Thursday, December 30, 2004

top 10

I always wanted to make top 10 or top 30 lists of my current listening, but i never had any kind of stats to help determine the list. So, now with my ipod (another testimonial, oh my god im a corporate whore) i can see the most listened to tracks and they are as follows:

artist - song (number of plays)

10) The Four Freshman - Day By Day (4)
9) The Chords - Sh-Boom (4)
8) Ben Kweller - Falling (6)
7) The Bees - Wash in the Rain (6)
6) The Black Keys - Hard Row (7)
5) The Bees - Punchbag (7)
4) The Bees - Sky Holds the Sun (8)
3) The Bees - I Love You (8)
2) The Bees - No Atmosphere (13)
1) The Bees - A Minha Menina (16)

How 'bout those bees?
I'm a sucker for stats and lists...

"Opportunities available for all walks of life in Australia" - the Kinks

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

That's one step back!

I've downloaded 8 songs by the Bees, who have 2 full length albums, and already i feel like they may be my favourite band of the last 25 years. That's a huge statement, i know, but i cannot stop listening to those 8 songs. The top 6 played tracks on my ipod are all Bees songs.

Now, if you're not the type of music fan who likes the kind of band that proudly displays all their influences, the Bees are not for you. They borrow copiously from the Beatles (who doesn't?) and the Small faces, the Kinks, Motown, etc. But damn they do it well! They really write great songs, they play their instruments well and they can sing to suit any style. The Bees are true masters in the studio, and that's often my favourite type of group. They're basically 2 guys from the Isle of Wight who play multiple instruments and both sing. When you put talented musicians who are creative in a studio setting like that, the results are fantastic. Sure there isn't the raw power of live acts who hack away in sweaty bars, but there's something to be said for those perfect sounds that the studio can create.

Unfortunately i cannot find their stuff anywhere. I'm considering ordering from A & B online (although i hear that's not very reliable) or maybe off of Amazon.ca, but that's very expensive, because they are imports. [Joel, do you know anything about ordering off of A&B online?].
My friend Tammie who's currently in the UK said she'd look for me if she had any cash left, but i didn't really want to burden her trip with my cd shopping, i'm not that selfish.

I only know 8 songs, but they're all very good to exceptional. I haven't felt this strongly about a new discovery in a long time.

And so that brings me to kind of a question- What bands or songs made you feel the way the Bees make me feel? You hear 1 or 2 songs and immediately want to know their whole catalogue.
I can remember being pretty excited when i first heard the strokes, jurassic 5, or having my mind blown by the Beatles' catalogue.

"You're the second thing to knock me over" - the Bees

Monday, December 27, 2004

Ipod saves the day!

I know this seems like a stupid ipod ad or something, but my ipod really made my day today.

I awoke from a depressing dream (which unfortunately is a common occurence this past half a year) and immediately felt the need to listen to Ben Kweller's "Falling". It's often that i "need" to hear a particular song, but by the time i locate the cd and load and start the cd player...the urge has dissapeared without satisfaction. But, thanks to my new ipod i just grabbed it from my bed-side table and had it playing in seconds. As a result, i felt more alert and less sad.

Thankyou ipod!

"Saw two shadow men on the valance road..." - the Libertines

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Looking back at 2004

Alrighty, i keep putting off this review thing because i figured it would take so much time to structure it all, so i'm just gonna freestyle it. Thus, some things may be omitted, but i'll post again if need be.

2004 Best Songs:
The Datsuns - Hong Kong Fury (probably the best track of the year, i've rambled on enough about this one)
Outkast - Roses (i loved this one when i first bought the album and was pumped when it was their next single)
The Libertines - Can't Stand Me Now (great back and forth vocals made even more impressive considering their meaning)
N.E.R.D. - Breakout (funky, dancy, pop-rock, great falsetto from Pharrell)
The Bees - I Love You (simple message and melody, but exquisite harmonies and instrumentations)
Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out (this song was everywhere, but rightly so, it's so catchy and once the newness wares off, the overall quality of the song keeps you listening to it)
Ben Kweller - Hospital Bed (like the twin of either 'hey bulldog' or 'lady madonna', a great big of pop-rock)
Gwen Stefani - What You Waiting For (awesome cocky dance number)
Razorlight - Rip it Up (kickass bit of spazzy rock, lots of energy)
The Thrills - Not For All the Love in the World (breathless vocals from Conor Deasy and tragic orchestral accompaniment make this one a heartbreaker)
Wilco - Company in my Back (great laid back track)
Phantom Planet - 1st things 1st (almost perfect pop-rock song, catchy as hell)
Beasite Boys - Triple Trouble (uses rapper delight in a way that hasn't been done, well done boys)
Air - Cherry Blossom Girl (beatiful little piece)
Scissor Sisters - Lovers in the back seat (great melody, cool disco feel)

No doubt i left out a bunch of great tracks there...

Worst Song of 2004:
The Trews - Tired of Waiting
What a shite song! slow, boring, terrible and annoying melody, the excruciating attempt at sounding soulful at the end. I hated this song so much and what makes it worse is that i know many a girl who just love it...please, if you want a beautiful, slow song, check out "I Love You" or "Sky Holds the Sun" by the Bees.

A few words on some albums from 2004 that didn't make my top 10:

Franz Ferdinand - S/T
Everyone likes this album and i'm no exception. The 1-2-3 punch of "Tell Her Tonight", "Take Me Out", and "The Dark of the Matinee" are pretty tough to beat, but the rest of the album is just solid. There are no bad songs, but they are a little bit too much the same.

Wilco - A Ghost is Born
This has some really great songs but too many "experimental" aspects. Too many 7 minute songs and who thought 8 minutes of nothing was a good idea? Jeff Tweedy is too talented a songwriter to bog down his work with stuff like this.

The Streets - A Grand Don't Come For Free
Another really good one, i usually hate concept albums, but given the medium he's using (rap/spoken word/electronica) it really works. I love his accent and sense of humour.

The Libertines - The Libertines
The reviewer from Blender hit it dead on: given the conditions this album was made, it's great, otherwise it's just good. Their selfitled album is a good one, but it really pails in comparison to their debut, Up the Bracket. Many of the songs sound unfinished, like they needed more work that just wasn't available due to Pete Doherty's drug escapades.

The Futureheads - The Futureheads
Good angular pop/rock/punk riffs and silly/spazzy english singing. But the album was too long and a little bit too spazzy in the nerdy way, as opposed to cute and likeable like Hot Hot Heat.

Brian Wilson - Smile
I just didn't dig this. I definitely need to listen to it more, but it just sounded like an old man trying to recreate some overly whimsical feelings he associates with his youth. Keep in mind: i love Brian Wilson and whimsy, and still didn't dig this.

Dilated Peoples - Neighbourhood Watch
A dissapointment. I was expecting big things from these guys, i loved both "the Platform" and "Expansion Team", but they really put a few feet wrong on this one. The beats lack their classic sound and the rhymes are weak.

Kanye West - The College Dropout
Just about the most overrated album ever. This is a good album, but it's getting praised as groundbreaking. Anything Kanye does that's new to mainstream rap has been done by underground MCs for years. Still, it sure beats 50 cent.

The Hives - Tyrannosaurus Hives
A solid album, no real weak tracks, a few good ones, but nothing really takes off the way "Main Offender" or "the Hives declare Guerre Nuclaire" off of their last album.

