#9 Suburban Light - The Clientele
The cover art for this album personifies The Clientele's sound perfectly - hazy, intriguing, minimalistic. Having seen this band twice, it is how I picture them as well. Three average guys with no flair about them, emanating a mysteriously enticing vibe. The most impressive thing about this band is that they are a trio. Having attempted to create a full sound with three people, I know how challenging it can be. (We called in a super hero to help us.) These guys pull it off with ease. The guitars are hauntingly seductive. The drums are simple, sometimes jazzy and always perfect. Alasdair's voice floats above it all as he poetically muses over things that most of us would pass by without noticing.
While I also enjoy, The Violet Hour and Strange Geometry, this album is by far my favorite. I think it is due to the fact that the songs were originally released as individual 7 inch singles. Each song flows into the next, yet still stands out in some respect. Their other albums are much more cohesive and I tend to skip to my favorite tracks. Its hard to pick a favorite on this one, but one track of note is (I Want You) More Than Ever. The cover of this single is also quite lovely as displayed on a shelf in our living room.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
#5 - Old Ramon (Red House Painters) 2001
Any album that opens with a song about a cat that can make you cry belongs in the top 5. Thankfully, there's only one album I know that can do that, and it just happens to be RHP's best work and one of my all-time favorite albums. As a long time fan of Kozelek's crew, I found Old Ramon so refreshing in college that I actually bought two copies of the disc (and promptly lost one...). It's by far the most light-hearted (but still poignant) and listenable release from the band and seems to catch fire in all the right places. Between Days opens with a strong chord and Kozelek's rare holler and never lets up again. Cruiser flirts and teases with over 8 minutes of melancholy. River rolls on at a never too long 11+ minutes too, but it is Byrd Joel and Michigan that really hold this record together. Byrd Joel, one of my all time favorites, might just make you feel good about death and loss, if that's possible. It sticks with you for hours afterwards and never quite releases you. Michigan reminds me of summers and summer flings and finds a way to wrap it all together in a visual image that trancends the music itself. Maybe that describes all of RHP's catalog, or just Kozelek himself. I could listen to him read the phone book and enjoy it.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Monday, January 29, 2007
The Prayer Chain (Rode Dog, 1995)
:: 15 ::
American IV: The Man Comes Around
I love all of the American albums, but this one is by far my favorite. Does anyone have a cooler singing voice than Johnny Cash? I'm not afraid to say that most of the songs on this album make me want to cry. But that's Johnny Cash, one moment he has you laughing at Sue, next you are rocking out at Folsom, then you find yourself weeping and sucking your thumb in the fetal position to Give My Love to Rose.
Tracks of Note:
Hurt, Personal Jesus, The Man Come Around, Give My Love to Rose
Sunday, January 28, 2007
In case you were wondering, I still listen to it.
#8 Doolittle, Pixies, 4AD, 1989
In 1996 I had a collision with the Pixies. My roommate and I lived beside a dynamic duo who refused to play anything other than the Pixies and so, day and night, eccentric rock with a latin flair and a deranged frontman seeped through our walls and traversed our halls...kind of like the words of the prophets. But not quite. I distinctly remember hearing about the Pixies in high school as influences on Nirvana but I didn't hear their music until the second week of my freshman year when what I thought was a track from a current hardcore screamo band erupted from our next store neighbor's room. When I inquired, I was informed the band was the Pixies and the track was "Tame," which, if you've never heard it, is pretty damn attention-grabbing. While I didn't get to borrow the record that was playing (it was Doolittle), I did get Trompe Le Monde out of the bargain (it's my second favorite Pixies record) and over the course of the next few weeks wore out tracks like "Planet of Sound," "UMass," and perennial favorite "Alec Eiffel," which graced Side 2 Track 1 of my first mixtape of my second semester of my freshman year ("Alec Eiffel" is still one of my favorite Pixies song). My interest in the Pixies waned with my interest in punk and Nirvana, however, when both my relationship with Sarah and her folk tendencies and my desire to really get to know The Beatles put all modern rock on the backburner for a time. Fast forward to 2001 and I discovered a used copy of Doolittle at Radiofree Records. Dear reader, suffice it to say the love was back or, dare I say, Black. Though it barely made it in the '80s, coming out as it did in '89, Frank Black and his players present a powerful composition that could very well be the best record of that decade. Fifteen tracks of pure pop energy with punk sensibility get the juices flowing, beginning with the sweet bass lick and guitar hook of "Debaser" and ending similarly with the menacing "Gouge Away." Black's ability to ratchet up the drama with his ridiculous vocal range is complimented perfectly by Breeders co-founder Kim Deal's bass lines and background vocals. Drummer David Lovering sets the standard for pre-"alternative" drummers pretty high and lead guitarist Joey Santiago beckons more licks than a Tootsie Pop. The lyrics are generally far beyond any kind of narrative interpretation, but the self-loathing of both "Wave of Mutilation" and "Gouge Away" are pretty pointed - Frank Black was (and is) a disturbed musical genius. But he can also be playful, as evidenced by the light pop of "Here Comes Your Man" and "La, La, Love You" or the buffoonery of "Mr. Greives" or "Crackity Jones." But my favorite song on the record and my favorite Pixies song period is "Monkey Gone to Heaven." There's something about the haunting cellos, Deal's background emoting, and Black's metaphysical math that I love: "If man is 5, then the devil is 6, and if the devil is 6 then God is 7." I don't know what it means Frank, but I never understood the Trinity either.
