Monday, July 21, 2008

Explosions in the Sky - The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place

Explosions in the Sky - The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place
by Lisa Oliver

“Post-rock” is about as descriptive a term as “walking upright.” And like “walking upright,” it’s occasionally far from accurate. Give “post-rock” a wide berth. In the same vein as “angular” or “meta,” “post-rock” serves a paradoxical purpose of inclusion and exclusion. Those in the know can smugly elevate status in their megalomaniac social hierarchy, feeling fine about not relating to the great unwashed masses that are blissfully unaware of the surrounding frowns.

Explosions in the Sky are for listening to when I’m engaged in something else: cleaning the den, snacking, having a phone conversation. It doesn’t require my full attention because it’s as captivating as a white tube sock with a hole in the toe. The hole’s there but I easily multitask beyond it as its nuisance level hums in the background. In fact, that’s a better way to describe it: EITS remind me of my neighbor’s air conditioner. I occasionally notice it, think I’d like one, then think of the expensive, then go back to cleaning, snacking, or whatever myriad bullshit task I’m doing.

Why not just call it what it is? Boring. Okay, it builds. But so does plaque and you don’t see indie folk getting all jacked up about that. Subtle but neither clever nor intricate, and it doesn’t require that much skill to just to pitch up and back down again. They stare at their instruments as if they’re faceting a diamond, but all that concentration is focused on is plunking an E string, and then re-plunking it to follow. If there are layers, it’s hard to tell; for a musical baklava, it lacks in buttery, nutty goodness.

At least Godspeed You! Black Emperor kicks out the jams muthafuckers and Mogwai belies the novelty of watching a foreign movie with no subtitles—you don’t know what’s going on, and it’s kind of pretentious, but you’ll ride along because it’s interesting. I’m not really a huge fan of either Mogwai or GY!BE, but I still hear engagement in what they’re doing.

“Hypnotic,” “elliptical,” and “delicate” are all common descriptors of this stuff, and with the right band I’m hardly an exception. But it takes a far more sophisticated aural palate than mine to use them in a complimentary way with these clowns. To really convey the sublime majesty of sustained frailty over repetition, you need to be really good at minimalism, autistic, or Brian Eno. Explosions in the Sky are none of these things. Explosions in the Sky are the instrumental version of the Ramones, riding their sound until the wheels fall off. Or until everyone forgets they put it on.

Lisa Oliver is a Columbia-educated writer whose work has appeared in The Guardian, Stylus, The Fly UK, Musicweek UK, Yahoo! Music, NME, Publishers Weekly, Domino and People.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Summer Jamz #9: Nate DeYoung & Todd Hutlock

Download this mix:


1. Bandulu - Phase In Version

2. Delta Funktionen - Nebula

3. Two Lone Swordsmen - Turn the Filter Off

4. The Mole - Hey Girl (I Feel So Good)

5. Stephen Beaupre - Fish Fry

6. Sweet Exorcist - Clonk (Freebass)

7. Matthew Styles - We Said Nothing

8. Ernesto Ferreyra - The Last Shooter

9. Robert Hood - Master Builder

10. Slowhouse - Unknown Track 3

11. Teste - The Wipe (5 AM Synaptic)

If we have a theme for this mix, it would be ‘nothing from the new milennium.’ Well, for Hutlock’s portion of the mix - he went so far as trying to convince me that ‘everything old is new again.’ And if that’s not a plea for a way out of a mid-life crisis, I don’t know what it is.

Old jokes aside, Hut gave me some nice surprises - “Phase in Version” is a little wonky Basic Channel rush. Todd crushes hard on this track - it probably doesn’t hurt that it was released on a Creation sub-label - and I can finally say I totally agree with him. Same goes for Sweet Exorcist. But those of us with Warp fixations already knew that. Maybe my favorite of Hut’s choices is Teste’s send-off of “The Wipe.” It’s pretty bleak for a summer jam, but the bassline nuzzles in just right.

If everything old is new again, then there’s only one constant in my selections and that’s keeping it as ephemeral as possible. Tracks like Matthew Styles’ “We Said Nothing” might be a nice little trick - detuned drums and an insistent analog synth screwdriving - but I don’t care how it ages. It’s perfect for right now. Same goes for the overwhelm-o-disco of Mole’s “Hey Girl (I Feel So Good).” But Stephen Beupre has spent the longest time as my instant-fix, from the spring deep into the summer. “Fish Fry” is nothing but modest - a slow accumulation of atmosphere, held down by just the vibrato of a meandering melody.

Ableton didn’t play nice so this “mix” is unmixed. It’s a paint-by-numbers, if you will, so make your own.

Nate DeYoung


Friday, July 18, 2008

What was it Anyway will update every Monday from now on, not Fridays.


Summer Jamz #8: Theon Weber

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Privately Owned

In high school, a little deranged, I called what most people call mix CDs “Grand Anthologies”, and gave each one an oblique title and liner notes written as if I had an audience of millions (if a particular Grand Anthology didn’t soundtrack my walk to school as well as I’d hoped, I’d refer in the notes for the next one to “disappointing sales”). The last Grand Anthology came out in 2004 - my senior year. It was called “Grand Anthology: The Last One”, so with this new one - which by the way is called “Privately Owned” - I join the ranks of Jay-Z, Michael Jordan, and Dick Nixon. Understand that I have since 2004 become clearer, neater, except when it comes to Grand Anthology liner notes. Because the liner notes for “Privately Owned” were written in a hurry, and I’m not sure they make sense. The album’s about summer. Just keep that in mind.

01 T H E W R E N S. surprise, honeycomb.

02 G H O S T F A C E K I L L A H. walk around.

03 T H E K I N K S. top of the pops.

04 O U T K A S T. gasoline dreams.

05 U 2. zooropa.

06 B L U R. on your own.

07 B I K I N I K I L L. i like fucking.

08 W H Y ?. fatalist palmistry.

09 T H E R U N A W A Y S. queens of noise.

10 O K K E R V I L R I V E R. plus ones.

11 T H E R O L L I N G S T O N E S. ventilator blues.

12 E M I N E M. my fault.

13 T R A V E L I N G W I L B U R Y S. margarita.

14 D A V I D B Y R N E. miss america.

15 R A D I O H E A D. palo alto.

16 F U N K A D E L I C. can you get to that.

17 T H E V E R O N I C A S. untouched.

18 Y E A H Y E A H Y E A H S. dudley.

19 T H E D A N D Y W A R H O L S. big indian.

20 L I L ‘ W A Y N E. sky’s the limit (ride 4 my niggaz)

SURPRISE, HONEYCOMB (1). I’m typing this from a studio apartment in Portland, Oregon, at the tail end of a hazy First of July, and what this song is about - besides picking up an old crush as accompanist for a murder spree - is summer restlessness, the desire to get something done, even if it isn’t constructive, and the (secondary) desire to get someone to do it with. But itches lead to impulses, and impulses don’t always pan out. Witness WALK AROUND (2), in which Ghostface, always the world’s tensest gangsta, shoots someone without quite meaning to, can’t get over it, and by the end is pacing back and forth, waving off suggestions and requests to chill, insisting he isn’t going crazy, and finally going back outside because “I can’t take this shit no more; it’s too hot”. Which it is.

