for one special guest.

#30 Skelliconnection, Chad VanGaalen, Sub Pop
Quirky pop culled from hundreds of basement tapes. Beck meets Elliott Smith in the city of the future.

#29 Get Yr Blood Sucked Out, Viva Voce, Barsuk
Post-christian indie couple, burned by labels both record and religious, craft '70s anthems worth their mettle. Think Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, and a little Beatles.

#28 Super Extra Gravity, The Cardigans, Nettwerk
Adult contemporary chanteuse invents the warmest pop of their oeuvre, yet still keeps you dancing on a razor's edge. Evidently, not for everyone.

#27 Carnavas, Silversun Pickups, Dangerbird Records
Remember how awesome listening to the Pumpkins' Siamese Dream was the first time? This comes close.

#26 Blue Collar, Rhymefest, J Records
Kanye-protege uses Chicago shoutouts, mad samples, and visits from Q-Tip, ODB, & Kanye to put the rap game in a chokehold. Sampling "Someday" from The Strokes is genius on "Devil's Pie."

#25 Water Everywhere, Big Buildings, Stars/No Stars
Take a pinch of The Replacements, two teaspoons of Uncle Tupelo, and two cups of IRS era REM. Bake for 34 minutes at 420 degrees for roots rock perfection.

#24 Kill Them with Kindness, Headlights, Polyvinyl
Dainty girl vocals meet up-tempo synths, driving electric guitars, and a few moments of quiet introspection. For fans of Stereolab and Blonde Redhead.

#23 Remember the Night Parties, Oxford Collapse, Sub Pop
Stuttering math rock from Brooklynites not afraid to toss back a few cold ones before kicking your ass. A nice celebration of The Minutemen and early emo in a 21st-century kind of way.

#22 Post-War, M.Ward, Merge
As Sarah so eloquently put it, M's voice is "croaky, sexy, delicious." If that doesn't send you to the record store, I don't know what will.

#21 Be He Me, Annuals, Ace Fu
Barely 20 year old Brian Wilson-esque musical genius crafts an album of pure pop synergy. It helps that he's from the Triangle in NC.

#20 Game Theory, The Roots, Def Jam
Anger and spittle mix with the Roots best instrumental output yet. Radical, dark critique of a post-Katrina US scene.

#19 Fading Trails, Magnolia Electric Co., Secretly Canadian
Recalling lush Western mountain ranges, Jason Molina's tales of woe alternate between solo material and full band jams. Impassioned as Neil Young but not as morose as Songs:Ohia.

#18 Boys & Girls in America, The Hold Steady, Vagrant
Once sing-songy party rock now moves to more respectable territory to rock your socks off. True wank rock for the masses.

#17 Return to Cookie Mountain, TV on the Radio, Interscope
First major label release for these boys from NYC is far from a disappointment. One of the more unique rock offerings of the year.

#16 The Loon, Tapes n'Tapes, ibid records
I wanted to fight liking this Pitchfork-hyped band for a long time. Turns out I ended up seeing them bring their Pixies-like rock three times over this last year and that about sealed the deal for me.

#15 Honey from the Tombs, Amy Millan, Arts & Crafts
Half of the songwriting power of Stars strikes out on her own with a collection of songs from her past. Her self-described "dirty country/toxic roots" ends up sounding pretty sweet.

#14 Gulag Orkestar, Beirut, Ba Da Bing!
Another youthful pop-writing genius composes an Eastern European-inflected reverie. Comparisons to Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control are approved and encouraged.

#13 Cities, Cities, Yep Roc
Chapel Hill post-punk purveyors grind out Arthur Koestler-approved mini-films. Holla if you like Interpol.

#12 The Crane Wife, The Decemberists, Capital
Picaresque is really hard to trump. This didn't do it, but it still turned out incredibly catchy and well-composed.

#11 Hell Hath No Fury, Clipse, Jive
Pharrel Williams endows the Re-up gang with late-night AM beats and rhumba drums. If anybody knows what a wamp, wamp is, give a shout out.

