the first 10 months of 2007

Tuesday, October 30, 2007
1. Sloan - Never Hear The End Of It
2. Prodigy - Return Of The Mac
3. Parts & Labor - Mapmaker
4. Jarvis Cocker - Jarvis
5. UGK - Underground Kingz
6. Eleni Mandell - Miracle Of Five
7. Ted Leo - Living With The Living
8. T-Pain - Epiphany
9. Kenna - Make Sure They See My Face
10. Travis Morrison - All Y’All
11. Paramore - Riot!
12. Dinosaur Jr. - Beyond
13. Kanye West - Graduation
14. Thurston Moore - Trees Outside The Academy
15. Talib Kweli & Madlib - Liberation
16. Swizz Beatz - One Man Band Man
17. Keyshia Cole - Just Like You
18. Trans Am - Sex Change
19. Fall Out Boy - Infinity On High
20. The Nels Cline Singers - Draw Breath
21. Styles P. - The Ghost Sessions
22. Eddie Vedder - Music For The Motion Picture Into The Wild
23. Hurricane Chris - 51/50 Ratchet
24. Consequence - Don’t Quit Your Day Job
25. Enon - Grass Geysers...Carbon Clouds
26. Rich Boy - Rich Boy
27. T.I. - T.I. Vs. T.I.P.
28. Twista - Adrenaline Rush 2007
29. Rasputina - Oh Perilous World
30. Foo Fighters - Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
31. Redman - Red Gone Wild: Thee Album
32. R. Kelly - Double Up
33. Kelly Clarkson - My December
34. Rufus Wainwright - Release The Stars
35. Radiohead - In Rainbows
36. Trill Entertainment presents - Survival Of The Fittest
37. Bruce Springsteen - Magic
38. Money Mark - Brand New By Tomorrow
39. Gorilla Zoe - Welcome To The Zoo
40. Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero
41. Grand Buffet - The Haunted Fucking Gazebo EP
42. Talib Kweli - Eardrum
43. Fabolous - From Nothin' To Somethin'
44. They Might Be Giants - The Else
45. Kelly Rowland - Ms. Kelly
46. Havoc - The Kush
47. Meat Puppets - Rise To Your Knees
48. DJ Khaled - We The Best
49. Ted Leo - Mo Livin’ EP
50. Nels Cline/Andrea Parkins/Tom Rainey - Downpour

This'll be my last monthly round-up before it gets down to crunch time and I have to start finalizing these for year-end critic polls, so I'm really bearing down and trying to re-evaluate everything. The next couple months are gonna be the usual 4th quarter onslaught of rap releases (Jay, Cass, Free, Pitbull, Fat Joe, Beans, Wu Tang, Saigon, DJ Drama, Wayne), which could completely overhaul my list, or could be kind of a wash like last year's 4th quarter, which looked way better on paper than it ended up being. My top 10 still has a lot of stuff that was already on this list back in March, and I wouldn't mind seeing more of knocked down. It'd be great if everyone who read this left a comment reccomending one 2007 album I should really hear (one that I have a good chance of liking at least a little based on this list, preferably), I could really use some help getting out of my rut of sticking with artists I already know I like.

