Monday, December 25, 2006

Sam's Town: The Lady In The Water Of Music?

Hey, what'chu say Johnny?

An IM conversation between Kiss Out The Jams and Owl With Knees about The Killers’ despicable new record, Sam’s Town.

“Sam’s Town”

Dan: the synth on this intro is retarded cheesy
Dan: that metal guitar thing right before the vocals sounds so out of tune
Dan: oh i love this part
Jen: i like this
Dan: the disco part
Jen: yeahh
Dan: then the chorus is nice
Jen: yeah
Dan: actually this song could almost pass as a whole good song if not for the end
Dan: but it still makes no sense
Dan: there’s way too many parts
Dan: the vocals get bad at the end of this part when he does it a second time
Dan: the “somebody takes me home” thing, you’ll see
Jen: ahh yeah
Jen: that hooooomee sucked
Dan: i despise this “every now and then” thing
Dan: oh god
Jen: oh god
Dan: but not as much as this… “i see london, i see sam’s town”
Jen: this is just
Jen: hard to listen to
Jen: i feel like dying :-/
Dan: i know, esp since the high little guitar riff isn’t bad
Dan: its just ruined by the vocals
Dan: and now what’s this theatrical bullshit
Jen: those lyrics are so embarrassing
Dan: they’re not even the worst on the record


Jen: oh enterlude
Dan: ok heres a retarded song
Dan: i actually kind of like the melody
Dan: oh god
Dan: bad note sung
Jen: this is really bad
Dan: youuuuuuur stay
Jen: yeah
Dan: i like the cheesy piano part
Jen: yeah thats kinda cute but overall this should not be here
Dan: nothing should ~be here~

“When You Were Young”

Jen: alright this song i like
Dan: i can deal with it now
Dan: except his vocals
Dan: but i love the “watch it now here he comes”
Jen: the lyrics on this are terrible too
Dan: oh yeah this song is bad lyrically
Jen: and i hate the backup vocals near the end
Dan: oh yeah me too
Jen: but yeah that “watch it now” is the best
Dan: the quiet part in the middle has the worst lyric on the whole album when he’s like “you can’t sip the water but you can dip your feet or something”
Jen: I’m changing my facebook status to “riding on the back of a hurricane”
Dan: yeah like this album’s so annoying cuz there’s so many missed opportunities
Dan: even if the lyrics on the album were the only problem i could deal
Dan: but because the music and vocals esp go bad so much
Jen: this part
Dan: yeah ok how is 1:59 long enough into the song to have built up dramatic tension for a quiet part
Dan: and yeah
Dan: "they say the devil's water it aint so sweet"
Dan: ugh
Jen: soo bad
Dan: "you sit there in your heartache"
Dan: wtf does that even mean
Dan: i actually like the strings and xylophone here
Dan: they build well
Dan: everyone else doesnt
Jen: oh agreed
Jen: i like the music here
Jen: the backup vocals make me cringe
Dan: brandon sang the actual last chorus well tho
Dan: but yeah the backups are awful
Dan: theres worse ones on here
Dan: wait til “why do i keep counting”
Jen: oooh next is “bling”

“Bling (Confessions Of A King)”

Dan: bad voice
Dan: this is one of the worst on here
Dan: “uncle johnny” and “why do i keep counting” are too
Jen: as if the title doesn’t give it away
Dan: "i work on the road side/in the land of the free ride"
Dan: “so i ran with the devil. . . like a stone on the water”
Jen: actually i kinda like the music
Dan: these metaphors dont even go together
Dan: nah i hate this one
Dan: the music's like faux western but also dancey??
Jen: something like that
Dan: the melody on the second verse here
Dan: is sung so incoherently
Jen: its retarded i know but it’s not the worst thing ever
Dan: the prechorus is the best part probably
Dan: “i've got that blowing wind against my face” lol
Jen: oh jesus his voice is real bad
Dan: oh god those backups
Dan: i really dont get this song
Dan: like, anything. . . what they’re going for musically, lyrically. . . it’s just incoherent
Dan: it’s too dancey to be bruce
Dan: but yet these bizarre, like, “roadside worker” lyrics
Jen: agreed lol even though i semi-enjoy the danciness
Dan: "we're gonna make it out of the fire"
Dan: i could enjoy the danciness if his vocal actually fit what the bands doing
Jen: “we’re gonna take it down to the wire!”
Dan: it sounds like a really bad mash-up
Dan: his vocal doesnt fit at all
Jen: yeah this is pretty shitty

“For Reasons Unknown”

Dan: “for reasons unknown” is my fave song on the record
Jen: eh, i kinda see what you mean
Dan: it starts really really shitty
Dan: that one note guitar doesn’t sound right and is annoying as hell
Jen: well at least i see what they're trying to build here
Dan: this part's great
Dan: the “my heart it dont beat”
Dan: the synth here is amazing
Jen: ohh i like that
Dan: that’s just a great riff
Jen: yeah i do like that
Dan: and this is sung well and done well
Dan: the chorus is just a great anthemy thing
Dan: it builds nicely and that synth is great
Dan: and even the lyric i can see shouting at an arena: "my heart it dont beat/it dont beat the way it used to"
Dan: the verses are so bad though
Dan: he sings them bad
Jen: yeah, thats true
Dan: yessss more synth
Dan: this lips part is great too even tho his voice is slipping
Dan: then the music's good here but his voice is too bad
Dan: did you hear that awful squeak he did?
Dan: at like 2:33
Dan: replay it
Dan: cuz it's shocking he let that in the final take
Dan: like the rest of the song he misses so many notes by going high in the wrong place or something…like my vocals are more even than this
Jen: wow thats terrible
Dan: i cant believe that squeak at 2:33
Dan: like, that calls into question the rest of the band and management for allowing it to be distributed around the country

“Read My Mind”

Jen: this sounds shitty already
Dan: this is a horrible song
Dan: and his low notes miss
Dan: this was on rolling stone's list of songs actually
Dan: which makes no sense
Dan: cuz they gave the album 2 stars and said “when you were young” is the only thing close to a good song
Dan: this song actually sounds like it's from the 80s
Dan: like a bad bryan adams song or something
Dan: this chorus is awful too
Jen: yeah this is really bad
Dan: EW!
Jen: ooof that high note
Dan: the end of the chorus
Dan: before you goooooooo (high)
Jen: ass
Dan: douche
Dan: who's named flowers anyway
Jen: seriously
Dan: i shouldve known this guy would be a cunt
Dan: the guitars in the chorus arent awful, like theyre at least doing their job
Dan: and he could be too cuz this song's actually kinda catchy
Dan: those high notes are unbearable though
Dan: he like dances around the melody when he doesnt at all have the talent to do that...he's not alicia keys
Dan: carrrrrr
Jen: lol yeah
Dan: fiiiire again
Jen: i dont shine if you dont shine
Dan: what poetry
Dan: asshole
Jen: lmao
Dan: like in many ways this really is the worst album of the year

“Uncle Johnny”

Jen: I’ve been waiting for this one
Dan: this song's awful
Dan: the riff is dragging and annoying
Dan: the pj harvey drums are out of place
Dan: "hey whatchu say johnny" wtf
Dan: liiiiiiiiight
Jen: omg
Dan: oh god high voice
Jen: the way he says burning
Dan: i know
Dan: believe me i know
Jen: why does he do that
Dan: OMG that last line was the worst
Dan: something hold on tight
Jen: superman hold on tight
Dan: god i dont even wanna know
Dan: way to rhyme cocaine/brain/pain
Jen: lmao so dumb
Dan: my appetite ain't got no heaaaaaaaaaart
Dan: what does that even mean
Dan: burning noooo
Dan: his voice
Dan: it burns
Jen: “hey johnny, i got faith in you man”
Dan: WTF
Jen: this song is soooo baddd
Dan: "he's convinced himself right in his brain/that it helps to take away the pain"
Dan: YESSSSSSSS the backups
Jen: "tell us whats goin onnn"
Dan: these made me really lol
Jen: me too lollll
Dan: like when it cant even be worse…the backups
Dan: and how bad is "convinced himself right in his brain" as phrasing
Dan: is that really worth convoluting painfully awkwardly so it can rhyme the cliche "take away the pain"