#10 The Greatest, Cat Power, Matador
Chan Marshall's "worst" is still high on my list because she's, let's face it, magical. Adding a full backing crew of Memphis musicians brings the rhythm AND the blues to her smoky voice.

#9 Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, & Wives EP/Your Biggest Fan EP, Voxtrot, Playlouder Recordings
Two EPs from Austin sextet make you dance, make you sweat, and rarely use distortion. Just like the Smiths, just like the Shins, just like heaven.

#8 Today is Tonight, The Changes, Drama Club Records
The best new thing in Chicago isn't the Trump Tower. The Police and Duran Duran roll snake eyes.

#7 Sorry About the Flowers, Venice is Sinking, One Percent Press
Athens collective record a somber ode to a brother's passing. Fight off the tears with viola, cello, violin, and sweet keys.

#6 Broom, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Polyvinyl
The best-named new band of 2006 aren't afraid to say their three favorite bands are Weezer, Nirvana, and The Beatles. Mine are too! Let's be friends!

#5 Knives Don't Have Your Back, Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton, Last Gang Records
Another part of the Broken Social Scene group offers a solo project consisting of melancholy piano ballads on everything from disillusioned '60s revolutionaries to frat-boy husbands. Way different than Metric...but in a good way.

#4 Everything All the Time, Band of Horses, Sub Pop
Surprisingly earnest and straight forward rock gives nods to both the Pacific Northwest and the South. "The Funeral" is the best song of 2006, hands down.

#3 Ladyhawk, Ladyhawk, Jagjaguwar
Canuck four piece churns '70s guitars while channeling Neil Young and Dinosaur Jr. Excellent rock tunes with a dynamite hit in "The Dugout."

#2 Ys, Joanna Newsom, Drag City
The holy triumvirate of Van Dyke Parks, Steve Albini, and Jim O'Rourke all contribute to a production of strings and percussion that wrap sweetly around Newsom's angelic harp play and restrained vocal melodies. "Sprout and the Bean," while good, is about two hundred light years behind this.

#1 Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, Neko Case, Nonesuch
Fascinating song structure, siren melodies, and astute lyrical content detail this experiement in beautifully morbid country. Time will prove this as one of the best records of the 21st-century's first decade.

Urbane Hymners = Film Stars

Far be it from this Master to not support his followers, even if the subject is off the topic of music. Fellow Urbane Hymners Saucerocket and Captain Ultra have both written and starred in some fantastic internet productions that will both tantalize and tickle the senses. Please enjoy responsibly.

Sacerocket's n-tara Behind the Scenes - Go here to check out outtakes afterwards.

Captain Ultra's The Defenders of Stan series - Look for a Christy brother cameo in #2.

The Defenders of Stan, Episode 1
The Defenders of Stan, Episode 2
The Defenders of Stan, Episode 3

"I'm damaged bad at best"

#12 either/or, Elliott Smith, Kill Rock Stars, 1997

Once again, a Bowman mixtape led me to the promised land. On Side B of the gem I've already mentioned that featured Cat Power's "Metal Heart" was an acoustic ballad with an edge: "So now you see your first mistake was thinking that you could relate." The quiet, smoke-filled voice oozed apathetic insight, yet hinted at an ocean-sized sensitivity. The song was "Alameda" from 1997's either/or but it took me until 1998 to pick up the record. By that time, Smith's first Dreamworks release, XO, was out as well, and I picked both of them up at the only record store in the Johnson City mall over the summer. While XO is really really good (might we see it end up on some other list?!?), its production level is much grander than the subtler, four-track feel of either/or. From the moment the click of the record button starts "Speed Trials" until the muted optimism of "Say Yes" subsides, Smith recounts episode after episode of drunken failure and stilted love with misanthropic genius. "Ballad of Big Nothing" brings thick bass and drums to taunt the listener: "Do what you want to whenever you want to, there's no one to stop you." Perhaps prophetically, Smith decries his future, post-suicide idolization on "Pictures of Me": "So tired of all these pictures of me/Oh everybodys dying just to get the disease." The forlorn love of "Between the Bars" and the nihilistic edge of "No. Name #5" and "Punch and Judy" challenge the American success story and offer a different, heart-wrenching vision. Such a vision is complete in the masterpiece "Rose Parade," which follows the protagonist as he stumbles through the crowded streets of Pasadena, mocking the band players, trading smokes for food stamps, and wryly observing "when they clean the streets I'll be the only shit that's left behind." Opener "Speed Trials" gets stuck in your head and doesn't leave for days: "it's just a brief smile crossing your face/running speed trials standing in place." Both "Alameda" and "Angeles" received their much deserved fame when Gus Van Sandt utilized Smith's tortured songs for Good Will Hunting, helping that film gain indie cred and catapulting Smith into the limelight as he got a Grammy nod for "Miss Misery." In 2003, I found out right before leaving work that Smith had committed suicide. That day I went home and played this record for several hours, listening in shock and wishing that someone could have broken through to him. either/or offers a glimpse into his sadness and depression through a raw beauty that both challenges and soothes, and I'm thankful that, despite the fact that he is gone, his records are still very much alive.

