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Archive for December, 2006

Monday, December 25, 2006

James Brown:: I Feel Good (Music Video)

Soul ‘Godfather’ James Brown dies

ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) — James Brown, the dynamic, pompadoured “Godfather of Soul,” whose rasping vocals and revolutionary rhythms made him a founder of rap, funk and disco as well, died early Monday, his agent said. He was 73.

Brown was hospitalized with pneumonia at Emory Crawford Long Hospital on Sunday and died around 1:45 a.m. Monday, said his agent, Frank Copsidas of Intrigue Music. Longtime friend Charles Bobbit was by his side, he said.

Copsidas said Brown’s family was being notified of his death and that the cause was still uncertain. “We really don’t know at this point what he died of,” he said.

Along with Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and a handful of others, Brown was one of the major musical influences of the past 50 years. At least one generation idolized him, and sometimes openly copied him. (Watch the incomparable Brown perform Video)

His rapid-footed dancing inspired Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson among others. Songs such as David Bowie’s “Fame,” Prince’s “Kiss,” George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog” and Sly and the Family Stone’s “Sing a Simple Song” were clearly based on Brown’s rhythms and vocal style. (Gallery: James Brown through the years)

If Brown’s claim to the invention of soul can be challenged by fans of Ray Charles and Sam Cooke, then his rights to the genres of rap, disco and funk are beyond question. He was to rhythm and dance music what Dylan was to lyrics: the unchallenged popular innovator. (Watch the “Hardest Working Man in Show Business” do his thing Video)

“James presented obviously the best grooves,” rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy once told The Associated Press. “To this day, there has been no one near as funky. No one’s coming even close.”

His hit singles include such classics as “Out of Sight,” “(Get Up I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine,” “I Got You (I Feel Good)” and “Say It Out Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud,” a landmark 1968 statement of racial pride.

“I clearly remember we were calling ourselves colored, and after the song, we were calling ourselves black,” Brown said in a 2003 Associated Press interview. “The song showed even people to that day that lyrics and music and a song can change society.”

He won a Grammy award for lifetime achievement in 1992, as well as Grammys in 1965 for “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” (best R&B recording) and for “Living In America” in 1987 (best R&B vocal performance, male.) He was one of the initial artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, along with Presley, Chuck Berry and other founding fathers.
‘Disco is James Brown, hip-hop is James Brown, rap is James Brown’

He triumphed despite an often unhappy personal life. Brown, who lived in Beech Island near the Georgia line, spent more than two years in a South Carolina prison for aggravated assault and failing to stop for a police officer. After his release on in 1991, Brown said he wanted to “try to straighten out” rock music.

From the 1950s, when Brown had his first R&B hit, “Please, Please, Please” in 1956, through the mid-1970s, Brown went on a frenzy of cross-country tours, concerts and new songs. He earned the nickname “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.”

With his tight pants, shimmering feet, eye makeup and outrageous hair, Brown set the stage for younger stars such as Michael Jackson and Prince.

In 1986, he was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And rap stars of recent years overwhelmingly have borrowed his lyrics with a digital technique called sampling.

Brown’s work has been replayed by the Fat Boys, Ice-T, Public Enemy and a host of other rappers. “The music out there is only as good as my last record,” Brown joked in a 1989 interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

“Disco is James Brown, hip-hop is James Brown, rap is James Brown; you know what I’m saying? You hear all the rappers, 90 percent of their music is me,” he told the AP in 2003.

Born in poverty in Barnwell, South Carolina, in 1933, he was abandoned as a 4-year-old to the care of relatives and friends and grew up on the streets of Augusta, Georgia, in an “ill-repute area,” as he once called it. There he learned to wheel and deal.

“I wanted to be somebody,” Brown said.

By the eighth grade in 1949, Brown had served 3 1/2 years in Alto Reform School near Toccoa, Georgia, for breaking into cars.

While there, he met Bobby Byrd, whose family took Brown into their home. Byrd also took Brown into his group, the Gospel Starlighters. Soon they changed their name to the Famous Flames and their style to hard R&B.

In January 1956, King Records of Cincinnati signed the group, and four months later “Please, Please, Please” was in the R&B Top Ten.

While most of Brown’s life was glitz and glitter, he was plagued with charges of abusing drugs and alcohol and of hitting his third wife, Adrienne.

In September 1988, Brown, high on PCP and carrying a shotgun, entered an insurance seminar next to his Augusta office. Police said he asked seminar participants if they were using his private restroom.

Police chased Brown for a half-hour from Augusta into South Carolina and back to Georgia. The chase ended when police shot out the tires of his truck.

Brown received a six-year prison sentence. He spent 15 months in a South Carolina prison and 10 months in a work release program before being paroled in February 1991. In 2003, the South Carolina parole board granted him a pardon for his crimes in that state.

Soon after his release, Brown was on stage again with an audience that included millions of cable television viewers nationwide who watched the three-hour, pay-per-view concert at Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles.

Adrienne Brown died in 1996 in Los Angeles at age 47. She took PCP and several prescription drugs while she had a bad heart and was weak from cosmetic surgery two days earlier, the coroner said.

More recently, he married his fourth wife, Tomi Raye Hynie, one of his backup singers. The couple had a son, James Jr.

Two years later, Brown spent a week in a private Columbia hospital, recovering from what his agent said was dependency on painkillers. Brown’s attorney, Albert “Buddy” Dallas, said singer was exhausted from six years of road shows.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Young@Heart sing ‘Schizophrenia’ by Sonic Youth

Friday, December 8, 2006

Kingblind Downloads

My Morning Jacket Live at 9:30 Club on 27-11-06

New Order – Live @ Buenos Aires, 18-11-06

GrandMaster Flash – Live @ Zentra Chicago 06-10-06

Jimi Hendrix – The Last Experience – Live @ the Royal Albert Hall, London, 02-24-1969 news that you can use

McCartney fronts copyright fight

Industry turnabout on DRM free downloads noted

70s jazz reconsidered in the blogosphere

Wilco reveal new album plans

Andre 3000 Suits Up For Hoops Comedy

Ween Re-Teaming With Producer Weiss For New CD

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Kingblind news that you can use

Making music with a long tube

Hoodoo Gurus regroup for album, US tour

Yahoo Music continues DRM-free download experiment

New Cure Album Stalled By Smith’s Writer’s Block

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy to make stand-up debut.. Yes, Stand up as in Comedy..

