Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Favorite Albums of 2006

A lot of these year-end lists lay claim that these are the 'best' albums of 2006. I am just going to list my favorites, since everyone hates what I listen to most of the time anyway, especially my parents. (post-rock is the new rock n roll or rap! As in, parents just don't understand!) (Listening to A silver Mt. Zion... "it just sounds like noise! how could you listen to this?!"-my mom)

I am trying to keep my comments to my gut reactions to the albums. And the general reasons I made these my favorites is because they were in the rotation the most or they are just solid albums innovators or I have a tough time skipping tracks.

These are probably not in a good order. But I'll start with Number 10!

10. TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain
Andddd they're back! With what I think is their best work. The first time I heard that dissonant beginning of "I Was a Lover," I knew that album was gong to be a great one. The layers of sound, the combinations of unlikely sonic forays, the amorphous vocals=the record doesn't so much touch me in the way that great albums should do. It just entertains me, like American Beauty. It's not gut-wrenching and epic--it just exists, it just is, it's life, it's living, it's an organism that wants to make me happy like a good, obedient dog and I love it for that.

9. Grizzly Bear - Yellow House
The album kicks off with this wonderful piano in an old western movie sound and then proceeds to politely dance around with banjos and quiet drum and then when the lyrics kick in I'm transported to Magical Mystery Tour or All Things Must Pass when George was having his way with atmospheric melodies from the heart. My favorite song on this album is "Plans." It sums up what I like about the whole thing. It's plodding and almost a little bit scary. And that whistling! You can't get it out of your head! The sound is organic and flowing and grandiose and simple in one bite. Sometimes, you can't really understand anything at all of what I'm saying unless you are currently listening to these songs. In fact, I would say, most times you will have no idea what I'm talking about unless you've heard the album.

8. Todosantos - Aeropuerto
Okay, so it may have been released in 2005 in Venezuela. And it may not ever be released in the US. But purchased my copy in June 2006 so it's going to be lumped on the 2006 list. How can I sum up my gut reactions to Todosantos? With one word: FUN! And schizophrenic in a really good way. "1999" screams 1999 to me, "Epica" sounds like my brain talking, "Ian Curtis" says more about Ian Curtis than any simple written word could say, "Atrapado en los 80" is hilarious and AWESOME. It is so cheesy and thus, SO EIGHTIES. Every time he says 'en los ochenta!!!!' in that terribly cheesy voice, I die. I wonder if this album is more exciting to me because I can understand it (it's in Spanish)., or if it truly is good. There's a certain amount of anything that's in a foreign language that's lost in translation, but I feel like I absorb the general attitude of the album and it's exciting mostly because I feel like this band has so much potential.

7. Cansei De Ser Sexy - Cansei De Ser Sexy
I don't care WHAT YOU SAY! This album is so awesome it's unstoppable. I am really glad that they included 'CSS Suxx' on the US version of the album because at the show, that was one of the most fun songs. This album stands alone. You could try to lump it in with indie pop. You could try to lump it in with girlie pop crap. You could also try to say it's terribly mediocre pop-rock from Brazil. The truth is that it's all of the above. But where is it written that it could not be equal parts FUN and NOTHING SPECIAL!?? In my opinion, "Alala" is one of the year's most perfect songs. It's a sonic assault from the start, sounding like someone dropped the mike and then picked it up and put it too close to the amp. Then the danceable little rhythm starts and there goes that catchy little chorus, it's tight, every sound is perfect and could never have been left out down to those ridiculous sounds in between verses. I can't tell you how any times I would just say out loud 'AM NOT STUPID!' even though I'm not sure whether she says "I'm not stupid 'or 'am not stupid.' But I would really like it better if she said 'am.' And thi s is before I can even mention what a perfect little gem 'Let's Make Love Listen to Death from Above' is. The only song that truly annoys me is 'Alcohol' because I think it's trying to capture a certain 'American-ness' surrounding booze and bar music and partying, but it just doesn't do it well enough, doesn't capture it, comes off sounding cheesy.

6. Joan as Police Woman - Real Life
If Antony and the Johnsons were to just become a woman group and be better than Antony and the Johnsons--it would be Joan as Police Woman. With good reason, considering the two are affiliated. Antony even shows up on one of the songs. The unlikely piano melodies, that meander in directions you couldn't predict and the lofty, beautiful vocals make this album completely velvet. I see this one being in my top rotation for many many years. It's like Cat Power, only---- it's actually good! Chan Marshall eat your freakin' heart out.

