Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Huzzah! The best songs of 2007!

Now that I have rounded up the top full lengths of 2007, here is a list of my picks for top songs.

I can almost guarantee that none of them will win any grammys...

1) Roisin Murphy "Let me Know" BEST POP SONG OF 07!
2) Kylie Minogue "Wow" CLOSE RUNNER UP (every time I hear it, I think of 80's Kylie better)
3) Siobhan Donaghy "Medevac" MAGICAL
4) Siouxsie "If it Doesn't Kill You" CATHARTIC
5) Amy Winehouse "Back to Black" RAW
6) Garbage "Tell me Where it Hurts" JOINS PANTHEON OF THE PRETENDERS
7) Robyn "With Every Heartbeat" ELECTRO-MASTERPIECE*
8) Groove Armada feat. Mutya "Song for Mutya (Out of Control)" BEST DRIVING SONG
9) Junior Senior w/Kate & Cindy of the B-52's "Take my Time" FINALLY A U.S. RELEASE!
10) Sophie Ellis-Bextor w/Fred Schneider of the B-52's "Supersonic" MORE B-52 MAGIC!
11) Shout Out Louds "Tonight I Have to Leave It" BEATS ROBERT SMITH AT HIS GAME*
12) Darren Hayes "Who Would Have Thought" BEATS DEPECHE MODE AT THEIR GAME
13) Tracey Thorn "Raise the Roof" CELEBRATORY
14) Erasure "I Could Fall in Love With You" OPTIMISTIC
15) Feist "1 2 3 4" EVERYWHERE
16) Delays "Love Made Visible" OVERJOYED
18) Britney Spears "Heaven on Earth" HER BEST SONG IN YEARS
19) Peter Bjorn & John "Young Folks" WHISTLING IS HOT!*
20) Marc Almond "Redeem Me (Beauty Will Redeem the World)" INSPIRING--WELCOME!
21) Patrick Wolf feat. Marianne Faithfull "Magpie" SO CREEPY
22) Stephen Lindsay "Kite" BEAUTIFUL AND TIMELESS
23) Girls Aloud "Call the Shots" EXCELLENT POP SONG
25) Arctic Monkeys "Fluorescent Adolescent" SMITHS FOR THE OUGHTIES?
26) Fratellis "Flathead" THANKS APPLE
27) Lily Allen "Smile" BEST REVENGE SONG OF 07
28) Sarah Nixey "The Collector" QUITE DISTURBING
29) Nina Persson "Black Winged Bird" YEARNING*
30) Jens Lekman "Sipping on the Sweet Nectar" DORK DISCO-LOVE THEM KEY CHANGES*
31) Pipettes "Judy" PURE POP CLASS
32) Lucky Soul "The Great Unwanted" EVEN CLASSIER
33) Bat for Lashes "What's a Girl to Do?" HARPSICHORDS RULE!
35) Mark Ronson feat. Daniel Merriweather "Stop Me" SMITHS FANS INSULTED
36) Sugababes "About You Now" PEPPY ELECTRO-ROCK
37) Rihanna "Don't Stop the Music" PEPPY ELECTRO-HIP-HOP (LOVE THE MJ SAMPLE)
40) Information Society "Burning Bridges" POP ALSO-RANS RETURN!
41) BWO "Give me the Night" THANK YOU SWEDEN*
42) Client "Lights Go Out" LEATHER-TRONICA
44) Mika "Relax (take it easy)" BETTER THAN SCISSOR SISTERS LAST ALBUM
45) Kaiser Chiefs "Everything is Average Nowadays" EXACTLY
46) KT Tunstall "I Don't Want You Now" THE GHOST OF KIRSTY MACCOLL RISES!
47) Rosebuds "Get Up Get Out" THE GHOST OF NEW ORDER RISES?
48) Richard Hawley "Tonight the Streets Are Ours" THE GHOST OF ROY ORBISON RISES...
49) Rufus Wainwright "Tiergarten" HELMED BY A PET SHOP BOY

*(asterisks show artists of Swedish origin. This does not include songs written or produced by Swedes. Seems like the Swedes are had a great year.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Can it be??? (A 2007 WRAPUP):

