Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I'll be counting down the days...

KRS Press Release:
On May 8, 2007, Kill Rock Stars will release a double CD of music by Elliott Smith entitled New Moon. The album contains 24 songs recorded 1995-1997, a prolific time in Smith's career, when he recorded his self-titled album and Either/Or (both also released by Kill Rock Stars).
Arguably the most gifted song-writer of his generation, Elliott Smith produced a large body of work that includes five solo albums, as well as From a Basement on the Hill (2004), a collection of songs completed before his death in 2003. Like his other work, New Moon reflects the power of Smith's ability to integrate rich, melodic music with poetic, multi-layered lyrics.
The final mixing for the double cd was done by Larry Crane, who is the archivist for the estate of Elliott Smith A significant portion of proceeds from the album sales will go directly to Outside In, a Portland-based social service organization dedicated to providing diverse services for homeless youth and low-income adults.
Elliott Smith died October 21, 2003, in his home in Los Angeles. To date the coroner has been unable to determine the cause of death, and the investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department remains open.
ELLIOTT SMITHNEW MOON(Kill Rock Stars)Release date: May 8, 2007
Disc 1
Angel In The Snow
Talking To Mary
High Times
New Monkey
Looking Over My Shoulder
Going Nowhere
Riot Coming
All Cleaned Out
First Timer
Go By
Miss Misery (early version)

Disc 2
Georgia Georgia
Whatever (Folk Song in C)
Big Decision
New Disaster
Seen How Things Are Hard
Fear City
Pretty Mary K (other version)
Almost Over
See You Later
Half Right

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Chris' Top Ten Cds Of 2006

10 - Beirut - The Gulag Orkestar
When I first listened to Gulag Orkestar, I was not quite sure what to make of it. The music was unlike anything I had ever heard before. It was deep, soulful and engrossing. Songs like 'Postcards from Italy' and 'Brandenburg' were melodic and beautiful, yet surprisingly catchy. Whenever you realize that the brain child behind this is 19 at the time of its recording, you have an added level of appreciation for it. Zach Candon is nothing short of a musical prodigy. He has crafted something far more mature than his age should allow, and then some. Gulag Orkestar is a beautiful compilation, full of wonder and amazement...and this kid was only 19. It's funny how something so beautiful can make me so depressed at the same time.

9 - The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
The Crane Wife is the follow up to 2005's Picaresque, and while it is not as good as it's predecessor, it is still a remarkable disc. The Crane Wife, losely based on a Japanese fairytale, builds upon their folk tendencies from their earlier CDs, and the result is a much deeper effort. While the CD does lag in the middle, with such strong songs as "The Perfect Crime", "the Crane Wife 3" and "O Valencia", it is easy to overlook its short comings. The Decemberists proved with The Crane Wife that they are capable of creating great music, and I for one cannot wait for their next offering.

8 - Final Fantasy - He Poos Clouds
Three things drew me to this CD, the first was the name Final Fantasy, which coincidently is the name of a well known, and well loved RPG series. Second, the fact that it is the solo project of Owen Pallett, the violinist from the Arcade Fire. Thirdly, the title, "He Poos Clouds". It took me a few listens through the CD before I 'got it' so to speak. It's also very difficult to explain what makes the CD as good as it is. Even trying to compare it to something borders on the impossible. Owen has managed to make something that words simply cannot describe, and in a day and age where bands struggle to do something different, he does it effortlessly.

7 - Muse - Black Holes and Revelations
Black Holes and Revelations is Muse's gateway to success on this side of the pond. Like all of Muse's music, it keeps its new age experimental tendencies while combining them with a more media friendly approach than their previous efforts. The crowning achievement is the six minute epic closing track "Knights of Cydonia". The best way to describe this piece of music is a Space-Western Rock Ballad. It is the culminating track on a CD full of excellent songs. The production value on Black Holes is also much more solid than their previous efforts. I tend to compare Muse to The Decemberists, as both bands are on the cusp of greatness, and just need that little extra to push them over the edge, and there is no doubt in my mind that Muse is capable of that.