The Innocence Mission (A&M, 1995)
'Keeping Awake' opens the album with a song about Karen not being able to fall asleep because someone (a relative) she loves has come over and she hears them from upstairs. A quarter of these songs reference relatives and family members coming over, going on picnics, taking trips, etc., and while it's not clear who these people are it really doesnt matter. She seems to have a heightened spiritual sense and usually uses nature and the weather as backdrops for many songs. Her anticipation for what each new day can bring and the way in which she wraps those moments into a four minute song is why I like all of it. And Don's guitar is dripping with reverb and wobbling with tremelo the whole way through. They choose to bring Light into the world... and as I allowed myself a 30 sec. listen of a track off their forthcoming album I asked myself how? make music? with children?
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
How could this NOT be on this list of top #25 at least 19 times? This is the album that gateway-ed us to electronica, this is the album that gave us that computer talking voice thing, this is the album. Period. This is my number one album of all time, but like I said before...my list isn't in order.
Nagisa Ni Te (Org, Jagjaguwar, 2002)
Utamono is the so-called Japanese genre which has been translated as 'a sweet lovely song sung at a harsh noise meeting.' That's what Nagisa Ni Te (On the Beach) is all about. Simply put, Feel is avant garde for the simple moments with a little fuzz mixed in. Main man Shinji Shibayama has been crafting these lovely psychedelic songs now for over 20 years but it wasn't until about 10 years ago that he found his inspiration in the fleshly form of Masako Takeda (cover). As I would later come to find out, Shinji sang a lot about Masako on the first Nagisa album and by this time was now singing with her (not always harmonies, but beautiful call and response).
During a late night trip to Radiofree Records about 4 years ago I had put a few albums on the counter before Viva to purchase. Based on what I was buying and what we were talking about at the time (can't recall) he led me over to the two Nagisa albums on the shelf. He thought I'd like this one a little more than their first- On the Love Beach (barely, and for one reason, no Masako), and maybe its because it was the first one I heard and how it had that dream effect on me that led it up the charts immediately.
'The New World' starts things off slower than slow with Masako singing "your soul can light me up any time." I have to add that these songs are indeed so delicate and sometimes innocent that if they were sung in English they may be deemed embarrassing. With titles like 'We', 'Strength of the Waves', and 'Strength of the Wind' you can rightly assume nature is the backdrop for these tales of togetherness. The chorus of 'Song about a River Crossing Song' translates like this: "Ah, we will cross the river/me and you together/ looking out for the sharp rocks below." It's just heavenly they way they join forces, and there are so many instruments played so sparsely and sometimes purposefully awry that it has made me almost despise rerecording takes, with of course that note or that timing being forever lost with a retake. For them, nothing will be infinitely swallowed up, because the waves or the wind will bring it all back. "All you rushing animals that do not know the words for green grass/Come home with us."