Kingblind Downloads

The Horrors:: Sheena is a parasite

The Black Lips – Hippie Hippie Hoorah

Bloc Party: The Prayer

The Shins:: Phantom Limb

Martin Sexton::Holly Jolly Christmas

Wednesday, December 6, 2006 Top 20 Albums of 2006 (#5 thru #1)

Well folks here it is… Our top 20 albums of 2006. From 43 writers in 10 countries we have tallied all the votes, crunched the numbers and POW… this is it… broken down into 4 groups (20 to 16. – 15 to 11 -10 to 6 then 5 to 1.) And now is the time you have all been waiting for.. The final 5.. Any of the below listed top 5 could have easily been the best of the year. So making a final order was in fact very, very difficult. Each album we feel is a total must purchase release in 2006. 4 American’s and 1 group from Glasgow, Scotland fill the list.. Enjoy’s Top 5 releases of 2006.

#1 Mastodon – “Blood Mountain”
Music journalism is (or at least should be) a constant struggle to keep control of the superlatives. It is hard to resist getting into the habit of comparing everything to Nirvana or The Smiths. So that’s why it’s such a treat when you get a truly mould-shattering band like Mastodon – you really don’t have to watch your step at all. They’re that good. Their second full-length album ‘Leviathan’ (a take on Herman Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’), announced their arrival as the most important metal band since Pantera and the most forward-looking mainstream act since Metallica. So ‘Blood Mountain’, another concept album of sorts, makes another massive leap forward, retreating even further away from their quasi-hardcore inception as it heads Mastodon into the realms of the progressive.

The concept this time is so true metal that even Manowar would be proud of it. The Atlantan four piece are ascending a mythical mountain and encountering all sorts of creatures on the way up, including a Circle Cysquatch and a Colony of Birchmen. It is this unashamed lack of bedroom tidying angst and naval gazing emo self-obsession, in conjunction with a brutally elemental sound that marks them out as true visionaries. Talking of the elements, Brann Dailor, drummer extraordinaire is still the most stunning thing here and is definitely the representation of water. His technical jazz drumming skills, complemented by a looser, more instinctual talent sees his sticks rolling around the kit in and out of tempos like the broiling sea itself.

‘The Wolf Is Loose’ makes an impressive bridge from the ferocity of the last album to this but then almost immediately ‘Blood Mountain’ becomes progressive (with a lower and upper case P). The twin guitar assault of ‘Crystal Skull’, and complex song structure, is somewhere midway between ‘Seventh Son’ Iron Maiden and ‘Ride The Lightning’ Metallica. The diversity of influences range from Slayer and Isis (their producer Matt Bayles is on knob twiddling duties here) to Rush and Jethro Tull. It would be wrong to say that prog metal is going to become the standard for the next five years or anything daft like that, but tellingly enough Cedric Bixler and Ikey Owens of those other forward-looking intranauts The Mars Volta guest here too. Put simply: there isn’t a bad track on ‘Blood Mountain’, which will be seen as the metal release of this year, on whichever level you care to mention.
Mastodon:: Colony Of Birchmen Video – Album Version
Mastodon:: Colony Of Birchmen Video – Alternate version
Mastodon:: The Wolf is Loose Video

#2 Band of Horses – “Everything All Of The Time”
Band of Horses’ jangly twang is borne of heartache and hope- a wistful, atmospheric blend of weathered country blues and insurgent indie rock. Columbia native Ben Bridwell’s voice is slathered in reverb, and it floats above a den of shimmering guitars. Neil Young has met Mr. Bridwell’s turntable on more than one occasion, but the influence is proudly displayed, not smugly intoned. His soporific songs alternate between a mid-tempo sway and a slow, gritty rock. Both he and Matt Brooke are alumni of Seattle, Washington’s Carissa’s Weird (sic), whose fetishistic sad-core met an untimely end in 2003, allowing the duo to kick up the beats per minute, if only slightly.

Everything All the Time is an astoundingly seductive debut. Its elements will not be unfamiliar to fans of The Beach Boys, Palace Brothers, the aforementioned Neil Young, or even R.E.M, but Band of Horses manages to sidestep the trappings of regurgitation by producing songs that sound genuinely inspired. The chimey, arpeggiated undulation of the shrewdly-titled “The First Song” allows Bridwell to showcase his impossibly high-end, crystalline voice, which pushes the languorous music to peaks and valleys it otherwise wouldn’t reach.

There’s just enough clanging dissonance in “Wicked Grill” to offset the infectiousness of Bridwell’s cadence. The music is certainly catchy, but not in a this-is-the-chorus kind of way. The arrangements are more spread out; the hooks are more subtle. Once the heartbreaking majesty of “The Funeral” kicks in you’re a goner. It’s one of those songs that just floors you the moment the guitars surge. Chills, hair standing on end, the works. It’s a passive aggressive anthem of stoicism and restraint with lyrics that wield as much power as the music. When Bridwell ekes out “at every occasion I am ready for the funeral”, his voice betrays a level of insight you just can’t fake.
Band of Horses:: The Funeral MP3

#3 Tom Waits – “Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards”
What’s Orphans?’ asks Tom Waits, rhetorically, of his new three-disc, 54-song epic, in the accompanying 95-page booklet of lyrics and photographs. Answer: ‘I don’t know. Orphans is a dead-end kid driving a coffin with big tires across the Ohio River wearing welding goggles and a wife beater with a lit firecracker in his ear’ – which probably sums it up as well as anyone else’s attempt at classification might.

