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Month: December 2011

The Friday Five: December 30, 2011

Friday Five

Friday Five : ‘frī-(,)dā,-dē ‘fīv : On the sixth day of every week, I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes, then share the first five tracks and thought for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, occasionally we’ll have a guest, but most of the time it’s just me. The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments.

The Five:

How about we take a shuffle through 2011?

The Healing Tree” by Kensington Prairie (from The Healing Tree, 2011)

This little EP was enough to tide me over, but I’m sincerely hoping for new material from Kensington Prairie in 2012.

“A Simple Song” by Colin Hay (from Gathering Mercury, 2011)

Gathering Mercury is easily one of my favorite releases of the last twelve months.

Maybe Baby” by Justin Townes Earle (from Rave On Buddy Holly, 2011)

This record has been sitting on my desk for months and I have had no strong urge to actually listen to it. Listening now, I may actually go back and listen to the rest. It could just be the good fit of Justin Townes Earle’s tenor with the material, but this isn’t half bad.

Anything (feat. Swizz Beatz)” by Musiq (from Musiqinthemagiq, 2011)

Mr. Soulchild stepped outside of his neo-soul wheelhouse for this one, with mixed results. The addition of a Swizz Beatz feature just makes the whole thing feel contrived. This record didn’t make a whole lot of noise (despite moving 33,000 copies its first week.) Here’s hoping Musiq goes back to the drawing board in 2012.

Stick Around” by Mayer Hawthorne (from How Do You Do, 2011)

I don’t know, this Mayer Hawthorne cat leaves me cold. I get what he’s trying to do, but it just feels like he’s trying too damn hard. The arrangements hit all the right markers, the vocals are serviceable, but it’s all too clean.

What’s on your shuffle today?

Mark’s Best of 2011

2011 was truly a blessed year for music. Many of my favorite groups released new records and, as always thanks to NME, I found some fab new ones to geek out over. Without further adieu, here are my Top Ten Albums and Top Ten Tracks of 2011 (Click on the album or track to purchase).

Albums

10. Unknown Mortal OrchestraUnknown Mortal Orchestra

This Portland, Oregon band have a a combo lo-fi, groovy throwback sound that makes me smile. “Thought Ballune” is a must download.

9. American RevivalThe Worst Is Over Now

My fave new local band by way of Pete getting me back into alt.country. Their debut is magnificent. Here is their first video which showcases one of the best local bars, Williams Pub.

8. ElbowBuild A Rocket Boys!

Yes, these Ramsbottom, Bury lads sound like Genesis avec Peter Gabriel but so what? Every new release sees treasure after treasure.

7. The VaccinesWhat Did You Expect From The Vaccines?

I can’t wait to see all the music this band is going to make over the years. Caught them live in a warm up for the Arctic Monkeys last spring. Bril!

6. Noel GallagherNoel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

It’s about time that Noel did his own thing. I say it all the time – he’s the better singer. This album has been like a comfy blanket to me of late.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZT1RZzuU4M

5. Beady EyeDifferent Gear, Still Speeding

I was pleasantly surprised to see Liam try on some different musical styles. The results speak for themselves.

4. The Arctic MonkeysSuck It And See

Another great fucking record from the Sheffield lads. I don’t think it’s possible for them to make a bad one.

3. The KooksJunk Of The Heart

Every three years The Kooks make an album that is seamless from the last one in its perfection. Just a joy to play over and over again…like this Simon and Garfunkel-esque gem..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXsMxP7shSE

2. The Original 7venCondensate

This barely missed being the album of the year. The only thing that honestly held it back was it came out later in the year (October) and I haven’t lived with like I did with my #1 pick. Morris, Jerome, Jimmy, Terry, Jesse, Monte, and Jellybean made the best Time album out of the five with this absolute corker of a record. Done without the help of that dude from Chanhassen, the greatest band in the history of funk delivered a stunner that has deepened my desire to be Morris Day.