Jen: WTF
Dan: this is the single!
Jen: woah wow that was really awful
Jen: oh god
Dan: what a great synth sound right
Jen: wowww
Dan: ding ding dong dong
Jen: i didn’t realize that awful awful intro was for the single
Dan: yeah this is the one with the tim burton video
Dan: and then whoa random garage rock
Dan: so out of place
Jen: and horns?!
Dan: like, it makes no sense
Jen: wow
Dan: i hate that "on the cold wet dirt i cry"
Jen: i was just gonna say that
Dan: LMAO one of the best lyrics on here
Jen: oooo dont u wanna feel my bones~
Dan: "don't you wanna come with me/do you wanna feel my bones/on your bones/it's only natural"
Dan: lmaooooooo
Dan: BOYS!
Jen: rofllll
Dan: the dogs in my mind?? lmao
Dan: high voice just vomits
Jen: roflmao yes
Dan: iiiiiiiiiiiight
Dan: horns
Dan: on the chorus now, like, wtf
Jen: i know oh wow
Dan: they’re obviously synth horns
Dan: no one uses fake horns in rock
Dan: maybe fake strings once in awhile
Dan: but synth horns are a no-no
Jen: lmao
Jen: ooooh how pretty
Dan: yeah like, one thing that bugs me on here
Dan: is how he just deems these random parts important enough to just draw back all instruments
Dan: how many fucking notes are on the chorus here
Dan: like, the horns, vocals, everything are all doing something diff
Dan: theyre not in sync at all
Jen: lmaoo i knoww
Dan: and a bad high note just for good measure
Dan: and don’t you love how that ding ding intro never repeated and had nothing to do with the actual song

“My List”

Dan: i dont remember this song at all
Dan: i cant even believe we're this far in
Jen: this is bad
Dan: eww
Jen: really bad
Jen: lol
Dan: like, whiniest synth ever
Dan: ooh love song
Dan: "your heart is not a ....bone?"
Jen: lmao
Dan: “let me show you how much i care”
Dan: paaaaaytience
Dan: this song's beyond boring
Jen: ughh this is bad
Dan: at least the others i can laugh at
Dan: woot power ballad guitars
Dan: this sounds like "we are the world"
Jen: \m/
Dan: WTF
Dan: “dont give the ghost up just clench your fist?”
Dan: and what list
Jen: roflmaooo
Dan: list of women?
Jen: prob
Dan: list of people to kill
Dan: i know who's on my list
Dan: brandon
Dan: ~flowers~
Jen: yessss ~~
Dan: gross, high moanings
Dan: let me shooooooooooooowwwwwdfywddfsdhfsdhfw you
Dan: eww
Jen: back to shit synth
Dan: playing totally random notes
Jen: that was awful
Dan: the next two songs are outrageous
Jen: oh im excited
Dan: the next one i actually like except his vocal ruins it

“This River Is Wild”

Dan: see, exciting music right
Dan: it starts well, kind of tensiony
Dan: actually sounds like a punked out bruce
Jen: meh he says long too many times
Dan: downnnnnn
Dan: bad synths
Dan: i like the “run for the hills” part
Jen: “listen to the sound of the world then watch it turn”
Dan: lmao
Dan: actually this song's not as bad as i remember
Dan: wiiiiiiiiiiild
Dan: the way he says that is disgusting
Jen: nah this is actually one of the better ones i'd say
Dan: this river is wiiiiiiild
Jen: ew
Dan: now i remember
Jen: shake a little???
Dan: thats awful
Dan: i forgot about those lol
Jen: LOL yes
Dan: see like wtf, the song is mostly good
Dan: and then those stupid “shakealittles”
Jen: oh man these lyrics get ridiculous
Dan: lmao “godspeed you boooooooy”
Jen: ~adam and eve reference~
Dan: yeah i forgot about the "bitch is trying to make him pray" and "that little girl play"
Dan: i bet flowers loves little girl play
Dan: i love these synth strings actually
Dan: i hate that he's trying to oversing to drown them out
Dan: "watch the clouds fall from the sky"
Jen: nah its not bad, the lyrics are just laughable and the shakealittles are too much
Dan: the shakealittles are unbearable
Dan: the wiiiiiiiiiiiiiilds i cant take at all
Dan: wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiild
Dan: boooooooooooooooooooy
Jen: yeah those are terrible
Dan: wtf spoken ending
Jen: ooooo
Dan: headlights?
Dan: circus?
Jen: what circus?
Dan: what is going on brandon
Jen: what is he talking about?
Dan: my dick in his asshole. trust me. it's wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiild
Jen: roflmaoo
Dan: this next song is outrageous musically
Dan: wait til u see how it jumps

“Why Do I Keep Counting?”

Dan: “there’s a mountain waiting for me?”
Dan: over broadway-ish tinkly shit
Dan: shit tinkle
Dan: stop tinkling, flowers
Jen: stupid echo!
Dan: backing vocals
Dan: "strong enough to be the one"
Dan: hahahaha
Jen: childrennnnnnnnnn
Dan: lmao how is this a chorus
Jen: oh man
Dan: "help me get down"
Dan: the melody isn’t bad on this part
Dan: its just ruined by the retarded chanting
Dan: like, get down to do what?
Jen: lmao
Dan: cooooooooounting
Jen: and why does he keep counting?
Dan: that i get, cuz he says my days are numbered
Dan: why theyre numbered though, who knows
Jen: ah okk i didnt catch it
Dan: after this album they are
Dan: this song's unbelievable cheesy
Jen: ahhhh
Jen: :-X
Dan: how embarassing is that high part
Jen: its really terrible
Dan: i actually love the "only knew the answer" melody for just that one line
Dan: like, why change his way of living
Dan: what’s he doing that is so fucking bad that his days are numbered
Dan: yesss christmas guitar ending
Dan: this is song like the white parade
Jen: idk but he keeps saying father so i guess hes praying or something
Jen: ending sux
Dan: god obviously hates him


Jen: exitlude!
Dan: YIZ
Dan: nice fake dylan
Dan: asshole
Dan: "bonfires of trust/flash floods of pain"
Dan: high voice
Jen: oh god
Dan: abou-u-ut
Jen: his voice is so badd
Dan: i know. i know.
Dan: oh the backup boys are the best thing on this song lol
Dan: compared to that dylan impression and bad high part
Jen: who could ever take this album seriously
Dan: blender gave it 4 stars
Jen: i know you do
Dan: lol, i'm sick. like i've played this 4 times maybe. i'm gonna play it again right after this. i wanna arrange like listening parties where people sing along to the shit parts
Jen: lmao that would be so good
Dan: are u ready for “the place”
Jen: I’m actually gonna play hot fuss after this
Dan: hot fuss isnt nearly as fun as sam's town
Jen: no but its good

“Where The White Boys Dance”

Jen: yesss
Dan: where the white boys dance
Dan: lol
Jen: what is this shit
Dan: this song's the worst
Dan: i cant believe jay-z released this
Dan: well
Dan: yes i can
Dan: he released kingdom come
Jen: lmao
Jen: show me what you got now shortie
Dan: this is better than kingdom come!
Dan: like, this i can get enjoyment out of
Jen: :-/ i know
Dan: sam's town is like the lady in the water of music
Jen: yes!
Dan: this song is terrible
Dan: like, why even include it
Dan: we already ~enjoyed our stay~
Dan: where we stayed doesnt matter
Dan: like what the fuck
Dan: is the place
Dan: where the white boys dance
Dan: and run and play
Dan: his baby is gone so he obviously wants to hit a gay club to take his mind off it
Dan: who ends with this
Dan: like at least why do i keep counting builds to something like an ending
Jen: well what about the next song
Dan: he cant even sequence his own terrible songs

