December 31, 2007

Top 10 of 2007: # 2 - Fionn Regan - The End of History

The amount of promotional music I get from various labels each month can be staggering. I get a great portion of them in relation to my job and then I also have a pretty nifty trading network with friends who also have jobs withing the music industry. As I have eluded to in earlier posts the number of promos I get that I would ever want to listen to more than once is limited to a percentile I placing between 1 and 3. Needless to say there is a lot of disappointing music out there and it can be depressing when you realize you have played 50 CDs in a month and only placed 2 or 3 of them in a pile to ever listen to again. The number of CDs that make it into my keep forever pile shrinks to an even smaller number.

The 10" for "The End of History" was delivered to me via mail and like many of my promos it sat around collecting dust in my office for ages. Not only does it take time to listen to everything I get but some days I skip listening to promos all together just because the ratio of me liking a new record is slim these days. I knew a tiny bit about Fionn Regan as I had read his one sheet but like many industry types, I have learned to never trust a piece of paper filled with a stranger's word no less when they compare his music to Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, and Damien Rice. Truthfully a debut release by a 20 something year old singer songwriter didn't scream LISTEN TO ME NOW!!!!

Much to my pleasant surprise the record was delicate, lovely, and made the hair on the back of my arm stand on end. When any of his songs pop up in my iTunes shuffle i I find myself immediately and wonderfully distracted. His songs literally and psychically call for me to sit up and take notice. Its embarrassing to admit that I am tempted to lean into my computer as if it would allow me to have a closer, more careful listen.

There are several surprises here. Not only do I love a new artist's record from start to finish but I am even willing to back up the words found on the one sheet. When Fionn gets compared to some to the best folk artists known to man, he has actually earned it.

Top 10 of 2007: # 3 - Peter Bjorn and John

Sometime last Spring a coworker mentioned a band that I had never heard of and that he hated them deeply, no.... passionately. Who was this PB&J (awwwweeeeee cute) and more curiously how did this band also have a blog called Stop Peter Bjorn and John - a site dedicated to loathing the Swedish group on their third record? I needed to investigate and what I discovered was a whole collection of nearly perfectly sculpted pop songs. I am talking about the kind of clever spotless melodies that burrow deep under your skin after just one listen and stay there. I am talking the kind of greatness that would allow PB&J to sit down with Paul McCartney and talk eye to eye about what classic pop material is made of and how they transition that theory like magic to their own song writing.

After looking more closely at the Stop PB&J site I am also pretty sure that it is one of the sliest publicity machine's a band or their label or their PR person or ??? could create. I know an anti-fan site when I see one and this ain't it.

Top 10 of 2007: # 4 - Love of Diagrams - EP + S/T

Let it be known that I am probably one of 100 people on the planet who still mourn the loss of Slant 6 when they broke up in 1995 and Fire Party when they parted ways in 1990.

Love of Diagrams satisfies my ears in a similar way with their undeniable nod to post punk legends like Pylon (and LOD covers "Cool" no less), Delta any angular band from the late 70's and early 80's that also features ladies prominently in the line up.

Top 10 of 2007: # 5 - Patton Oswalt - Werewolves and Lollipops

Yeah I know this isn't a music CD but this disc brought me more pleasure than 98% of the rest of the shit that came down the pike this year. Everytime I played some new record it was like being beaten by a boring and talentless stick day after day.

And seriously what the hell happened to hip hop? If Kanye is its savior than God (which doesn't exist anyhow) help us all.

Back to Patton: In regards to the KFC "Failure pile in a sadness bowl"

"Is there a way the bowl can play This Mortal Coil's "It'll End in Tears" album while I am eating it at 2 in the morning in my darkened apartment staring into the middle distance?"

That kind of obscure music reference gives Stereogum and Pitchfork a run for their money.

"Werewolves and Lollipops" is better than the new Radiohead or Arcade Fire or Spoon. Comedy seems to be heading in exciting daring new directions where music in 2007 has been spinning its wheels on a one way path to dull and duller.

December 28, 2007

Intermission Music: Legend of Zelda Orchestrated Live

Top 10 of 2007: # 6 - A Place to Bury Strangers - S/T

I see a pattern forming.

This year has been filled with new records that remind me of favorite old ones and then me loving these new releases enough to place them in my top 10 of the year list.