6 - Band of Horses - Everything All the Time
Everything All the Time is the first full-length LP from this Seattle band, who manage to make amazing sounding music for a band of only two members. While the CD is far from perfect, their lush indie rock sound is intriguing and just plain good stuff. I find it difficult to explain what it is about Band of Horses that appeals to me, but the CD does at any rate. They can definitely write a solid tune, they are both very accomplished musicians, and both of these things together make for a really solid debut album.

5 - TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain
I first stumbled upon TV on the Radio when they opened for Franz Ferdinand when I saw them a year and a half ago. However, this was premium drinking time so I missed their set entirely. Then when watching Conan one night, TV on the Radio performed "Wolf Like Me". Needless to say I kicked myself for not seeing them when I had the chance and bought this CD the following day. Return to Cookie Mountain is a much more mature offering than the title would make you believe. TV on the Radio are a much more polished band on their second album, but their sound is as big and ambitious as ever. With songs from the attention grabbing opener "I Was a Lover" to my personal favorite, "Wolf Like Me", Return to Cookie Mountain offers the listener a challenging array of styles, and it seems to blend all of these elements together in a way that only TV on the Radio can do.

4 - The Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
This was the front runner for my favorite CD of the year for the majority of last year. The title of the CD, coming from a 1960 movie starring Albert Finney, seems to perfectly summarize what the Arctic Monkeys are. Their sound isn't anything new, and their lyrics aren't the most inspired, but the Arctic Monkeys realize that. They make good music, plain and simple. They aren't trying to make a statement, and they aren't trying to change the face of music. They make music because they like it, and they have something to say. This makes their music accessible, extremely catchy, and it is with this in mind that makes Whatever People Say I Am as good as it is. Yes they weren't trying to make a statement, yet they did, and in the process, they changed the face of music, at least in the UK where it became the fastest selling debut CD of all time.

3 - The Automatic - Not Accepted Anywhere
If someone told me that I would be raving about how good a brit-pop CD was a year ago, I would have stabbed them. Then, one night out in the UK, "Monster" came over the speakers, and I was blown away. It wasn't the best song I'd ever heard, but there was something about it. Everywhere I looked people were jumping up and down, comepletely taken in by the song. It runs through your veins unlike anything I had heard before. Not Accepted Anywhere is like that from beginning to end. It digs in to your skin and doesn't let go.

2 - Beck - The Information
I had no expectations when I first listened to The Information. I wasn't a huge fan of Guero or the remixed version, and quite frankly, had begun to give up on Beck. Then I heard The Information. Beck's latest offering is quite different from Guero, and it shows. The song writing isn't as 'mainstream' and he takes a lot more liberties instrumentally. That is not to say that is doesn't sound like Beck, cause it definately has a Beck-sound, but it is a different Beck-sound than we are used to, and that is a good thing.

1 - The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America
What can you say about this CD that hasn't already been said before. From beginning to end, this CD is so good, that you will find yourself coming back to it again and again. Their catchy, 'night-on-the-town' lyrics make it easy to imagine yourself at a pub with some buddies with these guys on the stage. If their is anything negative to Boys and Girls in America, it seems short even with its approximately forty minute length. I could definately have used another half hour of this stuff. If you have not heard of The Hold Steady, you owe it to yourself to find out what all the fuss is about.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Brian's Top Cds Of 2006 (In No Specific Order)

To be honest, I've spent the majority of the past year listening to albums that well... weren't released this past year. However, some albums of 2006 did find their way into my stereo. Some stayed there for a bit and some were only there once. Here my friends is a belated list of those albums from 2006 that made their way into my stereo and managed to find a place to stay in my fickle heart.

When listening to Paper Television it's not hard to find yourself wondering if Khaela Maricich was attempting to write hip-hop songs. This is the most oddly original release of the year and yet it still remains highly accessible thanks to Maricich's cute vocals surrounded by the erractic and catchy electronic instrumentation by Jona Bechtolt. The lead track "Pile Of Gold" demands repeated listenings and never seems to get old. Paper Television's very original oddly heartfelt lyrical approach pays off in all of these tracks big time. It's a dance party, it's an experiment, it's a love story at a dance club on Mars, and lastly it's a very unexpected and impressive step foward for The Blow. This is how girls think, guys.

