December 30, 2006

The Very Best of 2006: 14-17

14: The Flaming Lips - At War With the Mystics
Without hearing this album once I could promise you that if you know the Flaming Lips at all, you could name the band in seconds. A tad slower but no less out of the ordinary than their other classics, War With the Mystics is still those old acid tripping geezers doing what they do best; making fanatical music that sounds like it would fit perfectly in a Sesame Street episode or 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' all at the same time. What is Wayne Coyne singing about? Half the time I have no idea…but it kicks ass. (example: if anyone knows what is “overtaking” him on ‘It Overtakes Me’, let me know. I am beyond curious) This album also cracks me up sometimes. It has the kind of sound my little sister would like, but us all-knowing 20 year olds know these guys used to get way more fucked up than any of us would care to be in our lifetime. They may have calmed down, but their music sure hasn't. As far as straight from the mother ship psychedelic pop music is concerned, At War with the Mystics is the best album of the year. You won’t be disappointed.

15: Tapes 'n Tapes - The Loon
I have a friend who goes by the name Peffer. Remember that name, for we shall be going deeper into that basket but for now, we’ll just hit the basics. This album came highly recommended from Peffer and, just like always, I bought it a few days later and fell in love with it almost instantly. Released in the US in November on their own label, their debut album has sold only 10,000 thus far. Don’t let that number confuse you, this album is way more powerful than that. Throwing predictability out the window, Tapes ‘n Tapes are not afraid to do what ever they want in their songs. Now some have tried and failed, but I feel the lack of direction in “The Loon” is what makes this album distinctive and interesting. Perfect examples of this are ’10 Gallon Ascots’ and ‘Crazy Eights’. The latter is an instrumental piece that would have fit nicely on a modern day Beach Boys album which lets their music speak for itself. Then there is 10 Gallon Ascot. I apologize, but for some reason I can only think of one way to describe this song: When you put a bone on you dogs’ nose and tell him to stay. His eyes have anticipation dripping like a weeping infant, yet he remains calm. You tease him a little bit with an ear to ear smile. He knows the moment will come when he can devour the bone in one swift head flick. Then, unsuspectingly, you yell the command and your dog, knowing the boundaries have been lifted, demolishes the bone as if it were a flea eating away at his belly. If that doesn’t make you want to hear the song… I give up.

16: Built to Spill - You in Reverse
Doug Martsch has never accomplished much in the commercial music arena. However his band Built to Spill has, without question, left their mark on the independent music scene. It has been 5 years since the world has had a new album from them and even though this year’s ‘You in Reverse’ didn’t stack up to
previous Built to Spill efforts, somehow that still doesn’t take away from it. If Built to Spill suddenly decided to make a best of album, tracks like the “Going Against Your Mind” and “Conventional Wisdom” would easily make the cut. A nice mix of fresh and previous sounds, this album has everything you could ask for from a Built to Spill album. Unlike ‘Perfect From Now On’ or ‘Keep it Like a Secret’, you will probably be skipping around a little bit on this one. Every musician knows that the problem with making a great album is that it has to be followed up by something even better. Most bands never accomplish this, but I will say “You in Reverse” is certainly an acceptable follow up in my book.

17: The Lovely Feathers - Hind Hind Legs
I have a routine. It’s not complicated, really. I usually have a drink (beer, juice, water), I typically have something lit (incense, candle, something with an open flame), and I always listen to the album I plan on writing about. Believe me when I say I have searched my car, the apartment, Serenity’s car, the cd cases, the plastic cylinder that blank cds come in, dvd cases, literally everywhere and Hind Hind Legs has not shown its fore fore face anywhere. Without it…I am crippled. I can assure you it deserves this spot on my list…I just don’t have the facts to back it up. Whats worse is I can’t even remember what they sound like. So I am declaring this the worst album review ever. I do promise that when I find it, I will put it in and give it a more deserving review. Until that day comes, just take my word for it.

December 26, 2006

The Very Best of 2006: 18-22

18: Yo La Tengo – I am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
Let me start by saying…by FAR the best album title of the year. As far as the album is concerned, it literally has a little bit of everything. A little R&B, some western thrown in the mix, some pop, some techno droning, centered around their natural alternative sound. The opener and closer are both over 10 minutes apiece, and stashed in the middle is where all the different sounds merge together to create a sensible listening experience for just about anyone. Yo La Tengo, though new to my headphones, are a band that has been around the block a time or two. With a 20 year career under their belt, they have covered their musical boundaries many times. I feel that this is sort of the summary of their career. Expertly molding together 10 minute guitar jams with horn filled ballads is something only the experienced can manage to pull of with this much grace. A real listening treat that makes me want to explore more of this bands albums

19: Bright Eyes – Noise Floor
Noise Floor is a collection of Bright Eyes B-sides and rarities spaning 1998-2005. 16 rough original tracks that are unmistakably Conor O’berst. However this album, as with most other b-side compilations, doesn’t flow as nicely as a real album. That may be the reason Conor O’berst didn’t make it as high on the list as he did last year. His albums typically have the gift of flow, if you will. Conor’s ability to blend songs is remarkable. Although Noise Floor lacks that great attraction, the song content is beyond compare. ‘Spent on Rainy Days’ is a collaboration with Brit Daniel from Spoon that is one of the many highlights from the album. For Bright Eyes enthusiasts, this album will be like stumbling upon a buried treasure. You will cherish nearly every song as if it were your first born child. For those of you that don’t know bright eyes, it will do absolutely nothing for your senses. You are much better off starting your bright eyes journey somewhere else.

20: Ben Harper – Both Sides of the Gun
I would love to write more about this album, but I feel my review from March sums up everything I could say about it. So go read that.

21: Damien Rice – 9 Crimes
The irish singer songwriter has done it again. With his charismatic voice and his beautiful sidekick Lisa Hannigan, Damien sticks with what works on his latest release ‘9’. Damien’s portrayal of solitude and betrayal are as chilling as walking alone in the forest during the winter solstice. Though a smidgen more angry and a whole lot louder than his 2002 release, I feel ‘9’portrays the deeper, darker side of Rice in a way that is just so pleasing to the ear. And for a man who wears his heart on his sleeve, which says a lot.

22: Ray Lamontagne – Till the Sun Turns Black
I only recently started listening to this man, but I wouldn’t feel right making a best of the year list without adding him. His soulful, untarnished voice along with his very captivatingly introspective lyrics is reason enough to start listening.. Throw in the bluesy guitar, enchanting string arrangements and almost ghostly backing vocals and you have in your hands a true listening pleasure. He almost slipped under my radar, luckily I was strongly advised to give him a listen. And truly glad I did.

December 23, 2006

Long Live Rock and Roll

Hello all!! How goes it friends? It certainly has been a while since there has been any kind of musical conversation on this lonely website. Well now that our computer has finally been given the gift of internet access, things will change rapidly around here. Here are my plans for the webpage for the new year:

1: Stay up to the moment with breaking acts, news, and other info regarding your favorite groups

2: Stop using blogger (though it has been quite good to me) and transfer all of my writing to the new website set for completion sometime in early 2007. It will be a site dedicated to alternative thinking about politics, sports, movies, and music. Collaborating with other people should be an interesting adventure that I plan on tackling full throttle.