1. Friendly FiresPala

The soundtrack to my summer and, indeed, the entire year. I think I have played this disc at least 200 times start to finish since it came out and I still find layers to it previously unheard. Pala sets a mood that is sorely lacking today, not just in music, but in our culture in general. I’m not entirely certain I can describe it in words but it’s reminiscent of what the most gorgeous flower would sound like as it blooms…in a club at 1:30am with piles of sweaty bodies writhing around to massive and thumping beats. And if it could tell Robert Browning-esque love stories. Like their self titled first release, Pala deserves to be forever enshrined in any Hall of Fame.

Lay back in the sun and listen to the title track…

Tracks

10. “Whirring” – The Joy Formidable

I imagine this song as being the soundtrack to an indie love story. A true gem from this North Wales group.

9. “Endless Blue” – The Horrors

It begins like a gentle kiss from a beautiful woman and switches mid way through into a full on frenetic, saliva-dripped shag…just like love making should be.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cjCPS-_eO0

8. “Boogabear” – American Revival

“I’m so tired of fighting the battle for who could care less…” singer Thomas Pendarvis croons in my fave from the Mpls alt. country outfit’s debut. This song is now officially the anthem of every bar in every small town for every person having a cold one. (No video here so go listen to the track by clicking on the song).

7. “Minnesota, WI” – Bon Iver

The Eau Claire, WI natives perfectly captured that autumnal shimmer that I write about constantly. A nice shout out to my neighborhood of the country.

6. “Wasted” – Glass Rock

I love the mood this song sets and the album cover art is the best of the year. It’s a photo I would take. And it came out on my birthday! (No video here so go listen to the track by clicking on the song).

5. “Shuffle” – Bombay Bicycle Club

This Crouch End, London group may become my new Brit Rock darlings. This track struck me as sounding very different from what I normally hear from across the pond. It’s free on Amazon!

4. “Days” – The Drums

This is my son’s best track of 2011. He wanted me to make note of it and it’s funny because it’s appropriate considering the video below. This Brooklyn based guitar pop outfit continues to make great music with their third release, Portamento.

3. “Post Break-Up Sex” – The Vaccines

If Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks is the best break up album of all time, this track holds the best break up song mantle. We’ve all been there, and it’s wonderful.

2. “Junk Of The Heart (Happy)” – The Kooks

A perfect pop song in just about every way. Luke does it again!

1. “Blue Cassette” – Friendly Fires

Not simply the best track of 2011, but one of the best of all time. Friendly Fires really outdid themselves with this stunning song that waxes nostalgic about cassette tapes and lost love. My heart melts every single time I listen to it.

Those are my albums and tracks. What are yours?

Pete’s Top Albums of 2011

2011 was another year of musical discovery for me. Clocking in highest on the discovery meter were San Francisco’s Girls; but right up there with Girls were two bands that can’t technically qualify for my best of 2011 album list: Delta Spirit and Titus Andronicus. Their latest albums – History from Below and The Monitor (respectively) – were both released in 2010, but I didn’t hear them until this year. Overall, when I think of 2011, these three groups reigned supreme in my corner of the world.

When it comes to 2011 live shows, it was also Titus Andronicus that blew my mind (back on April 18th at The Rhythm Room in Phoenix). All punk and passion, courtesy of front man Patrick Stickles. My jaw hit the floor.

But on to the albums. Looking back at my iTunes and Last.fm listening history, it was clear to me that I wouldn’t be able to muster up a Top Ten list. Sure, I could B.S. and include something like the Beasties’ Hot Sauce Committee Part Two – which I enjoyed on some level, but never listened to straight through more than twice. Thinking about albums, ’tis all about honesty, and what’s truly important to me as a full body of work. So in that spirit, here are my Top 8 albums of 2011…

1. GirlsFather, Son, Holy Ghost ($5 on Amazon)

I had heard – and loved – “Laura,” a single off Girls first album a couple years back. But it wasn’t until this year that I fell completely head over heels for the San Francisco band led by Christopher Owens. The quirky “Honey Bunny” video drew me in – and when I tracked down the new album, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, it was over – I was hooked. It’s rich with emotion, it rocks, it’s delicate… I can’t wait to follow Christopher around from here on out and hear what he has to say. Both Girls full lengths and the EP are excellent – discovering them has been the music highlight of my year.

