Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Hardest Working Man in Heaven
When I was in high school, Mr. Stokes, our American History teacher, spent a week showing movies. Probably he was just tired and burnt out because you would think that what he showed would have had some tenuous relationship to what we were studying, but he showed Easy Rider and James Brown on the Tami Show. If you've never seen it, you need to. Now he's more mythologized than listened to, though still piercing the pop culture in its geriatric enthusiasms, but James Brown really created a whole sphere of liberated and startling musicality. Would Prince and Justin Timberlake be who they are without him?

The James Brown Mix--Steinski and Double Dee



Night Train (Live on the Tami Show)

Buy James Brown at Amazon

Monday, December 25, 2006

Didn't I Do This Already?
I get it now; I was supposed to explain myself...
Now that I have seen how everyone else does it, I am going to give it another go. Is that kosher? Or am I breaking all the blogger rules? If so, then I guess stop reading and banish me from your bookmarks now, because I am going for it. I'm also this time putting up some songs to go with, mostly the obscurer.

If you are still reading, here are my favorite albums of 2006:

1. The Kooks--Inside In/Inside Out
Irrepressible exuberant sheer fun. They are here atop the list as a vote for pleasure. Catchy beyond belief, with a romantic joy that hits all the notes spot on for what I want in a pop song.



She Moves in Her Own Way (Live)

2. Rainer Maria--Catastrophe Keeps Us Together

Their last best album. Packed full of yearning and danger and a remarkably consistently excellent selection of great songs and their most developed jolie laide harmonies.



Catastrophe (Live)

3. Calhoun--Calhoun
This is my token "nobody else has heard this and it's great album." If it's cliched to do, I don't care. This is my personal effort to bring to your attention great songwriting and a band with a depth and complexity that is truly worth seeking out.

What Makes Your Black Heart Sing

4. Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton--Knives Don't Have Your Back
Magnificently menacing. Continuing down the eerie and haunting path she had drawn with Metric, Emily Haines and a horde of talented cohorts have made a burningly fantastic piano record that is disturbing, but electric.

The Lottery

5. Sambassadeur--Coastal Affairs
A jangly jumpy jumble of pop that alternates between soothing and teeth-rattling, sometimes simultaneously.

Between the Lines

6. Lily Allen--Alright, Still
Again pop from a new place, a new voice, that is fun and sloppy and ambitious.



Everything's Just Wonderful (Live)

7.
Arctic Monkeys--Whatever People Say I am, That's What I Am Not
Working it hard. "Mardy Bum" contains the most startling phrasing of a line of the whole year.

Mardy Bum

8. Gnarls Barkley--St. Elsewhere
Popular and rightly so. So many people are sick of the single, but really it is an astonishingly great song--that's why everybody has covered it. Smartly retro and note perfect throughout. Each single just made it seem even smarter.

9.
Hem--Funnel Cloud
The quietest record here. Thoughtful and, in a way, soaring. Pretty and sad, defined by the negative space and scenic desolation of the words and music.



Not California (Live)

10. TV on the Radio-Return to Cookie Mountain
Love them or hate them, nobody else is going out on that limb. "Dry Drunk Emperor," which I have deliberately not checked if it is from this year, is the only "political" song I've heard in many years with any substance.

Dry Drunk Emperor

11. Hello Saferide--Introducing
I feel like she's the Lily Allen of Scandinavian Pop. Saying complex things in a simple way that startles and charms.

The Quiz

12. Fionn Regan--End of History
Solid and introspective with something to say, quietly and in the just right tone. Maybe just as quiet as Hem, oops...

Blackwater Child

13. Fibes, Oh Fibes--Emotional

This year's Scissor Sisters. Joyously retro explosions of cheery Swedish chocolate that I first heard at Lost In Your Inbox.

Can't Be So

14.
The Fratellis--Costello Music
Somewhere someone went off on how The Fratellis are going to last and The Kooks and Arctic Monkeys aren't which is a fairly silly debate. They are quite consistent, but to me less surprising. Polished, but still punchy and fun.



For the Girls (Live)

15. The Feeling--Twelve Stops and Home

Pure pop, like The Thrills pumped up on Mentos.

Sewn

16. Scissor Sisters--Ta-Dah!
I was initially left a little flat by Ta-Dah! but it slowly grew on me. The world needs them.

17. Sol Seppy--The Bells of 1 2
A great introduction from Rachel at Untitled. Here again yearning reigns as the supreme emotion.



Wonderland

18. Kate Havnevik--Melankton
Somewhere at the other end of the Scandinavian pop scale, Kate Havnevik has a super-smooth ear for tight harmonies and bombast.

19. The Oohlas--Best Stop Pop
Good good good, but I almost forget why I like them. Though I know they are startlingly consistent.