2007 will hopefully be a banner year for music, which should give me plenty to write about. But there is still plenty to look forward to this year. Within the next few weeks, i will be posting the highly anticipated Best of 2006 list. A look at the best 20 or so albums that were released over the past year. Before we dive into that, here is a little peice I wrote about a favorite band of mine last month. Enjoy!! - DT

…And You Won’t Know Us by the Trail of Dead
Another Tragic Story of an Unappreciated Rock and Roll Band

It didn’t take me long to realize I had made a mistake. It happens every time. I buy a new album and expect my brain to grasp all the meaning and music from the first few listens. After the last track on ‘So Divided’, the greatly anticipated new release from the subversive alternative legends …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, I found myself sitting in front of my stereo in disgust. The earsplitting guitars, time-changing drumming, and heartfelt lyrics were replaced by tired pianos, saxophones, a Guided by Voices cover, and sampled drum beats. I felt like a child whose favorite toy was eaten by the family dog then given back abrasive and covered in saliva. I didn’t want it. More so, I hated it for being so different from the toy I once knew. Why did that brainless dog want to masticate such a remarkable toy?
In 2005, Trail of Dead released the epic ‘Worlds Apart’. It was meant to make a huge wave in the indie/alternative kiddie pool. If you own it you know that it has all the old fashioned Trail of Dead trademarks and then some. Worlds Apart combines Conrad Keely’s knack for writing profound words and hiding them ever so slightly behind the bands talented musicians, Kevin Allen and Jason Reece who, when their mighty powers combine, transform from regular everyday Joes into the magic that is the Trail of Dead. Sadly, it only sold about 50,000 copies. The story holds true for most Trail of Dead albums. Though it is considered their best album, the 2002 release ‘Source Tags and Codes’ ran into the same commercial failures that ‘Worlds Apart’ did. It did, however, have one single getting radio play, but it fizzled away too quickly for anyone to notice.
Luckily it’s not their album sales that are keeping them alive. The heavy sound that pushes through the speakers with such intensity is even more tremendous in concert. Their live performances are known for being out of control and typically end with broken instruments. Getting your band’s name out of Austin, Texas is easy to do when you trash your stage after every show like you’re Kurt Cobain.
Does this sound like the ideal making of a great rock band? It certainly does. Nevertheless, the band is still making (commercially) unsuccessful album after another, still touring in rinky-dink venues, playing for the same crowd that has seen them time and time again trying to support their favorite band. Where did it go wrong? It must have gone wrong somewhere right? Nothing has gone wrong. It’s just another disappointing story of a hard working band not getting the credit they deserve.
Putting that all into perspective is something I should have done long before I put the new album in. This drastic adjustment was bound to happen. Truthfully, I don’t know why it didn’t happen earlier. The worst part about it is Conrad spells it out for us in every song. All you have to do is listen to the lyrics. From the first track he speaks his point of view. “I had a band/had a song/I had a vision/where’s my vision gone”. Nearly each song on ‘To Divided’ talks about being misplaced, confused, or having no identity. It’s this earnestness and sincerity I thought the album was lacking. I just wasn’t looking close enough. The muscle may not be the same, but the passion still thrives in every song. Although it’s different, ‘To Departed’ is still the Trail of Dead.
It’s sad to think that this band has probably already past the high point in their career. At least they aren’t lying down and letting their commercial defeat take them out. As long as that one person is out there buying it, Trail of Dead will keep putting everything they’ve got into their music. That’s more than I can say about most bands out there.

October 03, 2006

Music Map Across the Country: Day 1

For almost a year, this blog has given people a chance to read about bands they have or have not heard. It is to the best of my knowledge that you, the reader, have taken this blog as seriously as I have. I have given you my humble opinion on many different topics regarding music. Though all my reviews have been a joy to write, I can honestly say I enjoy making my lists the most. Not because I want to say one album is inferior to the other, nor am I trying to force my opinions on you. I just like to express my view in writing. This blog has given me a chance to get out all the things I can’t think of saying when I am in the car with you, trying to describe the magic the cd I just put in for you holds. It has made me grow and made me think more about almost any other topic I have ever had to think about in the past (sad, but true). And the best part is…I love it.

What I am about to write is more powerful than any list I have made. This list took over 40 straight hours worth of dedicated listening to construct. This isn’t even a list. It is a map. A map of my journey across the country. Many people dream of doing what I almost took for granted a month ago. With no passengers, no movies, no interruptions (other than traffic and rest stops) I drove from Ontario NY to Lynnwood WA. I thought long and hard about how I was going to operate my selection of music for this trip. I decided not to construct the list before I left. Rather I got in my car, acknowledged the mood I was currently in, and went from there. My plan was to adapt my listening selection to the scenery and frame of mind I was in at that very moment. I wanted my atmosphere to be determined by the album selection. I didn’t plan on listening to a single cd. I did a LOT of page flipping and a lot of swerving, but I found the album that was just right for my mood damn near every time.

With that said, I hope you benefit from my dorkish ways in some way. Maybe if you have a friend who lives 3000 miles away that you want to visit, this will help you out on your trip. But if I may make a suggestion, I suggest letting the music and the road make your pick for you. It makes for a much more stimulating journey. Enjoy!

Day 1:
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
It was raining, I was miserable, and Jeff Tweedy was the answer I was looking for. His amazing songwriting made for a great solemn, gratifying sing along to get my trip started.

Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head
Unfortunately I didn’t know all the words to Hotel Foxtrot and I was still cheerless over leaving my home. Luckily Chris Martin and I have a solid bond and I was able to sing my heart out.

The Boy Least Likely To – The Best Party Ever
A gift from a dear friend 10 hours before I left. I was there the day he bought it and first listened to it. He came up to me in the record store, money burning a hole in his pocket and said “This has a funny little cover.” To which I replied “I hear they’ve got a neat sound too.” 15 minutes later in the car I heard one of the greatest and most exact descriptions of an album I’ve ever heard. “It’s like Teletubbies…on crack.” Thanks Matty.

Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlanticism
A Seattle band making quite a big wave in the pop scene. It’s moving, loud and emotional. Everything I was looking for. Plus it got me thinking about the amazing music scene I was about to be a part of which cheered me up a little bit.

Eels- Live from Town Hall
Mark Oliver Everett knows how to create one hell of a show. And seeing how it was the next page over from Death Cab, I figured what the hell. Great tunes make this album one of the easiest listening albums of my collection.

(Time for a sidenote: Keep in mind I am in the car by myself, so obviously there were times on this trip I didn’t give a shit what cd was going in next. So if you see a string of albums in alphabetical order, obviously I didn’t feel like flipping all over the place to find something.)

John Frusciante – Curtains
Still gloomy outside. I needed something a little more down but with a little more soul. Frusciante’s solo album ‘Curtains’ has that and more. I strongly recommend any and all of his solo work. (Sidenote: Frusciante is one of the smartest musicians I have ever known. He has a big label contract with a million dollar band (Red Hot Chilli Peppers), yet he is able to retain his personable strengths by keeping his solo stuff off the radar…pure genius)

Imogen Heap – Speak For yourself
Still dark and overcast, I needed something with a little more…umph. Her album was the perfect mix of electronics and keyboards I needed in a day full of males singing with guitars.

Gomez – How We Operate
An album I could listen to over and over again. My newest infatuation. Gomez’s new album has just the right pop sound to carry you from the gloom into the sunlight! Although it was already dark and Chicago was full of traffic…it still worked. I really enjoyed singing along with this one.

Killers – Hot Fuss
Pick me up music was in order after Gomez put the smile on my face even though the atrocious Chicago construction took it away. (Sidenote: Do NOT drive thru the city for at least another 2 years. Roads are torn up everywhere and there’s not a single sign pointing you in the right direction. You just pick a lane and pray to god it was the right one). Old favorites that I knew well and brought me safely to our campsite.

Day 2

Mason Jennings
Singer songwriter whose countryish sound felt perfect with the sun on my shoulders and the road ahead of me heading into Wisconsin. Nice & easy morning music. (Sidenote: For some odd reason I have had this cd and loved it for about 3 years and not, as of yet, checked out any of his other albums. I think I know none of his other work is going to match this wonderful album. Why chance letting myself down with his other work when I can just listen to his one outstanding album and think he is amazing?)

Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldier
This album was my savior. Just like every other cd I own, I had it for months before listening to it and loving every song. The sun was shining, the road was long, and I was able to sing along (I just signed my contract with Shady records). Jack White has truly become one of my favorite musicians.

Dave Matthews Band – Live at Saratoga 2006 (Saturday Night)
Wisconsin was boring as hell. What better way to occupy that time than by listening to the bootleg of the last show you went to with you friends? Everyone knows Dave Matthews is the perfect fit for a sunny day roadtrip. And a 3 disc concert that I was at fit into the rotation flawlessly.

Sufjan Stevens – Illinoise
It was still sunny and this felt right. If you want to know more look for it at the top of my Best of 2005 list.