“All The Pretty Face”

Dan: all the pretty face
Dan: what a great title
Jen: yeah really
Dan: why are there so many bonus tracks
Dan: and why is this metal
Jen: why are there any bonus tracks?
Dan: yeah it's like, hey buy this vomit, get bonus diarrhea
Jen: this sounds like tainted love
Dan: why is the keyboard obviously ripping off tainted love
Dan: OMG u heard it too
Jen: well yeah! its so obv
Dan: why doesn't he feel like touching her?
Jen: cuz hed rather be where the white boys dance
Dan: make up your mind brandon
Dan: like first he doesnt wanna touch her
Dan: but then he's like
Dan: you're not going anywhere without me
Dan: like, what is he threatening her with
Dan: "i'd do anything just to be your man"
Dan: like, earlier he said he wont touch her
Jen: well, then touch her
Jen: srsly
Dan: so thats something he wouldnt do to be her man
Dan: like, touch or dont touch but shut up
Dan: ugh
Jen: here he is again with it
Dan: now he doesnt wanna again
Dan: and why cant anyone know about him?
Dan: why would she tell anyone, who hooks up with this freak
Dan: tainted love!
Dan: see then they change the last note
Jen: i know!
Jen: grr its pissing me off
Dan: so that as soon as u reocgnize it you go like "oh wait ok its not plagiarism"
Jen: and i have to hear tainted love
Dan: it only makes me want to hear tainted love
Jen: sometimes i feel i've got to run away
Dan: HA
Dan: oh man
Dan: it also ends rather abruptly
Dan: after all those carefully built up endings before lol

The Verdict

Dan: now what would you grade that record
Jen: hm
Jen: i think id probably give it like a c
Dan: i fluctuate between a C+ and a C though i'd like to give it a C-
Dan: yeah
Dan: maybe a C
Jen: i wouldnt bomb it cuz theres stuff i do actually like and plus its very entertaining
Dan: it's weird cuz there’s like barely one song good all the way thru
Dan: but there is stuff i like
Dan: but that makes me wanna punish him more
Dan: for ruining these potential good parts
Dan: if it was straight bad that would be easy to deal with at least
Dan: my problem is that now ill hum the synth part in “reasons unknown” or the verses in “river is wild” and actually crave it
Jen: yeah agreed
Dan: and then i put it on
Dan: and its like OHGODNO
Dan: i'll just give it a C
Dan: it's hard to even believe how badly conceived it is
Dan: like i wanna play it again to hear stuff i cant even believe they recorded
Jen: lmao
Dan: like some of those high notes
Dan: it's fascinating
Dan: but you see what i mean
Dan: i cant just go "bad record, end of story, next"
Jen: no i totally agree
Dan: i feel like i wanna rescue some of these aborted babies
Dan: like, it would be so easy to fix “reasons unknown”
Dan: maybe i'll make a screwed & chopped version
Dan: the vocals, between singing and lyrics are 90% of the record's problem
Dan: but you know what pisses me off the most?
Dan: what is sam's town?
Jen: what?
Dan: who is sam
Dan: why is it his town
Dan: you feel like there’s gonna be a storyline
Jen: its a casino
Jen: in vegas
Dan: ohhh
Dan: is it really?
Jen: dont you read any of the killers stuff anywhere
Jen: its like, near where they're from
Dan: i know theyre from vegas
Dan:, like, hot fuss is closer to a casino album
Dan: but like, the title threw me off
Jen: they could have picked a much casioner title
Dan: cuz in “bling” he's talking about working on the roadside and shit
Dan: so im thinking this is some epic story about some worker guy like bruce does, idk
Dan: what on this album concerns vegas or casinos at all?
Jen: nah i getcha
Dan: even “bling” doesnt seem to be about bling or a fucking king at all
Dan: kings dont work on roadsides
Jen: i'd prob think something like that too if i hadnt read it
Jen: confessions of a king lmao
Dan: but whats he confessing?
Jen: its just retarded
Jen: nothing on that album makes sense
Dan: but like, if i asked brandon what any single song on here is about
Dan: he seems to have an intent
Dan: its not like stephen malkmus shouting "40 million daggers"
Dan: where you know it's intentionally random
Jen: haaha yeah
Dan: i'd just love to hear what he was trying for
Jen: yeah really
Dan: like, the back of hurricane doesnt seem so ridiculous several tracks later when he's like, “my appetite ain't got no heaaaaaaaaaart”
Dan: it's almost as if the whole album was designed to prove me wrong that “when we were young” is the worst song of the year by presenting me with 13 worse songs
Jen: lmao
Jen: yeah “when you were young” is hardly the worst
Dan: i wonder what their next album will sound like
Dan: if they get to make one
Jen: oh jeez
Dan: somehow i doubt the 600,000 jay made off kingdom come's first week will be getting invested in more of this shit

Sam’s Town: C

Friday, December 22, 2006

Shuffling and Suffering #1: Saturday Night Pink

Not your father's Who. Because that one was good.

At the end of the year, I always have a good 30 or 40 new records that I picked up in the last 12 months for some reason or another, maybe some over-the-hill band I used to like and completism was my reflex, maybe some important-looking blogosphere hype that flamed out by the time people were concerned with the year's real albums. But I always feel somewhat guilty that I never end up playing them. Honestly though, who wants to sit through 30 or 40 mediocre-looking records just to make sure you won't actually like them and can move on? And who has the time? So to make it fun for myself I threw eight or nine of them on shuffle and decided to keep playing until enough songs from each record had passed to give me the general feel and a verdict I can live with. I may end up doing this alot actually, as there's always parts of the year that my backlog of new records is just out of control. So as a disclaimer, these records were literally thrown together in an impressionistic mishmash that in no way resembles a coherent, thought-out listen. Full disclosure: I spent the last few hours reading Entertainment Weekly and looking up at the screen when I was out of guesses or when I needed a song title for reference. So take my new column borne out of this intentionally shoddy method with a grain of salt.

deftones - Saturday Night Wrist

This was the surprise of the night. I checked out of this increasingly grueling band after 2004's impossibly grueling deftones only to find that they weren't stuck in a rut after all. Every bad 80s rock cliche, emo dynamic, and metal crunch isn't reinvented here, but they sure sound semi-perfected. And wtf, Chino sings, alot too, and minimizes his usual whisper/scream, a timely change for a cheesy and kind of fun 80s throwback album that reminded me more of an industrial VHS Or Beta than anything else. But then I tried to play it straight. Ah-ah. Stick to the right tracks or you'll end up at "Hole In The Earth" which sounds like Bono and Evanescence at some kind of reverb-junkie existentialist party. Not back up to speed, but taking some interesting detours certainly. B+

Boris - Pink

Since this album thrilled me a few times when I actually sat through once, what better excuse to make it my annual entry to the I Will Try And Enjoy Noiserock/Metal/Hardcore competition this year. Their production is fantastic, with sizzling guitars and escape-chute drums barrelling through what to them is a joke-hardcore nostalgia album and to me is the only album of theirs I'd even acknowledge. That said, the random tracks that popped up in this context were less than thrilling, kind of boring actually, which noiserock/metal/hardcore isn't supposed to be, especially when it crosses over to hipster success. How great can guitars sound when they're only playing sludge anyway? B

Field Mob - Light Poles And Pine Trees

The buzz on this group is that they do an un-wimpy imitation of Nappy Roots' type lite-South, but they're more like a parody of Andre 3000 and his parade of crunker-than-thou heirs to the throne, without biting the hand that feeds them. They honor Ludacris, 2Pac, and all those forebears who didn't need the veil of parody to forge their sound for what amounts to a musically rich Dirty South mixtape rather than a knockout tour de force. I wonder if they're gonna be famous. B+

