Friday, January 30, 2009

Jeff's Music Review: Bon Iver's Blood Bank EP

In the follow-up to his 2008 indie/folk hit, For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver (aka: singer-songwriter Justin Vernon) recently released a four-song EP… Blood Bank.

Since Emma was one of my favorite albums of 2008 (“Skinny Love” ranked #4 on my top 40 songs post), let’s look at the new EP through Emma-colored goggles…

What’s changed:

  • Whereas Emma has a depressed overtone, Blood Bank is decidedly more hopeful. If you’ve listened to Emma, you know that Vernon’s breakup of a band, relationship and a bout of mononucleosis resulted in a heart-wrenching album. You may be surprised then to hear the title track, literally a narrative of two people finding love at a blood bank.
  • This is the first Bon Iver release to feature a full band.


  • What’s the same:
  • Despite the addition of accompaniment, it’s still a simple, nuts-and-bolts sound.
  • Blood Bank is still a wintry record: both in tone and appearance (there’s snow on the cover).

    Track Listing:
    1. Blood Bank
    2. Beach Baby
    3. Babys
    4. Woods

    Highlight: “Blood Bank”
    From the opening acoustic strums and hushed “oohs” to a slightly distorted finale, I really enjoyed this track. It’s my favorite song of the month.

    Worth a Listen: “Babys”
    “Babys” features a joyful chorus and Vernon musing on the promise of summer over a delicately tinkling piano.

    Lowlight: “Woods”
    The layered, a capella harmonies on “Woods” don’t do it for me. Though I can see samples of this meditative track being used in a movie soundtrack someday, I don’t anticipate racking up high play counts in iTunes.

    Verdict: B+
    I encourage all my loyal readers to check it out.
  • Thursday, January 29, 2009

    Jeff’s Movie Review: Defiance

    Periodically, Emily and I meet up with her father and brothers in Lincoln, RI for a dinner and a movie. Since we’ve already seen so many movies, it was pretty slim pickings. We saw Defiance, starring Daniel Craig.

    Defiance
    Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber star as the two main Bielski brothers, Jews who escaped from Nazi-occupied Poland and formed a famous partisan army in the forest of Belarus. Whereas Zus (Schreiber) wants to take the fight to the Nazis, Moses… er… Tuvia believes “Our revenge is to live” and keeps hundreds of women and elderly intellectuals safe and sound in the woods.

    My problems with Defiance are numerous:
    • Daniel Craig represents that blonde-haired, blue-eyed faction the Jewish people. (Emily: “Seriously? They couldn’t pop in some contacts?”)
    • As this rag tag group carves out new life in the forests, they inevitably run out of food and medicine. They do not, however, run out of vodka.
    • The movie is set in Eastern Europe. Characters should speak Russian. They do not; they speak English in mangled Russian accents. But not always… sometimes, like when they’re saying something really communisty (like “Comrade”), it’s in Russian.
    • Our hero rides a white horse (seriously).
    • Coughing guy dies… but not before he speaks of his renewed faith.
    • Estranged brother shows up just in time to save the day. Whoa… that was close.

    The whole thing ends with a battle … in 1942, with three solid years of the Holocaust still left to survive. We’re told in wrap-up end titles what becomes of everyone (the Bielskis moved to New York, opened a business). It left me a little flat.

    Rating:


    (2: Just entertaining… no re-watchability).

    Paul McCartney on Stephen Colbert

    In case you haven't seen this yet...


    Colbert: “As a teenager, he joined the band the Quarrymen, which was composed of George Harrison, John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Brian Wilson, David Bowie, Steve Winwood, Ray Charles, Phil Spector, George Gershwin, Led Zeppelin and the Vienna Boys’ Choir.”

    “After the Beatles broke up, McCartney formed Wings, who were known for their smash hit ‘Stop Requesting “Strawberry Fields,” That Was John.’”