Time absolutely flies. I cannot believe it has been four months since my last post (sorry to any of the few who may read this). Being the crazed music fan that I am, I thought it was time to take stock of some of the highs and lows in pop music this year, and what a great year it has been for music while simultaneously being a shit year for the music business (see past and future posts). When will people see fit to actually purchase what they listen to again? Haven't they ripped off artists and those who make their living through the transfer of music in the past decade enough? But I digress. Music has really had a split personality in 2007, what with expensive production values given to those who can seemingly produce hits, while indie and up-and-coming artists get crappy production and poor record deals because of lacking funds. Radiohead received such praise for offering their album "In Rainbows" early for a fan-determined price, yet came under intense fire from not only business people, but other artists as well, calling them arrogant asses for doing something only a band filled with millionaires could do. 2007 was a year of major changes, as well as a year of celebrity meltdowns ala Amy Winehouse and Britney Spears. C'mon girls...get your acts together! YOU DESERVE BETTER and so do we! That being said, you both released albums that were pretty darn good. OK, enough with the lecturing. Here is a quick list of my top CDs of 2007 (and why):


All I can say is Roisin surpassed all others in 2007. She is utterly original and a major talent. Overpowered saw her harness what she learned from the critically-praised-but-commercially-ignored Ruby Blue, and take control of things by globe-trotting to put together an electronic dance album with a warm, beating heart at the center. She writes, she sings, she dances (see her "unhinged" style in the "Let Me Know" video). She knows what she wants. From the ultra-classy title track, to the disco jewel of "You Know Me Better", to the electro stomp of "Movie Star", to the slamming "Cry Baby", there is not one wasted track on this album, including the bonus cuts. In addition, there were several more excellent tracks floating around the net and as B-Sides. I struggle to think of another artist who has really updated the 80's in such a way without succumbing to some kind of retro kitsch. This is the record Annie Lennox should have made in 2007.


I know this shouldn't really count as it originally came out in 2005, but now that it has finally been issued in England in remixed form with some additions, the definitive statement has been made, and hopefully Robyn is busy working on the next one. Seriously, there is very little here to dislike. "With Every Heartbeat" was an electro masterstroke of a song to break her in the UK, and there are so many other gems here: "Be Mine!", "Who's That Girl"(produced by fellow Swedes the Knife), "Crash and Burn Girl", "Handle Me", "Konichiwa Bitches", "Cobrastyle", and a remixed "Bum Like You" being highlights. More please...

Favourite Worst Nightmare

Funnily enough, this album has ascended in my opinion during the year, even though it failed to match the sales heights and hype of album their first. Not only are there some great singles here ("Brianstorm", "Fluorescent Adolescent", "505"), but AM really create a distinctive mood of disconnect in the British underbelly reminiscent of bands from way back like the Specials and the Smiths. There is something with these guys that's difficult to put my finger on, and sometimes they push the aggressive side a bit too hard, but overall they are very strong and distinctive, and it's nice to know there is a band out there that makes me still care about Britpop.

Out of the Woods

What can I say about this I haven't said before? While this album didn't really have that completely killer single, there were many fantastic songs throughout, and the shifting moods helped show Tracey's versatility and vulnerability in almost any great style of music. Sample for instance, "A-Z" (poignant electro with a message), "Get Around to It" (horny housewife disco with a DFA sound), "Hands Up to the Ceiling" (bedroom nostalgicoustica), and "Grand Canyon" (Everything But the Girl house with heart). And that doesn't even include "By Piccadilly Station I Sat Down and Wept", "It's All True", or "Raise the Roof". A welcome return.

This Delicate Thing We've Made

I must admit I was new to the Darren party this year. I was never much of a Savage Garden fan, and his first solo album left me completely cold. This, however, was something special, and while it is probably too long and indulgent to be perfect, there is so much to like and admire. Standouts for me are the as-good-as-Depeche Mode "Who Would Have Thought", the cathartic "Step Into the Light", and the inspiring "On the Verge of Something Wonderful". Influences from Kate Bush to Prince are apparant, and the fact that Darren has such an interesting personal story doesn't hurt either. While you may not like it all, there is something here for almost everybody.