#9 Nervermind, Nirvana, DGC Records, 1991
Nevermind is essential for me on so many levels, not the least of which is its visual realization of money-chasing underwater baby nudity. Like so many who were coming of age in the early '90s, this record was an icon of cultural galvanization that proclaimed that the days of Vanilla Ice and Hair Metal are over (or, if you're Sean B and we're talking about Hair Metal, temporarily suspended). I remember seeing the video for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" in '92 and being absolutely blown away at its raw power. The song still has that effect on me - it is really, when I think back, the soundtrack to my high school experience. The song ranked #2 on my Top 200 as listed in 2004, and I wouldn't put it too much lower than that now. But Nevermind is hardly a footnote to Track 1. Butch Vig's engineering, the hallmark of that other essential high school record Siamese Dream, channels the untamed fury of Bleach into a sound that is about as antagonistic as you can be and still have "radio-friendly" music. On the subdued side, "Polly" and "Something in the Way" are sing-a-long classics, presenting themselves as easy fodder for the "I just learned how to play guitar" crew while still preserving punk integrity. Speaking of punk, the pounding energy of "Breed," "Territorial Pissings," and "Stay Away" are some of my favorite moments on the record. Though they weren't on the radio, they got the constant rewind treatment in my four-door Toyota hatchback with the Tie Fighter-patterned ceiling while I drove to and from school, work, and friends' homes. More important still, Nevermind features some of the best rock drumming of all time in the unstoppable machinations of Dave Grohl's humble role as vehicle for the great Drum God Spirit...in the sky. More than any other record, I hold this one as most influential on my own style of drumming. While I might rank 1993's In Utero critically as a better record than Nevermind, it has never struck the same chord in me as its predecessor. And the Unplugged record, which did receive a lot of attention from me in high school and early college, has not weathered well in my estimation as a whole past that point. Nevermind was, and continues to be, one of the most powerfully nostalgic records I own. Oh, and it still kicks ass like nobody's business.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
#10 The Queen Is Dead, The Smiths, Sire Records, 1986
This is the first record in my countdown that I only have in vinyl format. Purchased over a bone-chilling New Year's break in Cincinnati in 2001, The Queen Is Dead LP continues to be my favorite Smiths record, despite my found affection for Strangeways Here I Come and The Smiths. Part of this love comes from having to drop the needle every time I want to hear all the sweetness from the killer tom-tom intro of "The Queen is Dead" to the perfect '80s guitar outro of "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others." The Smiths never shied away from political content and I think that's one of the reasons that I have continued to like them. Morrissey's desire to rid England of its' monarchical legacy has moved all the way from the violent denouncement of "The Queen Is Dead" to 2005's ridiculously good "Irish Heart, English Blood" off of his solo venture You Are the Quarry, a record already lovingly reviewed by Captain Ultra. Musically, this may be the apex for Marr's jagged to shimmery guitar movements and Morrissey's lyrics are at their most acerbic: "Frankly, Mr. Shankly, you are a flatulent pain in the arse." Side 1 closer "Cemetry Gates" is a high school English geek's wet dream, "Never Had No One Never" mopes with the best of them, and the outro of "I Know It's Over" stabs repeatedly at the heart of a scorned lover: "Oh mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head." I might also have to concede that the best Side 2 ever is found here: the brilliant pop flourish and crazed background vocals of "Big Mouth Strikes Again" to the memorable cry-for-help of "The Boy With The Thorn in His Side" to the honky-tonk stomp of "Vicar In A Tutu" to the moody anthem "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" to the danceable reverse misogyny of "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others." Durham's colorful Viva once wrote under the band name on The Smiths section card at Radiofree Records (R.I.P.) this query: "The Greatest Band Ever ?!?" To which, keeping The Queen Is Dead firmly in mind, I reply: "Yes ?!?"
#11 OK Computer, Radiohead, Capitol Records, 1997
This is not the first time this record has made an appearance on this blog and this probably won't be the last. Five years ago this was my #1. Three years ago six songs off this record were featured in my Top 200 songs of all time. Why, then, is it no longer number one? It's not because the songs aren't amazingly well done or profound. And it's definitely not because it's too "main stream" (a notion that will continue to be proved as my countdown continues). However, a lot can change in five years. Especially when you feel that your exposure to music explodes within a given time frame (this may be analogous to saying what your favorite book is when you're a senior in high school versus your favorite book when you're a senior in college, which is only a useful analogy if you read anything in both high school and college). But certainly, despite the fact that my musical tastes have expanded one hundred fold since college, OK Computer abides. It abides so much that most of memories with the record involve forced listenings: forcing Sarah to listen to "Exit Music for a Film" on repeat while we had dinner one night in Bristol, forcing Shawna to listen to "Paranoid Android" all the way through once in her Saturn, forcing Hunter and Rob to listen to "Climbing Up the Walls" with the lights out five years ago, and, of course, being forced along with Rob to listen to Jon Kestner argue about why OK Computer is a greater concept record than Dark Side of the Moon while we played Frisbee golf in rural South Carolina. True story. Historically, my favorite song has been a toss-up between "Paranoid Android" or "Karma Police", but the sympathy vote goes to "No Surprises" which, having been forced to live and breathe a 9 to 5 desk job for many years, hits the nail right on the head for those of us who sometimes have felt like a pig. in a cage. on antibiotics.
Can I just insert a quick side-topic and get some feedback from you all?
What are your top POP (radio friendly) songs of all time?
Here are the first few I can think of:
New Radicals - You Get What You Give (oh, if only it were sans rap!)