The Von Bondies - Pawn Shoppe Heart
Good garage rock, but lacks any sense of humour. Sounds too serious and downcast.

Loretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose
Good old country record, but what's the big fuss? Yeah she's an old vet making a comeback, yeah Jack White, bla bla, the music is just good, not great.

Scissor Sisters - S/T
Nearly written off as a novelty, the trio of "Mary", "Lovers in the Backseat" and "Tits on the Radio" is fantastic. This very nearly made the top 10.

Ryan Adams - Love is Hell (1 & 2)
Many hailed these as bringing him as close as he's ever been to his Heartbreaker quality. They are quite good, Rock 'n' Roll and Gold were better. I don't even like many of the influences on this album, but i still like it.



That's about all i have to say on that.


"Oh your strange manners how i love them so/ why don't you wear your new trenchcoat?" - the Strokes

Boxing Day

Didn't brave the shoppers of boxing day this year, i usually do, but i have no money with which to spend on marginally reduced items i don't need. I have no christmas money because i got my dream present: an ipod. It's a 40 gb one, which means roughly 10,000 song (i love it). I've been loading it as much as i've had time for, i've got around 33 albums plus 5 or 6 ep/single albums and 40 odd mp3s. I enjoy doing mindless tasks like this, i always have, so i don't mind the tedious procedure. When i'm done i'll be able to listen to any song i want whenever, wherever,etc. As a big music nerd, i love that. In short, the ipod is working out to be a perfect choice, and sure to be worth its ridiculous price tag.

Otherwise, the season has been a pleasant one, a little emotional b/c of some side events that may end up being very good, but i hate to vent on my blog about such matters.

"Minha Menina" - the bees

Friday, December 24, 2004

A Minha Menina

Well it's nearly that time of year...i keep meaning to post about other albums from 2004, and i most certainly will before the calendar year is done. I've been very busy lately buzzing about to various year-end things. But i just wanted to throw a little post on here wishing anyone who's anyone a very merry christmas/seasons greetings/happy holidays, etc.

Anyway, have a good one, whatever it is that you're having.

Remember, Ewan loves you.

"I want to hold you like the sky holds the sun" - the Bees

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Aha Shake Heartbreak!

You may have read a previous post lamenting the fact that the Kings of Leon's new album was available in the UK but not here untill Feb 2nd. Well my buddy Michael got in contact with his Aunt in England and she sent a copy over for me! So i've got the disc already and it's the UK version! Very excited am I, as their debut is one of my all-time favourites.

"Slow Night/ So Long" - Kings Of Leon

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A quick word.

Ok, you can let the bitching begin, but i'm going to post, either later tonight or tomorrow, on all the other albums that almost made it, dissapointing albums, etc.

Let me know what you think, and i'll let you know why i left them off or whatever.

"I was walking down the street/ so this girl she smelled so sweet" - N.E.R.D.

1

N.E.R.D. - Fly or Die

"This is the best album of the year, so far..." - Me, circa April

When i made the comment, i was reasonably sure that this album would be the best of the year. I couldn't believe what i was hearing. Every song had great melodies, hooks and riffs that jumped out at you and kept me coming back to this disc over and over. Pharrell Sounds so cool in both his trademark falsetto (definitely his own, not a prince imitation) and in full voice. He maybe doesn't have the strongest voice, but he works what he's got like a master.

A common misconception is that N.E.R.D. are hip hop. It's really just ignorance on the part of critics, as there are no samples on this album. Hell, there's not even any rapping. The styles and influences are vast. Whether sounding like a classic Burt Bacharach tune ("Wonderful Place"), or like vintage Neptunes ("She Wants to Move"), N.E.R.D. run the gamut with awe-inspiring diversity. Every track finds a way to branch off into new directions. From the dirty funk of "Backseat Love", the poppy-dance of "Break out", the anti-war track "Drill Sergeant" (which is actually really-good, no 'give peace a chance' pretentions) to the Steely Dan-esque album closer "Chariots of Fire", with it's fabulous double tracked harmonies, the album never stalls. Even a weaker song, such as "Maybe", has a section that'll get stuck in your head and keep you coming back to it. That's the strength of Pharrell and Chad Hugo: they may not get you at first, but you'll come back for another listen.

The scary thing is, this album is nowhere near the best work they can do. It's still a ways behind their amazing 2002 debut "In Search Of" (probably the best album of that year). The lyrics are pretty much a joke, sample: "Her ass is a spaceship i want to ride". But it hardly matters when the music is this good. Take the bar-fight song "Thrasher". Pounding drums and piano back Pharrell detailing the situation when "Every once in a while there is some asshole/who's giving you shit cause something in his life won't fold". The song is so badass sounding that you feel almost ready to fight with him, especially when the background is loaded with voices yelling "fuck him up!". Hell, i'm no figher, but i'm ready to go toe to toe with whoever this asshole Pharrell's singing about.

It seems almost impossible that an album featuring Good Charlotte's Joel Madden that also has some of the stupidest lyrics you've heard would be the best album of the year. Those 2 elements certainly seem like a blueprint for disaster, but no lyrical shortcomings can overshadow the fact that this is the most groovin', fun, and musical album of the year. It's got so many different sounds and style, and every track has a killer melody. Tracks like "Chariot of Fire" sound like songs you've known for years, but they're entirely original. "Don't Worry 'Bout It" and "Backseat Love" are dumb as hell, but you'll love how they make you bob your head at their cockiness. No album this year has songs that are this good, and no album is as fun to listen to.

Shame on you/
You say you served your country
While I'm young/
Shame on you/
Looks my mind up, handing me guns/
Byebye Mom and Dad and all/
Just incase there's failure/
I could be blaming you
- "Drill Sergeant"

Monday, December 20, 2004

Recap

I wanted to put pics in here, but i just can't seem to get them to work. Anways, to recap:

10) the Beastie Boys - To the 5 Buroughs
9) Air - Talkie Walkie
8) Gwen Stefani - Love, Angel, Music, Baby
7) the Vines - Winning Days
6) the Thievery Corporation - the Outernational Sound
5) the Thrills - Let's Bottle Bohemia
4) DJ Nu-Mark - Hands On
3) Razorlight - Up All Night
2) the Black Keys - Rubber Factory/ the Datsuns - Outta Sight/Outta Mind (tie)

"I'm a huge nerd" - me

2

Ok, I cheated on this one. It's hard to fit all your favourites on a list like this so i crammed in two albums at the number 2 spot.

The Black Keys - Rubber Factory
The Datsuns - Outta Sight/Outta Mind

When it comes down to it, it's hard to beat simple rock and roll. A hard drum beat, good guitar riffs, a tough vocal line, it's all very common stuff. And it's not hard to do. Countless bands follow the blueprint, only to arrive at mediocrity. But when all the elements of great rock 'n' roll are bang on, the result is sublime. Such is the case with "Rubber Factor" and "Outta Sight/Outta Mind", two different albums that are the best rock records of the year.

"Rubber Factory" is more of the same from the great duo, the Black Keys. Dan Auerbach's voice is still tough and weathered on tracks like "10 a.m. automatic" and "Girl is on my Mind". But he also reveals a surprisingly tender side on "the Lengths" and the better than the original cover of the Kinks' "Act Nice and Gentle To Me". His guitar playing is still great, he writes great riffs and varies his distortion from uberthick (on "Aeroplane Blues") to Garage Rock thin (on "All Hands Against His Own"). Patrick Carney's drumming is best described as inventive, as he always finds ways to play a unique drum pattern. This could be distracting- the White Stripes work well with the simple drumming of Meg White providing a showcase for Jack White's guitar work- but his drumming interacts with Auerbach's guitar playing exceptionally. Together they compliment each other very well; you'll easily forget you're listening to only 2 musicians.