Oasis – What’s the Story Morning Glory?
Minneapolis…Finally a city, civilization, people. After driving thru farm lands for 2 hours i turned the AC off and put my windows down for this one. (I took advantage of the traffic slowing me down. I was getting a headache from the AC but its hard to drive 85 MPH with the windows down)

Pixies – Doolittle
My new old favorite. A band I wish I had listened to when I first heard about them (not at their beginning obviously). I have no problem enjoying their music now though. This rockin 80’s/90’s band has one hell of an album in this classic that I now cherish wholeheartedly.

Rouge Wave – Descending Like Vultures
Rouge Wave is a recent chill band that hasn’t made a huge name for themselves yet. They opened for some band at High Falls in Rochester this summer but I didn’t know until the day of…drag. Excellent album though, check it out.

Velvet Underground – Loaded
Ahhhh, the classics. I almost went off on a 60’s/70’s rampage after this was over. I was gonna hit Zepplin, the Stones, the Kinks, the Who, all my older favorites. However North Dakota was miserable. It was late, dark, we were close to our campsite and I was practically falling asleep at the wheel so I needed a quick pick me up to last me to Bismark. Luckily I only had to flip one page to find it…

The White Stripes – Get behind Me Satan
Loud, Singable…just what I needed to keep me going. (It was that or No-Doze)

Day 3

Sufjan Stevens – Seven Swans
A Valentines Day present I received. It was quiet and interesting, 2 qualities that started my morning off right.

Jeff Buckley – Grace
I just recently bought his fabulous ‘Live at Sin-e’ double disc that I was hoping would completely envelop me in a blanket of Buckley on the trip. Alas, I loaned it to the one friend I knew never returns cds until I rummage through her room and stumble upon them. So I had to make due with this eternal favorite.

Wilco – Kicking In The Television Live in Chicago
I needed more Wilco, and I couldn’t decide which album I wanted to hear. So I went for the one with all the favorites and a whole lot more intensity. This one is also on my best of 2005 list.

(Sidenote: Around this time I start going a little crazy. I’m not talking to myself or anything, but North Dakota is really the most dismal state of the United. Not one hill, animal, tree, gas station, person, house…anything. Just a long road and a bunch of fields. Sad to say, I also got a little tired of listening to my music. This was the day some of you received a phone call from me. So if you notice this day doesn’t have as much music as the others its because I was on the phone a lot.)

Beastie Boys – The In Sound From Way Out
Why not. There was nothing else to do. May as well pretend I’m stoned and listen to some trippy shit.

White Mud Free Way – Last Years Trash
Great album. I listened to it in Serenity’s car cause I needed a break from driving for an hour or so. It was her pick and it was a great one at that

Ani Difranco – Dilate
An old favorite that didn’t really fill the car with the sound I was looking for. I think I listened the first 4 songs then took it out. Sorry Ani.

Bright Eyes – Lifted
Conor Oburst was the sound I was looking for. A nice sing along to get out my emotions on a beautiful sunny day going through the Rockies. It was kind of hard to sing along though cause my ears kept popping and I was constantly adjusting the volume. I still had an enjoyable time with this album.

Elliott Smith – From a Basement on the Hill
I keep telling myself No Elliott. I didn’t want to slip into the pool of emotional hell that I usually do when I listen to him on a 4 day road trip. But this album isn’t that bad. It was great to hear a familiar voice and I love every song on the mans last album. An eye opener every time you listen to it. XO

Snow Patrol – Final Straw
It was either the new album or the old favorite. And I was in no mood to dissect a new album. I was in need of a companion. This did the trick.

Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness – Twilight to Starlight
A masterpiece of an album that I haven’t listened to with this kind of intensity in ages. Every song that came on was like a lightning bolt of memory. I couldn’t believe I forgot about such a classic album. Truthfully the most appropriate album of the day. So perfect in fact, that the last song ended about 5 seconds after I put the car in park at our campsite (no joke). It was just what the doctor ordered. We got a cabin that night instead of setting up the tent. It was nice to sleep on an actual bed.

Day 4

Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness – Dawn to Dusk
Had to do it. After last nights orgasmic experience with the second disc, I had to start off my morning in the rocky mountains with the first disc. It was almost as perfect of timing as the second disc. Driving through all the valleys and mountains, I barely had my eyes on the road. Every tree and rock was just breathtaking to look at. Smashing Pumpkins delivered an out of this world experience on this trip. Knowing that the band is reuniting for a new album and hopefully a new tour just added to the enjoyment.

The Beta Band – The 3 EP’s
My throat needed a rest after all the singing. This also makes for a great morning album. I really got to sink my teeth into the scenery with this one too. I just let the music play and kept my eyes on the mountains.

Ben Harper – Fight for Your Mind
I don’t know why I hadn’t listened to him sooner, but at least I thought of it before the trip was over. A kick ass album that I haven’t listened to thoroughly since the day I bought it. A great addition to the rotation.

Beck – Odelay
Love this album. Beck has that funk to lift your spirits and keep you entertained. I choose this one because I haven’t listened to old Beck since ‘Guero’ came out last summer. Check out the song “Elevator Music” from his new album coming out soon. Amazing tune.

Neutral Milk Hotel – In an Aeroplane over the Sea
Perfect summertime music. Eastern Washington is as boring as North Dakota. A sing along album was considered necessary. This is an older indie album that is phenomenal when given a chance. Head bobbing from start to finish. Windows were down for this one.

I am Kloot
I don’t think I listened to this one the whole way through. I was getting antsy with all the “Seattle - 150 Miles” signs I was passing. So I skipped around and hit my favorites. Fortunately there were many.

Modest Mouse – Good News For People Who Love Bad News
Love this album. Seattle was closing in fast so I needed some happy tunes. (Sidenote: since there are mountains and trees everywhere on the drive we got like 5 miles from the city without even seeing it from the road. I was starting to question its existence in my mind.)

Now around this time I knew I wasn’t going to able to finish another whole cd, so a lot of careful thought went into this last one. I needed something with classic status. I wanted something to remind me why I am looking forward to this adventurous new city. I needed something that I haven’t listened to in so long that as soon as I put it in I would remember why there was love for it at one time and sing along as if it were the first time I heard it. Then it hit me, and before I could even question the selection that was swimming in my head, I just grabbed it and put it in. As soon as I did, I knew I made the right choice…

Nirvana – Nevermind
The reason you can see Seattle in bold letters on any world map. The band that single handedly took the Seattle music scene and commercialized it. It was perfect. And I sang every song. The album did exactly what I thought it would. It got me all excited about the music scene I was about to explore. There has to be so many interesting bands in this huge city. The radio stations alone rock. KEXP blows WBER out of the water. (Sidenote – It is 90.3 KEXP. You can listen live on the web. Check out John in the Morning. I don’t even listen to cds in my car in the morning because his show is so good. You can listen online at the website, on itunes, get a podcast, or if you’re not that up-to-date, check out the blog or read his setlist every morning.) Back to Nirvana. An appropriate ending to a magical trip.

Hope you enjoyed the list. Now that I have access to the internet I will be posting new albums just like I used to. So keep coming back. I already have more to share. Peace NY

July 09, 2006

Gomez - How We Operate

Just as I was starting to wonder if breathtaking music dropped off the face of the earth, Gomez slapped me in the face with their newest release “How We Operate”. Gomez has made an intimate, energetic, but most of all optimistic alternative pop album that has had my attention from the moment it entered my cd player. After a few record company issues with the Virgin label the band signed on with ATO Records (co-founded by Dave Matthews). Not only that, the 5 members changed their dynamic a little by leaving the final say to their new producer Gil Norton ( Foo Fighters’ The Colour and the Shape and Pixies’ Doolittle... need I say more?) which resulted in one of my favorite albums to come out of 2006 thus far. Honestly, I have heard of the band before this but regrettably had not picked any of their music up until now. The first track “Notice” really gives you a glimpse into the smarts that was put into this record. "Girlshapedlovedrug” is a melodic ballad about a girl who is irrational and somewhat of a bitch but the guy is so head over heels he can't help but love her. The title track “How We Operate” has a bizarre little banjo thing going on that is almost computerized at times. It sounds really interesting at first then picks up and turns into one of the best tracks on the album. Other gems to mention are “Don’t Make me Laugh” and “Chasing Ghosts with Alcohol”. Basically a last ditch effort to succeed as a band, Gomez threw everything they had into “How We Operate” and the finished product is something very special. I only hope the Gomez fan base doesn’t reject it for straying from their typical sound. Reminiscent of Guster, newer Bright Eyes, and Pete Yorn, this album delivers in a uniquely delicate way that is too comforting to resist. If you trust me at all (and I hope by now some of you do), you will get “How We Operate” and give it a shot. My favorite of ’06 thus far by a long shot.

