Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Best of 2008

Song: 1,000,000
Artist: Nine Inch Nails
Album: The Slip

I used to be a HUGE Nine Inch Nails head. Starting with the EP “Broken” from 1992, I fell in love with Trent Reznor’s brand of techno-goth rock music that was equal parts nihilistic, cathartic, and also… dancy. After digging “Broken” I got the debut album “Pretty Hate Machine” which was more pop and more dance-industrial oriented. I wasn’t sure it could get any better, and then he released “The Downward Spiral,” which sent him into the musical stratosphere.

Unfortunately, the good fortune in record buying seemed to cripple Reznor, or it could be argued… freed him. Because next came 1999’s “The Fragile,” a double-disc set that let the only sprinkled slow, ambient instrumentals from “Spiral” take center stage. Aside from a track or two, including the amazing first single “We’re in this Together,” I felt that the album fell short and was of all things, boring. I wanted to like it a lot and still take it out to listen to it as while it was a commercial disappointment, it has since become a fan favorite with some considering it his best work. I still don’t hear it.

His post “The Fragile” work has been a mix of all of these previous elements but never seeming as concise or fluid as that early work. Both the “Fragile” follow-up “With Teeth” and the sci-fi concept record/game “Year Zero” mixed his love of straight to the point death-pop and airy, atmospheric drones that were prevalent on “The Fragile.” I liked both records, but certainly not as much as I liked his previous work.

Starting with “Year Zero,” Reznor started playing with the internet and technology as a way to release and market his music. Always a vocal critic of record label interference, Reznor official broke from that format this year by releasing a new album this May with less than a week’s notice on his website. Not tricky Radiohead-like payment system a-la his instrumental four disc album released earlier in the year in the same fashion (which I haven’t heard) no Reznor decided his seventh studio effort should be free. As in… “this one is on me.” As he noted in his website post the day the album was “released.” “The Slip” is a loud and quiet, typically brash with equal parts propulsive, ten-song set that find the man at a cross-roads… and yet it’s his most concise record since… well, “Broken.”

It’s a record that certainly grew on me, starting with the killer first single, the death-funk pop track “Discipline,” and then the equally catchy second track “1,000,000.” Upon a couple spins I got to hear just how much he was going back to the “Pretty Hate Machine” style, but coupled with his new love of dark atmospherics. Its length (i.e. short) is a big help, going back to his more pointed short and simple work. The album has subsequently been released on CD, and it’s one of my favorites of the year.


1,000,000 (Live Studio Rehearsal)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Lights Out (David Rubato Remix)

Best of 2008

Song: Lights Out (David Rubato Remix)
Artist: Santogold
Album: Lights Out

One of the most enjoyable albums from 2008 for me was the debut of Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Santogold. Initially, the M.I.A. comparisons were rapt and seemingly fitting. Initial leaked songs months before the album came out were also produced by Switch, M.I.A.’s right hand man, and were very sound-a-like… though they were very good. But upon hearing her full self-titled debut, it was clear her influences were vast and eclectic. The more I heard the album I began to think of her more as a female Beck, with a kitchen-sink approach to album creating that just happens to include some spot-on songwriting and singing. Like “Mellow Gold” it’s filled with junk-yard rhymes and moments of production perfection. Could she have an “Odelay” on the way?

Aside from the more attention grabbing tracks like “Find a Way,” “Creator,” and “L.E.S. Artistes,” Santogold’s record is filled with dub tracks, folk-songs, and in the case of the Bud-Lite Lime hocking “Lights Out,” a true pop masterpiece. A song that has really grown on me and one of my favorites of the year. It’s recently been released as a single with a hand-full of remixes. I am currently going bonkers for David Rubato’s mix, that gives it a house/club vibe yet keeps the vocals up and the hook intact. Awesome.

I hate that I even have to mention M.I.A. again while discussing Santogold as many have… but it seems that truly mind-blowing non-mainstream hip-hop by female musicians just needs to be grouped together. Whatever. “Santogold” is one of the best records of the year and one all should check out.


