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.
Friday Five : ˈfrī-(ˌ)dā,-dē ˈfīv : On the sixth day of every week I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes and share my five and drop a little knowledge and insight for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes we have 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.
Editors Note: For the first Friday Five of 2010, I’m taking a look back at five of my favorite records from the last decade. Placed in no particular order, these are the records that I found myself coming back to time and again. Happy New Year, to all of you. – Michael
Amy Winehouse – “Tears Dry on Their Own” (from Back to Black, 2006)
Is there an artist that better embodies “The Noughties” than Amy Winehouse? The slight, awkward girl from Southgate, England with the voice that could topple buildings; yet it was her personal battles with drugs that the media focused on. An amalgam of classic soul, vocal jazz and ska, Back to Black earned Winehouse six Grammy nominations and five awards, and was the best selling record in 2007. The track “Tears Dry on Their Own,” for me, stands out above the rest; capturing the best of Winehouse’s powerful vocals.
The Gaslight Anthem – “Great Expectations” (from The ’59 Sound, 2008)
You can take the band out of New Jersey, but you cannot take the New Jersey out of the band. The Gaslight Anthem provided the end of the decade with a much-needed shot of straightforward rock & roll. The songs on The ’59 Sound are rife with stories of life in small town America; quoting everyone from Bon Jovi, Counting Crows and even The Boss himself, all while sounding fresh and vital. The record kicks off with the barnburner “Great Expectations,” which contains as many literary movements as you would expect from a song titled after the Charles Dickens classic.
The self-described “only successful Arab/Jewish partnership since the dawn of human culture,” Chromeo is holding the torch for ’80s inspired electrofunk. Their album, Fancy Footwork, is one of the best dance records of the last decade. They also turned in one of the most memorable appearances on Daryl Hall’s web series, Live from Daryl’s House. Selecting a single track from the record proved nearly impossible, so I put my trust in the shuffle button, which served up the new jack swing of “Bonafied Lovin’ (Tough Guys).”
There is a certain understated majesty to the opening of the aptly titled “The First Song,” the lead track on Band of Horses 2006 debut Everything All the Time. Indie rock with a decidedly southern bend, the band — led by Ben Bridwell — caught flack for allowing their anthemic, “The Funeral,” to be used in marketing campaigns for Ford as well as in slew of movies and television programs.
The last decade has been an uneven one for Prince. As a performer, he toured the world twice over, commanded a Las Vegas residency, 21 nights at London’s O2 stadium, and perhaps one of the most memorable Super Bowl halftime performances; as a recording artist, he was hit or miss. However, the one exception was the incredibly funky Musicology, which rocketed Prince back into the spotlight. From funk to soul, his purple badness proved that he still had the juice to create a commercially viable, yet funky as hell record.
So tell me, what is soothing your aching head today?
Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Write a Year-End Best of Column
I’ll be honest, the thought of figuring out a ‘Top 10’ for the year is far more daunting a task than I had imagined. So much so that I found it difficult to pare down the list to ten. Why is it always the top 10, anyway? In the spirit of non-conformity and as a big nudge to ‘the man’ here’s my ‘Year in (Ick)Music’
Before we get started, I’d like to note that both Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen are not on my 2007 list as I obtained copies of the UK release of both Back to Black and Alright, Still in 2006. While they certainly got tons of play in 2007 they remain last year’s news to my ears.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way, here’s…
Michael’s Year in (Ick)Music: 2007
Songs of the Year:
1. “F.U.N.K.”, by Prince – What “Chelsea Rodgers” should have been this is the funkiest track that His Royal Badness has graced us with in years. Hell, I don’t even care about the circumstances that it was released under. Here’s hoping that it’s not just another tease.
2. “No One Is Gonna Love you”, by Band of Horses – There is something so decidedly simple and beautiful about this tune. Ben Bridwell delivers the lyrics with such heartbreaking, self effacing honesty that you almost feel wrong for listening to his tortured soul.
3. “Just Fine”, by Mary J. Blige – This one snuck in at the close of the year. I’ll tell you that the first time I heard this I listened to it at least three times. Something about the lyrics really just grabbed me. This is a different Mary than we’ve seen in years and it’s a great to hear her belting out an upbeat track.
So I like what I see when I’m looking at me
When I’m walking past the mirror
Don’t stress through the night, at a time in my life
Ain’t worried about if you feel it
Got my head on straight, I got my vibe right
I aint gonna let you kill it
You see I wouldn’t change my life, my life’s just Fine…
4. “Good Life”, by Kanye West featuring T-Pain – Not many artists can get away with releasing three singles within a few weeks of each other and have them all blow up the way the first three tracks from Kanye’s Graduation did. And while I cringe at almost everything that has the tag “featuring T-Pain” this was the exception. It’s hip-pop at it’s best. And I’d be remiss if I did not give you guys the video. These are the type of videos that make me actually miss when MTV showed videos.