    Sunday, January 25, 2009

    Double-Feature Sunday (The Wrestler & Milk)

    A couple things I should get out of the way, right out of the gate:
    1. Emily and I are simple people… we like simple things. We are the prototypical dinner-and-a-movie couple.
    2. None of these Oscar-buzz movies are playing near us. Northbridge, MA is apparently no friend to Hollywood. We have to drive a half-hour to see a lot of these.
    With that in mind, when we made the haul to Worcester this afternoon to see The Wrestler, a movie I’ve been trying to see for weeks now, and discovered that any movie before 6:00pm was $6, we decided to see Milk too. My thoughts? Here we go…

    The Wrestler
    With all the buzz around Mickey Rourke’s performance (including his Golden Globe win and his Academy Award nomination), I had to see this movie. I wasn’t disappointed.

    Rourke was brilliant, as advertised. When wrestling, Randy “The Ram” Robinson had me on the edge of my seat – particularly during cringe-worthy, ECW-style match. Out of the ring, he was emotionally devastating in the intimate scenes with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and his stripper romantic interest (Marisa Tomei).

    During the final match of the movie, when The Ram matched up with The Ayatollah 20 years after their first match, it brought me back. It made me think of when Lex Luger slammed the Japanese beast that was Yokozuna. I have never been as proud to be an American.

    Rating:
    (4)



    MilkI didn’t know one thing about gay activist Harvey Milk before seeing this movie (other than: 1. he was gay and 2. he was assassinated). That’s why I think this is such an important movie. I should have known who Harvey Milk is. Thanks to this movie a whole new generation can be introduced to him.

    The film was excellent and Sean Penn was great. Director Gus Van Sant probably deserves the Oscar – if for nothing else making a movie with so much going on feel so easy.

    It’s impossible to watch this movie and not think of Proposition 8 – the California ballot proposition that changed the definition of marriage and eliminated same-sex couples’ right to marry. Wake up people.

    Rating:
    (4.5)

    My Top Songs of 2008 (The Top 10)

    10. Akon – “Right Now (Na Na Na)” (Video)
    I’m not a “club kid” but if I was, I’d definitely break out some glow sticks for this one. Lyrically weak, “Right Now” is a song you can sing along to when you’ve got a cold, due to its nasally vocals. A nagging chorus, cheesy synth sounds and the bonus of having two choruses keep you interested.

    9. Chairlift – “Bruises” (Listen)
    I was introduced to this tenaciously catchy song by way of another iTunes commercial and it has really really grown on me. It’s the perfect song to sing in the shower – complete with “ooohs” and “doos.”

    “Bruises” starts out very Feist-like and develops into a lovely duet. The lyrics are slightly silly yet endearing, “I tried to do headstands for you but every time I fell for you” and “I grabbed some frozen strawberries so I could ice your bruising knees.”

    8. Coldplay – “Viva La Vida” (Video)
    Whether or not Chris Martin ripped of guitarist Joe Satriani remains to be proven (I can see it). But “Viva La Vida” is buoyant and triumphant. There are strings, flashes of electronics, a driving beat and all sorts of Biblical references.

    The question though is if “Viva La Vida” strike Grammy gold, does Coldplay share the award with The Satch?

    7. MGMT – “Kids” (Youtube)
    More synthy disco-pop. The first time I listened to MGMT’s debut album, Oracular Spectacular, “Kids” immediately stood out. The riff is reminiscent of old Nintendo games. It was only a matter of time before it was selected as a single (their third on the album). I love the sound: synthesizers, ’80-ish vocals and its anthem feel.

    6. Blitzen Trapper – “Furr” (Video)
    I may be wrong but I think that this was an iTunes Free Download of the Week. If it was, it’s by far the best track featured there. It’s impossible to hear this song and not immediately surmise that these indie rockers are from the Pacific Northwest (Portland, Oregon to be exact).

    With obvious Neil Young/Bob Dylan influences, “Furr” is quirky, tuneful and fun. It’s perfect for any Fall soundtrack. The song tells the story of a man who matures into a beast and loses “the taste for judging right from wrong.”

    “Furr” interested me so much that I went back and sampled some of Blitzen Trapper’s previous albums. Wild Mountain Nation is great. It’s so diverse it is ridiculous.

    5. The Flobots – “Handlebars” (Video)
    This is definitely cheating. “Handlebars” is actually a few years old but only recently got radio play. It’s my list; I’m adding it. It’s a meaningful hip-hop track, embraced by alternative fans. This isn’t just any old hip-hop track. We got horns and violas. The way it crescendos from innocence to a thundering apocalyptic holocaust gives me chills.

