Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Hindsight is 20/20

I've had the chance to re-read a couple of old music magazines that I had back in the day. It's funny to read album reviews from 10 or so years ago and to see how that album is thought of now. Let's take a look at a few of these:

Alternative Press, July 1993 - Verve' A Storm In Heaven - "I've just spent an intense week listening to A Storm In Heaven, Verve's debut album, and I can barely contain my excitement. Not since 1998 - when MBV's Isn't Anything busted open rock and loosed a new alien magma - have I been so all-fired intoxicated by a piece of music. Not since then has one album made everything else around sound like the anemic, mortal flailings of midwestern bar bands. Unless something extraordinary happens, A Storm in Heaven will be the best album of 1993." Now that's a very impressive review of Ashcroft and Co's debut LP. I love Verve and I like this album, but I don't know if I'd go that far with my feelings for it. I also find it amusing to see that even back in 1993, the MBV references were flying around.

Alternative Press, July 1993 - Radiohead's Pablo Honey - "Radiohead, a three-guitar, five-member band from Oxford, England, wedge themselves into an already crowded pigeonhole with poppy guitar-effects bands like Ride, Revolver, the Boo Radleys, and the Catherine Wheel - and Radiohead sound a little like all of them. If their music is a little unsurprising, so is the fact that they've been snagged by a major (the big guys can't seem to get enuogh of this stuff). After a couple of EPs that reduced a section of the British music press to little more than fawning, bilithering idiots, their big label debut makes you wonder what all the fuss is about. ... The album putters out, and the four good tunes, surrounded by a moat of mediocrity, can't quite redeem the album. But flavor-of-the-month bands like this aren't supposed to write whole albums, just a few good songs, and that much they've managed." Oooh, G.W. Erwin, I bet you'd like to take back that "flavor of the month" tag now. Although, my thoughts were similar to this when I first heard Pablo Honey back then - a couple of good songs, but nothing worth writing home to mom about.

Alternative Press, July 1993 (this issue was on fire with English debuts!) - Suede's Suede - "You could forgive us Americans for casting a skeptical ear at Suede. Preposterously pumped up by the British music press (declared best band in Britain by Melody Maker before they'd released their first single), Suede have had the spotlight in their visages practically from gig one. But they semingly thrive on this intense attention. Singer/lyricist Brett Anderson is largely responsible for the press' love affair with the group. He strikes one as a Brit journalist's wet-dream amalgam of Bowie, Ferry and Morrissey. ... Off the top of my head I can think of at least ten British bands superior to Suede but none of them can feed the mags a plentitude of controversial quotes or flounce around in gold lamee shirts in that androgynous manner that English hacks eat up like ravers gobbling Ecstasy. But you know what? Suede almost live up to all the hype they've received. ... Suede is a tremendous debut but it may prove to be too "English" to connect with the North American temperment (see The Jam, Madness, The Smiths, to a degree, and several others). But, as an AP reader, you're too broad-minded to let such cultural xenophobia stop you from enjoying this major work. Give Suede a chance and they'll take you over." How about that! A spot-on review of the debut album from one of my favorite bands. I've always thought that Suede was "too English" for most of America, but there are a fair amount of fans here.

Alternative Press, July 1995 (the 10th Anniversary issue) - In this issue, AP picked their top 99 of the decade (1985 to 1995). Here are the top ten: 1) Nirvana - Nevermind; 2) The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead; 3) Sonic Youth - Sister; 4) The Replacements - Tim; 5) Dinosaur, Jr. - You're Living All Over Me; 6) Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back; 7) Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine; 8) Husker Du - New Day Rising; 9) Bad Brains - I Against I; 10) Jesus and Mary Chain - Pyschocandy. Not a bad list, and I think that it would still hold up today.

Select, January 1998 - Robbie Williams' "Angels" - "Williams has one of those contemplative piano-in-a-white-room moment that comes to all artists ken to emphasize their new serious direction. Despite his voice getting dangerously close to Elton John he heads out into ballad-land without the usual syrup and conrived pomp: choirs sing, orchastras soar, and there's even a few George Harrison-esque guitar solos thrown in. Strangely, this is probably his best single to date." Good call Select - "Angels" was recently voted the best British song of the past 25 years.