"Tell Sir Thomas More we've got another failed attempt"

#13 Chutes Too Narrow, The Shins, Sub Pop, 2003

In the winter of 2001 I picked up an LP I had been eyeing for some time at Radiofree and made one of my few "cover-based purchases" a la Captain Ultra. The record was Oh Inverted World and I immediately wished I had purchased the CD as well. It was the perfect work album - dainty pop with occasional '60s rock outburst and wonderfully impenetrable lyrics, all of which I could only enjoy on the confines of my stereo. Three years later, seemingly everyone was abuzz about this album due to a Zach Braff/Natalie Portman induced Shins fervor and I couldn't help laughing a bit, mostly because, though I think Oh Inverted World is solid (it made my Top #35), I thought their best record was the relatively recent Chutes Too Narrow.

Far from a sophomore slump, Chutes might just be the best rock soundtrack to the first half of the double aughts, despite it's absolutely atrocious cover and booklet art. I honestly can't think of an album I played more at work in 2003-2004 than this record. At just over 33 minutes, it was the perfect album to spin waiting on the lunch break or when you were counting down the minutes to 5 o'clock and could soak up some retro-pop genius. Speaking of great side one track ones, "Kissing the Lipless" is a doozy, critiquing soured friendships over great acoustic pop. The Shins cover all kinds of genre territory here too - rockabilly ("Fighting in a Sack"), roots country ("Gone for Good"), '50s surf ("Turn A Square"), and synth pop ("Mine's Not A High Horse"). My favorite two tracks, though, are "So Says I" and "Saint Simon," both of which, with their allusions to socialism, violent statism, and religion, spoke volumes to me as I moved from a strictly religious worldview to a political one. In "So Says I" James Mercer strikes at the ironic heart of failed statist communism: "Because it made no money, nobody saved no one's life," and then further explores the truth uncovered by totalitarian logics, a truth equally valid in our world of free markets and "healthy" competition: "We are a brutal kind." With "Saint Simon" he takes a softer approach, both lyrically and musically, where a personified Mercy offers some comfort to disillusioned dogmatists, respecting the end of their idealism. Mercer's lyrics resonate with me in a profound way: "Since I don't have the time nor mind to figure out the nursery rhymes that helped us out in making sense of our lives/the cruel uneventful state of apathy releases me/I value them but I won't cry every time one's wiped out." For those tired of the Garden State Shins AND the back and forth of the weekly grind to make the Man's dollar, I would highly suggest Chutes Too Narrow.

Recaps in Your Ass #2: #20-#16

It's time, homey. Pump your brakes, drive slow, and check out the second in a series of Recaps in your ass, focusing on #20-#16.

