Friday, February 19, 2010

Another One off The List: Matt Skiba

Last week, I was able to talk to another one of my favorite bands. I spent about 20 minutes on the phone with Alkaline Trio front man Matt Skiba. (This was actually my second interview with the band. I interviewed drummer Derek Grant last year.)

I've found that I am actually much less nervous to talk to my rock and roll heroes than bands I've never heard of. Since I own all the AK3 records and have seen them live a bunch of times, it's not hard to come up with a list of things I'd like to ask them from a fan's perspective. If it's a band that's new to me, I have to do a lot of research just to avoid sounding like an idiot.

Mr. Skiba, with his smoker's voice, was very cool and easy to talk to. He was the first rock star to ever start the conversation by asking me where I was and what the weather was like. A small guesture, but I found it very endearing.

We chatted about the band's punk rock beginnings, their recent gothic leanings, and the record label they just started. Very cool, very personable.

My article is here and if you want to listen to the full, 20-minute interview, I've included it below.

Matt Skiba Interview [WMA]

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Nikola Sarcevic

For almost a year, I've been kicking around the idea of a music blog that only features albums that are good from start to finish. I still haven't gotten around to it. But if I had, this record would be on there.

Though there are a few lesser moments in the middle, Millencolin singer Nikola Sarcevic sure put out a great debut solo album in 2004, Lock-Sport-Krock. The bookends, "Lovetrap" and "Vila Rada" are the best moments.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top Nine of '09

Here are some of my fav discs from the last year of the decade:

1. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.
The perfect mix of jangly guitars, fuzzy synths, and lo-fi grandeur. Just keeps getting better with repeated spins.

Phoenix - “1901″ [MP3]

2. Weezer - Raditude.
Weezer's best record since The Green Album. Perfectly poppy, with just enough punch.

Weezer- If You're Wondering if I Want You To

3. Matt & Kim - Grand. Rock 'n roll's smiliest couple grins from ear to ear as they pound their drums and keyboards. All attempts to refuse dancing are futile.

4. David Bazan - Curse Your Branches.
Former Pedro the Lion breaks up with God. Satan rewards him with the most compelling lyrics of his career.

5. Silversun Pickups - Swoon
. Everyone compares them to early '90s Smashing Pumpkins. I don't see the problem. Who didn't love Smashing Pumpkins back then?

6. Teenage Bottlerocket - They Came from the Shadows.
This Wyoming trio makes punk rock fun again, a la The Vandals, Screeching Weasel, or The Queers.

7. Telekinesis - Telekinesis!
This is the kind of indie rock that car commercials can't get enough of--oft soft, oft rockin', always about to be heartbroken.

Telekinesis - "Coast Of Carolina" [MP3]

8. Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You.
Ms. Allen is a spoiled brat celebrity, so much that's almost impossible to resist.

9. Dan Deacon- Bromst. This frenetic noise jumble may drive you batty, but if you can survive the insanity, it's a great ride.

And the Next Best Nine...

10. Say Hi - Oohs & Aahs
11. Strung Out - Agents of the Underground
12. Passion Pit - Manners
13. Left Alone - Left Alone
14. Iron & Wine - Around the Well
15. Bon Iver - Blood Bank
16. Banner Pilot - Collapser
17. Jimmy Eat World - Clarity Live
18. Prodigy - Invaders Must Die

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

More Record Reviews - Letting Up, Dashboard, Joshua James

Sooner or later I'll get back to blogging. Until then, here's this week's record reviews:

Letting Up Despite Great Faults - S/T (Highly recommended)
Dashboard Confessional - Alter the Ending
Joshua James - Build Me This

Letting Up - In Steps [MP3]

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Recent Reviews

Pearl Jam - The Back Spacer
Funnest Pearl Jam album in many years. Still not amazing. I am, however, in love with The Fixer [MP3].

Jay-Z - The Blue Print 3
Jay's getting a bit lazy, but the girls (Alicia Keys, Rihanna) do a good job. Check out Run This Town (feat. Rihanna, Kanye) [MP3].

Lymbyc Systym - Carved By Glaciers
If you love ambient, lo-fi electronica, I'd highly recommend this one.

fun. - Aim and Ignite

Lead singer of The Format is good, but not as good, without his old band.

The Used - Artwork
The Utah emos are still angry, but not angry enough for my taste.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Props to Chris Walla

Everyone knows that Death Cab for Cutie guitarist Chris Walla is a great producer (Nada Surf, Hot Hot Heat, Postal Service), but I wasn't so sure I was going to like his songwriting/singing. Turns out his album "Field Manual" is really good. I was reminded of this fact when "Two-Fifty" just popped up on my shuffle.

Two-Fifty - Chris Walla (FULL SONG)

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Review: David Bazan Curse Your Branches

David Bazan
Curse Your Branches

For years, David Bazan (formerly under the name Pedro the Lion) has been weaving stirring tales of man’s relationship with God. But these are no hallelujah Christian rock songs. The fictitious tales tend to revolve around fallibility of both parties and are filled with constant questioning and disappointment.

Topically, his first full-length solo release follows a similar pattern. There’s just one big difference. For the first time in his career, Bazan himself becomes the main character. “Curse Your Branches” chronicles, both painfully and beautifully, Bazan’s own questioning, doubts, and beliefs.

Lyrically, this is the best piece in Bazan’s stunning catalog. He sings of losing faith in front of his wife and daughter, his family fasting for his salvation, and drinking to stop thinking about all of it. The only drawback is the countrified arrangements take away from the amazing weight of the message. And with so many solo versions of these songs floating the internet, it’s hard not to yearn for the stripped down performances.

Nevertheless, a nearly perfect release from one of rock’s most engaging songwriters.

For fans of: Pedro the Lion, Death Cab for Cutie

Rating: 4 of 4

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Stupid Canada. I Hate You.

My long-time homie Rhett flew in from The OC and spent a few days with us. Other than a trip to a stirring nil-nil Real Salt Lake match and the injury-filled lunch at the Chuck, we spent all of our time writing and recording music. (Oh wait, we also watched a million episodes of Project Runway with Traci.)