20.
Maria Mena--Apparently Unaffected
The rawest and most embarrassingly sincere of my selections. I have moments of recoil from her earnest confessionals, but there is something about the way that she wills the difficulty of her vocal style over the edge that slays me.

21.
Joan As Policewoman--Real Life
I don't quite know what to make of her still. I'm amazingly pleased she isn't Sheryl Crow.

22.
Morningwood--Morningwood
Quite hated and, not to throw stones, there is something uncomfortable about the criticism. Maybe it's unintended, but it often sounds like some people are saying "she's too big to try to act that sexy." I hope I'm wrong about that. I think there is something aggressively winningly defiant about them. It doesn't hurt that they are so darn tunefully poppy as well.

Addendum:
Josh Ritter--The Animal Years
I just forgot, sorry. Some great songwriting, though even in the same song, he can mix a great line like "Paul said to Peter you got to rock yourself a little harder," with a bunch of mush like "her eyes are like champagne. They sparkle, bubble over, and in the morning all you got is rain" which is just silly.

The Weepies--Say I Am You
Thought they were last year. But when you want some keenly observed bliss, both happy and sad, that is impeccably romantically crafted, this is it.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Wishing everybody great holidays of all sorts!
And what says holiday cheer better than anti-racist French rappers? FRVsens are a group of teens from the troubled suburbs of Lyons. Sponsored by the Ministry of Youth and Sport, they got their start playing community centers and now seem to have some kind of following. My French isn't sufficient to know if they are clever rappers, but I like the sound and their variety of beats.

Si T'aimes Bien



FRVsens Live

Their MySpace

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bank on it
Omzo is one of the most popular young rappers in Senegal. He grew up in Medina, a very poor section of Dakar. He was propelled to national popularity with a track "Kunu Abal Ay Beut" that was an attack on corrupt leaders and international groups like the World Bank and IMF (it can be heard on his MySpace.) It was widely considered to have influenced the outcome of the elections of 2000. He brought a slow and relaxed style that was very different from the style of the time which featured super rapid rhyming. I especially love the guitar playing in the track.

Goor Yombul

His MySpace
His website

Buy Omzo at Nomadic Wax Records

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Be Aggresive
For all their popularity, Faith No More were a remarkably eccentric and experimental band. After cycling through a series of lead singers including Courtney Love, they found Mike Patton who has one of the most expressive and plastic (in a good way) voices around. They essentially wrote the roadmap for the forgettable rap-metal onslaught of several years ago. Some may find it bombastic; I find it quite funny.

Kindergarten



We Care A Lot (Live)

Buy Faith No More at Amazon

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Late, But As Promised
I had promised you Jonatha Brooke the other day, but I forgot. Here's what I love, she must be as old as I am. Is that so silly? But it was that she sounded so fresh, so new, so of the moment. I want to be of the moment! (But I digress...) Trying to step back and be objective, (though why be objective? You are here because you want me to be subjective right?) she is a wonderful songwriter, with a pure and clear voice and a great knack for subtly unexpected percussive sounds in the mix. Her new single comes out tomorrow on itunes and her new record will be out in January.

Less Than Love is Nothing



Linger (Live on Belgian TV)

Her website
Her MySpace

Buy Jonatha Brooke at Amazon

Monday, December 18, 2006

Mistaken Identity
So I went to a real live show the other night! That may not seem like such a big deal to most of you... I knew that Pela was opening--they are from Brooklyn and I had heard such great things about them from Lost in Your Inbox. So I was very excited when the lights dimmed and the music started, but then the band was just... terrible. Really really lifeless and awful and completely disappointing. After about twenty five minutes, they sort of skulked offstage to the palest smattering of applause. And I spent the whole time thinking "How am I going to break this to Marcy?" Fortunately then after a very quick turnover, instead of Rainer Maria, Pela took the stage and absolutely burned the place up! (I don't know who the first band was.) Wildly energetic and with a surprisingly pop sensibility that reminded me greatly of seeing U2 on their very first tour (which I know makes me older than FiL.) How was Rainer Maria? Unfortunately I don't know, I had to leave in search of Triaminic just after they started, but BookStud says it was "so great!" So check by La Gringa to see if she goes into any more depth there.

Waiting On The Stairs



Waiting On The Stairs (Live)

Pela's website


Buy Pela at Amazon

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Lonely
The lead singer of the pioneering cowpunk band Lone Justice, Maria McKee has made a series of quietly great solo records and seems to have nurtured an appreciative audience in Europe and especially England. She
is a clever and evocative songwriter and her voice has grown over the years from a squeeky wispy thing into something huge and pure and wonderful.

My Girlhood Among the Outlaws




Absolutely Barking Stars (Live)


Her website

Buy Maria McKee at Amazon

Friday, December 15, 2006

Another Request
From Detroit, J Dilla was one of hip-hop most highly regarded producers, working with Common, Busta Rhymes, Q-Tip, and A Tribe Called Qwest among many others. Very tragically he died early this year of complications from a rare and incurable blood disease and Lupus. His sound is considered to reach back to classic hip-hop style combined with innovative breakbeats.