The duo tear through a fantastic set of songs with greater variation than their previous albums. And they know how to order their tracks. The 2 slower songs, "When the Lights Go Out" and "The Lenghts", are followed by balls out rocking tunes, "10 a.m. automatic" and "Grown So Ugly", respectively. The latter is a fantastic cover of an old blues classic, last covered by Captain Beefheart, that really displays the Keys' ability to play the blues with the best of them. But they are not merely rehashing bands like Cream or Zeppelin. The Black Keys have modern influences too. The influence of funk is somewhat evident on "Just Couldn't Tie Me Down", while the punk rock aesthetic is all over "Aeroplane Blues". That's the great thing about the Black Keys: they're steeped in the blues-rock tradition, but they're still facing forward.

Having said that, sometimes advancing the genre isn't necessary. That's certainly the case with the Datsuns. They're very much like the hard-rock acts of the late '70s and early '80s, and like the other modern acts reviving that genre, they've added the newer guitar sound to the same template. But like the Black Keys, the Datsuns stand out because they do what they set out to do so bloody well.

"Outta Sight/Outta Mind" is a fast, loud and very exciting record. It's full of loud guitars, wailing vocals, songs about cheating on your girlfriend, hong kong furies, and cherry lanes. The reaction to this type of album is visceral- if you like it you'll be unable to play it incredibly loudly without feeling the desire to smash things and yell loudly. And i really love that. It's not often that a band of this variety can do that to me. I usually dislike the majority of hard rock. But the Datsuns know how to write good songs that sound great at loud volume. Plus, they never lower themselves to self-parody that the Darkness ever do. Yes, the Darkness have good songs, but you can't ever get over their sillyness when rocking out.

Dolph De Datsun's voice is perfectly suited to these types of songs. His vocals have 2 settings: sneer and shriek, and he does both very well. Just listen to him smugly tell you, "...my girl's best friend puts her hand in mine" before opening his vocal chords to wail, "Now i'm feeling alright!". "Cherry Lane" begins with him warning "Now i know, so consider yourself told, you fall for two woman, you're living a joke". It's not just what he's saying, but how. He sounds so authoritative, backed by huge guitar chords. The guitar work is also worthy of note. They alternate between crushing riffs and massive waves of power chords. The interworking between Dolph's vocal work, the guitar pyrotechnics of Phil and Christian Datsun, and Matt Datsun's drum work is awe-inspiring. They move effortlessly between dizzying riffs ("Hong Kong Fury" and "No Words") and furious drum breaks, where it seems as if the wheels are about to fall off before they start another juggernaut riff.

Outta Sight/Outta Mind is nothing new, but it's another fine addition to the hard rock library. I have no problem with putting this on par with Zeppelin (worth noting: John Paul Jones produced this album) and early Sabbath. One critic wondered why anyone would listen to a copy when the originals still exist? Well Zeppelin, Sabbath or ACDC for that matter, didn't have "Hong Kong Fury". This track is the best of the year. In a year where Bono refered to U2's vertigo as having the mother of all rock-riffs in it, "HKF" is all the more impressive. If these two songs were monsters fighting in a godzilla movie, "Vertigo" would be a bloody pile underneath the "HKF"'s beheamoth legs.

I still don't buy that rock music is dead, not when bands like the Datsuns and the Black Keys are around. Why? These songs are exciting, I get pumped up when i hear them, they make me feel cool. That's rock 'n' roll. Whether refining the sounds of the classics, or reshaping tried, tested and true formulas, these bands both made fantastic rock 'n' roll in 2004.

I grind my teeth, bite my tongue
Look at what we’ve become
- The Datuns, from "Blacken My Thumb"

You've got pain like an addict
10 a.m. automatic
-The Black Keys, from "10 a.m. automatic"

Thoughts at 2:17 am

Sam and I just finished watching "Saved" and "24 hour Party people".

Saved - 7.5/10. It was funny and hit out at one of my favourite targets: overly-fundamental Christianity. But towards the end it really conformed to the old teen movie cliches. Still, Mandy Moore was very good as were Jena Malone and the other girl who's name i don't know without looking up. Also, i like Patrick Fugit, and hope he goes on to be a mainstay.

24 hour party people - 8.5/10. I'm sure this would be a higher rating if i knew more about Joy Division or the Happy Mondays, but it was still a good show. Steve Coogan really owns the show as Tony Wilson who helped the Manchester music scene rise to prominence, as well as developing rave culture.

One more thing, i'm going to have to hunt down a copy of the Bees' "Free the Bees". They are a truly marvellous band, sounding straight out of the '60s, in the best way possible. I can't get enough of them and i only just downloaded them tonight.

"Any major dude with half a heart surely will tell you my friend..." - Steely Dan on 'Any Major Dude'

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Cassius

Finally bought a disc by this french techno band. I first listened to one of their discs at a and b, but wasn't interested as i was in my "Every electronic band should be like Air" phase. Today i was listening to their Au Reve album at Future Shop on those big headphones they have there and man it sounded good. Big fat synth sounds pulsing in and out of my head, i loved it. So i've brought it home now and we'll see how goes. It's more house/dance oriented than Air or Morcheeba, and less-hip hop than say the Avalanches. But variety is nice, and i'm really enjoying this first track especially, "Hi Water" which is just an assault of synths. What is it about synths that i love so much? (that is when they're used properly). Probably stems back to all the Stevie Wonder I listened to as a kid.

So anyway, back to the Ewan, one-man house party!

"He can walk into any book with his pony pal Pokey too..." - Gumby Theme Song

3

Razorlight - Up All Night

The majority of critics not only don't like this album, they flat out hate Razorlight. Their arguments usually follow along the lines of, "they rip off the Strokes, Television, Patti Smith, etc.". Well, that's true, they certainly borrow alot from those groups. But didn't the Strokes rip off Television and Patti Smith? Don't people rip off other artists all the time and still manage to make good music that is not quite exactly the same as the stuff they were influenced by? Yes, they do. And that's what Razorlight have done. This album isn't groundbreaking, they haven't miraculously invented some brilliant new genre of rock where minimalistic, atonal mandolin notes play over a Brian Eno produced drum loop. But what they have done is record 12 very good simple rock songs that flow remarkably well as an album.

Johnny Borrell, singer/songwriter/guitarist for the group, really makes this album work. The energy his contorted vocal lines bring to each song help elevate Up All Night above the status of a mere good Strokes ripoff album. Whereas Julian Casablancas is all laid back and lazy-cool, Borrell is riding high on geeky adrenaline. "Vice" and "Up all Night" showcase this well. They have frantic drumming with guitars that speed in and out of the rhythm section. They help give the impression of one of those nights where there's nothing to do, then there might be something, but wait... no nothing again.

"Rip it Up" is one of the best tracks on the album, as well as of the year. One review i read of this song lambasted it as Borrell imagining an amazing union of the Sex Pistols and Bob Dylan, bla bla, etc. I can understand critics using those sorts of analogies when songs are overly pretentious in their obvious uniting of past prominent musical styles, but "Rip it Up" is anything but. The tune is simple and exciting and the lyrics are the same: "Hey Girl/ get on the dance floor/ rip it up, yeah!". Nothing pretentious about that. It's just 2 minutes of crazy-fast, danceable rock 'n' roll.