Maybe I'm just a big fan and others cannot see the fascination, but in my opinion, very few artists do pop music better than Kylie. She has a buoyant personality, even in the face of a deadly disease, and that shows in her music. While she could have recorded an album of confessional soapboxing best left to Melissa Etheridge, Kylie comes up with one of the most optimistic mission statements of her life. It's not all perfect, but it is hard to discount the glee found in "Wow", "In My Arms", "No More Rain", "2 Hearts" and "The One". Full of potential hit singles, X is the album that should have followed Fever instead of the overly self-conscious Body Language. So when's the US tour???

Trip the Light Fantastic

I seem to have chosen lots of imports this year. Another pop diamond the US missed was Sophie Ellis-Bextor. While some have claimed this to be somewhat of a disappointment commercially, the music more than makes up for that. Almost every album track is great in one way or another, and her voice is so unique when compared to the faceless crap that gets pushed on a daily basis. The fact that she worked with her husband from UK hitmakers the Feeling AND Fred Schneider of the B-52's on the same album is crazy alone! Here, she gives us the best of several worlds: Pop, rock, dance, disco, electronic, balladry, 60's retro. A great album that deserves more attention and sales.

Tangled Up

Speaking of faceless crap, it took me a long time to accept the girls for what they really are...pop geniuses. Originally I thought they were OK, but my opinion sank a bit when cover songs kept popping up. A couple years on, and they have come back with a truly stunning project that is frontloaded with lots of sass and attitude with little room for balladry. Their songs are incredibly complex, with choruses juxtaposed with verses, and chained together in the most maddening of ways. This ingenuity keeps the listener constantly on their toes, with song lyrics delievered in ways all other contest winners would kill for. Girls Aloud are this generations Bananarama. Additionally, they have made such an impression that Franz Ferdinand are now working with their producer.


Ah, the little heard Ghosts. If Kate Bush were young again and had a pop twist, this would be it. Such a shame this album sold poorly and Siobhan had to join the cast of Rent in the UK instead of doing a full tour, but a girl's gotta eat. All kidding aside, this album was a messy joy from start to finish, with her testing the limits of her vocal range and including a title track with lots of backwards singing. Highlights (and they were very high) remain the transcendental "Don't Give it Up", the unshakeable "Sometimes", the sparkly "Goldfish", and the driving "Medevac". Most singers dream of having this kind of personal control and writing input on a project, and if this ex-Sugababe never gets it again, at least she got it once. Here's hoping...


I mentioned this album previously in my mid-year faves, and it is still there at the end of the year. Justice did what Daft Punk hasn't been able to do in almost a decade, and that is to make a cohesive electronic record steeped in American electro-funk and industrial stadium rock with variety and soul. Of course, we got the obligatory pop single in "D.A.N.C.E.", but overall this album was much darker and experimental, from "Genesis" to "Waters of Nazareth". And while some may find the compression a bit much, I think it adds to the general air of claustrophobia they are trying to achieve. Plus you can dance your ass off to it.

Alright, Still

Love it, love her. Like the soul of Kirsty MacColl came back and inhabitied the frame of this cute and kooky troublemaker with a gift for bubbly tunes with aid of superproducer Mark Ronson. And so very English. "Smile" was an anthem. Don't stop now...


Wow, what a record. Parts are kinda hard to grasp on the first couple listens, and while I wasn't sure it was as good as Arular at first, now I think it may be better. "Bird Flu", "Boyz", "Jimmy", "Paper Planes". Ain't no denying.


Emerging from what seemed like a deep sleep, Siouxsie proved that she could come up with something utterly compelling without her Banshee cohorts, and what a record. "If it doesn't kill you" may be her best lyric and vocal ever, and there's more where that came from. And the album cover is amazing.

The Magic Position

Coming out of nowhere for me this year, this guy was much more successful for me at what he did than that kook Mika. Shades of a male Kate Bush are here, but Patrick is an original, which is definitely hard to come by today (unless you are M.I.A. who is nothing but original). A very pleasing album with lots of great songs and a creepy moment from Marianne Faithfull.

