the first 8 months of 2007

Thursday, August 30, 2007
1. Sloan - Never Hear The End Of It
2. Kanye West - Graduation
3. UGK - Underground Kingz
4. Eleni Mandell - Miracle Of Five
5. Jarvis Cocker - Jarvis
6. Prodigy - Return Of The Mac
7. Parts & Labor - Mapmaker
8. T-Pain - Epiphany
9. Ted Leo - Living With The Living
10. Travis Morrison - All Y’All
11. Swizz Beatz - One Man Band Man
12. Dinosaur Jr. - Beyond
13. Styles P. - The Ghost Sessions
14. Talib Kweli - Eardrum
15. The Nels Cline Singers - Draw Breath
16. Rich Boy - Rich Boy
17. Kelly Clarkson - My December
18. Trill Entertainment presents - Survival Of The Fittest
19. Trans Am - Sex Change
20. Meat Puppets - Rise To Your Knees

I wasn't really even thinking about whether Graduation would be in this month's round-up, I was just gonna try and wait for the release date. But then it went and leaked today and I couldn't resist (although I ended up with a clean version, so I'll still feel motivated to go buy it and not Curtis on September 11th). I'm not ready to give it #1 after just one listen, but it's sounding pretty good, maybe I'll write something about it here in a few days.

1. Swizz Beatz - “It’s Me Bitches”
2. R. Kelly f/ T.I. and T-Pain - “I’m A Flirt (Remix)”
3. UGK f/ Outkast - “International Player’s Anthem”
4. Linkin Park - “Bleed It Out”
5. Kelly Rowland f/ Eve - “Like This”
6. Cassidy f/ Swizz Beats - “Drink N My 2 Step”
7. Fantasia - “When I See U”
8. DJ Khaled f/ Akon, T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman and Lil Wayne – "We Taking Over"
9. Beyonce - “Get Me Bodied”
10. John Legend - "Another Again"
11. 50 Cent - “I Get Money”
12. R. Kelly f/ Usher - “Same Girl”
13. Maroon 5 - “Makes Me Wonder”
14. Kanye West f/ T-Pain - “Good Life”
15. Foo Fighters - “The Pretender”
16. Keyshia Cole f/ Missy Elliott and Lil Kim - “Let It Go”
17. Jordin Sparks - “Tattoo”
18. Crime Mob - “Circles”
19. Finger Eleven - Paralyzer
20. Bobby Valentino - "Anonymous"
21. Swizz Beatz - “Money In The Bank”
22. T-Pain f/ Shawnna “Backseat Action”
23. Red Hot Chili Peppers - “Hump De Bump”
24. The Game f/ Kanye West - “Wouldn’t Get Far”
25. The White Stripes - "Icky Thump"
26. Paramore - “Misery Business”
27. T.I. f/ Wyclen Jean - “You Know What It Is”
28. Bow Wow f/ T Pain - “Outta My System”
29. My Chemical Romance - “Teenagers”
30. Mika - “Grace Kelly”
31. DJ Unk - “2 Step”
32. Fall Out Boy - "This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race"
33. Common f/ Lily Allen - "Drivin' Me Wild"
34. 50 Cent - “Amusement Park”
35. Nicole Sherzinger f/ T.I. - “Whatever You Like”
36. Justin Timberlake - “Until The End Of Time”
37. The Fixxers - “Can U Werk Wit Dat”
38. Common f/ Dwele - “The People”
39. Daughtry f/ Slash - “What I Want”
40. Ja Rule f/ Lil Wayne - “Uh Oh”
41. Fall Out Boy - “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs”
42. Fergie f/ Ludacris - “Glamorous”
43. Amerie - “Gotta Work”
44. Chamillionaire f/ Slick Rick - "Hip Hop Police"
45. Mims - “This Is Why I’m Hot”
46. Nelly Furtado - “All Good Things (Come To An End)”
47. Gym Class Heroes - “Clothes Off”
48. Soulja Boy Tell Em - "Crank That (Soulja Boy)"
49. Puddle of Mudd - “Famous”
50. Young Jeezy f/ R. Kelly - “Go Getta”