Big Cougar

#25 Death Cab for Cutie, We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes
#24 Iron & Wine, Our Endless Numbered Days
#23 The Arcade Fire, Funeral
#22 Starflyer 59, The Fashion Focus
#21 The Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs Vol. I
#20 Belle and Sebastian, If You’re Feeling Sinister

#19 Radiohead, Kid A
#18 Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
#17 The Decemberists, Picaresque
#16 Cat Power, You Are Free

Papa Shoegaze
#25 Simon & Garfunkel, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, & Thyme
#24 Shalabi Effect, s/t
#23 Godspeed You Black Emperor, F#A# Infinity
#22 Khonner, Handwriting
#21 Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions, Bavarian Fruit Bread
#20 Sigur Ros, Agaetis Byrjun

#19 Do Make Say Think, s/t

#18 Animal Collective, Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished

#17 The Clientele, The Violet Hour

#16 Dungen, Ta Det Lundt

Captain Ultra
#25 Johnny Cash, American V: A Hundred Highways
#24 These Arms Are Snakes, Oxeneers Or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home
#23 Joy Electric, Hello Mannequin
#22 The Refused, The Shape of Punk to Come
#21 A-Camp, s/t
#20 Karen Ann, Not Going Anywhere

#19 Radiohead, Kid A/Amnesiac

#18 Morrissey, You Are the Quarry

#17 Blur, Think Tank
#16 Sigur Ros, Agaetis Byrjun

Country Roads
#25 Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon
#24 Bob Dylan, Slow Train Coming
#23 Simon & Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water
#22 Tom Petty, Into the Great Wide Open
#21 Billy Joel, Piano Man
#20 Vangelis, Chariots of Fire Soundtrack
#19 Genesis, We Can’t Dance
#18 Jim Croce, I Got A Name

#25 The Unicorns, Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone?
#24 Counting Crows, August and Everything After
#23 Bright Eyes, Fevers & Mirrors/Letting Off the Happiness
#22 Nirvana, Nirvana MTV Unplugged in New York
#21 Green Day, Dookie
#20 Joe Christmas, North to the Future
#19 Weezer, Pinkerton
#18 Pedro the Lion, It’s Hard to Find A Friend
#17 Karate, The Bed is in the Ocean
#16 The Beatles, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band

Lucky Strikes
#25 The 77s, 88 (live)
#24 Sixpence None the Richer, This Beautiful Mess
#23 Smashing Pumpkins, Adore
#22 Beck, Guero
#21 The Verve, No Come Down
#20 Red House Painters, Ocean Beach
#19 The Prayer Chain, Shawl
#18 Soundgarden, Superunknown
#17 Richard Ashcroft, Alone with Everybody
#16 The Prayer Chain, Mercury

#25 Public Enemy, Apocalypse 91…The Enemy Strikes Back
#24 Beastie Boys, Paul’s Boutique
#23 New Radicals, Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too
#22 Maxwell, Now
#21 U2, Rattle & Hum
#20 Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On
#19 Andrew Peterson, Love & Thunder
#18 Elliott Smith, Songs from a Basement on a Hill
#17 Ryan Adams, Jacksonville City Lights
#16 Over the Rhine, Drunkard’s Prayer

Sean B
#25 Warrant, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich
#24 Explosions in the Sky, The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place
#23 Joanna Newsom, The Milk-Eyed Mender
#22 The Kinks, The Kinks are The Village Green Preservation Society
#21 Kronos Quartet, Kronos Quartet performs Phillip Glass
#20 Pearl Jam, Ten
#19 Four Tet, Rounds
#18 Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
#17 The Lucksmiths, Why That Doesn’t Surprise Me
#16 Sleater-Kinney, The Hot Rock

#25 Various, Judgment Night Soundtrack,
#24 Tom Petty, Full Moon Fever
#23 John Williams, The Empire Strikes Back Soundtrack
#22 They Might Be Giants, Flood
#21 Stone Temple Pilots, Core
#20 Run DMC, Down with the King
#19 King’s X, Dogman
#18 Various, O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack
#17 Creedence Clearwater Revival, Willy and the Poor Boys
#16 Blues Traveler, Four

Sugar Mama
#25 Manitoba, Up in Flames
#24 Denison Witmer, Safe Away
#23 Boston, s/t
#22 REM, Automatic for the People
#21 Beatles, Magical Mystery Tour
#20 Dungen, Ta Det Lungt