I knew we would be recording a couple of Rhett's rock tunes and he said he was bringing some acoustic material as well. I was a bit surprised, though, by what came out of the guitar. Rather than a heartfelt ballad to his fiancee, we got this tribute to America Junior. (Rhett and I have opposing thoughts about our neighbors to the north.)

Beware: this will be stuck in your head for days.

Rhett McCaughey--Ahh Canada [MP3]

This was the only completed product, but we got down the skeletons of two more killer tracks. Keep your fingers crossed.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Say It Ain't So

What happens when you combine my two favorite things--8-bit music and Weezer tunes? I become a very happy boy. If you don't know what 8-bit music is, this will be a great introduction for you. If you don't know who Weezer is, well, you're an idiot. There, I said it.

The full album is available for free download here.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

He's Behind You, He's Got Swine Flu

I spent the day at home, having swine flu. No, not really. Just a fever and the chills. This was very inconvenient on the day when Gieger the Ukrainian came to clean out our air ducts. How are you supposed to tell if your air conditioner is working better when you already feel like an icicle, or when you're literally sweating through a game of Dora Memory with your daughter (may be the sweating was actually due to the high stakes of winning the most matches)?

The Streets - He's Behind You, He's Got Swine Flu

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Music Reviews Monday (on Wednesday)

I reviewed new albums by Rancid and Bowerbirds this week. I'm posting my full Phoenix review here because I think this is an album you should really check out.


Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

On the opening track of their fourth album, French quartet Phoenix name-drops 19th-century composers like it's hot. Hey, whatever gets the party started, right? The record begins like an open invitation to the indie dance floor. "1901" has all the jangly guitars and fuzzy synths and "Fences" has the requisite disco beats and falsetto vocals.

However, the album is not just about booty shakers. "Love Like a Sweet Sunset Part I" is a slow-building instrumental shoe gazer and its sequel, "Part II," adds soft, lyrical melody and Thomas Mars' hopeful tenor.

The rest of the tracks throw in a bit of everything -- swelling orchestral grandeur, driving bass lines, and bright vocals. Over the album's 10 tracks, the band never misses a beat. This is easily one of the most enjoyable releases of the first half of 2009.

Stream Most of the the Album Here

For fans of: Rooney, Air
Rating: 3.5 of 4

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Monday, June 08, 2009

Music For A Monday Morning

It already been a rough start to the new workweek. Here's what I've been listening to to get me through it.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

CD Review: Strung Out Prototypes & Painkillers

Strung Out
Prototypes and Painkillers

So Cal punks Strung Out give fans much more than just the odds-and-ends on this compilation disc. In addition to old demos and cover songs, “Prototypes and Painkillers” makes a home for 17 year’s worth of material that has ended up on various split 7 inches, Fat Wreck Chords samplers, and limited edition CDs.

Had the band been a bit more discriminate in their 25 song track listing, they easily could have put out a 12-song album to rival any of their studio releases. As it stands, the record has plenty of polished moments, while still showing just how far the band has come since their early days.

“Protypes” also shows how many great songs the band wrote in the early 2000’s. Standout tracks “Don’t Look Back,” “Your Worst Mistake,”and “Lost Motel” all came from the “An American Paradox” sessions. The album also features a very impressive acoustic reworking of “Velvet Alley” from “Paradox.”

Though is album is intended for long-time fans, there’s plenty for those Strung Out newcomers to get excited about.

Strung Out - Lost Motel

For fans of: 10 Foot Pole, Guttermouth
Rating: 3.5 of 4

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CD Review: The Thermals Now We Can See

The Thermals
Now We Can See

What’s awesome about the Thermals? Oh, so much. Hutch Harris’s deadpan vocal delivery and pounded power chords. Kathy Foster’s 1-2-3-4 drums and cool synth lines. And most of all, the band’s youthful irreverence.

What’s wrong with “Now We Can See?” The passion seems to be missing. Though the songs are pretty good, they are devoid of the righteous rebellion that makes The Thermals so great. That’s not to say this album is a throwaway. “I Let it Go” and “Now We Can See” are great, catchy tunes. “When We Were Alive” is a fuzzed-out punk rock gem and “When I Was Afraid” is perfectly moody.

Harris’s lyrics also continue to impress. One of the highlights comes on “When I Died,” when he sings “The earth was too hot/The air was too thin/I took off my clothes/I took off my skin/I crawled to the sea/That was calling for me.”

But much like tracks “At the Bottom of the Sea” and “Liquid In, Liquid,” the album struggles under a heavy weight of resignation. Let’s hope these 30-year-olds get over their musical midlife crisis.

The Thermals - I Let it Go

For fans of: The Hold Steady, Against Me!
Rating: 3 of 4

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CD Review: NOFX Coaster

It's been a long time since I've subjected you to album reviews. Here comes a bunch.


I like NOFX for the same reason I get sucked into CSI:Miami—even if you only check in once every couple of years, the story still makes sense. You get an hour of entertainment and then you’re free to get on with your day.

With their 13th studio album, the band also celebrates their 25-year anniversary (and encourages fans to use their CDs as coasters). This NOFX episode is all about singer Fat Mike’s raging alcoholism and drug abuse. Fortunately, these addictions haven’t dulled his razor-sharp wit. He jokes about going to the bar at 6:00 a.m. (“First Call”), forgetting all the good times (“I AM an Alcoholic”), and asking Tegan or Sara (he’s not sure which) where he can score pills (“Creeping Out Sara”).

The rest of record contains standard NOFX fare—hating corporate America (“We Called It America,” “Suits and Ladders”) and Jesus (“Blasphemy,” “Best God in Show”). There is, however, a rare moment of sincerity (“My Orphan Years”) when Fat Mike laments the passing of his parents.

After 25 years, NOFX are enjoying the best of both punk rock worlds—musically they’re tighter than ever and socially they still act like 15-year-olds. Here’s to another quarter century!