I'm not sure what it means that I'm more embarrassed to like a White Stripes single than a Finger Eleven single. Or a song with Lily Allen on it more than, wel, just about anything. I wasn't big on "I Get Money" initially, mainly because those drums were better on "I'm A Hustla," but it's kind of impossible to resist. The Beyonce and John Legend are both great '06 album cuts that are finally official singles, I keep seeing "Another Again" on the R&B charts but haven't even heard it on the radio, I'm just putting it on there since it was my favorite song off that album.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I've been covering some great stuff on the City Paper's Noise page @ lately. I spent a day at Artscape (with Keyshia Cole and Lupe Fiasco) and Whartscape (with Human Host, Yukon, and Blood Baby), and wrote about my experiences as a panelist at the Making The Right Moves entertainment conference @ the Baltimore Convention Center (Midas also covered the event for the Elements Party site, including a picture of my looking real shitty with a stain on my shirt). I put together a playlist of Baltimore hip hop tracks available on iTunes, featuring a whole lot of good songs and different artists, I really reccomend buying that or using it to find some stuff you might like. I also went to Ogun/Skarr Akbar/Comp/M.O.L. @ Sonar, the Hip Hop Cover Show @ Sonar with UnReal, Wade Waters, Leviathan and more, Labtekwon's group The Tao of Slick w/ The Mean @ Eden's Lounge, Lexie Mountain Boys @ the Golden West Cafe, Ted Leo @ the Recher Theatre, and Goo Goo Dolls/Lifehouse @ Pier Six Pavillion. Probably the best show I've seen lately, though, was Rasputina and My Brightest Diamond @ The Ottobar, which I checked out when an old family friend, Robbie, came up to Baltimore for it, and I hung out with him and went along and it turned out to be two really good live acts I'd never seen before.

Saturday, August 25, 2007
Kelly Rowland - "Love" (mp3)

Kelly's always been a likeable underdog, even now that Destiny's Child is ostensibly over and her beautiful harmonies aren't constantly being drowned out by Beyonce's blaring leads. Still, no amount of goodwill for her, or even a single as fantastic as "Like This," which D.C. radio is still playing the shit out of thanks to the vague Go-Go vibe of the drums, could overshadow the fact that Ms. Kelly is not very good. Don't get me wrong, it's better than that weak-ass LeToya album. But it's still pretty short on highlights past the one frontloaded hit, even after it was delayed a year supposedly to add more uptempo tracks. I was hoping this would tide me over until the Amerie album finally got a U.S. release, but that doesn't seem to be dropping anytime soon, and I'm still kinda starved for a decent female R&B album so far this year. Maybe the Keyshia Cole record will be good?

Scott Storch makes a noble attempt at Rich Harrison-style bombast on "Work" (why Kelly didn't reunite with Rich himself after "Can't Nobody" is a mystery to me), and "Comeback" sounds like it was written around the prechorus from "Bills, Bills, Bills," but they all come out less than the sum of their parts. Surprisingly, it's the track that Solange helped write and produce, "Love," that briefly rescue the album from the side 2 doldrums. That Kelly, if it's not one Knowles it's another right around the corner waiting to save her ass.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The New Flesh - "Scratch & Bleed" (mp3)

Kind of hard to believe, but after 2 years and change of covering local music for the City Paper, this week's issue was my first feature/interview with a Baltimore rock band. That band, The New Flesh, has long been a City Paper favorite, and they blew me away when I finally saw them for the first time about a year ago. And now I've seen the new lineup a couple times this Summer, once that I covered for Noise and another time that gets mentioned in the article. Definitely some nice guys and an awesome band, although my one regret is that I took way too long to get in touch with their outgoing guitarist, Danny, and so the quotes I did get from him for the article didn't get in there in time to make the deadline. Apologies to him for not being able to make it happen, I tried.