Ghostface Killah - More Fish

I was so disappointed when first skimmed this lazy stopgap that I've been dreading the Close Listen ever since, and hey, it didn't turn out to be too bad, except for "Gotta Hold On" featuring, Christ, the worthless Eamon, who ruins an otherwise honey-sweet soul track. In fact, the beats here just glide on Ghostface's knack for picking gritty soul samples. In the mix context, some even surprise. But don't even mention it in the same sentence as Fishscale. B+

Pharrell - In My Mind

The little bastard cares about nothing but his dick's next warm destination, songwriting included, and this throwaway is even lazier than the defrosted beat on "Money Maker," but that doesn't make it one of the year's worst albums. It's kind of charmingly out of touch, in fact, throwing every guest star around trying to figure out who he can tail back up the charts, and flirting with disco and 808s not because Timbaland's bringing retro back, but because he's apparently not listening to the radio to know that. But he's still lazy, as evidenced by the annoyingly undercooked loop on "Raspy Shit." Not as horrible as I thought it would be, but I won't be playing this at all in a non-business context. B-

Electric Six - Switzerland

The music isn't too bad, workmanlike at best, so I was surprised to look up and see Electric Six marqueeing on my WinAmp over very non-disco, non-rock lounge jams, that all turn out to have made no attempt at a hook. But not only is this not funny or clever, the joke is so ungettable that it feels like they were never funny in the first place. Or hooky. I mean, are they being serious when they say "I'm sorry that I love you"? I can't even tell. C+

Sparklehorse - Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain

I had no idea what to make of this band before I even heard them, and I still don't. Mark Linkous is one of those depressed songwriters without a niche, like E or Joe Pernice, except even those guys have an identifiable schtick at least by this point in their careers. This guy just has depression, and songs that, while vastly overrated, occasionally hit a melodic target, as on the relatively rocked-out "Ghost In The Sky." Whether or not they're an appropriate catharsis for this guy's anguish or not I could not say. But they'd be almost catchy if he spoke up and projected a bit. B

Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out Of This Country

Who exactly is designating this a pop record, much less a great one? Belle & Sebastian has both catchier and more complex songs, Holly Golightly is a sexier chanteuse, even damn Cat Power has her own identity. Three or four songs came on that skipped around from fake-string ballads to faux 60s pop, except those are supposed to come with feeling and hooks, respectively. As always with this band, I just continue to hear barely-realized aping from established entities with actual songs, and even those 60s homages are sung with contempt. At least the Pipettes have a sense of humor to help wash down the smug. C

The Who - Endless Wire

I look up from my magazine thinking, 'who put on the Bob Seger?', when I realize, oh God, that's Roger Daltrey. The guitar on "Mirror Door" and "Black Widow's Eyes" was too familiar, though, which is strange; for a prog guy, Pete Townshend sure enjoys his four-chord power-cliches, and he makes even those sounds joyless. What wasn't so familiar was Daltrey's beyond self-parodic operatic howls that made me mistake him for Bob Seger or Rod Stewart in the first place. I guess The Who released this because several years of $100 list ticket prices warrant something new in thirty years. But the sheer greediness of it all, plus those $100 ticket prices, makes me worry that they still think they're making art as opposed to tour souvenirs. I mean, why would these assholes care? D+

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Indie-Rock Epics: A Report Card

In the roflcopter over the sea

I just rocked out to Neutral Milk Hotel's universally-lauded, almost decade-old masterpiece In The Aeroplane Over The Sea of my own volition for the first time in years (semi-rocking out to snatches of it in Alex's, Greg's or Justin's car does not count). Most people consider it the last great album of the 1900s even though I know 69 Love Songs is better (and somehow, bigger). But there's never really been a band like Neutral Milk Hotel before. The abridged story as I know it is like this. Jeff Magnum, one of the many trippy songwriters of the mysterious faction known as Elephant 6, was living in the Apples In Stereo guy's closet. The two of them played a bunch of strange instruments and he wrote a bunch of strange lyrics and sang in his strange voice and they recorded a strange album, On Avery Island in 1995. The album was okay; it kind of drops out after the first two tracks, but it did test the waters for a much bigger, more important event three years later. That's when they made Aeroplane, a record so emotionally intense, intensely weird, and both intensely and emotionally over the top, with unnameable instruments like zanzithophones and three-part mini-operas and circus instrumentals and random fuzzbass freakouts that somehow hinge on the line "I love you Jesus Christ." And the album was so big, so monumental, that Magnum just decided to quit after it. No nervous breakdown, no strange decline into drugs, just the realization that his musical mission is complete and on to something else, presumably religious. There's never been a career like it before in music, though the My Bloody Valentine guy comes close and his album was almost as good and certainly as acclaimed. Sure it's been hinted at that he's coming back this year or did some new demos in his basement, but what's an estranged indie legend without rumors? It's just so weird, though. Does the guy really think he'll never top it? I mean, he won't, I've heard his demos. But hey, he conceived them. It would be highly unusual for an artist that ambitious to be so self-conscious of his limitations; did he really make five or six attempts at a follow-up and just scrap them for obsolescence?

In any case, his contribution to music history is in stone, and it ain't merely the sweet sounds found within Aeroplane. No, Jeff Magnum's contribution to music history is that he invented the indie-rock epic, unless you count OK Computer as your starting point, which can be argued. But from there came 69 Love Songs, The Soft Bulletin, and next thing you know, bands like Cursive and The Decemberists and the Mountain Goats and the Hold Steady, whose entire rhetoric is making an epic concept rock opera every time out. The last era of that sort of thing was when Rush and Genesis and, Christ, Queenscryche were putting out. And the last time it was a good idea boils down to The Who, and their rock operas weren't even their best records (their new one certainly isn't either). So it's kind of odd that most of this new generation's stabs at it are actually good. For fun, here's a report card grading 25 of the best-loved records of this unabashedly bombastic ilk and my two cents on each (in chronological order of course):

Neutral Milk Hotel - In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (1998)

A perfect cycle of valleys and peaks orchestrated to sound like Alice In Wonderland meets Jesus Christ Superstar. Everyone cites the sprawling hymn "Oh Comely" or strained singalong classic "Two-Headed Boy" as the touchstone, but my favorite is far simpler, the propulsive "Ghost" with its sprightly drumrolls and "dee-dee-dee" bridge. Perfectly paced, with a beginning, middle and end that segue like liquid. One of the rare wholes whose parts are truly ironclad and inseperabale. A

The Olivia Tremor Control - Black Foliage: Animation Music (1999)

A sophomore slump for Elephant 6. Whereas not a moment goes by on Aeroplane that's not lyrical, or at least songful, even on its two instrumentals, The Olivia Tremor Control surrounds meager songs with more than ten rather un-lyrical sound collages, snippets and tuneless studio coilings. It plays dominatrix with the listener and won't let him cum, assuming one of these mediocre-to-pretty good songs is a fair comparison to an actual orgasm. And none of them are. C

The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin (1999)

Not an indie, but certainly beloved by that audience, The Soft Bulletin is Wayne Coyne's best album because it's the one where he discovered melody. The dizzying array of sound effects, orchestral swellings and lush studiocraft are boosted into the stratosphere of the heavenly by the sweetness of the actual tunes they embolden. His lyrics can be goofy ("The Spiderbite Song") or sappy ("Waiting For A Superman") but sometimes they're actually touching ("Suddenly Everything Has Changed") or inspirational ("Race For The Prize"). Coyne's most humane album, too, a promise only briefly sustained by the sweeping "Do You Realize??" on the slightly overwrought follow-up, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, which was even more conceptual in its own right. A-

The Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs (1999)

