Friday, January 28, 2011

New Music Review: Kid Cudi – “Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager”

Kid-Cudi-Man-On-The-Moon-II-The-Legend-of-Mr_-Rager

★1/2

Don’t be scared off by the rating, since the rating applies to the album as a whole and not the outstanding work put in by Kid Cudi on a couple of tracks. Furthermore, when is the last time you saw me review a hip hop (if that’s how you classify this guy) album?

Cudi is mostly known for his hit “Day ‘n Nite”, which featured some catchy electronics and saw mainstream success. He’s also got a little bit of a rep in the indie circles, playing to festivals full of fans who normally would never touch the genre and teaming up on tracks with likes of MGMT and Ratatat. For the most part Cudi falls into the patterns that makes me dislike hip hop, and I’ll admit most of this is because I don’t relate at all to barely anything most hip artists sing about. But underneath it all is an artist who pulls off creativity as well as any of his counterparts, on full display when he teams up with Cee Lo Green for the fantastic “Scott Mescudi vs. the World” or on the album’s best track, “Revofev”. The sounds on songs like “Ghost!”, the atmospheric vibe on “Mr Rager” and the positive 90’s rock vibe on “Erase Me” showcase an artist who transcends genres. Sure, Kid Cudi is hip hop, but barely.

Like many hip hop album, the track list is bloated, checking in at 17 tracks. This is a shame because it waters the good stuff down. A 10 or 11 track album where the bottom feeders are cut could have let to a great album, but as it is there is plenty here to enjoy.

                        

New Music Review: Deerhunter – “Halycon Digest”

deerhunter-halcyon-digest

If you took a look through many year-end top ten lists in 2010 you’d see a few common themes. The first would be that 2010 was dominated by The Arcade Fire, who managed to get nominated for the Grammy’s best album award in the main category instead of the alternative category. The second theme you might have picked up on was the essentially universal acclaim that was given to “Halycon Digest”, the newest album from a band that has been around for 10 years making music that never interested me one bit. Good news though: the universal acclaim was warranted.

Much like some of my very favorite bands (Radiohead, Grizzly Bear, etc), Deerhunter approach music with a whole lot of creativity and unique sounds without forgetting to add just a touch of pop. The best of example of this is in “Helicopter”, which I already placed very high in my 2010 best tracks of the year list. Fortunately for us the album is full of good songs beyond the best track. Take “Earthquake”, for example", whose dark moodiness builds into the perfect album opener. Other standouts include the stellar “Fountain Stairs” and “Memory Boy, which feature great guitar work, and the fantastic “Desire Lines”. And is that little saxophone in the muffled “Coronado”? Yes it is.

“Halycon Digest” was a welcome surprise for my collection from a band that I always associated with oddness well before listenability. But if you’re comfortable with the songs below, you’ll definitely enjoy the album. Highly recommended.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Unspoken Driveway Clearing Competitions and Other Bits of Randomness

So I live in this good old midwestern Ohio neighborhood now. Being that it’s January you can imagine that the neighborhood is blanketed with snow and that this snow sticks around for quite sometime as the temps struggle hard to get above 20 degrees. Last week we got about five inches of snow in total. Being a good Washington boy, I hid inside the warmth of my overheated house for days at a time, emerging only to risk my life driving to school, doing my very best to avoid two equally dangerous kinds of people: those who drive 75 on the freeway despite the snow, and those who drive 25 on the freeway because of the snow. Anyhow, each day that went by I was able to get my car into my driveway before scurrying indoors as soon as possible. Why shovel the driveway when it isn’t inhibiting pulling in an out? The answer to that question appears to be an unspoken social norm that leads people to clear their driveways and return them to immaculate summer condition. As I drove out of the neighborhood yesterday I realized that there was only one other house whose driveway was not sparkling clean. This is the same neighborhood where brown lawns were rampant just a few months ago. So this sums up the social norms of an Ohio-based neighborhood as far as I can understand: 1) Thou must clear your driveway at all times as perfectly as possible and 2) Who gives a hoot about your lawn.

-------------------------------

Another year, another lost football pool. I’m pretty confident I watch more college football than anyone in my entire extended family, probably by a good amount too. It seems that knowledge is a disadvantage when trying to predict the tendencies of 18-22 year old football players. ARMY won a bowl game. ARMY. Ridiculous.

-------------------------------

You know it’s bad when the website Everything is Terrible (which posts the very worst of old VHS tapes), names it’s #1 worst video of the year, and it’s one of my childhood tapes. Never occurred to me until later how creepy the blue faced walking hymnal Psalty was.

--------------------------------

Am I the only person who passed calculus, looked back, and wondered what in the world that was all for? Oh, I can find you an integral, but I can’t tell you what it is.

--------------------------------

The next time you hear yourself say “just sayin’” to someone, I recommend you look at what you just said. It probably wasn’t nice. “Just sayin’” has quickly become my least favorite phrase. It basically goes something like this: “I think you’re a big fat idiot…just sayin’”. See also the phrases “not to be rude, but…”, “no offense, but…”, and “…I’m just bein’ real with you”.