It is also an outstanding musical creation – 30 tracks are previously unrecorded – that nods to almost every known genre of American music, and some that have yet to be named, though to say so is pretty much a platitude at this stage in Waits’s history. The late flourishing that began with the million-selling, Grammy-winning Mule Variations in 1999 has continued with rapturous acclaim for subsequent albums, including the most recent, 2004’s Real Gone, where, with typical disregard for taste or fashion, he experimented with the supremely naff art of human beatboxing. Only a musician with Waits’s vision and cachet could take a form that was previously the preserve of white teenagers aspiring to be ghetto and transform it into something feral and disturbing.

There is more beatboxing to be had here, notably on his cover of Daniel Johnston’s ‘King Kong’, but Orphans has been helpfully arranged by genre, so that fans wanting to avoid too much of the avant-garde, the experimental, the monologues or shaggy dog stories can put to one side the third disc, ‘Bastards’, on which all such uncategorisable elements have been gathered and concentrate on the first two.

‘Brawlers’ is vintage roadhouse Waits: hard-edged, piano-and-guitar-driven rock and blues punctuated by wailing harmonicas, growling out stories of American misfits, cons and barflies with names like Blackjack Ruby and Scarface Ron, before giving way to swaying, whisky-rich laments of hobo life such as ‘Lost at the Bottom of the World’. And then suddenly, in the midst of this classic Waitsiana, comes the mo
st powerful and startling song of the entire collection, ‘The Road to Peace’. The lyrics might have been lifted straight from newspaper reports (it begins, ‘Young Abdel Madi Shabneh was only 18 years old’ and goes on to namecheck Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas, Ariel Sharon, Henry Kissinger and George Bush); the simple, repetitive drum and guitar backing recalls the rhythms of traditional Jewish tunes, and the result is one of those rare songs that roots you to the spot, makes your scalp prickle and produces an unearthly shiver in a warm room, which may well be the mark of great art. Waits once described the efficacy of political songs as ‘like throwing peanuts at a gorilla’, but this one is like hurling a rock into its face.

The second disc, ‘Bawlers’, is a casserole of country ballads, waltzes, spirituals and bar-room classics to rip your heart right out, including ‘Goodnight, Irene’ and a dirty, gritty version of ‘The Long Way Home’, reclaimed from Norah Jones’s pleasant, sugary cover (which made it sound as if she were apologising for her train being slightly delayed). But the real fun is on the third disc, ‘Bastards’, which mixes up poems by Bukowski and Kerouac, a nature documentary detailing the homicidal tendencies of insects (analogy implied), a monologue, ‘The Pontiac’, in which an all-American father reminisces to his son about all the cars he ever owned, and finishes up with a truly bad joke that can’t help but make you groan and smile just because of the relish with which he tells it.

Orphans is once again co-produced with Kathleen Brennan, his wife and collaborator. Two of his children, Casey and Sullivan, also contribute, respectively, drums and guitar, but the only instrument that matters here is, as ever, that extraordinary voice.
Tom Waits:: Lie to Me- Video

#4 Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – “The Letting Go”
Will Oldham has usually preached the gospel of less-is-more, but after an own-covers record that emanated from the belly of Nashville itself (Bonnie Prince Billy Sings Greatest Palace Songs), followed by a collaboration with guitarist Matt Sweeney (Superwolf) and a churning live record (Summer in the Southeast), his work began to seem positively indulgent. The Letting Go is not quite as far a stretch, but it is yet another intriguing departure. Granted, its approach would strike most bands as skeletal, but compared to his last solo album of originals, 2003’s Master and Everyone, it sounds downright gaudy. It was recorded in Iceland with a producer, Valgeir Sigurosson, who gets more out of Oldham’s voice and songs than has ever been heard on record. Oldham’s harmony companion, Dawn McCarthy from Faun Fables, takes a much larger role than her predecessor on Master and Everyone, and her credit for harmony arrangements tells you everything you need to know about how important she is to the success of this album. Oldham’s songwriting is breathtaking, close to the best of his career, although little changed from the norm — his surreal, fatalistic take on Americana Gothic. “Cursed Sleep” is especially wonderful, with a string arrangement that harks back to Nick Drake’s “Way to Blue,” haunted vocals from McCarthy the chanteuse far in the background, and a set of lyrics that build up to a tragic peak (“Cursed love is never ended, cursed eyes are never closing, cursed arms are never closing, cursed children never rising, cursed me never despising”). To the other extreme is “Cold & Wet,” a downright jaunty (despite the lyrics), fingerpicked blues of the type that Mississippi John Hurt would have recorded for Vanguard in the mid-’60s, and percussion from Dirty Three drummer Jim White that could be confused with electric drums or the worst recorded organic drum set ever heard. Truth to tell, since the quality of Oldham’s songwriting has rarely wavered, the excellent arrangements and McCarthy’s contributions make The Letting Go the best of his career to this point.
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Cold and Wet Video

#5 Mogwai- “Mr Beast”
From the very first pompous, crashing piano chords and stern, slow-marching drums of ‘Auto Rock’, it’s abundantly clear that ‘Mr. Beast’, Mogwai’s fifth album proper, is going to be something very special indeed. It’s a grandiose fanfare, heralding an album brim full of self-confidence and attitude, a culmination of all that Mogwai have done in the past ten years of their existence.

‘Auto Rock’ crashes into ‘Glasgow Mega Snake’, a song that builds with a galloping exuberance, luxuriantly obese guitar chords crashing around like a drunken Medieval monarch going for the last stuffed thrush at a banquet. As the live sets at the ICA earlier this year hinted, ‘Mr. Beast’ is Mogwai’s most accessible album to date, but they aren’t creeping upon the listener gradually, instead making it abundantly clear that all they’ve really done is fine tune their trademark dynamics, deft adjustments that aren’t concessions to the mainstream as much as sneaky hooks to lure the unsuspecting listener into the maelstrom.