(photo by RaRah)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007
My latest ratings and blurbs on the Stylus Singles Jukebox:

Montana Da Mac ft. DJ Unk - Rock On [2/2.25]
JoJo - Beautiful Girls [2/4]
Green Day - The Simpsons Theme [1/2.2]
30 Seconds To Mars - A Beautiful Lie [3/2]
Sean Kingston - Me Love [3/3.75]
James Blunt - 1973 [6/4.67]
Foo Fighters - The Pretender [8/4.4]
Bobby Valentino ft. Ludacris - Rearview Ridin’ [3/4.8]
Shop Boyz - They Like Me [3/3.6]
Bjork - Innocence [5/7]
Gorilla Zoe - Hood Nigga [5/5]
Cobra Starship - Send My Love To The Dancefloor, I’ll See You In Hell (Hey Mister DJ) [1/2.17]
R Kelly - Trapped In The Closet: Chapter 13 [6/6.2]
R Kelly - Trapped In The Closet: Chapter 14 [3/7]
R Kelly - Trapped In The Closet: Chapter 15 [4/5.75]
R Kelly - Trapped In The Closet: Chapter 16 [7/5.8]
The D.E.Y. - Get The Feeling [5/6.8]
The-Dream - Shawty Is Da Shit [5/4.67]
Flight of the Conchords - Business Time [5/4.8]

Note that those first 4 make up what was apparently "the lowest scoring day in Jukebox history." I have to admit, I'm pretty proud of the fact that I not only participated in that feat but contributed miserably low scores to all the selections that day. I graded the new chapters of "Trapped In The Closet" on a relative scale, so 8 or higher would've been as good as one of the first five chapters (which none were), and as songs qua songs, none of them would've rated above a 3 or maybe 4. But the more I think about it, the more I feel like Anthony does and wish I rated them all even lower. I don't know if I'll even bother watching chapters 17-22, although I'll probably try if the Jukebox covers those too.

Sunday, August 19, 2007
So I think we've told enough people directly now that I can tell the internet: J.G. and I got engaged over the weekend. Wedding sometime in Summer '08. We're having a small engagement/housewarming party at the new place in Laurel this Saturday, anyone who wants to come can call/e-mail me for directions. And now I'll return to posting music-related inanity and self-promotion.

TV Diary

Friday, August 17, 2007
1. "Last Comic Standing"
As much of a relief it is during the summer to have little or no primetime appointment TV to keep up with, I do like to have a good summer reality show to follow, and since "On The Lot" isn't it, I'm glad this show is back. They held auditions outside the U.S. for I think the first time, too, in Australia and England and Canada and man, the Australians were hilarious. Much like I was annoyed that Bill Dwyer was a contestant last year, I really hate that Doug Benson is on the show this year. This is a guy that's on "Best Week Ever" all the time and has been featured on Comedy Central. He's probably already more famous than some previous Last Comic Standing winners. So beyond me not thinking he's funny at all, he seems like a spotlight hog and kind of undermines the whole point of the show. But then, I wrote most of this a few weeks ago and haven't caught more recent episodes, so I have no idea who's been eliminated and still on, though. A lot of my early favorites got eliminated really quickly, though, so I'm feeling a little unmotivated to keep up.

2. "Flight Of The Conchords"
I wasn't that big on Tenacious D to begin with, but I don't see why HBO needed another sitcom about a comedic folk-rock comedy duo. I might owe this a couple more chances to grow on me, but man, the ironic falsetto stuff is pretty weak as songs and is only intermittenly funny, and at this point I'd rather watch Married With Children reruns than another single-camera 'comedy of awkwardness' Office-type show. Dear 21st century TV comedy, "uncomfortable silences" are not the only form of humor worth pursuing.

3. "Entourage"
This show is really kinda going down the tubes, isn't it? Season 3 was a slight dip in quality but Season 4 so far has gone down hill pretty quickly. There was one really funny episode this season (the one with the hysterically self-referential M. Night Shyamalan cmaeo), but for the most part it's just been retread after retread. Bringing Billy Walsh back, over and over, and having him bicker with E, over and over, Turtle and Drama constantly throwing parties and searching for drugs and mystical MacGuffins, another episode with Gary Busey, etc. They really need to get some fresh writers in the room and come up with some kind of game-changing plotline, and not just a temporary game-change like Ari being fired for a few episodes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

It's been a minute (well, almost 9 months) since I did a Know Your Product local release round-up for the City Paper and put some hip hop and Baltimore club in the column, so in this week's issue I've got recent reviews of mixtapes by B-Ill a.k.a. Banga Bill, A-maz-on, Mullyman/Major League Unlimited, and Blaq Starr. As usual, mp3's from all those discs will follow on Gov't Names in the next couple weeks.

