Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I Have No Idea What I’m Doing

I hate year-end lists. I know, I just posted my "Top Ten of 2006," but each year when I create this list, I am riddled with self-doubt and a sense of failure. I always feel like I rush the choices and always have a nagging sense that I have forgotten some major releases simply because they came out at the beginning of the year and aren’t currently on the top of my playstack. And then comes the inevitable question of whether I can change or amend my list without invalidating the whole selection and any credibility I might have (as if anyone is reading this).

I started doing a year-end list as part of "A Circle Of Friends" compiled by Eggbert Records founder, Greg Dwinnell, who has since passed on. Greg would collect lists from all kinds of friends and celebrities and they would be published in Yeah Yeah Yeah. Over the years the list included contributions from Elvis Costello, Aimee Mann, Michael Penn, John Easdale, and me. It was an interesting effort.

So, of course, since I have a blog, I feel it is my duty to continue compiling a yearly list. But as soon as I have clicked "Publish," my mind starts racing and suddenly I think of a half dozen albums that should’ve, would’ve, could’ve been included.

So, a couple of albums I might have missed include:

I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass by Yo La Tengo. I cannot say enough good things about this record. Finest effort since I Can Feel The Heart Beating As One.

Post-War by M. Ward. I had never paid too much attention to M. Ward before picking up this release on a whim. I cannot believe what I have been missing. Great songwriting, great vocals, and an amazing guitar player.

Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not by Arctic Monkeys. Their debut album, which came out in February, is a great album. Don’t believe the hype, believe the music. Great British pop.

Moon by Robert Pollard. I have always had some Pollard release on my list for the past ten years, but I was trying to avoid being too obvious. Plus I think I had From a Compound Eye on my 2005 list since I had an advance copy months in, well, advance. But included with the release of his second solo album in 2006, Normal Happiness, was the live album Moon. This was one of the shows opening for Pearl Jam and the set smokes. This album is outstanding simply for the life it gives already great selections from Normal Happiness and From a Compound Eye. But even better is the amazing version of the GBV staple "Game of Pricks." Find a copy today and listen on repeat.

Of course, if I add a release, I have to remove something, which would probably be the new Flaming Lips. No offense, but it is their weakest effort since Clouds Taste Metallic and was probably more of a comfort choice that a heartfelt choice. But I’ve said enough.

Listen to my iPod:

1. "I Awake" by Soundgarden
2. "Dragon" (Icelandic) by the Sugarcubes
3. "My Sentimental Melody" by the Magnetic Fields
4. "Father & Daughter" by Paul Simon
5. "Your Cover’s Blown" by Belle & Sebastian
6. "I Believe In A Thing Called Love" by the Darkness
7. "Sunglasses After Dark" by the Cramps
8. "Pagan Lovesong" by Virgin Prunes
9. "History Repeating" by Propellerheads
10. "Leaves That Are Green" by Simon & Garfunkel

Monday, December 18, 2006

Bored ?!*@ Like a Suicide

Last week, Axl Rose, of Guns ‘n’ Roses, announced a March 6 release date for the long-delayed follow-up to Use Your Illusion I & II. The album, Chinese Democracy, if it actually appears, will be an interesting event. It is easy to say that ultimately, it will be disappointing. To be blunt, it might even suck.

Personally, I loved Appetite for Destruction, which isn’t actually going that far out on a limb.

I was disappointed by the stop-gap release of GNR Lies. The live stuff was good, but "Patience" was not that good of a song and the rest weren’t even that good.

Then came the Illusions. To me, those two albums are horrible. You might be able to pull ten good songs that would have created an okay album. But, ultimately, the ten best songs from Illusion I & II would have been a disappointing follow-up to such an incendiary debut. Of course, a lot of bands have trouble following up their debut so we could cut them some slack.

So then comes The Spaghetti Incident? Another mediocre stop-gap release.

Then nothing except for the piece-meal dismemberment of the band until only Axl remains. Somehow most scribes always mention Dizzy Reed at this point but he was not an original member, and I’m not really sure what he has contributed to the band’s legacy. Maybe it is Dizzy’s ability to remain invisible musically that has allowed Axl to tolerate him for all these years.

So, here is my question: does anyone care? Is the world ready for Chinese Democracy? I figure the new album will be greeted by a collective shrug.

I think the best thing about this album coming out is that we can finally stop talking about it and Axl.

And, of course, here are the last 10 songs from my iPod.

1. "Annalisa" by Public Image Ltd.
2. "Sleep the Clock Around" by Belle & Sebastian
3. "Sliver" by Nirvana
4. "Someone Like You" (demo) by X
5. "Outside of Town" by the Geraldine Fibbers
6. "Lover’s Rock" by the Clash
7. "Speak, See, Remember" by Pavement
8. "Angelene" by PJ Harvey
9. "One Hundred Years" by the Cure
10. "In My Tree" by Pearl Jam

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Top 20 for 2006

With the year rapidly coming to a close, I figure it is time to give my roundup of favorite releases for the year.

Top 10 for 2006

1. Fox Confessor Brings The Flood by Neko Case – Not only does Neko Case have one of the most amazing voices in pop music today, she finally fulfills the promise hinted at by her previous work.
2. Rabbit Fur Coat by Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins – Never a big fan of Rilo Kiley, but this release is a wonderful collection. A Loretta Lynn for the modern era.
3. Be Your Own Pet by Be Your Own Pet – Still one of the most exciting albums of the year for me. Each time I hear it, it shocks me with how good it is.
4. The Information by Beck – A strong follow up Guero. Beck continues to create great music.
5. The Life Pursuit by Belle & Sebastian – It is easy to say it’s just another B&S album, but what is wrong with that?
6. Passover by the Black Angels – Great stoner-rock album. Up there with Black Mountain’s debut.
7. At War With The Mystics by the Flaming Lips – While still toiling in the shadow of the Soft Bulletin, the Flaming Lips continue to astound. This release, while not perfect, is a joy to listen to.
8. The Eraser by Thom Yorke – Who knew Thom Yorke was working on a solo album? Who knew that the solo album wouldn’t veer too far off of the path laid down by his other band? Who cares? The Eraser is a great record for fans of Kid A or Amnesiac.
9. Ballad of the Broken Seas by Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Simple and beautiful. Two voices that are the Reese’s peanut butter cup of the music world.
10. Broken Boy Soldiers by The Raconteurs – Smoking album. Of course, the band is even better live, but what a great record. Try and resist. I dare you.

Top 10 Reissues, Collections, etc.

1. Orphans by Tom Waits – Three discs of Tom Waits music? The man is astounding. I love "Army Ants" and "Children’s Story."
2. The Singles by The Clash – A beautiful box set of all 19 Clash singles including "This Is England" from Cut the Crap.
3. American Hardcore (soundtrack) – I had a smile on my face from the moment this film started and the soundtrack is a great walk down memory lane with most of the tracks holding up even after all this time.
4. Wowie Zowie – Sordid Sentinels Edition by Pavement – I have waited with baited breath for each deluxe reissue of the Pavement albums and Wowie Zowie, like it’s predecessors, does not disappoint. Trade in your old copies of the first three albums and pick up the reissues.
5. Noise Floor by Bright Eyes – A great odds and sods collection.
6. III by Sebadoh – An album that I never could get my head around when it came out. Strangely, I just sold my old copy a couple of years ago. But this reissue grabbed me and I cannot stop listening to it. I guess an old dog can learn new tricks.
7. The Tragic Treasury by Gothic Archies – Finally. I have been contemplating buying all of the audio books to get these track but instead they have, with two bonus tracks, been collected all on one disc.
8. No Direction Home (soundtrack) by Bob Dylan – Soundtrack to a great documentary. Some of the most engaging Dylan music around.
9. The Top by the Cure – My favorite Cure album given the deluxe treatment. It had to make the list. Too bad most of the extras are mediocre at best. But the album has never sounded better.
10. A Life Less Lived: The Gothic Box (various artists) – A guilty pleasure but a pleasure nonetheless. Not a lot of revelations, but plenty of stray tracks all in one place.

And here are the 10 latest from my iPod:

1. "Black Sails In The Sunset" by Elvis Costello
2. "Open Heart Surgery" by the Brian Jonestown Massacre
3. "Bad Version of War" by Pavement
4. "Everybody’s Happy Nowadays" by the Buzzcocks
5. "Plants & Rags" by PJ Harvey
6. "Tick" by Ween
7. "All Along The Watchtower" by U2
8. "Walkin’ Cane" by the Knitters
9. "Blue Stars" by the Soviettes
10. "Sixteen Blue" by the Replacements

Friday, December 08, 2006


The other day I started listening to my iPod starting at the first song and just letting it play. An interesting way to listen to music as opposed to using the ever-popular "Shuffle" function. One obvious by-product of just going in alphabetical order is hearing different versions of the same song one after the other and not always by the same performer. Here Devo then the Rolling Stones cover "(I Can’t Get) No Satisfaction" back-to-back is fun. Of course hearing three versions of "A Certain Romance" by the Arctic Monkeys can be a bit much.