May 26, 2006

Saul Williams

Dear Hip Hoppers,
How goes it? I hope you find yourselves well and not getting sucked into this world of fashioned hip hop. Come on, you actually think you are listening to music that verbalizes reality? Are you seriously going to listen to every word that comes out of Kayne West’s mouth because he won a Grammy? Does that make him a political genius? Opinionated is not a synonym for intelligence. Are you going to question our foreign policy, or just disagree with it because some rapper preaches that Bush is the Anti-Christ? You know what; you are just as pathetic as those 12 year old Green Day “punks” that scream anarchy even though that can’t spell it. Underground hip hop has lost its edge. Mos Def nor Talib Kweli do it for me anymore. Hip hop used to have something special. While the world was experiencing the wonders of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, Hip Hoppers were getting down with the likes of De La Soul and Tribe Called Quest. Now in this rap world of 50 Cent and god knows who else, the commercially raped genre leaves little left for us hip hoppers to enjoy. Until now. The spoken word of Saul Williams will have you bleeding individualism whilst enjoying some of the most sincere lyrics I’ve heard in quite some time. What makes Williams so great is that his opinion is not being beat into your head. All Saul Williams wants is for his words to be heard. He doesn't preach to the listener, he merely wants his ideas to be noticed. What makes this album hard to listen to is the obscure beats and noises he sets his words to. Now this will be hard for some of you to swallow. It is not an effortless listen, you will have to check the lyrics to truly get the message as it is sometimes tough to make some of the words out. Once you do, however, you will be taken back at his explosive words. You have to be open minded and patient to really get the feel for this album. If you are both of these, then I dare you to listen to Saul Williams. You will not be disappointed.

Yours in song,
David Taggerty

May 03, 2006

Batch 372

I do not usually write about concert experiences in here, but today will be my first exception to that rule. I have dedicated this blog to the pursuit and analysis of new music, and this will be no different. I attended a local show at Milestones last night. The band was Batch 372, and until that moment I had no idea what the band sounded like. The band describes their sound on their website as a “Coldplay meets Killers meets Claypol meets Mars Volta meets Bright Eyes.” I am going to put that thought to rest immediately. If you crossed The Killers, Claypol and Bright Eyes out of that equation, added Sigur Ros, John Coltrane, and Trail of Dead, then you will be somewhat closer to the progressive sounds of Batch 372. Before we get too far into this, I’m going to tell you how this is going to work. We are going to look at what makes a good band, completely dissecting every aspect of Batch 372 and break down what should be thrown to the birds and what should be worked with and expanded. We’ll start with the bands name. Band names are what initiate a connection with fans, so it’s only right that we start there.

Band Name: Batch 372 lacks a certain personality or character that only moderately fits with the bands musical style. If you are going to start a progressive (you will be hearing that word a lot kids) band, you need to capture people’s attention right from the start with your name. Batch 372 doesn’t quite do that. Regardless of the meaning, it should be reconsidered.

Talent: One thing this band isn’t lacking is talent. Drummer and founding band member Ryan Barclay has that. With his distinctive abstract style that is reminiscent of Doni Schroader (Trail of Dead) and Jon Theodore (Volta) he keeps the band together musically on stage, controlling the rhythm delicately while adding his sampling power in-between songs to keep the music flowing non-stop. He also adds some astonishing flavor with the ancient Australian digridoo. His modern drumming techniques are powerful and his stage presence is even more so. I think his best feature is his ability to create such conceptual beats while also managing to remain organized, making his sound a controlled riot of noise. Saxophonist Dan Merkey is literally the Omar Rodriguez of Batch 372. Creating unusual distortion with his foot pedals, his solos are imaginative as well as innovative. Merkey leads the band as a lead guitarist would (which the band does not have), offering solos and really letting the melody shine. His saxophone skills are beyond advanced, even comparable to such musicians as Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. Merkey is a diverse musician whose musical boundaries are few and far between. Put an instrument in the mans hands and watch him take it to the limits. Christian Schenk takes the bass to a whole new world. What he does for Batch is similar to what Flea does for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He is the only man on stage with a guitar, putting a lot of responsibility in his hands, which he carries on his shoulders with ease. You will usually find him on stage playing a tune, looping it and then having it play throughout the entire song while he adds creative little snippets of bass that really bring out the unique sound of the band. What J√≥nsi Birgisson does with the electric guitar and cello bow for Sigur Ros, Mike O’Connor does with his sound effects board. A notepad filled with his own poems and sonnets is all O’Connor needs to find the words for the bands songs. He waits for the band to find a groove, then searches for the words in his notepad that accomplish the desired emotion set by the music the band is creating. His lyrics have been said to be poetic, unfortunately, the crummy sound conditions at Milestones leave a lot of that to the imagination. To sum it up, talented musicians is the last thing this band is lacking.

Sound: This is where the review gets tricky. Batch has only been a full band for little over a month. Any band in its early stages is still going to be trying to find their sound. Batch is a step ahead of that. They’ve found their sound. In fact, its as though they’ve found too many sounds. The beginning of the show was a fine fusion of jazz and progressive rock, vibrating the glasses at the bar with their need to take their sound to that next level. With riveting solos and expanding voice reverbs, Batch made the whole bar stop in its tracks and take notice of what was happening on stage. They changed their pace, however, after the first few songs and transformed into a more modern jazz/pop/rock sound similar to the likes of Neutral Milk Hotel or Built to Spill. After that, O’Conner picked up a guitar and had a little fun with some acoustic material that ended in a sort of Dave Matthews Band jam session. Afterwards they returned back to the more progressive sound that they had originally started with.

I’ve said this before; it is hard to judge music from a first listen stand point. I personally hate to do it, but it’s going to have to be done despite the consequences. It seems to me that Batch 372 has a plethora of sounds. This isn’t a problem at all; they are still a new band looking to find their place in the music scene. This performance seemed to be an outlet for the band to perform all their styles live and see which works best for them. Most of the members seemed to have a good time throughout the show. My opinion is that they preformed the finest with the progressive jazz sound. If they took that style of music and really expanded their perspective they will have a great thing here. Sticking with one sound isn’t going to destroy the other ideas they have, it’s just a good idea to focus on one aspect of their music and perfect that characteristic especially in these critical beginning stages. Functioning with a kaleidoscope of sounds is something that takes time and growth. What Batch certainly has going for them is their unique set up. Substituting the lead guitar with a bass and saxophone is truly distinctive. Not to mention it sounds remarkable.

This band has the capability of making a great name for themselves. They have already proven to be a step ahead of the game. Once they get the new band syndrome out of their system and release an EP, Batch 372 will make a huge impact on the tiny progressive music scene of Rochester NY.

April 23, 2006

John Frusciante - Curtains

All of you should by now know the works of John Frusciante somehow. Whether you know his masterful guitar work with the band Red Hot Chili Peppers or you’ve heard me praise him repeatedly, his name should at least be vaguely familiar by now. What you may not know is that Frusciante promised his fans 6 solo albums in 6 months. An unthought-of task for any musician, Frusciante focused and accomplished his mission as promised in 2004. “Curtains” is the final chapter in the series, and fittingly so. The normal (if you can call it normal) conceptual sound that is found on his previous works is replaced by a calmer, gentler sound in his final. This record was recorded on John’s living room floor with an 8-track tape machine that was made in the 70’s. He dubbed it practically by himself, but had a little help from Omar Rodriguez (The Mars Volta), who also plays lead guitar on 2 songs. One of those songs being “Anne” that starts slowly and ends with Omar and John dueling it out with their guitars in a distortion of electric fury. As his other albums have been thus far, it took a listen or two to realize the magic that lies underneath in the profound lyrics (I’m gonna move toward a point in time / where where you are is a state of mind) and creative guitar, but it can not be denied that this music is in fact created by a genius. John Frusciante continues to astonish me with every song I hear. This album took me completely off guard. I have always known Frusciante to be a talented singer/songwriter, not to mention a magical guitar player. I wasn’t, however, expecting to get knocked off my ass again. John has many sides. “Curtains” portrays his more elegant side yet it holds true to John’s sense of ingenuity which makes this album differ from your everyday singer/songwriters. Keeping it simple is not something I’ve known Frusciante to do, but he tries his best to make this album relatively uncomplicated. In closing I would like to say, for emphasis sake, that Frusciante has become one of my all time favorite musicians. The sweat and careful details that go into his poignant music are some of the best I’ve come across in recent years. This man does not receive the credit and respect he rightfully deserves.

