Monday, January 22, 2007

Video Mondays!

Given my often stated but little indulged love of music videos, I thought it would be beneficial for all of us to take some time each week to appreciate them. This week, I'm spotlighting my current favorite, Susanna and the Magic Orchestra's cover of "Love Will Tear Us Apart." Yes, I know I linked it in the year end list, LAY OFF ME ITS GREAT.

The combination of band name and song selection should provide a laugh. The actual product certainly does not. An amazing cover of an untouchable song, which is incredibly rare. Also rare is a video that basically amounts to a performance shot being so appropriate and beautiful. The sparse set and fluid cinematics fit the song perfectly.

Nico would be proud.

Saturday, January 13, 2007



Hydra Head, 2006

Sounds Like: A wasteland.
For: Fans of desperation. And shoegaze.
Listen: "Silver"

Jesu is headed by Justin K. Broderick, best known for his work in early industrial sludge metal outfit Godflesh, as well as involvement in Napalm Death, Techno Animal, and Ice. Speaking even as a relatively longtime fan of Godflesh (Streetcleaner is still an absolutely sick record), Jesu stands as his best work to date. Many reviewers like to toss about words like "soundscape" and "atmosphere" when discussing music (especially anything with an electronic tint of any sort), but few musicians, even masters of their crafts, can create environments as tangible, and nearly visible as Broderick in this outfit. Even relatively upbeat tracks (which comprise most of this EP) carry a sense of post-apocalyptic doom.

Yet, this record is still heavy. Sped up 50%, most of these tracks would sound like frenzied, noisy rockers (note to self: play The Locust on half speed sometime), and, while it does not sound like a hard rock record in any way, Broderick's pedigree is still clear. Which is inspirational in and of itself -- most bands have a hard time showing their immediate influences without sounding derivative and lacking in voice, to say nothing of moving on from things they themselves have created. Synths chirp and squeal over rattling bass, thudding drums and guitars aching to drone but forced to rock, periodically giving way to Broderick's now understated, soft, man voice. It is hard to believe that this is the same voice that could spew the gallons of bile as on, say, "Like Rats."

As I mentioned in my last post, this is easily the best EP of the year, and, in terms of quality, more than holds its own with any of this year's top long players. It represents a noticeable growth over last year's self-titled debut, and holds great, great promise for February's Conqueror. Highest recommendation, especially as our wayward winter is finding its way back to us.


Sunday, January 07, 2007


Here we are again. I know I haven't listened to everything I wanted to this year, but this is as close as I'm going to get before next May.

Top 10 Albums:

1.Rock Plaza Central – Are We Not Horses Alright, maybe the Neutral Milk Hotel worship is a little too obvious, and maybe Chris Eaton too often sounds like Isaac Brock's nerdy little brother, but when the album comes together this well, it just doesn't matter. Beautiful songs, harrowing violin and a perfect atmosphere.
2.Joanna Newsom – Ys At parts, the most beautiful, moving and awe-inspiring album in years. The string arrangements can sometimes sound a little too stale, but never enough to be its detriment. Only #2 on this list because I favor underdogs.
3.Boris – Pink Amazing balance between noise and rock. Above all else, this album is full of great moments. A great introduction, fantastic transitions, the drums dropping out in “Just Abandoned Myself.”
4.Beirut – Gulag Orkestar Effortlessly conjures images of nostalgia and locales this 20 year old one-man-band could not possibly yet know. A brilliant start to what should be a great career.
5.Xiu Xiu – The Air Force Xiu Xiu keeps growing, and becomes more intriguing than on last year's somewhat misstep La Foret. Becoming more traditional art-rock, but, as Trent Reznor has shown, relying on emotional torture can only keep one afloat for so long.
6.Man Man – Six Demon Bag Tom Waits is a schizophrenic band leader putting on the written-in-house musical at a soon to be condemned asylum. In the best way possible.
7.Islands – Return to the Sea Don't call it a Unicorns comeback; the best quirky lo-fi-cum-hi-fi pop album in a year flooded by them. Still the most creative pop song structures around.
8.Kind of Like Spitting – Thrill of the Hunt Hearing a favorite musician getting a second wind and taking full advantage of it is a beautiful thing. Ben Barnett sounds refreshed and more creative here than he has in years.
9.Micah P Hinson – The Opera Circuit Folksy Texan with an amazing voice and vision nails it. Eric Bachmann's saxophone playing and horn arrangements are merely the icing on the cake. The delicious, delicious icing.
10.The Thermals – The Blood, The Body, and the Machine An album of irresistible power hooks, nearly unlimited energy, and one of the few overtly religious albums in recent years to not be lyrically embarrassing (far from it, at that).

Honorable Mention:

Swan Lake – Beast Moans Starts off straddling the line between disjointed and aimless, falls after the halfway mark in an altogether disappointing manner. At least the half that works more than lives up the supergroup potential.


1.Jesu – Silver [Also one of this year's best releases, period.]
2.Micah P Hinson – The Baby and the Satellite
3.Okkervil River – The President's Dead
4.Xiu Xiu – Tu Mi Piaci
5.Sigur Ros - Saeglaopur

25 Best Songs (In no order whatsoever):

Swan Lake – All Fires
The Knife – Neverland
Micah P Hinson - Jackeyed
Islands – Where There's A Will, There's A Whalebone
Asobi Sesku – Exotic Animal Paradise
Alias & Tarsier (ft. Doseone) – Luck & Fear
The Thermals – Here's Your Future
Boris – Just Abandoned Myself
The Lovely Feathers – Photo Corners
Band of Horses – The Funeral

Rock Plaza Central – My Children, Be Joyful
Gnarls Barkley – Crazy
TV on the Radio – Wolf Like Me
The Decemberists – Sons and Daughters
STAR – Switchblade Heart
Belle + Sebastian – Suki in the Graveyard
Beirut – Postcards from Italy
Man Man – Black Mission Goggles
Liars – It Fit When I Was A Kid
Xiu Xiu – Vulture Piano

Joanna Newsom – Sawdust and Diamonds
The Black Heart Procession – Not Just Words
Jesu - Silver
Kind of Like Spitting – Thrill of the Hunt
Human Television – 10 Minutes


Best Pop Single – Gnarls Barkley - “Crazy”
Best Cover SongSusanna and the Magical Orchestra - "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (Joy Division)
Worst Cover Song – Rascall Flats - “Life Is A Highway” (Tom Cochrane)
Best Album Artwork – Beirut – Gulag Orkestar
Best Opening Track – The Thermals - “Here's Your Future”
Biggest Letdown – Thom Yourke – The Eraser
Biggest Most Awesomest Sugar Rush of Pure Glee – I'm From Barcelona – Let Me Introduce My Friends
Why. - Lady Sovereign
Highest Catchiness to Terribleness Ratio – Chamillionaire (ft Krazie Bone) - “Ridin'”
Most Horrifically Insufferable Rock Single – Hinder - “Lips of an Angel”
Most Likely To Give Kevin Shields A Gigantic Erection – Asobi Sesku - “Exotic Animal Paradise”
We Read The Stats And We've Settled For Less - Death Cab For Cutie

2006 was a pretty good year for music, 99% of which was not discussed here. 2007 is already shaping up to be a great year, with new releases by Jesu, Explosions in the Sky, and the Arcade Fire in the next three months, to name a few.