5. Lindstrom - It's a Feedelity Affair
I could try to put Lindstrom in the same category as Caribou/Manitoba, but he really just isn't. I say that because it's touching instrumentalist music, but on a different level. Plus, Caribou/Manitoba was using 987654 more sonic landscapes. But the picture Lindstrom paints here on this album is one of 'dance party on the moon' but not in a cheesy cliche way. It's more of a 'this is the future, get into it, or maybe not, if you like to eat your steak with potatoes this one is perhaps more for the ice cream for breakfast type crowd.' This album is unlike anything I've ever heard before and it is going to theme my outerspace party that i will throw in 2023. (When I'm 40?)

4. Peter Bjorn & John - Writer's Block
Dear Everybody,
Just try to not love this album.
Love, Lauren
From the lyrics, to the wall of guitars, to the U2 meets the Velvet Teen (RIP LOGAN WHITEHURST) military drums, to the Pulp meets Human League vocals!!!!!!!!! So unbelievably stellar. I can't even put it into words how much I love this album. Obviously. Hence my sentence fragments. Eff it who needs proper sentences anyway!These words are comin' straight from that fist-sized organ buried somewhere in my thoracic body cavity.

3. Cold War Kids - Robbers and Cowards
So they're from Los Angeles, which is fishy, because who's from Los Angeles? And their music is remarkably simple. But it's punchy, and the man has an unbearably catchy traditionally awesome singing voice. Try not to get hooked on it when he belts out 'now hang me up to dry! You wrang me out TOO TOO TOO many times." Their live show hammered this home with me. They have a remarkably spare stage setup, but manage to churn out a sound that just punches you in the face. "Red Wine Success" is another highlight on the album. Among others.

2. Sunset Rubdown - Shutup I am Dreaming
My favorite if only for the last song and it's 78 different genres that it samples throughout it's seven minutes and 28 seconds. So, throw in the rest of the great album and we've got a winner!

1. Matthew Friedberger - Winter Women & Holy Ghost Language School

Obviously, my comments are getting more and more lazy as the numbers go lower, the greatness gets more difficult to describe, and I get bored of writing this list. But. There is too much going on in Matthew Friedberger's head for this not to be the year's best.
Pennsylvania rock oil company! I love the way he says that.

Honorable Mentionns!
The Blow - Paper Television
Shearwater - Palo Santo
Anna Ternheim - Seperation Road
Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
Sparklehorse - For Light Years In the Belly of a Mountain
Rick Ross - Port of Miami
(only because it's so summery and cheesy)(same goes for:)
T.I. - King
Pete Rock Underground Classics
(old songs, but the compilation released this year...... it's so solid, I don't know how anyone can not love it.)
Beirut - Gulag Orkestar
Cut Chemist - The Audience's Listening
The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
Ray LaMontagne - Til the Sun Turns Black
("Within You" breaks my little stupid heart...ahh Josephine.)
Monster Movie - All Lost
Sway - This is My Demo
(I really loathe this album and love it at the same time)
Joanna Newsom - YS
(Bill Callahan and her are like ... going to have genius musical babies, I think. Why doesn't she do more on Smog's next album??? I think she's only ever played the cello or something like that on one of Bill's songs on like Red Apple Falls, I think. I could be making that up)
Final Fantasy - He Poos Clouds
Matmos - The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast
Mogwai - Mr. Beast
Damien Rice - 9
The Knife - Silent Shout
J Dilla - The Shining (rip jay dee)
Lily Allen - Alright Still
(I don't care what anyone says, these songs are awesome! She is a little bit of a scumbag, though, you gotta hand it to her.)

I'm sure I'm missing some. This year started out so uneventful, and now it's looking like there were 100 great albums. Although, I really wasn't blow away by too much this year. I feel like next year will be the year. Next year I'm going to be floored by something in the way I haven't been floored since Sigur Ros - Ageits Bryjun (I just butchered that spelling) or Gy!be's 'yanqui uxo" so. We Shall see.

And this concludes our broadcast day.
Stay Velvet, my readership, aka Tom and future Lauren.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Some dumb writing. I think it's fiction but maybe not?

When he walks out of the room, his bones make sounds. Little cracks and creaks, not like an old person but like someone strapping and young. Sinewy muscles and bones and ligaments adhering together so efficiently that they need to make small adjustments while in motion. These sounds remind me that he is the realest thing I know.

Looking at his hands and arms, I can see the starkness of his existence. He is a picture on a sunny spring day, every detail is rich and visible, somehow more formidable. Every crease and wrinkle of his ever-moving hands is another story he has to tell. How many bodies have those hands touched? How many souls have those arms held? Why is he so sad yet always smiling? His mouth says differently but his eyes tell me the truth. He is tired. Always tired. His eyes are big blue beautiful and despairing. They're glazed over. He's seen too much or not enough or not the right things and never true happiness or love.

Perhaps that is his failing--love. He did not choose to love the right person or didn't know how to love the right person. Practicality and his heart were saying two different things.

