Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Holidays.

I've been out of town with spotty internet reception for the holidays. I will be posting more soon.
I hope everyone had a great holiday!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pitchfork Top Songs of 2008 (1-50)


Here is the other half of Pitchfork Media's '100 Best Tracks of 2008' list. I will wait to post the top albums until they post the list in its entirety. You can check out (50-26) here.
In typical Pitchfork fashion, a good number of dance singles pepper the list, with a good mix of indie favorites thrown in for good measure.

Enjoy!

Pitchfork 100 Best Tracks of 2008

NPR Readers Pick Their Top Albums of 2008


It is list time. 2008 is growing to a close and 'best of' lists are popping up everywhere. To some this may be overkill, but I love it. I am currently crafting my own list, perfecting it before I unveil it on this blog. It's so hard to choose with so many excellent releases out this year. But, I will have the list out before the Christmas holidays, never fear.

NPR has released its list of reader favorites for the year. I must be an NPR listener because I agree with most of their list and own 18 of the 25 titles. But, they did omit a few of my personal favorites.

Check it out.

Death Cab for Cutie on Craig Ferguson

Death Cab for Cutie appeared on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson last night with a hilarious introduction by James Lipton from Inside the Actor's Studio. This week has been an excellent week for indie music on late night shows. Fleet Foxes were on Conan on Tuesday night, performing an excellent version of "English House." Before the Death Cab performance, viewers got to see Broken Social Scene appear on Letterman. Tonight we have Of Montreal on Letterman and the Cure on Carson Daly.

Check out this video of Death Cab performing "Cath" off of their latest album "Narrow Stairs."

Jack White Interviews Cate Blanchett


Cate Blanchett.

Not only is she beautiful and an excellent actress, Blanchett is also an engaging and interesting interview subject as well.

In the recent edition of Interview magazine, we get the pleasure of Cate in a well-crafted interview with White Stripes frontman Jack White. They talk about their kids, Blanchett's upbringing, and Blanchett's new job as co-artistic directer (along with her husband Andrew Upton) of the Sydney Theater Company.

Did I mention the striking photos that accompany the article?

Check it out here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pitchfork names 51-100 of top songs of 2008

The exalted music website Pitchfork Media has released numbers 51-100 of their top tracks of 2008, with promises that 1-50 would be coming soon. They will also be releasing their picks for the best albums of the year later this week.

My favorite track on the list, "Little Bit," an infectious dance number by Swedish songstress Lykke Li, comes in at #54.



Check it the whole list here.

"Dark Was the NIght" album benefits AIDS research


"Dark Was the Night," a double-disc album to benefit AIDS research, will be released February 17th on the Beggar's Banquet imprint. Curated by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of the National, the album features performances by Spoon, Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Bird, My Morning Jacket, Bon Iver and Yo La Tengo, to name a few of the stellar cast of performers.

The disc will benefit the Red Hot organization, to fund research to help find a cure AIDS.

According to Billboard magazine, the tracklist for the two discs is as follows:

Disc one:
"Knotty Pine," Dirty Projectors and David Byrne
"Cello Song," the Books featuring Jose Gonzalez
"Train Song," Feist and Ben Gibbard
"Deep Blue Sea," Grizzly Bear
"So Far Around the Bend," the National
"Tightrope," Yeasayer
"Feeling Good," My Brightest Diamond
"Dark Was the Night," the Kronos Quartet
"I Was Young When I Left Home," Antony and Bryce Dessner
"Big Red Machine," Bon Iver and Aaron Dessner
"Sleepless," the Decemberists
"Die," Iron & Wine
"Service Bell," Grizzly Bear and Feist
"Blood," Sufjan Stevens

Disc two:
"Well-Alright," Spoon
"Lenin," the Arcade Fire
"Mimizan," Beirut
"El Caporal," My Morning Jacket
"Inspiration Information," Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
"With a Girl Like You," Dave Sitek
"Blood Pt. 2," Buck 65 remix featuring Sufjan Stevens and Serengeti
"Hey, Snow White," the New Pornographers
"Gentle Hour," Yo La Tengo
"Another Saturday," Stuart Murdoch
"Happiness," Riceboy Sleeps
"Amazing Grace," Cat Power
"The Giant of Illinois," Andrew Bird
"Lua," Conor Oberst and Gillian Welch
"When the Road Runs Out," Blonde Redhead and Devestations
"Love vs. Porn," Kevin Drew

SXSW 2009


I know. SXSW 2009 is three months away, but i'm already getting ants in my pants in anticipation of my own adult Disneyland, as my friend Kimberly calls it. Plus, this freezing weather has got me dreaming of March. I've been scouring the internet for some tasty tidbits. Here is what I found.
SXSW announced the first round of official bands a few weeks ago. Here's the list:
Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele
St. Vincent
Beach House
Anni Rossi
Future of the Left
White Lies
Passion Pit
B.o.B
Sage Francis


Some other bands that are playing (unofficially, so far):
These Arms Are Snakes, Past Lives, Human Highway, Cotton Jones, The Coathangers and Youth Group. This info comes via donewaiting.com, an excellent blog for all things South by Southwest.