In My Stereo

Monday, August 13, 2007
UGK - Underground Kingz
Webbie - The Savage Mixtape Volume 1
Grand Buffet - The Haunted Fucking Gazebo
Steely Dan - Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz Radio Broadcast
Ludacris and DTP - Ludacris presents Disturbing Tha Peace
A-Maz-On - Da Newest Kid On The Block: Freshman 101
Major League Unltd. - Industry Invasion: The Street Album
Blaq Starr - King Of Roq
Lizz King - All Songs Go To Heaven EP
The New Flesh - Parasite!

Saturday, August 11, 2007
Travis Morrison Hellfighters - "Just Didn't Turn Me On" (mp3)

This week I learned from Dan Weiss's blog that Travis Morrison's 2nd solo record, All Y'All is out in less than two weeks, and is already streaming on his official site. That release date really snuck up on me, considering how aware I tend to be of when even records I don't give a shit about are coming out. Part of it's that I was really anticipating the album two and a half years ago, when I first heard most of the songs, and after a while I kinda forgot to be excited about it.

In the process of talking to Dan about the record, which he kindly hooked me up with a magical and not at all illegal copy of, I thought back to the times I'd seen Travis play solo post-Dismemberment Plan, and realized I'd seen him a staggering five times. Now, I went to a lot of Plan shows, but I think I only ended up seeing Travis that many times because he seems to play Baltimore a lot more than they used to, maybe because it's the closest thing to an out-of-town show that a D.C. act can play without actually travelling far. The first couple times were with his extremely awkward all-percussion-and-keyboards ensemble playing Travistan material, but the last three were after he formed the Hellfighters and started playing the songs that make up this record. The first time I heard those songs I was seriously bowled over and couldn't wait for the record, and the next couple times not so much, although it might've just been that the thrill of the new was gone.

As for All Y'All, I like it, although not nearly as much as Dan. Travistan, for all its flaws, and it had many, was weirdly charming, and I appreciated the fact that he made a really bugged-out, eccentric acoustic record instead of, say, the sleepy Death Cab For Cutie-style acoustic indie record he could've made, considering who he worked on it with. And I thought the conflicted, humorous way songs like "Che Guevera Poster" addressed politics was really great and unique, and maybe a good direction for him to head into. So in that sense, I'm a little disappointed that All Y'All sounds like a return to the course he was on after Change, the record he logically would've written after that one with or without the Plan, full of electric guitar and synth bleeps and lyrics more personal and earnest than arch and political. Even the first song, "I'm Not Supposed To Like You (But)" starts in a way really similiar to "Sentimental Man." And of course, those kind of comparisons only highlight the fact that the Hellfighters are, at least right now, not half the band the Plan was, although they are perfectly good. It was easier to take his solo work, for better or worse, on its own merits when the comparison isn't so unavoidable.

That's not to say there aren't some really good songs on here. "East Side of the River" looks to one area of Springsteen nostalgia that hasn't been stripmined in the past couple years, the melancholy synth balladry of "Secret Garden" and "I'm On Fire," and I love those songs so I'm just fine with that. "Just Didn't Turn Me On" and "Churchgoer" are personal favorites. But there are some things that drive me nuts, like the vaguely Go-Go-ish backing vox (or at least, that's what I imagine they're aiming for) on "Catch Up," which start out just kind of awkward, and then become unbearable after the tempo change when they try to keep up with the faster beat. And Travis still loves his "woah woah yeah" vamping and placeholder syllables. These things might continue to bug me and turn me off the album, or maybe I'll get more comfortable with it as a whole over time. Either way, I'm glad he finally got the album done.