Take ‘Acid Food’, for instance. A respite from the opening salvo of ‘…Mega Snake’ and ‘Auto Rock’, it drifts breezily by on metronome drums, languid pedal steel, glockenspiel and Stuart Braithwaite’s hazy and modulated vocals. Pull up a chair, say Mogwai, crack open the Sunday papers and digest the roast. ‘Friend Of The Night’, meanwhile, is a gorgeous, piano led bit of drawing room histrionics, and ‘I Chose Horses’ is slow and meditative.

But then the ante is upped once more for ‘Travel Is Dangerous’. Where Mogwai generally use vocals as a monotone atop their more minimal, quieter moments, ‘Travel Is Dangerous’ is the closest they’ve come to an anthem, Stuart singing lustily over a chorus wreathed in poignant tumult that, to me, might be perfect as a soundtrack to old Eastern Bloc propaganda reels.

Any die hard Mogwai fan lamenting a dearth of their start/stop smack-you-round-the-noggin desecrations of noise would do well to note that the mother of all behemoths ‘My Father, My King’ never actually appeared on a Mogwai album. And besides, ghoulish things come to those who wait. ‘Folk Death ’95’ is as taught and vicious as anything Mogwai have recorded, but loaded with the fresh emotive punch that pervades ‘Mr Beast’ as a whole. And then for the dramatic conclusion of ‘We’re No Here’, Mogwai really let themselves go, all theatrical atmospherics of thunder, lightning, driving rain and some mighty commander exhorting his doomed adherents to a final heroic act of defiance. Ten years after they first assaulted us, Mogwai remain as vital as ever.
Mogwai:: Friend of the night Video

Tuesday, December 5, 2006 Top 20 Albums of 2006 (#10 thru #6)

Well folks here it is… Our top 20 albums of 2006. From 43 writers in 10 countries we have tallied all the votes, crunched the numbers and POW… this is it… broken down into 4 groups (20 to 16. – 15 to 11 -10 to 6 then 5 to 1.) Every day we will show you another 5.. Enjoy

#6 Gnarls Barkley – “St. Elsewhere”
Rather like humpbacked whales, they surface rarely but, when they do, they display such exquisite poise, awesome power and unstudied self-sufficiency that you’d swear some swish finishing school was rationing pop releases to maximum their impact. They are those mammoth US chart singles – most recently “Family Affair”, “Crazy In Love”, “Hey Ya”, “The Way You Move” – whose pearlised perfection really has nothing to do with fashion or the contrivance of market forces.

Latest on the list is Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”. A big-lunged, warm-hearted wave of gospel-toned R&B anchored by a snappy, hip hop beat, it’s the first tune ever to make Number One on downloads alone and looks set to make the album from which it was lifted the soundtrack to our summer. Gnarls Barkley’s rule-breaking entrance is less of a surprise when you consider that one half of the duo is DJ / producer Danger Mouse, who recently produced Gorillaz’ “Demon Days” but who’s best known for his corporation-bothering “Grey Album”, which cheekily cut The Beatles’ “White Album” with Jay Z’s “Black Album”. His partner is Cee-Lo Green, former vocalist with Atlantan hip hop crew The Goodie Mob, who’s worked with both The Neptunes and Timbaland.

With “St. Elsewhere”, however, both artists have stepped outside their regular roles to make what feels like a genuinely instinctive, love-fuelled record that zings with an enthusiasm for all spectrums of music. So rampantly creative is it, in fact, that to describe it as a hip hop album is to somehow sell it short. Only the beats – and the old-school homage that is “Feng Shui” – fit that description. Gnarls Barkley’s tunes follow paths from Motown (the sweetly upbeat “Smiley Faces”) to schlocky, horror-movie soundtrack (“The Boogie Monster”), from a modernist take on classic soul (the wonderful “Who Cares?”) to the kind of polyrhythmic adventurism that would satisfy Four Tet or Capitol K (“Go-Go Gadget Gospel” and “Transformer”). All that and a cover of The Violent Femmes’ “Gone “Daddy Gone”.

It’s the album’s easy warmth and trippy, picture-window openness that make it so alluring, however. This despite Cee-Lo’s unbearably soulful baritone and his often sombre lyrics. “Just A Thought”, for instance, has him musing, “So what do I do with all the aggression? / I’ve tried everything but suicide / But it’s crossed my mind.” “Crazy”, meanwhile, is the most existentially honest song to have dented the charts in decades, dealing as it does with identity, madness and spiritual abandonment. Albums such as “Paul’s Boutique”, “The Low End Theory”, “Fantastic Vol. 1” and “Endtroducing…” have all played their part in shifting the shape of hip hop, but the 37-minutes-long “St. Elsewhere” demands a category all of its own. Danger Mouse himself has suggested “psychedelic soul”. Done and dusted. And damn near divine.
Gnarls Barkley – Smiley Faces Music Video

#7 Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins – “Rabbit Fur Coat”
Waiting is half the fun. To travel is better than to arrive. Delayed gratification. The platitudes keep coming, but they never help: it’s 2006 and still the Jetsons haven’t happened. No flying cars, no robot servants, bad cheek bones. It’s very disappointing.

Still, maybe the tide is about to turn. The problem with Rilo Kiley has been their frustratingly patchy albums. They write a few sublime songs per record and leave us to wait for when all of them are that good. They don’t keep their promises: last year’s More Adventurous seemed to revel in this. The giddy It’s A Hit ran into the torpid Accidntel Deth; the chiming, impeccable Sennett-Lewis Portions For Foxes met Jenny Lewis’s poorly-scanned, solo I Never.