Borrell suceeds even when he dials back the tempo. "Golden Touch" and "Rock n Roll Lies" are 2 examples that he's a genuinely good songwriter and singer. They have nice chord progressions, instrumentations, and on "Golden Touch", harmonies. The final track, "Fall, Fall, Fall" is perhaps the finest bit of emoting he does on the entire album. He sings: "Could i be any clearer/well could i speak any plainer i need you here..." as he plays simple guitar arpeggios. This sad little track closes the album on a quiet and sad note, almost like the end to an exhaustive night out. One of those nights that takes alot out of you, but leaves you with a lot of good memories.

Razorlight wil never make it big in North America, and i doubt they'll go much further than bands like the Libertines (who are pretty much done anyway) or even acts like Suede did in the early '90s. But 20 years from now when i'm waxing nostalgic about my late teens and early 20s, i'll go back to the guitar rock that's played by skinny guys with shaggy hair that always made me feel cool. The first disc i'll put on will be the Strokes' "Is This It", but "Up All Night" will be on right after.

"Well they mean, they're just jealous
Because they never do the things
That they wish that they could do so well" - from "Golden Touch"

And hours of making love in sadness
And a light that just won't shine in the dark
Could I be any clearer?
Could I speak any plainer I need you here!
Just to lead my way
And fall, fall, fall
-from "Fall Fall Fall"

Saturday, December 18, 2004

I'm in love with something that i can't see

aughhhhh....i just feel shitty. Too much partying/staying up late and bad eating. Now i really need to put in some solid hours on my studying before i have to return this textbook tomorrow.

There, done venting.

"I'm in love without you..." - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Friday, December 17, 2004

4

Nu-Mark - Hands On

As an avid Jurassic 5 fan, i've been anticipating the release of solo side-projects that may be released by any of the 6 members of hip hop's best group. On my usual visit to A & B one day this spring, i found this disc in the rap section and immediately grew excited. For one, it contained the track "Comin' Thru", which Ryan and I had been listening to off of the internet and vinyl. Secondly, it was a mix album put together by one of the two J5 djs Nu Mark, who is amongst the best in the game.

Hands On works in two halfs. The first is a sublime sampler of funky/jazzy instrumentals that really showcase Nu-Mark's skill with the MPC. The guy has great instincts for drumbeats. His beats always sound more musical than other hip hop producers. They really fill out the very simple yet catchy and definitely groovin' tracks like "Rubber Bumpers" and "Laying Eggs". Things start to heat up on "Fudge Funk" which is best described as a funk meltdown. Halfway through the album the rhymes start coming. The unbeatable Chali 2na lays it down on "Comin' Thru", another testament to his unmatched ability with word play. Vitamin D and Viktor Vaughn (aka MF Doom) are equally impressive on "No Good Crew Song" and "Saliva", respectively. The latter half of the disc is mainly hip hop stuff, but it's still got a unique edge on the competition. Nu-Mark's instrumentals are top shelf, never just mere loops, he fills them out with music breaks, sound effects, obscure samples, etc. The MCs also add to the disc's uniqueness. Scottish, Japanese, German, Australian and French MCs are all present, and the results are more than amusing, these guys can actually rap.

This disc got almost more play in my room and car than any other this year. When you've got 23 tracks that flow smoothly, giving you groove after groove, and some of the best non-big name MCs all on one disc, it's not hard to see why.

"But rapper's will tell you it's about G's and that's it/ (sample) mother fuckers got you believin' that shit" - Vitamin D on "No Good Crew Song"

"Alot of crews like to act like a violent mob/ they really just need to shut the fuck up like Silent Bob" - Viktor Vaughn on "Saliva"

"When i sayin' i'm much more than just some back pack crap/ intelligent rap act or militant black cat/ i'm killing venemous platinum plaque macks been forever spit irrelevant facts and that's that" - Chali 2na on "Comin' Thru"

Two Hearts in 3/4 time

Ewan Classic Songs:

Two Hearts in 3/4 time - the Avalanches, from Since I've Left You

Bizarre voices asking "Can't You Hear It?" repeat, then give way into whispers of "money", intercut with raucous screams, glockenspiel runs, and horns. What a weird start to a song. But then at 24 seconds in, it's all swirling soft sounds and a gentle female voice la-la-ing in a descending pattern stacked over great thick beat. This is really the best ear-candy money can buy. "Two Hearts..." has no real deep meaning, it just sounds lovely and sweet, like some blissfull spring waltz. It's treating me well today as it suits the warmish weather and is washing the thought of "Thunderstruck" out of my head.

The Avalanches are masters at creating this stuff. I really hope they come back with more soon, it's been too long since they've cut an album.

Ewan Classic Songs:
the Avalanches - Two Hearts in 3/4 time.
Beatles - Your Mother Should Know
N.E.R.D. - Tape You
Nico - These Days
Paul McCartney - Maybe I'm Amazed

You've been...Thunderstruck!

Time for another Ewan classic overrated/hated song:

ACDC - Thunderstruck

I remember first hearing this song in elementary school. My initial thoughts: what a slow and boring song. My thoughts now after hearing 'Thunderstruck" a million times since are still the same. I've heard this song countless time in weight rooms and football locker rooms and it always makes me sigh and roll my eyes. To start, the riff is bloody lame. So what would make a lame riff even better? Play it over and over for 4 and a half minutes! Then chant really bland rock slogans over top! Then the supposed climax where Brian Johnson (perhaps the worst singer of all time) screams "i was shaking at the knees" and it just lurches back into the mind-numbing dullness of that stupid riff. There's no melody to this song, so it should at least rock out very hard, but it doesn't. It's just a big long ride of bland arena rock. If this was a movie, i'd walk out halfway through.
I know lyrics are not the be all and end all of rock songs, but you can still try a little harder than this:

"Rode down the highway
Broke the limit, we hit the town
Went through to Texas, yeah Texas
And we had some fun
We met some girls
Some dancers who gave a good time
Broke all the rules, played all the fools
Yeah, yeah, they, they, they blew our minds"

Ewan classic overrated/hated songs:
ACDC - Thunderstruck
Lynyrd Skynyrd - Free Bird

From Otis to Wilson

I bought Otis Redding's "The Dock of the Bay" album yesterday. I'm listening to it right now, it's good, but it makes me want to listen to Wilson Pickett. I listened to 2 of Pickett's songs all the time as a kid: "In the Midnight Hour" and "Mustang Sally". He truly was the king of raspy voiced soul singers.

"I'm gonna wait 'till the midnight hour/ That's when my love begins to shine"

Thursday, December 16, 2004

What are they thinking?

I read in the paper today that Queen are planning on touring. Keep in mind- Freddie Mercury is no longer living. Last time i checked, Freddie Mercury was Queen. The guy's vocal pipes were unmatchable, how are they going to pull it off without him? Paul Rodgers? Who the hell is Paul Rodgers?
This is worse than the Doors touring without Jim Morrison or the Who without Keith Moon and John Entwistle. Freddie Mercury's voice just cannot be replaced or replicated.

"You suck my blood like a leech/ You break the law and you preach"

5

The Thrills - Let's Bottle Bohemia

The Ewan trinity of good music:
1) Great melodies.
2) Beautiful Harmonies
3) Full instrumentation.