Anyway, to my main point, I noticed an interesting string of songs entitled "(Untitled)." In fact, eleven songs in a row carry this title. Some, of course were musical interludes such as the two tracks from Oasis’ (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, but some were fully formed songs such as the Smashing Pumkins’ single by the non-name name. Of course, on the actual albums, they aren’t always titled "(Untitled)," sometimes they are simply blank or not even listed. But, for whatever reason, iTunes gives them the titled of "(Untitled)."

And, for no other reason, here they are:

1. (Untitled) by Alice In Chains from Sap
2. (Untitled) by All-Time Quarterback from their self-titled CD
3. (Untitled) by Brendan Benson from One Mississippi
4. (Untitled) by Interpol from KCRW’s Sounds Eclectic 3
5. (Untitled) by Interpol from Turn On The Bright Lights
6. (Untitled) by Oasis from (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
7. (Untitled) by Oasis from (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
8. (Untitled) by Pearl Jam from Yield
9. (Untitled) by R.E.M. from Green
10. (Untitled) by Smashing Pumpkins from Rotten Apples
11. (Untitled) by Sonic Youth from Washing Machine

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Maybe Someone Is Trying To Tell You Something

As per this article, Robert Smith, beloved frontman of the Cure, is suffering writer’s block as the band completes their fourteenth album. Of note in this article is Smith’s apprehension of soiling the band’s legacy by becoming a touring band hawking their greatest hits. Sadly, as a long time fan, I know Smith has had this anxiety for decades. In the mid-eighties he emphatically stated in a lengthy interview in Face magazine that he wanted to go out at the top of his game and not become another Fleetwood Mac. I don’t have the exact quote but that is pretty close. My friends and I thought this was a daring statement of purpose and applauded Smith and Co.

However, this has not been the case as the band has slowly become the next Fleetwood Mac. See, the problem wasn’t commercial viability, which even Fleetwood Mac were at their artistic worst, they were still selling a butt load of records. And that same scenario is true of the Cure. Even as they have continued to produce their most commercially successfully albums, the albums have been progressively worse. Starting with Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Cure albums have been bloated muddled messes that seem to repeat each other.

All I am saying is that if Mr. Smith is facing writer’s block, maybe it is the universe telling him that it is time to hang up his lipstick and mascara.

And in a little twist, instead of having my iPod on shuffle, I just started it at the beginning of the song list and here is the last 10 songs played:

1. "(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)" by the Stranglers
2. "(Ghost) Riders In The Sky" by Johnny Cash
3. "(Hot Pool Of) Woman Need" by the Cramps
4. "(I’ll Love You) Till The End Of The World" by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
5. "(I’ll Name You) The Flame That Cries" by Guided By Voices
6. "(I’m A) TV Savage" by Bow Wow Wow
7. "(I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear" by Blondie
8. "(I’m Not) Your Stepping Stone" by the Monkees
9. "(I’m Not) Your Stepping Stone" by the Sex Pistols
10. "(I’m Stuck In A Pagoda With) Tricia Toyota" by the Dickies

Monday, December 04, 2006

10 Things I Love About My iPod

Don't have a lot of time today so I figured I'd just post the last ten songs from my iPod. You know the drill.

1. “Spidey’s Wild Ride” by Tom Waits
2. “Rune ‘Em Off” by Merle Haggard
3. “Most Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine” by Bob Dylan
4. “Picture In A Frame” by Tom Waits
5. “The New Soft Shoe” by Gram Parsons
6. “The Gospel According to Tony Day” by David Bowie
7. “Box Full of Letters” by Wilco
8. “(This Could Be) The Last Time” by the Who
9. “I Should Have Known Better” by the Beatles
10. “Sea of Teeth” by Sparklehorse

Friday, December 01, 2006

Pollard is Shaking Things Up

We knew it was coming but it is here: Robert Pollard has, for now, decided to quit touring and performing live. Instead he is focusing on continuing his prodigious recorded output. According to Billboard and Pitchfork, Pollard has seven new releases lined up for 2007 including releases on Merge, Fading Captain, and his new label Record Company Records. Apparently, Fading Captain will be retired with it’s 50th release, a best-of from the label’s output. Record Company Records will take over releasing the former GBV-leaders eclectic side projects. Read more at Billboard.com and Pitchfork.

Here is what my iPod is playing:

1. "Better Save Yourself" by Chris Bell
2. "Wild America" by Iggy Pop
3. "Still Wishing To Course" by Camper Van Beethoven
4. "Bitter-Sweet" by The Venus In Furs
5. "All Together Now" by the Beatles
6. "To Defy the Laws of Tradition" by Primus
7. "Lucky Day" by Tom Waits
8. "You Drive Me Ape (You Big Gorilla)" by the Dickies
9. "Crazy Feeling" by Lou Reed
10. "She’s Always In My Hair" by Prince