It’s unexpected, then, that the first album on which all of Lewis’s songs cry genius is the first she has recorded alone, without Sennett. And it’s ironic that, of all previous examples, this record sounds most like I Never – an intimate country-soul delight – though the resemblance is far from complete. This is quite a departure from Rilo, and the record is as defined by its newly warm production (from Mike Mogis and M Ward) as it is by the presence of the Watson Twins (who sing wonderful cooing backing vocals throughout).

You know it’s special from the first bars. Run Devil Run is a minute a capella with Lewis and the Watsons, and it’s a remarkable display of technical skill: Lewis does, after all, have one of the most wonderful voices of them all. But this is also surprisingly affecting – the harmonies cut through with a deep Hank Williams sadness. After this is The Big Guns, all busy guitars and prominent vocals until the second verse, when a thumping bass drum comes to build things to their exultant hand-clapping conclusion. There are no lapses: The Charging Sky, a jaunty pedal-steel spiritual crisis; the quiet, hymnal Born Secular; the rootsy, state of the nation cover of Handle With Care, with Ben Gibbard as Roy Orbison and Conor Oberst as Bob Dylan. Three famous vegans for the price of one.

Through all of this, Lewis’s lyrics only get better: Rise Up With Fists!! talks, as so often on a record preoccupied with the mistakes of the family, about a marriage of convenience: “She will wake up younger / and you will wake up 45 / and she will wake up with a baby / There but for the grace of God go I.” If that looks dour on the page, it’s not at all when sung – ‘a baby’ is repeated by the Watsons in a fanatically cliched coo that also, somehow, gives a lot of Lady Bracknell horror.

At the centre of everything is the title track, Lewis for once totally alone with an acoustic guitar and the true story of her absent mother. It could be awful, but it’s heartbreaking – if only for the stunning, fragile vocal. And as with the rest of the record, it’s hard to pin down the mood here. It’s not happy, it’s not sad, but there’s a kind of comfort that wraps around, a worldly acceptance. Such is the alchemy of musical greatness.
Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins:: Big Guns Live on Letterman

#8 Yo La Tengo – “I am Not Afraid Of You and I Will Beat Your Ass”
After the elegant, introspective romantic narratives of And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out and the beautifully crafted but restrained pop textures of Summer Sun, it was hard not to wonder if Yo La Tengo was ever going to turn up the amps and let Ira Kaplan go nuts on guitar again, and for more than a few fans “Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind,” the opening cut from YLT’s 2006 album I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass, will feel like the reassuring sound of a homecoming — ten minutes of noisy six-string freak-out, with James McNew’s thick, malleable basslines and Georgia Hubley’s simple but subtly funky drumming providing a rock-solid framework for Kaplan’s enthusiastic fret abuse. After the thematic and sonic consistency of their previous two major albums, I Am Not Afraid marks a return to the joyous eclecticism of 1997’s I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, though nearly ten years down the road Yo La Tengo sounds noticeably more confident in their embrace of different styles and less hesitant in their technique on this album — even Kaplan’s gloriously unkempt guitar solos start to suggest a certain de
gree of well-earned professionalism. The songs also sound a shade less playful and more disciplined, though the group’s ability to bring their distinct personality to so many different styles attests to their continuing love of this music and the quiet strength of their vision — the neo-Byrds-ian psychedelia of “The Race Is on Again,” the homey horn-punctuated pop of “Beanbag Chair,” the plaintive folk-rock on “Black Flowers,” the aggressive Farfisa-fueled minimalisms of “The Room Got Heavy,” and “Daphina,” which suggests a John Fahey track transcribed to piano and then used as the root for a eight-minute exercise in low-key atmospherics, all function on a different level and each one satisfies. What’s both engaging and impressive about I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass is that, as usual, these 15 songs always end up sounding like Yo La Tengo, whether they’re upbeat guitar pop or dense loop-based drones, and if there’s a bit less childlike élan here than in the past, there’s also an intelligence and joy that confirms Yo La Tengo is still one of the great treasures of American indie rock, and they haven’t run out of ideas or the desire to make them flesh in the studio just yet.
Yo La Tengo:: Beanbag Chair MP3

#9 TV On The Radio – “Return To Cookie Mountain”
NYC’s art rock darlings have done it again. Return To Cookie Mountain — with its post-apocalypse theme — is a densely tangled masterpiece that floods and floors by straddling swaggering grooves and boggling cacophony. TVotR thicken things up with Jaleel Bunton’s drumming in addition to drum machines. I Was A Lover’s poignantly resigned synth wail and dancing keys are ripped into by noisy static and distorted guitar riffs. Wolf Like Me storms with sticky, pulsing beats and feverish guitar. And A Method is beautifully cavernous, inhabited by eerie whistling, rhythmic claps, sharp staccato beats and a discordant harmony that repetitively swells, surges and sinks. Not to mention that TVotR’s number-one fan, David Bowie, lends his vocals to the smooth Province.
TVOTR:: Wolf Like Me Mp3

#10 The Raconteurs – “Broken Boy Soldiers”
In hit single and album opener ‘Steady, As She Goes’, The Raconteurs have crafted what must be one of the standout pop songs of 2006, as a simple bassline and kickdrum combination, courtesy of Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler of 90s rockers The Greenhornes, gives way to a perfectly balanced musical marriage of Brendan Benson’s saccharine pop hooks with Jack White’s edgy vocal style. If this is an indication of the quality of the ten songs on debut album Broken Boy Soldiers, then surely The Raconteurs are about to blow Fall Out Boy back to the pit they crawled from and claim the title of Biggest International Breakthrough Act of 2006. But it’s never that simple, is it?