Then again, sometimes things work out, transient or not; TOP OF THE POPS (3) chronicles the first half of what Ray Davies’ dry crankiness makes clear will end badly, but that’s what happens in summer: three months of cresting thrills and then it’s September. This song doesn’t end in September, though - it ends in, oh, early July, time to break out the hamburgers and camping permits and GASOLINE DREAMS (4), a flag-burning so severe (and festive!) we need ZOOROPA (5) to come down from it. Zooropa is all about being in Europe and looking at advertisements from behind sunglasses, which makes them look cool (polarization), and it’s probably best to keep the sunglasses on what with the light and the heat and the haze and ON YOUR OWN (6), which might make some kind of lyrical sense beyond Damon Albarn’s vague state-of-the-States, um, “tapestry” (Ross Perot is mentioned, and California, and the chorus - “my joy of life is on a roll” - appears to have been translated from something) but which doesn’t need to because vague tapestries are precisely the sort of thing to which we’re itching to pledge allegiance.

So: we’ve got a season and a country, now we need some ideology. It’s too hot to really work at this, so let’s go with I LIKE FUCKING (7), which along with “White Boy” and probably “New Radio” is the angry giggly capstone of Bikini Kill’s most attractive pyramid. The thing about this band is they were funny. Nobody remembers they were funny because we prefer it when feminists aren’t funny, but they were hilarious, contradicting and mocking and caricaturing themselves, slipping the real rightousness as much under the radar as they could considering they were called Bikini Kill and were always talking about rape. This song builds through two minutes of punchy polemic before concluding with BK’s most profound bit of sarcasm: I believe in the radical possibilities of pleasure, BABE - well I mean why wouldn’t you, but the answer to that’s all in the sneer, and the antidote for the sneer’s in the guitars. Drop from the heights of radical female pleasure to the depths of overarticulate male misery for FATALIST PALMISTRY (8), the song on this mix in which, though we talk a big game, a lot of us will be spending our summer: our ability to cope is directly proportional to how funny we can be about how screwed we are. This is a defense mechanism, but it’s a good one; it only falls to something like QUEENS OF NOISE (9), from the Runaways’ second album (1977), with guitars hissing from inside the postapocalyptic Haze the Stones pumped out of the fog machines at Altamont to shroud the Seventies. (I don’t think there were actually any fog machines at Altamont.) The Haze is what summer sounds like, always has been; not the Summer Of Love but whichever one Blue Oyster Cult meant. Everything inside it comes out diffused, flattened, hard to get close to. Summer lovers don’t cuddle like winter ones.

Let’s slow down for a second, then. PLUS ONES (10) is the same Haze scrubbed and mocked by some autumn asshole, remembering a garland of song titles and fiddling with them, and ah yes remember this song? that one? me too, pass the canapes while I don another sweater. It is impossible, in July, to imagine again being so sophisticated! Right now everything’s sweat and itches and barbarism, and let’s check back in with Ghostface who’s still trying to deal (geddit), and VENTILATOR BLUES (11), besides being from Exile On Main Street which understood the Haze better than any of the other albums caught in it, contains one of Mick Jagger’s wisest dumbest lines - “everybody needs some kind of ventilator” which doesn’t mean anyone’s going to get one, which is how you end up with messes like MY FAULT (12). Now this takes place in the spring, expressly, but only because “take” rhymes with “break” and “break” goes with “spring”; pretend for a second that “take” rhymes with “vacation” - which it almost could, really, and Eminem’s supposed to be a professional; why isn’t he on top of this - and it makes more sense, because stupid guys getting stupid girls to do stupid things at stupid parties is really a summer-vacation thing; spring break is when stupid guys get stupid girls to do stupid things on TV. So this girl’s taken all these mushrooms (which Em totally did mean to give her, and being so upfront about this in the first verse and such an equivocating coward about it in the chorus is why he’s funny) and she’s gonna die, and the thing is, you don’t stay at these parties, not unless whatever’s gone wrong really is your fault - you leave poor Marshall Mathers panicking in the corner over the maybecorpse of the girl he maybemeant to give mushrooms, and you’re back into the Haze, and the Traveling Wilburys, old navigators themselves of its slipstreams and dead spots, are playing MARGARITA (13), one of the oddest songs ever written. Fades in, rambles, fades out; Dylan’s probably freestyling; Tom Petty gets a closing line delivered so much like a joke it actually becomes one. “She wrote a long letter on a short piece of paper”. You’re home - the party’s over - and is it August already?

MISS AMERICA (14) is - well, pick your poison. A) the girl you’re chasing all three months; B) like those other America songs we played, but funnier, meaner; C) just that song where David Byrne says both “fuck” and “I’ll be your teenage fanclub”. Whichever you choose you can dance to it (you!) and as we coast nervously towards September sarcastic songs about girls who are also sociopolitical frameworks are the kinds of ironies we prefer with our iced teas. (”American Woman”, by the way, has the Haze, but I don’t like it as much.) Speaking of which here’s Radiohead, who never met a sociopolitical framework they didn’t want to stand next to making scary faces, sunning themselves in dystopian PALO ALTO (15), enjoying Orwell’s Indian summer. This is what the Haze sounded like in 1997. In 1971 it didn’t sound like Funkadelic because Funkadelic weren’t into haze (they more dug earth), which is why CAN YOU GET TO THAT (16) is here - as respite, and also because, remember, it’s the last week of August by now, and there’s barely any Haze any more, just weird chilly winds and a little bit of sighing less-than-green-ery, and someone’s making preparations for the coming separation, and are we about to hit the comedown? The last four tracks, the last four days.

UNTOUCHED (17), then - by a lover, by the accomplishments our serial killer dreamt of back on track one, by Miss America, but not by those Goddamn strings which really aren’t going to leave you alone, or the grasping useless wistfulness you and the Veronicas can’t shake. You’ve got wet eyes now, letting go of things, and so does my favorite active band, whose DUDLEY (18) is a nursery rhyme about loss, hot cold season gonna sink in my sweat, God I wish it was still as hot as it used to be, that the days were as long. There’s barely enough sunlight now for platitudes and summations. BIG INDIAN (19) has both - Polonial hand-me-downs from figurative fathers, end-of-song triumphalism, and OH we just hit September. It’s not summer anymore. So feel free to pretend this last song doesn’t exist. But you’re going to need it, like nuts, for the winter. You’re going to need its braggadocio - so absurd it’s noble - and its sense of apocalypse tastefully quieter than its sense of self-importance. You’re going to need to remember, like it says on laminated flyers in elementary school lunchrooms - they can’t print this stuff if it’s not true - SKY’S THE LIMIT (20). While you’re here why don’t you boast along with Lil’ Wayne - birds don’t fly without your permission. It isn’t true, of course. They’re flying south. Go ahead, let them. And hunker down.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Summer Jamz #7: Andrew Gaerig & John M. Cunningham

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For this mix we focused on the theme of "daydreams," the kind you have while gazing out the window on the last day of school or while absent-mindedly dipping your toes into wet sand on the beach. We went back and forth, each drawing inspiration from the other's selections, which led to some nice surprises along the way. Pour yourself a drink that requires an umbrella, kick off your flip-flops, and take a listen.