Highlight: “Alex” – Hypnotic. Beautiful. Sublime.

2. Greg BrownFreak Flag ($4.99 on Amazon)

Here’s one that surprised me. Though I loved “The Poet Game” single many years back, no full album of Greg Brown’s had really come along that knocked my socks off. Freak Flag did just that. Full of beauty, wisdom and Greg’s wry sense of humor, it’s the folk masterpiece of 2011.

Highlight: “Where Are You Going When You’re Gone” (mp3) – All groove and growl. Toe tappin’ funky folk (there is such a thing).

3. Middle BrotherMiddle Brother ($5 on Amazon)

I love Delta Spirit. I love Deer Tick. I love Dawes. So it’s no surprise that Middle Brother was up among the tops this year, since the group is made up of the front men of all 3 groups. I had the pleasure of seeing Middle Brother live this summer at the Newport Folk Festival, which may very well have been their last performance… but something tells me Taylor Goldsmith, John McCauley and Matt Vasquez will be making more music together somewhere down the road.

Highlight: “Million Dollar Bill” – This is a Goldsmith-penned song that also shows up on Dawes’ new record, Nothing Is Wrong. On the MidBro version, the three guys each get a verse, and the result is profound, in my ever so humble opinion. I prefer it to the Nothing is Wrong version.

4. DawesNothing Is Wrong ($4.99 on Amazon)

It’s hard not to be endeared to this L.A. band that channels the SoCal /  Lauren Canyon 70’s vibe. Taylor Goldsmith is a brilliant lyricist, and they’re just getting started. That’s scary (in a very good way). And their live show? Forget about it. Passionate and fiery stuff…

Highlight: “Fire Away” – This tune features Jackson Browne on background vocals, Taylor’s brother Griffin taking lead vocals on the bridge, and the Heartbreakers’ Benmont Tench on the organ. Great sing along chorus – a tune that really takes off into the stratosphere by song’s end – especially live.

5. My Morning JacketCircuital ($4.99 on Amazon)

Jim James (er – Yim Yames) and the boys of MMJ always put me in a good place. Another solid studio album featuring tunes that ignite in a live setting. I must have watched MMJ on at least 3-4 festival webcasts this summer. Another mind-blowing live band that can also deliver in the studio. Confession though: I just don’t like “Holdin On To Black Metal.”

Highlight: “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)” – I’m a sucker for some mellow MMJ. A great moment when the drums come in at “I-I-I-I’m going where there ain’t no fear…”

6. Deer TickDivine Providence ($5 on Amazon)

Snarly wild man John McCauley is back with another Deer Tick record. This time he shares the spotlight with drummer Dennis Ryan and guitarist Ian O’Neill, who write and sing on a few tunes. Divine Providence has a little bit of everything – honky-tonk rock, punk, pop. Oh, do I need to mention they’re also a killer live band? I saw them three times this year – twice in their home state of Rhode Island as they took over the Newport Blues Cafe during Folk Festival time.

Highlight: “The Bump” – The Deer Tick theme song. “We’re full grown men! But we act like kids!” The drunken devil strikes again.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_tC4_zaqaQ

7. Lenny KravitzBlack & White in America ($10.49 on Amazon)

I was frankly surprised by Lenny’s latest. Rock, funk, soul, pop – yep, pretty much the Lenny Kravitz blueprint throughout his career. But the hooks and melodies caught on quick with me, and had me coming back for more helpings. The last time I enjoyed a Lenny album this much, I was 21 (1991’s Mama Said)!

Don’t knock it ’til you’ve heard it.