My good friend Chris brought Hot Chip's The Warning to my attention after meeting him at work. I had no idea what I was in for, but in the end it justified working. This isn't just a band that shares electronic similarities with the Postal Service, but it's a band that kicks the shit out of them. It's a very accessible and enjoyable album to sit and listen to without being bored. The Warning feels like i'm 'there' for something very important in music for once. It's how i'd imagine it felt listening to early New Order records for the first time, waiting for the next one with a little bit of excited anticipation to see what's going to happen next with every new song.

The only album on this list and only album from 2006 here due to sheer greatness and sentimental affiliation. My favorite night and day of the year is documented in M. Ward's Post-War. Ward's cover of "To Go Home", from Daniel Johnston's long out of print 1982 (very) lo-fi recording The What Of Whom. This song is the reason the repeat feautre was added to stereos and discmans. Another notable mention is my personal favorite track, "Magic Trick", a song about a magician, I mean a girl, it features my top lyric of the year, "She's got one magic trick/just one and that's it/she disappears". Post-War is full of graceful heartache, many questions, and stark romanticism. It may be my soul.

Here is a record by Destroyer, Primarily Daniel Bejar of the New Pornographers and more recently of Swan Lake. I recall when I first illegally got ahold of Destroyer's Rubies. Everyone who came around at this time I raved about it to and spoke of comparisons to Dylan's Blood On The Tracks then played for them, "Painter In Your Pocket", a tale about the East Vancouver art scene. Sometimes I also played "A Dangerous Woman Up To A Point", which was followed immediatley by, "Yeah, that does sound like Dylan!". Well, I no longer think of this disc in association with Dylan or anyone else. It's simply a Destroyer album to me these days - and that ain't a bad thing. So, why don't you come around anymore?

The first track on The Hold Steady's Boys And Girls In America quotes Sal Paradise from Kerouac's classic novel On The Road ("Boys and girls in America / They have such a sad time together") the song then goes on to describe a conversation between drunkard poet John Berryman and the Devil. The pace for the album you're about to hear is set perfectly. Tales of boys and girls in america doing drugs ("Hot Soft Light"), taking drugs and having sex ("Chillout Tent"), regretting it all ("First Night") and partying harder than ever ("Massive Nights"). This is all backed by Thin Lizzy riffs and instrumentation you'd swear was the E-Street Band. Whether you're on your way to a party or coming down from one this is the album you need to be listening to. It's nothing short of amazing folks.

It's been a hell of a year for the Swedes. Seemingly unknown Swedish acts have been popping up all over like blonde children from the Children Of The Corn. I knew they were here to stay last week when I turned on late-night God Conan O'Brien and squeeled with baffled delight that his musical guest was Peter, Bjorn and John. The performance was more than I could ask for. They are true showmen and heck, they even had special guest vocalist on the incredible first single, "Young Folks" Victoria Bergsman, whom recently departed from The Concretes. She is the most adorable and shy girl I've ever witnessed on my television. Naturally, I fell in love with both and most likely so did the rest of the nation. When I bought this album a few months back it hadn't been released stateside, but I did not give a second thought to the purchase of the more expensive UK edition. I simply had to own Writer's Block. It is indie-rock at it's prime. It's catchy, cool, and slick as Peter Morén's dance moves. A must have!

The first time I heard the song "Knife" from Grizzly Bear's Yellow House I knew that this, their second full length album was going to be a major statement. The album contains lush Beach Boys harmonies, chugging Velvet Undergroundesque guitars, and it's both intimate and ambitious. Albums like Yellow House come along just when you think that the room for creativity in rock music is running down and drop you out a window like a piano. If you enjoy the creative side of indie-rock that retains it's emotional undertones Yellow House is for you.

Remember the classic scene from Fast Times at Ridgemont High in which Mark asks Stacy out and receives pointers from Damone? One of his many tips is to play side one of Led Zeppelin IV. Well, if that movie was made in 2006 instead of 1982 Damone would have told Mark to pop Junior Boy's So This Is Goodbye in the cd player. Lead singer Jeremy Greenspan's voice carries a rare fragile grace. This is surrounded by an impenetratable wall of syntheziers provided by Matt Didemus. So This Is Goodbye is another indie/electronic album on this list that kicks the crap out of anything the Postal Service has ever attempted. If Led Zeppelin IV was guaranteed to get you some hot action, So This Is Goodbye will atleast get you some tongue.