Stephin Merritt is the only songwriter on this list whose tunes are modest on average, always simple when they're elaborately arranged, and the only songwriter on this list besides John Darnielle who makes his craft out of the miniature (no surprise then, that Darnielle's also made an A+ record, Tallahassee). Merritt's delusions of grandeur are special. No other songwriter of his kind has attempted a brave three-disc set that fulfills its title's promise, 69 actual songs, all related to love in one way or another, most often humorously and always smartly. Except for the gorgeous five-minute run of "Sweet Lovin' Man," Merritt's songs are always tiny things from 30 seconds to three minutes, usually with a hummable chorus, some kind of string or banjo accompaniment, a handful of various singers, and usually the cheapest drum machine you can find punching out metronomic numbness underneath. The result is brave, funny, poignant and gorgeous. A+

Super Furry Animals - Rings Around The World (2002)

Adored in Britain and marginal here, Super Furry Animals made an expansive opus of britpop plus everything but the kitchen sink that's less fun in retrospect and always self-consciously eclectic. Beatlesque washes like "It's Not The End Of The World" turn into heavy metal robo-crunch like "Receptacle For The Respectable." "No Sympathy" vrooms from symphonic ballad to Aphex Twin apoplexy. "Juxtaposed With U" is the first anti-predjudice song with both Spanish guitar and vocoder. So it's a mess that could be pared down, yeah (especially the dragging "Run, Christian, Run!"), but it's a lovable one. I don't know if it's a good thing or not that it peaks on a power-ballad about Clinton coming inside Monica Lewinsky's mouth. B

Bright Eyes - Lifted Or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground (2002)

Severely flawed, he opens his career album with a track that will make you shut him off in seconds. "The Big Picture" is almost nine minutes of Bright Eyes parody: weird intro of "found" dialogue, eight minutes of overemoted whining and exaggerated folk-drama to follow. Like anyone with ears, I hated it instantly. Now I find it hilariously tasteless, like The Rapture's Echoes. But the first great track still doesn't happen til track four, "You Will. You Will. You Will. You Will," a perfect country ballad matched by some other sporadic moments of perfection here. "Waste of Paint," "Make War," "Bowl Of Oranges" and "Let's Not Shit Ourselves" should comprise more of the album than they do, but they don't, and even with the anti-hit "Lover I Don't Have To Love" on standby, the album's still half bad. He eventually found politics, melodies, and Emmylou Harris, but not here. B

Godspeed You Black Emperor! - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven (2002)

I don't do post-rock, except for the occasional interesting noise or two. But at least Tortoise is throwing things at the wall. This orchestra is "mysterious" and "intriguing" because of their name and tracklist-withholding album art? I mean, they have a formula; what's so "post" about that? Find some strange found monologue and cover it in rudimentary instrumental repetitions Steve Reich would call basic, no matter how many different strings are playing the same note at some point. As if this band's music is any less banal because one of their 20-minute "explorations" has "motherfucker" in the title. Five tracks in two discs you don't need. The very first one makes the point, and it peaks around five minutes. C+

Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)

Okay, I'll admit, I fucking loved this when it first came out. But why? In retrospect, I have no idea what felt so revolutionary about it other than the damn label dropping them. Certainly not the ass-boring "Reservations" or the anthem that takes forever only to deliver "I won't be caught calling the pot kettle black" as it's defining credo. "Ashes Of American Flags" and "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" certainly never get better than or live up to the heart-wrenching devastation in their titles, though at least the latter is sonically colorful. That leaves us with the pop songs that the folks who dubbed this a "classic" or, more ludicriously, a "9/11 response record," tend to ignore when blathering about it, namely the stuff that makes it a good album, but not the stuff that makes it a legend. I doubt Reprise would've dropped them if they led with the wistful "Kamera" instead of the, gosh, six minutes of clatter dubbed onto "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart," which thank God isn't the fifteen minutes of feedback dubbed onto the wretched follow-up A Ghost Is Born's wretched low point "Less Than You Think." "Heavy Metal Drummer" is, how boring, a sweet love song, and "I'm The Man Who Loves You" a raucous one, at least by Wilco standards. And "Jesus, Etc." is the sweetest tune Jeff Tweedy will ever write, with violins he'll never sing as well as. B+

Cursive - The Ugly Organ (2003)

I'll be brief since the band was kind enough to be. A concept album that works. About the pressures of commandeering a postpunk band no less, and what their hopeless audience expects of you! By a band who hasn't made a record even close to this great before or since. With cello as a lead instrument. 35 flawless minutes that build actual tension, with just one interlude to make you catch your breath before "Butcher The Song," a jagged mountain climb of catharsis that goes off in all different Freudian directions once the title "organ" is introduced. I wish Tim Kasher would grow out of his failed attempts to compare his feelings to excrement and make it work. But otherwise, rock on. A+

Death Cab For Cutie - Transatlanticism (2003)

Like Colin Meloy, I'd love to hate Ben Gibbard, but he's too inconsistent. He's always a pussy, natch, but his melodic sense and lyrical insight 50% of the time are on, on, on. And damn it, his attention to detail will make you laugh, cry, whatever, when he's not just wiping his ass. So "A Lack Of Color," "Expo '86," "Title and Registration," "We Looked Like Giants" and "Death Of An Interior Decorator" might well make you feel something a little extra. The autopilot "The New Year," "Sound Of Settling" and "Lightness" are catchy enough to avoid that stigma. And hey, even the grandiose cheeseburger of a title track gets me all sniffly as it approaches minute six. But "Tiny Vessels" and "Passenger Seat" might remind you why you try to hate this band in the first place, and that's because they can be fucking boring, which can cause some of even the above recommended tracks to leave you feeling a bit nauseous. B+

Belle & Sebastian - Dear Catastrophe Waitress (2003)

I'll get it out of the way that this isn't Belle & Sebastian's best record, though it is ridiculously littered with great songs. The buzzed-about "Piazza, New York Catcher" and the ornate title track are fun, but topped by the organ-led, twin-guitar showcase "Stay Loose" and "I'm A Cuckoo," which is so Thin Lizzy it makes Ted Leo sound like .38 Special by comparison. "Step Into My Office, Baby" is their sexiest song ever, and I don't prefer their earlier records because they're shyer. I prefer them because they have even more great songs than this one. A-

Broken Social Scene - You Forgot It In People (2003)

Like The Olivia Tremor Control, this faux meeting of minds is a mess on purpose, left for their bass player, of all people, to organize and make something of. He doesn't. At least Olivia Tremor Control mines Beach Boys/Beatles territory that doesn't offend me. These guys start out parodying Sonic Youth, end up tailing the Strokes, and waste alot of unformed ideas in between. I don't know why anyone would call this rock and roll; even their likeable record, last year's funkier Broken Social Scene, has too many overdubs and not enough bite to truly break its own ether, much less new ground for music in general. But despite some titles that would imply otherwise ("Capture The Flag," "You're Still My Fag") this is pointless, and not even fun about it. C-

The Arcade Fire - Funeral (2004)

At the time, I thought this was just more theater trash that Pitchfork was hawking. But in retrospect, all those blogalicious overrators were dead on; this is more than just "Bright Eyes with disco breaks" as I originally thought, though that description now reads more like a compliment anyway. Only the dragging "In The Backseat" falls flat, an odd closer for a record that lives for the climax. Favorite moments: the coda of "Tunnels," the coda of "Rebellion (Lies)," and especially, the Bright Eyes-with-disco-breaks ending to the slowly peeled "Crown Of Love." A

The Fiery Furnaces - Blueberry Boat (2004)

I also overrated this at the time, too, though I don't know how I stomached 78 minutes of weird noises that cross over to irritating and (very) awkward song changes, though there are striking moments here. The record's two best tracks however, are the clumsy-blues "Straight Street," with its waffley synth breakdown, and the vaudevillian "My Dog Was Lost But Now He's Found," also the two shortest tracks here. That leaves at least 69 minutes to go, and trust me, you'll be counting. B-

The Decemberists Present Picaresque (2005)