Movie Diary

Wednesday, August 08, 2007
1. Match Point
I'm willing to play apologist for plenty of Woody Allen's later work, save for his screwball worst (Small Time Crooks) and most awkwardly failed experiments (Melinda And Melinda), but it's kind of depressing that probably his most acclaimed and highest grossing film of the past 20 years is kind of crap, and probably only succeeded by virtue of being a drama and featuring a bankable star. Any potential it had to be as good as Crimes And Misdemeanors evaporated when he cast two leads completely incapable of anything other than the most flat, unconvincing possible reading to every line of dialogue (which isn't exactly sparkling to begin with, since Woody removed any sign of wit or intelligence from the characters' mouths in his quest to not make a comedy). How ScarJo became any more respected as an actress than, say, Jessica Biel is likely the work of a brilliant agent and nothing else.

2. American Dreamz
I will watch any piece of crap if Mandy Moore's in it, and have in fact logged multiple viewings of Chasing Liberty for no other reason than how hot she is in it, so I sat through this knowing full well how bad it would probably be (and her character turned out to be too annoying/repulsive to really be attractive anyway). This movie fit 10 pounds worth of played out 00's satire (mostly American Idol and G.W. Bush) into a 5 pound bag and still came off lightweight.

3. When A Stranger Calls
Never saw the original, never really read any reviews or anything to know what happens, but it doesn't really matter because pretty much the entire premise is spelled out the trailer, hell, in the title, and nothing surprising happens at all. It feels silly to even dignify this movie by saying "spoiler" before talking about the ending but: the most ridiculous part of this was the way it made a big show of never showing "The Stranger"'s face, even using a different actor for the character's voice than the one playing the body, to the point that during the final confrontation they kept digitally shadowing his face in implausible ways that implied that his head was some kind of black hole from which no light could escape. And then they finally unveil his voice at the last possible moment, and it's just some guy, no character seen earlier in the film, no twist, just a slightly scary-looking guy. But it was just one pointless, unsuccessful attempt at suspense out of many throughout the movie.

4. Rear Window
Now here's a movie where I pretty much knew the premise through and through but still got a good, immersive esperience out of the movie (I know, not fair, comparing "the master of suspense" to some shitty 2006 remake). As far as Hitchcock/Jimmy Stewart collaborations go, I prefer Rope, but this was still pretty good and there's some more I need to see. Also: Grace Kelly, hotcha hotcha.

5. Modern Girls
This is probably the most archetypal 80's movie I've ever seen that isn't an iconic "80's movie." There isn't a single thing about it that isn't ridiculous or that they would've gotten away with in 1979 or 1991, and the plot made no sense. Mainly I watched it because of a circa-Spaceballs Daphne Zuniga and a really hot young Virginia Madsen.

6. To Live And Die In L.A.
Another 1985 flick that's primarily interesting to see how young the later established cast members were in it, including a way pre-"C.S.I." William Petersen, a pre-"Mad About You" John Pankow with slightly more hair, John Turturro, and Willem Dafoe playing the bad guy (between his creepy facial features and the fact that his name is "da foe," it must be irresistible to cast him as a villain over and over). I'd never seen any William Friedkin movies besides the Exorcist and it generally seems like he descended into hackery after a promising early career, this being respectably dark and noir for its era but still full of garish music choices, questionable pacing, and completely laughable action scenes where whoever throws the first punch wins every fight and the other person just kind of stands there and takes a kick in the groin with no defense. Also, full frontal Gil Grissom, if anyone's into that.

Sunday, August 05, 2007
New stuff I've rated on the Stylus Singles Jukebox:

50 Cent ft. Justin Timberlake – She Wants It [4/5.33]
Ja Rule ft. Lil’ Wayne - Uh Oh [7/4.33]
Cassidy ft. Swizz Beatz - My Drink N My 2-Step [6/4.75]
Olivia ft. Missy Elliott – Cherry Pop [5/5.8]
Fall Out Boy - "The Takeover, The Break’s Over" [5/4.6]
Fabolous feat. Ne-Yo - Make Me Better [3/5]
Elephant Man feat. Keshia Chante and Fatman Scoop - Bring It [4/4.2]
Against Me! - Thrash Unreal [3/4.4]
They Might Be Giants - Take Out the Trash [2/4.2]
Keyshia Cole feat Lil Kim and Missy Elliott - Let It Go [8/5.5]
Wyclef Jean feat. Akon, Lil Wayne & Nia - Sweetest Girl [4/5]
Cassie - Is It You [5/7.4]

I'm already wishing I gave the Cassidy a higher score, that song just started sounded incredible in the past week or so.