#19 Sinead O’Conner, I do not want what I haven’t got
#18 Simon & Garfunkel, Wednesday Morning, 3 AM
#17 The Cardigans, Gran Turismo
#16 Kings of Convenience, Riot on an Empty Street

#20 The Cars, The Cars
#19 Tracy Chapman, s/t
#18 Beulah, The Coast Is Never Clear
#17 REM, Document
#16 Spoon, Kill the Moonlight

#25 Belle & Sebastian, Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant
#24 Indigo Girls, s/t
#23 M. Ward, End of Amnesia
#22 Sage Francis, A Healthy Distrust
#21 Sleater-Kinney, One Beat
#20 Bjork, Post

Everything's different now...everything, even the sun.

#12 - Glow, The Innocence Mission

This was the first Innocence Mission CD that I owned and it is still my favorite. Although Don and Karen Peris still make beautiful music without the drums, I am attached to the songs which include them. There is never any complex rhythm, they just keep the beat and add a bit of wakefulness to their sleepy style. (I also love the sleepy style) This is even personified in the lyrics of the first song, Keeping Awake - "Oh, I'm near to sleeping but I'm keeping awake." (This line is followed by Cougar's favorite imitation of them, "Hearing your voice in the house...") I also enjoy the way the tempo affects Don's slide guitar. It is always dreamy, but in these songs, it is lively somehow. This is quite unique for slide which is usually lazy.

For the few short months in which Sandra Lou performed, we had several people make comparisons between us and The Innocence Mission. I think they were referring to the sound of this album. To me, this was one of the greatest compliments anyone could have given us.

#11 - Wilderness, Archer Prewitt

This one came out of nowhere. I had heard of, but never listened to The Sea and Cake. Then I heard a few selections from this album online and I was hooked. We purchased this while I was pregnant and I feel like it was the soundtrack of our lives for those 9 months. The opening track, "Way of the Sun", is one of my favorites. No one else could pull off an "Ave Maria" in a pop song. The lyrics include honest, thoughtful critiques of humanity , "No one seeks a victim like a man...taking all that's precious from the land.", mixed with love songs that are too cool to be love songs, "I liked the way she was shy. Walking around with the sun in her eyes." Although it is mostly acoustic, he adds enough flair to keep me interested. The drums come in at just the right time, the organ plays a few chords to fill the empty space, the slide guitar is haunting...simple, yet beautiful. I'm not sure if its nostalgia (remembering my former life) or pure appreciation of it, but I am in love with this album.

15 -The Who - Who's Next (1971)

A commentary in (bastardized) haiku

Moon a drum god
Won't get fooled again
Synths rock

Monday, December 18, 2006

possibly maybe probably love

Album : Post Bjork
My favorite memories of this album consist of riding around in the White Nissan with Didge and Slater. Not my coolest moments, but this album captured some of the frustration I felt caught between Brandon's academic world and a thankless job with the family from hell.
Army of Me - "And if you complain once more / you'll meet an army of me" Very electronic and futuristic...for 1995. Sometimes I'd be singing this to the boys, sometimes to their never satisfied mother.
Hyper-Ballad - Brush-y and soft. Still electronic. "We live on a mountain / right at the top / there's a beautiful view / from the top of the mountain/ every morning I walk towards the edge / and throw little things off / like/ car-parts, bottles and cutlery / or whatever I find lying around / it's become a habit / a way / to start the day / I go through all this / before you wake up / so I can feel happier / to be safe up here with you"
It's Oh So Quiet - The boys especially loved this song. It made them laugh every time. They loved the the big band crescendo as Bjork belts out the chorus "You blow a fuse / zing boom / the devil cuts loose / zing boom / so what's the use / wow bam / of falling in love" If my ear doesn't deceive me, I believe there are a lot of woodwinds in this song and it's an especially nice touch.

oh you want to tempt her with your dirty rock n' roll

Sometimes you need an album that's big enough to cover all your anger and disbelief with the world's sad state of affairs. Sometimes you need an album that reminds you that girls don't just sing in hushed tones, filling all those boys with secret longings. Sometimes you need an album that kicks ass. So thank the lord that Sleater-Kinney has got this covered.