Nux Vomica

I feel like the outcast talking about this album which hardly anybody else seems to be mentioning, but this is the best Nick Cave has made in years! No, seriously, Finn Andrews is the very talented son of Shriekback guru Barry Andrews, but his sound is completely different. A different set of backing musicians was used here as well than from his first album a few years ago. The best thing to come out of New Zealand in 07, his voice has a worn quality that can be very tender, and yet very agitated when necessary. More people need to hear this NOW.

The Great Unwanted

Albums of this style that are this good are few and far between. Bringing that Beautiful South feel back to pop, Lucky Soul came up with some really great songs and have a great singer in Ali Howard. It is also great to hear a band that actually plays instruments and can write and arrange catchy pop songs without the aid of much machinery (if any). Another underrated and underselling album, 2008 should belong to them in a perfect world.

We are the Pipettes

Finally issued in the US (with new artwork), the same basic album remains, and what an album it is. Making a nice pair with Lucky Soul, Pipettes fit that retro-pop-band-with-memorable-songs to a T. And they're cute to boot. I would much rather have my kids listening to this than that Hannah Montana crap in a heartbeat.

Sing, Memory

While I find it depressing that we couldn't get a new Black Box Recorder this year, Sarah Nixey's solo record made up for it with aplomb. Coming on like Sarah Cracknell of Saint Etienne's witchy sister, there were some fantastic songs on this record: "The Collector", "Strangelove", "Masquerade", "When I'm Here With You", "Endless Circles". And don't forget the ace cover of the Human League's "Black Hit of Space". If this was just the debut, I cannot wait for more.

Our Ill Wills

The best poppy Cure record since the Kiss Me era. No, seriously, who knew Swedes could do Robert Smith better than Robert Smith. An easy-to-love album produced by Bjorn of other 07 Swedish breakouts, Peter, Bjorn & John.

Neon Bible

An early 07 winner, this album took what makes Springsteen good, and got rid of what makes him bad, and added Echo & the Bunnymen in his place. "No Cars Go" and "Keep the Car Running" are purely anthemic, while "Ocean of Noise" haunts still.

Year Zero

Trent Reznor's best record since The Downward Spiral. Not as self-indulgent as the Fragile. Not as rocky as With Teeth. More electronic than Pretty Hate Machine. Excellent.

Sound of Silver

James Murphy out-Bowie's Bowie and out-Byrne's Byrne on this album that sounds like a mix of every album from the last 25 years that I really liked. A critical favorite, and one of mine too.

Fur and Gold

Could you get more Wicca than this? I love the song about the wizard when she starts talking about how they love him so much they drink his blood. Gothy, to be sure. And she uses harpsichord. How very renaissance. Love it.

Back to Black

This album started the year higher for me, and has slowly slid due to her antics in the press, but it is still one of the best of 07. I guess I just expect her to treat herself better because she has so much talent, unlike...


...who came up with a really great electronic pop album despite all the drama. Shall I go on?
Getting wasted? Crotch shots? Bad driving? Partying topless with strange dudes? Running in the ocean in your underwear? Losing custody of your kids? Embarassing awards performance? Bad music videos? Stealing swag from photo shoot? Shaving head? Such a shame, because "Heaven on Earth" is her best song since "Toxic". (I know she's from the south, but I have southern friends who don't act like this).


Stardom Road

We're glad you're alive and singing. You sound great! How about an original album now?

Never Say Never

OK, I won't. You did good Kim. It won't break new ground or anything, but you came up with a cohesive rock/pop effort that stayed true to form with some nice surprises. And it's really hard remaking ones own songs and making them still sound good. Many have failed. You didn't. Welcome back.


What a nice surprise! And the new lead singer sure sounds like Kurt a lot. This album is a highly enjoyable guilty pleasure for me, and it plays like a love letter to the synthesizer (see title track). Lots of good pop stuff that brings back the late 80's vividly, but in a good way.
(Paul Robb, you are a genius).

