30 December 2008

I'm starting over!

This is my current anthem for the impending new year. Off one of my most anticipated releases of 2009 200 Million Thousand, the Black Lips remain true to their shambolic selves with "Starting Over". Lo-fi and slurry its perfect for imbibing your final gulps of the year as you raise your glass to the better times to come.

Starting Over - Black Lips

27 December 2008

Perfect for your little shiksa wife

Hanukkah is nearly over but we can't let the holiday pass without posting this silly Mountain Goats song to help you celebrate.

Hanukkah - The Mountain Goats

25 December 2008

22 December 2008

The Walkmen @ Brooklyn Masonic Temple, Brooklyn, NY 12/15/08

I think we can all agree Hamilton Leithauser is a damn fine looking guy. However, his boyish face, mighty cheekbones and all-around clean cut look stands in stark contrast to his fierce, unrestrained howl of a voice. Once he opens his mouth, an commanding force of vocal prowess is released and defies you to oppose it. Meanwhile the guitars chime and whirl and crash and fall around the words that belie them. The Walkmen's nervy sound translate phenomenal live, especially the new material off this year's super-excellent You & Me.

I wrote at length about "In the New Year" in my top songs of the year list. And I stand by what I said before:

Hamilton's snarl is so damn sexy and menacing. The way he sings “I know it’s true –it’s gonna be a good year” is like a threat. Year, you better be good or I’ll choke you with my bare hands. Meanwhile the shambolic guitars teeter as if on the brink of cautious optimism.

In the New Year - The Walkmen
Four Provinces - The Walkmen

20 December 2008

Julie's Top Songs of 2008 (part the first)

1. My Year in Lists - Los Campesinos!

I listened to this song for about four months solid this year. I retitled my personal blog after it. I watched the video nearly obsessively. This was undoubtedly the song of the year for me. The hook, the twee, the nostalgia, it was unstoppable. Thanks, Danny.

2. Murder in the City - The Avett Brothers

I have been extremely remiss in not writing about the Avett Brothers show we saw earlier this year in Gainesville, Florida.

Thanks to a tip from my old pal Curtis, I had already started listening to Emotionalism pretty obsessively as early as February of this year, but their studio work left me completely unprepared for the live show. Raucous bluegrass hoedown, indeed. Although this year's release, The Second Gleam, left me a little bit cold, this particular track is just so sweet and family-oriented, it melts me every time.

3. Fools - The Dodo's

This is another twitchy genre mash-up that I found completely impossible not to listen to over and over again earlier this year. They may be sweaty, but they sure can put together four-plus minutes of music.

4. Bleeding All Over You - Martha Wainwright

The song doesn't start until about three and a half minutes into the clip, but it's worth it. Something about her music is so classic and timeless, a little Rickie Lee, a little Neko Case, a little twang, and a lot of bitter cynical melancholy. And we all need that sometimes, right?

5. Here's the Thing - Girl Talk

In the interest of ending this on an upbeat note (with a positive jam), and because it is so damned well-deserved, a little slice of genius from the brilliant minds at the Case Western Reserve University bioengineering department:

June's Top Songs of 2008, pt. II

Songs released in previous years, that influenced me or that I loved this year, in no order:

Jens Lekman - F-Word.m4a
buy Oh You're So Silent Jens
This song is half the reason I've been so lazy this year. An entire month of procrasturbating to this song should be more than enough.

Beck - Debra.mp3
buy Midnite Vultures
I didn't beleive this song was Beck at first either. This one is a rediscovery. I loved it when I first got it on a mixtape when it came out, and recently dug it up. Best line: "Lady, step inside my Hyundai!"

Howard Jones - No One Is To Blame.mp3
buy Dream into Action
Something I related to a little too well.

The Starlight Mints - Goldstar.m4a
buy Built on Squares
This song is "kooky like some girl from Mars" with spooky strings and creative percussion, but don't be put off by the voice that sounds like a dude doing a bad impersonation of a woman's voice--it's actually the guitarist's girl.