Lights Out (album version) Video

L.E.S. Artistes

Monday, December 22, 2008


BEST OF 2008

Song: Athene
Artist: Hercules & Love Affair
Album: Hercules & Love Affair

This weekend I turned over a new leaf. I had realized I’d been being a bit of a Grinch since the holidays got into full swing, but I let it spill over to music… something I never do! I was talking to my good friend Brian who was eager to dish about the favorite music of the year and I was being all bah humbug. So after pouring over my iTunes library of this years music I did realize that there has been a bunch of stuff I’ve dug over the year. So, over the next few (probably sporadic) last days of September as well as into January I will in fact go on and on about the records and/or songs I dug this year…

I don’t know why but I thought the Hercules & Love Affair album came out last year, but I had forgotten it was one of my favorites, an odd-ball indie-disco record that worked as a great mood record. While “Blind,” one of my top ten tracks of the year, was the out-of-the-ballpark highlight, the rest of the album works more as a great vibe record that series of singles. So yes, while “Blind” is super catchy and fun, there are great tracks like “Hercules Theme” and “Athene” that are more ethereal in their disco-soaked beauty. Sound odd? It is… but also remarkably unpretentious.



You Belong

Friday, December 19, 2008

Be the One (Bimbo Jones Club Remix)

Song: Be the One (Bimbo Jones Club Remix)
Artist: The Ting Tings
Album: Be the One (single)

Depend on who you talk to, the Ting Tings released one of the best indie dance-rock records of the year, or the most annoying. I’ve found that opinions are pretty split on the group… but regardless, they did their part to make 2008 their own. I am of the mind that while I really liked a lot of the bands singles from this year, I thought their album, “We Started Nothing,” was just okay. But with three killer singles like “Great DJ,” “That’s Not My Name,” and “Shut Up and Let Me Go,” I certainly saw it as a win ultimately.

Recently the band released the more downbeat “Be the One” as a single. The album version is nice if unremarkable. I always thought it was okay… but not one I went back to. For the single they got the amazing Bimbo Jones, whom have done some of my favorite club remixes of the year, to mix it for the dancefloor. I think it breathes new life into the track, making it rather exciting.


Be the One (Bimbo Jones Remix)

Great DJ

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Song: Echo
Artist: Cyndi Lauper
Album: Bring Ya to the Brink

Maybe it’s me… but I think this year has been a pretty low point for music releases. There hasn’t been that much that has grabbed me over the year as amazing or particularly noteworthy. At this time of year I am usually pouring through the year’s music and picking my favorite tracks and albums. I’m not feeling it this year… so it HAS to be me.

But I must say that when asked about my favorite records of the year, Cyndi Lauper’s “Bring Ya to the Brink” always sticks in my head. A real return to the dancefloor has given Ms. Lauper a kick in creativity, producing her best album in years. “Into the Nightlife” was my favorite track of the year, and it’s only one of many killer songs she wrote and recorded for the album. She worked with a who’s who of current electro-dance pop for the album, from Kleerup to Rich Morel to Dragonette.

The same team that co-wrote and produced “Into the Nightlife” also gave the album “Echo,” a bubbling mid-tempo electro number that features Cyndi’s amazing soaring vocals. Really good stuff. I highly recommend this album, you won’t be disappointed!


Friday, December 12, 2008

If This is Love

Song: If This is Love
Artist: The Saturdays
Album: Chasing Lights

Here is a fun slice of British pop, The Saturdays are a five-piece girl group that are very reminiscent to The Sugarbabes and Girls Aloud, also UK female fronted dance artists. I gave the whole album a couple listens and it’s pretty good as these things go. But by far, the best track is lead single “If This is Love” which samples Yaz’s “Situation.” It’s a very fun pop-dance song that reminds me a little bit of Spiller’s “Grovejet (If This Ain’t Love).” The chorus reminds me of the chorus of that track.