Also, Ana over at Austin Soundcheck confirms that Liverpool duo Dirtblonde will be making an appearance at SXSW 2009.

I will be posting updates as I find them.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

La Blogotheque

I discovered the fabulous Take-Away sessions on the website La Blogotheque featuring some stellar acts directed by up-and-coming directors. I especially love The National's take-away session that showcases stark, beautiful versions of the songs "Start A War" and "Ada" off The National's exceptional 2007 album "The Boxer."




Bon Iver, an artist on a lot of short lists for best album of 2008, is also featured on one of the take away sessions. Originally a solo project of Justin Vernon's, Bon Iver has clearly graduated into a band effort. Backed by former guitar student Mike Noyce and multi-instrumentalist Sean Carey, the trio's exquisitely layered harmonies shine through on versions of "Skinny Love" and "Flume" off of Bon Iver's stellar album "For Emma, Forever Ago."


The Take-Away sessions also feature performances by Okkervil River, Vampire Weekend, Fleet Foxes, Voxtrot and countless others. The best thing is this: you can download these performances for free!

The Calm Blue Sea @ the Mohawk tomorrow.


The Calm Blue Sea, a local instrumental five-piece, play tomorrow night at the Mohawk with locals The Midgetmen, Follow That Bird! and The Bubbles and also on January 2nd during free week with Til We're Blue or Destroy. If you haven't seen these guys live yet, you are in for a real treat.

It's hard to avoid the inevitable comparison's to Explosions in the Sky. But with that said, The Calm Blue Sea sets itself apart from falling into the carbon copy comparison category. With its soaring crescendos and sad melodies, The Calm Blue Sea creates a sonic landscape reminiscent of early Pink Floyd. Melancholy piano arpeggiations color each passage with depth and resonation. Sparse acoustic guitars suddenly burst into Loveless-era distortion creating an impenetrable wall of sound. More akin to the dry, inhospitable climate of Mars than Earth, their music is clearly meant to transport the listener to another astral plane.

Their self-titled EP, released this year, is available on digital outlets such as iTunes and eMusic, as well as locally at Waterloo Records and End of an Ear.

Monday, December 8, 2008

And the winner is....


One of my favorite blogs Stereogum has released the results of their annual Gummy Awards. The winners can thank the readership of Stereogum who voted on their favorites in categories like "Best Album," "Best Music Video,""Best Live Act," and my favorite "Best Indie Crush." There are a ton of other categories to check out.

You can see them all here.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A-Rod and Madonna Just Friends?


According to People magazine, Yankees star Alex Rodriguez claims that he and Madonna are "just friends -- that's it."
Rodriguez says he has only been to two of her concerts, not the twenty plus that the tabloids are claiming. He also said, contrary to the tabloid rumor mills, that he and Madonna have never been on a plane together and are not planning to buy an apartment together.
The two recent divorcees have been in the tabloids frequently this year, most recently when A-Rod was spotted at Madonna's concert in Mexico a couple of weeks ago.
Rodriguez' wife Cynthia filed for divorce in July, citing A-Rod's alleged infidelities, while Madonna divorce from British film maker Guy Ritchie was finalized last month.

Coldplay Rips Off Joe Satriani?

Guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani is suing Coldplay over their song "Viva La Vida," which can be found on their recent album of the same name. Satriani claims that Coldplay's song contains a significant amount of original portions of his 2004 song "If I Could Fly."

Pitchfork Media dug up this YouTube video comparing the two.



I have to admit, the songs do sound very familiar.

According to Reuters (via Pitchfork), Satriani is asking for compensation for damages and "any and all profits from the song."
That could amount to a lot of money, considering that the album (and the song itself) has just been nominated for several Grammy's.

Longest Band Names Ever.


Speaking of trends, why do certain bands feel compelled to stir things up by making their band names super long? Some like to make their song titles inexplicably long. Sufjan Stevens, i'm talking to you.

