Monday, December 31, 2007

ZOOM IN: a close look at ten 2007 albums

...that changed the way I think.

While I listened to a lot of music this year, I've decided to select ten albums that I feel I really got into and grew attached to. I listened to these albums probably more than is healthy this year, and so I have decided to make a post with a blurb about each, and a sample song for your listening pleasure.

Please enjoy.

1. Sunset Rubdown - Random Spirit Lover
I absolutely adored this album. The moment I heard it from the leaked version my brother slipped to me, I was in love. The energy, the sheer punch it posseses, is really original and different. Each song is erupting with creativity, and each song is extremely different from the next. Not only that, the songs flow into each other beautifully and perfectly without a bit of effort. Pitchfork didn't put this on the best albums of 2007 list, and I think this was a huge mistake on their part.
This track is one of the gems of the album in my opinion. Shifting between a delicate melody and booming explosions of percussion instruments is a beautiful story. I can't get enough.

2. Beirut - The Flying Club Cup
The first time I heard this, I thought it stank. I was shocked and taken aback by Condon's sudden change from gypsy ethnic to french bistro. I didn't give the album a second chance. Luckily though, shuffle brought me to the tracks "Nantes" and "Guyamas Sonora", and I had to give it another listen. While the middle of the album lags a little and the strong songs are definitley at the beginning and end, overall it's beautiful, and sounds just as elegant as Condon's previous work. It's delicate yet complicated; beautiful but filled with remorse and edges. Lovely work, Mr. Condon. Sorry I doubted you.
Track download: Nantes
I suppose this is the popular choice as "single" from the album, but I really can't help it. It is beautiful, haunting, and has definitley seized me.

3. The National - Boxer
When I saw the Paste had voted this the best album of the year, I was so happy. Ecstatic that The National's second full length had been recognized, and also that other people could appreciate it's genius. I have been hooked on The National for three months now, and this album is by far their best work yet. Some songs have a melancholic, forlorn feeling, while others burst with a thrashing of different feelings and sentiments. Also, the lead singer Matt Berninger couldn't have a more original sounding voice. I have never heard it before in todays music, and this just makes their sound all the more recognizable and fun to listen to. The fact that they can do so much with one album astounds me.
Track download: Squalor Victoria
Although it is the shortest track on the album, this song captured me from the moment it began. It's beautiful, intriguing, and yet so simple. It only uses a piano, vocals, drums, and some strings. Gorgeous work.

4. of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
I have more than 15 plays on each song on this album. Not only is it catchy as fuck (pardon my french), the lyrics are witty, the blend of instruments and electronics is (as always) perfectly melded into one golden sound. of Montreal keep proving to me that they can outperform and outdo themselves. I adore this album in all it's pop electro indie goodness. Just can't get enough, and keep on dancing along...
I chose this track because I feel it's the one we hear the least about from the album. It's a fabulous song, suave and cool but also screechy and insane. How can you do that in one song? Also, it's a perfect example of how of Montreal utilizes their electronic sound to it's full extent.

5. Caribou - Andorra
Caribou's newest release is one of his best in my opinion. Each song is haunting and has a sort eerie charm to it. I picture driving down a highway with the rain beating on the windshield; or running through a forest with beams of light coming through the trees; or sitting in the window of an old castle get the picture. "Andorra" evokes whatever is most mysterious and exploration-worthy to you. It takes you there, I swear.
Track download: Sundialing
As I said before about the but seriously, this song is that scene. It's that moment. It's beautiful and it's structure melody leave nothing to be desired.

6. The White Stripes - Icky Thump
Thank you, Jack and Meg. Thank you for redeeming yourselves after the horror that was "Get Behind Me Satan". I was scared for The White Stripes, but then I heard "Icky Thump" and sighed in relief. A lot of this album sounds like good ol' thumping, banging White Stripes. A lot of is new ventures. A lot of picks it up where the band had previously left off. The amazing part of the album is the ability they have to bring all these different points in their music life together and make them a really great album. Cheers, to both of you. Please tour again.
Track download: Little Cream Soda
This song jumped off the album for me at first listen. It's hard, it's rough, it's in your face and I love it. It reminds me of the Stripes as they were way back when. Awesome stuff.

7. Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog
It's hard to put this album into words. Even now I struggle to type something in to fill the space. This album is subdued and quiet, and yet there's a loud quality to it that comes across in the complexity of the music and sounds you hear. The compositions of the songs are perfect; they are full and like breaths of fresh air. Each one is new and different as you go from song to song on the album. A beautiful album, structured with finesse and delicacy and yet filled with raw emotion.
Track download: House By The Sea
This is my favorite song on the album. The beginning catches you immediately and the melody follows you throughout the song and stays in your head even when it's long over. I also love the eclectic range of instruments used.

8. Bat For Lashes - Fur & Gold
Okay, I'll admit it: I discovered Bat For Lashes in Teen Vogue. But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the genius of their little band any less. "Fur & Gold" is beautiful and haunting. It's absolutely gorgeous, in fact. It's magical and mythical: each song tells a story like a fairy tale and the overall theme of the album is like a story book. It's extremely eerie at parts but that only adds to the perfect mystery. This is also an album that, when you listen to it all the way through, in order, sounds absolutely gripping; like one long song you never want to let go of.
Track download: Horse And I
This song opens the album, and although it wasn't the first song I heard, it is now the one that catches my attention the most. It is incredible and powerful in a quiet way. The beginning notes are especially amazing. Gorgeous. Really. I can't use any other word.

9. The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
While many fans felt a deep dissapointment in The Arcade Fire's newest release, I was thoroughly pleased, and I'm not afraid to say it. I loved their outward turn from inside suffering to worldly suffering. While the lyrics still leave something to be desired (what else is new? deal with it) the music is even more grand and overcoming. I think their blend of instruments and intricate melodies are something to be marveled at, and on this album, I think The Arcade Fire have discovered to what limits they can achieve their own unique sound.
A great track that tells an interesting story by means of a plethora of different instruments and sounds. Need I say more?

10. Battles - Mirrored
Some may call this math rock, but I like to call it calculated chaos. It's amazing how Battles can make everything sound so sharp and precise and on the dot, and yet also create a sound that evokes total and complete madness. I love this album and it's original unique sound. I think Battles has really gotten onto something here; they are different, and people love that. This album demonstrated just how much they are capable of producing. Wonderfully crafted, original sounding, fun to stomp around to...what more do you want?
Track download: Leyendecker
Sounding almost like a hip hop track you may hear on the radio, Battles creates a catchy beat and interesting melody to which you can easily nod your head, tap your foot...oh just get into it already man.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A sound-off: the best albums of '07

You’re probably wondering why you should even bother to read yet another “Best of 2007” list, and why an adolescent, urban girl’s list at that. Well, I really have no good concrete reason or life altering fact that will make you want to read this any more than you do now at this moment, but I can vouch for myself. I believe that it’s important to search for more opinions than the ones that are handed to us by the media and general pop culture scene. Obviously, being on, you have already taken the initiative to search for an alternative music source than the big companies of bloggers or mp3 downloading corporations. So you’re a step in the right direction. And now you’re reading my list…so you’re even closer.

Alright, yes. You came here for the list, right? Not for my rants about capitalism and the rising influence of media on news and the population of the United States. So I’ll give you the list. Read on, enjoy. Sorry there is no little blurb for each album, but time is precious, my fingers are aching, and quite frankly, the music all speaks for itself.

Next post, look for a zoom in on the ten albums I know the best of 2007, with a free download from each and a closer review. I wish I had time to do that right now for all of these, but alas, the post could be very long and I'm out the door to do some CD shopping.

[These are in no particular order. Thank you]