-------------------------------

I made this.

cat

-------------------------------

Time for the first 2011 song recommendation! Never heard of these guys before about a week ago, but I’m looking forward to checking out their debut album. Check out what the lead singer looks like. Bet you didn’t picture him looking like that!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Project Holly? My Wife Picks Her Top 10 Songs of the Year in a Guest Blog

She’s the most important person in my life, and the one who tolerates the endless playing of music everywhere we go. Not only does she allow me to soundtrack every minute of our lives, but she’s also obliged me by going above and beyond and picking not only her top ten songs, but also doing it with special explanations and extra categories. What a woman!!!

So, let Holly’s words begin now…

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

**Important Caveat-------only one song per band**

1) Mumford and Sons “Thistle and Weeds”

---played on repeat too many times to count. Turn it up loud. I even learned one of the piano parts for this. :-)

 

2) Local Natives “Wide Eyes”

---makes you happy, they were awesome in concert, it reminds me of running or walking to Albertsons in Mountain Home, Idaho

 

3) The National “Conversation 16”

---listen to the drums…holy cats!, the chorus is awesome, it contains a line that really hit home for me when friends left and then I had to leave the rest of them L “Try to hold it together till our friends are gone.”

 

4) Cee Lo Green “Bright Lights, Bigger City”

---wow this is on caliber with some of the top Michael Jackson songs (at least to me). Just try not moving to this….oh and it has a huge band with strings in the background….and man can he sing

 

6) Yeasayer “Madder Red”

---that intro gets in my head and I can’t help but sing along, so here you go yeasayer….you made it because of your ridiculously catch intro

 

7) Interpol “The Undoing”

---just love the parts where he speaks in what I believe is Spanish

 

8) Regina Spektor “Blue Lips”

---I love singing the chorus. It reminds me of going skiing with Mitch (yes, that’s a shoutout to Mitch for taking a very very beginner skiing who held him back significantly).

 

9) Kid Cudi “Scott Mescudi vs the World”

---watched a youtube of this one live…it looked like it would be so exciting with the lights out and then not having them on till he comes in to rap. Cee Lo Green’s chorus pretty much makes the song.

 

10) Caribou “Jamelia”

---I think Derek playing it nonstop makes it worth making the list. Some songs are good and some are good and remind you of a time. This fits the latter category.

 

Top 5 albums---

1) Mumford and Sons “Sigh No More”

2) The National “High Violet”

3) Local Natives “Gorilla Manor”

4) Arcade Fire “The Suburbs” (Even though none of the songs made it on the top 10 they are all super good and it would be really hard to pick one to make the list)

5) Interpol “Interpol”

Top 5 Most Fun to Sing

1) Miniature Tigers “Lolita”

2) Vampire Weekend “Horchata”

3) Broken Bells “The Ghost Inside”

4) Caribou “Kaili”

5) Arcade Fire “Rococo”

Top 3 Most Hauntingly Beautiful---

1) Sia “My Love” (2010 soundtrack find, but 2008 album)

2) Scala and Kolacny Brothers “Creep”

3) Mimicking Birds “The Loop”

Top 3 worship songs---

1) Hillsong United “Freedom is Here

2) Mercy Me “All of Creation”

3) Chris Tomlin “Our God

Best concerts----Mumford and Sons at Sasquatch (impeccable performance and a spot where I could see the lead singer…..), Local Natives at Sasquatch (they were just really good), Yeasayer in Colombus, OH (funky, but good. Awful outfits though ;) )Kid Cudi/LCD Soundsystem/Deadmau5 (best dance parties of Sasquatch), Wintersleep in Kentucky (impressed me with how professional and polished they were musically).

Best 2 songs to put a smile on your face-----just try not to…Alexandre Desplat “Moving In” and Vampire Weekend “Cousins

Best lyrics---

-“You are tiny and your lips are like little pieces of bacon” from Avi Buffalo’s “What’s It In For” HA HA! This song always makes me think it’s MGMT….sadly it’s not.

-“You will pray to the God you always denied.” from Mumford and Sons “Dust Bowl Dance”

Best hip-hop album---Kid Cudi (he is a disturbed individual who happens to make good music that has too many f* bombs in it…thus the dilemma)

Most personally sentimental song titles---The National “Bloodbuzz Ohio” (where I got sent) and Band of Horses “NW APT” (where I want to be)

Best psychedelic intro--- Tame Impala “Solitude is Bliss

Best country song--- Lady Antebellum “Need you now

Can’t help liking it---Rihanna “Only Girl in the World

That came out of nowhere---Gorillaz “Pirate’s Progress

Most disappointing album---MGMT “Congratulations” (It’s not really fair to expect them to live up to their last album though and they did put on a good show complete with putting up a flag on stage for Memorial Day…the only band I heard even mention the holiday)

Surprisingly good album---Arcade Fire “the Suburbs”

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The 2010 Ultimate Music Megapost: Top 50 Songs of the Year, 10-1

Alright folks here it is! These are, in my opinion, the ten best songs released in 2010, ranging from Interpol’s great comeback to a song by an electronically focused alt rock band that dominated my car’s cd player this year. Give them a listen and let me know what you think. Thanks for reading!