Highlight: “Liquid Jesus” – A sexy 70’s soul vibe as Lenny channels his inner Curtis Mayfield.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyyznmFosi4

8. Frank TurnerEngland Keep My Bones ($9.99 on Amazon)

I was looking forward to a full length album from the UK’s Frank Turner since stumbling across his set at the ACL Festival a couple years back. It was worth the wait. Frank’s working class, populist folk/punk is alive and well in England Keep My Bones.

Highlight: “If Ever I Stray” – Certain songs give me goosebumps and make my eyes well up with their sheer power. This is one of those songs.

The Friday Five: December 23, 2011

Friday Five

Friday Five : ‘frī-(,)dā,-dē ‘fīv : On the sixth day of every week, I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes, then share the first five tracks and thought for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, occasionally we’ll have a guest, but most of the time it’s just me. The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments.

The Five:

“Santa Claus” by Throwing Muses (from, Just Can’t Get Enough: New Wave Xmas, 1996)

This does not bode well. Here we are at the start of the final holiday themed Friday Five, and iTunes shuffles up the angst ridden in my library.

“It Must’ve Been Ol’ Santa Claus” by Harry Connick, Jr. (from, When My Heart Finds Christmas,1993)

Okay, this is a little bit better. Before Bublé came along, ol’ Harry was the crooner’s only hope. Which, of course, mandated that he release a holiday record every other year. This one, his first, was not awful.

“Last Christmas” by Wham! (from Music From the Edge of Heaven, 1986)

Somewhere in Manhattan, Jason Hare’s ears just perked up.

“Santa’s Beard” by The Beach Boys (from The Time-Life Treasury of Christmas, 1987)

I don’t care for this song, nope. Not at all. See Also: Fuck Mike Love.

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Darlene Love (from A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector, 1963)

Ok, I cheated. I broke the cardinal rule of the Friday Five. I purposely played this track. I did it, however, for a good reason: to remind all you good boys and girls to watch Late Night With David Letterman tonight to see Darlene Love perform her holiday classic. It has become a long standing tradition in the Parr household, and it really just isn’t Christmas until we sit down at that late hour to watch Ms. Love perform my favorite Christmas tune.

And with that, we conclude 2011’s holiday Five. I’d like to take a minute to thank every one of you that continue to support the Friday Five, and wish each of you a very merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, and a joyous new year.

What’s on your shuffle today?

I Support The War on Drugs

Man, I can get behind The War on Drugs. Their latest, Slave Ambient, is fantastic  – one of those albums that instantly draws you in.

It’s a rock & roll framework, but the album title doesn’t lie – there’s an ambient undertone to the whole album. The keyboard / synth sounds add that dreamscape layer that makes this whole record a really cool journey.

Here’s just one example: “Your Love Is Calling My Name”…

Slave Ambient is only $5 on Amazon. You can also check it out streaming on Rdio or on Spotify.

It’s So Hard To Just Walk Away

For the past several weeks, I have tried to get myself to the point where I could tell all of you that the new album by Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto, is a must for your Christmas stocking this year. Sadly, I have to report that I am not at that point and likely never will be. The London Lads’ 5th release is mediocre at best.

Certainly, Mylo Xyloto has some Parachutes-like moments but they don’t arrive until the middle of the album. “Us Against The World” is the first such example, a nice track to be sure, that has Chris Martin’s voice looming large in the mix with that familiar, dreamy echo. But then it’s right back to the keyboard driven pomp pop that one would expect from the likes of the latest American Idol contestant (“Every Teardrop is a Waterfall,” the first single). Indeed, this is what we sit through on the first four tracks of the disc. Perhaps it’s because I yearn for a return to the simpler time of Parachutes, their first full length release, and the mood that went along with it that was captured so beautifully over a decade ago. In many ways, that album ushered in the Era Of Dream Pop, unleashing such wonderful bands as Keane, Snow Patrol, Star Sailor, and the Delays into the world.