    4. Bon Iver – “Skinny Love” (Listen)
    Tip of the cap to Evan for introducing me to the genius of Bon Iver. His album, For Emma, Forever Ago is mellow and brilliant. “Skinny Love” stands out. If you like acoustic, high-pitched, Neil Young-esque folk, you’ll love this. If it doesn’t bring out the weepy folkster inside you, I don’t know what will.

    “Come on skinny love just last the yearPour a little salt we were never hereMy, my, my, my, my, my, my, myStaring at the sink of blood and crushed veneerI tell my love to wreck it allCut out all the ropes and let me fallMy, my, my, my, my, my, my, myRight in the moment this order’s tall”

    We’re never told who Emma is but she must have been quite a treat to inspire such agony.

    3. Vampire Weekend – “Oxford Comma” (Video)
    Vampire Weekend’s follow-up to “A-Punk,” “Oxford Comma” is a fantastically fun little ditty. With tinkering keyboards, light-hearted drum beats and metaphor-laced lyrics, “Oxford Comma” might not be the catchiest single on the album but it’s the best. This is pop music at its chirpy best.

    Is there a stranger hook than “Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?” But what is an Oxford comma?

    The Oxford comma is the comma used immediately before a grammatical conjunction (nearly always and or or; sometimes nor) that precedes the last item in a list of three or more items. The phrase "Portugal, Spain, and France," for example, is written with the Oxford comma, while "Portugal, Spain and France," identical in meaning, is written without it. -- Wikipedia

    2. Beck – “Gamma Ray” (Video)
    “Gamma Ray” is the second single off Modern Guilt. The first time I heard this I thought it sounded a bit like Gnarls Barkley then I heard that Danger Mouse produced the track… I have such a refined ear.

    The blazing guitars and cymbal rhythm drives the track and gives it a very go-go-dancing feel. All this excitement is tempered by Beck’s trademark laid-back vocal delivery.

    1. The Killers – “Spaceman” (Video)
    I’ve already professed my love for The Killers. “Spaceman” is ridiculously, addictingly catchy and demands that you drop what you’re doing and bust a move (even if you’re driving). It’s a throw back to Hot Fuss, only pepped up caffeine and Mormon fervor. Brandon Flower’s vocals, a great drum solo and David Bowie-esque subject matter, all make for my favorite song of the year.

    Emily found the video for this song today. Regrettably, it’s atrocious. Her take:
    “What’s with the Brandon Flowers meets Mad Max meets a peacock costume choice? What the hell happened here?”

    In related news… this morning I bought tickets for The Killers show at the Mohegan Sun in May. I had missed out on their Boston and New York City shows and that really pissed me off. When I heard they were adding more shows, I did my “Spaceman” dance. This will be my third time seeing them and I can’t wait.

    ***

    So this concludes my Top 40 Songs of 2008 list. Hope you enjoyed it.

    Friday, January 23, 2009

    My Top Songs of 2008 (20 to 11)

    20. Estelle (w/ Kanye West) – “American Boy” (Video)
    I’ll plead ignorance, I never heard of Estelle before she paired with Kanye West. Maybe I should have, I’m partial to artists from the wrong side of the Atlantic Ocean and I dig her jazzy voice. “American Boy” is a bright, upbeat and funky pop track with a disco beat.

    I am somewhat confused as to why Kanye West seems to adopt a British accent here. But at least he commits to it, even rhyming “love it” with “rubbish.”

    19. AC/DC – “Big Jack” (Listen)
    AC/DC isn’t for everyone. I know that. But if you like AC/DC, “Big Jack” is a can’t miss (and “Rock N Roll Train” isn’t that far behind). Both songs are of the same ilk as their best stuff from yesteryear. Maybe the Brothers Young forgot what year it was.

    Black Ice is AC/DC’s first studio album since 2000 (the disappointing Stiff Upper Lip) and while it’s hit and miss, Malcolm and Angus certainly upstaged Axel Rose for the Remember Me? Artist/Band of the Year.