I thought it might be time to explore some of these bands. A few of them even come from right here under our very nose. I'm sure that there are a ton of obscure bands with longer names. But, for the sake of space (and time) I will stick to some of the more well-known artists.

I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness
From right here in Austin, this is the funniest name of all. I use the name in conversation frequently to be silly. According to Wikipedia, the band name is also the name of an episode of "One Tree Hill," a show on the WB.

What Made Milwaukee Famous
Signed to indie imprint Barsuk, these boys also hail from Austin. The name comes from the Jerry Lee Lewis song "What's Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me).

...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
Another Austin band. Probably the most well-known out of the long named Austin alumni. The band's website says the name is taken from an ancient Mayan ritual chant, although this is suspected to be a joke.


Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

An indie pop band from Springfield, Missouri signed to Polyvinyl Records. The name refers to the former Soviet president Boris Yeltsin.

Margot and the Nuclear So & So's
Hailing from Indianapolis, this indie rock band got their name from Gwenyth Paltrow's character in "The Royal Tennenbaums."


Thao With the Get Down Stay Down

Led by the smooth-voiced Thao Nguyen, this San Francisco group made waves this year with their album "We Brave Bee Stings and All."

My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult
This industrial electro-rock band goes way back to the 1980's and features a revolving cast of characters and musicians. Their album titles, including "Kooler Than Jesus," "Sexploitation," and "Gay, Black & Married," are almost as funny as their name.

The Presidents of the United States of America
PUSA is a twice Grammy-nominated band originally from Seattle, Washington. Their self-titled debut album sold millions of copies, yielding the singles "Lump," "Peaches," and "Kitty."

Where Have I Heard This?

At work the other day I heard a familiar song on the radio. Where had I heard the song? Why was I humming along to the chorus? I looked at the XM box to find out the artist's name.

Chairlift.
Kind of a silly name.

Then I realized I had heard the song on an Apple commercial for the new, colorful iPod nanos. It's amazing the ability Apple has to cherry pick catchy songs for their commercials: Songs that stick with you, whether you like them or not. Past ads have featured Feist, The Ting Tings and Yael Naim.

I have to admit, I kind of like this little ditty.

Check out the commercial for yourself.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Prop. 8, The Musical!

Check out this video "Prop. 8: The Musical." Directed by Marc Shaiman, it features a star-studded cast, including Jack Black, John C. Reilly, Margaret Cho and Maya Rudolph, among others.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

School of Seven Bells.


School of Seven Bells is the new project from ex-Secret Machines guitarist Benjamin Curtis and twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza, formerly of On! Air! Library!
With soaring harmonies by the Deheza sisters and Mr. Curtis, "Alpinisms," their exquisitely layered debut, transports the listener into SOSB's sleepy dreamscape. The album is equal parts Kate Bush and Stereolab with a little prog. rock and psychedelica thrown in for good measure.

"Iamundernodisguise" gets things started with chanting vocals complemented by a mixture of analog and electronic instrumentation, conveying a more Eastern motif. The lyrics, sparse but powerful, show the underlying spiritual undertones found throughout the entire album:

I am neither breather nor speaker
I am neither walker nor sleeper
I am neither sister brother son nor daughter
Solely in my chest is my heart a drum of water

I am under no disguise


"Half Asleep," the first single off of "Alpinisms," starts off with shimmering vocals, showcasing the Deheza sisters perfect pitch harmonies. It's a catchy piece, surely to help pick up a few new fans on their recent tour with M83, a band who shares some of the same sonic elements with School of Seven Bells.

"Alpinisms" evokes the inevitable shoegaze comparisons, My Bloody Valentine in particular, especially on closer "My Cabal," with its crushing wall-of-sound effects and layered vocals.

Some may find the Enya-like new age vocals off putting on songs like "White Elephant Coat" and "For Kalaja Mari." Those songs, although not the strongest points on the album, add color and depth to an already stellar collection of tunes.

The name of the album references French poet René Daumal, who defined alpinisms as "the art of climbing mountains." According to guitarist Alejandra Deheza, the term refers to "mountain climbing songs," a fitting description of the songs, which combine billowing grace with ethereal beauty to lift you to great heights.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Grammy Nominations Announced.


In an obvious attempt to make up for the poorly rated 2008 Grammy's, The Recording Academy announced the 2009 Grammy nominations on a prime time concert this evening. The show featured performances by Foo Fighters, Taylor Swift and Mariah Carey, among others.

Album of the year nominees included Coldplay, Lil Wayne, Radiohead, Ne-Yo and Robert Plant & Alison Kraus.