NOFX - Creeping Out Sara

For fans of: Lagwagon, Pennywise
Rating: 3.5 of 4

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Today in Music

I'm listening to new albums by Strung Out, NOFX, and The Thermals. Lots of good moments. Reviews to follow.

Here's a little preview:

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Watch Out! Punks in the Cracker Aisle

Some good tunes on the way into work in the morning can make all the difference in the world. I can't get enough of the new Left Alone album. It is exactly how gutter punk is supposed to sound. If you have liked Rancid for any moment in your life, you'll love this one.

Left Alone

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Motorcade of Generosity

There's nothing better than running into a great song that has been pushed into the back of the mental storage shed. Thanks to Best Week Ever for inadvertently reminding me of a song that would absolutely be on my Best Songs in the History of the World list.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Reviews: The Prodigy, Bon Iver, Say Hi, Dan Deacon

You'd think that getting paid (um, very little, but still...) to listen to music would be the best job ever. But I sure have to sift through a lot of junk to get the good stuff. This week was a crazy exception. Not only was everything I listened to good, but it was all stuff I'll actually put into regular iPod rotation and highly recommend.

The Prodigy
Invaders Must Die 

In 1997, The Prodigy’s “Fat of the Land” was hailed as the album that would finally bring techno to the U.S. masses. With the band’s rock feel and reverse-mohawked dancer Keith Flint, they had all the pieces in place for the takeover. But despite the album’s sheer awesomeness, The Prodigy hype didn’t last long. 

“Invaders Must Die” brings the band back from the dead. Producer/mastermind Liam Howlett goes straight for the jugular with this one, dishing up huge backbeats and piercing synths. Even without the whistles and glow sticks, this is a quintessential rave record. 

Absent from The Prodigy’s last release, Flint and emcee Maxim return to shout punky phrases throughout. Though their delivery on the hokey “Colours” is lacking, their performance on “Omen” and “Take Me to the Hospital” give the group the rebellious spirit it’s been missing lately. The album’s title track is its best and just gets better the louder you play it—the true sign of a great rock song.   

For fans of: Chemical Brothers, Does It Offend You, Yeah?
Rating: 3.5 of 4

Bon Iver
Blood Bank

Though it is just four tracks, the follow up to Bon Iver’s magnificent debut “For Emma, Forever Ago” is plenty hefty. The EP begins softly with Justin Vernon’s heavenly humming and acoustic strumming.  The lyrics are instantly haunting, grabbing on and never letting go. (“Well, I met you at the blood bank/We were looking at the bags/Wondering if any of the colors/Matched any of the names we knew on the tags.”)

“Blood Bank” never moves much above a whisper. On “Babys,” Vernon’s falsetto quietly rises above the repeating piano chords and backing strings. The lyrics make little sense on their own (“Summer comes to multiply, to multiply”), but as the overdubbed also vocals multiply and multiply, the song manages to find plenty of meaning.

The closing track, “Woods,” is the only song on the EP that would have seemed out of place on “For Emma.” Filled with layers AutoTuned vocals (which is a bit strange, what with every hip hop artist on the planet using the trick right now), the song sounds like Beach Boys being overtaken by indie music-loving robots. Which, in case you were wondering, is very cool.

For fans of: David Bazan, Iron & Wine
Rating: 3.5 of 4

Say Hi
Oohs & Aahs

Eric Elbogen, the one man band who is Say Hi, writes and records all of his music at home in his Seattle apartment. This is noteworthy because the greatest thing about listening to Say Hi (or Say Hi to Your Mom, as the band was previously named) is that it instantly makes you want to go home and record your own album.

“Oohs & Aahs,” Say Hi’s sixth album, is yet another collection of simple, heartfelt tunes driven by Elbogen’s sleepy vocals and ridiculously great lyrics. The album begins a picture of late night public radio (“On the dial somewhere between the high 80’s and low 90’s FM/Eloise plays the first Violent Femmes for those awake from twelve to 2 a.m.”) and ends with waiting for kiss that never comes.

The instrumentation on the record is a bit broader than on previous releases. The guitar chord melodies find companionship with timpani drums and keyboard horn lines (“Ooh ooh ooh” and “Dramatic Irony”) and there’s even a little dancing to be had (One, Two…One”). The sullen numbers are still the best, however, with “November Was White, December Was Grey” at the top of the list. I want to write an album right now. 

For fans of: Postal Service, Mobius Band
Rating: 3.5 of 4

Dan Deacon

Dan Deacon creates his ultra-spastic robo-music by harvesting the organs of old Commodore 64s and Ataris. The 8-bit bleeps and bloops, combined with vocals sped up to dog whistle pitch, don’t really lend themselves to radio play or mainstream attention. However, on “Bromst,” Deacon somehow finds a way not only to make these sounds palatable, but downright inviting.

Sure, if you’re not a big fan of repeated noises, there are plenty of tracks here that will likely throw you into a seizing fit. But if you can hang on until track four, you’ll be treated to Deacon’s masterpiece. “Snookered” is eight minutes of awesome. What begins with gentle taps on a xylophone eventually morphs into a chaos of keyboards, vocal samples, and drums, all swirling together in a beautifully choreographed slam dance.

Not every track is quite as rewarding, but the album certainly doesn’t lack for imagination. “Wet Wings” takes a tribal chant and turns it into a hypnotic drone, “Red F” is a straight forward synth dancer, and “Slow with Horns” illustrates what happens when a piano ingests speed. Congrats, Mr. Deacon on reigning in your craziness and making a great record.

For fans of: Colon Open Bracket, Girl Talk
Rating: 3 of 4

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Review: Matt & Kim Grand

This is easily the album I've been most looking forward to in probably the last two years. Any time I experience this much anticipation, I am scared to death to actually listen it, for fear my expectations will be dashed. I was really worried about this Matt & Kim record because I loved their debut so much. Though "Grand" is not quite as good, it by no means a disappointment.