    18. Coldplay – “Lost!” (Video … But Seriously, Video)
    Sure to be a fixture in Coldplay concerts for years “Lost!” features driving percussion, church organ sounds and hand-claps. The organ and claps build to a nice little guitar solo.

    We interrupt this countdown for a related story… Have you seen Coldplay’s newest video (check it out)? “Life in Technicolor ii” from Prospekt’s March EP is great. The clip features a puppet version of Coldplay playing for nursery schoolers. This live show includes pyrotechnics, crowd-surfing and a helicopter. I love it.

    17. MGMT – “Time to Pretend” (Video)
    I’ve already handed out the Schaible for Best New Artist to Vampire Weekend. MGMT would have been nominated. “Time to Pretend” was the first single released off their debut full-length album Oracular Spectacular. It has a distinct Polyphonic Spree welcome to 2008 feel. The synth-pop masterpiece chronicles the life of a rock star. From it’s opening verse:

    "Let’s make some music,
    make some money,
    find some models for wives,
    I'll move to Paris,
    shoot some heroin,
    and fuck with the stars"

    To the final lines, “We’ll choke on our vomit and that will be the end… we were fated to pretend,” it takes all of four minutes to rise to the top and bite the bullet.

    16. Gnarls Barkley – “Run” (Video)
    Who didn’t get swept into St. Elsewhere funk fest? “Run” follows suit, another hip-hop/soul fusion romp. Like “Crazy,” it’s frenetic and fun. It may not be as immediate as “Crazy” but after a few listens, it sticks.

    Plus the video features an appearance by Justin Timberlake. It’s funny; he’s begun to grow on me. Not his music, his personality. It’s probably because of all his spots on SNL.

    15. Bruce Springsteen – “The Wrestler” (Listen)
    Not really sure how “The Wrestler,” despite being good enough to win a Golden Globe but didn’t even get nominated for an Academy Award (and they only with three nominees).

    I’m not the biggest Springsteen fan, I mean I wear tattered jeans but they’re baggy, not Jerry Seinfeld-tight but “The Wrestler” is a great song. It’s a wonderful, emotional acoustic piece and I suspect, I’m only going to like the song more after I finally see the movie – this weekend.

    14. Santogold – “L.E.S. Artistes” (Video)
    This list has taken a decidedly electro-synth feel. Santogold whips up such a blend of electronics and stimulating new-wave, that despite the retro influences, it still sounds convincingly modern and exciting. Boasting a unique, piercing nasal delivery and paranoid lyrics (“Build me up, bring me down” and “Change, change, change, I want to get up out of my skin”), has immediate singalong potential.

    13. The Raconteurs – “Salute Your Solution” (Video)
    Jack White and The Raconteurs came out of left field with their release of their second album Consolers of the Lonely. There was no pre-promotion, no drawn out marketing campaigns – just a good old fashioned record release. It was announced only a week before its release date.

    Although White and Brendan Benson share lead vocals on the track, let’s not kid ourselves; It is White’s scathing vocals (all at once rock, punk, metal and blues) that make “Salute Your Solution” a garage rock fan’s dream.

    12. Noah and the Whale – “5 Years Time (Video)
    Last summer, I couldn’t get enough of this song. I found it on ListenInMusic’s summer playlist and it served me well. Whistling, lightly strummed ukuleles, violins and handclaps make the song easily the most upbeat track on my playlist. Meanwhile there’s also a strong undercurrent that at any moment everything could go terribly wrong:

    “Five years time
    I might not know you
    Five years time
    We might not speak

    In five years time
    We might not get along
    In five years time
    You might just prove me wrong”

    11. Charlie Winston – “Like a Hobo” (Youtube)
    I can’t say is any better than “Super Posh” Rufus Wright of BBC’s Steve Show:

    “The thing about this song, and I hope listeners like it… it’s got that feeling that it’s best heard live. I think that’s a really good mark of a really good track actually. There’s a real skiffly feel to it, there’s a real kinda rusty feel to it that I really like. And… um… I think it’s great. I think it’s a really good track.”

    It is skiffly, right?