I'm not gonna give in to the pressure those intimidating Rushmore fans and theater geeks (and my girlfriend) are applying and still insist that this perfectly fine record, while solid from top to bottom (well, maybe not very bottom, that "you've got angels in your angles" envoi is pretty dumb"), isn't much fun to listen to over and over, even though it's their most accessible and upbeat record to date (and without any ten-minute suites or two-part adaptations of Japanese folktales, their most pop). Exceptions: "16 Military Wives," the best Decemberists song to date, also a rare political satire that fits Bush like a hunting cap, "The Mariner's Revenge Song," which stands at a wussy mere eight minutes to tell its worded-to-impress whale tale, "Eli, The Barrow Boy," a touching enough love lament to convince me Colin Meloy's thesaurus isn't all worthless. On the whole, though, I suprise myself by preferring the newer and more "epic" The Crane Wife, which takes longer to sink in and won't make you put it away as soon as it does. B+

The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday (2005)

Easier to pigeonhole than the new Incubus record, here's a gang of Springsteen and Zep-riff loving thirtysomethings who like to rock out like their parents did, but resist tired rock-opera trappings like mental illness when they pieced together their storyline for the hopeless Holly Lujah, a reformed drug addicted slut turned good Christian and was arguably better off. Crank it. A

Antony & The Johnsons - I Am A Bird Now (2005)

Antony sings worse than Joanna Newsom with a dentist's drill in her vagina, which keeps me from enjoying just about everything here, even with Lou Reed's help (though Boy George and Devendra Banhart certainly spoil that coup), except for maybe the transvetite's identity confusion anthem "For Today I Am A Boy." The overwrought "Hope There's Someone," however, is not exempt. C

The Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree (2005)

After the gorgeously full-bodied Tallahassee and the impenetrable narrative of We Shall All Be Healed, John Darnielle can make a child abuse record in his sleep. So what if his topics are getting simpler, even this year's grating Get Lonely wielded a "Woke Up New." The breathtaking "Broom People" and "Dilaudid" are far more effective with their literal flourishes than the child-quiet "Dinu Lappiti's Bones" that ruins the sum of the parts. But the parts are mostly great, from the folksy warning "Magpie" to the gripping "Song For Dennis Brown" and the gorgeously understated "Love, Love, Love." Motto: "I am gonna make it through this year if it kills me." And he does one last time. A

Sufjan Stevens - Illinois (2005)

Stevens' sense of melody is overrated, or at least overarranged. Banjos, even strings, all okay additions to some loosely composed folktunes, but a choir and fluty trills and the works on just about every song gets weary only a few tracks in, and there's more than twenty. This should broaden the effect of the spare "Casimir Pulaski Day" and "John Wayne Gacy Jr.," and it does, but not as much as you'd wish. "The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades" and "They Are The Night Zombies!" deserve the gifts they're given, but I'd rather not sit through the sickening "Come On! Feel The Illinoise!" and a dozen of its sugary bretheren to get to them. C+

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (2005)

What, you don't think this is epic? Alec Ounsworth's overblown David Byrne delivery on speed plus the Tom Waits circus of intro "Clap Your Hands!" certainly signal a climbing desperation that overflows on the closing "Upon This Tidal Wave Of Young Blood." A rare thing, arty minimal songs decked out like Arcade Fire explosions. Plus, it catapulted an unknown, unsigned band to stardom at the height of their burgeoning creativity without even a label deal. That's epic enough for me. A-

Animal Collective - Feels (2005)

Like Broken Social Scene, these weirdos make funny noises and loop them until they mean something. Like Broken Social Scene, it works less than they think. And like Bjork, they make said funny noises with their mouths. Tribal this, freak-folk that, not interested either. Start with the cutsier Sung Tongs if you must, but stay away from Here Comes The Indian if you don't want to feel like a sucker. I guess that means they peaked already. B-

Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine (2005)

Not a difficult anti-masterpiece as the ridiculous legend goes, just an intelligent and uncompromising songwriter broadening her strokes and gaining complexity with age. I miss the devious strings that swooped down like buzzards on "Red, Red, Red" in its unreleased form, but the rest here, particularly the click-clacking "Window," almost bouncy "Tymps," and extraordinary title track are enough to justify the legend, even though they're hardly "difficult." A-

Andrew Bird - The Mysterious Production Of Eggs (2005)

The more I listen closely to snippets of this whole, the more I feel like the whole is worth comprehending. But it fades into the background quite easily when I don't. Lots of worthy ideas here, some even fulfilled: "Measuring Cups" and "Fake Palindromes" certainly bring me back for more. But the whole is too slight nontheless, though I don't deny Bird's talent to hit it out of the park for a whole album eventually. Hone, my friend, hone. B

TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain (2006)

Edgy because they're an unironic indie band with Black Guys in it. Punk because they cover the Pixies and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, never mind that they picked bad song choices. Clever because they named their debut OK Calculator. Everything you know about TV On The Radio is a lie. They make unexciting drones that pretend 4AD is a better ingredient than Velvet Underground. So fuck these fakes, whose newest crock of shit has the entire world lapping their cum without a single review below an A minus, even four and a half stars from fucking Rolling Stone. Make no mistake, this is boring, frustrating, badly sung, and smarter than you. But you know what a tune is, I hope. C-

Joanna Newsom - Ys (2006)

Since her voice was trying enough on twelve normal-sized songs the first time around, five indigestibly long ones could be a pain in the ass. They're not. She's learned to sing, and Van Dyke Parks does the rest, surrounding her with occasionally gorgeous orchestral twists and turns that minimize that fucking harp as much as one could ask. Now if she'd just produce a whole hour as arresting as "Peach, Plum, Pear," she'll be ready for her opus. B

Monday, December 18, 2006

Kiss Out The Jams Presents: Best Of 2006

Your puzzled winner.

Apparently, Ghostface watermarks his own MySpace pics. Damn, he's even got the patented mirror shot down.

See you in 2007, kissers.


1. Ghostface Killah – Fishscale
2. Wussy – Funeral Dress ('05)
3. The Roots – Game Theory
4. Be Your Own Pet
5. The Replacements - Don't You Know Who I Think I Was? The Best Of The Replacements
6. Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere
7. Eric Bachmann – To The Races
8. Eef Barzelay – Bitter Honey
9. Neil Young – Living With War
10. The Format - Dog Problems
11. The Rapture – Pieces Of The People We Love
12. Jens Lekman – Oh You’re So Silent Jens ('05)
13. Man Man – Six Demon Bag
14. Regina Spektor – Begin To Hope
15. R.E.M. - ...And I Feel Fine: The Best Of The I.R.S. Years
16. Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass
17. New York Dolls - One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This
18. Sonic Youth – Rather Ripped
19. Pearl Jam
20. Bob Dylan - Modern Times
21. Thom Yorke – The Eraser
22. Rhymefest – Blue Collar
23. The Streets - The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living
24. Hamell On Trial – Songs For Parents Who Enjoy Drugs
25. The Coup - Pick A Bigger Weapon
26. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
27. The Handsome Family – Last Days Of Wonder
28. The Hold Steady – Boys And Girls In America
29. Todd Snider – The Devil You Know
30. Thunderbirds Are Now! - Make History
31. The Rough Guide To Bhangra Dance
32. We Are Scientists – With Love And Squalor
33. Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds
34. Ghostface Killah – More Fish
35. Jesus H. Christ And The Four Hornsmen Of The Apocalypse
36. Tom Waits - Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards
37. Panic! At The Disco - A Fever You Can't Sweat Out ('05)
38. The Rakes – Capture/Release
39. The Rough Guide To Planet Rock
40. The Long Winters – Putting The Days To Bed
41. M. Ward - Post-War
42. The Thermals - The Body, The Blood, The Machine
43. Ali Farka Touré - Savane
44. The Fever – In The City Of Sleep
45. The National – Alligator ('05)
46. Scissor Sisters – Ta-Dah
47. Tropicalia: A Brazilian Revolution In Sound
48. Missy Elliott – Respect M.E. [IMPORT]
49. Kimya Dawson – Remember That I Love You
50. The Pipettes – We Are The Pipettes [IMPORT]
51. KRS-One – Life
52. The Game - The Doctor's Advocate
53. Morningwood
54. Arctic Monkeys – Whatever You Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not