Glory Bumps

Thank you, thank you, thank you Barry Andrews for being you. Absolute craziness nonetheless, but there is noone like you, and this is the best thing you've done in 20 years. Not many will hear it, but those that do will appreciate it loads.

Red Carpet Massacre

They really tried here, and while more successful than Astronaut, it could be a bit too Timba-fied. If they want hit songs, this may have been a good choice (we all know they still love Nile Rodgers and Chic), but I would have liked to have seen them work with someone who could bring out their new wave traits a bit more. Maybe Jacknife Lee or William Orbit. In any case, RCM is their best in a long time.

Hey Hey My My Yo Yo

Finally being released in the US 2 years after Japan (and still not out in the UK), it seems like JS are going to be relegated to novelty status, which is such a shame because this is such a great album. Short, tight pop songs with hooks galore that recall everything from early Wham! to George Harrison, guest vocals from Kate & Cindy of the B-52's just add to the charm (and their first album in 18 years arrives in 08--WOOHOO!).

In Rainbows

I would be remiss if I didn't mention this highly touted masterpiece. It is great, to be sure, but as a fan of the CD and LP, I cannot bring myself to calling it an official 2007 release, as the CD hits US stores on Jan. 1, 2008. So I will save my review for next year's installment, when I am sure it will place higher on my list than this. Radiohead, EMI misses you...

Come back for upcoming lists involving disappointing efforts of 07, and anticipated efforts of 08!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

I've heard it all before...or have I???

Thought I should mention projects to look forward to in the second half of 2007 that might be worth searching out. The jury is still out on the quality of these offerings, but their names have been bandied about, nonetheless (this is just a taste):

Madonna-I confess...
Kylie-welcome home.
Siouxsie-ruler of them all.
Goldfrapp-cannot wait...
M.I.A.-break the mold!
Roisin Murphy-utterly fabulous
KT Tunstall-what a sweet girl & talented to boot
Duran Duran-c'mon guys, it's your last chance. If Timbaland can't help you...
Annie Lennox-more fun than Bare, I hope.
Dido-should be very interesting with Jon Brion on board.
Hard-fi-the single is OK, so hopefully good.
PJ Harvey-always a surprise
VHS or Beta-sounds promising...
BWO-single is great, and hopefully much better than Halcyon Days.
The Cure-worrisome without keyboards. Is Robert Smith losing it?
Hot Hot Heat-single is great-these guys are good fun.
Dot Allison-intriguing
Darren Hayes-surprisingly intriguing from a pop perspective
Dave Gahan (Depeche Mode)-liked the last one, but really wanted another Depeche record...
Junior Senior (for the US/UK)-party CD of the year?
Martina Topley-Bird-sublime and haunting...more please...
Babyshambles-can you get it together Pete??
British Sea Power-hopefully a bit darker than the last effort
Dexy's Midnight Runners (22 years!)-Kevin Rowland, is your head on straight?
the Prodigy (with lead singers back)-Hallelujah!
R.E.M. (rocking again)-we'll see...Monster, anyone?

early 2008...supposedly:

Basement Jaxx-with Yoko Ono! Paging Grace Jones...
Shirley Manson-sorely underrated rock goddess goes solo
Annie-where have you been?
Massive Attack-SO long between albums, but Live With Me could suffice for a while...
Belle & Sebastian-Camera Obscura is on your heels...
Franz Ferdinand-Can't wait to see where they go next...
Coldplay-oh well, they had to work with Eno eventually.
Underworld-why so long? 4-5 years and the whole world changes...
Radiohead-does Thom Yorke have another solo record complete & ready to go?
Nine Inch Nails (part 2)-Part 1 was excellent.
Divine Comedy-always love Neil, and would take just about anything.
U2-Paging Bono...
Moby-supposedly dance-y. Hurrah!

artists that have mentioned recording, but where are they in the process?:

Saint Etienne-just did a big show in the UK, but is there an album coming?
Guillemots-fantastic Mercury Prize nominated, but very quiet in the US
Doves-??? (how long does it take?)
Peter Gabriel-always working, rarely releasing
ABC-they say it's done-where is it? 10 years is a long time to wait...
Portishead-what did I just say about 10 years? Especially when you only had 2 CDs...
Neneh Cherry-stalled? maybe nobody cares??
Morrissey-on tour & always recording it seems, new deal with Warner in the works?
Daft Punk-played Lollapalooza, but where is the album to erase Human After All?
OMD-touring and recording (hopefully). This could be inspiring...
Avalanches-has it been that long?
Michael Jackson-seemingly always in the studio we care anymore?
Courtney Love-scarifying.
Roxy Music-you have been promising this for 3 years now. 26 years since Avalon. Do we care?

where are they now???:

Fiona Apple-one internet sensation and then...disappears for long periods...
Kate Bush-one double CD in 12 years, she says she doesn't want to wait so long...time is ticking
Human League-say they'll never record again after Secrets (their best) tanked--a shame
Jem-Dido soundalike--maybe she sounds too much like Dido?--trying to fix that??
Mark Hollis-MIA
Boy George-what a mess...can he prove he was a major talent again?
Terry Hall-longer and longer gaps, his discography is all over the map
Ian Broudie/Lightning Seeds-very quiet for a while (including solo)--we want you BACK!
Tears for Fears-Curt did a quiet solo CD...where's Roland? Thought you were back together??
the The-Matt hasn't made a classic in 15 years. Such immense talent--where are you??
Yello-usually pretty quiet anyway
David Sylvian-even quieter. 9 Horses was good, and he's touring. A solo in the works???
David Bowie-heart attacks can really slow you down. Been a while though. Where's an album?
Toni Halliday-Curve split & the Killers called. Any chance of solo, as you are married to a millionaire?
Elizabeth Fraser-great on the Massive Attack tour, but no solo Liz or Cocteau in 10 years? 2long
the Sundays-these guys just disappeared...where are they now?
Siobhan Fahey-promises of solo stuff, but few deliveries. Singles were great, where's the CD?
New Order-may be a while with all the fighting
The Darkness-Justin out of rehab yet?

A quick rundown of what to expect and what never to expect, apparantly.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Win some, lose some...

I have been thinking of following up my original post with an "upgrade/downgrade" list of other titles that have been released this year. These are reflections of my opinions, yet I hope that they can help you (the reader) put things in perspective when considering what to spend your hard earned cash on. So, here's the list:

UPGRADE (I enjoy these very much, and they are definte leaps in quality over previous efforts):

The Cribs
Tracey Thorn
Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Siobhan Donaghy
Peter, Bjorn & John
The Pierces
Kim Wilde
The Rosebuds
White Stripes
LCD Soundsystem
Groove Armada
Sarah Nixey
Modest Mouse
The National

(other great albums from artists without previous track records):

The Bird & the Bee
The Fratellis
The Good, the Bad, and the Queen
The Pipettes
The Long Blondes
Kate Havnevik
Charlotte Gainsbourg
The Mary Onettes
Mark Ronson
St. Vincent
The View
A Fine Frenzy

OK... (Neither upgrade nor downgrade, just pleasantly good):

Tori Amos
Marc Almond
Rufus Wainwright
Jarvis Cocker
Maximo Park
The Editors
Bloc Party
Suzanne Vega
Chemical Brothers
Keren Ann
Crowded House
Art Brut
Maroon 5
Kaiser Chiefs
Polyphonic Spree
Sondre Lerche
Kings of Leon
Apples in Stereo
Blonde Redhead
Astrid Williamson
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

(and others from new artists that were OK):

Au Revoir Simone
The Cinematics
Paolo Nutini
The Klaxons
The Feeling
Calvin Harris
Daniel Agust

DOWNGRADE (artists who have done better with previous efforts):

Sinead O'Connor
Dolores O'Riordan
Bryan Ferry
The Stooges
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Paula Cole
The Bravery
Joseph Arthur
Fountains of Wayne
Brett Anderson
The Magic Numbers
Marilyn Manson
Avril Lavigne
Kelly Clarkson
Mandy Moore

I could go into specifics, but for now, this will have to do. Some of these may end up on the best/worst list at the close of 2007, and more will be explained then. For now, feel free to soak it in. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Well it's about time...