1. Allá, “Un Dia Otra Noche”

The Chicago-based psychedelic pop band Allá worked on their debut album Es Tiempo for six years (I heard some early mixes, courtesy of a mutual friend, way back in 2003) but chose just the right time to release it: the beginning of summer. On this, the opening track, the busy arrangement—anchored by a restless Swedish string section—threatens to swallow up the whole tune, but Lupe Martinez’s dreamy vocals keep it as light as a swiftly floating cloud. [JC]

2. Kid Creole and the Coconuts, "I'm a Wonderful Thing, Baby"

Strut. Buy new hat. Strut with new hat. Wonder aloud if that too expensive "Africa '76" t-shirt from the too expensive t-shirt shop is 1. too expensive and/or 2. unacceptable on a white boy. But what if the hat matches the t? Ponder. [AG]

3. Shuggie Otis, “Aht Uh Mi Hed”

Like Stevie Wonder, Shuggie Otis was a 1970s soul-music polymath, playing every last instrument on Inspiration Information. I particularly like his use of a primitive drum machine, though, which lends yearning songs like this an intimate homemade feel. [JC]

4. Serge Gainsbourg, “Daisy Temple”

What happens when a narcissistic French crotch-scratcher rings Sly & Robbie and they take him exactly as serious as he needs to be taken, composing rhythms out of those whirl-around party favors and … bass guitar. The latter of which is pretty standard, granted. I hope these backup singers are well-compensated. [AG]

5. Calle 13, “La Jirafa”

Calle 13 is nominally a reggaetón duo, but this 2006 single, with its lush strings, conversational flow, and romantically surreal lyrics (one is translated as “I want to wrap you in a tortilla”), is miles away from the gruff shouts of someone like Daddy Yankee. As the video makes clear, it’s also perfect for lying in the grass and conjuring up some sun-fueled fantasies. [JC]

6. Rancid, “Hoover Street”

I once suggested to my high school girlfriend that Rancid’s “Old Friend” should be “our song,” which was shot down about as fast as mom used to shoot down “chocolate cake” as “our breakfast.” “Hoover Street” ain’t that song, but it has always elicited my most churlish Tim Armstrong mumble-alongs. [AG]

7. Stephen Malkmus, “Dynamic Calories”

This breezy miniature (from the Pig Lib bonus EP) finds Malkmus asking us to imagine ourselves in an ‘80s underground rock band that never quite made it, a whimsical conceit that nonetheless retains a measure of wistfulness. [JC]

8. Ugly Casanova, “Things I Don’t Remember”

Funny how attaching a good hook makes absurdum palatable. Like if Billy B. had a little more Alex Chilton in him I might’ve made it more than 30 pages through Naked Lunch. Either way, best use of “alligator” in a song since Anthem of the Sun. [AG]

9. Pinback, “Concrete Seconds”

I’m kind of a sucker for precise, crystalline indie pop (there’s a playlist on my iTunes called Clean Guitar), and Pinback does it better than pretty much anybody (though the Sea and Cake are also right up there). Once they’ve locked in to a groove, the effect becomes almost trance-like. [JC]

10. Phoenix, “Lost & Found”

Listen for the shrugging “hmph” before “You don’t know what you’re doing” and the first chorus. For those days I wish I was younger, Frencher, and cockier and my friends were younger, Frencher, and fuller of shit. [AG]

11. The High Llamas, “Go to Montecito”

Sean O’Hagan catches a lot of flak for aping late-era Beach Boys, and recent High Llamas albums have proven that he sometimes has trouble crafting songs that transcend their retro details, but “Go to Montecito” frames its melancholic summer’s-end harmonies within a bossa nova that I find impossible to resist. [JC]

12. Gilberto Gil, “Mamma”

The opening syllabic nonsense might be the daydreamiest bars of music ever recorded, in a Highlights magazine kind of way. Then dude goes on about setting off and leaving mom behind, which, come to think of it, is exactly the sort of daydream you might have when you’re part of Highlights magazine’s target demographic. [AG]

13. The Avalanches, “Two Hearts in 3/4 Time (Edit)"

Rarely have I heard a voice more weightless than the anonymous one sampled here: the descending pattern of those la-la-las even suggests a lazily drifting feather or leaf. Completely inconsequential, and totally beautiful. [JC]

14. Low Motion Disco, “Things Are Gonna Get Easier”

One of those remixes where it sounds like your vinyl is skipping in a really cool way, a way that your vinyl never actually skips after you drop it on the ground. Saying we need more edits like this is akin to saying we need more summers. Well, of course. [AG]


Summer Jamz #6: Kevin J. Elliott & Jeff Siegel

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It's Not The Heat

01. Jean-Claude Vannier - L'Enfant Au Rayaume Des Mouches
02. Meth Teeth - To My Good Friend
03. Royal Trux - I'm Ready
04. Amon Duul II - Archangels Thunderbird
05. Ruth - Mon Pote (Version Courte)
06. The Wedding Present - Spangle
07. The Congos - Congo Man
08. Depth Charge - Blue Lipps
09. Gilberto Gil - Sai Do Sereno
10. Circle ft. Verde - Gerde
11. Cut Copy - Far Away
12. Depeche Mode - See You
13. DOP - Foly
14. Nomo - All the Stars
15. Crystal Castles - Courtship Dating
16. Part Timer - Only Natural
17. The Olivia Tremor Control - Jumping Fences
18. Vivian Girls - Wild Eyes
19. Natural Snow Buildings - Gone
20. The Pizzas - Hideous Fashion
21. Sian Alice Group - Motionless
22. Cristina - Drive My Car (Long Version)
23. Frank Black - Headache
24. Jack Rose - Kensington Blues

Here in greenhouse NYC, our only real theme is "sweltering," so this mix is a reflection of soupy, unrelenting humidity. A heat mirage. A little dancing, but not too much, because we must lie down and rehydrate. Ready the sweat-bucket.
--Jeff Siegel

This mix started from my end -- where in the fickle Ohio heat and rain and wind, I'm forced to celebrate summer with a "home" vacation. That is, with the price of gas and food and alcohol going through the fucking roof, trying to conjure up a seasonal fever dream is confined to the basements, backyards, and dive bars of Columbus. So excuse the randomness, the scruffy edges, the teenage nostalgia. I don't have beaches or skyscrapers or foreign flights to pad my imagination this year, only scuzzy, cigarette stained hangovers, bong rips, and lo-fi escapism. Jeff did a wonderful job juxtaposing my trash heap -- giving us the soaring solar to my claustrophobic nocturnal.
--Kevin J. Elliott


Monday, July 14, 2008

Summer Jamz #5: Stewart Voegtlin & Jayson Greene

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KISS "Love Gun"
RICHARD HELL & THE VOIDOIDS, “Love Comes in Spurts”
AC/DC, “Rising Power”
ROLLING STONES, “Stray Cat Blues”
LED ZEP, “Lemon Song”
BUZZCOCKS, “Orgasm Addict”
STOOGES, "Shake Appeal"
Nirvana – “Moist Vagina”
ZZ TOP, “Pearl Necklace”
FLIPPER, “Sex Bomb”
LIZ PHAIR, “Flower”
SIR LORD BALTIMORE, “Aint Got Hung On You”
PJ HARVEY, “Sheela Na Gig”
WEEZER, “Tired Of Sex”
MC5, “I Want You Right Now”

Threaten to follow a question with more of the same.

Q: Chastity? Q: In the full-tilt swing of summer?

Oh, geezus. Didn’t we all wanna give up the goose when the sweat ceased to dribble and ran? When the cheep swill, greasy food and sticky gropes marked the day-to-day as hounds pissin’ upon hydrants? Shit, I know I did. Shoulda, woulda, coulda kept at bay with lock & key. A big motherfuck to camp, stuck-inside jobs or dreaded “college resume building” interning. It was odd-job-ad-hoc that allowed that ol’ initial momentum, then the arc. And as logically follows: the denouement—all limp, all feverish, all photo flash instant, 1,000 words past.

Never really gave much thought to what was playing on the hi-fi in those swipe-the-ticklers-français from the Rx counter. Never really cared.

Guesses are mostly good: A mélange of Metal and Anthem Dandied? —Voivod and Slayer. —Roxy Music and Bowie. —Maybe the Velvets. They all “worked.” Sound-tracking the pre-party partying, a mixtape crammed into a mom’s minivan and wailed away while nitrous oxide brought ye knuckle-draggers one less grunt closer to Quest for Fire. Agh! Agh! The admitted—no, really—the brandished Weltanschauung was all cock and cunt and some things “worked” better than others.