Sufjan Stevens - To Be Alone With You.m4a
buy Seven Swans
A classic that for me will never die. Perfection in simplicity, a highlight from one of my "top 10 desert island" albums.

The Opposites - Pillar of Salt.mp3
You can't buy anything by them, sorry: This is a friend's now-defunkt band from NJ circa 2003. Drunken spoken intros contrasting with a playful ending FTW!

DiskothiQ - Tulsa Imperative.mp3
buy The Wandering Jew
This was written by John Darnielle, but initially discarded. Peter Hughes picked it up for his solo project at the time, and since then, the Mountain Goats have occasionally performed it live.

Sia - Death by Chocolate.m4a
buy Some People Have Real Problems
Deeply soulful in two parts, with heavy hand of gospel as by an Australian (and produced by Beck)!

Depeche Mode - Blasphemous Rumours.mp3
buy Some Great Reward
A special song for the holiday season, for those of us who are still bitterly recovering from oppressively religious upbringings (though, ex-Mormon is the new ex-Catholic).

Rodrigo y Gabriela - Tamacun.mp3
buy Rodrigo y Gabriela
Spanish guitar flair. I'd love to see Gabriela and Kaki King battle it out, acoustic guitar style!!

the Mountain Goats - Mole.m4a
buy We Shall All Be Healed
For all those who came to see me up there in intensive care, with tubes coming into me and coming out of me, and for all those I visited, handcuffed to their beds.

19 December 2008

June's Top Songs of 2008, pt. I

My favorite songs released this year, in no order:

Cut Copy - So Haunted.m4a
buy In Ghost Colours
Addictive and hypnotizing.

Coldplay - Lost!.m4a
buy Viva La Vida
An enthusiastic backbone with power pop lyrics.

Reynaldo - Brothers Forever.mp3
The only good thing to ever come out of American Idol.

Lykke Li - Little Bit.mp3
buy Youth Novels
Swedish with a light voice, a lovely sweet song.

Vampire Weekend - Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.m4a
buy Vampire Weekend
Why be "A-Punk" when you can lean into this floaty Caribbean beat instead?

Besnyo - No!.m4a
buy Worry
Another great exclamation-point song, from a fab band out of Buffalo NY.

The Hood Internet - The Year This Club Broke (My Heart) [Usher (feat. Young Jeezy) vs Los Campesinos!].mp3
The year's best mash-up.

Flight of the Conchords - Bret, You've Got It Goin' On.mp3
buy Flight of the Conchords
This isn't from the album, but the best song from the show.

Islands - Vertigo (If It's a Crime).m4a
buy Arm's Way
11 minutes of sheer epic awesomeness.

the Mountain Goats & Kaki King - Black Pear Tree.mp3
The Black Pear Tree EP is SOLD OUT so instead buy Heretic Pride
A wistful, sadder song.

Weezer - Pork & Beans.mp3
buy Weezer (The Red Album)
Too obviously catchy and lovable to not theme your summer.

Sufjan Stevens: Songs for Christmas Vol. 8

FIRST! Thanks to our intrepid Sufjan correspondent Katie, we're proud to bring you the freshly leaked new Christmas EP by Sufjan "Stovetop" Stevens, "Astral Inter Planet Space Captain Christmas Infinity Voyage, Volume VIII."

EDIT 10/22/2010: refreshed all links!
01. Angels We Have Heard On High.mp3
02. Do You See What I See.mp3
03. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear.mp3
04. Christmas In The Room.mp3
05. Good King Wenceslas.mp3
06. Joy To The World.mp3
07. The Child With The Star On His Head.mp3 Edit 12/12/2010: This track disappeared and I no longer have it to share. Sorry! :(

...or grab all 7 tracks HERE!

18 December 2008

Caroling with the Decemberists

OK, so, I feel slightly guilty for posting this, BUT it's just too fun not to share. Colin Meloy and Jenny Conlee of the Decemberists sing a couple of impromptu Christmas carols at a private holiday benefit held by the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, but oh look what happens when Colin spots the camera...