Matt & Kim

Matt & Kim are easily the happiest couple in punk rock. Matt delightfully pounds away at his keyboard as he shouts snarky lyrics and Kim never stops grinning at him from the drum kit.

“Grand” picks up where their 2006 debut left off, with the low end of the synthesizer buzzing away and the drums pushing the pace. However, the duo has also expanded their musical palette a bit. “Daylight” is the band’s most adventurous piece to date, adding symphonic hits and drum breaks to the simple piano riff. The string-driven “Good Ol’ Fashioned Nightmare” also shows another dimension to the band’s arranging abilities.

Matt & Kim’s strongest suit is still the fast stuff. “Lessons Learned” is simultaneously totally punk and completely gorgeous, and the frenetic instrumental “Cinders” is enough to throw a person into a dance-induced seizure. It’s nice to see that Matt & Kim can grow up a bit without getting old.

Cinders - Matt & Kim

For fans of: Mates of State, The Rentals
Rating: 3 of 4

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Review: Lily Allen It's Not Me, It's You

Here's the deal, I'm pretty sure that I'm in love with Lily Allen. It just happened so suddenly. Sure, I felt fine about her first album, but the second I heard "It's Not Me, It's You," well, the deal was sealed. Here's my review for this week's IN. I'd recommend this album to anyone who's a sucker for pop music.


It's Not Me, It's You

With all of her tabloid exploits and Myspace confessions, Lily Allen's music often takes the backseat. What a shame. Witty, brash, and eccentric, Allen has all the right moves for a celebrity. But what's most impressive is how she packages her over-the-top personality into brilliant little pop songs.

On "The Fear," Allen is able to both poke fun at her superficiality and revel in it. "Life's about film stars and less about mothers/It's all about fast cars and passing each other/But it doesn't matter cause I'm packing plastic/And that's what makes my life so f***ing fantastic."

With the help of collaborator Greg Kurstin, the songs are catchy, but not weightless. One moment Allen is a dancehall diva ("Everyone's At It"), the next she's the sweet girl next door ("Not Fair). Though the album loses a bit of steam at the end ("Who Who'd Known," "Chinese"), Allen shows she's got plenty to offer.

For fans of: Kate Nash, Natasha Bedingfield
Rating: 3.5 of 4

The Fear - Lily Allen

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Not Mr. Big, But Close

I often suffer from bouts of mission nostalgia. No, not memories of missionary work itself--heaven's no--but thoughts of the Dutch experience--locations, foods, customs. And music most of all.

I'd always had a dormant love for teeny bopper techno, and when I found myself in Europe, it was like Pandora's box had burst open. The other day, a song crept into my mind that I heard constantly in the Netherlands around the turn of the millenium.

I could remember the tune and what I thought were the words, but not the artist. I kept googling and googling to track it down, but no luck. When I hummed the lyrics,"All I really want's to be with you/Deep inside your heart you feel it too," they fit perfectly, but really belonged to that Mr. Big song.

Eventually, through the miracle of miracles, I was able to remember that it was actually "All I really want is one more day/To make you change your mind and want to stay." Pretty close. From there I found "All I Really Want" by Kim Lukas. And it was just as good as I remembered.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Heard it on the TV

If you're like me and only listen to songs featured on commercials, you'll be pleased to know that you can download the remake of Somebody's Watching Me for free on Geico's website. Those googly eyes are so creepy.

Rockwell vs. Mysto and Pizzi - Somebody's Watching Me"

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Review: The Killers Day & Age

The Killers
Day & Age

On the album's lead single, "Human," Brandon Flowers asks life's most pressing question, "Are we human/Or are we dancer?" I'm pretty sure the Killers are both. Their beloved first album, "Hot Fuss," was definitely dancer, with all of its bubbly '80s synths. Their generally behated (except my me) second album, "Sam's Town," tried to be human, in a we-think-we're-Bruce-Springsteen sort of way.

On "Day & Age," the Las Vegas quartet tries to strike a balance between the two. While the songs definitely skew dance-y, they are less produced and calculated than their debut. This works marvelously on the first three tracks, but is then absolutely derailed by the hideous "Joy Ride" and its accompanying saxophone solo.

The rest of the record is pretty uneven. While "The World We Live In" is quite endearing, "This is Your Life" sounds like an outtake from the Peter Gabriel catalog, and that awful saxophone reappears in "I Can't Stay." Equal parts hit and miss, "Day & Age" shows the poor Killers are still trying to figure out who they are.

The Killers - Spaceman [MP3]

For fans of: The Bravery, Hot Hot Heat
Rating: 2.5 of 4

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Review: Kanye West 808s & Heartbreak

Kanye West
808s and Heartbreak

Kanye West has a big mouth, a big ego, and has always wanted to be bigger than hip hop itself. With his fourth album, he finally transcends the genre, ironically enough, by keeping things small.

"808s and Heartbreak" is the rap equivalent of an acoustic rock album. There are no "Gold Digger"-esque samples here, no "Jesus Walks" grandiosity. Just tribal 808 drum machine beats, auto-tuned vocals and poor Kanye's broken heart.

It works beautifully. West trades bravado for insecurity, and money-makin' for personal loss. The majority of the tracks are incredibly somber, including album opener "Say You Will" and closer "Coldest Winter." For a hint of variety, Kanye throws in a couple of upbeat (yet still lo-fi) numbers, including the string-driven "RoboCop" and very French-dance-club "Paranoid." Nearly every track is a winner, especially "Heartless" and "Street Lights." This is definitely one of the best records of the year.

Street Lights [MP3]

For fans of: Lupe Fiasco, Bloc Party
Rating: 3.5 of 4

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Heard It on the Internet: The Killers - Human (Ocelot Remix)

That wife of mine sure hates the Killers. She hates Brandon Flowers. She hates "Human." And she really hates the line "Are we human/Or are we dancer?" I'm pretty found of the band. I like the new song. And I really like robots. All of those things combined make this remix great for me.