The 70s worked mostly for me. A taut opalescent boil of Heh-Vee Psych grime slicked with STP und jissom, inflated with self-worth, self-loathing, an impending eruption just a motherfuckin’ given. Plant & Page, Stanley & Simmons, Kramer & Smith, et cetera, et cetera. Here was majik, real check-the-tophat stuff. No bunnies. No bullshit. But we were mostly worried we’d find gods. —Perhaps the whole fuckin’ pantheon. Dive into that dark headfirst. The most unusual suspects for more of the same summer sportfuckin’. Nothing so different from handjobs-to-blowjobs-to-vaginal-to-anal. (Incidentally, I recall a particularly unsavory memory involving Miracle Whip as lubricant…)

What is it supposed to say? Why were we playing this shit and why must we continue to do so? These are questions best left unanswered. There’s just not enough mystery nowadays anyway.

And so, anywho, the boudoir ambient: Kiss wields the pistol of ess-eeee-eks and its inevitable entelechy: Trouser snake as shapeless Platonic Form. A quality never agreed upon, since it seemed to never change—only reoccurring in different gradations of strength and weight. Like the Washington Monument’s obelisk erect. The great phallic wand of megadeath, its palpitating apex revived and died a billion times. Might as well not exist: Plant’s paean to his prick. Like the Sumerian calendar. Like fuckin’ Vico. Like the rouge of Eve that clouds as a spoon of currant jam in a tumbler of tap. Oh, Iggy Stooge: ass-shaker of ill repute, butt-plugged and dolled-up for the stage, vein-tapping into Little Richard and all the other folks’ boogie-woogie pathos he managed to rip off to excellent effect. Then there’s The Top channeling the pre-pubescent white boy blues for boys who never had none of neither. There are not-so-hidden connections. “Pearl Necklace.” Speak it to yourself. Write it out. Say it aloud. It comes with a single breath, flung from the palate as ah bucket of gullshit. Say it again. Sheesh. Like a loogie. Each vowel upon a raft of flan-hued snot… There are nudged winks as plentiful as locker-room underarm farts. Remember: The same river, always the same river. —And yet always different water. Then there’s Flipper, with the most un-Flipper bit ever branded upon quarter-inch tape, nothing less than the throne of Mighty Egypt left warm for the next pair of Pharaoh buns. Smarmy gear-headed come-ons from rock’s community chesta has-beens the Lord Balt and then some oh-so superlative lyrics from Chrissy Cornell. To wit:

JAYSON GREENE: BIG DUMB SEX!!!!! Fucking awesome. The last time I heard "Louder Than Love," my hair was cut into a bowl shape and I had braces.

STEWART VOEGTLIN: You are insane. That song is so fucking dumb. But so incredibly wonderful. I saw them on the LTL tour, opening for VOIVOD.

JAYSON GREENE: Wait, so why am I insane? We agree on "Big Dumb Sex," right? That's it's awesome?

STEWART VOEGTLIN: Your bowl cut and braces. That's insane. Yeah we are in ACCORD.

And so The Motor City Five pull it slow(ly) into the station and leave us wonderin’ who ever thunk the Whip wuz dressing for salad greens after all. A sketch, roughshod and rapid. Not so sweeping. Not so “encapsulating.” But what is? And on the fly? Surely not.

11:19 AM me: I didn't know we had to actually "write" stuff for this. WTF.
11:20 AM I have ZERO time to do this. Should we just submit our e-mails... Hahaha.
Jayson: We could both write 150 words or so?
I could probably scratch it out tonightish
11:22 AM me: Jesus...
OK. Maybe. MAYBE.
11:23 AM Jayson: write three sentences about wanton lust, and I'll write three or so about the slimy underbelly easy
11:25 AM me: Yeah. Sounds good.

It does. Three sentences metastasized as they always do. So. As Heraclitus offered, the gift of what is, is not. Put it all together and drink it deep(ly). I did/do.

[Stewart Voegtlin]

“Three sentences about wanton lust.”

This was Stew’s assignment, and he took it about as far into the gnarled, dirt-clump roots of his humid brain as he could. As a result, we have the above magnificent testament to tantalizing mythical hoodoo: I could spend eleven months in a cabin in the Montana woods, drinking nothing but absinthe and reading the collected works of Bangs, Meltzer, Faulkner, and Hubert Selby, Jr., with only a blotter of acid and multiple bags of irregular pork rinds for sustenance, and not produce a single sentence that radiated that level of grizzled insanity.

So let’s, instead, quote Nick Tosches, on The Killer, Mr. Jerry Lee Lewis, whose shoes were once smudged by the reverent lips of a supplicant John Lennon, who once shot his bass player in the chest with a .357 Magnum, who in 1976 arrived impromptu at the gates of Graceland armed with a .38-caliber Derringer at 3:07 a.m., yelling for Elvis:

“Of all the rock-and-roll creatures, he projected the most hellish persona. He was feared more than the rest, and hated more too. Preachers railed against him, mothers smelled his awful presence in the laundry of their daughters, and young boys coveted his wicked, wicked ways … Believe it: Jerry Lee Lewis is a creature of mythic essence, a Set, a Baptist Dionysus aflame with glorious cowardice and self-killing guilt.”

There ain’t no more to say: this mix finds the queasy, certainly fluid-slicked middle ground between Robert Plant, exulting at length about the juice running down his leg, to the leering, self-punishingly sexless rictus of Richard Hell, mirthlessly mocking you for buying into the brief glow of good will that follows the few minutes immediately after orgasm.

[Jayson Greene]


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Summer Jamz #4: Ian Mathers & Paul Scott

Download this mix:

For our summer mix, Paul Scott and I decided to have a conversation, or maybe an argument, thanks to one inarguable fact: I hate summer. Paul decided to take a stab at changing my mind, and so we volley competing versions of the hottest summer at each other along with the songs. We also got started a bit late, and after jokingly discussing which one of us would get to including a Los Campesinos! track first, I got the ball rolling by declaring “Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks” the opener. Events preceded, or degenerated, from there. --Ian Mathers

01. Los Campesinos! – “Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks” (4:29)

02. Ola Podrida – “Jordanna” (4:50)


Okay, so, the thing is, I'm a little drunk, but we have to get moving on this; in addition that particular Los Campesinos! track (*key lyric: "When the small picture's the same as the bigger picture, you know that you're fucked" - which is pretty much the way I feel whenever the heat sets in, sadly), I mostly tend to retreat to slow, draggy, oppressive music this time of year. My bedroom doesn't have a window and as a result the heat in here is brutal - something like Ola Podrida's self titled debut suits me best right now because on the one hand it doesn't require any real heat on my part in loving it, and partly because it sounds like it was recorded in an oppressively hot room. So I would kind of like to lead off with “Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks” and its desperation (that’s me when we get our first intolerable days every year!), and then go from there. Here's "Jordanna", by Ola Podrida – definitely the next track I'd think of putting on the mix. He sounds pretty exhausted, really.


03. Saint Etienne – “London Belongs to Me” (3:58)


This Ola fellow, he sounds pretty beat. Is this fear of summer a Canadian thing or just a you thing? Over here in England the summer is a weird, unpredictable thing. May was gorgeous but now halfway through June the sky seems to be permanently grey. It's funny you say you have a bedroom with no windows. Mine has, let me count them, four. The next song for the mix is a counterpoint to the heavy, heavy sounds of Ola Podrida. Saint Etienne's "London Belongs to Me" sounds so light that on a couple of occasions it almost floats away. It captures the feeling of getting the tube on a warm summer night and being hit by a blast of cool air rushing its way up from somewhere deep underground. It feels like coming up without touching any kind of chemicals. It feels like someone has opened a window, let the light in, let some cool air in. In its own blissed out way – even as London skies, in their usual way, turn to granite – says "this is gonna be the best summer ever".