The Thrills' "So Much for the City" album was packed with all 3 elements. They combined the tuneful balladry of the Carpenters with a vintage pop sound, while singing about the old west like an Irish version of the Band. The album instantly became one of my all-time favourites.

Let's Bottle Bohemia at first listen sounds like a collection of diluted outtakes from So Much for the City. I tossed this cd out of the loop after 1 or 2 listens. "How could they just dissapoint like this?" i wondered. The review in the sheaf entitled: "The Song Remains the Same" gave it 2 stars, a rating that seemed to fit. Then i decided to give the album another shot. Now little bits and pieces of songs were clicking. Strains of "Saturday Night" would be in my head as I drove to school in the morning. I would find myself coming home after a late night out and needing to listen to "Not for all the love in the world" on headphones before going to sleep. The songs really grew on me. They're not as easily accessable as the tunes on their debut, but they are just as rewarding.

Every song makes great use of the Thrills' instrumental lineup. They get an incredibly full sound from their piano, guitar, bass, drums combo. The occasional use of strings really fills out the sound. The arrangements themselves are exceptional. The piano and guitar interact wonderfully, providing the stage for the band's true star: Conor Deasy. Deasy writes all the songs, but his greatest talent is his voice. High, wispful, and sweet, he sounds as if he uses all his emotional energy to sing each line. That could be a terrible thing, but it's perfect considering his wounded voice suggests the heartbreak depicted in many of the album's songs. And it's not pain in an emo way. The Thrills use allegories like the failed career of actor Corey Haim and past their prime beauty pageant winners to create feelings of loss and isolation. At a time when lyrical honesty is becoming so common, it's nice to see a band paint with stylized strokes. The imagery is both identifiable and romantic.

This is another fine piece of work from the Thrills, who continue to make genuinely great music. The level of songcraft is very high, and the musicianship is very high. Anyone who wishes bands like the Beatles, the Byrds and the Beach Boys had made more albums will find some consolation in Let's Bottle Bohemia. On a thematic/emotional level, I especially enjoy its capacity for sounding both sad & tragic and happy & joyful. I've ended many a day lying in the dark listening to this beautiful album.

"I came to the city/to build a mountain of envy/and marry a Kennedy" - from 'Whatever Happened to Corey Haim?'

"I'm just a man/i'm just a man/not even a great one" - from 'Satudray Night'

I'm Mike D and i'm back from the dead

Haven't been on here for a bit. I was busy visiting with ex girlfriends, abusing my body with substances, robbing subway, etc. I'm very tired and hung over, but i've got Belle and Sebastian on and they're soothing.

Strongly reccomend the Avalanches cover of "I'm a Cuckoo" or the original version by Belle and Sebastian.

"I'm glad to see you/ i had a funny dream and you were wearing funny shoes" - Belle and Sebastian

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

6

The Thievery Corporation - The Outernational Sound

Ever wanted some really good music to relax to, but no so much so that it puts you to sleep? And it's got to be good for background music, but also interesting to actively listen to. It should be cool like bossa nova jazz but also fresh and modern sounding. I'm guessing you've actually never had all those desires at once, but if you did, i'd heartily reccommend you to check out The Outernational Sound.

The Thievery Corporation's Rob Garza and Eric Hilton have impeccable taste, and it shows on this fantastic DJ mix. They've gathered 20 great tracks, drawing from a plethora of musical styles: Brazillian bossa nova, Indian sitar, funky soul, etc. The art lies not only in their selection of each cut, but also the mixing of the tracks. "Ya Ma Le" features a latin phrase that repeats over shimmering percussion untill a grooved out organ speeds up the tempo. Then there's the great 1-2 funky punch of "cookin'" and "cramp your style". It's transitions like this that really elevate The Outernational Sound above a mere compilation.

Everytime i think about this album i have the desire to put it on. It sounds so fresh and full of rich instrumentation. Every track is stacked with rich sounds, and the diversity amongst the brief tracks ensures that the album never loses momentum or becomes bogged down in redundancy. This is a rare album that, like Air's Moon Safari, can be enjoyed while listening to attentively as well as while providing great background music. However, the chances are, if this is playing in the background, you'll probably pay attention to it anyway.

"I just had to cramp your style..."

Ewan's open question

Stealing a page out of Caitin's blog...

This is a topic that i find interesting, which director would you use (living or dead, afterall you're not likely to actually get them to do it for you) to direct the film about your life?

I thought of mine quite some time ago: Wes Anderson. When i watch his films i get nostalgic about things in my own life and i think that's a necessary quality for a film about me. Plus he's just a really good director who would portray me in a humourous light.

Anyone feel free to respond.

Monday, December 13, 2004

7

The Vines - Winning Days

The Vines managed to tread the middle ground between the "new rock" wave that featured the White Stripes and the Strokes, and the return of grunge thanks to bands like Nickleback, etc. Yeah, their sound had big, loud, distorted guitars, but they kept things buckled down to short compact song structures for the most part. They're music was never dull and boring. I, for one, thought their debut Highly Evolved was fantastic, deserving of the hype it received from the British music press. Every track was brimming with excitement and energy. Winning Days is not up to the same level, but it's still a great album.

Those who disliked the Vines usually dismissed them as regurgitating Nirvana. I think that's a poor assessment. Sure there's alot of Nirvana's influence in the Vines, the big contrasts between loud and quiet, the wailing choruses, the heavily distorted riffs; and if that had been all there was to the Vines' music, i'd dismiss them too. But the vines throw in all kinds of other elements: psychadelic harmonies (Autumn Shade II), '60s style vocal backings (on "Animal Machine"), and pretty melodies (almost every track on the latter half of the disc. The first single, "Ride", is a great straight-ahead rocker. There's nothing groundbreaking about it, it's just a solid rock 'n' roll track. The same goes for "TV pro" which has great nonsensical screaming. The closer "Fuck the World" is a nice blast of angst-filled youth rock. Then there's the brilliant "Autum Shade II". It easily outdoes its counterpart on Highly Evolved. Craig Nichols' harmonizing with himself is fantasic, sounding more hauntingly beautiful than anything i've heard in a long time.

When a band can create a song at this level, it's indicative of their level of talent, and when i say band, i mean Craig Nichols. This ridiculous character is resonsible for both the Vines rise and fall. He is immensly talented and smokes entirely too much weed. Recently he was diagnosed with a brain condition similar to autism. It's unfortunate that his erratic behaviour created a lot of backlash, when this is one of the more creative music talents in the modern game. It seems as if the band will no longer tour, but as long as the guy can keep creating in the studio, i'll be listening.

"Look through me because I am a transparent" - Craig Nichols

Critical Acclaim

If you've read some of the previous posts you may have sensed my dislike of critics. However, every once in a while I read a review that really makes me feel like there may be some merit to the job.

Clem Barstow, a contributer for Stylus Magazine (whatever that is), is 2 years older than me and really likes the new datsuns album, and from the little picture of her on the site, doesn't look too bad. But she certainly has a way with words:

(on the new datsuns album)
"Outta Sight/Outta Mind is not an album that you can discuss in measured tones whilst tending to your beard. It is an album that will only cause mass hysteria and blood clots and burst forth Kundalini from the base of your spine like some auto-massage chair plugged into the wrong transformer while you holler “wheeeeaaauurgh!!” and finally slump down into a wet pile of exhaustion."