Ultimately the older I get and the longer I collect records, the harder it has become to hear something truly new and fresh. A Place to Bury Strangers are virtuosos at buzz saw guitars and reverbed vocals but for anyone over the age of 30 you will have a hard time not hearing a serious Jesus and Mary Chain / Suicide / New Order impression from track to track. APTBS pays tribute to hypnotic fuzzed out pop nearly perfectly so rather than cursing a band for not being original I will congratulate them for perfecting the sound.

This band earns extra credit points for designing guitar pedals which not only help to create their signature sound but also offers you a chance to dabble in their greatness. Check out the pedals here.

Top 10 of 2007: # 7 Narrator - All That To the Wall

Built To Sonic Lync Pavement and I mean that in the best way possible.

Top 10 of 2007: # 8 Nina Nastasia & Jim White

I like PJ Harvey, Tanya Donnelly, The Spinanes, Mecca Normal, and Neko Case is okay but I like Nina Nastasia best... especially in this two piece form with Jim from The Dirty Three on drums.

It also appears Mr. Albini had his mitts all over this record as well - a minimal masterpiece to say the least.

December 27, 2007

Top 10 of 2007: # 9 Die! Die! Die!

Speaking of New Zealand, Die! Die! Die! are from Aukland and are being snuck into this list regardless of the fact that their S/T release actually came out towards the end of 2006. I mail ordered it from Rough Trade and it didn't arrive until 2007 so in my 2007 favorites list it shall remain. Looks like they put out a single this year and a new full length should be out any time now.

They sound like Skull Patrol (or really anything Chris Thompson related) with Steve Albini at the recording helm (and he actually was). DC + Chicago + NZ = new favorite.

December 26, 2007

Top 10 of 2007: #10 Deerhunter

Deerhunter (Cryptograms / Flurescent Grey EP- both on Kranky) rolls in at number 10.

Part of this is pure accident. I worked for a music distributor that sold Kranky records and the label forgot to pull me off their mailing list for several months after me leaving that job. A Deerhunter promo appeared in my mailbox and it was love at first listen. I liked how comfortable I felt upon hearing each new song. They weren’t shockingly something new but rather a familiar and cozy cross between some of my favorite New Zealand guitar groups of the late 80’s / early 90’s and The Liars. (The less experimental material.)

The band has been blessed with an obscene amount of press from many of the top music sites this year but behind all the static publicity is genuinely some music worth the attention.

I don’t know how Deerhunter gets the darkness to shimmer like they do but if a floodlight in a diamond mine had a soundtrack, this band might be it.

December 19, 2007

Working on that Pesky Best of 2007 List

I don't know why people make their best of lists in early December. There are 31 days in this month and damn it you never know when that next amazing record might sneak up on you. Call me an optimist but I always have hope that there might be at least one spectacular 2007 late commer.

What I can tell you about 2007 so far:

I am ashamed to admit it took me until this year to really explore The Kinks and the early Cat Stevens catalog. That Wes Anderson guy is onto something with those soundtracks of his.

This will be the first year in the history of me making a top 10 music list that Bjork and or a new record of hers will not be on it. I didn't particularly fancy her new record (it sounds like a mash up of all her other records but not in a good way) nor can I say I felt moved by any of the live footage of her I watched this year either. She had a good 10 year run so an off year was bound to happen.

This is also the first year a comedy record will make it into my top 10. Maybe that says something about the quality of long players this year but more than anything after 7 months between two major injuries I needed an extra dose of funny.

A top 10 will soon follow....

December 18, 2007

Living in the 80's

In 1982 I was 11 and my knowledge and exposure to music was limited to say the least. (See my post on Country music for further proof)

I listened to mostly only commercial radio (plus the Annie soundtrack - gag) and I suppose there were college stations somewhere on the dial but I was never fortunate enough to find them. This means I was embracing artists like Men at Work, Asia, and Laura Branigan but didn’t have a clue there were thousands upon thousands of other kinds of music and artists out there.

My parents and siblings were undeniably my earliest musical influence and from them I gained a limited view of what the world had to offer. My dad liked The Beatles and Sinatra but classical music or talk radio usually filled the silence of our car rides spent together. My Mom grew to have incredibly eclectic taste but early on I mostly recall listening to top 40 stations with her on our trips to the grocery stores. I had multiple older brothers and sisters but they were all so much older than me that I don’t recall much about their taste other than the occasional record they accidentally left behind at our parent’s house. Pink Floyd’s “Be careful with that Axe Eugene” literally scared the hell out of me so avoided most of their records all together after that traumatic listening experience.