So Far to Go (Feat. Common & D'Angelo)



Live at Montreux

J Dilla MySpace
Who Knows?
So I thought I'd mix it up a bit today and focus on a song, a great song, perhaps one of the greatest songs ever written, "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys. One of the most recognizable songs ever, it has a delicacy and a simple and tentative romanticism that is, to me, irresistible. This first is a rehearsal version that I first heard on the wonderful
Fluxblog some time ago and I'm not sure (Thom Campbell will will tell me,) but I think that it is Brian Wilson singing lead as opposed to Carl Wilson who is on the finished track. The second is a cover by Jonatha Brooke that I find quite enchanting. She will be SOD tomorrow and I will tell you all about her then.

God Only Knows (Rehearsal Version)

God Only Knows



"God Only Knows" (Live Melbourne 1978)

Jonatha Brooke's MySpace

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

My Bad
I know you've all checked out my favorite songs and favorite albums of 2006. And I suspect that while you were there and ruminating on what a very fine job I had done, you got to thinking, as I did, "What about Josh Ritter?" Too too, too too true! It really was such a significant omission that it's been plaguing me for days now. Well consider it amended--at least to a degree--by my singling him out here. He's a very smart songwriter, gentle but not vague, with striking images and simple yet tense and gripping melodies.

Snow is Gone (Live in Dublin)

So besides my lists which can be found below, some others you should check out are: the great
Untitled, Circles of Concrete, I Am Fuel, The Punkguy, Can You See the Sunset, and Bows and Arrows. Then really interestingly, Bows and Arrows has Josh Ritter's top list.



Monster Ballads (Live)

His most highly recommended website: http://www.joshritter.com/

Buy Josh Ritter at Amazon

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Big Adjectives
One of my really favorite records of the year (as can be seen in my favorite records of the year post,) Emily Haines and Soft Skeleton have made a fierce and haunting and menacing suite of simple piano-centered songs that really really really wrench you and thrill you and make you want more. The lead singer of Metric and a pivotal figure in the Canadian supergroup Broken Social Scene (and this project is really a supergroup as well with members of Metric, BSS, and Sparklehorse,) she has a deceptively light voice that just aches with yearning. Go buy this record!

Nothing and Nowhere



Detective Daughter (Live)

Her MySpace

Monday, December 11, 2006

Out of the Attic
Sibylle Baier made a haunting set of folk songs in Germany in the early 1970s. Never released, the tapes were dug out of a box by her son and have just been released by a little record label/commune in Athens, Georgia. Walking, or perhaps limping along, that fine line between melancholy and crushingly depressed, her music is perhaps best listened to in daylight, in public, and sober.

Colour Green

Buy Sibylle Baier at Amazon

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Back to the Bread
And now a brief break from the music. I have made the Sullivan St. bread a couple more times, backing off the whole-wheat flour to about 10% and adding in about a cup of the previous dough as a pre-ferment--which gives a bit more assertive flavor. Results have been pretty consistent. I have also done this as a gorgonzola cheese bread which is quite good.

Last week, thinking about Rose Levy Beranbaum's
discussion of steam, I took a tin can and punched a small hole in it with a nail, put 10 minutes worth of water in it, and put it in a heavy pan on the bottom of the oven. Baked the loaves on sheet pans and got beautiful oven spring with great crust!

Below is a full sequence of events. This is about a double recipe with a total flour weight of 900g.




Saturday, December 09, 2006

Shut Yer Mouth!
Yeah you! That's what I said! You got a problem with that?
Actually now you don't. Just click over there on the right side of the page and you can watch Shut Yer Mouth! a movie that I made. And you know that if you're here you love rock and roll right? And quite likely you love movies that you can't get at your Blockbuster or even on Netflix. And anyway, it would make me happy if you watched it.

Plus also you can watch TV and Me, and see me when I was really really young.
She Bikes
Now, it's December, real Norwegian weather for Meg. So, for SOD today, a real Norwegian, Hanne Hukkelberg. (And all you requesters out there, just hold your horses!) Hanne Hukkelberg collected sounds around Oslo on her bicycle for two years before taking them into the studio to turn into an extraordinarily light, but heavy, collection of odd and impassioned songlike creations.

Do Not As I Do




Live in London

Her MySpace
Her Blog

Buy Hanne Hukkelberg at Amazon

Friday, December 08, 2006

Pop o' th' Tops
For whatever reason, the top songs worked out as a nice even 25, but albums turned out to be a funnier beast. It seems kind of quaint even to think in terms of "albums" anymore, but it did make me think more about who put forth a body of work that was substantial. Let me know what you think!