You see, despite ‘Steady, As She Goes’ being the most fun your CD player can have without the need for a post-coital cigarette – DiS, incidentally, does not endorse the forcing of cigarettes into electronic equipment – it is a formula visited just once for the remainder of the album, on probable future single ‘Intimate Secretary’. This is probably a calculated move: whilst you get the impression that Brendan Benson could quite happily churn out serving after serving of glossy guitar-based pop-by-numbers (and has for many years), Jack White has always cut a more varied songwriting figure. It is a surprise, then, that at times it would be easy to mistake Jack White as a mere special guest rather than co-writer, as songs like pop gem ‘Hands’, ‘Call It A Day’ and the acoustic-led ‘Yellow Sun’ barely show White’s influence at all, and could have been culled directly from Benson’s previous album The Alternative To Love.

There is another side to The Raconteurs, though. Far away from the gleaming pop lies a much more complex side – a foot-stomping, tie-dyed, long-haired hark back to 1960s psychedelic rock led largely by White. The Led Zeppelin-esque third track ‘Broken Boy Soldier’ stands out particularly, as White’s reverberating vocals peak on the desk, distorted at the edges, his high-pitched voice fracturing occasionally over swirling Hammonds and kick-heavy, thumping drums. It’s all delivered with such gusto on White’s part that he’s in danger of making Benson look pedestrian.

Although for the most part psychedelic fury or unbridled pop, Broken Boy Soldiers isn’t entirely uptempo. As well as a Benson/White ballad, ‘Together’, in the middle of the album, closing track ‘Blue Veins’ detracts the rock and ups the drug intake, inserting into the introduction and instrumental break reversed sequences of music that include White’s straining, haunting vocals, leaving it eerie and tripped-out despite having the same groove as Sam Brown’s ‘Stop’. Of course, the various styles leave Broken Boy Soldiers slightly less accessible than ten variations of ‘Steady, As She Goes’ would, but with repeated listens it goes from strength to strength.

What you make of Broken Boy Soldiers will largely depend on the angle from which you approach it and as such, the rating at the bottom of this piece is more a guide than a verdict. Given the artists involved and the hype that was bound to ensue, this album could never cater for everyone, and clearly it was never set to become the Nevermind-ousting symbol of a musical generation that some suggested. Amongst its inevitable critics, supporters of Brendan Benson’s solo work may take issue with the psychedelic wig-outs, whilst those hoping Jack White would drag Benson’s happy, clappy Beach Boys pop into an alley and give it a lesson in White Stripes’ twisted reality might end up disappointed with how light-hearted the majority of it sounds. Others will take issue with its occasionally uninventive lyrical stance (“I’ve got a rabbit, it likes to hop/I’ve got a girl and she likes to shop” being one of the more painful instances) and grumble at how it all could’ve been much better if they’d just taken it more seriously.

Perhaps the point is missed. This is all Broken Boy Soldiers was ever meant to be: an off-the-cuff collaboration between two friends and one which, despite its imperfections, is an effort worthy of applause.
The Raconteurs “Steady, As She Goes” Video

Monday, December 4, 2006 Top 20 Albums of 2006 (#15 thru #11)

Well folks here it is… Our top 20 albums of 2006. From 43 writers in 10 countries we have tallied all the votes, crunched the numbers and POW… this is it… broken down into 4 groups (20 to 16. – 15 to 11 -10 to 6 then 5 to 1.) Every day we will show you another 5.. Enjoy

#11 The Hold Steady- Boy and Girls in America
Like many of America’s smartest rock bands — from Fountains of Wayne to the Drive-By Truckers — this Minneapolis-to-Brooklyn quintet are an anomaly. With their third album they’ve moved to youth-culture central at Vagrant and earned high praise from the hipster judges at Pitchfork. Yet as frontman Craig Finn tries singing instead of just reciting and the band hang tighter around their major-chord riffs, the music sounds older than ever, recalling beautiful-loser ’70s rock like Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungleland.” And Franz Nicolay at times tinkles the ivories with such abandon, he could be the E Street Band’s Roy Bittan tripping on mushrooms. Which he might well be except that, like Springsteen’s E Street, the Hold Steady are empathetic spokespeople for fucked-up youth, not fucked-up youth themselves, and their boss is like the Boss — a reprobate Catholic obsessed with redemption. Finn’s American boys and girls make pipes from Pringles cans, are great kissers but lousy lovers, yearn for “guys with the hot soft eyes,” and flip through radio stations as if they were searching for salvation. If they stumbled across the Hold Steady, they — unlike Bruce’s boys and girls — might even smirk and move on. But that’s one more reason a smart agnostic like you shouldn’t.
Chips Ahoy- Music Video

#12 Yeah Yeah Yeah’s- Show your Bones
With Show Your Bones, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs follow up to the heralded Fever to Tell Karen O economizes on the screaming that so marked the trio’s debut EP. And oh how she exceeds her oft-noted influences (PJ Harvey and Chrissie Hynde, for two): Whether she’s hanging back with a staggered beat on “Phenomena,” or riding on the kick-drum-pounded opening to “Honeybear,” she’s always ready to disappear in a burst of Nick Zinner’s guitars and Brian Chase’s drums. The YYYs thrill precisely because of their keen mix, Karen O spiking the upper ranges (dig the caterwaul in “Mysteries”) with a sharply cut vocal line or a simple, full-bodied singsong delivery while the guitars spin thick storms of sound before retreating to atmospherics (try the transition from the quick throttle of “Cheated Hearts” into the Cure-ish “Dudley,” for one example). And marvel at how well radio would be served by blasting the acoustic, pleading vibe of “Warrior.” Fabulous.
Cheated Heart Music video

#13 Arctic Monkeys – “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not”
On the face of it, Arctic Monkeys do their best to put you off. They have a dismal name and even worse artwork. They look boring and make boring videos. In interviews, they play at being macho, professionally northern anti-intellectuals. So far, so Oasis.