April 20, 2006

Eels with Strings - Live at Town Hall

Capturing the pure essence of Mr. Mark Oliver Everett (aka E), this live album showcases the scruffy fella on tour with a string quartet. Featuring fan favorites from many albums, this cd has a nice selection of tunes for the new or old fan alike. The only downside being that practically every song has the same pace. If you’re already an Eels fan, however, this should be no problem for you. The comforting sound of E’s voice is hard to resist, not to mention his incredible ability to write gorgeous music This album is filled with those delicate and personal lyrics that Eels fans have come to cherish more and more over the years. “E” has a way of making his words relate to any ear they happen to fall upon. If you have never heard the Eels before, I’d start with one of his studio albums first (Beautiful Freak, Blinking Lights). If you are an Eels fan, there is no reason you shouldn’t already own this album. E has had one hell of a life, and it is heartening to see a man go through so much and still be willing to share his soul with his fans. If you are interested in experiencing the soothing sounds of the Eels, go to Scroll down to the 3/10 entry on the main page, and click the link. You can watch this concert almost in its entirety. My recommendations would be “I Like Birds”, “Bus Stop Boxer”, “Trouble With Dreams” and without doubt “Things the Grandchildren Should Know”. E has quickly gained respect in my book as a sincere musician. If you like composed music with relative lyrics that can have you crying one minute in pure appreciation of life then laughing the next about meaningless nonsense, then I strongly recommend the Eels.

April 08, 2006

New Radicals - Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too

Everyone knows my little brother Timmy. Now it doesn’t happen often, but every now and then Timmy will come into my room and recommend an artist. How it usually works is I give it a quick listen and more often than not disregard it. He’ll be the first to tell you and I hate to admit this, but that’s been the case for many artists that I now appreciate (Talib Kweli, Deftones, Tenacious D, and The White Stripes). When he came to me years ago and told me to check out the New Radicals, I practically laughed in his face. Instantly considering them a one hit wonder (which it turns out, they were), I didn’t take Timmy’s recommendation seriously. Until now, 7 years later, I’ve got $6 in my pocket and I’m desperately searching record archive for the newest album to extend my collection. The only thing that popped out was this bright yellow cover. I figured I’ve been wrong about Timmy’s tastes in the past and maybe this would be no exception, so I bought it and put it in the stereo when I got home.

3 days later, I find myself going crazy over this thing. One hit wonder on the radio…maybe, but trust me when I say there are many more gems on “Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too”. The first 4 songs all could have gotten radio play in my book. If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t sing in the shower but dances and sings while they get dressed, then the first few songs are perfect for you. The New Radicals have a very emotionally invigorating album. Though the whole album isn’t remarkable, it certainly has it positives. Both “Mother We Just Can’t Get Enough” and “I Hope I Didn’t Just Give Away The Ending” are worth my $5.40. The best part is that this will always be considered a one hit wonder so you will regularly find it in the cheap cd bin.

I’ve learned a few things with this album. The first is I need to respect my little brothers opinion more. If he says I’ll like it, chances are I will. Secondly, that one hit wonders can still have substance under the surface.

April 03, 2006

Amos Lee

This is going to be a quick review. This type of music isn’t my specialty, but I believe it should be in my blog. Lee has an enchanting voice that is brilliant in so many ways. You’ll find yourself humming when to his songs when you’re not even listening to it. The way he sings is hard for me to describe. But his song writing is beyond talented. His sound is sort of a Norah Jones meets Damien Rice thing, with a touch of Jack Johnson and a pinch of Frank Sinatra...except black. This album is great to chill out with, but it has better uses than that. If you really want to use it to its maximum potential, you use it for its pimpablity. It can be used driving to dinner on a first date, played during a romantic meal, or slow danced to at a wedding. This album has class and sophistication, and the best part is that it’s not that old, sappy, lackluster shit that usually is usually found in that category. The piano is mixed perfectly with the acoustic guitar to keep your interested the whole way through. This is a modern album with a classic twist that is sure to make boys feel like men and have your women swoon. Strongly Recommended.

April 01, 2006

And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - Worlds Apart

Some of you are asking yourselves “Didn’t David already write a review for this album in his best of 2005 list?” while others are wondering “Does David really think I waste my time reading his reviews?”. If you were thinking the first question, the answer is yes, I did write about it. I also said I had only heard the album one time, and I didn’t own it yet. Now I own it, and it deserves a better review than the one it received on the list.

…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead creates a sort of rock opera feel to their newest release, the progressive “Worlds Apart”, by adding horns, strings, and pianos. Its inspirational feel differs from the unmatchable heights of “Source Tags and Codes”, yet as the band evolves it is hard not to evolve with it. Although the ending is rather weak, Worlds Apart more than makes up for it with the combo punch that songs “World Apart”, “Summer of ‘91”, “The Rest Will Follow”, and “Caterwaul” delivers. Those 4 songs alone make this album worth the $15. The first half of this album is driven by the grand opener “Ode to Isis”, a min long song that sounds like it should be sequenced to the beginning of an epic war battle during a Ridley Scott movie. There are only a few parts of this album that bear a resemblance to the Sonic Youth sound of their older material, yet “Worlds Apart” is a monstrous album. All told, this is nowhere near the masterwork that “Source Tags & Codes” is, but then again that is one astronomic album to be compared to. I think Trail of Dead has done a fantastic job creating a different sound instead of making new songs with the same sound. Actually, either way probably would’ve worked for me. However, the path they did choose to go just shows these guys are to be taken seriously as musicians and song writers.

If you were wondering the second question, then I suggest finding someone else who is going to tell you the truth about new music in a language you can understand as oppose to those spelling bee champion wizards they have at Rolling Stone that use the music review section as a chance to display their unrivaled intelligence by using words like floccinaucinihilipilification and cool.

March 27, 2006

Ben Harper - Both Sides of the Gun

With 7 brilliant albums under his belt, Ben Harper has been high on my list as one of the most talented, insightful, and most of all soulful artists of our generation. His songs have always had a unique fusion of blues, reggae, gospel, folk, funk, and rock. Ben is an artist that doesn’t let the laws of the music corporation influence his artistic gift. He has made his music the way he wants it his whole career. Though his studio albums are entertaining, they hardly do the man justice. His live performances have always been Harpers strong suit. With his rock/reggae jam style he meets everyone’s expectations that attend his show. Anyone who isn’t familiar with Ben Harper, I strongly recommend listening to “Fight for Your Mind”, “Welcome to the Cruel World”, and “Live From Mars”. His newest release “Both Sides of the Gun” however, is the album on trial here today. With such high standards set by Harpers previous works of art, “Both Sides of the Gun” is going to have enormous shoes to fill. I being a huge Harper fan makes it even harder to give it a fair chance, but I’ll be as honest as possible.

Although the 18 songs could have fit on one disc, Harper broke it up into a double disc on purpose. The first disc is a softer, acoustic disc full of ballads and love songs. An area that Harper isn’t new to, his comforting voice and smooth strumming guitar is what really pushes this half of the gun. It’s hard to explain, but it lacks a certain Harper quality that has been present on his other acoustic songs. What it does show is his passion and focus on his personal feelings which he delivers in a much more delicate way, dedicating an entire cd to his intimate style. Stand-outs include “Morning Yearning” which throws a string quartet into the mix, and “Pictures in a Frame” which is slightly reminiscent to The Cure’s “Pictures of You”.