If This is Love


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Make My Day

Song: Make My Day
Artist: Common
Album: Universal Mind Control

Since I was discussing the better hip-hop records of the year, I have to highlight a release by one of the most important figures in the genre today. Chicago’s Common has been at the forefront of the socially conscious rap movement for years. He, along with the likes of Mos Def and Talib Kweli, have been spouting rhymes on issues within the African-American community versus say… “Can I Buy You a Drank.” (ugh) But in my humble opinion, there forward thinking lyrics are often lost in unremarkable beats. Is it a song, or is it just an essay?

I have liked Common’s last to albums, which mix his standard mindful lyrics with a more jazzy style, but again… the words got in the way. But with the release of “Universal Mind Control,” Common has teamed mostly with the Neptunes to add a catchy beat behind his smarty-pants lyrics. To be honest, he’s eased up a little and is having some fun here, which is garnering him some mixed reviews. I don’t know… I’m digging it.

Check out “Make My Day” with Cee-Lo of Gnarles Barkley, as well as single “Universal Mind Control,” and the club banger “What a World” with Chester French.


Universal Mind Control

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Life is Better (feat. Norah Jones)

Song: Life Is Better (feat. Norah Jones)
Artist: Q-Tip
Album: The Renaissance

Despite the low point hip-hop is currently in, I must say that three of my favorite records of 2008 have been from hip-hoppers. Kanye knocked it out of the park with an interesting left-of-center album earlier this month, and I am also digging the new Common album, and all last month I was hooked on the not so prolific Q-Tip’s latest, “The Renaissance.” I was always a huge Tribe Called Quest fan, and always thought his lazy-ish flow was some of the best in the game. But aside form “Vibrant Thing,” I haven’t really followed his solo work.

Well on a lark I got “The Renaissance” and really really have been spinning it quite a bit. His amazing flow is intact, and at this point, his old school jazz leaning music sounds practically classic. Which leads me to this… if hip-hop has finally dried up all the hot and futuristic beats, isn’t the natural progression to look backward and make some classic sounding new music? Regardless… “The Renaissance” does just that.

It’s more of a mood record, a bit down-tempo (no real club bangers) and the special guests really don’t distract from the overall vibe like they can on a lot of hip-hop records. It’s more like Q-Tip’s party that special guests come to throw down a verse or two. My favorite being the seemingly odd pairing with Nora Jones. I’ve never been a huge fan of hers, but I do like her voice, and it totally works for “Life is Better.” I HIGHLY recommend this release if you’re a fan of Tribe or Q-Tip.


Even the video is old school…

Getting’ Up

Monday, December 08, 2008


Song: Amnesia
Artist: Britney Spears
Album: Circus

Just a little over a year ago I was deeply surprised as something that occurred that I never thought possible… I liked a Britney Spears record. Last years “Blackout” was what I always thought the girl might have in her, a killer dance-pop record. Sure I’d liked singles from Britney before, but making it through a whole album was a hard pill to swallow. But “Blackout” was refreshingly ballad-free, and contained some of the best tracks she’d ever laid down. But of course as we know homegirl went a little crazy, barely promoted it, and its pop brilliance was lost under the clutter of tabloid garbage.

So in just over a years time we saw America’s (sort of) Sweetheart go from bat-shit crazy to the comeback, and this is the album to do it. I don’t really know if she’s ready for all this, as made evident in the MTV documentary “Britney: For the Record,” but she’s making good videos again, getting ready to tour, and is actually out on the road doing work for the album. So how is it? And is this a new Britney?

For one, “Circus” is a pretty good record, with some of the tracks being new favorites of mine. But it also shows the return of the ballad, which honestly was part of Britney’s bread and butter early in her career, but it didn’t work then (for me) and it doesn’t work now. But there is a better “Circus” out there… you just need to sort of make it yourself…

“Circus” does continue, in part, Britney’s formal move from hip-hop inspired tracks to more electro-pop, which I think is excellent. First single “Womanizer” is a bouncy gem, and the Danja produced “Kill the Lights” sounds like it could have been on “Blackout.” “Shattered Glass” and “Mannequin” are sleek bubbling electronica, and the return of hit maker Max Martin gives us “If U Seek Amy,” a song that I just don’t think is ever going to be made a single given its chorus, despite being super catchy. (It reads: “Love me, hate me, say what you what about me, but all of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if you seek Amy.” It doesn’t make sense written out, but say it fast.) I also really liked the Prince inspired “Lace and Leather” which has a killer base lick and a goofy vibe to it that reminds me of the “Blackout” track “Hot as Ice.” They don’t sound the same, they’re just goofy and totally fun.