15 December 2008

We Shall All Be Healed

So I've been having a lot of trouble putting together a list of my favourite songs this year. Not because there hasn't been a lot of good songs released this year, because there seriously has. But for me there was only one song that mattered this year, and it wasn't released in 2008 but in 2004.

At the start of this year my mother passed away very suddenly. She went to bed feeling fine, and just didn't wake up in the morning. Which would be a blessing if she'd been 80, but she was only 49. And I found my self incapable of listening to music. You have to understand, since I got my first cassette tape player back when I was eight (with 'Spice World' and the Lion King Soundtrack, oh yes) I haven't gone a day without music. I love music. But those months following my mum's death were months of awful, awful silence. Happy music made me feel angry, sad music made me feel worse. Only a music lover can understand how much this distressed me.

And then, there was this song. I would have ranked it as one my least favourite Mountain Goats songs, if I even remembered to rank it at all. But one rainy afternoon when I was fitfully skipping through my iTunes library trying to find something, anything, to let go to, it came on. And I let it play though. Then I played it again. For a solid month I listened to nothing but this song. I clung to it, I depended upon it. It was the only song in the world that made me feel just a little bit better, and I'm not exaggerating when I say I don't think I would have made it through this year without it.

For me, 2008 will always be the year I lost my mum, and the year of this song:

Your Belgian Things - the Mountain Goats

Heather Margaret

14 December 2008

Top 26 Songs of 2008 (Jess Edition, Part 2)

Read Part 1 here

13. In the New Year – The Walkmen
Hamilton's snarl is so damn sexy and menacing. The way he sings “I know it’s true –it’s gonna be a good year” is like a threat. Year, you better be good or I’ll choke you with my bare hands. Meanwhile the shambolic guitars teeter as if on the brink of cautious optimism.

12. Sleepyhead – Passion Pit
Incredibly disorienting on the first listen, but upon closer examination this total mindfuck of electro-pop reveals layers upon layers of hooks. In my utopian world, this is what the future sounds like, or at least it should.

11. Lovecraft in Brooklyn – the Mountain Goats
John Darnielle finally gets his metal on--albeit in a highly literary, detailed narrative of paranoia in the city. Novelistic imagery of switchblades and brains in mason jars abound to genuinely frightening affect. The nearly meta-lyrics ring true: like John, we too are “like genuinely afraid.”

10. 5 Years Time – Noah and the Whale
The whistling intro, the clap-along melody, the Wes Anderson homage video – no doubt about it, this song is what it says: Love, Love Love.

9. Oh My God – Ida Maria
The Norwegian fireball defies you to “find a cure for her life” with raging grrrl power riffs and a smidge of vulnerability. Let us know if you.

8. Little Bit – Lykke Li
Sometimes the most minimal arrangements are the most effective. The sparse cyclical percussion, the whimpering puppy dog vocals that only a Swede can utter, plus those gutsy lyrics about “keeping your legs apart to forget about your tainted heart” all synergistically culminate in an anthemic confessional for the ages.

7. My Year in Lists – Los Campesinos!
Britain's cheekiest youngsters possess the wit or Art Brut and the twee-ness of Architecture in Helsinki and in under two minutes create one of the catchiest, cleverist melodies of the year.

6. Lights and Music – Cut Copy
This song is like a prism that shines rainbows on the dancefloor. It’s a technicolor wonderland of dance-y 80's goodness. How did New Order not record this song?

5. Light of Love – Music Go Music
Abba is reincarnated as a Californian indie-pop band, and sound a whole lot better this time around. The sugary chorus soars with this weird thing called optimism.

4. L.E.S. Artistes – Santogold
Pure empowerment from an electro-new-wave-hip-hop goddess. It’s the very definition of fierce.

3. Why Do You Let Me Stay Here? – She & Him
Old-timey adorableness with a contemporary snap. Makes me wanna hike up my skirt and bat my eyelashes, though somehow I doubt I could beat Zooey in the coy, come-hither department

2. Blind – Hercules & Love Affair ft. Antony Hegarty
Very few songs move me. Even fewer songs get me to move. It is an extremely rare thing when a song accomplishes both. Antony’s operatic vocals humanize the icy synths and bleating horns into six full minutes of pulsating pathos.