    Come Fly With Me

    A couple random thoughts while I’m sitting in the Austin Airport for my first of two flights that will bring me back to Massachusetts (although since there is no way I’m paying $7.95 for unlimited wireless internet access, I won’t be posting this until later)…
    1. What kind of person buys dirty magazines at an airport? I don’t know what I’d do if the dude next to me on a flight cracked open the latest issue of Shaved. Seriously, I mean people must buy them or they wouldn’t be there. I want to know who.
    2. At a gift shop I browsed for a souvenir for Emily. It’s come down to the pink plastic cowboy hat, a “Don’t mess with Texas” flask or a crude t-shirt of a guy, pants tented saying “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” What kind of airport is this?
    3. I wonder if I’ll ever fly first class.
    4. It’s a true crime that because you’re at the airport, a McDonald’s customer isn’t afforded the luxury of ordering off the dollar menu. These bastards should be investigated. (This is the kind of complaint I think all first class customers have).
    5. Whenever I’m at an airport I think, “Man, George Costanza was really onto something. These moving walkways should be everywhere.”
    6. I had Chinese for lunch today. My fortune cookie said, “A romantic evening awaits you tonight.” --Achem-- I don’t doubt Emily will be happy to see me, I just think that a more appropriate fortune would read, “A sleepy-eyed, pajama-clad woman awaits you but you have to work tomorrow. Go to bed.”
    7. And lastly, I really feel like watching the movie Airplane! right now.

    Thursday, January 22, 2009

    My Top Songs of 2008 (30 to 21)

    30. Of Montreal – “Id Engager” (Video)
    If you’ve never heard of Of Montreal but their screeching vocals and Ziggy Stardust-esque sexuality sound familiar, perhaps you’ve hummed along to an Outback Steakhouse commercial. I really enjoyed their 2007 album Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer (thanks for introducing me, Mr. Park) and what could make a road trip more enjoyable than attempting Kevin Barnes’ ever-escalating ladder of high notes?

    Get past the song’s intro (which I’m sure my father and other squares would call “pure noise”), and you’re sure to enjoy this skittering, hyper-melodic track. Then again, just when you settle in and start tapping your toes to the groove, the track crashes and disintegrates. In the words of Karl Pilkington, “It’s… er… just a bit of weird art.”

    29. The Virgins – “Rich Girls” (Video)
    I first heard “Rich Girls” a couple years ago. Released on a five-song EP in 2007, I couldn’t get enough of the funky baseline, Studio 54/disco feel and falsetto vocals. So why is it included on the list? Because in 2008, a re-vamped version of the track was included on their full-length, self-titled album. It’s different … and I don’t think for the better. It’s slower and choppier.

    Listen yourself: (2007 version / 2008 version). Thoughts?

    28. Kanye West – “Love Lockdown” (Live)
    As I previously mentioned, Kanye West cannot sing. Even with a digitally-enhanced voice, he can’t carry the tune. Nonetheless, “Love Lockdown” is made by thundering, relentless tribal drums.

    It’s definitely one of West’s darkest singles (“I ain’t loving you / The way I wanted to”). It slowly builds to a fever pitch but in the end I am left wanting more.

    27. The Submarines – “You, Me, & The Bourgeoisie” (Video)
    “Here I am with all the pleasures of the first world …
    Clothes we buy it's sweatshop labor
    Drugs from corporate enablers
    We're not living the Good life
    Unless we're fighting the Good fight
    You and Me just trying to get it right”

    If you’re going to lead an assault on the Western world’s commercialization why would you choose to deliver your message to the masses by way of an iPod commercial? The answer is beyond me. The point gets lost and it becomes little more than a gratuitously enjoyable indie pop hit.

    26. The Killers – “A Dustland Fairytale" (Listen)
    I feel like, so far, “A Dustland Fairytale” has been largely overlooked but I dig it. I love the chorus and the way the song progresses from a somber keyboard to a boisterous orchestral finale. I think it would be the perfect choice to cap a live set… followed up by “All These Things That I’ve Done.”

    “Saw Cinderella in a party dress
    But she was looking for a nightgown
    I saw the devil wrapping up his hands
    He’s getting ready for the showdown
    I saw the minute that I turned away
    I got my money on a pawn tonight”

    25. T.I. – “Whatever You Like” (Video)
    “Whatever You Like” is a prototype, radio-friendly party anthem. T.I. (who has had his share of legal troubles) is full of gangsta bravado. I enjoy rollin’ in my 2000 Hyundai Accent, windows down, top button of my work shirt undone, tie loosened, while bobbing my head to the electronic beat. The Northbridge, MA locals all think I’m straight out of the hood.

    24. Guns N’ Roses – “Better” (Listen)
    Finally. I first heard the leaked version of “Better” (and the rest of the much anticipated Chinese Democracy) at least two years ago. And while upon comparison it doesn’t seem like two years worth of improvements were made, it’s my favorite track on the album.

    Opening with a siren-like guitar riff and Axel doing both falsetto (“No one ever told me when/I was alone/They just thought I’d know better”) and hip-hop cadence, “Better” blows up into a vintage GNR orgy of power chords and (Slash-less) guitar solos. How long will we have to wait for a follow up?

    23. Bob Dylan – “Someday Baby” (Listen)
    Featured on Bob Dylan’s most recent edition of his Bootleg Series (Volume 8), “Someday Baby” is a new take on my favorite track from Modern Times. Decidedly less bluesy, this alternate version still racked up nearly 20 plays on my iTunes library since it’s release in October.

    While I still prefer the Modern Times take, I love Dylan’s vocals on the Tell Tale Signs album. There’s a strong undercurrent of hope that I think gets lost underneath the boogie woogie vibe on the original.

    22. Vampire Weekend – “A-Punk” (Video)
    If this were an award show, The Schaible for Best New Artist would go to these New York City indie rockers. From its opening rift to the final “eh eh eh,” “A-Punk” is both joyful and triumphant. It’s an immediate, hook-filled pleasure and only a shade over two minutes to boot. Vampire Weekend is too consistently likable to drop into obscurity. I expect more good things.

    21. Fleet Foxes – “White Winter Hymnal” (Video)
    They are only one week removed from their great performance on SNL. This Seattle-based quintent thrills on the pastoral “White Winter Hymnal” using evocative harmonies, wordless vocals and lyrics are littered with imagery. The video is epic and its meaning is frustratingly elusive.

    Complete lyrics (short and sweet):
    “I was following the pack
    all swallowed in their coats
    with scarves of red tied ’round their throats
    to keep their little heads
    from fallin’ in the snow
    And I turned ’round and there you go
    And, Michael, you would fall
    and turn the white snow red as strawberries
    in the summertime.”

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009

    My Top Songs of 2008 (40 to 31)

    40. Charles Hamilton – “Brooklyn Girls” (Video)
    “Only I can get away with something like this. Ya’ll know my name.” I had never once heard of Charles Hamilton before I listened to this song for the first time. That said I enjoy his tribute to the ladies of New York City’s most populous borough. Though I can’t say I can relate to it:

    "I keep it real and my ladies do the same
    High class chicks that be crazy in the brain
    Style so mean swag is vicious
    Smile O.D. as delicious
    Stay gettin money no need for ebay
    My heart is all world but I'm lovin BK"

    39. The Killers – “Human” (Video)
    Let’s get this out of the way, I’m an unabashed supporter of The Killers. In fact, I credit Hot Fuss (along with Green Day’s American Idiot and U2’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb) for waking me up, pulling me out of my aptly named “Disturbed days.”

    After a public love affair with Sam’s Town, I was slightly disappointed when I heard first single from their new album. While “Human” was destined to conquer the hearts of clubbers everywhere with its dancy beat, it wasn’t the direction I was hoping. Nonetheless, it’s still a fun song and I can’t wait to see it live (fingers crossed).

    Note: I could have easily slotted “Losing Touch” into this spot (or another spot) but I didn’t want the list to be too overloaded with the genius of Brandon Flowers).

    38. Randy Newman – “A Few Words in Defense of Our Country” (Youtube)
    Thank goodness the George Bush-era is over. Newman’s state-of-the-union ballad, in my humblest of opinions, really set a tone for the end of this unfortunate period. Technically, “A Few Words in Defense of Our Country” was released in 2007 but it didn’t appear on an album (Harps and Angels) last year. The New York Times actually published the lyrics as an op-ed piece (without the verse referring to our “tight-ass” Italian Supreme Court justices.”

    “A Few Words…” probably stands out among its neighbors on my list (a hodgepodge collection of indie, pop, hip-hop and rock tracks) but I enjoy it. Let’s just hope our time at the top isn’t coming to an end.

    37. Kanye West – “Heartless” (Video)
    I have always enjoyed Kanye West but let me just say, 808s & Heartbreak is his worst album (sorry Kanye). His digitally-altered “singing” leaves something to be desired. It’s also chock-full of dreariness.

    “The coldest story ever told/Somewhere far along this road he lost his soul … How could you be so heartless?”

    Oof. What is this, a single from The Cure? Whatever happened to the “Good Life?” Bring back happy Kanye!

    36. Hercules and Love Affair – “Blind” (Video)
    For whatever the reason, in 2008 I listened to disproportionately high volume of dance music (I think I’ll blame Emily). “Blind” boasts quirky vocals, a sturdy rhythm and a rumbly baseline. The highlight though is the infections horn section. Who doesn’t love a bit of brass?

    Bit of trivia: Apparently the lead singer is a cross-dresser. Zach, take notice (in reference to your Halloween costume).

    35. Hot Chip – “Ready for the Floor” (Video)
    Do you like multi-layered synthesizers? Have an affinity for British electro-pop? If you have an affinity for British electro-pop, Hot Chip is for you. What I happen to like about it is the way the quintet weaves several distinct hooks into one another. Yet all the while it remains very mellow. Want a quote for the CD jacket?

    “Relaxed pop music at its frantic best”
    – Jeff Schaible, Who Cares Digest.

    34. The Ting Tings – “Shut Up and Let Me Go” (Video)
    I know it’s probably not cool to include songs that were featured in iPod commercials (too commercial? too poppy?). Whatever. I’ve never claimed to be cool, only cooler than some. Consider yourself forewarned; there will be more from Steve Job’s playlist.

    Did you know that “Shut Up and Let Me Go” is not about boy-girl breakup? Rather it was written for their former record label. File that little nugget away somewhere; it may win you 20 million rupees on Who Wants to be a Millionaire or something.

    33. The All-American Rejects – “Gives You Hell” (Video)
    I’m sure some of my friends would argue that this is on par with the junk I was listening to during my aforementioned Simple Plan phase. Well shut up jerks. I like it. The chorus gets stuck in my brain and I walk around annoying those around me. And what’s more, I like the video.

    32. Bob Dylan – “Most Of The Time” (Listen)
    I have had soft spot for this song since it was featured in High Fidelity (one of my top five or so favorite movies). The lamentation of a broken, lovesick man, “Most Of The Time” is simply a beautiful track. Dylan’s voice, the acoustic guitar and the harmonica are all perfectly orchestrated to deliver an emotional blow to the listener.

    The Rolling Stone review of The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8: Bob Dylan, referred to the song as a “living soliloquy that cuts to the quick.” The only reason I didn’t put it higher is I thought since it was recorded in 1989 (for Oh Mercy), it’s deserves some sort of penalty.

    31. Beyoncé – “Single Ladies (Put a Ring It)” (Video)
    Again, I’m not out to win any cool points. Again, I’m going to borrow from Rolling Stone for this one: “The beat, courtesy of The-Dream and Tricky Stewart, is irresistible and exuberant, the vocal hook is stormy and virtuosic, and her lesson is blunt: Seal the deal. With a shiny ring. Or else.” Plus it made for a funny Paul Rudd/Justin Timberlake SNL skit.

    And let the record show, in 2008 I did in fact put a ring on it.

    Underinformed: The Top 40 Songs of 2008

    Look, I’m no music expert; far from it. Those of you that know me have witnessed me struggle through some truly terrible phases. So in the interest of full disclosure, before I tell you what are the definitive Top 40 songs of 2008, here are some of my notable crimes perpetrated against my ears (and the ears of those around me).
    • The first CD I ever owned was the Lion King soundtrack. Yep. Someday Rolling Stone is going to interview a Rock God. Asked about his or her influences, they’ll respond “well Hakuta Matata had a profound influence on my development… as a person and an artist.” Until that day, I’ll hang my head in shame.
    • My first concert: Remember Kriss Kross? It was a surprise. When we pulled into the parking lot, my friend and I quickly turned our hats, shirts and pants around. We were totally krossed out!
    • In high school, I listened to a lot of oldies music… particularly Frank Sinatra. Now I still listen to Frank but as Emily (my fiancée) has since pointed out, it has taken me ten years to work my way up to the present day.
    • During my sophomore year in college, my HS girlfriend and I split. This spawned two regrettable music phases:
    1. Simple Plan – Zach & Steve, I still want to know how that CD got snapped in half. Fess up!
    2. Disturbed / System of a Down – I got down with the sickness. This was a short-lived, ill-contrived “Jeff is a bad ass phase.”
    Once Emily and I moved to San Diego things changed. Listening to music was the only thing that made writing page after page about personal injury lawyers tolerable. My co-workers were an eclectic group and introduced me to all sorts of new tunes.

    So that brings us to the purpose of this post. I know everyone wants to know what I thought of the music scene last year. So here we go… my top 40 (in countdown style).

    A Few Quick Observations (On Texas)

    Greetings from Texas!I’m in Austin, Texas for work. So I thought it would be apropos to mention a couple things I’ve noticed thus far.
    1. At the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport, there is a big Dallas Cowboys pro shop. Out front there was a cardboard cutout of Adam “Pacman” Jones. That struck me as amusing.
    2. In between Austin and Round Rock, Texas (where my hotel is), there is a city called Pflugerville. This tickles me; perhaps I’m simple.
    3. I’ve never seen so many pickup trucks in my life.
    4. This is my third day in Texas… I’ve yet to find a decent indie or alternative rock station on the radio. One station was playing GNR’s “Better.” That’s the closest I got.
    5. Speaking of the radio, I’ve happened upon a lot of unfunny comedy.
      • Exhibit A: Yesterday, one station I was tuned in to did a prank phone call. The host was telling a woman that her car was low on blinker fluid. HA! It’s funny because stereotypically, women don’t know cars. Hilarious, right?
      • Exhibit B: This morning there was snippet from a local comic’s set last night (I didn’t catch his name). He did a couple side-splitting minutes on brunches. “Ya. That’s just what I want. Get up early on a Sunday and have an asparagus omelet… Give me some ham and eggs. Right?” Not really why he’s called a comic.
    6. Gas prices here are the same they were in Central Massachusetts. About $1.70 a gallon.
    7. Obama Fever has not swept Texas. The class watched yesterday’s inauguration during an extended break. It’s a small class (six including the instructor). The instructor (from Oregon), a girl from Toronto and I stayed and watched. Two locals left immediately. The only other guy in the class stayed and proceeded to scoff throughout Obama’s speech. I restrained myself.
    8. And this one is for Steve… the following letter appeared in today’s Austin American-Statesman:
    The liberals did it
    The liberal left in Washington screamed about how bad the economy is for so long that they managed to convince enough of the unlearned and uneducated to vote for its people. We now have a very left-leaning administration and congress, and the only thing I hear them saying about the economy is more stimulus, which means higher taxes, and reforming Social Security, which means the old, sick and disabled will pay for the left’s stupid judgment. The left can claim to be for the little man all it wants, but its actions speak much louder.

    Daniel Younger
    danny_1947_1999@yahoo.com
    Itasca

    My Latest (Probably Short-Lived) Phase

    Those of you that know me probably assume that my latest blog will in all likelihood last two weeks. Undoubtedly, I'll loose interest and move on to something new (for two weeks before again, boredom strikes).

    This isn't my first foray into blogging. I have an inactive New York Yankees blog, which I reserve the right to renew once the season starts. I had a New England Patriots blog for a couple weeks.

    So why am I starting a new one?

    Well... 1.) I'm bored and this seems like something to do. And 2.) I read my fiancée’s blog and a friend's blog whenever they post. They both use more of a freeform whenever-I-feel like, whatever-I-want style that I want to try.

    Without further ado... here we go. Enjoy it while it lasts.