10) Interpol – “Memory Serves”

Welcome back, Interpol! I was a freshman in college when their sophomore album sucked me into fandom. Then came their unfortunate third album and I wondered whether I’d buy Interpol again. But now they are back, and boy did they blow me away with this one. “Memory Serves” might just be the best song this band has ever put together.

 

9) Local Natives – “World News”

Listen up anyone looking for the next big thing. Here it is. Local Natives. I can’t possibly imagine someone not liking this band (I’m sure it’s POSSIBLE, but you’d have to try). On “World News” they showcase their Southern California vibe, Fleet Foxes harmonies, and lyrical mastery. And I can vouch that their live performance was one of the best this year.

 

8) Mimicking Birds – “The Loop”

Welcome to 2010’s best study song. How good is “The Loop”? One listen on their Myspace and I bought this band’s entire album. Mimicking Birds’ style could easily be boring, but Portland’s Nate Lacy never lets this happen, layering the album with beautiful melodies and paying attention to the intricate details. If you’re in the mood to chill, this is the song for you.

 

7) Yeasayer – “Strange Reunions”

Welcome to my life, Yeasayer. Last year I’d never heard of them, now I own both their albums, which collectively have five four-star songs. “Strange Reunions” might be a rough first listen or two, but give it a real shot and it will show you how it synthesizes alt rock and a Middle Eastern vibe to perfection.

 

6a, 6b, and 6c) “Kettering”, “Bear”, and “Two” by The Antlers

Separating these three tracks would be like naming your favorite chapter in a book; to remove one of them from the album would be to completely lose the effect they have the whole production. Stunning 2009 album “Hospice” came into my hands in early 2010 and gets about as much play today as it did back then. It focuses around a dying woman in a hospital and is utterly heartbreaking, with internet message boards filled with stories of people crying mid-album with surprising regularity. “Kettering” sets the stage with its dark, electronic crescendo (“but something kept me standing by that hospital bed”), “Bear” sets the heartache in motion (“and our friends they dodge our calls and they have for quite a while now”), and “Two” drives it on home (“the doctor came to tell me ‘enough is enough’”). Rarely can an album elicit the same kind of emotional response that only some movies can, but with these three songs “Hospice” certainly can.

 

  
  

5) The National – “Conversation 16”

Why is it that country music is the only genre that is allowed to cover topics like fatherhood and marriage? The National emerge with such a sense of vulnerability on their songs, allowing you to sense the feelings of self-doubt that plague them when they admit “I do not want to disappoint anyone…” with gut-wrenching sincerity. “Conversation 16” is an amazing song on its own right, but it also serves as the top track on the year’s top album. Worth a listen or five.

 

4) Freelance Whales – “Generator ^ Second Floor”

I would wager of any song in my top 10 that this is the one that most people would like. And why not? The song is perfect, both in its lovability and its quirky bits, featuring plenty of xylophone and banjo. The song is endlessly fun to sing along too and doesn’t skimp on all the fantastic details, whether it be the irresistible electric guitar, the all-together-now refrain, or, of course, the banjo.

 

3) LCD Soundsystem – “I Can Change”

When this band abandons the dance scene (which they are also very good at) for just one brief, soul-baring moment, they create the world’s best songs. Just try “All My Friends” or “Someone Great”, songs that are equally musically adept and distinctly moving. So now we have “I Can Change”, which joins the ranks as near equals to those two masterpieces. When James Murphy sings “but she calls you tonight, everything is all-all-all-alright” it’s easy to get lost in the song.

2) William Fitzsimmons – “I Don’t Feel It Anymore (Song of the Sparrow)”

Purists will tell me the proper year this song came from, but there’s a disclaimer for that at the beginning of the list. There’s just no way I would avoid sharing this soft, moving piece of music that dominated my iTunes this year (iTunes says 39 plays for me, most of 2010). This song proves that you don’t need to make it complicated, and for the rest of my life I may remember the perfection of hearing this for the first time in a snowy Idaho lodge.

 

1) Caribou – “Jamelia”

I’ve never had a song like “Jamelia” be #1, usually opting for emotional softies to fill the tops of my lists. But “Jamelia” just flat out overwhelmed me this year, and any song that can leave me turning up the volume full blast and singing at such a level as to frighten drivers who pass me on the freeway deserves its place. What word to describe “Jamelia”? Swarming? I barely know. “Jamelia” builds and builds on the back synths, reverbed vocals, haunting strings, and ingenious electro creativity before breaking forth into the most furious and amazing portion of any song at the 1:45 mark. I implore you to give this one a go at full volume or, better yet, a good pair of headphones or you just don’t get the full effect. Any one of the top 5 could have been #1, but “Jamelia” takes the prize for that simply amazing middle portion.