1) Sunset Rubdown - “Random Spirit Lover”
2) Animal Collective - “Strawberry Jam”
3) Radiohead - “In Rainbows”
4) Beirut - “The Flying Club Cup”
5) M.I.A. - “Kala”
6) Deerhunter - “Cryptograms”
7) Panda Bear - “Person Pitch”
8) Kanye West - “Graduation”
9) The National - “Boxer”
10) Modest Mouse - “We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank”
11) of Montreal - “Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?”
12) Spoon - “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga”
13) Okkervil River - “The Stage Names”
14) The Arcade Fire - “Neon Bible”
15) Battles - “Mirrored”
16) LCD Soundsystem - “Sound of Silver”
17) Kevin Drew - “Spirit If…”
18) Menomena - “Friend and Foe”
19) The Klaxons - “Myths of the Near Future”
20) Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - “Some Loud Thunder”
21) The Besnard Lakes - “The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse”
22) The White Stripes - “Icky Thump”
23) Feist - “The Reminder”
24) Caribou - “Andorra”
25) Band of Horses - “Cease to Begin”
26) Jens Lekman - “Night Falls Over Kortedala”
27) Les Savy Fav – “Let’s Stay Friends”
28) Blonde Redhead – “23”
28) Elliott Smith – “New Moon”
29) Bat For Lashes – “Fur and Gold”
30) Justice – “Cross"
31) Iron & Wine – “Shepherd’s Dog”
32) Grizzly Bear – “Friend EP”
33) Black Lips – “Good Bad Not Evil”
34) Dan Deacon – “Spiderman of the Rings”
35) Liars – “Liars”
36) Jay-Z – “American Gangster”

Disclaimer: Obviously, because I am writing this list, these selections are my personal opinion. They are what I listen to and what I think. If I left out your favorite bands new album or didn’t include enough (insert obscure genre here), I am deeply sorry and hope I can make it up to you. Don’t know how, but, we’ll work something out.

Also, I did the obscure number of 36 albums because I am tired of the typical 50. Break from normality people! (Yeah you want the real reason, but you’re not going to get it. Thanks for reading!)

Note: This post was also posted on my account. Yes, I am aware it's there. Thanks!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

So I listened to some music this year...

In no particular order, and I have yet to listen to a lot of stuff. There's no way anyone could effectively take into account every single thing released this year, so therefore this isn't a top ten list, but a collection of reactions to some of the music released this year that I came into contact with.

Explosions in the Sky – All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
I love the band name. And all the album artwork. And every single crescendo, slow paced, fast paced, melodic piece of music. I mean, the third song is thirteen and a half minutes long. If they can hold your attention through that, you know you’ve got something good. And they do it all with instruments. There are no words, which is helpful, as they’d only distract from the musical notes.

Stars – In Our Bedroom After the War
Alright, this took some listens, especially since I heard from various sources that it wasn’t a very good album. But I’ve come to like some of it. It’s not the best of Stars, not even close to the quality of “Set Yourself on Fire” in my opinion, yet still a solid effort.

The Shins – Wincing the Night Away
Releasing an album in January will land you on two end of the year music lists. Well, the more exposure the better I suppose. The Shins deserve it though. There are some amazing songs on this album, like “Spilt Needles” and album closer “A Comet Appears.” They’ve climbed into mainstream success over the past few years, cemented by the release of this cd.

Sunset Rubdown – Random Spirit Lover
This is the best album of the year, by far. In August it leaked and I jumped all over it. I sung its praises to everyone, just to make sure the genius wasn’t all in my head. If you listen to the lyrics, you pick up clues that point towards the album describing a play. The whole album is filled with delightful intricate plots, sometimes completely implausible by real world standards, but it’s a twisted alternate reality. With recurring characters. How cool is that? Only one song stands out as a little too weird, “Colt Stands Up and Grows Horns.” It just doesn’t sound good, but the rest is pure sound goodness.

The Most Serene Republic – Population
The Most Serene Republic is one of three bands on this list signed to Canadian record label Arts and Crafts, home also to Broken Social Scene. This band opened up for Los Campesinos! They kind of sound like Anathallo because of all the different instruments. They dressed all in black and delivered their music with an insane amount of energy. Trumpets, whistling, and violin in full swing. At times the music can sound similar, but this album holds some great songs like “President of Future End,” “The Men That Live Upstairs,” and aptly titled “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Los Campesinos! – Sticking Fingers Into Sockets
Quickly becoming my favorite little indie band ever. Short, dancey songs, with music-conscious titles like “We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives,” and lyrics like “it’s sad that you think that we’re all just scenesters, and even if we were it’s not the scene you’re thinking of.” I love their English accents too.

The Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
I was kind of disappointed in this album. Funeral was so full of raw emotional power. And then the Arcade Fire decided to get all preachy and channeled that energy into a neat little “message” about how everything is so commercialized and materialistic and run by religion. Yes. I get it. America sucks. Now, let’s get back to the philosophical raw energy that Funeral had.