Friday, August 03, 2007
Simon & Garfunkel - "Cecilia" (mp3)

J.G. has a tendency to give names to cars and other inanimate objects (the other day I heard her address her vacuum cleaner as "Dora"), which I've never really done, and I form the kind of sentimental attachments to those sorts objects that inspire me write, say, a 1800-word eulogy for my '89 Ford Taurus (I occasionally referred to it as "Jill" because the first 3 letters of its license place were JLL, but it never really caught on). So when she bought a gold Saturn a few years back, she asked for name ideas from her brother John (who also named one of our cats, Harrison). He suggested Cecilia, after the song, which I think I'd only heard for the first time around the same time, when I fished a Simon & Garfunkel best-of out of a box of CDs Mat was getting rid of one time when he moved. We sang the song in (to?) the car, pretty often, although it didn't really make sense to tell a fairly dependable vehicle that it was breaking your heart and shaking your confidence daily.

J.G. and I just moved to Laurel, Maryland, earlier this week, actually, after 2 years in an apartment in Upper Fells Point/Butchers Hill, one of the safer, less crime-ridden parts of Baltimore that my Dad's lived in for more than half my life. We'd ultimately prefer to stay in that area, and will probably move back in a couple years, but she's starting grad school at College Park in a few weeks and it's a good compromise to move somewhere in between there and Baltimore since I'm keeping my job in the city. But back in late June, just a few weeks before moving out of this neighborhood that I've lived in on and off for so long without anything bad ever happening to me, crime-wise, the car, Cecilia, got stolen. I'm not fishing for sympathy because it was basically a seriously boneheaded move on our part to leave J.G.'s bag, with her keys in it, in the car while we went for a walk in Patterson Park, and we kinda deserved to pay for our negligence. But it was still pretty shocking to find that our car had been stolen in broad daylight, right in front of our apartment, when we'd just parked the car less than 45 minutes prior.

J.G. had bought a new car (and named it Chloey) a couple months earlier, and had let me drive Cecilia with the intention of selling me the car at some point down the road when it became the most convenient to transfer ownership. So while it was kinda my car in practice, it was still hers in every other sense and all the police reports and insurance issues after the theft were, unfortunately, primarily her headaches to be had. Amazingly, the car turned up less than 2 weeks later, on July 4th, with only one broken window and some other minor damages, although it took nearly three additional weeks to get it from a city impound lot to a body shop and to get an estimate and have the insurance company cover repairs, so we didn't actually get Cecilia back until last week. The thieves left cigarette burns in the seats, but amazingly left all but 2 of my dozen CDs in the glove compartment, and actually left a bunch of CD-r's in the car (mostly Lil Boosie/Webbie mixtapes, which I've enjoyed listening to lately, and also a scratched up porn DVD). Needless to say, the car's namesake song started to sound a little more poignant after this whole ordeal, from the "begging you please to come home" parts to the final jubilant refrain of "jubilaaaaaation." It's good to have Cecilia back.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The 3rd issue of Bmore Vibe Magazine is out in stores today, and it's the first one that I've done a little writing for. I have an article in there that's kind of a guide to all the weekly hip hop events currently going on in Baltimore these days (although clubs and events change so often that I think some of it might already be out of date). I got a copy of the issue over the weekend and it's looking pretty good. Here's a list of where it will be available: "ALL RECORD & TAPE TRADERS, DEEP FLOW STUDIOS IN BROOKLYN, MD., HIP HOP ONE STOP IN THE REISTERSTOWN RD. PLAZA, THE FRAMING PLACE ON LIBERTY RD., AND HALL OF FAME MUSIC STORE IN JAMAICA QUEENS NY."