04. Spacemen 3 – “So Hot (Wash Away All of My Tears)” (2:39)


Fear is the wrong word – that implies some level of the unknown. I know what summer here in Guelph is, and I fucking hate it. It is indeed unpredictable – it was cold enough here last night that I needed a hoodie! – but we can look forward to (and have already experienced one of) these periods of just blastingly intense heat and humidity. I forget if you guys use proper temperatures or what, but with humidity it can hit 45 degrees or more here, outside (to say nothing of my room – that's around 115 for the Americans, by the way), and given that we're also used to seeing temperatures dip into the -40s with wind chill in the winter (which works out to around -40, funnily enough), suddenly having that amount of heat trapped between the blue-but-solid sky and the fucking pavement is just ridiculous. It also doesn't help matters that I am, as John Cunningham once told me, a pale, easily burned motherfucker. Standing in the direct sun for even a minute makes me feel like my skin is being cooked off, it's ridiculous. I liked that St. Etienne track, but it's like you say – because it summons up not summer for me but that blast of cool air that means a fan, air conditioning, a cold snap. The other solution, of course, is to go swimming – as Jason Pierce sings in my next pick "I just want a river, just want the ocean." And it's called "So Hot (Wash Away All of My Tears)," which is thematically appropriate at least. The slow motion crawl of the track makes me think of summer, Pierce sounds pretty oppressed, and while he may be talking about heartbreak, when they sigh out "so hot...." I can easily turn the song into a lament for a Guelph summer, at least in my head.


05. Lindstrom – “Music in My Mind” (4:51)


I think, in a sense, I agree with you. Summer, as an idea, sometimes seems oppressive. The feeling that just because of a metrological shift one should suddenly be happy. I like the Spacemen 3 song, did J Spaceman use that tune again on a Spiritualized album? I certainly know a version of it. Yes, it's track 4 on Pure Phase, that's one hell of an album. Opiated, beautifully sad summer jamz from a parallel universe. Enough of this heartbreak! Let's have some disco. Yet even here, amongst the flashlight and explosions, we can't quite let go. Lindstrom's "Music In My Mind" is certainly a lot more lithe and – let’s be honest – sexier than J Spaceman's blues. But, it's fueled by the same fever. It's there, just under the surface, somewhere between the beat and bass. The vocalist, she sounds cool but listen closer: "your eyes kill me": she seems to be surrendering. There is no cold snap here, no summer breeze: the beat goes on. You can't argue with caprice of metrology. Here, as oppression and exultation entwine - much as it did for J Spaceman - we see, sometimes, summer makes masochists of us all.


06. Scannerfunk – “Cosy Veneer” (6:39)


Well shit, don't let me convert you or anything... and yeah, I forgot Jason recycled that one, but he did. I think I prefer this version, actually, and it does make a surprisingly good segue into the slinky as hell "Music in My Mind." Damn, that tracks burns – but in a way that makes me think of summer nights, which I much prefer to summer days. It's a bit cooler, the sun can't burn you – but some nights it's still sticky and close and you just want to jump out of your skin. Or at least I do. But you can't always manage that, so the night just goes a bit hazy instead, everything slides, indistinct, you wake up the next morning not quite sure where the hours went. That's the kind of night where I pull out the Scannerfunk record, precisely because of tracks like "Cosy Veneer." Fuzzy, shifting, low key - it makes a decent afterparty for the Lindstrom track, but it also takes us deeper into the muggy night, away from all that inconvenient solar radiation. You can still feel that heat, though, and it even sounds a bit mournful in places.


07. Air France – “Collapsing at Your Doorstep” (4:34)


Through the night and out the other side. I've been working night-shifts. The sun starts to rise between four and five: if you're in a negative frame of mind Radiohead's "Lucky" sort of captures it. That guitar part mimicking the first oppressive break of the horizon, the histrionic proclamation of "it's going to be a glorious day", lacquered with bile: it's almost apocalyptic in its portent, a summer morning recast as the rapture. But, I'm younger than that now. Yes, the sun is rising, yes it may be oppressively hot later in the day, but for now it's perfect. It's not too hot yet, the sky is turning from grey to deep blue and the cynics have yet to get out of bed. "Collapsing at Your Doorstep" by Air France captures this feeling exquisitely. "It's all like dream" a little looped voice chirps and it is. It's indistinct yet somehow lucid, there is a certain clarity you just don't get at any other time of day. Then the main theme swoops in, the curtains are flung open, the horizon breaks: "this place is amazing". You can say "it's going to be a glorious day" and mean it. You can go to bed now safe in the knowledge you've seen the best part of the day.


08. Stina Nordenstam – “Crime” (5:41)


Yeah, Air France captures that poignant clarity of the early morning quite well, I'd say - but I tend to see that time of day because of insomnia, not the night shift (you're making it harder and harder for me to play the curmudgeon, but I'll do my best). "Collapsing at Your Doorstep" works perfect for going to sleep that night, but what about when you get woken up an hour later and have to go to work? Strangely, it's the kind of precisely placed minimalism you find in Stina Nordenstam's "Crime" that most sums up how my head feels at those times, waiting for the sun to hit (hmm... some Slowdive later, maybe?). Except for the opening "Whatever made me cold, it's gone now" nothing in "Crime" speaks directly to the summer, but there's this desire, the obverse of Thom Yorke's plea for invisibility in "How to Disappear Completely": "You know it wasn't really me, you know I wasn't really there" – please, just forget that you saw me. Let me stay down here, out of the sun. The necessary, for me, postscript to "this place is amazing," at least when it's muggy out.


09. Christopher Cross – “Sailing” (4:17)


That song is cold. Really cold. There's a motif at the beginning that reminds me, somewhat, of Christopher Cross's "Sailing", albeit with all the blood, all the warmth drained out. So, lets put some colour back in. It's cool but it's not cold. It's a groovy kind of melancholy; this man is, as someone once said, swimming in sadness. He's alone out on that endless ocean with nothing but his memories and the breeze. Where Stina shuts the curtains across and hides from the heat, Christopher – the not-so-rugged-individualist – slips on a Hawaiian shirt and a pair of loafers and sets sail. Perhaps, instead of curling up and hiding from those rays, the trick is to face them head on, curls those fingers into a fist of pure emotion, pour a margarita and man up. In the smoothest possible way, of course.

NB: Please see the following video for more on the creation of this piece of music.


10. Steely Dan – “Time Out of Mind” (4:13)


Using Christopher friggin' Cross to chide me in terms of 'manning up' is a bold move indeed, and if "Sailing" wasn't so smooth I might even take offense. Of course, as the supplementary material shows, even that song isn't all sunshine and puppies. It did make me think of Michael McDonald, though, and Michael McDonald and summer make me think of one thing: Steely Dan. Especially Gaucho, their most "summery" album (because it's their LA album, and I've never been there so in my mind it's always summer down there). McDonald only provided backing vocals on one track there, the heroin ode "Time Out of Mind," but what backing vocals! Becker and Fagen's evident relish at making the smoothest possible backing for what are fetid, misanthropic tales of human folly and suffering is kinda funny - at least if you're still drawing those curtains, like I am. Perfect for air conditioned night clubs where everyone disappears to the bathroom twice an hour.