Best new artist nominees? Adele, Duffy, The Jonas Brothers, Lady Antebellum and Jazmine Sullivan.

For the full list of nominees go here.

I Heart Sirius XMU

We subscribe to XM Radio at my place of employment. I haven't paid too much attention until we discovered channel 43, Sirius XMU. I think it came about as a result of their XM and Sirius' merger. It is an indie station that plays every song I love. Seriously. I could put my iPod on shuffle and get a lot of the same songs.

I especially love Josiah's show.

Will you marry me?

A sample playlist:

Ra Ra Riot - "Ghost Under Rocks"
Bon Iver - "Skinny Love"
Pinback - "Penelope"
LCD Soundsystem - "Time to Get Away"
Beck - "Orphans"
M83 - "Kim & Jessie"
Vampire Weekend - "M79"
The Walkmen - "Donde Esta La Playa"

Kristin Stewart to play Joan Jett.


Twilight actress Kristin Stewart is slated to play Joan Jett in a new biopic about the Runaways, Jett's first band.

According to Pitchfork Media, the biopic will be directed by veteran video producer Floria Sigismondi (Sigur Ros, Christina Aguilera, Interpol, The White Stripes). Jett has signed on as executive producer.

The movie is set to start filming next year.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Best of the Best.




"Best Albums of 2008" lists are popping up everywhere. It seems like they come earlier every year. I am still delicately crafting my own top 20 list. These things take a lot of time and deliberation, at least for me they do.

Here are some links to some of the just-released lists.

Paste Magazine Top 50


Blender Magazine Top 33


Q Magazine Top 50


Uncut & Mojo Magazine Top 50


Amazon.com Top Picks


Heavy hitters like Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and Spin have yet to release their year
end lists.

Thanks to the excellent site Stereogum for the links!

Stephen King likes Austin Music.


Stephen King has released his top ten album list for 2008.

Yes, you read right. Stephen King. Author of such classics as "It," "The Stand," and "The Shining."

You may ask what qualifies Stephen King to be writing about music? Well, what qualifies anyone to write about music? It is refreshing to read his insight on the music that made him excited this year. And the selection is suprisingly diverse for an old dude. I mean, hard-rock band Buckcherry competing for the top spot with The Pretenders? King even adds electronica sampling wunderkid Greg Gillis, aka Girl Talk, to his list.

Austin artists James McMurtry and Alejandro Escovedo hold two of the top spots on his list, numbers 3 and 5, respectively. King confesses his love for McMurtry in this blurb:

McMurtry's songs inhabit a different universe from most of the Nashville crap in heavy rotation on the mainstream country stations. ''God knows she tries, but when you're that far down you're just gonna get high,'' he sings on ''Fire Line Road.'' You won't hear that observation on a Kenny Chesney album, and you'll hear little there that rocks as infectiously as ''Bayou Tortous.'' Everything here works.


Stephen King's list:


10. "Hey Ma" - James
9. "Harps and Angels" - Randy Newman
8. "Gift of Screws" - Lindsey Buckingham
7. "Lay It Down" - Al Green
6. "Viva La Vida" - Coldplay
5. "Real Animal" - Alejandro Escovedo
4. "Feed the Animals" - Girl Talk
3. "Just Us Kids" - James McMurtry
2. "Black Ice" - AC/DC
1. "Black Butterfly" - Buck Cherry
"Break Up the Concrete" - The Pretenders

You can check out the whole article, with King's witty comments here.

Celebrity alter egos.





With the recent unveiling of Sasha Fierce, Beyonce's alter ego, I wanted to revisit some other famous folks who reinvented themselves by taking on another persona.

Garth Brooks- Chris Gaines
Garth Brooks, in an attempt to go back to his rock and roll roots, unveiled his alter ego Chris Gaines. Apparently no one was interested. The album was a flop.

David Bowie- Ziggy Stardust
David Bowie was one of the first to adopt an alter ego. Flamboyant and androgynous, the character ushered in the glam movement of the early 1970's.

Eminem- Slim Shady
Eminem allegedly came up with this alter ego on the toilet. Nasty!

Mariah Carey- Mimi
Mariah Carey claims that Mimi is a very personal nickname used only by close friends and family. Not anymore. Carey's multi-platinum album "The Emancipation of Mimi" made sure of that.

Miley Cyrus- Hannah Montana
There is not much difference between the two besides a blonde wig and a hopped up Disney-created persona. She is the first alter ego star to have her own 3D movie.

Thanksgiving toast.

Cheers to you!
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