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.