Album : One Beat

Best Songs - I like them all but these especially:

One Beat - That intro drumming and guitar, so cadenced and militaristic, with the the shrieks and squeals of the vocals create such tension. "Your word for me is fusion / But is real change an illusion / Could I turn this place all upside down / And shake you and your fossils out / If I'm to run the future / You've go to let the old world go / Could you invent a world for me / I need to hear a symphony"

Combat Rock: "Where is the questioning where is the protest song? / Since when is skepticism un-American? / Dissent's not treason but they talk like it's the same / Those who disagree are afraid to show their face"

Sympathy: "I've got this curse in my hands / All I touch fades to black / Turns to dust turns to sand/ I've got this curse on my tongue / All I taste is the rust / This decay in my blood"
"When the moment strikes / it takes you by surprise and / leaves you naked in the face of death and life / there is no righteousness in your darkest moment / We're all equal in the face of what we're most afraid of"

First gear, it's all right

#13 Yo La Tengo, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One (Matador, 1996)

I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One may be the best mixtape ever made. Yo La Tengo cover vast swaths of musical territory here: from droney beats to fuzzed out noise rock, strummy folk pop, ultrasensitive organ balladry, bassanova, and places elsewhere. They just happened to have written almost all of the songs here (excepting a simultaneously amped up and impassive cover of “Little Honda,” as well as the closer “My Little Corner of the World”).

It’s so easy to take YLT for granted. Witness the recent reception of their 2006 album I Will Beat Your Ass Convincingly and Then Write a Long Album Title About It (not real title). The new record is yet another gem filled with genre-crossing music, but the collective response seems to have been, “meh, well, it’s another YLT album.” We’ve been spoiled by their sheer competency. Their desire to become America’s Greatest Cover Band, to become the Harry Smiths of the late 20th – early 21st century may have made them out to appear as archivists more than artists. But I don’t want to neglect how stunning I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One is. Far from being a mealy-mouthed collection of songs that can’t find its own voice, the album really creates its own space.

And time. It clocks in at somewhere around 75 minutes, and I always think of it as a metaphor for a whole day – a weekend night and the next day, to be precise. OK, so it doesn’t match perfectly, but bear with me (if there are any of you who still read my gasbag posts. SF59 suxx – just kidding! Sorry! I was only testing). The opener, “Return to Hot Chicken” (Ugh – YLT’s titles…) is a brief, quiet guitar tune that exudes the anticipation of the night to come, putting on that one set of cool clothes, changing them, coyly eyeing the mirror, changing again. “Moby Octopad” and “Sugarcube” are the party – getting the swerve on, a little dancing, rocking with the mates at the jukebox, etc. A couple of tracks later, we get the late-night eye-making with that cute maybe-more-than-friend at the party. This is “Shadows,” “Stockholm Syndrome,” and, of course, as the clincher, “Autumn Sweater.” With a song so emotastic as “Autumn Sweater,” the sensitive hero is bound to succeed, and “Little Honda” represents ... well, this song seems to be turned up kinda loud, maybe we can give them their privacy. “Green Arrow” is literally the sleepy instrumental for the last few moments of night, and we know that bedtime was very late, because the next song is a peppy, but not hangover-harshing, morning track called, “One PM Again.” “The Lie and How We Told It,” and “Center of Gravity” continue that Sunday afternoon vibe, though the latter begins to pep it up a bit (this is the little bassanova-y number). And maybe now friends are popping over with burgers for the grill and a frisbee. And maybe even a half-rack or two of a nice unassuming macrobrew, because it’s only about now that protagonist finally comes to terms with the idea of having a drink again. The music gets louder again, and “Spec Bebop” is another long groovy head-bobbing drone. A few more bottles empty and “We’re An American Band” comes on. It’s not that Grand Funk atrocity, but the title is evocative of the laid back classic rock good time (this song might be my favorite one on the album because it introduced me to the previously inconceivable idea that feedback could be gorgeous). This song puts us right in the middle of the party again, but y’know, work does start again tomorrow morning, and perhaps it would be better to break things up and put a cap on a well-lived weekend with a mellow but jaunty song, the slightly-countrified jam of “My Little Corner of the World.” A full 24 hours, but all good times must come to an end, and it’s only a little while before we can start things up again.