1. The Cardigans – “Give Me Your Eyes”
2. Ghostface Killah - "The Champ"
3. Gnarls Barkley - "Crazy"
4. Jens Lekman – “A Sweet Summer’s Night On Hammer Hill”
5. Justin Timberlake feat. T.I. - "My Love"
6. Beyonce - "Ring The Alarm"
7. Shakira feat. Wyclef Jean – “Hips Don’t Lie”
8. The Mountain Goats – “Woke Up New”
9. Clipse feat. Slim Thug - "Wamp Wamp (What It Do)"
10. The Hold Steady - "Chips Ahoy!"
11. Be Your Own Pet - "Bunk Trunk Skunk"
12. Eric Bachmann - "Man O War"
13. Eric Bachmann - "Genie, Genie"
14. Eef Barzelay - "Ballad Of Bitter Honey"
15. Wussy - "Soak It Up"
16. The Format - "The Compromise"
17. The Decemberists - "Culling Of The Fold"
18. T.I. - "What You Know"
19. Rhymefest feat. Kanye West - "Brand New"
20. The Roots - "Here I Come"
21. The Rapture – “Get Myself Into It”
22. Prince - "Get On The Boat"
23. Regina Spektor – “Hotel Song”
24. Built To Spill - "Mess With Time"
25. The National - "Secret Meeting"
26. Rihanna - "SOS (Rescue Me)"
27. Christina Aguilera - "Ain't No Other Man"
28. Morningwood - "Nth Degree"
29. Regina Spektor - "Fidelity"
30. Incubus - "Anna-Molly"
31. Chamillionaire - "Ridin'"
32. Jessica Simpson - "A Public Affair"
33. Panic! At The Disco - "The Only Difference Between Martyrdom And Suicide Is Press Coverage (Tommy Sunshine Remix)"
34. Test-Icicles – “Circle. Square. Triangle.”
35. The Flaming Lips – “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song”
36. Buck 65 - "Indestructible Sam"
37. Rick Ross - "Hustlin'"
38. Band of Horses – “The Funeral”
39. Gnarls Barkley - "Smiley Faces"
40. The Blow - "Parentheses"


1. We Are Scientists - "The Great Escape"
2. The Format - "Dog Problems"
3. The Thermals - "A Pillar Of Salt"
4. Morningwood - "Nth Degree"
5. The Mountain Goats - "Woke Up New"
6. Be Your Own Pet - "Bicycle, Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle"
7. Beyonce - "Ring The Alarm"
8. Danielson - "Did I Step On Your Trumpet?"
9. Gnarls Barkley - "Smiley Faces"
10. The Flaming Lips - "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song"

Worst Albums (yes, I've played every one of these):

1. Tool - 10,000 Days
2. TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
3. The Living End - State Of Emergency
4. Cat Power - The Greatest
5. Nellie McKay - Pretty Little Head
6. My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade
7. Sunn O))) - Black One
The Killers - Sam's Town
9. The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
10. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Stadium Arcadium

Worst Singles:
1. James Blunt - "You're Beautiful"
2. The Killers - "When You Were Young"
3. My Chemical Romance - "Welcome To The Black Parade"
4. tie: Gwen Stefani - "Wind It Up"
Fergie - "Fergalicious"
5. U2 & Green Day - "The Saints Are Coming"
6. tie: Akon feat. Eminem - "Smack That"
Akon feat. Snoop Dogg - "I Wanna Fuck You"
7. Hinder - "Lips Of An Angel"
8. Pussycat Dolls - "Don't Cha"
9. Nelly Furtado feat. Timbaland - "Promiscuous"
10. Dixie Chicks - "Not Ready To Make Nice"

Best Films:

1. Dave Chapelle's Block Party (best film of the year)
2. The Descent (best horror film since Seven, if that even counts)
3. Brick (best indie)
4. The Departed (best Oscar bait)
5. tie: Borat (funniest film of the year, intentional)
Lady In The Water (funniest film of the year, unintentional)

Top 5 Music Stories 2006:
1. Cee-Lo finally got famous.
2. If Sleater-Kinney had to break up, I'm glad they did at the absolute top of their game.
3. Stephen Colbert vs. The Decemberists, almost as good as Chris Ott vs. The Decemberists.
4. Rappers' bad movie choices: the game playing a bad guy named "big meat" in waist deep, Cam'ron doing everything possible to kill off his Purple Haze credibility by making Killa Season (not to mention getting his ass handed to him by Bill O'Reilly on the air, and talking plans of making a documentary about confronting pedophiles).
5. Rainer Maria finally broke the fuck up.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Seven Deadly Singles #36: Everyone Is Olddd

Even great rappers get old and delusional. Old rockers get older. One-hit wonders get annoying fast. Tom Waits remains immortal.

Chris Cornell - "You Know My Name"

Audioslave got off to a good start that played to Tom Morello's strengths with the Zep-riff-roar of "Cochise" and Chris Cornell's with the haunting power ballad "Like A Stone." Then they began to repeat themselves, not for the better, and their debut album wasn't even over yet. The follow-up was so dull I didn't even listen to the follow-up to that. But now I might. Caught off guard by this sleek new Bond theme over the gorgeously animated opening credit sequence in Casino Royale, this sexy espionage rocker is a far better comeback than 007's. Cornell's best song in years plays to his wonderfully operatic strengths without toning down the riffage, and I would've A-listed it if he delivered the punchline as well as the build-up. Ain't the singing's fault; "Shaken Not Stirred" would've been a less stupid title to climax a mammoth chorus with than "You Know My Name." Maybe hook the guy up with Meat Loaf or Tenacious D to teach him how to keep those sweet decibels flowing out his larynx without having to rely on a hook he can't write. B+

Tom Waits - "Lie To Me"

Tom Waits' new triple cd set is so awesome that I wanted to review the focus track in a true singles context just for fun. Even if you're not part of his cult, "Lie To Me" is catchy if you can stand the wheezing you're likely unaccustomed to. It's two minutes of asthmatic rockabilly, with some creepy harmonics thrown in as the musical center like a two-note stab looped in a Neptunes track. The percussion's more alive and jaunty than his usual tribal bangbang. You might actually hum this, though to the converted, it's business as usual. More fun than your average cult artist's routine material, though. A-

U2 & Green Day - The Saints Are Coming"

Two junkies, one a veteran and one a n00b to h00bris, enter a Grammy detox clinic together to cure their addiction to dinosaur awards, but have a change of willpower once they find themselves rooming together, and they get to talking. This is their escape plan. Operation: Grammy. Bono makes another pass at restoring credibility he never had when the same old fogies who lined up for "Beautiful Day" lined up for "Vertigo," this time with a real live Punk Band covering an Actual Punk Song juicing his chances. Since anything Bono touches gets nominated for six or seven Grammys, this is new buddy and recent convert to mystical crap Billie Joe Armstrong's chance to replenish his fix, which he had a taste of for a good two years. The song is just bland enough to make U2 fans feel hip and just driving enough, thanks to the unsinkable Tre Cool, to maybe fool American Idiot fans into taking that extra step towards a John Mayer purchase. Cross-marketing genius that Nelly and Tim McGraw couldn't manufacture. The geriatric circle jerk must've come (n.p.i.) to a screeching halt today when the song scored exactly one Grammy nomination. Reality: "Vertigo" was better. Punker even. American Idiot had more universal appeal. What a coup. D+

Akon feat. Snoop Dogg - "I Wanna Fuck You"

This asshole got annoying fast. Charming after his jail stint as a kind of confession-booth loverman, his debut album had a bunch of good tunes. Strike one for his sophomore slump was speeding up Eminem's decline before the Re-Up made the Shady brand name even cheaper. Strike two is doing a song as crass as this one with the head of the crass; Snoop's verse makes his Pussycat Dolls feature look like it was recorded in the same room as the girls. It probably was, too. A private room, that is. With this song blasting on the stereo. Then Snoop reached over the Doll fellating him to switch the radio dial to a sexier song. C-

Akon feat. Eminem - "Smack That"
Eminem feat. 50 Cent - "You Don't Know"

Let's talk about Eminem for a minute, but first I'll finish up with Akon. What's sexier than the "I Wanna Fuck You" guy and the constantly-threatens-to-murder-his-wife guy on the same song? Anything, of course, and didn't Eminem's "Ass Like That" go out of its way to denounce these kind of bullshit lothario songs? If not Em's whole catalog anyway, which has a history of hating R&B, boy bands, sissies, and in general anything that diminished from his dangerous persona (except his daughter; he luuuuvs her).