11. Bill Bragg – “Lovers Town Revisited” (1:18)


It's getting so smooth here, it's almost decadent. I never suggested "Sailing" was "all sunshine and puppies", it's about dealing with the pains of summer not denying them. Now, another coping strategy. We're still in the club, or perhaps outside, but we're a hell of a long way from L.A. Billy Bragg's "Lovers Town Revisited" crackles with a parched, nervous energy. The shards of solo electric guitar sound like the tense heat of a summer Saturday night in some provincial British town centre. This is not the Dan's world of coke and hipcats, it's ale and skinheads. And, there in the centre of it all, the young William Bragg. He's weighing up his chances, just before he makes the great leap. He really is looking for a new England, but the savagery of a Summer night – "boys outside preaching genocide" indeed – is almost enough to make him just forget it, just turn and run away from it all. It's the antithesis of The Smiths "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others", yeh it's the same shitty provincial Britain but Bragg wants, though he knows it is perhaps impossible, to "save the world". Unlike moz though, he is unwilling to just give up, but at this moment he could just give in. It's a sublime moment of faith in doubt. These things, Ian, are sent to try us.


12. Jason Molina – “Let Me Go Let Me Go Let Me Go” (6:40)


Really? Christopher Cross is sailing into some sort of yacht rock fantasyland, not sure how he's dealing with the pains of summer! Bragg definitely is, though. Such a sublime depth of effort and pain packed into less than 90 seconds. But if I think of a man and an electric guitar, standing outside of a bar after a fruitless night with a stifling, moist heat in the air, I'm more likely to turn to Jason Molina and his claustrophobic solo album Let Me Go Let Me Go Let Me Go. It was recorded by dint of the man hiding himself away in a small studio for three days, and you can tell; the subtly cataclysmic title track alone makes it feel like it's at least thirty degrees in the room. It's actually a little less sparse than the rest of the album, what with the muted drum machine in the background. For about a week here, between the punishing heat and the way rapidly rising gas prices made our broke asses unable to travel anywhere (oh, for a mass transit system like the UK's!), this summer felt like the end of our comfortable way of life, in a small, overly dramatic way. Which is exactly what this song feels like.


13. The Jazz Butcher – “Southern Mark Smith (Big Return)” (4:58)

14. Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – “Casino Royale Theme (Main Title)” (2:38)

15. Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – “Casino Royale Theme (Vocal)” (2:21)


Maybe C. Cross isn't really coping, but he's dealing with it. Perhaps, it's only denial. The Molina track is making the walls close in just listening to it. Heavy, heavy vibes. The skies over London have gone grey and I'm blaming you. If there's one thing that typifies the reality of the English summertime it's afternoons like this, wasted holidays spent indoor looking out as the rain drizzles down. That's probably why our beaches fill on days the average Australian or Californian would describe as "a bit on the chilly side". It's like our national football team (soccer to you guys?); we don't win very often – sometimes we even fail to qualify – so even the smallest victory becomes a momentous triumph. It's that same spirit that fuels The Jazz Butcher's "Southern Mark Smith (Big Return)", sure he has no truck with the Hollywood ideal of summer ("Oh, look- in California, everyone's got a swimming pool in their backyard / Well-Me and Max and Davey Jones- we think you ought to get out there and stop it") but he's still hoping, still reaching for something. It's the archetypical eighties indie tune: jangly guitar, proto-shoegaze swirly guitar, organ, bouncy momentum and most of all a lyric that speaks of a desire to connect. It comes from the same place as The Smiths' "Ask". Sure, Mozza may have been "spending warm summer days indoors" but he was still "writing frightening verse to a buck-toothed girl Luxembourg". In their own wayward ways the OG indie kids were after pretty much the same things as everyone else in the universe: it was just that the thoughtless "fuck you" hedonism of the yuppies and thatcherites was giving contentment a bad name. It's a song about getting out there, a song that put its faith in the theory that thousands of people have got to be O.K. He's thwarted by distance, by reality - but he's putting the words out there, 'cos well someone might just listen. It may be using 7 inches of plastic, fanzines and the letters page of the NME - no internet in those desperate, desperate times- it doesn't matter, it's all communication, just different ways of getting out there. Meeting people can be easy! And hell, if not having to put on three layers makes it easier to get out there, then all the better!

Perhaps I have convinced you summer ain't so bad, perhaps not. Hell, the amount of sunny days I've spent indoors. Doesn't really bear thinking about y'know. Not that you have to go outside to have fun. I mean wasting Bank Holidays watching Bond films you've seen a few hundred times before isn't the worst way to spend time. And, with that rather ungainly bit of shore-horning out of the way, my final song: Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass performing Burt Bacharach's "Casino Royale Main Theme". A piece of music that very possibly drove some hepcat to invent the words "groovy" and "swinging" simply to describe the riotous collision of easy listening kitsch and blockbuster bombast. I've included both the instrumental version and the none-more-ridiculous vocal version performed by Mike Redway. After all that heat, angst and indie moping it's only fitting to end with a track that manages to be at once sublime and not in the least bit serious.



James Bond films! Herb Alpert! Herb Alpert doing the theme to a comedy James Bond film! I've tried hard to be the negative one here, but I can't say no to that. Well, your music and the relatively cool weather we've had here recently. I give up, it's not so bad - I'm going to go listen to "Don't Falter" by Mint Royale ("when you're with me, it's always summer") and pet my cat. We should try this again in the winter... assuming you don't like the cold. It'd be nice to be rooting for the season next time.


PS. Is the rest of the Air France album as good as that track? I'm a little in love.

Total running time: 59:53


Friday, July 11, 2008

Look Back in Anger #1

Look Back in Anger #1
by Todd Hutlock

What would you do differently if you could do it all over again? The intention of this column is to go back in the ol’ time machine to examine the albums that we personally named the best of a given year and see if we still feel the same way about them. Did they age well? Do we still play them? Did we leave off an album that we’re now kicking ourselves over? These are the questions we will be asking ourselves in this new WWIA? Series.

First up is Todd Hutlock’s look back at his 2002 Pazz and Jop ballot.

On first glance, the most glaring thing about my Pazz and Jop ballot in 2002 is that I only named nine albums. I honestly can’t remember naming less than 10 on any other ballot, so this quickly reminded me of something about 2002: I don’t think I was really feeling it. Personally, I was coming to the end of my tenure as an editor at the soul-sucking Alternative Press magazine, and from looking at my choices, the time there had clearly started to take its toll. Listening to a lot of music is one thing; being required to listen and form opinions on literally endless amounts of music not of your own choosing day in and day out is a whole ‘nother thing. Playing music for pleasure was becoming a chore in and of itself. Think about it: If you had to, say, cut hair all day, would you want to come home and relax in front of the TV and cut six or seven more heads for fun?
Anyway, that was my first thought glancing at the ballot. My second thought was, “How in the hell is it that Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is not there?” That’s an easy one: I didn’t even hear it until two years later. But if I could do it all over again, it would be number one with a bullet. Or Spoon’s Kill the Moonlight? I have no easy answer for that… But hey, we can’t all hear everything that comes out in a certain year that same year, right? I just don’t have any explanation as to how I ignored two records that I now love to pieces and most definitely was sent promo copies of at the time. Shit, I didn’t even break the shrinkwrap on Summerteeth until 2005…

Anyway, without further ado, here’s my original 2002 ballot in full:

#1. Clinic – Walking With Thee

If memory serves, I had also highly rated Clinic’s previous album, Internal Wrangler, placing it in the upper reaches of the previous year’s Pazz and Jop (possibly even at numero uno, but I’d have to look it up to be certain). I found Walking With Thee to be a more mature, more diverse follow-up, and so naturally, I rated it rather highly, as well.
Little did I know at the time that it would serve to be their high-water mark and that they would spend the rest of their careers making endless Xerox variants of the first two albums. This takes the shine off of Walking a bit for me, but not much. I would still place this firmly in the top five for 2002, but likely not at the summit.