sweet, like an apricot

#8 Holiday in Rhode Island

The Softies (K, 2000)

I don't know if it's the purity of the voices or the honesty in the tales that effects me more. Where else can I find the words hem and apricot used in pop songs? These tiny ballads are wrought with the complexities and mysteries of Love... companionship, solitude, blindness, and clarity. The songs just make me feel, well..., swell, especially when they mope-"Me & the Bees." Another heavenly track 1 side 1, "Sleep Away Your Troubles" whose harmonies and wishes are enough to bring tears right out of the gate. But the final song "My Empty Arms" is so haunting and of course full of glockenspiel, it's my favorite. Just don't confuse this with twee, cause it ain't cute.
'Take it downstairs/no one here cares.'

Yeah, it looks good on the wall.

Boys in bikinis, girls on surfboards

#14 - The B-52's, The B-52's

This exercise is beginning to make me wonder if I'm bi-polar. I made my list in about an hour, all on the same day, so that would have been a lot of manic-depressive states in a short period of time. Let's hope I'm wrong.

I acquired this one in high school. After hearing the song, "Rock Lobster", while visiting my aunt and uncle in NY, I had to have it. Because it is their debut, it is very raw. When I hear it, I imagine them playing dive bars in Athens. This album is ridiculous in the way you expect the B-52's to be, but it is also musically genius. The way they use their voices as instruments, creating all sorts of transitions in each song makes the whole album a real production. Its like an opera or a Broadway show except that it a) is good and b) doesn't take itself too seriously. When I play this record, I am always amazed at how well it has aged. Although it was recorded 27 years ago, it continues to be a breath of fresh air. I've never heard anything else like it.

#13 - Sean Nos Nua, Sinead O'Connor

Papa surprised me with this a few Christmases ago. I didn't know anything about it, but he knows I love Sinead, since I have several of her albums. Although she has made many attempts to cover various genres, this is the best. It is an entire album of Irish folk songs which, of course, comes naturally to her. (Unlike reggae. I love Faith and Courage but I can't help thinking that she's trying too hard.) I, being a Kennedy, feel connected to this music in spite of being several generations removed from it. I adore Irish female vocals and have always unconsciously mimicked that style in my singing. This record is all about Sinead's voice and the stories it tells.

and it kills you it keeps you alive

i was hooked.

i'll admit that much. every dime i found went to three things; recording equipment/effects petals, my then-girlfriend, bridget, and cds/records. at one point in time, if it had that stupid little black and white tooth and nail logo on the back, i would buy it. but recently the label was letting me down. luxury was okay (their last release before they split--and recently reunited--was awesome). velour 100 was hit or miss. ghoti hook was terrible. sure, sometimes the little mail order descriptions were accurate; driver eight's "watermelon" is still one of the better releases on the label, and after reading big cougars favorite songs list a few holiday seasons back, i pulled this one out and fell in love again. but on the other hand, as much as i wanted to like it because of some of my fellow posters, plankeye wasnt cutting it and morellas forest had decided to rock out without their cocks out ever since pondering "where do you go when you hang out?"

then, papa shoegaze dropped a bomb on me. he started rambling on about a LIVE starflyer cd (what?!), a 7" of ronnie's band before joy electric (the CRAP?!) and how jason martin and his wife had released two 7" singles under the moniker Bon Voyage (holy HOLY damn) like it was common knowledge.

my mind was blown. he was coming to record with me very shortly after, and i probably drove him nuts reminding him to bring these releases with him. i'll spare you the details, but since it became obvious that VBM was a short-run label, stuff sold out, and i--even more blindly--ordered everything just to make sure i would have a copy.

a few releases in, velvet blue released "the future is blue," a compilation of artists currently on the label, artist the label worked with or liked, and artists about to release something through the label.

somewhere buried in the middle was a song that just made me stop in my tracks. there wasnt this wall of sound. it wasnt soft and quiet. it wasnt electronic. it was just...rock. i know i changed the batteries in my disc man listening to it on repeat.

sadly, when VBM finally gave word that this record was coming out (i had already snagged the groups full-length released on gene eugene's brainstorm record label), it was announced that the band had already broken up. this ep still gets spun, and burned on every work computer i have had.