Radiohead - No Surprises
Oasis - Champagne Supernova
CCR - basically anything they put out, but especially "Have you ever seen the rain?"
Hall & Oats - Kiss on My List*
The Animals - House of the Rising Sun
Lou Reed - Walk on the Wild Side
Velvet Underground - Stephanie Says (not sure this actually fits in pop songs)
David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust
Rolling Stones - You Can't Always Get What You Want
Rolling Stones - Wild Horses
Tom Petty - Free Fallin'
(note: * denotes "siiiiike")
Scriven by the argyle academy at 8:03 AM
Monday, January 22, 2007
Wildflowers, released in my prime of high school rock-and-rolling is a Petty-solo effort. His tunes address the topics of love and loneliness, among other things. My favorite tunes are Wildflowers, Don't Fade on Me, and To Find a Friend.
#10 - Melody A.M, Royksopp
I have a moment, but only one since Jack Bauer is about to kick some ass. Thus, I'll keep it short and sweet.
Featuring the vocals of Erlend Oye and some groovy beats, this record mixes laid back lounge with upbeat dance. My favorite tracks feature my main man, of course, (Erlend, not Jack) - "Poor Leno" and "Remind Me." "So Easy" is also a great opener.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Finally a top #25 selection for me with some cred. Remember when Kings of Convenience were releasing albums under the name Simon and Garfunkel? Neither do I, we're just babies.
Oh, this was one of the first actual records that I owned, though. Like, actual vinyl my friends. Oh, wait...that's not true. My first doses of "wax" were (no joke):
I wish I had those now. No I don't.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Thursday, January 18, 2007
I confess this cover did indeed inspire me to take a listen. Dreamy and distant. And, that's what this album is like. A slow fog of softness that covers me every time. [Enter picture on right. I am the forest. The fog is...well you get the picture.] This post is like some adolescent assignment to find connections and deeper meanings in art and music...and I love it. (I randomly read a review of susan sontag's book, and her writing is so beautifully crafted that i have momentarily given up all hope of ever writing anything that is remotely worth reading.) still reading? well, thank you. here are three lovely songs that i enjoy:
And, this song - hard life - i enjoy immensely. "It's a hard life for a man with no wife / babe, it's a hard life god makes you live" Will Oldham + girl with half swallowed harmony make me yearn for something. I'm not quite sure what, but the ache feels good.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
So, my top 8 non-2006 records of 2006 are:
8. Kate Bush Hounds of Love (EMI, 1985)
7. Glenn Branca The Ascension (99, 1981)
Otis Redding is who we thought he was.
2. Thin Lizzy Jailbreak (Mercury, 1976)
Monday, January 15, 2007
Saturday, January 13, 2007
#7 - The Joshua Tree (U2) 1987
How do you describe this album? Despite the greats like With or Without You, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, and Where the Streets Have No Name, Running To Stand Still will always be one of my favorite songs of all time...
#8 - The Boat Ashore (Michael Roe) 1997
Inspired by Urbane Master's flying crotch attack, enter Michael Roe and his epic pun, The Boat Ashore, once considered my all-time favorite disc. Few of you will be familiar with the Seventy Seven's front man's solo works, but that shouldn't stop you from checking him out. There's so much to like about this album that it's actually hard for me to describe it. Roe swallows his sadness just long enough to sing it to the world, mixing bittersweet sorrow and depravity in a way that makes you feel sorry for your soul with a tearful smile. I love the jazzy guitar work as much as the lyrics and the sound of Roe's somber voice. This album is about not being good enough to save yourself from yourself, and Roe does a better job of making you feel that way than anyone else. Roe and Kozelek would be best friends...
Top Tracks: Love Like Gold, Tum Tum Tum, I Buried My Heart At Bended Knee
Friday, January 12, 2007
So it's been a while since most of us have posted to Urbane. In an attmept to appease the Urbane Master, who's been getting grumpy over non-posting as well as over attempt's to mimic DLR's sweet stage acrobatics, here is a quick post with links to two articles I did for Thirsty magazine's January issue that you may or may not care a whit for. The first focuses on eight bands I felt were under-represented in year-end "best of" posts but that put out quality records last year (Papa Shoegaze, you'll be interested in the very last one in the list). Also, you might recognize a few in the list from a certain Cougar's Tale Top 30 that graced this publication last year. I also did a brief review of Joanna Newsom's supurbly magical Ys which is worth checking out if only for the 2-part video of a live performance of "Emily" that I found to attach to the review.
And now the promise: I will begin my own countdown to #1 again next week, starting at #11. And I encourage all who have, like myself, taken an Urbane breather to now once again gird your loins, take up your keyboard, and follow me.