The Second disc is dedicated to his rock. This is the more Harper-ish side of the gun. A few of these tracks have a Rolling Stones type of rock and roll sound, while some like "Better Way" have a sort of Indian feel to them. Harper has always been one to borrow from other artists, but this album makes it much more blatant than his past work. Usually he adds enough of his own ideas to make the songs more Ben Harper, but this album doesn’t seem to have as much of his creativity and musical attention. There are some great songs on this album. “Serve Your Soul” is the 8 minute folk/blues song that concludes the second disc with a bang. “Please Don’t Talk About Murder While I’m Eating” has a classic Harper slide guitar solo which really hit the spot for me.

As a whole, “Both Sides of the Gun” does have Ben Harper qualities that shouldn’t be ignored. His amazing ability to write socially pointed words to his songs is a major part of this album. The lyrics hit home for Harper and it’s a major reason this album doesnt suck. Another is his less polished sound that was absent from “Diamonds on the Inside”. Ben Harper’s sound is in “Both Sides of the Gun”, you just have to focus a little more than usual to hear it. On a personal scale, it lacks a little of the uniqueness that has made Harper such a favorite in my book. Harper promised this album to be more personal than his other albums, which is why I feel a little disappointed. I can't say this album is great because I know Ben is capable of much more. I will say however that this album is good. It has weak and strong moments but the overall outcome is a success. When it’s all said and done it comes down to one thing. “Both Sides of the Gun” is still Ben Harper. He could’ve done a collaboration with Weird Al Yankovich and Paul Shaffer, and I would’ve been the first one in line saying “Shut up, it’s Ben Harper…it has promise.” If you’re a Harper fan, get it. If you haven’t heard him yet, start with his older work first.

March 26, 2006

Deadboy and the Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky

Does anyone remember the band Acid Bath? I didn’t think so. Neither did I when I heard the former band member’s newest project Deadboy and the Elephantmen. Dax Riggs dropped out of high school at 13 to drop acid and write music for the properly named band, traveling the country with his 15 year old girlfriend. Leading a life that could be accurately depicted in a Quinten Tarantino film, Dax has gone through the worst of it. Now in his late 20’s, he’s discovering there is more to life than fucking and drugs. I’m only assuming his music has gone through changes as well. Deadboy is as close as anyone has come thus far in mimicking the sound of the White Stripes. Made up of just the 2 piece boyfriend/girlfriend duo (not the same girlfriend he went cross country with. Apparently that relationship fell through…go figure), “We Are Night Sky” takes on a White Stripes vibe, though only barely doing that comparison justice. A little less rock and roll than the Stripes, Dax keeps the sound simple, with a few slow songs thrown into the mix. Dax's song writing is nothing to take too seriously either. Over half of the songs on this cd talk or refer to "the night". What does make this album is its unpredictability, randomness, and weirdness. Constantly throwing random 10 second snippets into practically every song, you really have no idea what you’re listening to until you hear it a few times. Once you have absorbed it, the somewhat effortless guitar riffs make Night Sky a semi-satisfying listen. I know the comparision is already old, but I speak the truth. Deadboy is a softer, simpler, less talented version of the White Stripes….except on acid. My advice, if you’re a huge fan of Jack and Meg (which if you’re not by now, you’ve got issues), then stay clear of Dax and Tess.

March 05, 2006

White Mud Free Way - Last Year's Junk

This album has a personally interesting story behind it. Jesse Jeffers and I were at our local record store staring at the indie music section. We were both in the money that day, so we decided to close our eyes and purchase the first album we grabbed. My hands fell on White Mud Free Way. At first I didn’t even care, it was just an album to experiment with when I had the time. Now, I recommend it with true sincerity as one of the most entirely enjoyable albums I own. Never overbearing, Last Years Junk is 10 songs of serene pleasure. Whether the band is just doing the acoustic thing, or bringing the whole band in, the sound is simply astounding. Simple being the key word, because there are no bigheaded sound effects, just catchy, uncomplicated music. Terence Bernardo and Mari Solivan were crashing a university cocktail party when they met, sharing interests and musical interests. Later in Terence’s lackluster studio (also known as his basement), the two of them learned by trial and error the works of recording, writing the songs as they went along. The result is one hell of a charming album. It’s hard to give you an idea of what you’d be getting yourself into, but I’m gonna give it a shot. It sounds like Beck, Conor Oberst, and Norah Jones (minus the piano), chilling in an apartment with a guitar, a keyboard, and a drum kit experimenting to find a common ground. With songs like "Bar Code", "Headless Body in a Topless Bar", and "Mercury" it's hard to not picture them becoming one brilliant, artistic band. Last Years Junk is WMFW's debut. Debuts come and go, but I can think of very few groups whose second album I have wanted to hear as much as I want to hear White Mud Free Way's. I don't remember what album it was that Jesse purchased, but I'm pretty sure I had the better luck that day (don't feel bad for him, he got this album for Christmas).

March 01, 2006

Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, Thats What I'm Not

It’s not everyday you get an album and within one listen, you adore every song. The Arctic Monkeys have managed to pull this off with ease. At this moment, I know very little about the band except that they are 4 guys from London that have had a few number one hits in the UK. I’m going to have to contain myself, because I might just over do it with this review. First listens are tricky. Sure, today I love every earsplitting, captivating guitar riff and each story telling lyric that is coming out of my speakers. Then tomorrow I could feel completely different. Tomorrow I might think this sound has been done many times from bands like Oasis, Jet, and Nirvana. I might feel that the stories that these songs tell don’t relate to me at all. Perhaps there’s even a chance I’m wrong when I say this band will soon be all over the radios and televisions in a few months. It’s happened before. The only thing I can promise is that I’ve been listening to tons of new music recently. And for every 10 albums I hear, I sincerely love about 2 of them. I haven’t felt this kind of excitement about a new band in quite some time. True, this is the Arctic Monkeys debut album, and there is plenty of room for these guys to fuck it up along the way. But for every amusing Franz Ferdinand and Kaiser Chiefs album that comes out, there is one album like the Arctic Monkeys that is, from beginning to end, a fun filled delight to listen to. If neither “Dancing Shoes”, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor”, “Mardy Bum”, or the outstanding “When the Sun Goes Down” don’t have enough excitement and liveliness to get your heads bobbing, then I am never recommending another album on this blog again. The Arctic Monkeys are a good time, give them a shot.

February 24, 2006

Imogen Heap - Speak For Yourself

Most artists go solo after getting noticed while working with a band. Imogen Heap did just the opposite. Her solo career is what prompted Guy Sigsworth to start up the project band Frou Frou with Imogen. Speak for Yourself is Imogen Heap’s second solo album, and it is magical. Simply put, Speak for yourself is Imogen Heap’s fiery poetry thrown against a tidal wave of electronics. A talented pianist to say the least, she finds just the right sounds for her poetry with her keyboards. While the whole album is enjoyable, the single is by far the most astonishing song on the whole album. Using just her vocals and a vocoder, she does an amazing sort of electronic a cappella in the immediate hit single “Hide and Seek”. It is one track that can be listened to over and over and over again. In this day of age where computers and keyboards can do just about anything musically, it’s nice to hear someone use those instruments to their full effect and add passion into the mix as well. The songs on this cd take new turns every time you listen to them which make it one of the most enjoyable listens in recent music. I was considering putting it on the Best of 2005 list just because of “Hide and Seek” but decided not to. If I had heard the whole thing before hand it definitely would have nailed a high spot on my list. The album as a whole is insightful and at times, rocks. This album has instantly put Imogen with such company as Joni Mitchell and Bjork, has already surpassed female musicians like Alanis Morrisette and Tori Amos, and has set the bar enormously high for future female vocalists. If Money Mark and Fiona Apple had a baby together, her name would be Imogen Heap (which by the way is an insanely cool name). From the almost alternative “Daylight Robbery” and to the cute romantic “Goodnight and Go”, Speak for Yourself is one album that NEEDS to be heard by anyone that gets pleasure from listening to music with an edge.

February 19, 2006

The Top Soundtrack of our Generation Is....