The Go! Team – Proof of Youth
Not much to say about this cd. It’s the second release from The Go! Team, no immense change of direction for them, they’re still going with the cheerleading chants and pop-esque sound with hard to hear lyrics.

Flight of the Conchords – The Distant Future“The humans are dead. Binary solo! Zerozeroonezeroonezerooneeee.” I saw an ad for this on the Stephen Colbert website and thought hey, I’ll watch a free episode. And then they broke into song. It was hysterical. The TV show aside, FOTC released six of their songs on an EP. If they ever come to SF, I will go. The “fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo of New Zealand” is too funny to miss. I’m looking forward to the full album release in April next year.

Dan Deacon – Spiderman of the Rings
It’s so random! There’s a lot to do with animals from what I can gather. My favorite song is “Wham City”, all eleven minutes and forty five seconds of it, although there’s a small break in the middle, so it’s almost two songs. I’m not really sure how the music is made, but it definitely involves a laptop and lots of those little sound board knobs.

Battles – Mirrored
Battles makes me dizzy like my sister’s ADHD listening therapy CDs do. Which probably means it’s a little too math-rock-y for me. Nevertheless, they get points for being so different from the rest of the music I listen to, and everyone seems to love them right now, so go, take a listen, and hopefully you won’t get as queasy as I did.

Architecture in Helsinki – Places Like This
AiH have gotten progressively louder with each album. The songs on this one don’t really have a direction. Most are a hit-or-miss kind of deal. Hold Music is a tragedy of a song, and not worthy of the semi-mosh pit that erupted at their show. Same goes for “Same Old Innocence.” But the middle songs are okay.

Still Flyin’ – Za Cloud EJ EP
They’re from San Francisco, actually. I love the reggae feel of their songs. They have nearly twenty members, even one whose only job is to dance around on stage. He occasionally bangs on a few instruments. This EP contains five songs which all seem to be about Yosemite or magical golden birds. Either way, the upbeat sound doesn’t get old.

Why? – The Hollows EP
Why? can be pretty haunting, with their mix of lo-fi indie, folk hip hop, and rich lyrics. It’s some strange combinations, but they make it work beautifully. The EPs are ladden with musical material not found on the LP releases. The Hollows precedes a full length album out in March of next year. I’ve only heard the songs a few times because they released it as a twelve inch and my house lacks a working record player, but they took a turn on this EP, which includes renditions of “Yo Yo Bye Bye” by Xiu Xiu and Yo La Tengo as well as remixes of past and future songs.

Juno Soundtrack
This was a late minute addition. I just saw the movie last week, and left thinking it would be one of the best movie soundtracks ever made. The music fit so perfectly with the tone of the movie, kind of lighthearted but laced with biting, dry humor. Singer Kimya Dawson of The Moldy Peaches provides most of the songs. Thank you so much to some kind person who collected all the songs (even the version of “Anyone Else But You” sung by Michael Cera and Ellen Page) and put them in a torrent that you can find at
But forget the music for a moment, the movie was amazing in itself. It had the best opening credits sequence I have ever seen. I actually wanted to sit and watch the progression of Ellen Page walking down the street in drawn form, gallon of Sunny D in hand, over the song “All I Want Is You” by Barry Louis Polisar. Plus, Michael Cera runs around in little yellow shorts. It’s cute.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Not So Silent Night 2007: unholy night.

Lets dumb this down a bit. Lets bring this down a first grade level, and mask it in the form of a question your teacher might ask while pointing to a brightly colored groups of objects in the book you are using:
Which one of these do not belong?
Modest Mouse, Jimmy Eat World, Angels & Airwaves, Spoon, and Paramore.

My friends, there are two correct answers, and I'm sure a good amount of you who feel the same way I do (and you do) know what I am talking about.

In my opinion, the lineup for Not So Silent Night has been getting progressively worse each year. And I have only attended three years of this concert. Each time I went, it was fun to be there in the atmosphere and hear all these bands together. They mixed well, and the crowd was a good medley of different types of people. But I began to notice that there was always one major let down every year. Who can forget The White Stripe's bomb performance? Or the, er, shall we call them "sound issues" for Modest Mouse? I began to believe that this was what happened at NSSN: every year something bad just had to happen.