There was however a time when my brother Robbie showed up with every item he was wearing on his body cut to pieces and put back together with safety pins. I was told by him that it was “punk” but I couldn’t have guessed what that actually meant. I knew visually this punk thing pissed my parents off (“you ruined perfectly good clothes why?) and it made my brother look like a scrawny patchwork quilt connected by pins but I didn’t connect at the time that this fashion faux pas related to music at all. Connecting music to things like fashion or youth / political movements was all totally alien to me.

My brother Chris who was six years older than me and was nicknamed “Psycho” at high school dabbled in metal and punk. I didn’t know what these forms of music was really called at the time but as a rule whatever my brother liked, I didn’t. I remember him playing me the Ramones “Beat on the Brat” and thinking it was written specifically for big brothers to play to little sisters for strictly threatening purposes. I was mortified and hated The Ramones for writing such a mean song which I was rather certain was directed at me. (What can I say, I was an overly sensitive child)

I should also point out that I didn’t have cable TV nor was I allowed to watch much TV at all so revolutions like MTV and that high level exposure to pop culture missed me completely. In fact I didn’t see MTV until the late 80’s.

My allowance didn’t warrant me the freedom to purchase records and tapes so typically when a favorite song came on the radio I held my crappy little tape recorder up to the speak and recorded it. It sounded miserable and I always missed the first few seconds of every song but it was the only way I could capture these songs I wanted to know better. I also knew these ghetto mixed tapes were not quality enough to share with friends so when I was asked to sleep over a friend’s house in 1982 and bring music- I panicked.

This girl lived one town away so we didn’t go to school together. We both played on a local girl’s soccer team and she had invited me to stay over house for the first time ever. This was uncharted territory for me on many levels. I wasn’t 100% positive girls from other towns were just like the girls from my town and I had no clue what music to bring. My parent’s loaned me a Beatles greatest hits cassette and were certain this would be fine.

It wasn’t fine. For the first time in my life a peer made me feel lesser about who I was because of the music I listened to. I showed her my Beatles cassette of which I knew ever word to every song and she frowned. She handed me a Clash record and told me this was the ONLY music she thought was goodl. The Clash? Who? (although I did eventually did hear “Rock the Casbah” on the radio) It was very new to me and I suddenly felt stupid and like a baby for loving the Beatles which was hip to people like our parents but not kids our own age. I held “Combat Rock” in my hands for the first time that night and pondered the door this record had opened. I was listening to music I had never heard anything like before but almost more importantly it was the ultimate lesson that the kind of music you listened to said something about the kind of person you are. Defining yourself by the records you listen to no less making or breaking friendships around it was a startling revelation.

I was never invited back to her house for another sleepover but shortly there after I began asking my mom to help me explore the world of music I didn’t know. The spell of top 40 radio was broken and I was determined to hear what else was out there. My Mom began taping me late night music video programs like Friday Night Videos so I could watch them in the morning and then we would take monthly trips to our local record shop “Crazy Eddies” where I could pick out one record to buy each time.

Later that year I discovered a video from a freaky late night music video show for a band called Midnight Oil. The song was called “Power and the Passion” and that was it. I was on my path towards what has become a lifetime of seeking out new music in a daily capacity.

Comcast had all this great Clash video footage available On Demand and as I skimmed through the material I was suddenly reminded of my life changing childhood experience. I am sure this girl has no idea how her sleepover changed my life and the music snob in me know wonders what records she has in her collection now.

On a side note I actually and literally ran into the 10 foot tall singer of Midnight Oil or rather he ran into me by accident at a meet and greet label thing at one of their concerts a decade later. He said he was sorry – he didn’t see me ( 5ft 3 of me) and I could only stare back and ask him if that was a joke. We both laughed and that was that. I mean how do you even begin to tell a man in some random band from across the planet that they helped shape the adult person he just tripped over?

December 13, 2007

Another New Lee Hazlewood CD out now!

From Lee's MySpace post:

"Also out now is Rhino Handmade's beautifully packaged double CD compilation of Lee's albums for Reprise. Entitled String Out On Something New, it features The NSVIPs, Friday's Child and Love And Other Crimes, as well as various other tracks with which Lee was involved during that time and sleevenotes by Lenny Kaye. It's not available in the shops but is available from Rhino's website,, (in a limited edition of 5,000 copies) for $39.98."

I am happy to see this release happen but it is also a bummer that all this is happening after his death. On a positive note maybe all this attention will remind people that he should be in the rock and roll hall of fame.

December 3, 2007

Thank You TZA

Until I find the time to write a proper post: