Posts Tagged ‘Phoenix’

Favorite Albums of the 2000’s: 70 – 61

March 28, 2010

Albums 100 – 91

Albums 90 – 81

Albums 80 – 71

70.  Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002)

When I put this on in the car a month ago Rachel remarked, “Oh, this takes me back.” Indeed. It takes me back to a time before Coldplay was COLDPLAY and A Rush of Blood to the Head was merely the followup to Parachutes. To a time before Coldplay missed becoming the next Radiohead and became the new U2 instead. I’ve always liked Chris Martin’s voice and I quite simply find this album undeniable. “God Put a Smile On Your Face” and “Clocks” are still just as great as the first time I heard them and “Amsterdam” is as good a closing track as ever. Are Coldplay sentimental? Sure, but never insincere.

69.  Be Your Own Pet –  Be Your Own Pet (2006)

I joked the other day with a co-worker about a group of teenagers going into a store with no money, mocking the merchandise while making lame jokes and then leaving. To an adult with responsibilities and bills and car trouble this kind of behavior is either irritating or infuriating. But are we to ask the sun not to shine, the snow not to melt, and teenagers to not waste time and be idle nuisances? Be Your Own Pet is time wasting teenage behavior set to glorious thrashy punk rock. Topics include going on adventures(“Adventure“), riding bikes and hassling people(“Bicycle Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle“), and threats, idle and otherwise(every other song). Can I tell you my favorite moment? That would be when lead singer Jemina Pearl gets in an argument with her boyfriend and kills him in a bog(“Bog“).

68.  Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand (2004)

Never confuse “effortless” with “lazy”. I never realized how effortless this album is until I heard Franz Ferdinand actually try really hard(You Could Have It So Much Better) and then phone it in (about half of Tonight). Every track of Franz Ferdinand is simply this band being this band. Endlessly catchy dance rock that twists and turns, smirks and flirts. I knew Franz Ferdinand were truly special when a jocky douche at a concert lost his shit to the opening lines of “Michael“.

67.  The New Pornographers – Mass Romantic (2000)

Does it make me a dope for not really noticing the often sad lyrical content of these songs? I’m not sorry for missing those details as I was too busy rocking the fuck out. A.C. Newman is a hook writing machine and his powers are at full strength on Mass Romantic. While everyone calls Neko Case some sort of secret weapon in The New Pornographers, these songs would be knockouts if your mother sang them. Listen to the “The Body Says No” to hear musical perfection. When the band joins together on the “Anymore than/I needed her to” line I have to stop myself from calling Newman a songwriting genius. Oops, too late.

66.  Wolf Parade – Apologies to the Queen Mary (2005)

Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner are the co-frontmen for Wolf Parade and together they make wonderful music. Apart, I can’t stand ’em. I’ve read plenty of rave reviews for their solo and side projects but every single one, EVERY SINGLE ONE, is shit. Sorry. But put these guys in a room together and it is goddamn magic. When I get asked what type of music I listen to, I can’t respond with a genre anymore because genres overall suck. If I just say “rock”, well that encompasses all the garbage under the “rock” umbrella. If I say “indie”, same problem. Wolf Parade are indie but with a taut sound and clear voice(s). Wolf Parade are what most indie bands try to sound like but fail.

65.  Blur – Think Tank (2003)

“…an album so disjointed that it seems to artfully fall apart as it plays.”- Barry Walters for Rolling Stone

Hard to believe that Rolling Stone could be right about anything. Think Tank is the best Blur album and it is a mess and yes Graham Coxon’s guitar work is a huge part of Blur’s sound. Think Tank is that kind of contradictory album. Blur’s big hits in England are happy, upbeat songs about issues and stories and I cannot get into any of it. When Blur does sad, restless, yearning music it is essential and vital. “On My Way To The Club” and “Out of Time” are spare, midtempo songs about love lost, steeped in emotion that Damon Albarn can’t fake. If he is faking, he is the world’s greatest actor. The real reason Blur haven’t followed this up is that they can never top it.

64.  Down – Down II: A Bustle In Your Hedgerow (2002)

When I last listened to Down II: A Bustle In Your Hedgerow I actually took notes and wrote down some of my favorite lyrics and adlibs.

“In this pool of piss I’m laying!”
The power of the riff compels me
“Fuck ’em up” (right before the solo in “The Man That Follows Hell“)
New Orleans is a dying whore/naked she sleeps on my floor

Not to be at all willfully contrarian, but Down II is the best Down album. It’s sloppy and angry and sad and hard and wistful and contemplative and delirious and it has SO. MANY. FUCKING. RIFFS. Great riffs. The story as I understand it is that the band spent a month in a barn in Louisiana writing riffs. And after that month was over, they picked the best riffs and made them songs and put them on this album. If Down II were a state, it would have the most riffs per square mile.

63.  Sloan – Never Hear The End Of It (2006)

Hey, Sloan! The best band ever. I know, how does the best band ever only get up to #63? Well, they put out 5 classic records between 1992 and 1999 so the rest of their recorded output is gravy quite frankly. They could put out the absolute worst album tomorrow morning, but they’ll still be the guys who wrote Between The Bridges. Never Hear The End of It just happens to be their best album since Bridges, nearly eighty minutes and 30 songs of Sloan at their Sloaniest. The guys do some rockers, they do some funny songs about getting old, they do songs about neighbors chainsawing in the wee morning hours. If there is a drawback to this album, it is that after eighty minutes you might be a little overwhelmed and need a nap. Fair enough. We are all getting older.

62.  Radiohead – In Rainbows (2007)

A few years ago, don’t ask me exactly when, Thom Yorke did a sit down interview with a bunch of contest winners who all professed to be Huge Radiohead Fans. The only memorable part of this event was one of the winners asking Thom Yorke, to his fucking face, why Radiohead has never recorded a proper followup to The Bends(or something along those lines. I am sorry, I cannot cite my sources). I do not know what Yorke’s response to this query was, but it should have been something like this: “Fuck you. Ok Computer. Kid A. Amnesiac. Hail to the Thief. We are dropping fucking gold in your lap, pushing ourselves creatively, trying out new sounds and ideas, and all you want is a retread of our second album of generally good but undeniably ungroundbreaking guitar alt-rock. You make me fucking sick. Well, tell you what. Me and the guys are going to record a new album, it’s going to be 80% midtempo and slow songs about loss and sadness. It is going to be heartbreakingly beautiful. I hope you choke on it.” Yeah, he should have said something like that.

61.  Phoenix – It’s Never Been Like That (2006)

I have always assumed that that the “It’s” in the title refers to Phoenix’s sound and how they’d never rocked like this before. Because they hadn’t. Their previous record was nearly a Hall and Oates tribute album. It’s Never Been Like That has always sounded like the third Strokes album The Strokes forgot to make. It gallops right out the gate with “Napoleon Says” and never stops. What the songs are about is, as always, hard to parse since Thomas Mars will always sound like he translated his lyrics from French to English using Babelfish. Thankfully, it still rhymes.


Favorite Albums of the 2000’s: 100 – 91

February 5, 2010

When Pitchfork first announced their intention to rank the best singles and albums of the last decade I expressed admiration towards their efforts to attempt to complete such a herculean task. When they actually posted the lists, I realized that I just had to do one of my own because I couldn’t believe how low they ranked The Black Album. It took me awhile and I almost gave up a few times, but nobody likes a quitter. Embarking on my own journey through the last ten years of songs and full lengths, memories and stories flooded back. I’m not saying every album has a story attached to it that I’m going to tell you about, but more than a few gave me the ol’ warm fuzzies. I started with a list of around 150 albums and just snipped and prodded it down to a still massive 100. 100 albums that shaped me or just made me happy. Albums I sought to share with others and others shared with me.

100.Phoenix – United (2000)

“Too Young” was my going out Jam with a capital J in the winter and spring of 2004. First discovering it via the Lost In Translation soundtrack, I was thrown by the unbridled joy and that chorus where “…everybody’s dancing'”. The rest of United is just as joyful, where even the sad songs are actually fun, Thomas Mars barely able to keep a smile off his face. For a debut United isn’t tied down to a singular sound as Phoenix take dips in faster guitar rock(“Party Time”) and whatever the heck “Funky Squaredance” is. While I agree that they’ve expanded their sound on later records, United is so much more than a rough draft. It is a declaration of fun to come.

99.  Hot Hot Heat – Make Up The Breakdown (2002)

When I worked in at my college radio station, we were deluged with literal mountains of promo CDs. This is not surprising or unique. What was surprising and unique were the rare times a randomly grabbed CD (literally) pulled from the bottom of a teetering stack of jewel cases would not only catch your ear but have you grabbing people aside to play it for them. Make Up The Breakdown was discovered just like that, a random choice from a random pile of categorized albums that would later either be tossed or lazily marked “Alternative”. Catchy is the first word that comes to mind when talking about MUTB, jam-packed with hooks, sharp riffs and angular guitars back when people liked that sort of thing. Moving at a quick clip (31.9 minutes according to iTunes) Hot Hot Heat don’t waste any time, moving breathlessly from dance anthem to dance rocker and back again. The lead singer has one of those “Is this annoying? I’m not sure yet” voices that actually could be annoying but the music is so good you never really care if it is or not. I think the later albums affirm that it is annoying, but those albums suck so there you go.

98.  Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero (2007)

I can fully attest that for about two years I would swear up and down that this album wasn’t very good. I liked a couple songs but “something feels off”. I used to blame the drum sound, but I’d always head back and realize that that wasn’t the case. The drum sound is actually pretty awesome. But I always came back, threw it on again trying to figure out why it wasn’t clicking with me. When I began making this list I didn’t initially consider it because, well, I had already officially told people I didn’t like it. But why was I listening to it so much, even more than records I actually attested to like, such as those last couple Morrissey albums? I mean, Morrissey is arguably as big if not a bigger downer than Trent Reznor. Well, when I was giving this a listen a few weeks ago, not even considering it for this list the fucker cracked me in half. Right then I understood it all and Year Zero understood me. We were one and the universe moved in sync with our movements. Then I went to bed without writing anything down and here it is at #98.

97.  John Mayer – Room For Squares (2001)

John Mayer isn’t very likable now. On Room For Squares however, Mayer is empathetic and self-deprecating; witty and wistful.  The subject matter of awkward dates, childhood nostalgia, and the pressure of going out into the world as an adult and proving yourself are all topics that in the right hands can’t be anything less than appealing. I’ve been struggling to think of how to describe the music. Spare for the right moments and never overproduced, Room For Squares tends toward a sound I’ll call attractive and familiar. Plenty of tracks have an old familiarity to them, sounding less like original works and more like old standards passed down. The most important feature of the album is that John Mayer comes across as a guy still figuring it all out, making mistakes and trying to just be a better person. Jeez, how did that turn out?

96.  Cody ChestnuTT – The Headphone Masterpiece (2002)

Cody ChestnuTT is a guy who can do anything. That appears to be the main subject of The Headphone Masterpiece. ChestnuTT jumping from style to style, genre to genre proving not only that he can do r&b/rock/soul, he can do it well. At two discs, The Headphone Masterpiece is bloated; bloated with ideas, jokes, riffs, garbage, misogyny, apologies, family, and more than few mentions to ChestnuTT’s sexual prowess. It’s also very funny, catchy and frankly a goddamn masterpiece. All of ChestnuTT’s contradictions just make him more appealing and his decision to record the whole thing on a 4-track sounds like a dare that he won.

95.  Deftones – Deftones (2003)

The culmination of their career at that point, Deftones’ self-titled album is the band at the peak of their abilities, finally achieving what previous efforts had only hinted at. The ambient tracks that Chino always forces the band to put on their albums tend to be the weak moments(see Saturday Night Wrist) but on Deftones those tracks shine. Of course, no one who listens to Deftones is there for those slow moments, they want the throat scorching fury. “When Girls Telephone Boys” might be Deftones most blazing moment on record, while “Bloody Cape” possesses their most indelible riff and shrillest finale. A compliment. Considering their tendency to be heaped into the nu-metal category, Deftones is a defiant embrace of hard rock, metal and punk influences. Definitely a good look.

94.  Spank Rock – Yoyoyoyoyo (2006)

The beats make the difference between a wack track and a banger. You could be the dopest, freshest, wittiest, most energetic MC in the game, but if your beats suck, you suck. You could also be a pretty mediocre rapper and ride out to fame on some hot tracks. Those are just facts. The rhymes on Yoyoyoyoyo are largely focused on the familiar hiphop tropes of women and fame, but they hang over such innovative musical beds. Producer XXXChange isn’t exactly a genius but he’s certainly a master of making the best of a small budget(so I’ve read of this album’s creation). XXXChange doesn’t take any shortcuts to repeat himself so every track is a new idea. Be it the funk guitar and 60’s girl group vocals evoked on “Sweet Talk” or the video game sfx on “Rick Rubin”, XXXChange is seemingly a master of all styles. The mind reels of what he could do with a Kanye budget.

93.  Love Is All – Nine Times That Same Song (2005)

I just love these bands full of energy and enthusiasm, writing songs about songs, and also songs about keeping people’s bodies in freezers. Is it bad that I’ve listened to this album a ton of times, know it’s songs extremely well but only can tell you it’s peppy, fun, and catchy?

92.  Clipse – We Got It 4 Cheap, Volume 2 (2005)

Pretty much the greatest mixtape ever. If you’ve heard better, don’t shame me, educate me. In the meantime, goddamn. The Clipse have a swagger and attitude that is the epitome of cockiness. While their sales might not echo it, Clipse are kinda the best, so this attitude makes sense. On this mixtape they rap over plenty of top shelf beats including “Daytona 500” and “Hate It Or Love It” and murder it all over the goddamn place. It’s seriously disgusting how good they are, and criminal how ignored they’ve become commercially.

91.  The Twilight Singers – Blackberry Belle (2003)

Greg Dulli is a indie rock god. He wrote Gentleman, he wrote “Uptown Again”; his legacy is written. Yet Blackberry Belle is arguably one of his finest works. A tribute to deceased friend Ted Demme, Blackberry Belle is as dark as any mid career Afghan Whigs album, but often quieter and more somber than the Whigs ever were. When Dulli suggests we “black out the windows/it’s party time” we know we’re in for some melancholy vibes. Yet tracks like “Teenage Wristband” evoke a sense of rebellion and nostalgia that is one could almost confuse with “fun”. Easily the least obvious eulogy for the creator of Yo! MTV Raps.

The Best Music of 2009

January 19, 2010

I’m sorry for not posting anything since October. The blame lays on a brutal combination of working retail and being lazy and just reading Videogum when I got home. But it’s 2010, a new decade, a new beginning. So let’s do this right and begin the first Bad Guys Win post of 2010 talking about stuff from last year. Perfect.

When I told my friend Lauren that my best albums list had only ten albums on it she remarked that 2009 had been “a slow year”. She was being too kind. 2009 was disappointing for plenty of reasons, as most of the big records sucked and the bands that got buzz either were or sound like Animal Collective. A list of ten great albums is damn miraculous.

10. Them Crooked Vultures – Them Crooked Vultures

Josh Homme is a goddamn rock god. This is just front to back badass riffs, backed by Dave Grohl and a very spry John Paul Jones. I can hear the Jones influence, but the Homme sound is undeniable. More than just a record to tide me over until the next Queens album.

9. Japandroids – Post-nothing

Canadian duo with a singing drummer. Where have I heard that one before? An obvious avenue for success, Japandroids make sweaty sounding music with tons and tons of passion. “Young Hearts Spark Fire” is one of those singles that makes you want to run out and buy the band’s album right away. When the guys talk about taking time to “french kiss some french girls”, you smile and realize they’re a band with their priorities straight.

8. Raekwon – Only Built For Cuban Linx Pt. II

What are we calling this? The Godfather Pt. 2 of rap albums? Not to blaspheme, but I think it blows the original out of the water. Now if Rae could only make an album that’s any good that doesn’t reference his debut. Props to Ghostface, because he’s Ghostface and he kills it all over this record.

7. LMFAO – Party Rock

The beats on this record are sick. The raps are dumb, no, I take that back. The raps are amazingly dumb. That’s why they’re so great. When artists describe their album as a “party album” it is always a lie because the album will inevitably feature one of the following: a ballad, a hard street track, or worse, an ode to a fallen friend or loved one. Those can be great, but not for a P-A-R-T-Y! LMFAO go 14 tracks of party time music. This might not be your thing. I can respect that. But be aware that if you want to have a party, the word “party” is in the damn title. Truth in advertising, rarely done so well. “I’m In Miami, Bitch” is already classic status while “I Don’t Wanna Be” rides the sickest damn beat on the record. Well, that’s debate-able. Seriously, these beats.

6. Mastodon – Crack the Skye

A kid at work told me he’d heard Mastodon had sold out. The 13 minutes of “The Last Baron” say otherwise. Brendan O’Brien is no hack producer and any slickness on the production is overshadowed by the killer riffs and intricate playing that Mastodon is known for. If you don’t like Crack The Skye you’re just trying to be a dick. Quit it.

5. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix has three of the best Phoenix songs right up front. “Lisztomania”, “1901”, and “Fences” are Phoenix at their best. Man, those are great fucking songs. And the rest of the album is really good. Really good. But those first three songs are almost too good. Like, you listen to the rest of the album and think “Hey, these are good songs, don’t get me wrong. But ‘1901’? Getdufuckouttahere!” Am I making any sense?

4. DJ Quik and Kurupt – BlaQKout

Sick. Nasty. Fuckin’ ‘ell. Any and all of these words apply when talking about BlaQKout. DJ Quik and Kurupt rap about hoes, bitches, being awesome and all those other rap cliches from the 90’s, over the smoothest and sharpest throwback production I’ve ever heard. This is the kind of rap album you can play front to back, no bullshit just hilarious ignorant rhymes on top of the type of beats Jay-Z should have had on the Blueprint 3.

3. The Bloody Beetroots – Romborama

My friend Lauren described this as “horror movie dance music”. Apt. The last of the class of ’06 to drop an album, I figured after MSTRKRFT, Justice and Simian Mobile Disco, The Bloody Beetroots would sound past their sell date when Romborama finally saw the light of day. Instead, they delivered 20 straight bangers. And this shit is hard, son. Distorted screaming vocals, blown speaker beats; basically my dream album. Romborama could be categorized as a party record, but you’d have to leave early on account of the house burning down. Real talk.

2. MSTRKRFT – Fist of God

No lie, before Fist of God, MSTRKRFT seemed like a second rate Justice. They had the skills, but not the tunes. Fist of God is, to steal from Jimmy Cameron, a game changer. Al and Jesse go hard and fierce right from the start, sear your face off and then things get interesting. “Heartbreaker” feels less and less like a breather and more like a new direction every time I hear it, and that it’s followed by the title track is just great sequencing. No shit, sometimes “Fist Of God” literally takes my breath away. It’s perfect. That Lauren and I got to meet Jesse and Al and they turned out to be awesome people just made cosmic sense. An asshole could never make a song like “It Ain’t Love”.(Editor’s Note: Meeting Jesse and Al had no baring on the placement of this album)

1. Passion Pit – Manners

I don’t know why the cover art is so boring for this album because Manners sounds like the creation of an exuberant young man with boundless energy, access to a children’s choir and lots and lots of ideas. He might be a little sad sometimes (hey, who isn’t?); the music is how we can all feel better. Songs like “The Reeling” are melancholy in subject but joyous in execution. I’ve read that some people hate this album. To them I ask, what is it like to be cold inside? Kick any puppies today? Aww, hell. I can’t stay mad, this album is too fun. Is it possible to be too fun? Ask Passion Pit.

Ready For The Weekend by Calvin Harris: He still likes girls

August 19, 2009

Calvin Harris is a young British guy who, much like Lily Allen, got his record deal based on some tunes he slapped up on a Myspace page. Thus, Harris lacks that polish of your typical pop star, and in interviews he tends to come across as a pretty normal guy. His music is pretty unpretentious and the songs tend to hang on themes of parties, girls, and girls at parties. Which is fine, he’s famous and in his 20’s, I hope he’s enjoying girls at parties. However, it appears that on Ready For The Weekend Harris comes dangerously close to sucking the well dry on party tunes for and/or about girls.

Just to get it out of the way, Ready For The Weekend isn’t bad. Calvin Harris continues to make jams, he just can’t sustain it for an entire album. At 15 tracks, Ready For The Weekend nearly topples over from being so front loaded. Tracks like “Rain”, “Ready For The Weekend” and “Flashback” are fine  editions to the catalog. At the same time, Calvin Harris’s limitations as a singer and lyricist are much more obvious. “Worst Day” finds Calvin heartbroken and listing all the mistakes he made in a relationship with a woman. It’s so earnest as to become a parody, and wouldn’t be out of place on the Flight of the Conchord’s album. Obviously, there it would have more jokes. Harris as a singer has not grown on me as he seems to only sing with various levels of bored detachment. When he concedes his choruses to various unknown female singers, the songs take off into the stratosphere. An album of Harris productions and a rotating cast of guest vocalists wouldn’t be a bad idea.

But there is plenty to love. The aforementioned “Flashback” is exhilarating and bold, and “Rain” is a party starter if I’ve ever heard one. Calvin smartly included his Dizzee Rascal collaboration “Dance Wiv Me”, which still grooves along as well as it did a year ago. “Stars Come Out” struts out on a familiar Harris bassline accompanied by some playful falsetto on the chorus from Calvin.

I don’t want my expectations to get the best of me, but I wanted more from this album. Harris has heard all the great dance artists, but he has yet to transcend his influences, which leads to plodding tracks like “5iliconeator” which sounds like a weak attempt at Moby ambience, or “Yeah Yeah Yeah La La La”, an embarrassing Prince imitation.

Ready For The Weekend works for a time but comes far short of classic status. Especially in year where acts like Phoenix, Passion Pit and MSTRKRFT have brought the heat, Calvin Harris’s latest can’t help but feel undercooked.

Van She is like cheesy bread

November 3, 2008

Van She is comfort food music. Pleasant, well constructed Australian synth rock with a pop edge, it's like a kinder Phoenix, if you can believe that. Pretty good for work too. 

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