#2. Super Furry Animals – Rings Around The World

Wow, what the fuck happened to these guys? Again, this was a great pop record, full of modern psych sounds and tunes out the ass. I can’t say that I’ve played it much in subsequent years, but that owes more to the fact that the band haven’t exactly held my attention than to the quality of this album. The title track is a fantastic Beach Boys-style romp, “Juxtaposed With U” is the Beta Band’s great lost hit, and the rest is equally charming if a bit overlong. Again, this still firmly sits in the top five, although likely shifted down a spot thanks to Wilco moving into the penthouse. But yeah, I need to dig this one out soon.

#3. Playgroup – Playgroup

Now this is a record that I think I would actually move up if I could, and if anything rivals Wilco for that top spot, it’s Trevor Jackson’s star-studded homage to the favorites of his youth. I adore this album, and I’m not quite sure how I wound up putting it down at three rather than one in the first place (other than maybe I was on the fence and drew lots or something).

If you aren’t familiar, former Output Recordings boss and perpetual hipster Trevor Jackson assembled a supergroup of sorts (including Edwyn Collins, Roddy Frame, KC Flightt (!), Kathleen Hanna, Kyra, Shinehead (!!!), and Peaches, among others) to make an album of 1981-83 vintage alternative disco punk funk hybrid stuff. Being a huge fan of the sounds he was channeling here, I bit this one hook, line, and sinker, and because it was already retro-minded upon release, it has aged quite well. Of the albums on the list, I can honestly say this one has gotten the most plays in the years since and likely will remain that way. So yeah, number two, but with a bullet. On a given day, I might even give this the pole position.

#4. Sigur Ros – ( )

So now we start to get into the region of the list where I have a bunch of good-not-great albums. It tells me something that this is the Sigur Ros album I go back to the least, and yet it ranked the highest on year-ends for me of all of them. I think this would still finish top 20 for me, but certainly not this high. Nice packaging, though, which honestly may have influenced my ranking at the time. I’m a sucker for a nice package.

#5. Beth Orton – Daybreaker

Another album that just sort of blurs into the artist’s back catalog for me (more to come on the list) that I think I selected because I was at a loss at what to rank and I was looking for something solid, reliable, and uncontroversial. Orton eclipsed this one a few years later with Comfort of Strangers, but I still stand by Daybreaker as one of her stronger efforts. I admit that I had to look up the tracklist on Amazon to see what songs were on this, however, and that’s never a good sign. Any other year, this slides top 20 easy but likely not top 10. For 2002 (which was clearly a down year for me, if you haven’t guessed by now), though, I’d put it in the seven-nine range. I fully admit that my love of this album was also influenced by the presence of my hero Johnny Marr on a few tracks and the Four Tet remix of “Carmella” which I still find to be wonderful.

#6. Elvis Costello – When I Was Cruel

See that part above when I mentioned choosing some things because they were from safe, reliable artists that I loved in the past? Yeah, that’s this one all over. I suppose the fact that it didn’t’ suck as hard as some of his other post-Attractions work made me like it more, but in retrospect, this isn’t even a top 10 Costello album, let along the top 10 of 2002. Maybe would scrape the top 20 now. But that’s a big maybe.

#7. Boards of Canada – Geogaddi

A bit of a strange fish here. This album is brilliant and slightly creepy, and I think the uncomfortable sound of it may have made me rank it a bit lower than I should have. It wasn’t the “pleasant” listen of previous BOC records, though I think it stacks up very well in terms of quality. The fact that it didn’t give me good vibes when I played it likely had more to do with my own headspace at the time than anything else. So I would slot this up a few places, even though I do have to be in a certain mood to play it these days. But just because I’m not always in the mood for demented electronic fairy tales doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy of my praise.

#8. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Plastic Fang

Wow. Yeah, this would not sniff my top 10 again. I still love the opening depth charge of “Sweet and Sour” and “She Said,” but I can’t even remember any of the rest of the tunes here. I still think JSBX are a fuckload better in their prime than the White Stripes and their ilk will ever be, but this is not one of their stronger efforts. I am pretty sure I don’t actually own this album, save for my original Matador promo in the card sleeve, but again, I love the packaging of it, especially the LP version. So bonus points there. Sadly, I don’t think Spencer has done anything even this good since. I miss him.

#9. Liars – They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top

Another “reaction” choice here, as Liars’ sound here was a giant breath of fresh air compared to the nu metal/kiddie punk/gothy goth bullshit I was forced to endure at work every day. It turned out Liars had much better work in them to come, but I still like the crazed energy and fractured attitude of the debut. Number nine seems about right to me. So I got one right!


1. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

2. Playgroup – Playgroup

3. Spoon - Kill The Moonlight

4. Clinic – Walking With Thee

5. Boards of Canada – Geogaddi

6. Super Furry Animals – Rings Around The World

7. The Notwist – Neon Golden

8. Missy Misdemeanor Elliott – Under Construction

9. Liars - They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top

10. The Delgados - Hate.

Todd Hutlock is an editor at some bullshit website.

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Best of 2008 Thus Far: Jan-June

Best of 2008 Thus Far: Jan-June
by WWIA staff and friends (though mostly Nick Southall)

Melanie Baskins

1. Beach House - Devotion
2. No Age - Nouns
3. Evangelicals - The Evening Descends
4. Destroyer - Trouble in Dreams
5. Times New Viking - Rip it Off

1. No Age – “Teen Creeps”
2. Xiu Xiu – “I Do What I Want When I Want”
3. Beach House – “Home Again”
4. M83 – “Couleurs”
5. Destroyer – “Blue Flower, Blue Flame”

Jonathan Bradley

1. Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours
2. Vampire Weekend
3. Lil' Wayne - Tha Carter III
4. Laura Marling - Alas I Cannot Swim
5. The-Dream - Love/Hate

1. B.O.B. ft. Lil' Boosie & D.G. Yola – “Fuck You”
2. Usher ft. Young Jeezy – “Love in this Club”
3. Goldfrapp – “A&E”
4. Bun-B ft. Lupe Fiasco – “Swang On 'Em”
5. The-Dream – “Nikki”
6. Be Your Own Pet – “Becky”
7. Miley Cyrus – “See You Again”
8. Mike Doughty – “Like a Luminous Girl”
9. Taylor Swift – “Picture to Burn”
10. The Hold Steady – “Sequestered in Memphis”

Ally Brown

1. Portishead - Third
2. Hercules and Love Affair
3. Wale - The Mixtape About Nothing
4. Y'All Is Fantasy Island - Rescue Weekend
5. Beck - Modern Guilt

Justin Cober-Lake

1. The Shackeltons
2. The Strugglers - The Latest Rights
3. The Duke Spirit - Neptune
4. Marco Benevento - Invisible Baby
5. Flight of the Conchords

Todd Hutlock

Portishead - Third
Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
M83 - Saturdays=Youth
The Mole - As High As The Sky
Autechre - Quaristice

Ricardo Villalobos - Vasco EP Part 1
Sigur Ros - "Gobbledegook"
M83 - "Couleurs"
Rhadoo - "Dor Mit Oru"
Portishead - "Machine Gun"
Goldfrapp - "A&E"
Spiritualized - "Soul on Fire"
Be Your Own Pet - "Becky"

Ian Mathers

1. Samamidon - All Is Well
2. The Kills - Midnight Boom
3. Delays - Everything's the Rush
4. Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
5. Hot Chip - Made in the Dark