The biggest surprise of the album for me is “Unusual You,” a slow electro track that isn’t a ballad, but is rather beautiful. THIS is what Britney should be doing when she slows things down. “Unusual You” was written by Britney’s secret weapon, Bloodshy & Avant along with The Clutch. They produced last years “Piece of Me” and “Radar,” which was my favorite track off “Blackout” and was never made a single, yet it is tacked onto “Circus” as a bonus track, odd. Also on the slow side but rather good is the Danja produced “Blur” which sounds like something Britney’s actually lived through. A morning after, what the fuck happened last night, kind of slow burning electro ballad.

So where does “Circus” fall apart? Well, “Out From Under” track three, finds Britney returning to overwrought ballad territory. It’s a planned single, and despite the presence of Robbie Williams and Kylie songwriter Guy Sigsworth, it’s a snore. But he also helps her continue the embarrassing last track tradition with “My Baby,” an absolutely dreadful ode to her children. Of course it’s not the sentiment that’s cringe inducing, it’s just not very musical, and lyrically it’s like a long greeting card. The big upbeat misstep is “Mmm Papi,” which is goofy in a bad way and not entirely convincing. Ugh.

But what is the biggest surprise is what’s NOT on the album. There are six tracks that are being used as bonus material for iTunes and elsewhere, two of which should have, in my opinion, been on the record. But thanks to the iPod, you can build a better “Circus” yourself. So take out “Out From Under” and in its place put the throbbing “Trouble,” which seems to sample Madonna’s “Get Together,” though is it’s own thing. Once again, Bloodshy & Avant produce a killer track for Brit, and one that really seems fit for her. They also do the so-so “Phonography” which sounds like Kylie. It’s not great… but pretty good. “Quicksand,” written by Lady Gaga is an okay ballad and a good album closer. So replace “My Baby” with that one. In “Mmm Papi’s” place you can put in the poptastic “Amnesia.” I really really love this song, despite an awkward start, its very Gwen Stefani, and one of the new tracks I’ve listened to the most, even though it’s not on the album.

So while I don’t love “Circus” as much as I did “Blackout,” there are still some killer tracks on the album (and off it.)




Thursday, December 04, 2008

Missing Cleveland

Song: Missing Cleveland
Artist: Scott Weiland
Album: “Happy” in Galoshes

I was only a so-so Stone Temple Pilots fan, and didn’t listen to Velvet Revolver at all. Well… I did listen, but realized I had no interest in continuing to listen. But I do recognize Scott Weiland as an interesting guy, a great front man, and a keep songwriter. I have been enjoying his new solo album “’Happy’ in Galoshes” quite a bit. It’s eccentric, but so is the man… and free of the confines of a band, Weiland really shines.

“Missing Cleveland,” the album opener, makes it seem like the early 90’s never ended. It’s catchy, and if the state of rock was different, could have been a hit. Elsewhere on the album he takes on jangle rock (“Tangle With You Mind”), Elvis Costello style rave-rock (“Blind Confusion”), an even Beatlesque psychedelia (“Beautiful Day.”) I also really liked “Paralysis” which is also a touch psychedelic, and “Killing Me Sweetly,” a ballad that reminded me that this was the guy that wrote the excellent “Interstate Love Song.”

He flirts with electronica on a few tracks which is more interesting than successful. “Arch Angel” is an electro-ish ballad, and his cover of Bowie’s “Fame” is well… maybe trying too hard. It feels out of place on the album for sure. Though I don’t hate it.

I feel like this record is coming out with very little fanfare which is unfortunate, it’s very good.