The Killers - Human (Ocelot Remix) [MP3]

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Heard It on the Internet: Jesus Walks D'NB REMIX

I decided this morning that I needed to listen to Jesus Walks this morning, but didn't have it on my iPod. I found a very cool drum 'n bass version by DJ Zinc.

Kanye West - Jesus Walks (DJ Zinc D'N B Mix) [Mp3]

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Friday, October 03, 2008

One For the Road

I don't know how I could have let this slip passed me. One of my all time fav bands, The Travoltas, covering one of the all time best Bad Religion songs, Sorrow.

The Travoltas are from Holland. I think they only did one tour in the U.S., which I believe was while I was on my mission. When Traci and I went on our second trip the Netherlands, they were playing a show way on the other side of the country. I briefly considered us doing a huge amount of train and bus riding to go, but I wussed out. Shoulda gone. They broke up about a year ago.

But they left behind this:

Travoltas - Sorrow

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

MHS X: The Mixtape

Though the reunion may have been a bit of a disappointment, it wasn't a total loss. I had a little nostalgia trip all by myself. I was asked to put together a mixtape for the event, allowing me to dive headfirst into '96-'98 mode.

I avoided all temptation to put in my own personal favorites and went straight for the hits. And man, what hits! Chumbawamba, Savage Garden, Backstreet Boys. Music was never better before or since.

Here are the top song 100 of 1996, 1997, and 1998.

Digging through these songs was kind of like the reunion itself. For me, 1996-1998 was more about watching Local H at Saltair or driving to Sacramento to see Millencolin play than doing the Macarena. But Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" automatically produces a mental snapshot of every dance my senior year.

The songs that really meant a lot to me in '98 have made the journey with me throughout the past decade. I was just listening to Millencolin last night. They keep putting out new records, and I buy (actually buy) all of them. And believe it or not, Local H will be playing at the Big Ass show next month.

It's pretty much the same with friends. I've kept in touch with a number of high school friends (plus I'm married to one of 'em) over the years. They've been there for college and weddings and parenthood and I'm sure they'll still be around in another 10 years. So it's not really that big of a deal to seem them at some awkward event.

Regardless, it feels great to hear to Jewel, or White Town, or even NSync once in a while. Just like it's nice to run into an old prom date at the Wal-Mart. Hooray for forced nostalgia. I guess I'm going to have to start posting old dance pictures on the blog. Whatevs.

Here's a few tracks from the MHS X mix...

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Heard It on the Internet: Burntpiano

For all the hype, the MGMT album is not that great. However, I really like this instrumental cover of "Kids.".

Burntpiano was bored at work so he just went ahead and recorded this track.

"It was a slow day at work today, so I was messing around with some new synths, trying to find new sounds. I started playing everyone's favorite synthline, and one thing led to another, and I had a half finished track. I went home and finished it up. The track I guess really isn't a remix, but rather a cover, since I didn't use any elements from the original. And the vocals (which may piss some off) are from a computer. Not anything trying to replace the original or the upcoming soulwax remix, but just something fun." (via Southside Discotech)

MGMT - Kids (Burntpiano Robo Remix) [MP3]

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Record Reviews: Reggie & The Full Effect, Motley Crue

Reggie and the Full Effect
Last Stop: Crappy Town

What began as a side project for Get Up Kids keyboardist James Dewees has turned into quite an impressive catalog. Though Reggie records have never been meant to be taken too seriously--thanks to Dewees' penchant for genre hopping, comedy skits and slew of alter-egos—they are all very lovable.

On "Last Stop: Crappy Town," Dewees continues to mix styles, but the humor is largely absent. The result is a constant battle between sweet power pop and hardcore so screamy that it hurts your voice just to listen to it. Unfortunately, without the usual middle ground, this Reggie album fails to stand out.

Rating: 2 of 4
For Fans of: Cobra Starship, Taking Back Sunday

Motley Crue
Saints of Los Angeles

When your best moments all happened 20 years ago, it makes sense that you'd want to wax a bit nostalgic. "Saints of Los Angeles" finds the '80s bad boys looking back at their career and remembering the good times. "LA girls they payed the rent/While we got drunk on Sunset Strip/And all the cash they made we spent/On tattoos and cigarettes." Add in Nikki Sixx clinically dying from heroin not once, but twice, and you've basically got the whole story of the band.

Though the album has plenty of filler, there are a few songs to get the testosterone going, namely "Face Down in the Dirt" and "MF of the Year." After all these years, Vince Neil still has a strong set of pipes, Mick Mars can still shred (despite actually being a walking ghost), Nikki Sixx holds down the low end and the irrepressible Tommy Lee adds just enough cowbell.

Saints of Los Angeles [MP3] (Via GloriousNoise)

Rating:2.5 of 4
For Fans of: Poison, Sixx: A.M.

You can find my reviews and band interviews each week at IN Utah This Week.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Heard It on the Internet: Does It Offend You, Yeah?

MTV does still show 11 p.m. on Sunday night...for one hour...with commercials. MTV's Subterranean is the new incarnation of 120 Minutes, focusing mostly on indie and experimental stuff.

Every once in a while I'll find something I like. Does It Offend You, Yeah? is a pretty lousy name for a band, but makes some entertaining, dancey, vocoder fun. I checked out the album this morning. Not half bad.

Dawn of the Dead
We are Rockstars [MP3]

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Monday, June 30, 2008

Heard It on the Internet: Neon Coyote

Take Jay-Z's smooth delivery and mix it with Neon Coyote's minimal production and you end up this killer track:

Jay-z feat. Pharrell - I Know (Neon Coyote Remix) [MP3] (via Asian Dan)

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Death Cab for Cutie Narrow Stairs

Death Cab for Cutie
Narrow Stairs

Death Cab for Cutie had the all pressure of the indie world on its shoulders when it moved to a major label for its 2005 release, "Plans." The band rose to the challenge. The resulting record was both perfectly polished and beautifully intimate.