Good Will Hunting
If you’re writing a movie mostly about tragedy, heartbreak, and loneliness, is there any better artist to have singing in the background than Elliott Smith? Some say the Good Will Hunting film is what sent Elliott into his perplexed state of mind. They think this shot into stardom is what started getting Elliott scared and depressed. Those people are fools. Regardless, the Good Will Soundtrack incorporates some of the most appropriate music into its film. Some will just hear it and think its peaceful music to emphasize the love that is forming between Matt Damon and Mini Driver. “Between the Bars” is the Elliott song that is being played when Damon and Driver are kissing in bed. If you’re watching the movie and don’t know the song, you won’t notice how perfect the song fits Matt Damons character. The song is about a man who is in love, realizing there is infinite potential, yet he can’t escape his own fears and problems, resorting to alcohol and settling in his life of self deprivation and sorrow, still keeping a part of it in his heart. If you have ever seen this movie, you know this is a perfect portrayal of Damon’s character. If this song was written for the movie, it wouldn’t stand out as such an ideal fit. The song he did write for the movie, “Miss Misery”, snagged a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Elliott was even asked to play his song at the Academy Awards cerimony. It was a huge monument for the up and coming artist. Even though he didn’t win (Celine Dion won for “My Heart Will Go On”. How splendid is that?) it still managed to get his name out there. Danny Elfman also got a few tracks in there from the score of the movie. The Dandy Warhols, Al Green, and Gerry Raffertyall contributed songs to the soundtrack as well (This review is already worshiping Elliott, I figured I should throw a few other names in the mix) This movie showcases sorrow and pain realistically, and having a majority of your soundtracks songs written by a man whose whole life has been pain is the most perfect fit. Elliott Smith single handedly made the Good Will Hunting Soundtrack the top soundtrack of our generation

February 18, 2006

Top 15 Soundtracks of Our Generation: 2-5

2) High Fidelity
Is it possible for a movie about a record store owner to not have a killer soundtrack? I’m not sure, but I do know High Fidelity scores big with its assortment of different singers and styles from all over the board. From Bob Dylan to The Beta Band, John Cusak and the rest of the album producers found just the right songs to put in the movie. Starting both the movie and the album is The Thirteenth Floor Elevators’ “You’re Gonna Miss Me”, an unknown bitter break up song that starts the well written story of heartbreak agreeably. The Velvet Underground add 2 great tracks “Oh Sweet Nuthin” and “Who Loves the Sun”. Stereolab puts in “Lo Boob Oscillator” and even though it is in French, it has a suitable sound that works wonderfully in the movie. How can I forget the famous Beta Band scene when Rob Gordon promises to sell 5 copies of their album by playing “Dry the Rain”. For a movie that is all about music lovers, High Fidelity really has a lot to offer. This album is different from most soundtracks in the sense that every song on this album is likable. Which makes it incredible is High Fidelity branches out into so many diverse sounds, puts it all into one album, and surprising makes it all work brilliantly.

3) Fight Club
The Fight Club soundtrack consists of 2 artists, The Dust Brothers and The Pixies. The Dust Brothers make every song you hear in the film except the last song in the movie, done by the Pixies. Really stretching the mind musically, the Dust Brothers add their flavor of electronic beats, bass, turntables and synths to create an original soundtrack that etches their name into music stardom. From fast paced heart pumping songs to the slow simple beats, they add insight and thought to every song. Keeping with the overall gloomy theme Fight Club has, the Dust Brothers attempted to make something new and infatuating to give the movie a nice edge. Throw in a few horns, a couple of eerie sound effects, and the Pixies, and you’ve got one hell of a soundtrack.

4) Garden State
Zach Braff is the actor and director of the drama Garden State. Showing off his love of indie music, Braff throws plenty of indie bands into his soundtrack and puts a lot of emphasis on the music in his movie. This is shown well in a little scene where Braff is waiting in a hospital with Natalie Portman. Braff asks if he can have a listen, and Portman gives him the headphones to hear the Shins’ “New Slang”. Not particularly the perfect song for a moment, but it was a scene where the music was the absolute focus point of the film. This soundtrack was one of those albums you buy and want to get every album from the artists on it. I’ll admit it turned me on to a few bands. Iron and Wine, The Shins, Zero 7, and Frou Frou are bands I never heard of before this soundtrack that have grown on me. From starting up his motorcycle for the first time in years with The Shins “Caring is Creepy”, to dancing in front of a fireplace to Remy Zero’s “Fair”, Braff’s selection of songs goes with his characters in the movie quite well.

5) Great Expectations
You all know the story. People change their minds on a constant basis. This soundtrack changes moods repeatedly. The soundtrack excelled in changing along with the characters in the movie. Going from dismal to joyful, this album has every mood from the film, capturing the atmosphere wonderfully. When Estella takes off her clothes to let Finn draw her, the climactic “Like A Friend” (Pulp) erupts as Finn goes crazy, drawing dozens of pictures of the beautiful girl. Scott Weiland and Chris Cornell both do amazing solo songs that are probably the best songs on the album. The rest is filled with Tori Amos, The Grateful Dead, Duncan Sheik, Poe, Iggy Pop, and Reef. A great sound for a great movie.

February 17, 2006

Top 15 Soundtracks of Our Generation: 6-10

6) Forrest Gump
Following the life of the unintelligent Forrest Gump through many historical moments of time, this soundtrack keeps up with Forrest magnificently. Winner of many Academy Awards (Best Picture, Actor, Director 1994), Forrest touched the hearts of everyone that saw it. The soundtrack stays true to the movie with plenty of music from artists like Elvis Presley, Simon and Garfunkel, Jefferson Airplane, The Supremes, and Bob Dylan. A wonderful anthology covering almost 30 years of music, this soundtrack will fit into almost everyone's collection.

7) Thicker Than Water
This is a soundtrack to the surfer film made by the Malloy Brothers. This cooled down soundtrack is surfer music done just right. Following surfers around the worlds exotic beaches with a camera and taping what happens is what surfing movies should be about. Leave the Hollywood lingo and the electric instruments at the door, grab a guitar and a board, and have a good time. That is just what Jack Johnson, G.Love, Finley Quaye, and Natural Calamity did. In doing that they did something no other surfer movie has been able to do thus far. Capture the essence of what surfing is really about. It's all about being in the water, soaking up the sun and listening to chill music.

8) Requiem For A Dream
This soundtrack is absolutely bloodcurdling. The Requiem for a Dream Soundtrack is mysterious, erratic, riveting, and completely engrossing. The 33 songs are intertwined to create an electronica masterpiece. Clint Mansell is a genius, and the Kronos Quartet isn’t half bad either. It is truly a haunting album that shouldn’t be listened to before you go to bed.

9) The Royal Tenenbaums
The Royal Tenenbaums is a dark comedy about a dysfunctional family with a dropback of contagious music. Wes Anderson impresses again with his matchless style of dry dark humor. What makes the movie so interesting however is not only Anderson’s story telling, but the opportunity Anderson gives his audience to absorb the songs he has chosen for his movies. When Margot gets off the bus and has Richie starring her down with Nico’s “These Days” playing, Anderson slows it down enough to let you thoroughly take in what is going on in the scene. Richie later decides to shave his head and cut his wrists to the depressing Elliott Smith “Needle in the Hay” in the best scene of the movie. Throw Bob Dylan, The Ramones, The Clash, and The Velvet Underground in the mix, and you have yourself an amazing soundtrack.

10) The Virgin Suicides
This is a gloomy movie with an excellent soundtrack. Filled with super sounds of the 80’s, the songs really add to the intense moments in the movie. Not the best movie I’ve ever seen and certainly not the most uplifting. But when the music gets louder than the rest of the movie and you get sucked into the moment the characters are in you really enjoy the sounds you hear. I’ve heard Heart’s “Crazy on You” a million times. None of which top the time Trip is sitting in his car after watching TV with the Lisbons. The song slowly builds and builds until Lux runs outside and opens the car door. There are other great songs on it too, but that is one amazing scene.