1. Lost Coatlines – Okkervil River
This is everything I believed this band could be. With a delicious “Lust for Life” baseline, a lingering coda of “la, la, las”, not one, but two of the sexiest male voices in existence, this is a smart, sad wallop of a song. It won over my heart, my mind and my toe-tapping feet and is best heard in darkness alone.

12 December 2008

Quick gift idea

The Yellow Bird Project is probably the best way to support your favorite band's favorite charity. AND get very cool t-shirts at the same time.

According to their website:

Yellow Bird Project is a Montreal-based, non-profit initiative. We collaborate with musicians in designing a T-shirt, we print and sell them on our website, and all of the money we make goes to charity. Which charity? Each of the artists gets to choose their own. We have three fundamental aims:

1) To make money for charities directly through T-shirt sales.
2) To raise awareness for charity organizations through artists’ endorsement.
3) To raise the profile of the artists we like.

And with a current roster that includes Bon Iver, the New Pornographers, The National, The Shins, Rilo Kiley, My Brightest Diamond and lots more, how can you resist?

Simply put, the Yellow Bird Project is awesome.

09 December 2008

Top 26 Songs of 2008 (Jess Edition, Part 1)

Here's my list of fave songs of the year. Stay tuned for the other gals' lists of songs. And then check back at the end of the month for our cumulative top albums list.

26. Mykonos – Fleet Foxes
This is the song that convinced that Fleet Foxes were waaaaay more then Grizzly Bear-lite. Swelling harmonies and tribal rhythms rarely sound this compelling.

25.Run (I'm a Natural Disaster) – Gnarls Barkley
It’s all in the little “woos” and “las”. Simultaneously menacing and dizzyingly fun.

24. Slapped Actress – The Hold Steady
With this song, The Hold Steady finally managed to become epic. Massive crescendos, lots of “woah woah woah-ing” and Craig Finn’s as-always urgent delivery work in perfect unison.

23. Pieces of You – Islands
Ultra-bouncy and deceptively intricate song that bubbles its way into full-fledged orchestral grandeur.

22. Another Day – Jamie Lidell
The sunniest single Motown never released (by a British white boy, no less).

21. Too Drunk to Dream – The Magnetic Fields
The title says it all –a bitingly witty (and boozy) ode to my two favorite verbs.

20. Chasing Pavements – Adele
While most of the British neo-soul songstress’ debut album errs a bit on the sleepy side for my taste, this song just explodes once it hits the chorus. Heartbreak rarely sounds as bombastic as it feels.

19. The Crook of My Good Arm –Pale Young Gentlemen
Theatrical crooning, a clanging bell and one of the catchiest choruses I’ve heard all year (RUN! RUN!) make for an awesomely frantic song - from a damn-underappreciated band at that.

18. Dying is Fine – Ra Ra Riot
e. e. cummings’ poetry and rocking cello make for an epic combination.

17. Heart of Chambers – Beach House
Victoria Legrand, oh my, your voice! Oh my, this song! Where does it come from? I’m thinking it’s gotta be from some otherworldly realm where Nico and woozy organ drones collided to form a black hole of exponential melancholy.

16. Two Weeks – Grizzly Bear (Live on Letterman)
It’s a bit more sprightly then their usual hazy-as-codeine sound. And by that I mean it has a lot of bouncy keyboards. Yet it still retains the haunting-as-fuck aesthetic of anything they’ve ever recorded. In other words, it’s the sound of a group howling at the moon while dancing in its light.

15. Raincoat Song – The Decemberists
Songs about rain and loneliness are by no means a rare thing and Colin Meloy manages to breathe a breath of fresh air into the fowl weather canon with a sparse acoustic melody and wistful lyricism. “You sleep like a spinster and you’re twenty-eight/ you’ve been thinking late, you couldn’t catch a cold” Sadly, some of can relate.