But unlike Noel Gallagher, Alex Turner refuses to hide his intelligence when he writes his songs. Consequently, this debut album, aside from its childishly contrary title, is very much a continuation of The Libertines’ work, with Turner bringing a dagger-like intellect to bear on his everyday routines: pulling girls in nightclubs, getting in scrapes, seething at the sleazy scumbags soliciting on the street outside. It’s easy to draw a line to The Libertines’ “Up the Bracket” album, with its hyper-eloquent tales of buying drugs, taking drugs and getting chased down the street by drug-dealers. While dreaming of Albion and Arcadia, obviously.

Reluctant as we are to harp on about them, The Libertines are central to an understanding of how the Monkeys got so big so quickly. When The Libertines dissolved at their peak, there was a ready-made, internet-connected fanbase left crying out for similarly sharp, funny, accessible band – but with a more practical bent. The Monkeys’ MP3s popped up at exactly the right time, and with Doherty lurching from one crisis to the next, The Libertines’ online army picked a new favourite band.

This debut album rewards their decision. Such is the depth and quality of Turner’s songwriting, it plays like a best of, blasting away any skepticism with an early one-two of “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” and “Fake Tales Of San Francisco”, before striking more contemplative notes with “Riot Van” (which dissects binge-drunk Britain) and “Mardy Bum” (a forensic exploration of relationship dynamics).

The Monkeys then tease out the white-funk thread running through their hot-wired indie-punk with “Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But…”, before the album accelerates into the devastating closing trio of “When The Sun Goes Down”, “From The Ritz To The Rubble” (in which a row with a bouncer inspires Turner’s best song) and the climactic “A Certain Romance”.

Having cast an eye over a world of Classic Reeboks and tracksuits tucked in socks, “A Certain Romance” then delivers a killer line: “All of that’s what the point is not / The point is that there’s no romance around here.” While “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” may be short of old-fashioned romance, there’s an abundance of real magic at work on this record. Like a good Oasis, the Arctic Monkeys are here to finish the job The Libertines abandoned. Hang out the bunting.
4 Videos from The Arctic Monkeys

#14 Sufjan Stevens – “The Avalanche”
This isn’t a new geographic-themed CD from indie heartthrob Sufjan Stevens, but a set of outtakes and extras from his 2005 boho Americana masterpiece, Illinois. Though the cover says The Avalanche is ”shamelessly compiled,” Stevens has nothing to be ashamed of: These wistful folk-pop leftovers are better than most acts’ A game. Tunes about Prairie State notables Adlai Stevenson and Saul Bellow are charming character sketches, while the baroque arrangements suggest Stevens could have a second career as a baton-wielding composer.
(Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois Video)

#15 The Flaming Lips – “At War With The Mystics”
After two expansive yet winsome epic albums like The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots that dealt with the inevitability of death in the face of life, the Oklahoma City art provocateurs have abandoned the concept album approach and done an about face. They’ve returned to their earlier canon, channeling their messy psychedelica through a 70s funk scrim, and yet again figured out a way to elevate the ordinary to the sublime–even out-weirding Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd on a track like “Pompeii,” and precariously balancing out on the astral plane on “Wizard Turns On.” And while you might be tempted to believe that this band is just about their cartoonish space bubbles on pink rabbits, it is at your own peril. At War With the Mystics is an intelligent and searing indictment of George W. Bush, his administration, suicide bombers, superficiality and undeserved stardom–branding them all sinners of similar stripe. A
song like “Sound of Failure/It’s Dark…Is it Always This Dark?” boldly calls out pop culture princesses Gwen Stefani and Britney Spears, but not without first giving them a wet kiss goodnight. “Free Radicals” is a precious soul romp that sounds like Prince in his prime, but instead was oddly inspired by a dream about Devendra Banhart, and is an sharp arrow aimed straight at the heart of would-be terrorists. Major domo and head Lip Wayne Coyne is a shrewd observer of human nature, and an even shrewder songwriter and this album stands as his greatest and most varied work yet.
(The Yeah Yeah Song Live Video)

Friday, December 1, 2006 Top 20 Albums of 2006 (#20 thru #16)

Well folks here it is… Our top 20 albums of 2006. From 43 writers in 10 countries we have tallied all the votes, crunched the numbers and POW… this is it… broken down into 4 groups (20 to 16. – 15 to 11 -10 to 6 then 5 to 1.) Let’s start things off with #20-#16 Every day we will show you another 5.. Enjoy

#16 Melvins:: (A) Senile Animal
The Melvins have long been considered one of hard rock/metal’s most powerful/monolithic-sounding bands, despite only consisting of three members. So, imagine what the group would sound like with two drummers. Well, imagine no more. The Melvins’ second release of 2006, A Senile Animal, sees longtime members — guitarist Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover — joined by both members of noise duo Big Business (bassist Jared Warren and drummer Coady Willis). Unlike some bands that have two drummers but do not sound that remarkably different than if they had a single one, the “new look” Melvins puts the extra pair of sticks to good use, as evidenced by the drum march breakdown of the album opening “The Talking Horse,” the onslaught of “You’ve Never Been Right,” and “Civilized Worm,” which ends in an absolute landslide of percussion. Although they started out primarily as a punk band that slowed down the riffs, the Melvins have also always mixed in prog rock-like bits, such as the tricky rhythms of “Blood Witch” and the King Crimson/Tool-ish “The Hawk.” The album also contains some of the group’s most straightforward compositions in some time, including the metallic/new wave-ish ditty “A History of Drunks.” The transfusion of new blood has made one of rock’s gnarliest beats even — gnarlier! This is the best Melvins release since Houdini.
Listen to The Melvins

#17 Elf Power:: Back to the Web
Of the frontline bands associated with the mid-’90s Elephant 6 collective—a loose conglomeration of ’60s-leaning, experimental pop obsessives—Elf Power didn’t seem the most likely to stick around the longest. The Apples In Stereo had the hooks, Neutral Milk Hotel had the transcendent vision, and Olivia Tremor Control had the willingness to try anything. On the other hand, Elf Power had the ability to combine elements of each into cute little packages awash in Tolkien-esque imagery. And yet, a decade later, Elf Power is the band putting out album number eight, Back To The Web, while its peers have all entered dormant periods or disappeared.