Thankfully, the track after Teardrop is the one that saves the album from being a real stinker. “Major Minus” is vintage Coldplay and one of their best tracks of all time. Martin’s “Ooo-ooo” ing along with a catchy acoustic guitar, terribly sick drum beat, and Edge-like electric guitar from Jonny Buckland make this song simply amazing.

“U.F.O.” also finds some Parachutes magic as does “Up In Flames” but this is largely due to Martin’s voice which most definitely does not disappoint. Of course, this has always been the case on all their records. He derides himself constantly, saying that he is a “4th rate Bono.” Nothing could be further from the truth. His singing brings a layer of emotion that speaks directly to points in the human condition (especially love) that Bono has never seemed to capture in his career.

The album’s closer, “Up With The Birds,” has the line, “It’s so hard to just walk away” which I found to be terribly appropriate. Coldplay are one of my favorite groups and it’s like pulling teeth to write this post but my inner Cusack in High Fidelity simply has to be honest. Download “Major Minus” for sure…”Us Against The World”, “U.F.O.” and “Up In Flames” if you must fill it out a little to get more of a taste but really that’s it.

Here’s the track, “Major Minus.”

The Friday Five: December 16, 2011

Friday Five

Friday Five : ‘frī-(,)dā,-dē ‘fīv : On the sixth day of every week, I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes, then share the first five tracks and thought for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, occasionally we’ll have a guest, but most of the time it’s just me. The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments.

The Five:

I’ll Be Home for Christmas (If Only in My Dreams)” by Frank Sinatra (from Christmas With the Rat Pack, 2002)

This is a perennial favorite. The (somewhat) ironic thing is: this was not part of the music that I grew up with. Sinatra was, in the words of my parents, “old people music.”

Winter Wonderland” by The Andrews Sisters (from The Time-Life Treasury of Christmas, Volume 2, 1987)

Without Bing, I don’t know that I care much for The Andrews Sisters.

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” by Michael Bublé (from Christmas, 2011)

Damn you, Michael Bublé. Damn you straight to hell.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” by Leon Redbone & Zooey Deschanel (from Elf, 2003)

Wait up, Bublé; make room for Ms. Deschanel. Okay, to be fair, I love this version. Despite a deep, burning—not unlike the time Dave Lifton’s mom gave me the clap—dislike for Will Farrell, I love the film it comes from. For more unbridled scorn of Zooey head over to Popdose for today’s installment of Jeff Giles’ & Jason Hare’s Mellowmas.

The Little Drummer Boy” by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band (from A Very Special Christmas, 1990)

I take no issue with Bob Seger’s overwrought, overproduced version of the holiday classic. Listen to those swelling synth pads and gospel choir vocals! This is what Christmas is about, y’all.

What’s on your shuffle today?

Impossible But…

Before it had even arrived in the mail my mind was made up. There was no way in hell that the new Subways album, Money and Celebrity, was going to be as good as their last one. All or Nothing is one of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time. Seriously. I listed it here as the 2nd best album of the last decade because it defines the very essence of the mixed up love affair I have with women and music.

So, the very notion of it being as good or better was impossible. Indeed, the first listen didn’t go very well as I had this bias firmly entrenched in my mind. The same thing happened with the second and third listens. But the fourth listen was the one where I decided that it didn’t have to be as good as or better than All or Nothing.

Because it’s still way fucking better than 99 percent of the boring shit that’s been put out this year! And, honestly, Billy, Charlotte and Josh have turned in one heck of a third record. In many ways, it reminds me a great deal of their first album, Young For Eternity, in both theme and style

With this, we also see an attempt by the band to achieve more of commercial sound. This is evident in the first single, “It’s A Party” as well as “I Wanna Dance With You.” The producing talents of Stephen Street (The Smiths, The Cranberries, Blur) are evident in both of these tracks that were tailor made for radio. This record is also kind of a concept disc with the title coming from two most excellent tracks on the album (“Money” and “Celebrity”) which both offer biting social commentary.