Cover Songs of the Year:
1. “Don’t Stop Believing”, by Petra Haden – This is an easy one. Take a beloved song that’s inclusion in the closing scene of “The Soprano’s” put it back in the hearts and minds of just about everyone and add the ethereal voice of Petra Haden and you’ve got a masterpiece.
As a bonus, this video is too good to not share
2. “Valerie”, by Mark Ronson featuring Amy Winehouse – Nearly every track on Ronson’s solo debut is a smash, but this track stands head and shoulders above the rest.
3. “Hard Sun”, by Eddie Vedder – Though it stands on this list as the cover that almost no one knows is a cover, this track shows the power of Eddie’s voice.
Albums of the Year:
1. Cease to Begin, by Band of Horses
2. In Rainbows, by Radiohead
3. 100 Days, 100 Nights, by Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
4. Planet Earth, by Prince
5. Magic, by Bruce Springsteen
Honorary Mention:Finding Forever, by Common; Graduation, by Kanye West; Chase This Light, by Jimmy Eat World; Kala, by M.I.A.; Version, by Mark Ronson; Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, by The Foo Fighters; Sky Blue Sky, by Wilco.
Underground Hip-Hop Double Blast of the Year:
Ahead of the Curve, by Lateef & Z-Trip
From the Corner to the Block, by Galactic
Pete and I both fell upon the Lateef & Z-Trip release around the same time and he beat me to the punch featuring them here. Between that and the stellar release of the jam-band favorites Galactic (featuring many of the underground hip-hop communities finest) my faith in Hip-Hop was well and alive.
Best Live Show of the Year:
Dave Matthews Band at New England Dodge Music Center, August 4th. – The wife and I make a yearly pilgrimage to see Dave and the boys and I’m not sure if it was the great seats or the overall vibe of the show but it was the best since MSG in Dec of 2002 (when the Godfather of Soul, James Brown joined the band for a 15 minute jam on “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine”).
Best New (to me) Artists
Alice Smith – I foresee her blowing up in 2008. With her soulful yet rocking tunes she’s sure to win over fans.
Amel Larrieux – I had loved Groove Theory and a last.fm friend pointed me towards he solo releases and I’ve since become a full on advocate.
The Brothers Johnson – One of two (related) ‘digging in the crates’ finds for 2007, this act lays down some of the funkiest grooves ever committed to tape.
Saul Williams – I had heard his name before but never had the opportunity to listen and with the free release of “The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!” I’ve become an instant fan. I’d highly suggest everyone taking the chance to listen as it’s still a free download.
Shuggie Otis – As Pete said in a previous post, this is like “Prince 1.0”. Shuggie not only displays great musicianship and songwriting but he is one of the more underrated guitarists of the last few decades.
As Pete said in conclusion of his year in review, I can’t wait to hear what 2008 has in store and look forward to sharing it with you.
I know you’re probably all sick of the obligatory year end list mania sweeping the interwebs, but indulge me, if you will, as I throw in a few favorites myself. I give you….
Pete’s Year in (Ick)Music: 2007
Songs of the Year:
1.“Intervention”, by Arcade Fire – Win Butler and his band of gypsy maniacs known as Arcade Fire rocked my soul with this song. I had the heard the song in earlier incarnations, specifically on one of AF’s Morning Becomes Eclectic appearances. But it was after Neon Bible was released, when I was on a run with the iPod, when this song raised the hairs on my arms, brought tears to my eyes, and zapped me with an extra dose of adrenaline. In my opinion, “Intervention” is an epic masterpiece, joining songs like “Purple Rain”, “Thunder Road”, “London’s Burning”, and Steve Earle’s “Goodbye” on my mantle of all time favorites. The church organ, the lamenting lyrics that spotlight the brave and innocent soldier stuck in a unnecessary war:
“I can taste the fear
Lift me up and take me out of here
Don’t wanna fight, don’t wanna die
Just wanna hear you cry.”
“Intervention”s lyrics are a bitter reminder of our current leadership here in the U.S – an administration that continues to take a giant dump on a lot of the ideals of our forefathers. As of this writing, there are 390 days left of this god-awful president and his gang of deceivers. The door’s over there, fellas – don’t let it hit you in the ass.
Cheers to Win Butler and Arcade Fire.
2. “F.U.N.K.”, by Prince – Who knew? He still has it in him. All it took was a little passion and anger to get a great song out of him. Too bad his ire is directed at his most passionate fans – those who have carried him through his career. Finally, we get inspired, funky, creative Prince. Whatever it takes, I guess!
3. “City of Immigrants”, by Steve Earle
Though it’s still hard to adjust to the latest live incarnation of Mr. Earle (Steve, a guitar, two turntables and a DJ), he released a very solid album this year – Washington Square Serenade – and to me, this track stands out from the rest. NYC / Brazilian group Forro in the Dark back Steve up in this spirited homage to New York City’s immigrant roots. Steve’s delightfully upbeat mandolin playing, Forro’s Brazilian percussion, and the sweet backing vocals of Allison Moorer make this one of my favorites of the year.