Speaking of hot action... Jenny Lewis' solo debut from her work with Rilo Kiley, Rabbit Fur Coat, is a stunning collection of country-rock and Americana songs that wouldn't be out of place on a Gram Parsons recording. Rabbit Fur Coat wouldn't sound out of place either at a local beer soaked honky-tonk. Its songs tell stories exploring themes of infidelity, jealousy, and reflection and include a slew of interesting various characters. The best compliment I can give to this album is to say that it is better than any Rilo Kiley album to date. Highly reccomended for a lonesome night of introspection and close listening. I'm pretty sure some of my ex-girlfriends could have wrote this album...

The Apples In Stereo - New Magnetic Wonder (Yep Roc, 2007)

I find it hard to beleive the fact it's been five years since The Apples In Stereo released Velocity Of Sound. I'm not sure if you feel like this or not, but before we go anywhere i'll get it out of the way that this year's New Magnetic Wonder is their best record to date. It's a damn shame that there aren't very many bands in existance today that are as immediately influenced by the mid-seventies masterpieces created by Jeff Lynne's Electric Light Orchestra. Critics often write ELO off by claiming that they were lackluster Beatles wannabes, not true. The Apples In Stereo have created a near perfect loose-concept album. That being said New Magnetic Wonder is similarily underappreciated by the critics such as, the hipster doofus' over at Pitchforkmedia (6.9/10?!?!). The sheer amount of catchy hooks and grandoise pop melodies to tap your feet to on this album are for lack of a better word,wonderful. In fact, the closest the Apples come to specifically stating any sort of sadness is during “Play Tough” when we’re told that “Saturday is not the ideal day to break up / Don't you know it takes a little time to wake up?” In addition, the band's leader and songwriter invented a new musical scale called the "Non-Pythagorean scale". No one needs to pretend they know that this means he used equations based on the properties of natural logarithms to replace the standard 12 tones in a musical octave with a different set of frequencies to know this is a very good thing. The more than impressive array of instrumentation used on this album, including mellotrons, cowbell's, clairnets, various electronic effects, and masses of radio-friendly distortion makes for an often mesmerizing kaleidoscope of sounds. But, if this review hasn't already sold you on this album I'm sure the mention that the reclusive Jeff Mangum plays the drums and the 'cow object' as well as provides handclaps and backing vocals on New Magnetic Wonder will get you to that record store. Simply stated, this album is a drug of rock riffs, psychedelic undertones, and bubblegum pop. It's a damn addicting one, and unfortunatley not enough people are junkies.

Preferred tracks: 7 Stars, Play Tough, Skyway, Sunday Sounds

Final Grade: B+

Leaving Las Vegas (Mike Figgis, 1995)

When you look at Nicolas Cage as an actor, you seldom remember him for his strong roles, such as Adaptation, when his more recent films have been last years mess The Wicker Man and his upcoming Ghost Rider. If you look past his poor film choices, you remember that this is a man who can act with the best of them, and Leaving Las Vegas is not only Cage's best performance, but one of the best performances of my lifetime. Leaving Las Vegas is the story of Ben Sanderson (Nicolas Cage), an alcoholic Hollywood Screenwriter whose drinking causes him to lose everything, and thus decides to go to Las Vegas to drink himself to death. The Film is at times hard to watch, yet always engaging, depressing, yet uplifting, and it is film making at its finest. At its core, the film is about relationships, not alcoholism. When Ben arrives in Las Vegas, he meets a hooker named Sera (Elishabeth Shue) and the two of them begin a relationship, one based on necessity. The chemistry between the two leads is the driving force behind this film, as their love is inevitably doomed to fail, yet they both struggle to fill the void in each others lives. Leaving Las Vegas leaves a lasting impression on the viewer, and its effects will linger for some time afterwards. While it is no means a perfect movie, as director Mike Figgis seems unsure what he is supposed to be filming, the performance of Nicholas Cage alone makes this film one of the best films of 1994.

Final Grade: A