Scriven by Big Cougar at 9:00 AM
Tuesday, January 9, 2007
some favs that I heard for the first time this year (not all 2006 releases)
#11 Trois Gymnopedies 7"- ISAN
Erik Satie's finest piano works done with ambience and beats
#10 Gulag Orkestar- Beirut
thanks master. eastern europe visited youthfully
#9 s/t- Vetiver
gentle rustic accoustic numbers w/a little help from joanna, devandra, and colm...
#8 Gamelan into the Mink Supernatural- The Psychic Paramount
mixed and played in the red, this 3 piece destroys! clashing, wailing, and ruining speakers.
#7 The Cavalry of Light- Lavender Diamond
earnestness for life and love. this 4 song can repeat all day with Becky Stark shouting 'dream the kind of a life that you will find/the kind of love that lasts forever'
#6 Ys- Joanna Newsom
even if you dont dig it, read an interview with her and you will respect it. this is a life lived and a dream unfolded. with van dyke, o'rourke, albini, analog, and artwork like this...she knows not everybody has this chance and she went for it.
#5.5 I'm Not b/w Comfy in Nautica 7"- Panda Bear
#5 Minima Moralia- Chihei Hatakeyama
thanks master. slowly unfolding ambiance, organ, and beautiful drone. this changes my mood as soon as i put it on.
#4 Plans Drawn in Pencil- ISAN
i have a soft spot for slightly melodic ambient electronica. these 2 guys shifted gears w/less beats and still crafted a gorgeous record.
#3 To Find Me Gone- Vetiver
again. his newest feels old. great songwriting and more fleshed out than his previous.
#2 Just Another Diamond Day- Vashti Bunyan
first released in '69, this old gypsy wrote and recorded a masterpiece that can change part of your life. if you love the earth, animals, and traveling, go with her...
#1 s/t- Beach House
victoria took me away with her voice and organ, and alex's slide kept shoegaze alive this year. cant get enough.
Scriven by Papa Shoegaze at 6:50 PM
Simple but beautiful pop music. I think I first really got into Scandi-pop with Sondre Lerche after I saw his Two Way Monologue video on MTVeurope when Rachel and I were in Stockholm. After some internet digging (swedesplease.blogspot.com), I was hooked.
I wish I could leave this much "space" in music. These songs can be so sparse, and yet so rocking. I was surprised when I found out there were like 18 people in this band. Also check out New Buffalo.
Friday, January 5, 2007
I have so much love for this album. It was the catalyst for my musical experimentation (post-Michael W. Smith, etc.) in the early 1990's. Echo what Papa has said about the illumination that occured when Sin For A Season hit the Night Light airwaves. Every song is incredible, but none carry more weight or memory than Droned, which comforted and counselled me during a few dark, anti-"Ghetto"-fraternity antics at
Top Tracks: Zenith, 2nd Space Song, She Only Knows, Droned
Monday, January 1, 2007
#15 MUM, Yesterday was Dramatic. Today is okay.
I often stop to think about the millions of tiny steps that I've taken to be able to listen to the arty music that I like now. I liked the oldies radio station, which made me buy the beatles cds, which is where I fell in love with sad songs like "she's leaving home" and "she said she said", which made me love the radio hits by third eye blind or counting crows, which made me love the simple rock stylings of bands like Pedro the Lion or Damien Jurado, etc etc etc.
I think about how it is possible that I could be so anti-effects in my college days (often getting in arguments with my band members about the sound of distortion), and now I'm very computer-dance-rock attentive. I noticed some appreciation growing for electronically produced music first with novelty acts like Wendy Carlos, but then with indie groups like Her Space Holiday. Anyway. Just think about it.
Anyway, all that to say I really love this record.
#14 MUM, Summer Make Good
The first time I had a chance to see Mum live was in support of this album. I'd been following their music for a few albums, but it was the first time they'd come through the DC area (that I knew of, at least). I have to admit I was a bit disapointed with their live set. It was mostly them tinkering around with bits of instruments and some electronic-y stuff from a mac laptop. It just seemed like they were dabbling all night, rarely playing more than seconds of songs we recognized. Oh, and the violin was a) out of tune and b) not being played well. The quote from the night was "I hope they're having a good time, because I'm not."
At first I felt like Summer Make Good was the same. I first saw it as electronic-meets-organic experimentation with little regard for the listener. I was way off. The more I listened to this album, the more I feel in love with what Mum were doing. Yesterday was Dramatic was a poppier, more electronic-based album but Summer Make Good has its pop moments and some genius sound scapes.