14. Id Engager – Of Montreal
Sure the album, was a bit choppy (and let’s face it, nothing’s gonna top last year’s Hissing Fauna) BUT we’re talking about songs here and as far as songs go, you don’t much more audaciously sexually playful then this (unless of course you’re Prince). Kevin Barnes coos out from a jungle of swooping synths and a self-proclaimed “phalocentric tyranny”. Baby, I’ll play with you any day!

Stay tuned for the final 13 songs later in the week...

07 December 2008

The only Christmas song that matters?

Some blogs only post cover songs. Some blogs only post Christmas songs.

Well, one blog only posts covers of one Christmas song. And not just any Christmas song, but THE Christmas song to end all Christmas songs - Wham's! heartbreakingly catchy "Last Christmas".

Believe it or not, Last Christmas (the blog) has been around for over 3 years! and has featured over 300 renditions of the now-classic song. I just can't believe it's taken me THIS long to discover it, but oh thank heaven I have.

And just because, I'll share one of my fave renditions

Last Christmas - Coldplay (Wham! cover)

Last Christmas I gave you my heart
But the very next day, you gave it away

04 December 2008

Vampire Weekend @ Terminal 5, New York, NY 12/03/08

Live, Vampire Weekend are pretty much exactly how you expect them to be. They're just four lighthearted guys in collared shirts making playful, afro-popped tinged indie-rock. Thank goodness the music was good-spirited fun, because so many other aspects of the evening were not.

I hate to bitch about security, I really do. I realize that most security guards are hard-working people doing their best to ensure that the show goes on smoothly without rowdiness or other crowd-based incidents. However while getting our bags frisked before entering the venue (the middle-of-nowhere cavern that is Terminal 5) my friend was almost not allowed in because they found -get this- markers in her bag?! We questioned this policy as they attempted to confiscate them. They insisted we could "vandalize and grafiti the building." Which is probably the lamest thing I've ever heard considering they weren't even thick-tipped permanent markers, they were practically pen-like. My friend's an art student (not a vandal!) and the fact that they would even try to take away her supplies angers me to no end. We finally reached a compromise and were allowed entry as long as we coat-checked the box of markers under a guard's watchful eye. Pretty absurd stuff. Moral of the story: leave the Crayolas at home kids.

But wait there was more drama! Although luckily it didn't involve us. But there were a whole bunch of belligerent kids in the front row who got kicked out for underage drinking and man, were they angry. I overheard bits and pieces of the scuffle but the only words I could really decipher were "responsibility," "consequences" and "sue his ass!". By this point, I just wanted a little peace and quiet and in the remaining ten minutes before I got my kwassa kwassa on.

Thankfully baby-faced Ezra and company didn't disappoint. Although they only played for about 75-minutes, since you know that's about all the length of their entire repertoire. The new stuff sounded good, as did their cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Everywhere".

Boston - Vampire Weekend

03 December 2008

2009: Year of the Best Album Covers. EVER

I'm making that assessment based on these three upcoming releases alone. Neko, Morrissey and The Boy Least Likely To, how you never dissapoint! If the music is only half as spectacular as these images, I'll be more then satisfied.

I'm totally jealous of that baby. (Out February 16)

Stuffed animals and military weaponry - a brilliantly subversive combination. (Out March 3)

Neko. On a pimped out ride. Wielding a sword. What a bad-ass! (Out March 3)

And two preview songs to hold you over (sorry I don't have any new Neko tracks, but let me know if you do!)

All You Need Is Me - Morrissey
Balloon on a Broken String - The Boy Least Likely To

Bonus BLLT video for "The First Snowflake":
The First Snowflake from The Boy Least Likely To on Vimeo.

02 December 2008

Christmas on Ward 7

The dour, cyclical piano and the cryptic details of memories past haunt Chris Flew's "Christmas on Ward 7", which is easily one of the eeriest holiday-themed songs I've heard in a long, long time. Even if you're not locked away this Christmas, chances are you'll probably still relate to the feeling of alienation, as you long for a better time. Maybe next year, maybe next year...

Christmas on Ward 7 - Chris Flew

And I didn't see the Christmas lights
I started seeing red
Fighting losing battles with the voices in my head
I'm holding onto next year
And praying that it comes real soon