Everything he does is puncuated by exclamation points. He pulls out a cigarette and snaps the box shut and slaps it back on the awaiting surface--be it the bar, the coffee table or the bureau. He gets back in bed and shifts around quickly until he's comfortable. If he needs to get up for something--to ash his cigarette, find the remote--he pops up and does the action in one fluid motion. And then he flips right back down and throws his arm wildly behind his head.

And he grins so sheepishly when he's bad. He says something inappropriate but precious and his little smile says everything: "You know I'm bad but you love it don't you?" Of course I do, who wouldn't? And that scares me. He doesn't have a million suitors and it boggles the mind. Am I the only one who loves the way he throws his head back and laughs? Can I possibly be the only one who truly enjoys the way he talks and the way his eyes dance when he's happy and in the throes of telling a story? And when he sings how the words come out of nowhere? They sound rich and full of fire but he is not them. They sound happy and lively but he is not that.

His hands. His hands. His hands. They are. There. Like the sun. Just overpowering and alive. Though his eyes say different, his hands know. His hands are thinking breathing organisms. They know what to do when he doesn't. His one hand only physically reaches a few inches of my leg but in my mind I am huddled up inside his hand. I am stretched across his fingers. My face is pressed up against the inside of his thumb. My arms are wrapped around his pinky. His ring finger is cradling my entire back. The palm of his hand adheres to my legs like glue. I am swallowed up whole by his one hand.

And he doesn't know.

He thinks I am just oblivious. He thinks his hand on my leg rings inconspicuous in my head. If only he knew that I am clutching to his arm as if it's a lonely tree in a field in the middle of a blizzard. All around me the world swirls and I am holding fast to this tree so that I don't get swept up and taken away by a terrible evil calculating gust of wind that is time years and months and weeks days and hours of life that are rushing on plundering on like dinosaurs through mud in their last days.

His arm to me is magnetic. His chest is made of extremely strong adhesives. My skin and his are made of compounds that if left together too long will chemically react and mold together, impossible to seperate.

I crawl out of bed. I think he's sleeping. But I turn around anyway to watch him lie there. His eyes are open. He is watching me walk out of the room. I grin, he doesn't, only looks at me imploringly.

Maybe he does know.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Musical discourse of Mid December. Plus Damien Rice show review!

The new Menomena album is GREAT. Really great. Highly recommended. Every song is sonically pleasing because it's a little off-kilter, they are using a lot of unorthodox sounds on the songs, it's really lovely. Lot of faraway piano, good vocals. This review is extremely stream-of-consciousness so hopefully you will forgive me for the sentence fragments.

Lately, I have been listening to a lot of Otis Redding and Al Green due to the fact that at Lou's it's hard to find good current music in the jukebox, so I have to go to the classics and so I am revisiting a lot of old favorites. I've developed some new favorite songs. I always kind of liked Otis Redding more than Al Green but now that I have been listening to both of those guys a lot lately, I have realized they are not even really comparable, they have different ways of singing, and Al definitely has more of a focus on instrumentation and the melody than Otis. Otis is kind of ALLLLL voice. And holy lord is that voice VELVET or what??? I never really liked Al Green's 'Tired of Being Alone' and 'Belle' until recently. Now, if someone asked me what my favorite Al Green songs were I would spit out those two right off the bat.

My friend, Moe, and I have been discussing recently what songs we will play at our weddings. He claims that he is going to have Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are." Personally, I think this is a terrible choice. There are so many songs in the world, and you're going to pick BILLY JOEL? He's out of his mind. This is the part in my internal dialogue about music with myself and nonexistent sentient beings on the interweb where I discuss the notion of Billy Joel being absolutely HORRIBLE. Why do people go to his concerts? Hasn't he sold out like one million shows in the US or something like that? What is his talent? I don't even think he writes good cheesy pop songs? Why don't I like Billy Joel at all? Is there something wrong with me? It proves difficult for me to wrap my head around Billy Joel's raging popularity. When we wanna talk about Piano-men who write good pop songs, aren't you going to mention Elton John before Billy Joel? Elton John=talented, Billy Joel=a hack. Maybe it's just me being snotty about tunes again, but Elton John is almost as popular but I don't hate him, so it must be something about Billy Joel. I still remember going to some religious retreat in high school and this one girl, Carissa, she was on her high horse because no one knew the words to "Piano Man," as if loving Billy Joel and knowing the words to one of the most popular songs of all time put her in some sort of higher class as far as being hip goes. If you're going to be in high school and get uppity about your musical tastes, don't put all your money on Billy Joel. He is terrible. At least try to claim you love the Beatles even if you have never even heard the white Album in its entirety. The point is, Moe is crazy. Billy Joel is a bad choice for wedding songs, especially because 1000 other scumbags before you have probably picked Billy Joel to play at their weddings. At this current date, I think my wedding song could very well be 'Belle' by Al Green. It's so nice to dance to and the lyrics aren't even really........ They don't even really apply to .... your beloved, but it doesn't matter, the mood of the song says I love you and you're the best and I'm glad I met you. Even if the words aren't saying exactly that. The way you hold your lady when you're dancing to it is enough to communicate that. There's just something about the way you have to sway to the beat and the melody, it's just sexy.