Top 15 Soundtracks of Our Generation: 11-15

11) The Nightmare Before Christmas
I am so lucky this movie is not a Disney film. As far as animated movies go, Tim Burton's "Nightmare Before Christmas" has the greatest soundtrack hands down. Jack the Pumpkin King is probably the only animated character I have ever related to. When he sings about filling the void in his life and not being whole on top of that escalator hill, you can actually connect with him. Overflowing with fun sing-a-longs and a dark hearty comedy that isn't found in most children films, this movie and soundtrack are a perfect combination. The Boogie man and those 3 little sidekicks of his singing about capturing Santa Clause, Jack trying to find the missing link between Christmas and Halloween, and Jack stumbling into Christmas land are only a few of the jolly songs that this film has to offer.

12) I am Sam
I am Sam is the story of a mentally challenged father struggling to keep custody of his adorable daughter. Sam is infatuated with The Beatles, naming his daughter Lucy after the tune "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". This soundtrack consists entirely of Beatles songs covered by artists of today. Rufus Wainwright's "Across the Universe", Sarah McLachlan's "Blackbird", The Black Crows "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", Eddie Vedder's "Hide Your Love Away", and Nick Cave's "Let it Be" are just a handful from the jam packed soundtrack. I am Sam is a touching movie that has an even more emotional soundtrack.

13) Trainspotting
Featuring some of the UK's best unheard of acts and some established artists too, Trainspotting has it all. Iggy Pop starts the movie and soundtrack off perfectly with his "Lust for Life", setting the atmosphere for an eclectic collection of new and old, generation crossing alternative rock. Mixing in some 80's techno with New Order also adds diversity to an album that has a hard enough time getting into the stereo's of unknowing listeners. Trainspotting is a movie entirely about the pitfalls of being a junkie living in Edinburgh in the early 90's. Lou Reed, Blur, Pulp, and Primal Scream are a perfect fit for such an intense film.

14) Pulp Fiction
What makes Quentin Tarantino's movie so incredible is not only his ability to create such captivating dialogue and extreme action sequences, but also his ability find truly remarkable music to fit perfectly into the theme of his movies. Pulp Fiction has without question the best soundtrack of any of Tarantino's movies. John Travolta and Uma Thurman are twisting to Chuck Berry's "You Can Never Tell", Uma overdosing to Urge Overkill's "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon", and Bruce Willis almost making his get away to The Startler Brothers' "Flowers on the Wall". Tarantino may not have picked the most modern music for his movie, but he certainly picked the most appropriate songs for an out of this world film that pushed the limits back in its day.

15) Dazed and Confused
An incredibly funny movie about the life’s of a bunch of high school kids in the 70's. A wonderful collection of 70's radio tunes that go fit flawlessly with the time setting of the movie. It seems to capture almost every genre of the time. Kiss, Deep Purple, Lynard Skynard, War, Black Sabbath and more make up the soundtrack of 70's teen America. Basically the soundtrack of everyone who was in high school in 1974. If this isn't enough classic rock for you, grab the second soundtrack "Even More Dazed and Confused".

Top 15 Soundtracks of Our Generation: Rules

Before we set sails on this vast sea of musical soundtracks, there are some rules that need to be stated. I want it to be clear that this list is purely my opinion and should not be taken as anything more than that. On that note, lets go over the rules.

1: These soundtracks were all made between 1990 and today. You will not see Ben-Hur, Citizen Cane, or any other soundtrack coming from that time period. This is a list of soundtracks from our generation. Movies you've seen, songs you should know.

2: No Disney. Of course Aladdin is a great soundtrack, but there is no need for it on this list. If I put every Disney movie with a great soundtrack up here, the list would be gigantic.

3: No Scores. Unless the movie has no other soundtrack but the score. In which case it will be allowed

4: The soundtracks were not picked on their content alone. They have to match the idea, feeling, and tone of the movie they were made with. It's a package deal. You can't just throw good songs in a movie and expect it to be an amazing soundtrack. "The Girl Next Door" for example. Great soundtrack, stupid movie.

5: Almost Famous will not be on the list. I'm making this a rule because it was incredibly hard for me to not put it up here. If it's a rule I'm less tempted to add it later on. It is one of my favorite movies and a great soundtrack too. The problem is though the soundtrack is good, it could have been much better. There were over 40 songs in the movie, and the 13 they picked for the soundtrack just don't make an amazing soundtrack.

That being said, lets dive in!!!

February 14, 2006

Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George

If there is one artist that can write lullabies for a Curious George Movie, it is Jack Johnson. With a little help from Ben Harper, Matt Costa and G.Love, Johnson crafts some likeable sing-a-longs for parents and children alike. With his new single "Upside Down", Jack stays close to his Hawaiian roots with lots of bongos, percussion and acoustic guitar. Nothing about this soundtrack is controversial. With a style similar to the old Schoolhouse Rock series back in the day, Johnson sings about sharing, caring, taking turns, and the 3 R's (reuse, reduce, recycle). Johnson even covers the White Stripes song "We're Going to Be Friends" with his own peaceful style. The sound is that of classic Jack Johnson. It's the same old acoustic guitar with groovy slow melodies. Instead of singing about the corrupt corporate world and women, the new father sings cheerful songs that speak to the mind of a child. Just as lovable and appealing as his past work, this album is a must have for any Jack Johnson fan. A perfect birthday gift for any 5 year old little sister that loves to sing and dance with her brother!

February 08, 2006

Elliott Smith - Roman Candle

Roman Candle is Elliott Smith's first full length solo album. Hardly his best work, yet utterly angelic. Made in his basement with a 4-track in Portland, Roman Candle captures the beginning of what was to come for the poetic singer songwriter. Songs like “Roman Candle”, “Condor Ave”, and “Last Call” are haunting. While songs “No Name #1” and “No Name #2” are catchy melodies that are cheerful as much as Elliott can be. Some of these songs have a positive sound, yet after close attention to the lyrics it is clear what the message of this album is. Elliott gives us just a glimpse of his life of catastrophe and heartbreak. He invites us to sink into the loneliness and join him in solitude for just a brief moment with a few hushed songs that were never even meant to leave his basement. Elliott was just getting some stuff off his chest. He played the tape for his girlfriend who gave it to the record producers and it went on from there. Not the best starting place for a new Elliott fan, but certainly a must have for anyone who has heard his music and connected to him in a way only Elliott fans can appreciate.

February 05, 2006

G.Love And Special Sauce - Yeah, It's That Easy

If I'm going to have a blog about the wonders of the indie music scene, how can I not write about the man that got me started in the first place? G.Love is one singer that can't be ignored. One listen to his care-free rappin blues style should get you hooked. G.Love's third album "Yeah, It's That Easy" is without question my favorite of the six G.Love records. It came out with a blast back in 1997 and put some life back into the music where “Coast to Coast Motel” left a void. "Yeah, It's That Easy" is the starting point for anyone interested in getting down with G.Love’s distinctive style. It has everything the Special Sauce has to offer. Funky upright bass, unorthodox drumming, slacker rapping with a twist of folk guitar and blues harmonica to make up one of the best bands of the 90's. Also considered one of the most under-rated and over looked bands of the 90's, G.Love has more character in one song than most artists can muster in a whole cd. With the G.Love show right around the corner, I figured now is the ideal time to tell you about him in case you would want to catch his show. As much as I love to sing along with G.Love, some may find it difficult with his style of rapping and singing. On the other hand, songs like "Stepping Stone", "I-76", "Recipe", and "Lay Down the Law" have chorus' that are irresistible. “When We Meet Again” is G.Love’s now signature acoustic closer that speaks of friends that grew apart, yet he still keeps the memories. “Recipe” speaks the truth about the band. They have something that other bands can’t touch. That’s their one of a kind philadelphonic sound. His groves are perfect summertime music. Every listen of this album takes me back to the good old days (which might be the most pathetic comment I’ve ever made, but it’s so true). “Yeah, It’s That Easy” is an album to be enjoyed with a group of friends. That is something I’m not preaching from experience, people. His music is truly for those who are, as he puts it, “living life as a profession.” If you really want to experience G.Love, instead of buying his album, I would suggest going to see him the 23rd at Water St. Music Hall. His shows have so much liveliness you’ll feel tempted to join in and dance without even knowing the songs. For practically the price of a cd you can experience the excitement and enthusiasm of this self professed “flower child of the truest kind” on stage. Now I CAN preach that from experience.