But this year, I never expected it to occur before I could even buy a ticket.

Upon hearing this lineup from my friend, I was infuriated. I was even angrier when they announced the order the bands would be playing in. I mean, lets be real people. They put Spoon second. Second. That gives them, what? A forty-five minute set? Hello Live 105. That is Britt Daniel. You are giving Britt Daniel a forty-five minute set. Spoon co-headlined Treasure Island Music Festival with Modest Mouse. And now you're throwing them into second place.

On top of this, they have managed to enclose Isaac Brock and Tom Delonge into the same backstage area. Enter Tom Delonge: whiney voice, cute face, pop-punk ruler of the universe of the former maniac fan band blink 182, who sported lyrics as "'I said I was the cops, and your husband's in jail. This state looks down on sodomy!' And that's about the time that bitch hung up on me." Since these frantic post-post-post teen days have passed, Tom has sacrificed himself to his new project, Angels & Airwaves, growing bangs over his eyes and dying his hair black.

Now enter Isaac Brock: Modest Mouse front man, grew up all over the North West, and lived in a shack for a good part of his adolescence. He has been accused for DUI, drug abuse, and has served jail time. Songs like "Shit Luck" demonstrate his immediate need for a bit of stirring up in his world, and not the prank phone call kind, with the opening being him yelling "This plane is definitely crashing!".

Now place these two in a glass box together and what is going to happen? Conduct the experiement yourself. Or attend NSSN this Friday night and watch.

To make matters worse, this so-called evening of celebration of independent music and the holidays is none of the above. Okay, so I made up the holidays part. But there is obviously some sort of correlation, what with it being December and the name of the freakin' gig. But the independent, anti-mainstream music? This sentiment has dissapeared.

I lost hope in Live 105 a long time ago, but I thought maybe this once a year outreach to the music community might still be their chance to demonstrate their real desires. Alas, no. Once again, I ask you to study the lineup. Modest Mouse have strong connections to the independent music scene, as they worked their way up through it, and Brock used to be at Sub-Pop (he signed Wolf Parade). Spoon have always been considered to be an American indie band. But Jimmy Eat World have been signed to a major label since day one. As have Angels & Airwaves, since Tom coming over from probably one of the most commerically successful bands of the past ten years aided that. Paramore, although more unknown than the previous two aforementioned, still have strong ties with MTV (their videos are constantly played) and VH1. You name the "music" channel, they are there.

Look, NSSN: I don't wanna totally bring you down. Because I think this show is a great idea! The three years I went, I had a great time. I'm not going to pretend I didn't. I loved it, Meg's drunken escapades and all! Because I loved it, I care about it's future. And by caring I am giving my opinion. That is all.

This Friday night, expect to see me in a cafe with some friends, having our first non-NSSN ever. It hurts, Live 105. It really does.

For your listening pleasure:
Modest Mouse - Shit Luck
Modest Mouse - Gravity Rides Everything

Spoon - The Infinite Pet
Spoon - Back To The Life

Angels & Airwaves - The Adventure

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone @ BOTH

I discovered Casiotone for the Painfully Alone (henceforth referred to as Casiotone in this entry, just for brevity's sake) fairly recently. It was one of the bands that I found by clicking through a lot of "similar artists" and neighbors on, until I finally ended up on Casiotone's page. I downloaded some songs, and immediately was taken by the simplicity and airy feeling his songs gave off. They are enchanting little pop/electronic ditties that create a small kingdom of their own.

The brains behind Casiotone, Owen Ashworth, started to make music on a small casio keyboard back in 1997. His first two albums, "Answering Machine Music" and "Pocket Symphonies for Lonely Subway Cars," were made using nothing but small, battery-operated keyboards and Ashworth's own voice (along with occasional accompaniment by guest musicians). These early albums are now available on one CD, appropriately titled "The First Two Albums by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone." After this, he has released numerous EPs and albums, all to the happiness of those who follow his steady beats and lyrical style.

Owen is coming to Bottom of the Hill this coming Wednesday. Definitley head down and check it out.
He will be playing with
Papercuts and DJ Matt Bonar

Wednesday, December 5th
9:00 PM (doors a t 8:30 PM)

And now, for your listening pleasure:
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone - Young Shields
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone - When You Were Mine