"Narrow Stairs" is the antithesis to "Plans." Loose and a bit rough around the edges, the new record feels much more organic than its immediate predecessor. This approach works well on the album opener "Bixby Canyon Bridge" and the eight-minute vamp "I Will Possess Your Heart." But the rest of the album just feels cheaply constructed.

Softer songs always work best for Ben Gibbard's shaky tenor and "Grapevine Fires" and "Your New Twin Sized bed" add some emotion to a surprisingly uninteresting outing. For the first time in their career, "Narrow Stairs" finds Death Cab just going through the motions.

Your New Twin Sized Bed [MP3] (via

Rating: 2.5 of 4
For Fans of: Pedro the Lion, Nada Surf, Postal Service

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Heard It On the Internet: Vol. I

As a cubicle dweller, I sit in front of a computer all day long and go crazy if I'm not listening to music. I visit a lot of different MP3 sites to keep me from hearing the sound of my own work. I've decided to start posting songs that grab my attention as I wander around internetland.

I've always loved albums. If I hear a song I really like, but can't get into the rest of the artist's material, I instantly pass on it. I rarely even put those songs on my iPod. Hence, iTunes--and the entire concept of a single--doesn't work for me.

But there are certainly great songs out there. I'm too single snobby. So here's a song I like, based entirely on the song itself:

Pop Levi - Never Never Love [via Stereogum]

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Monday, June 23, 2008

The Offspring Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace

The Offspring
Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace

People stopped using "Offspring" and "cool" in the same sentence at least 10 years ago. But the band has continued to steadily release quality records that always manage to contain plenty of punk rock and at least one stupid, radio friendly hit.

"Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace" is par for the course—double time verses with big, catchy choruses. This time around they've added a few softer numbers ("A Lot Like Me," "Kristy Are You Doing Okay") to appeal to the tweener crowd, but for the most part it's still 1993 for this Southern California foursome. The Offspring may not have a lot of cred, but they still know how to write good songs.

The Offspring - Half Truism [MP3]

Rating: 3 of 4
For fans of: Pennywise, Face to Face

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Something for Those Quiet Moments: Ruminations on Missionary Music

After the Utes gave up a 40 yard pass on 4th and 18 I needed some cheering up. I found some solace in downloading some new music - The Hippos' self-titled, The Rentals EP and two Get Up Kids albums. The irony being that I don't think there is any group that makes me feel more sad than the Get Up Kids.

As the stream of consciousness continues, I am thinking about the contraband music I listened to on my mission. There was a Virgin Records by our apartment in The Hague (I'd never seen a Virgin Records before) that had a big going out of business sale. Even though we weren't allowed to listen to music, I thought it a shame to pass up such great blowout prices. I picked up a copy of "Something to Write Home About" by the Get Up Kids, even though I'd never heard the band. The artwork, the name of the band, and the name of the album were so awesome that I couldn't pass it by. Like a good boy, I refrained from listening to it until I got back to America.

I would say, all things considered, I was pretty good at abiding by the no music rule. However, here were a few that slipped by the goalie:

Something for those Quiet Moments Mixtape

What a funny mission memory. I was at a zone conference in my first area. I'd only been in Holland a few weeks. I was happy to learn their was a fellow punk rocker in my zone, Elder Josh Ligairi. (Ligairi somehow managed to keep his tongue ring a secret his entire mission. He even created a new way of laughing that kept his tongue hidden. Huh, huh, huh, huh.)

I was in the church bathroom when Ligairi approached me. He slipped me a cassette tape and then disappeared. I shut the stall door and inspected the booty. It was a mixtape titled Something for Those Quiet Moments. Ligairi had included hits by all of the punk rock legends - NOFX, Bad Religion, Millencolin, MXPX. I put the tape into the pocket of my suit and went back to the conference. I felt like I was walking around with a dimebag of marijuana.

Many months later I finally listened to the tape. I think I only listened to it once or twice, but the memory of Ligairi sneaking it to me was priceless.

Ace of Base and the 5BX

Even though he's not a Mormon, my friend Rhett was super supportive of my mission. One day, a couple of months into my mission, I got a package from him. It was an Ace of Base cd. Because my friends always teased me about liking the Swedish dance quartet, I was always too embarassed to buy any of their music. Rhett included a note with the CD: "I saw this in the $1 bin and thought of you."

The CD made its appearance 18 months later when I was introduced to the 5BX workout program. My friend Jonny Wix discovered a photocopied workout program in his missionary apartment called the 5BX (a cool, hip way of saying 5 Basic Exercises). Since we had all grown fat from eating french fries with mayonnaise for every meal, I asked him to send a copy to me and my housemates down in Antwerp, Belgium. Every night we'd do our exercise routine, which included some move where you lay on the floor and pretend to be a fish or something. The best part was that we all agreed we could only work out properly if we had some great work out tunes. Enter Ace of Base. Beautiful Life, Lucky Love, Never Gonna Say I'm Sorry, man, those are awesome songs. The rest of the album sucks, but those tracks were perfect for the 5BX.
The list goes on, but time runs short. Many great songs trapped in the time warp of '99-'01, but I guess it I'll have to save that for the next time I'm depressed about sports. There's a story about Enya and other New Age hits, a bad run in with Tom Jones' "Sex Bomb" and many, many more. I'd really like to write a book about my mission, but Traci ensures me no one would want to read it.

The Kooks - All That She Wants [MP3]
Ace of Base - The Sign [MP3]

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Thanks, Japan!

I was listening to the new Britney Spears CD on my way to work the other day (because that's just how I roll). I browsed through the liner notes and couldn't find one song that she actually wrote or even co-wrote. Though I have no way of knowing this, I would imagine that someone calls her up in the morning and says "Hey Britney, it's time to record an album." She rolls out of bed and drags herself to the studio where someone hands her the lyrics, teaching her the tune, and tells her how to sing it. She lays down the track. They auto-tune it and voila! a new Britney record.