Select, June 1999 - Radiohead's OK Computer - "A landmark on every latitude. Not the least achievement of OK Computer is that a major weird-psychological English guitar band can induce gasps of admiration, stunned silence and more than a few lumps in the throat. It's an emotionally draining epic experience. Now Radiohead can definitely be ranked high among the world's greatest bands." 5 out of 5 stars. This is pretty much spot on. Hardly anyone can disagree with OK Computer getting such a rave review. And it still holds water today.

Select, June 1999 - Moby's Play - "Since the Twin Peaks-sampling classic "Go", he's had a decade-long identity crisis, casting himself variously as Rave Moby, Punk Moby, and Soundtrack Moby. On Play, he's MC Blind Lemon Moby. Looping field recordings of early blues songs and spirituals over hip hop beat, he creates some neat bayou B-boy stomps (notably "Honey" and "Natural Blues") but his cultural tourism eventually palls. There's a crippling lack of conviction throughout, as Moby mixes his black source material with dated synth chords, his own anaemic vocals and sub-Satie piano that's more Robert Miles than Dr. John. Play mayhave plenty of jump around moments for Midwest skate kids but A-list status looks likely to elude Moy for some time yet." 3 out of 5. Ouch. Quite critical but somewhat off the mark - Play went on to hit #1 on the UK charts and go double platinum in the US, and every single song was licensed for television, film, or commercial use.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Cure = holiday selling

Over the weekend, I was in SoHo doing some Christmas shopping. I was in one trendy clothing boutique and I noticed that they were playing some early The Cure songs on the in-store speakers. I said to the shop girls that I was surprised that they were playing The Cure - it's not really the most up-beat music for shopping. One of the girls said that the fashion that's trendy right now are 80's throw back clothing, and therefore playing 80's music makes sense. I guess, but I don't think "Other Voices" and "Charlotte Sometimes" (one of my favorite Cure tracks) make people want to shop!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Top 10 Albums of 2006

I was a little disappointed with the overall crop of releases in 2006. There are only a few albums that I think I'll love years from now. I liked a whole bunch of individual songs, but typically the overall album wasn't as strong as the one or two tracks that I liked. Nevertheless, here are my favorites of the year (I have only included albums that were released in 2006 - which includes imports. Albums that were released in 2005, such as Editors' The Back Room and Goldfrapp's Supernature, made my 2005 list, even if the albums did not get a US release until this year):

nice price

10. Saint Etienne - Nice Price - Ok, so it's a fan club album with remixes and demos of past tracks rather than a proper release, but I'm grasping for straws here people. It includes an alternative version of "Milk Bottle Symphony" from last year's Tales From The Turnpike House, which is another sweet ode to London, and also has some of the group's original white label releases, such as 7 Ways 2 Love and Who Do You Think You Are?. This is a nice trip through Saint Etienne's career and worth picking up if your a fan. Great show at Irving Plaza earlier this year too.


9. Cities - Cities - Post-punk rock out of Chapel Hill. Slightly Bloc Party, slightly Interpol, but perhaps a little more upbeat than either of them. "A Theme" and "Lounge Act" stand out. And props to Cities and their label Yep Roc for offering the masters for a remix contest. (Although the contest ended last summer, I'm still working on my remix!)


8. Thunderball - Cinescope - One of ESL's finest, Thunderball manage to blend lounge, James Bond, dub, a little 70's blaxploitation (see "The Panther"), funk, and world beat all on one album. One of the best from the Eighteenth Street Lounge crop. "To Sir With Dub" and "The Mysterious Mr. Sandobar" are my faves from the album.


7. Trentemoeller - The Last Resort - Copenhagen's Trentemoeller manages to combine electro greatness, dubstep funk, and cinematic bliss all on one album. Every song could be backing music for a film - no matter what the tempo is. If you can, pick up the double disc version of The Last Resort, which includes the vocal versions of many tracks (such as the brilliant "Moan" with Ane Trolle). Lucky for you, the double disc is available on iTunes.


6. MSTRKRFT - The Looks - These guys were shit-hot this year, throwing out some great remixes and DJing all the cool kids' parties. While most of the dirty electro funk on The Looks sounds the same, it all sounds quite good. "Work on You" and "Easy Love" are the stand out tracks. Now get up and dance.