My faves are “Popdeath” (timely, considering the recent passing of Amy Winehouse), “Like I Love You” (classic Billy in love track), and “Down Our Street” (ok, I’m always a sucker for stories of British towns).

Although the record has not been released here in the US, Amazon Uk has it available. I’d recommend it as a stocking stuffer!

Here is the song “Popdeath” performed acoustically on Carnaby Street at a recent guerrilla gig.

The Friday Five: December 9, 2011

Friday Five

Friday Five : ‘frī-(,)dā,-dē ‘fīv : On the sixth day of every week, I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes, then share the first five tracks and thought for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, occasionally we’ll have a guest, but most of the time it’s just me. The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments.

The Five:

Winter Wonderland” by Peggy Lee (from Ultra-Lounge: Christmas Cocktails, 1996)

This is a positively swinging take on the holiday classic. A secret Santa dropped this under my Christmas tree last week and it has been in heavy rotation ever since.

Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight)” by The Ramones (from The Big ’80s Christmas, 2001)

YES!

“What Can You Get a Wookie for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?)” by Meco (from Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album, 1980)

Double YES! This song couldn’t be more awful if it were sung by young Bon Jovi. (For those not in the know, the single “R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas” was, in fact, sung by a teenaged Jon Bon. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.) I was actually listening to this song before I started the Friday Five, and had posed the question on Facebook. My friend responded with “a Flobee.”

Christmas Time Is Here” by Steve Vai (from Merry Axemas: A Guitar Christmas, 1997)

This sounds exactly like what you would think it does. Imagine “For the Love of God” with a holiday slant. Oh so dramatic! I can see Vai’s contorted “O” face as he laid this down. Damn, I kind of feel dirty now.

White Christmas” by Bing Crosby (from The Time-Life Treasury of Christmas, 1987)

What better to close out this Holiday-themed Friday Five than with a classic from the indisputable King of Holiday croon.

What’s on your shuffle today?

He Stands The Test of Time…Like Beatles and Stones

(Beady Eye, Live in the Main Room, First Avenue, 5 December 2011)

Liam Gallagher is doing just fine without Oasis. Well, actually, he took most of Oasis with him and formed a new band called Beady Eye so he’s not really suffering. Last night, this new outfit descended on First Avenue and put on a corker of a show. Part of it had to do with the venue, of course, as I hadn’t seen Liam in such a small setting for quite some time (1994, at the now departed Uptown Bar on Oasis’ first ever US tour before the “Supersonic” single had even come out).

Here was their set list.

Four Letter Word
Beatles and Stones
Millionaire
Two of a Kind
For Anyone
Three Ring Circus
The Roller
In the Bubble With a Bullet
Bring the Light
Standing on the Edge of the Noise
Kill for a Dream
The Beat Goes On
Man of Misery
The Morning Son
Wigwam

Encore:
World Outside My Room
Sons of the Stage

As you can see, no Oasis songs were played but that was just fine with me. Beady Eye’s first album, Different Gear, Still Speeding, brings a fresh mix of styles as well as familiar, Beatles-esque yarns. Highlights for me last night were “The Roller” (another channeling of Liam’s inner Lennon), “Bring the Light” (the first single from the album which I didn’t really like right away but has since grown on me with its Jerry Lee Lewis piano…ballin’!) and “Kill For A Dream” (I think I got a contact high from this number and the pot was from 1967).

The show also saw Liam being his usual self (posing god like, picking fights with the crowd, general misbehavior fueled by titanic hubris) which made me crack up several times. The rest of the band showed the crowd their musical talents as well. Gem Archer and Andy Bell were both fantastic on the guitar. Chris Sharrock drummed his fucking heart out. Matt Jones added several layers of texture with his keyboard work.

I’ll be looking forward to the second record which Liam has promised will drop late next year. Mega!

Check out the band’s remaining tour schedule for the US.

Here is my photo album from the show.