"Reader, were you expecting me to chin-strokingly waffle on about The Datsuns’ place within heavy rock’s canon and discuss influences and chord structure whilst wanking myself into a post-coital numbness, YOU WERE WRONG! Ha! The simple fact is this: how can you sit through the V8 revving of “Blacken My Thumb” and still want to intellectualise rock? It should make any self-conscious critic pitch forward onto the carpet, shuddering and sobbing, “oh Jesus, oh Jesus!” The only thing your thesaurus is good for here, dweeb, is for soaking up the juice after the Thorogoodly rockin’ “Messin’ Around” has pummeled you into a fine, bloody mist."

Hey! that's how i feel about it too! Except i usually just say stuff like, "it kicks a lot of ass". So i guess i can appreciate this critic's abillity to put my feelings of this album into words. At the very least, it's a highly amusing piece.

You can see the rest of the article here.

"Now I know/ So consider yourself told!" - the Datsuns

Sunday, December 12, 2004

8

Gwen Stefani - Love Angel Music Baby

LAMB is the kind of album that rock-cliches like "infectious fun" was created for, because that's precisely what this album is. It's a joy to listen to. Every track is overflowing with bubbly dance-oriented arrangements and Gwen's vocals are fantastic. She sounds sassy, sexy and always like she's having a good time. The production is top shelf, thanks to the great work of Nellee Hooper, Dr. Dre, Andre 3000 and the Neptunes.
The first single, "What you waiting for", deserves to be a number one hit. The synth-driven instrumental would give any artist a hit, but Gwen kicks it over the top with her trademark vocals. She really knows how to work the most effect out of her voice- sometimes wailing, sometimes sounding pouty, other times she just lets it flow sweetly. "Hollaback Girl" features another great minimillistic instrumental from the Neptunes. It's got an old-school hip hop feel with Gwen leading a cheerleader style chant over top. Andre 3000's sound is obvious on "Bubble, Pop, Electric", another standout track that meshes modern dance with a 50s sensibility.

What's the difference between Gwen Stefani's album and an album by any other pop singer who uses multiple producers? Well for one, Gwen Stefani has loads more cred. And that's based on the fact that she's a true talent. She has a vastly more expressive voice than the likes of Britney Spears, and she pulls the album off with a sense of cool that is genuine. Artists like Britney always seem like they are trying so hard to be either sexual or serious. Gwen just lets it flow and as a result, comes off as cool and relaxed, which is perfect for an album like this. No pretentions: it's all light-hearted and fun.
Also, it's easy for the singer to be lost amongst the songs themselves and to come second fiddle to the producers. But Gwen really shines on each track. You get the sense that even though the tracks weren't made by her, they were made with her in mind and feature her suggestions. Each track finds ways to be different and she's always up to the task of matching each instrumental with an appropriate vocal.

The biggest strength of LAMB is that almost every track on this album could be a successful single. I'd love for this album to become like a coldplay album where there are 5 singles taken from it. It would be great to hear tracks from it at the clubs where the influence of 80s doesn't extend much beyond various remixes of "Billy Jean".

It's also worth mentioning that Gwen's No Doubt bandmate Tony Kanal turns in a couple strong tracks here as a producer, suggesting he may have another career if No Doubt ever dissolve. And if that ever happened, given this debut as evidence, I doubt Gwen Stefani would be out of work either.

"Take a look at your watch now/ you're a super hot female!"

A question

I'm looking at pooling all my monitary xmas resources (dad, mum, grandparents) and some of my own money into getting an ipod for xmas. If so, i'm going to order it off of the apple website, as reccommended by Anders, and they offer a free engraving on the back. I was thinking- should i get a lyric or something carved in there? Or is that cheesy? What do you guys think?

"...and the eyes in his head see the world spinning round"

One day this will be worth millions...

Cleaning my room i found the cd i made for my guitar 30 project in high school. The album's entitled "If I was Chinese...", see i liked ellipses back then as well, and it features a chinese baby holding a guitar on the cover. Here's the track listing:

1) Ballet for a girl Part 1 (Currie)
2) Lodi
3) Ring of Fire
4) Heard it through the Grapevine
5) Ballet for a girl Part 2 (Currie)
6) Blackbird
7) Hungarian Song (Bartok)
8) George Harrison Medley
9) Fortunate Son
10) Ballet for a Gril Part 3 (Currie)
11) The Clown (Tchaikovsky)
12) Mother Nature's Son
13) Thirds against a single voice (Bartok)
14) Romance (Dickinson/Klopoushak)
15) Hey Joe

Quite an eclectic mix. I wrote the 3 part "ballet" and my friends wrote the Romance song. Alot of 60s folk-rock (as i was playing on accoustic and singing) and some classical works. This is an odd piece of nostalgia that would be worth something if i ever made it big in the music world. It's sort of my Pet Sounds.

"If you want some romance/ it comes in a pack of gum" - Dickinson/Klopoushak

Saturday, December 11, 2004

9

Air - Talkie Walkie

Another of 2004's highly anticipated albums, Talkie Walkie was coming on the heels of lowered expectations. Their debut, Moon Safari, is easily one of my favourite albums ever, and their soundtrack to the Virgin Suicides is also a fantastic piece of work. However, their most recent album, 10,000 hertz Legend, save for a couple of standout tracks, was overral a little weak.

Initially Talkie Walkie seemed to be headed for the same fate, however, subsequent listens really endeared the album to me. Opening track "Venus" is a stilted march of a rhythm with wispful vocals that begins to find it's way into your head. The second track, "Cherry Blossom Girl", is the album's best. Guitar arpeggios, synths, wood flutes, breathless vocals; this cut sounds like being in love in a Japanese video game. It could be easy for a song like this to be bogged down in the sappyness, but Air prevent sappyness from ever being overt. The lyrics are difficult to decipher and the sounds used are unique, so rather a general mood and atmosphere is created. Rather than the artist explicitly informing you how to feel, you draw your own impression. This is truly the epitome of exceptional electronic music.
"Universal Traveler" and "Mike Mills" similarily are great examples of the beautiful tones that Air can create, while retaining a unique sense of sonic experimentation. There was clearly alot of work put into these songs as the sound is very dense, layers of instruments overlap each other.
Album closer "Alone in Kyoto", used in the film Lost in Translation, is an excellent one. The simple rising tones of piano, guitar, a glockenspiel and electronic voices produce a rush of melancholic adrenaline. While it's hard to beat the joyful bliss that Moon Safari's oxygen-like sound elicited, it's nice to see Air attempting to create moods in new areas.

In an article about the Coachella music festival, Air said they were glad they were performing shortly after dusk. They were hoping to look out during their set and see couples making out in the dim light. If you know the mood-altering effects of Air's music you can't help but smile at a comment like that, and wish you were there too.

"I don't want to be shy
Can't stand it anymore
I just want to say 'Hi'
To the one I love
Cherry blossom girl "

Friday, December 10, 2004

It begins...

Alright, seeing as i'm such an authority, here's my 10 favourite records of the year. I'll precede this by saying a couple things:
1) This is based only on the 2004 albums i've bought (of which i've bought way too many, in a lot of genres).
2) There will no doubt be many 2004 albums I'll buy throughout 2005 that will probably end up being among my favourites of this release year. I bought a ton of good 2003 albums this year, including Alicia Keys' second album, which i thought was 2004 but was really released in Dec of 2003.
3) This was really hard. I didn't think it would, but there were alot of good albums i had to leave out, but i'll explain why after i reveal all 10.
4) Obviously, this is just my own humble opinion. If you want the official best albums of 2004 you'll have to buy one of those fancy magazines that are written by those music geniuses called rock critics.