It seems weird for a musician to be so disconnected or uninvolved with her own music. Its one thing to sing someone else's lyrics about universal topics like love or the dance floor, but it seems strange to have someone hand you the words you're supposed to be thinking. (i.e. "I’m Mrs. ‘Most likely to get on the TV for slippin’ on the streets/When getting the groceries, no, for real") Weird. It's also gross when mother of two sings "I just wanna take it off, I just wanna take it off." Leave it on, please!

All of this brings me to my experience with Japan. I ran into the myspace page of a Japanese artist called Alone Together the other day. I was interested in the piano protege vs. spastic japanitechno vibe but much more intrigued by this statement:

My wish is to have many people in the world listen to my music.
If you need my CD, please send an E-mail to myspace email or my hotmail.
I send CD for you.
A money is not necessary.
(If you write your address on an E-mail, I send a CD for you soon.)

So I sent my address. Just a couple of days later I got a package from Japan (the cardboard CD sleeve is shown above) with a personal note from Yuki himself. It's cool to see a guy who's willing to shell out shipping costs to anywhere in the world just so people will check out his tunes.

Yuki is a very talented artist. However, the EP felt the musical equivalent of those Japanese cartoons that give American kids seizures. I'd like to give it a few more spins, but I think I might turn into an epileptic. That said, I can't get enough of the opening track, Human Beings. Very Awesome.

So, Britney Spears, if you don't get your act together and work a little harder, this is going to be the new face of American pop music.

Human Beings [MP3]

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

New Dashboard Confessional

Dashboard Confession
The Shade of Poison Trees

After the slightly disappointing sales of Dashboard Confessional’s 2006 release Dusk and Summer, teenage heartbreak heartthrob Chris Carrabba has gone to great lengths to give the kids exactly what they want. The Shade of Poison Trees replaces Dusk’s overly produced, full band arrangements with the familiar acoustic sound of earlier releases. While he succeeds with the reproducing the format – even down to the screen print album cover art - the quality of the actual songs is a bit mixed.

The album’s opening track is also its best. The story of a celebrity whose friends disappear when the money does, “Where There’s Gold” finds Carrabba opening up without falling back on his usual first person narrative with lyrics like, “You throw yourself into their arms/Mistresses have all the fun, but no one's ever there to take you home.”

The next few tracks continue strong with acoustic strumming and pop sensibilities, most of which clock in under the three minute mark. Standouts include the up tempo “Thick as Thieves” and “The Rush,” a love letter that any girl would die to receive - “I'll love you tonight and tomorrow you may just feel the same.”

About thee-fourths of the way through the album, however, the momentum is lost. “Little Bombs” sounds like signature Dashboard until the forgettable chorus and “I Light My Own Fires Now” seems better suited for Carrabba’s early work with Further Seems Forever. The lowest point on Shade is “Matters of Blood and Connection,” the Dashboard version of a rap battle, where a spoiled Cambrige kid is dissed for faking street cred. Despite the lull, the album finishes nicely with “Clean Breaks” and the piano-driven “The Widow’s Peak.”

Regardless of Shade’s missteps, Dashboard was wise to pull back from its leanings toward big, athemic rock songs. Millions of screaming girls have already proven that Chris Carrabba can fill an arena with just an acoustic guitar and his shaky tenor.

Rating: Burn a friend's copy

Where There's Gold [MP3]

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Songs About Girls Mostly

My introduction into punk rock went thusly. Flashback to 1994. My sister Sarah took my friend Brock and I to Provo to see Stretsch Armstronng, the Aquabats, Skankin' Pickle , Dancehall Crashers and Let's Go Bowling. It was cooler than anything I had ever experienced up to that point. (Way cooler than Nine Inch Nails at the Delta Center, that's for sure.)

I was playing in a Nirvana cover band with Chris Wilson at the time - which later became the grunge-inspired Twelfth of Never - but that brief encounter with ska was one of two big turning points for the band and for my musical world.

The next was when we really discovered punk. Though Chris and I listened to punk-ish stuff like The Offspring and Green Day, we'd never really heard the real stuff. That changed the day we got invited to play at local show at a pavilion in Draper Park in the summer of 1997. After Chris and I chugged through our Local H-style two man-band-set we saw something that totally blew us away. Local bands - kids just like us - playing ska and punk. With horns and everything. They sounded lousy, but they were doing it. And then we saw Homesick.

Homesick looked and sounded like early Green Day. Snarly, poppy punk played really fast. It changed everything for us. We went back home and started playing all of songs in double time.

Even cooler than Homesick's music was that they had actually gone on tour. They had booked all the shows themselves and played such exotic locales as Reno and Evanston. These guys were freakin' rock stars! (Looking back, I bet they were only 18 or 19.) They were everything we wanted to be.

Needless to say, my copy of their 8 song cassette EP was one of my prized possessions. And now the point of this post. (Finally, I know.)

Somewhere around 1999 I lost the tape . I think I left it in my dad's truck or something. Every time I pack up my stuff and see all of my old cassettes, I see that empty Homesick case and feel really sad. Oh, but all was not lost.

A few months ago, I happened to be reading SLUG magazine. As part of its 18 year anniversary celebration, the magazine invited a bunch of local bands from years past to play a reunion show at the Urban Lounge. On the list was a band called The Corleones, featuring guitarist Paul Burke, formerly of Homesick. I had never heard The Corleones but considered going to the show just in case Paul happened to have some old Homesick tapes in his car. Realizing this was stupid, I stayed home.

I picked up the magazine a few months later and decided not to give up on the matter. The article said that Paul was living in Portland. I emailed the girl who wrote the article to see if she had an address for him. Surprisingly, she emailed me right back with a phone number. It took me a few days to get the courage, but I called him on the phone. I think the conversation went like this:

PAUL: Hello?
SPENCER: Uh, hi. My name is Spencer. I'm calling from Salt Lake. Did you used to play in Homesick?
PAUL: Yeah.
SPENCER: I know this sounds weird, but I like loved your band and I left the tape in my dad's truck and I really wanted to get it but I doubted you'd have one at Urban Lounge and do you haveonenowcuzI'dgiveyoumoneyandstuffandstuff.