1. The Kooks--Inside In/Inside Out
Irrepressible exuberant sheer fun. They are here atop the list as a vote for pleasure. Catchy beyond belief, with a romantic joy that hits all the notes spot on for what I want in a pop song.



She Moves in Her Own Way (Live)

2. Rainer Maria--Catastrophe Keeps Us Together

Their last best album. Packed full of yearning and danger and a remarkably consistently excellent selection of great songs and their most developed jolie laide harmonies.



Catastrophe (Live)

3. Calhoun--Calhoun
This is my token "nobody else has heard this and it's great album." If it's cliched to do, I don't care. This is my personal effort to bring to your attention great songwriting and a band with a depth and complexity that is truly worth seeking out.

What Makes Your Black Heart Sing

4. Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton--Knives Don't Have Your Back
Magnificently menacing. Continuing down the eerie and haunting path she had drawn with Metric, Emily Haines and a horde of talented cohorts have made a burningly fantastic piano record that is disturbing, but electric.

The Lottery

5. Sambassadeur--Coastal Affairs
A jangly jumpy jumble of pop that alternates between soothing and teeth-rattling, sometimes simultaneously.

Between the Lines

6. Lily Allen--Alright, Still
Again pop from a new place, a new voice, that is fun and sloppy and ambitious.



Everything's Just Wonderful (Live)

7.
Arctic Monkeys--Whatever People Say I am, That's What I Am Not
Working it hard. "Mardy Bum" contains the most startling phrasing of a line of the whole year.

Mardy Bum

8. Gnarls Barkley--St. Elsewhere
Popular and rightly so. So many people are sick of the single, but really it is an astonishingly great song--that's why everybody has covered it. Smartly retro and note perfect throughout. Each single just made it seem even smarter.

9.
Hem--Funnel Cloud
The quietest record here. Thoughtful and, in a way, soaring. Pretty and sad, defined by the negative space and scenic desolation of the words and music.



Not California (Live)

10. TV on the Radio-Return to Cookie Mountain
Love them or hate them, nobody else is going out on that limb. "Dry Drunk Emperor," which I have deliberately not checked if it is from this year, is the only "political" song I've heard in many years with any substance.

Dry Drunk Emperor

11. Hello Saferide--Introducing
I feel like she's the Lily Allen of Scandinavian Pop. Saying complex things in a simple way that startles and charms.

The Quiz

12. Fionn Regan--End of History
Solid and introspective with something to say, quietly and in the just right tone. Maybe just as quiet as Hem, oops...

Blackwater Child

13. Fibes, Oh Fibes--Emotional

This year's Scissor Sisters. Joyously retro explosions of cheery Swedish chocolate that I first heard at Lost In Your Inbox.

Can't Be So

14.
The Fratellis--Costello Music
Somewhere someone went off on how The Fratellis are going to last and The Kooks and Arctic Monkeys aren't which is a fairly silly debate. They are quite consistent, but to me less surprising. Polished, but still punchy and fun.



For the Girls (Live)

15. The Feeling--Twelve Stops and Home

Pure pop, like The Thrills pumped up on Mentos.

Sewn

16. Scissor Sisters--Ta-Dah!
I was initially left a little flat by Ta-Dah! but it slowly grew on me. The world needs them.

17. Sol Seppy--The Bells of 1 2
A great introduction from Rachel at Untitled. Here again yearning reigns as the supreme emotion.



Wonderland

18. Kate Havnevik--Melankton
Somewhere at the other end of the Scandinavian pop scale, Kate Havnevik has a super-smooth ear for tight harmonies and bombast.

19. The Oohlas--Best Stop Pop
Good good good, but I almost forget why I like them. Though I know they are startlingly consistent.

20.
Maria Mena--Apparently Unaffected
The rawest and most embarrassingly sincere of my selections. I have moments of recoil from her earnest confessionals, but there is something about the way that she wills the difficulty of her vocal style over the edge that slays me.

21.
Joan As Policewoman--Real Life
I don't quite know what to make of her still. I'm amazingly pleased she isn't Sheryl Crow.

22.
Morningwood--Morningwood
Quite hated and, not to throw stones, there is something uncomfortable about the criticism. Maybe it's unintended, but it often sounds like some people are saying "she's too big to try to act that sexy." I hope I'm wrong about that. I think there is something aggressively winningly defiant about them. It doesn't hurt that they are so darn tunefully poppy as well.

Addendum:
Josh Ritter--The Animal Years
I just forgot, sorry. Some great songwriting, though even in the same song, he can mix a great line like "Paul said to Peter you got to rock yourself a little harder," with a bunch of mush like "her eyes are like champagne. They sparkle, bubble over, and in the morning all you got is rain" which is just silly.

The Weepies--Say I Am You
Thought they were last year. But when you want some keenly observed bliss, both happy and sad, that is impeccably romantically crafted, this is it.