10) the Beastie Boys - To the 5 Boroughs
The summer release date was much anticipated. I probably listened to this 15 times within the first week of getting it. I was nervous at first, the funky jams were gone, and the beats were odd and strangely old school. But then i heard "I'm Mike D with a story to tell..." and all was better. These were the same Beasties! The silly word play, the weird samples, the crazy beats were all here. They even managed to sample "Rapper's Delight" in a new way! Rhymes about not drinking Bacardi? yes they were there too! Suddenly, Ryan and I were bobbing our heads like crazy, but not too crazily so we could hear the rhymes for future drunken recitations- the mark of a great Beasties disc. What about the left-wing rantings? well i'm a left kinda guy and if they're done well, then no prob. As long as they don't get too serious...did that sample just say "So put a quarter in your ass cause you played yourself"? Wait a minute- was that a shout-out to Regina?
Hello Nasty was a good album, but i think To the 5 Boroughs is better. What it lacks in diversity it makes up for with track by track consistency. Don't expect your hip hop heads to like this one either. The Beasties gave up on sounding like modern hip hop long ago. What they've done is carve out their own niche and this is vintage Beasties sound. Boroughs is 42 minutes of head nodding fun, with a side of politics.

"MCs are like clay pigeons and i'm shootin' skeet/i just yell pull and Mike drops the beat" - Mike D on Hey Fuck You

Free Bird drives me nuts.

Here's another in my continuing series'...the most overrated/my most hated songs.

Lynyrd Skynyrd - Free Bird

In high school a music loving buddy of mine told me to download this as it had an amazing guitar solo. Now this guy was an amazing player himself, and being a lover of great guitar solos i thought i was in for a real treat. But sadly, Free Bird features perhaps the most ordinary guitar solo ever. The guitarist plays the same thing over and over, switching between about 4 or 5 very simple little riffs. I was so stunned as to how uncomplicated it sounded. But not only that, because simplicity can sound great, it just sounded boring. Plus the whole song is boring. The vocalist is too laid back- no emotion or passion at all. This is terrible rock n roll.
Now i know that this is a favourite of alot of peoples for various reasons. But i don't get why. I guess it is sort of anthemic, and it has that shitty classic rock sound- thanks to constant play on "classic rock" radio stations. Boy this song is bullshit.


"Lord knows I can't change"...what the fuck does that mean? from the context of this song i have no idea. And while it's true, I like lyrics like "I'm a streetwalking cheetah with a heart full of napalm", at least that lyric is pretty bizarre and exciting, whereas lyrics like Free Bird's are vague, unexpressive, unamaginative, boring. Skynyrd really helped to inspire a whole generation of lame music made by boring guys with guitars, so they're just all the more special.

Ewan classic overrated/hated songs:
Lynyrd Skynyrd - Free Bird

Thursday, December 09, 2004

What is it about those short little punchy rock tunes that i love? Here are a couple newer ones

Jet - Last Chance
Black Keys - All Hands Against His Own
Vines - Animal Machine

These are the kind of tunes that make you wish you had written them so you could rock them for a nice compact 2 and half minutes. I really wish I could write a song like "Last Chance". I figure if i keep practicing, i'll eventually be able to.

My theory of song-writing is that, like most everything else, it requires practice. I'm sure Lennon and McCartney were terrible first off, but they did it constantly, all the time. And eventually they were masters.
At first I couldn't stand trying to write stuff, but now i can write a song that sometimes I even feel like listening to.

"You ain't nothing to me if you've got nothing to say" - Jet

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

A little reward...

Michael took me for lunch to celebrate today- that is, i'm celebrating completing the 3 papers that were due in a 6 day span. I came back from Hamilton to 1 midterm and 3 papers last week. The last paper I completed was the hardest of all 4 projects and i think it was the best work i did of all 4. "Reasoning: modality specific or modality independent representations?". It's as exciting as it sounds. Anway, we did lunch and then went to A and B with the intention of buying xmas presents, and i did get my mum the best of the guest who and Caitlin (not the one who posts on here) the Thrills' "So much for the city". But i also managed to sneak in Ben Kweller's "On My Way" in there for me. And then we went to Tramps where they have that 5 cds for 5.99 each, get 2 free... so i indulged:

Sugar Hill Gang - Best of (was going to buy this brand new for 17 bucks anyway!)
Green Day - Dookie (i hate American Idiot, but i loved this back when, so i figured why not)
Arrested Development - 3 days, 5months, and 2 days in the life (great early 90s positive hip hop)
B-52s - Cosmic Thing (it's got roam and love shack, can't be bad at all)
Janet Jackson - Rhythm Nation (classic pop)
Righteous Brothers - Best of (a steal)
Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince - HomeBase (this is so sweet, they were so fun and silly back then)

Then i also got No Doubt's "Return of Saturn" which i'm listening to right now.
So i got some more december listening ahead.

"Andy Warhol looks a scream/ hang him on my wall" - David Bowie

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Relistening to 2004...

As i churn out the papers i'm revisiting the cds i've bought that were relesased this year. I'm really hearing alot of favourites from earlier in the year that will no doubt find thieir way back into the rotation. Since yesterday here are the albums i've gone through:

Gwen Stefani - Love Angel Music Baby
Phantom Planet - Phantom Planet
The Vines - Winning Days
Air - Talkie Walkie
The Von Bondies - Pawn Shoppe Heart
The Thrills - Let's Bottle Bohemia
N.E.R.D. - Fly or Die
Nu-Mark - Hands On
The Libertines - The Libertines
Alicia Keys - the Diary of
Razorlight - Up All Night
the Black Keys - Rubber Factory

some really excellent stuff there.
alot of listening, i know, but i've been sitting on my ass in front of the computer for seemingly an eternity.

Starting either tomorrow or thursday i'm going to start the top 10, i'll post one a day- i like to pretend i'm a vh1 tv show or something...

"You got pain/ like an addict/ 10 am automatic" - black keys

Stupid Kings of Leon

I've been patiently waiting for the new Kings of Leon album, but it seems as if i'll have to wait till Feb 22nd. It came out on the first of November in the UK, so i could download it all now, but i kind of want to wait to hear it on cd. The Kings' first album, "Youth and Young Manhood" is easily one of my favourite albums ever, even though I only heard it for the first time early this calendar year. From the sounds of it, their followup has a little different sound, but the quality should be there nonetheless.

But i hate that it's been out for over a month in the UK, when this band is from Tennessee that is getting underappreciated in its home continent. Sometimes i envy the British music scene- they seem to be devoid of pop punk and emo.

"Happiness, coming round, just couldn't tie me down" - Black Keys

Sunday, December 05, 2004

The evening's entertainment...

Well i'm cashing in at midnight and planning to get up at 5 and resume work on ye olde essay. I managed to listen to a lot of albums tonight:

Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour (1968) *****
Stevie Wonder - Talking Book (1972) *****
Ryan Adams - Love is Hell pt. 1 (2004) ***1/2
Big Star - Radio City (1974) ***1/2
Beck - Mellow Gold (1994) ***1/2
Gwen Stefani - Love Angel Music Baby (2004) ****
Avalanches - Since I've left you (2000) ****1/2

all good shite.
I'm looking forward to making my list of the year's best albums. Gwen's solo will definitely be a contender.