1. Goldfrapp - "A & E"
2. Samamidon - "Saro"
3. Los Campesinos! - "My Year in Lists"
4. Coldplay - "Viva La Vida"
5. Snoop Dogg - "Sensual Seduction" (or "Sexual Eruption," if you're nasty)

Patrick McKay

1. Deerhunter - Microcastle
2. Lil' Wayne - Tha Carter III
3. Metaform - Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
4. Islands - Arm's Way
5. Portishead - Third

Travis Morrison

1. Sara Bareilles – “Love Song”
2. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
3. Kanye West – “Flashing Lights”
4. Travis Morrison Hellfighters – “Cruisin'”
5. Roxy Music - Country Life (I know it's old, but I popped it in the other day while cleaning the apartment and just rocked the fuck out)

Lisa Oliver

1. Portishead – Third
2. Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Lie Down In the Light
3. Herbaliser – Same As It Never Was
4. The Notwist – The Devil , You + Me
5. Los Campesinos! – Hold On Now, Youngster

Duffy - "Mercy"
Gnarls Barkley – "Run"
DeVotchka – "The Clockwise Witness"
The Duke Spirit – "The Step and the Walk"
Death Cab for Cutie – "I Will Possess Your Heart"
Jim Noir – "What U Gonna Do"
Al Green – "Lay It Down"
Sigur Ros – "Gobbledigook"
Black Angels – "Doves"

Ned Raggett

"Honestly I'm at a loss. I have no top albums at all this year -- there have been some great ones to be sure but I could probably only name the Portishead as a key one."

Al Shipley

1. Erykah Badu - New Amerykah: 4th World War
2. Nine Inch Nails - The Slip
3. Evangelista - Hello, Voyager
4. Raheem DeVaughn - Love Behind The Melody
5. Jonathan Richman - Because Her Beauty Is Raw And Wild

1. Jordin Sparks f/ Chris Brown - "No Air"
2. Sara Bareilles - "Love Song"
3. Hot Stylz f/ Yung Joc - "Lookin' Boy"
4. Jazmine Sullivan f/ Missy Elliott - "I Need U Bad"
5. Ne-Yo - "Closer"
6. Paramore - "That's What You Get"
7. Snoop Dogg f/ Too $hort and Mistah F.A.B. - "Life Of Da Party"
8. Ryan Leslie - "Diamond Girl"
9. Coldplay - "Viva la Vida"
10. Cherish f/ Yung Joc - "Killa"

Nick Southall

1. Shearwater – Rook
2. The Dø – A Mouthful
3. Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid
4. The Notwist – The Devil, You & Me
5. Four Tet – Ringer EP

The order's not entirely arbitrary, and also not exactly written in stone. But these things never are.

The debut album by The Dø, a Franco-Finnish alt.pop duo with their roots in jazz and their branches in hiphop, is probably my most-listened-to album of the year thus far; their eclectic blend of Björk, Eminem, PJ Harvey and delicate, dexterous indiepop is beguiling and moreish. Astonishingly, infuriatingly, it’s not had a proper release in the US or UK yet – head to France to pick it up.

Less listened to but more explored is Shearwater’s magnificent Rook, which explores mysteriously profound areas of experimental, powerful folk and rock; the stripped production aesthetic and intricate, dynamic arrangements makes for an exhilarating listen that’s as emotionally draining as it is rewarding. It’s also focused and cohesive (just 38 minutes in length), yet at the same time seems epic, important.

Somewhere between the two is Elbow’s fourth album, which traverses moments of great emotional weight and obtuse beauty (“Weather To Fly”) as well as intricate, light-hearted but artful diversions (“The Fix”). Self-produced, it might be their best album yet – in “One Day Like This” it certainly boasts one of the most fully formed blue-skies festival anthems of recent years.

The Notwist’s new album, their first in six years since the quietly immaculate Neon Golden, occupies an important function for me – it’s beautiful, it’s absorbing, it’s almost completely lacking in ego, it’s adventurous without being ornery, and it sounds absolutely exquisite. The German nation seem to engineer everything that little bit better than anyone else, and The Notwist’s technologically assisted indiepop is no exception. Any time, anywhere, any mood – this works.

Not strictly an album, Four Tet’s Ringer EP clocks in at only a few minutes less than Rook despite having six fewer songs. Largely this is because the eponymous opener spans ten minutes, as well as ten years of electronica – almost bereft of the ‘folktronica’ signifiers (apart from a welcome jazzy drum break towards the conclusion of its evolution), Kieron Hebdon has embraced 1996-style techno and updated it beautifully. The rest of the EP doesn’t disappoint, mixing in ambient elements to his fond reinterpretation, and near reinvention, of a genre that some might consider tired.

There are plenty of other records bubbling just outside this list – Seu Jorge’s awesome America Brasil (apparently a follow-up to Jorge Ben’s 70s classic Africa Brasil), the harmonic debut by Fleet Foxes, Youthmovies’ frenetic, brass-led postrock, Portishead’s return, the new Why? album, Breeders, Vampire Weekend, Hercules & Love Affair…

Theon Weber

1. The Magnetic Fields - Distortion
2. Lil' Wayne - Tha Carter III
3. Be Your Own Pet - Get Awkward
4. M83 - Saturdays=Youth
5. Ashlee Simpson - Bittersweet World

1. Ashlee Simpson – “Little Miss Obsessive”
2. The Magnetic Fields – “The Nun's Litany”
3. Los Campesinos! – “My Year In Lists”
4. Lil' Wayne – “Phone Home”
5. The Mountain Goats – “Michael Myers Resplendent”
6. Be Your Own Pet – “Becky”
7. M83 – “Graveyard Girl”
8. Why? – “The Fall Of Mr. Fifths”
9. The Mountain Goats – “Autoclave”
10. tie: Death Cab For Cutie – “Cath…”
Katy Perry – “Waking Up In Vegas”

Dan Weiss

1. Be Your Own Pet – Get Awkward/Get Damaged
2. Lil’ Wayne – Tha Carter III/The Leak
3. The Roots - Rising Down
4. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
5. Hot Chip - Made in the Dark

1. Be Your Own Pet – “Food Fight”
2. Ashlee Simpson – “Outta My Head (Ay Ya Ya)”
3. Ponytail – “Beg Waves”
4. Be Your Own Pet – “Becky”
5. Mike Doughty – “Like a Luminous Girl”
6. Big Boi feat. Andre 3000 & Raekwon – “Royal Flush”
7. We are Scientists – “After Hours”
8. Lil’ Wayne – “A Milli”
9. Hot Chip – “Made in the Dark”
10. Lil’ Wayne – “Lollipop”
11. Vampire Weekend – “Oxford Comma”
12. The Breeders – “We're Gonna Rise”
13. Fleet Foxes – “White Winter Hymnal”
14. Katy Perry – “Waking Up in Vegas”
15. The-Dream feat. Rihanna – “Livin' a Lie”
16. The Hold Steady – “Sequestered in Memphis”
17. Death Cab For Cutie – “Cath…”
18. Panic at the Disco – “Pas De Cheval”/“Nine in the Afternoon” (tie)
19. The Roots feat. Malik B & Dice Raw – “Get Busy”
20. Portishead – “Machine Gun”
21. The Magnetic Fields – “Too Drunk to Dream”
22. Jay Reatard – “Don’t Let Him Come Back”
23. M83 – “Kim & Jessie”
24. Old 97’s – “Dance With Me”
25. Cut Copy – “So Haunted”

Christian John Wikane

"I can't say I'm really wedded to a list yet...still absorbing so much!"

Have a good 4th.