It’s worth watching the Letterman performance of it too…
Albums of the Year:
1. Magic, by Bruce Springsteen
Refreshing. Like opening the windows on a cool, sunny morning. The man just has it, doesn’t he? His talent at songwriting and tunesmithing (not to mention performing) leaves me in awe. Bruce’s tip o’ the hat to Brian Wilson and sixties pop, “Girls in Their Summer Clothes”, leads the charge for me. But there is no shortage of excellent songs on this one: “Gypsy Biker”, “Long Walk Home”, and “Livin’ in the Future” to name a few. Now if only Bruce would book a date in Phoenix on his early 2008 tour. Still nothing, and it’s killin’ me!
2. Sky Blue Sky, by Wilco
This album reached out to the mellow, country-rock side of me, and wrapped its arms around me. I’ve enjoyed all of Wilco’s albums (particularly from 1999’s Summerteeth on) for their spontaneity and originality. You just never know where they’re going to head next. When I threw on Sky Blue Sky, it immediately connected, right from the opening notes of “Either Way”. It’s the opening salvo of songs 1 through 4 that move me the most: “Either Way”, “You Are My Face” (can there be a cooler song title?), “Impossible Germany”, and the title track. I could listen to Jeff Tweedy sing the phone book. His scratchy, smoke & whiskey-soaked voice makes jeff one of my favorite vocalists around.
Disappointment of the Year:
Planet Earth, by Prince
No one wants a great Prince album more than me. Every year I hope I’m going to hear it, but once again, Prince underwhelmed. Songs like “The One U Wanna C” and “Somewhere Here on Earth” were the highlights for me, and gave me some hope. But duds like “Mr. Goodnight”, “Lion of Judah”, “Resolution” and the title track pollute Planet Earth enough to make Al Gore pitch a huge hissy fit. And the song that had the highest funky Prince potential – “Chelsea Rogers” – is marred by Shelby J.’s mic-hogging, with Prince’s vocals just a footnote in the background.
The Throwing It All Away Award of the Year:
I discovered Amy’s music back in February when I heard the retro, soulful, yet still modern “Rehab” of hers. Then I picked up Back to Black. What a VOICE! Effortless and so rich with soul. Then it soon became apparent how troubled she was (and is). Her demons & addictions (and those ratty old ballerina slippers she insists on wearing) have been all over the tabloids and gossip web sites this year. Surrounding herself with folks like her hubby Blake Fielder Civil and chronic fuck-up Pete Doherty don’t bode well for her future. Of course Blake is locked up now for the foreseeable future, but it doesn’t look like she’s using it as an opportunity to straighten herself out.
Back to Black was recently nominated for six Grammy awards. We’ll see if she even turns up for the ceremony (by the way – Year 2 of Ickmusic Live Blogging the Grammy’s, comin’ up!). You can’t help but pull for her, though. So much talent. Get it together, Amy!
Underground Hip-Hop Double Blast of the Year:
Ahead of the Curve, by Lateef & Z-Trip
Rise Up, by Zeph & Azeem
These two joints were a breath of old school fresh air to my hip-hop starved lungs. If you’re looking for something – anything – to prove to you that real hip-hop is alive & well, pick up these two albums now.
Best Live Show of the Year: Arcade Fire at Austin City Limits Music Festival, September 15th. 90 minutes of adrenaline-filled bliss for me. They are one of a kind: inspiring, energetic, and grandiose. Like I’ve said before, there’s something powerful about Win Butler’s stage presence and charisma. The defining moment of this show was their encore finale, “Wake Up”… a sea of humanity singing along with the band, a collective of goosebump-filled arms raised in the air. To me, Arcade Fire are one of the defining bands of our generation. There’s something very special about these guys & gals.
Best New (to me) Artists
Music is all about discovery for me. Often times I don’t pick up on an artist until well into their career. Here are a few that I came across this year – some who have been around a while, others who haven’t.
Aceyalone – Acey has been a fixture on the LA underground hip-hop scene for years. I was finally brought into his world through his reggae/hip-hop album Lightning Strikes.
The Avett Brothers – These guys hail from Concord, North Carolina, and knocked me out with this year’s album, Emotionalism. Cool neo-bluegrass folksy sounds come out of this trio’s guitar, banjo and stand-up bass.
So what will 2008 bring? No idea, but I look forward to finding out. Don’t be shy about sharing your favorites with me. I’m always interested in quality tunes, wherever and whenever they may come from.
I’m pulling for her. Though her voice harkens back to the 60’s soul singers, there’s something that’s fresh and original about her. I’m bummed that she cancelled her upcoming tour dates. I was excited about catching her in Austin. But the important thing is that she gets her shit straight, and judging by her performance of “Love is a Losing Game” Tuesday night, I think she’s on her way. Though I don’t think that classy husband of hers is doing any good….
Though this song has been featured about a bazillion times on other music blogs, it’s possible some of you fine folks have not heard it. I just heard it last week for the first time. British singer Amy Winehouse lives quite a public personal life, but gawd can this girl sing.
Amy Winehouse: Rehab (mp3) – from Back to Black (U.S. release is March 12)