LABEL: Velvet Blue Music


i sometimes want to be a woman. wait! now, before you run away and never read a post from me again, let me explain.

flashback: bristol, TN. it was the summer of 'sweet babies sound,' and sandra lou--the girl-fronted, dainty-fresh, rock outfit manned by sugar mama, papa shoegaze, big cougar and myself. we had taken up residence in a house filled with cats to record our second ep. oddly enough, i think we are ALL allergic to cats, so work would become tiresome, especially since the other three band members had work or classes in between sessions and it was hard to get us all in the room together.

we would often take long, late-night, drives. they were late because we would use all day recording, and they were long because it took exactly 55 minutes to drive ANYWHERE in bristol. i cant be sure, and maybe my bandmates can set the record straight, but i think that the the three of them been swapping mixtapes back and forth? so every road trip we would pop in a mix tape and i got to hear the cool stories about why they were made, and to whom from whom. off all of the music i heard on those tapes, three songs stand out: the rentals' "friends of p," on a big cougar mix tape, a track from "
bloodflowers" by the cure--a sugar mama pick--and a track from the artists behind my #9 release.

i had a migraine. we were going to walmart for two reasons: i needed some protein and ibuprofen, and i THINK brandon and sarah had just purchased a computer that wouldnt fit in their car (this might have been later...i just cant remember). driving home, rob tried to run over a garbage can and didnt see that the grass grew higher than the driveway. THEN, we had to put the spare on, using the jack that hadnt been used since 1982 and it got stuck in the up position before we had taken the tire off...really smart guys. SO, we ended up having to call one of rob'sprofessors to bring a jack so we could raise the car higher than the first jack and kick it out. and of course the spare was flat--lets not forget about the 2 hour ordeal that turned into.

i will say, until the nauseous, migraine tinged, car-ride back home, i hated this band. but somewhere along the way, cruising back at 12mph trying to find an open gas station, or at least one with an air pump--before getting home but after being stopped by the cops for driving so slow--i heard this song. it seemed to make everything okay. a voice called to me. she said 'we will take care of it.' and i felt relieved. like not only was someone releasing me from my physical pain, but also all of the other problems one has in life. she knew. she understood. she cared. she had problems of her own, but had found the wisdom and the strength to persevere, and she wanted to share that with me. when i felt better, i asked sugar mama if i could listen to the entire record. i bought it as soon as i got back to fredericksburg.

if any ONE single record drastically changed the way i thought about writing and recording music it would be this one. synths, guitars, synths that SOUND like guitars and vice versa, sampled and triggered drums, infectuous hook after hook after hook, rolling basslines, and the DRYEST vocal sound i have ever heard (i have never heard an artist so unafraid of her un-effected vocal being heard by anyone; singers out there, you know what i mean). the words were haunting, yet pleasant. the melodies unstoppable; the subtleties in the way the singer delivers lyrics and melodies often, for me, outweigh the greater message and meaning. to understand her songs, one must simply read between the lines. where does she take a breath? why did she stress the word "it"? she speaks louder in her pauses than a Mamet play in chicago.i am so saddened when friends havent given this record a shot because a certain #1 bubblegum pop single drove us crazy for a whole summer. but i cant blame them. i was the same way.

i sometimes want to be a woman. but my crazy-ass statement has one key catch; ONLY if i had nina persson's voice.


THE CARDIGANS-gran turismo

RELEASE DATE:November 3, 1998
LABEL: Mercury / stockholm

AUTHORS NOTE: i fully admit that my opening statements in this were stated to make you actually read my post. if anything, i really just wanna make out with nina persson, or marry her and make her sing to me everyday.

ALSO: check out sugar mama's post of this record.