I was sure this was the point where he'd hang up, but he was really cool and even seemed flattered. He said that the tapes were all long gone, except for his own copy, but he'd been looking for an excuse to get around to digitizing them. He said he would put something together and mail me out a CD. A few days later he sent me an email, gushing about his feelings toward the band and that time period. Very cool.

A month or so went by and no CD. I figured I wasn't really going to get it, but I was grateful for the interaction nevertheless. After about 6 weeks, Paul sent me another email saying that the CD really was forthcoming. Then more waiting. Last week I finally got a package from Portland. It was worth the wait.

He sent me both their EP as well as their full-length, Songs About Girls Mostly. The songs, which I think were all recorded in a basement, are not quite as revolutionary as I remembered, but are just as awesome. Even more awesome is Paul for going to the trouble.

So, kids, follow your dreams. Get people's phone numbers and call and ask them for ridiculous favorites. You too could be working in health insurance, sitting in your cubicle, listening to Homesick quietly.

Homesick - Grandma and death 'n stuff [MP3]

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Kanye Channels Daft Punk?

Roger Meyers Jr. once said, “You take away our right to steal ideas, where are they going to come from?” That's pretty much how I feel about most hip hop. One of my favorite musical plagiarists is Chicago's own Kanye West.

Kanye has crossed over into sacred ground, sampling one of the best songs of all time, Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger." I feel slightly violated just listening to it. Kanye's version is adequate, but mostly just makes me want to listen to Daft Punk.

Take a listen here [via Cause=Time]: Kanye West - Stronger
Other favorite Roger Meyers Junior Quote: "You kids don't know what you want. That's why you're kids, because you're stupid!"

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Atak Of Da Bal-Hedz

I have been mostly uninterested by the thought of a new Smashing Pumpkins album. Because I really like both D'Arcy and James, I don't like the idea of reuniting a four-piece band with just two of the pieces. But hey, as far as recording goes, it was always Billy's thing anyway.

I finally heard the new single, Tarantula, over the weekend. I was very pleasantly surprised. There is a myriad of directions Billy could have gone with the new material - faux new wave like his solo record (which completely sucked), soft and pretty (which worked okay with Zwan), or deep and sludgy (like SP's last record, Machina).

What we get with this new single is the metal of Zero mixed with the swing and fretwork of Van Halen record. Totally rockin. Totally the right move. I am now officially curious to hear the rest of the record.

As for going to see the band in concert, still not interested. I can't really think of anyone to replace D'Arcy and James. Melissa Auf der Maur, maybe. But for James? Buckethead?! What's he doing since he quit Guns 'n Roses?

Tarantula [Mp3]

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

A Song for a Depressing Thursday

For those of you who are sick about the fact that it's only Thursday morning, which means that there is still all of today and tomorrow before the weekend - and there's like no more holidays until President's Day (my job doesn't recognize MLK Jr. Day, hmmm....), here's a little song for you.

Brand New - Sowing Season (Yeah) [MP3]

Here's my take on this song, and Brand New's latest album The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me. It's the musical equivalent of feeling like God doesn't like you, and even more disappointing, realizing that Satan doesn't have your back, either. Like Brand New's previous two releases, this one's not great all the way through, but the good stuff (like this opening track) are so good that it's easy to overlook the weaknesses of the whole. Having the best title and artwork, not to mention having as your band's website, can't hurt either.

Anyway, have a great, angry Thursday.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Matt & Kim

They drove all the way from Seattle to play maybe 15 minutes in Salt Lake City. Oh, but did those 15 minutes rock!

I was ecstatic to see Matt & Kim play at Kilby Court last Friday night. Apparently during the Seattle show, Matt broke his keyboard and had to pick up a new one in Salt Lake. As a result, they only played the songs he knew how to play on the new keyboard. So it was short and sweet (I showed up at Kilby at 8:45 and was on my way back home by 10:00 - and I saw all three bands play), but mostly sweet.

Things that were excellent:

--They started the show off with the amazingly good "Yea Yeah."

--Kim drums harder than any girl I've ever seen, just using a kick drum, a floor tom, a snare, a tambourine and a crash cymbal. Plus she smiles the whole time.

--Matt was very funny in that nerdy, I wear glasses, so I need to put on my chums so I can still rock out properly, kind of way.

--Kim finds Matt (who I think is her husband) incredibly funny. She laughed at everything he said, and I don't think she was faking.

--For a final song, Matt said they were going to play a certain song if he could convince Kim to sing it. Well, he couldn't. He got the crowd all worked up, but by the time he turned to Kim she was already in the back of club, trying to sell some t-shirts.

Matt & Kim - Yea Yeah (MP3)
Matt & Kim- Silver Tiles (MP3)

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Best (& Worst) Music of 2006

Here are some of my favorite albums of 2006. Though I listened to a lot of good stuff this past year, these are some of the albums that have really been in heavy rotation in my life. (A few of these weren’t released in 2006, but made their way into my collection in 2006.)

Best Albums of the Year

Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A – Girls Names EP Melanie Flury [MP3]
The Cardinal Sin - Hurry Up and Wait
The Format-Dog Problems The Compromise [Mp3]

Nicest Surprise
Reggie & the Full Effect—Songs Not to Get Married To Better For You [MP3]

Sweetest Indulgence
Aly & AJ - Into the Rush

Best Electronic
Hot Chip - The Warning Boy From School [MP3]

Best New Projects
Plus 44 (Blink 182) - When Your Heart Stops Beating
The Draft (Hot Water Music) - In a Million Pieces

Worst New Project
Angels & Airwaves (Blink 182) - We Don't Have to Whisper

Most Welcomed Comeback

Samiam - Whatever's Got You Down

Most Disappointing Comeback
Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) - An Other Cup

Honorable Mentions
David Bazan - Fewer Moving Parts Fewer Broken Pieces [MP3]
The Killers - Sam's Town
Jack's Mannequin-Everything in Transit
Mae - The Everglow
Matt Pond PA - Several Arrows Later
Hellogoodbye - EP

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