Missing Cleveland – Live on Jimmy Kimmel

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Let Me Borrow That Top

Song: Let Me Borrow That Top
Artist: Kelly
Album: Shoes

Warning… internet sensation: If you haven’t been introduced to Kelly yet, you should read this post.

I was first introduced to “Kelly” this summer by my good friend Harley. I honestly have a low tolerance for user-generated web videos but it was cute enough. I have since found out that it’s been kind of a sensation… and “Shoes” went as far as winning the Best User Generated Video in the 2008 People's Choice Awards. Kelly is a fictional character created by actor/performer Liam Sullivan. Liam played the aforementioned “Kelly” as well as her twin brother, father, grandmother, and lesbian aunt.

“Shoes” was cute, but the music behind the video was a little grating. I felt it would certainly lose something without the visuals. But for what it is, it’s pretty hysterical. Check it out:

22 Million views and counting!

More recently, my very good friend Kent (who I met while vacationing with Harley come to think of it… coincidence? Totally) showed me a new Kelly video, “Let Me Borrow That Top,” which is truly hysterical. I actually watched it four times. It has a long intro with the family… but I still think it’s funny. The song kicks in at about three minutes in:

So, as bare bones Peaches-style electro goes, this is pretty fantastic. I loved it enough to go to iTunes and buy the song, which I am hooked on. I watched a bunch of videos and they are really really funny. You can check them out on the Kelly MySpace page. Liam is quite a entrepreneur, selling t-shirts that are worn in the videos, etc. Fun stuff. He’s caused SUCH a sensation, he even has Kelly impersonators:

Kelly even made a cameo in the super cool Weezer “Pork & Beans” music video which was made from YouTube sensations. Check it out here.


Monday, December 01, 2008


Song: Paranoid
Artist: Kanye West
Album: 808’s and Heartbreak

After first hearing the building, emotional, “Love Lockdown,” the fist single from Kanye West’s amazing new album “808’s & Heartbreak” I was very intrigued at what the man was going to be doing for this full album. It was a departure from West’s already left of center hip hop and he has continued that with the full album. And this could arguably be his most consistent set of songs yet, and possibly one of the top albums of the year.

What interests me most about this record is what it means for hip hop itself, and where other artists in this genre can go artistically. I won’t pretend to be a hip hop expert, but most seems to fall in three categories; pop hip hop that strives for hit singles and or club play, socially conscious rap that aims to raise the subject matter of hip hop from guns/drugs/money, and then you’re “artsy” hip hop that just goes for anything. (Outkast) Kanye West has tried to balance all three, and his first three albums have been successful commercially and artistically. But he’s always stayed inside the comfortable realm of what is hip hop, despite fusing other genre’s (French House on “Stronger,” etc.) into his pop aesthetic.

With “808’s & Heartbreak,” West doesn’t play anything safe, looking to the cool vibe of 80’s New Wave and not rapping at all, just using the AutoTune devise on his singing voice. Frankly the results are remarkable. Yes “Love Lockdown” is probably the best track, filled with brooding lyrics, drums that will kick your ass and a vibe that is original (for a hip hop artist.) But the album is filled with great tracks, one after another. And the consistent tempo, vibe, and lyrical content (West post massive break up with fiancĂ©) make it his “Blood on the Tracks” or his “Sea Change.”

In many ways the touchstone really is “Sea Change,” Beck’s downbeat folk break up record. “808’s & Heartbreak” is similar as it shows West pairing back his kitchen sink approach to pop hip hop (like Beck) and making a definitive emotional statement. Sure it won’t sell as many records as his more hip hop focused stuff, and it already has garnered some backlash from that community, but it shows a huge step forward artistically for West, and for hip hop in general.

Aside form singles “Love Lockdown” and “Heartless,” check out the very fun “Paranoid” and the Tears for Fears biting album closer “Coldest Winter.” If you thought Jay-Z sampling “Annie” was bananas, see a hip hopper take an obscure 80’s gem and turn it into a from the heart emotional tour de force.


Love Lockdown