So anyway.

I like some pretty traditionally terrible music, sometimes. And I feel like it's okay because I like so much other traditionally GOOD music that it cancels out all my bad choices. I like some old Beasties Boys but it's okay cause I like Lords of the Underground and Cypress Hill. I have just been doing a lot of different things musically lately and I listen to Bargain Music and Sublime and don't have to always feel like a white-ass college idiot.

Speaking white-ass college idiots, I was surrounded by them at the Damien Rice show the other night at the Tower Theatre. That's okay, I don't make assumptions. People are generally really nice, especially white-asses, they tend to be very non-committal and glancingly friendly. But The Music! Damien Rice was really really good. I really don't like some of the songs when he just turns on the rock and distorts his voice with that effect pedal attached to his microphone. He is much better at the quieter stuff, I'm sure he knows that. And sometimes, the loud endings to songs are effective. Like on 'Elephant' and 'Eskimo.' Those two songs crescendo into some affecting sounds. And live they really tore out the audience's collective heart. That woman has one of the most beautiful voices on the planet. Moe had never heard of Damien Rice before I asked him to go to the show with me. (Personal sidebar: I bought the tickets a really long time ago, I had expected to go with my ex-boyfriend, he was a huge huge fan, we both were, I had thought it would be a nice Xmas present for him..... so I had to take a non-Damien Rice fan because you normally don't meet many people who are in-the-know about that sort of stuff. Anyway, Moe is the type of person who will check out anything musically. His tastes are far-ranging but being from an older crowd, I guess he normally doesn't collect the 'newmusic' tips that often come along to the younger, more internet-savvy generation. But the point was, even though he never heard Damien Rice before that night, he immediately picked up on the notion that I started mentioning to him after the show that yes, the woman has a very nice voice but she is used appropriately. Fans love those parts in the songs when she sings because she sings so beautifully, and you always have to wonder to yourself 'Why doesn't she do solo work, she has a glorious voice?' and then you sort of realize that she is used with restraint because you almost want to think that if she was all over everything and doing solo work, it wouldn't have the same sort of effect. The conflict of Damien's voice and hers is what really makes the songs special. 'The Blower's Daughter' is a perfect example of that as well as '9 Crimes.' So, in conclusion, I think the fact that Moe realized that same thing that I did proves that it's not just a theory, the use of the girl is appropriate and perfect in Damien's songs and anything more would be overkill) 'The Animals Were Gone' was another big highlight, Damien has a fabulous voice, obviously it's the thing that really makes you want to write home about him.

The coolest part was something unique to the Philadelphia show because at one point, Damien introduced a guy that worked at the Tower Theatre, Derek! He was apparently listening in on the soundcheck earlier that day while the cellist was rehearsing, and Derek thought it would be cool if he beatboxed in conjunction with her cello-playing. They threw a little number together that involved Derek beatboxing while she played the cello and did a little rap. It was amazing in it's organic formation. The magic of an non-professional from Philly completely falling in line with a professional cellist of a totally different creed was amazing. Derek was nervous and wasn't sure exactly how to work with the microphone and things like that, they were all sort of wondering how it was gonna work out, and it worked out beautifully. The rap was funny and sounded so cute coming from this little Irish girl and the beatbox sounded great over the cello. It wasn't the best beatboxing in the world but the circumstances in how it all came together so quickly is what made it so entertaining. It was my favorite part of the show by far.

Anyway, end result: it was a good show. Damien Rice is a talented dude, I was not thrilled with the new album at first and I still am not, I think parts of it are really weak and I think the first part is amazing and the second part really dies off. I sometimes think that about 'O' too. Some of the songs are genius while others are barely a blip on the radar. I find it amazing that I always regard 'O' as a "classic" album yet there are songs on there that I skip always! I really don't like Volcano, I really don't like Cannonball. And I sometimes don't like 'Amie' ... but I think that's because it's so direct at one person. I normally don't like 'name' songs like that because they cancel out 99% of the population because you're not named Amie.

The farther I go with this analysis, the less sense I make, and the more my grammar fails, so I'm going to quit while I'm ahead and tell ya'll to stay velvet and pick up the new Menomena album. It probably isn't out yet. But you all know of ways to hear this stuff before it drops. Pigs Pigs Pigs! Seeking of Souls! You know it.

Comment here if you are feeling the new Damien Rice album or if you were at the concert or if you heard the Menomena or any general comments like how awesome today's Eagles game was!