Upon the urging of certain other bloggers (you know who you are), I finally felt it was time to post my first entry. Funny how it took a year of cajoling and a second blog attempt to actually get me to post something, but as I have been busy with school and a full time job (at what is seemingly becoming one of the last indie CD shops in the US), time to write is rather limited. However, as I have always enjoyed recorded popular music and sharing my likes and dislikes with others, I wanted a forum to share some of those opinions with people who might be interested. It is time to reflect, for after all, reflection is the key to the soul. Or the window to the past. Or something like that.

Strangely enough, I never considered myself much for reflection. I have always maintained that one should not live in the past and keep moving forward (it's gotten me this far in life). I even dismissed attending my 20th high school reunion last week (now that dates me), as I feel those functions are only good for parading your achievements (of which I have few), your kids (of which I have none), and your looks (mine are less than glamorous, to be sure). Unless I want to tell old friends about the fun times (I've seen about 300 shows in the last 13 years), and the bad (3 surgeries, family tragedies), my life has been rather uneventful. 15 wonderful years of marriage, owning a house and cars, caring for 3 black cats. Uneventful. People don't want to know that I have back pain today.

But I have always had the music. It feeds my soul like nothing else. I remember watching my first LPs spin on my parent's turntable, being entranced by the grooves and their patterns (darker portions being the deeper, louder sounds), and dancing on the dining room chairs at age 3 to their reel-to-reel (of which said chair eventually toppled through a sliding glass door with me attached). Being a teenager in the 80's, music was absolutely integral for daily life. In the midwest, there wasn't much else interesting to do but listen, learn, and love music. Starting bands with my friends and drawing inspiration from aforementioned 80's music produced many hours of fun and creativity. We never really dreamed of being super rich (which seems to be a major goal of the popworld today); We just wanted to be creative and change perceptions of acceptable pop music. (One friend actually did start a band which signed to a major label subsidiary, only to sell very little, get dropped, and owe a fortune).

Now that I sport over 20 years of music retail on my resume and thousands of hours spent listening, I want this blog to reflect on popular music and the music which surrounds my life. How very High Fidelity.

I keep asking myself the question, "how should I begin?" Since we are already at the halfway point in 2007, I thought it would be a good idea to examine the first six months of this year in music. First of all, I feel the need to report that, while the music business continues to slump to its lowest points in over 20 years, there is more good music being produced than ever. Why is this occurring? I could spend hours delving into the intricacies of this issue, but that would be a dissertation in and of itself, and not what I want this blog to be about. Let's just whittle it down to the fact that downloading (mostly the illegal/piracy type), marginal increases in online retail sales, a general lack of focused marketing opportunities (all of which the internet is responsible for), and moneyhungry executives at major record companies pandering to big box chains and driving former consumers to digital media by screwing with project release dates, lack of format availability (singles), and outrageous pricing are to blame. I will most likely expand on this at a later date as part of the "blog of truth", but the fun stuff comes first.

So, you want to buy something for real, and I'm not talking about demanding a copy from your friend or snatching it from the claws of some filesharing junkie. I'm talking about making a real purchase and supporting the artist so they can put food on the table and make more good music. Here is my rundown of what I would consider the top 10 albums to be released in 2007 so far (in no particular order, as recommended by me, a HUGE music fan):

Some may describe this as "difficult" listening, but this is the record Daft Punk should have made instead of the lazy Human After All. Mixing fun elements ("D.A.N.C.E.") and frightening moments ("Waters of Nazareth"), rarely has electronic music been this engrossing and edgy at the same time. Mostly instrumental and rather uncompromising, this album continues in the tradition of French dance masters, but turns up the buzzing analog intensity to 11, while employing cut and paste sample techniques the likes of which have never been previously committed this fully to record. The results can be quite funny, funky, and scary all at once. Can another electronic revolution be around the corner?