So naturally I have no idea what attracts Em to G-Unit synth-bullshit tracks like "You Don't Know," or rather, anything about G-Unit at all. At least D-12 had offensive prankster charms Marshall could run his creative horror-schtick fantasies by. Hanging around 50 Cent too much is actually starting to threaten his rapping abilities. Honestly, when's the last time you could describe an Eminem track as forgettable? This isn't the first, those new tracks on the best-of were trash. But this is the first we're supposed to take seriously. I don't know why the best year for hiphop has the world's two best rappers copping out so badly. Maybe they feel threatened by all the worthy competition for once. Maybe they're just getting old. Or maybe they're so out of touch they forgot what made them tick in the first place. Jay-Z certainly never bragged about being Gwyneth Paltrow's buddy in his prime, and Eminem was certainly never a mixtape underdog like 50 Cent, whose level he's trying to lower himself to for cred he shouldn't want. The Game is cleaning both their asses as we speak, and he sucks. Both: D

Amerie - "Take Control"

Ten seconds in, it ain't "1 Thing." Thirty seconds in, I no longer think she's lost her beat-riding magic. False intro aside, here comes a conga groove, bendy surf guitar licks, and oh snap, horns on the hook, how "Deja Vu!" So maybe she didn't completely ignore her blog-prone fans who wanted more weird rhythmic elements. But actually, the hook's got a kind of annoying jittery call-and-response thing. What kind of R&B jam has a better verse than its chorus? Biting Beyonce doesn't really help when all she's ever aimed for is a Timbaland-less Aaliyah. Four minutes in, it ain't "1 Thing." B-

I Am Not Afraid Of The Hype For The New Yo La Tengo Record

. . . but "Pass The Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind" will still beat my ass

Yo La Tengo have been pissing me off. Last year, they put out a fake best-of that had plenty of great songs on it but was hardly definitive (where the fuck was either version of "Today Is The Day") and only made me want to hear the albums with the missing tracks whenever I played it. It created a semi-context for some excellent toss-offs ("Drug Test," "Nuclear War" and "Upside-Down") but sold them short once again by stacking them up beside established juggernauts like "Autumn Sweater" and "Tom Courtenay," that already have cozier homes. And the rarities disc and liner notes sucked.

This July, promo copies of the first new YLT record in three years surfaced, with the last minute cut off of each track to cleverly outflank the downloaders until, you know, the first week of the album's official release. Nevertheless, the album was sweeping, long, and good, if forgettable. And I take it as a pretty conscious adversity to the meh reaction to the previous, quieter Summer Sun that this one was loud as a motherfucker even if it's just as aimless as their drones. I delayed my opinion, figuring it was made to be heard live. They agreed; assholes at the Pitchfork Music Festival, they played a too-short set with nothing but songs from it, when it wasn't even out yet. Yeah, I recognized a few--it's hard to forget the show/album opener, "Pass The Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind," three throbbing, feedbacking notes over and over for eleven straight minutes, or Soul Train send-up "Mr. Tough," with Ira singing in Beck/Prince/Stipe/Ween/Jimmy Fallon falsetto--but it was hard to enjoy a set of anything once it became clear we weren't getting any "Sugarcube." Then I missed the show in Jersey City that they opened with "Sugarcube." So I pretty much hated this band by the time the new album officially came out, and I refused to listen to it since the festival.

Back in 2003, things were great. They had just released the ultra-beautiful Summer Sun which bored the rest of the world, but was my #2 album of 2003 (behind Cursive's The Ugly Organ), possibly my favorite Yo La Tengo record (it's a tough tie with I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One, which I'm still convinced has more filler), and became the third Yo La Tengo record ever to enter my all-time list. Everyone kind of B'd it and moved on, frustrated that it wasn't as easy to pigeonhole as the previous . . . And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out (late-night balladry) or the now months-old I Am Not Afraid of You And I Will Beat Your Ass (classic rock eclecticism). It was more like lounge eclecticism, a description that puts off everyone, what with its two greatest peaks hooked to Hawaiian guitar ("Today Is The Day") and name-dropping dream-funk ("Moonrock Mambo"). But pigeonhole as you'd like, you can't say it's not beautiful. From the forward-driving, harmonized "Little Eyes" to the Georgia-lulled Big Star cover "Take Care" to the neon-bright sunshine pop of "Season Of The Shark" to the ambient-jazz opener "Beach Party Tonight," Summer Sun delivered the sunniest mellow music in recent memory, a sugary mix Elliott Smith and Cat Power couldn't touch on their least teary days. It lived up to its title in a way most records don't and most Yo La Tengo records usually do. Examples: Electr-O-Pura gleefully wallows in its pure electronic drone, I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One is truly a marraige of love sounds and love literal, and Yo La Tengo Is Murdering The Classics indeed murders the classics. In keeping, I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass beats the shit out of foolish Summer Sun-haters who thought they were done rocking, starting with the aforementioned eleven full minutes of vein-bulging three-chord distorto-pulse, the kind these guys mastered all the way back on 1993's Painful. The chief selling point of the album (and its biggest cause of criticism), is that it merely recycles a grab bag of old Yo La Tengo ideas and doesn't bother cohering over 77 minutes. This hasn't been a problem for it critically, as Summer Sun put people to sleep while sticking to a theme.

Today I walked into CD World in Totowa, NJ and find a used copy of the new record for $5.99 (Amazon's lowest is $11.99), which, fully examined, contains no marks of a promo or any excuses to be so low-priced, unless you count the typo in "The Story Of Yo La Tango" on the back cover's tracklist. Cheap records by great bands are usually great times to reevaluate their less great records. So I let bygones be bygones and bought it. Familiar drones sounded more exciting than I remembered, and the drony stuff even beats the poppy stuff in retrospect. Try the psychedelic fusion jam "The Room Got Heavy," which sounds like a dub mix of Belle & Sebastian's "Legal Man" elongated in a fishtank, or the stun-gun organ stabs that punctuate each line of "Point And Shoot," which cascades into a dueling piano-plink/guitar-wrench epilogue. The obvious ear candies, "Mr. Tough," and "Beanbag Chair," didn't annoy like I expected second time around, but weren't definitive like past Yo La pop songs. There's certainly no "Sugarcube" or "You Can Have It All" here, and this is also the first Yo La Tengo album without a quirky cover tune since 1995, so no "My Little Corner Of The World" either. If anything, this is the album that proves those grating organ-and-noise jams at the end of previous YLT albums weren't just lovably failed experiments. Maybe you don't need 8:51 of "Daphinia"'s languid rain-patter, but it certainly beats anything on their like-minded soundtrack The Sound Of The Sounds Of Science. Part of the genius of Beat Your Ass is that it mostly takes things the band has tried to do in the past and got halfway, and finally completes them. So call the pretty piano swing of "Sometimes I Don't Get You" or the swollen organ-garage throwaway "I Should've Known Better" cleaned-off missing links in the Yo La Tengo sonic palette. The truly epic "The Story Of Yo La Tengo" closes the album on another distended twelve minutes that prove there's still somewhere they'll take you. Maybe there's room for a fourth YLT record in my all-time pantheon after all.

Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass: A-