Time hasn’t stood still for Elf Power, either. Holding the reins through several lineup shifts, leader Andrew Rieger has arrived at a sound that’s shed some of the outré touches without losing its edge. Tracks like “All The World Is Waiting” hearken back to the thrift-store psychedelic chug of A Dream In Sound, but the sweet, straightforward, slightly awestruck album-opener “Come Lie Down With Me (And Sing My Song)” best indicates where Elf Power’s heart is these days. Rieger surrounds images from nature and recalled dreams with compact, layered folk-pop songs that mingle joy and fear in equal measure. (Can an Iron & Wine collaboration be far behind?) It might not have been immediately obvious to anyone but Rieger that Elf Power could still be making relevant music a decade after its debut, but on Back To The Web, he proves the band’s ability to thrive with age.
Listen to Elf Power

#18 James Hunter:: People Gonna Talk
Van Morrison calls James Hunter ‘the best voice and best-kept secret in British R&B and soul.’ And the Colchester native and former busker does, indeed, sound like a one-man blue-eyed revival on his US debut, People Gonna Talk. He navigates 14 self-penned ska (the title track), soul-blues (“Kick It Around”), and primal funk (“No Smoke Without Fire”) tunes with panache. Hunter’s voice unerringly carves out graceful melodies and soars into falsetto at whim over his horn-sparked band as he digs through his vast bag of traditional, stinging blues’n’soul licks on electric guitar.
Listen to James Hunter

#19 Be your own pet:: S/T
Watch out, boys – soon your sisters’ll be doing it for themselves

Aside from the deaf or those in a level of denial up there with David Irving’s idiot pronouncements on the Holocaust, everyone’s aware that we live in great times for music. But while rock has been bursting forth with boys ready to put a foot on a monitor, the only woman of this decade to make waves has been Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Until now, that is.

Largely, it was Karen O who inspired the latest crop of great girl-rock bands (including The Like, The Long Blondes and Suffrajets) but it’s Be Your Own Pet who, with this debut, appear most fully formed, most ready to rule over the whole scene, not just some spurious media-invented girl-rock adjunct. And it’s their singer Jemina Pearl who’s set to inspire a whole host of new bands, like Karen O and Courtney Love before her.

Her band’s self-titled debut carries her stamp, with deep imprints of ass-kicking cool, while she’s the foghorn focus for their snotty rock’n’roll. She’s what anyone bored of boring, boring boys has long been waiting for. When she screams, “I’m an independent muthafucker!” on ‘Bunk Trunk Skunk’, you can almost hear the stampede of girls making a beeline for the rehearsal room. And, when she voices her adoration of hardcore gods Bad Brains on ‘Let’s Get Sandy (Big Problem)’ with a squeal and a snarl, you can almost see the blood and guts of those boys trampled underfoot. She personifies everything great rock’n’roll should be; sexy, riotous, and dangerous. And with more air in her lungs than an over-inflated Zeppelin.

See, much of the reason for bothering with BYOP lies in the absolute glory of hearing Pearl succeed in making every lyrical couplet she spews forth sound as if she’s been drinking cider since birth and is ready to hurl… anytime… now! Songs like ‘Bog’ might otherwise sound like kidnapped retards being given guitars and big fuck-off amps for the first time (and that’s no criticism – this is a record smeared with the memory of The Stooges’ sloppy soul after all), but it’s Pearl’s very being that makes them sound fun.

And, if there’s a reason for this record’s existence, it’s to showcase Be Your Own Pet’s relentless pursuit of fun. If it wasn’t enough that they’ve got a song entitled ‘Fuuuuuun’ (which sounds like all those ace Elastica singles squished together into a minute-and-a-bit-long blast of stroppy clatter-punk), then the likes of ‘Adventure’ (“We are adventuring/We are adventurers”) or the B-movie rumble of ‘Girls On TV’ (which sounds like a Cramps song doused in a bucket of costume blood) suggest this is a band with little time for musical evolution, the fourth chord, or any of those other boring, boring things boring, boring boys in bands talk about.

Of course, there are boys at work here too, and what fine labour they toil. You can hear Jonas Stein’s guitar snapping away in the background and Nathan Vasquez’s bass rumbling underfoot, while Jamin Orrall’s drums take Be Your Own Pet’s songs and beat and pound them ever, ever onward. Yet the bands that will spring up in the wake of Be Your Own Pet’s dazzling debut will do so because of Jemina Pearl’s burning-bright star. Here’s one chord, here’s another, and here’s the first inspiring rock’n’roll woman for a half-decade – now form a band. Let’s make way for the second wa
ve of boy / grrrl revolution… now!
Be your own pet:: Music Video

#20 Cut Chemist:: The Audience’s Listening
When the term “turntablism” is used to describe an artist’s style, some automatically think whicky-whicky and nothing else. For longtime Jurassic 5 member Cut Chemist, his work is deeper than just tricky chops and fat beats – although those two elements are always present as well. The Chemist recently released his first proper solo effort, The Audience’s Listening, to polarized reviews, in part because he isn’t accompanied by a zillion MCs and in part because as a turntable act he doesn’t choose to take his listeners on a path that similar acts Mix Master Mike, DJ Q-Bert, or X-Ecutioners follow. Instead, Cut Chemist lays down some know-how and humor, and makes a better album than most of his contemporaries could.

The Audience’s Listening is a stockpile of great beats – both rare and danceable – ingenious quotes, and great hooks. Unlike some current DJs, Cut Chemist doesn’t just settle to lie on a hot riff and catchy beat; throughout each track there are tempo changes, layers of effects, time signature changes, drum fills, clever audio clips, and sung vocal elements.
Listen to The Cut Chemist