5. 120 Days - 120 Days - Dark and heavy yet quite melodic, these Norwegians sound a little like a more uptempo Joy Division (i.e., Movement era New Order), if that's possible. The songs are epic in length, even their first "single" - "Come Out, Come Down, Fade Out, Be Gone" And apparently, I'm not the only one that likes this album - the Norweigian press voted it Album of the Year. "Sleepwalking" and "Come Out" stand out. Their CMJ show was the best that I saw at the festival.


4. The Rapture - Pieces of the People We Love - Ok this album is no Echoes. But The Rapture still bring the funk and make you get off your asses and dance. Actually, I think they may even tell you to do that on one of the tracks. There's no "House of Jealous Lovers" here, but "Get Myself Into It" comes close. "Don Go Do It" and "The Devil" also highlight the album.


3. The Daysleepers - The Soft Attack - The Daysleepers are brilliant. Following on the heels of the Hide Your Eyes EP released last December, The Daysleepers follow up with more fantastic "new-gaze." This EP has the flavor of Disintegration by The Cure thrown in as well. And nothing makes me happier than mixing shoegaze with The Cure. But see for yourself - you can listen to all of their tracks on their website (and even download a few tracks too).


2. Thom Yorke - The Eraser - Thom really can do no wrong. His "blips and bleeps" solo effort really stood out among 2006's releases. The Eraser sounds a lot like the Kid A/Amnesiac era of Radiohead, but I'm not complaining. I wouldn't put it next to a Radiohead album, but compared to other artists, it's quite brilliant. "The Eraser" and "Analyze" show off the best of Thom's "blips and bleeps" and he does a little beat-boxing on "The Clock." He also gives us a nice Christmas present with a free "Analyze" remix download.


1. The Sunshine Underground - Raise the Alarm - This is hands down the best album of the year. Every track on this album of uptempo dance rock is brilliant. "Commercial Breakdown" harkens back to the Britpop era while "Put You In Your Place" shows that TSU can put out dance rock like The Rapture. The bass lines infuse a little funk into the mix, especially on "Dead Scene." Every song on this album makes you want to get up and fucking dance, and their bio correctly states - this is indie rock for the dance floor. And you have to like a band that names itself after a song by The Chemical Brothers. They'll be getting a big push from NME this winter, as they headline the NME Awards Tour.

Honorable Mentions: Thieves Like Us' singles, New Young Pony Clubs' singles, The Killers - Sam's Town (a couple of great songs here), Mixel Pixel - Music For Plants (buy this for "Coming Up X's" alone), and Muse - Black Holes and Revelations ("Starlight" and "Map of the Problematique" are the only songs worth keeping really), Burial's Burial (dubstep greatness), and Roger O'Donnell's The Truth in Me (all done on a Moog) .

Albums that I rediscovered this year: Antarctica's 81:03, Goldie's Timeless, and Ned's Atomic Dustbin's God Fodder.

Monday, December 11, 2006


NYPC's Modular Party performance at The White Room was a quick 6 song set, which according to NME consisted of "Get Lucky," "The Bomb," "Hiding on the Stair Case," "Ice Cream," "Chaos," and "The Get Go." I unfortunately missed it, and also didn't see them on Friday either, since NYPC cancelled their show because lead singer Tahita Bulmer lost her voice. I'm sure they will be back soon enough to put on a full show. Love her quote: "There were clearly plenty of people who were digging it...but there were also a lot of hipsters who might as well have been looking at pictures of elephant dung. It would have been nicer if some of those people had responded." Welcome to NYC.

I'm happy about the coverage that NYPC are getting, but please god, stop calling them "indie rave" or "new rave." Those are the dumbest genre terms I've ever heard of and don't even apply. They have more of an indie electro rock thing going on for them (if that tells you anything), but, like The Sunshine Underground, who are also tagged with "indie rave," they have no horns, sirens, or glow sticks. The Sunshine Underground sound more like an uptempo Bloc Party and should definitely not be lumped in with bands such as The Klaxons. Anyway...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Friday night

Two great options for you on Friday. First, there's New Young Pony Club's NYC debut at The Annex. (They also play the Modular party on Saturday at the White Room - along with Thieves Like Us, whose "Drugs in My Body" is one of the best get-ready-to-go-out songs of the year (you can download it on their Myspace page)).

Second, Audrey and Eamon, two of the coolest DJs in town, are debuting their Calling All Kids party at Luke + Leroy (it used to be at Sapphire). They're bringing in the UK's Freeform Five to guest DJ.