Arcade Fire--Neon Bible
In keeping with themes of Christianity and its place in the current religious world, these Canadians made a record that waves the flag of purpose with incredible resolve and determination with chantalong choruses and sweeping epics. I've never been a Springsteen fan, but if he sang Echo & the Bunnymen styled melodies, I might reconsider. This is the closest to Springsteen I would ever go.

Amy Winehouse--Back to Black
When I first heard this, I thought, MASSIVE. Then I listened closer to the lyrics, and I thought, REALLY MASSIVE. This album single-handedly gives walking papers to Joss Stone and Christina Aguilera, talented young female singers who were thought of as the future. While they may still have hits in the future, Winehouse brings a realness to music not heard in a while. Her work with Mark Ronson especially touches a nerve. This isn't just some internet hype sensation...she is the real deal. Now can she follow it up...

Lily Allen--Alright, Still
She may not have the greatest voice in the world, but she has a sass and perspective that is utterly refreshing in the music world. Her songs are hysterical snapshots of life as a young laydie in Britain, and Kirsty MacColl would be totally proud of her candor. Mark Ronson again lends a hand.

Robyn--Robyn (UK)
I know many of these releases have been out previously in other territories, but Robyn continues her quest to regain world domination several years after BMG left her for dead. This album actually came out in her homeland of Sweden about two years ago, which just proves that good things come to those who wait. The just released, updated UK version of this album is far superior to prior editions due to the addition of the fun "Cobrastyle" with Teddybears (a much different version than what appears on their album), and the glorious "With Every Heartbeat" featuring producer Kleerup, not to mention better versions of a couple album tracks and a different running order which frontloads with "Konichiwa Bitches" and improves the pacing.
Now about America...

The Veils--Nux Vomica
You may be asking yourself, who? This second project from young New Zealander Finn Andrews plays like everything Nick Cave has been trying to achieve for the past 20 years on one focused album. Recorded with an entirely new band than their debut effort, even the lighter songs are deceptively dark and feature a much greater emotional range, and show a maturity that belies his 23 years of age. A left field entry for sure, but one that consistently pays off.

The Shins--Wincing the Night Away
Took a while, but it was worth the wait. Much moodier than anything they previously created, their 3rd record is perfect for sitting in the shade reading a book. The vocal harmonies and interplay with a variety of instrumentation are stunning. "Austalia" and "Sealegs" are particular highlights, but the entire album is enjoyable.

Nine Inch Nails--Year Zero
Some might say, "how predictable choosing a 90's rock band", but listening to Year Zero, Trent Reznor has made his most political statement, yet his most overall enjoyable album possibly since Pretty Hate Machine. Bringing back the dirty electronic sound that made him a star and jettisoning the clenched-fist rock band format of With Teeth, there are some truly catchy moments here for those who miss the sexier side of his sound. There are also some scary sky-ripping moments where the fear is all too real. For me, it is a sound I missed and welcome back. (There are a few other artists I can think of who should be chained up in a room and forced to listen to earlier efforts to remind them why people liked them in the first place...)

Arctic Monkeys--Favourite Worst Nightmare
Escaping the sophomore jinx, AM continue their rocky reflection on UK life with such fearlessness and guile that one cannot help but buy into their charm. Even a switch of bass player could not disrupt Alex Turner's mission, and for the most part, it works. "Flourescent Adolescent" is a flagwaving singalong, "Brianstorm" quite heavy and surprising with its fake endings, and "505" the most haunting thing they've done. Brilliant.

Patrick Wolf--The Magic Position
It took a while for me to warm to him, but now I totally get it. Patrick Wolf is king. Not really, but he does prove that young talent can be original and literate and melodic and sexual and provocative all at once. A cameo vocal from rock institution Marianne Faithfull can't hurt either ("Magpie" is captivating). This is already his 3rd album at 23. Now if he could just work faster...

That's all I have time for today, but shortly I will be adding a list of artists who I think have improved upon previous efforts, artists who released moderately acceptable records, and artists who might want to consider calling it a day. I will also be discussing some highly anticipated records to come for the second half of 07, so stay tuned. Thank you so much for taking the time to read about one man's journey. Now if I could just figure out how to attach media content...

Monday, May 7, 2007

welcome to my 2nd blog of truth!