"since i've left you/i've found my world so blue" - the Avalanches

Talking Book

Stevie Wonder - Talking Book (1972)

Oh that Steveland Morris!
It's always a toss-up between Talking Book and Innervisions for my favourite Stevie album. I'm writing about Talking Book primarily because it happens to be playing right now.

Let me start by saying there is not a weak track on here. Not one. The ballads are pretty and heartfelt. The upbeat tempo tracks are funky, overflowing with synths, guitars and horns. Really every track deserves a mention so here goes:

1) You are the sunshine of my life - beautiful singing from all 3 vocalists, great congas in the beginning
2) Maybe Your Baby - funk just falls off of the guitars in this one
3) You and I - slows it down with a pretty slow one
4) Tuesday Heartbreak - never has heartbreak sounded so fun, great sax
5) You've got it bad girl - great use of synths, fantastic melody
6) Superstition - arguably the greatest song ever
7) Big Brother - political charged without losing the songcraft
8) Blame it on the sun - sad and pretty
9) Lookin' for another love - outstanding melody and instrumentation
10) I Believe - knockout chorus, immaculate closer

You could really make a case for the greatest song-writer of all time with this album alone. 10 tracks, all at least a 9 or above. Every song has a fantastic melody, and the instrumentation is always varied and innovative. As a kid i never knew why people hated synths. I figured everybody used them like Stevie did.

Like many of the "greatest albums of all time" Talking Book is an album that tackles the common themes of love, heartbreak, politics, etc. Yet, it trumps almost every album ever made in terms of musicality. The harmonies, melodies and music are superior to almost every album ever made. Stevie sang better, play almost every instrument on the album better than most, and all the while, never lost the cohesion of his vision. Talking book is total mastery of pop music and it may be the best record ever made.

"When you believe in things that you don't understand and you suffer..." - Stevie

Ewan Classic Albums -
Stevie Wonder - Talking Book (1972)
Beastie Boys - Check Your Head (1992)
Supergrass - Life On Other Planets (2002)
the Police - Outlandos d'Amour (1978)
the Kings of Leon - Youth and Young Manhood (2003)

Sing it again...

The Beatles' "Your Mother Should Know" is easily one of the silliest songs every written, but it's one of my favourites. I can't describe the nostalgic/sentimental feeling it gives me.
In the Magical Mystery Tour movie it's used to great effect as the Beatles descend a set of stairs, immaculately dressed in white tuxedos with tails and top hats.

I think this is one of those songs that i'd use as a measurement- i don't think i could love a girl who didn't like it. It sort of encapsulates the good-natured, sentimental kind of guy i think i am underneath all of this other bullshit.

"Let's all get up and dance to a song that was a hit before your mother was born" - Paul McCartney

Ewan Classic Songs:
Beatles - Your Mother Should Know
N.E.R.D. - Tape You
Nico - These Days
Paul McCartney - Maybe I'm Amazed

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Like a Junkie King Midas

Just perusing the "500 greatest songs of all-time" by Rolling Stone. Not too bad. I'll probably post on this later.

Anway, reading the Jimi Hendrix entries got me listening to "Electric Ladyland" again. Really, everything this guy touched turned to gold. Take Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower". An already good song (this from a non dylan fan) and he totally transforms it into a sonic masterpiece. Sometimes in hard rock things get too powered up and I crave the simplicity of just a guy and his guitar, ala Beatles' "I will" or "Julia" or some kind of Elliot Smith song, but that never happens with Hendrix. His guitar just sores on Watchtower. Then there's "Voodoo Child" which just unleashes a fury on the listener.

I know they deify this guy all the time, but he was so good... Jimi seemed like a giant with the guitar in his hands. So relaxed and natural when creating these huge waves of sound.

"Well I stand up next to a mountain/ and I chop it down with the edge of my hand" - Jimi Hendrix

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Aren't only English majors supposed to get frustrated by this sort of thing?

I was getting frustrated by the lack of research articles i was finding on Psych Info, regarding the topic of the Cognitive Behavioural Model. "Surely there have been countless amounts of experiments and research" i said to myself. Only today did i realise that using the American spelling of 'behavior' may net more findings. Indeed it did. Why is it that proper spelling is holding me back?

"Ain't never been in trouble/ I ain't got the time" - John Fogerty

What happened to soloing?

Been listening to lots of Razorlight lately, i'm going to review the album when my essays are done, and they got me to thinking- there sure aren't many bands who play instrumental solos anymore.

Now Razorlight have great songs that don't really need solos, but I couldn't think of many bands that did play them. The Black Keys do, but they have only 2 members and play blues-rock of which the guitar solo is a staple. I think the shrinking trend of the guitar solo is a result of a couple things.

In the 70s, every rock group needed a guitarist that could solo like a motherfucker- Zeppelin, Allman Bros., etc. Even in the 60s amongst the simple british invasion groups you had to be able to play some kind of guitar interlude. With the birth of punk and then post-punk in the late 70s and then early 80s, the focus became on making more simplistic songs that didn't overindulge in long guitar solos. New Wave certainly tightened the reigns, with some groups soloing (the Police or the Cars) and others not so much (Blondie). The eighties saw its share of soloing from metal (Metallica, Megadeth) to hair metal (Poison, etc). Guys like Kirk Hammett, Slash, and Eddie Van Halen were adored for their solos, which were much different than those played by Clapton or Page, the decade prior. With the 90s and the boom of "alt-rock" (what a fucked label that is) and Nirvana, soloing kind of vanished. I can rememeber being a huge fan of old rock and roll and great guitar solos, and being dissapointed when 90s bands simply played the melody during the guitar "solo". There were some exceptions- Soundgarden managed to throw some good stuff in there. In recent times, with the return of Garage Rock and Post Punk stuff we still don't see a lot of solo-stuff. Pop-punk has the worst "guitar solos" you'll ever hear. Emo doesn't even know what a guitar solo is.

I think it boils down to a couple of things:
1) People are tired of solos.
The 80s big guitar sound really killed it. Those solos sucked. Just playing as many notes as fast as you can, give me a break.

2) Guitarists aren't as good as they used to be.
The 60s had 2 types of artists, those who you could be like without huge amounts of training- Dylan, the Who, etc. and those who you needed years of practice to emulate- Hendrix, Cream, even the Beatles who were made up of mostly great musicians. Today's bands play simple songs, many based on playing primarily barre chords. They don't feel the need to improvise solos.

3) The influence of Blues and Jazz is dissapearing from music.
With punk and post-punk really comprising a huge amount of today's music, the influence of Blues is very small. It's from blues and jazz that rock gets its tradition of improvisation.

Alright, enough of that.

"Hey girl- there's the dance floor- rip it up!" - Razorlight

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

But High Ho Silver Ride

I can not get enough of Pavement's "Stereo". What a great track. Lazy singing, lazy playing, ridiculous lyrics. It's fantastic!
Stephen Malkmus' voice is so lazy but they just unleashes a wail on the chorus that is inspired and backed by crunching guitars.
The lyrics are really funny: "What about the voice of Geddy Lee/how did it get so high/ i wonder if he speaks like an ordinary guy/ (background voice: i know him and he does)/ then you're my fact checkin' cuz".

I'm going to start investigating more of Pavement's catalogue, as this track is from their 1997 album, and they're best albums (supposedly) are their earlier works.

"Hey Listen to Me! I'm on the Stereo!"