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. Keyshia Cole f/ Missy Elliott and Lil Kim - “Let It Go”
5. Paramore - “Misery Business”
6. Playaz Circle f/ Lil Wayne - "Duffle Bag Boy"
7. Kelly Rowland f/ Eve - “Like This”
8. Fantasia - “When I See U”
9. Linkin Park - “Bleed It Out”
10. Kanye West f/ Dwele - "Flashing Lights"
11. Crime Mob - “Circles”
12. Finger Eleven - "Paralyzer"
13. Cassidy f/ Swizz Beatz - “Drink N My 2 Step”
14. T-Pain - "Church"
15. Maroon 5 - “Makes Me Wonder”
16. DJ Khaled f/ Akon, T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman and Lil Wayne – "We Taking Over"
17. 50 Cent - “I Get Money”
18. Alicia Keys - "Like You'll Never See Me Again"
19. R. Kelly f/ Usher - “Same Girl”
20. Mary J. Blige - "Just Fine"
21. Avril Lavigne - "Hot"
22. Fall Out Boy - “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs”
23. Foo Fighters - “The Pretender”
24. Kanye West f/ T-Pain - “Good Life”
25. Beyonce - “Get Me Bodied”
26. Rich Boy - "Let's Get This Paper"
27. T.I. f/ Wyclef Jean - “You Know What It Is”
28. Hurricane Chris f/ Big Poppa of Ratchet City - "Hand Clap"
29. John Legend - "Another Again"
30. Mike Jones - "Turnin' Headz"
31. Puddle of Mudd - “Famous”
32. Bobby Valentino - "Anonymous"
33. Rihanna - "Don't Stop The Music"
34. Fergie - "Clumsy"
35. DJ Jazzy Jeff f/ Peedi Peedi - "Brand New Funk 2007"
36. Swizz Beatz - “Money In The Bank”
37. The Game f/ Kanye West - “Wouldn’t Get Far”
38. Natasha Bedingfield - “I Wanna Have Your Babies”
39. Wyclef Jean f/ Akon, Lil Wayne and Niia - "The Sweetest Girl"
40. Freeway f/ Jay-Z - "Big Spender"
41. Diddy f/ Keyshia Cole - "Last Night"
42. The White Stripes - "Icky Thump"
43. Mika - “Grace Kelly”
44. Young Jeezy f/ R. Kelly - “Go Getta”
45. DJ Unk - “2 Step”
46. Chamillionaire f/ Slick Rick - "Hip Hop Police"
47. Twista f/ T-Pain - "Creep Fast"
48. Eddie Vedder f/ Corin Tucker - "Hard Sun"
49. Jill Scott - "Hate On Me"
50. T.I. f/ Alfamega and Busta Rhymes - "Hurt"
51. Swizz Beatz - "Take A Picture"
52. My Chemical Romance - “Teenagers”
53. Gym Class Heroes f/ Patrick Stump - “Clothes Off”
54. Common f/ Lily Allen - "Drivin' Me Wild"
55. Birdman f/ Lil Wayne - "Pop Bottles"
56. Gorilla Zoe - "Hood Figga"
57. Bow Wow f/ T Pain - “Outta My System”
58. Trey Songz - "Wonder Woman"
59. Gwen Stefani - "Early Winter"
60. 50 Cent - “Amusement Park”
61. Nicole Sherzinger f/ T.I. - “Whatever You Like”
62. Justin Timberlake - “Until The End Of Time”
63. Beanie Sigel f/ R. Kelly - "All Of The Above"
64. The Fixxers - “Can U Werk Wit Dat?”
65. Fergie f/ Ludacris - “Glamorous”
66. Amerie - “Gotta Work”
67. Chris Brown f/ T-Pain - "Kiss Kiss"
68. N.O.R.E. f/ Swizz Beatz - "Set It Off"
69. Ja Rule f/ Lil Wayne - “Uh Oh”
70. Red Hot Chili Peppers - “Hump De Bump”
71. Common f/ Dwele - “The People”
72. Daughtry f/ Slash - “What I Want”
73. Fall Out Boy - "The Take Over, The Break's Over"
74. Tiffany Evans f/ Ciara - "Promise Ring"
75. Jordin Sparks - “Tattoo”
76. Nelly Furtado - “All Good Things (Come To An End)”
77. Katharine McPhee - "Love Story"
78. Relient K - “Must Have Done Something Good”
79. Muse - “Starlight”
80. Young Jeezy f/ Keyshia Cole - “Dreamin’”
81. Eve - “Tambourine”
82. Fabolous f/ Swizz Beatz - “Return of The Hustle”
83. Rich Boy f/ Polow Da Don and Keri Hilson - “Good Things”
84. Fall Out Boy - “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race”
85. Three 6 Mafia f/ Chamillionaire - “Doe Boy Fresh”
86. Incubus - "Dig"
87. Paul Wall f/ Jermaine Dupri - “I’m Throwed”
88. Papa Roach - “Forever”
89. Dashboard Confessional - “Stolen”
90. Justin Timberlake - “What Goes Around...Comes Around”
91. Audioslave - “Revelations”
92. Saliva - “Ladies & Gentlemen”
93. Kanye West, Rakim, Nas and KRS One - “Classic”
94. Taylor Hicks - “Heaven Knows”
95. Avril Lavigne - “When You’re Gone”
96. Fabolous f/ Young Jeezy - “Diamonds”
97. Prodigy - “Stuck On You”
98. Vanessa Hudgens - “Say OK”
99. Queens of the Stone Age - "Sick Sick Sick"
100. Huey - “Pop, Lock & Drop It”

Not quite as R&B-dominated as my '06 singles list was, but it's getting close. There's still some stuff on the lower half of this that I'm not totally sure I like or just feel pleasantly ambivalent about, hopefully there'll be enough good stuff in the next 2 months to weed those out.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Lately a lot of the stuff on the Noise page @ has been coming from the City Paper's new music editor, Michael Byrne. But as far as my stuff, I've interviewed DJ Chris J. and King Tutt for my Baltimore club column, and checked out a bunch of shows. Bigg Patch's Bmore Luv Fest @ Fletcher's featured B.O.M.B., Greenspan, Vvs and others. And I went to a mess of other festivals, including the High Zero Festival @ the Theatre Project, the Current Canyon Festival @ the Current Gallery, and the Fells Point Fun Festival. Plus I went to Thurston Moore @ the Rock And Roll Hotel in D.C. and probably the best show I've seen in the last few months, the Kix reunion show @ Rams Head Live.

Saturday, October 27, 2007
Enon - "Pigeneration" (mp3)

I've summed up my relationship with Enon's music on this blog before, including my worship of the first album Believo! and my decreasing interest in everything the band has done since Toko Yasada joined and started singing half the songs. Mostly, I didn't like the division of labor that started on High Society with John Schmersal singing all the uptempo rock songs while Yasada sang the midtempo synth pop songs, which, aside from "In This City," where pretty bland. Thankfully, that formula has been mostly abandoned on their new album Grass Geysers...Carbon Clouds (which, I should say, is both a shit title and way too similiar to their last release, the rarities compilation Lost Marbles And Exploded Evidence). I'm not going to do the creepy thing the Stylus review did and compare Yasada only to other Asian women in indie bands, but I'll just say that I'm not crazy about her icy, inexpressive vocal tone, and have a hard time makng out the words when she sings. But Schmersal and Yasada both singing on most of the songs, sometimes harmonizing, sometimes alternating through different sections of the songs, makes the new album more cohesive than the last couple, which is refreshing. But it also means that the mystery and chaos that made the band so initially exciting to listen to is gone, and more creative arrangements have been replaced by a lot of thudding bass riffs and straightforward drumming.

Grass Geysers is structurally interesting in that there's a abrupt and seemingly deliberate gap in the song lengths of the first half of the album and the second half. The shorter songs are so frontloaded that all of the first 7 songs are 3:06 or shorter, while all of the last 5 songs are 3:24 or longer. The album's sides are so sharply divided that I even noticed it during my first listen in the car, without the benefit of seeing track lengths, partly because I vastly prefer the longer, more stretched out tracks. The first song, "Mirror On You," abruptly fades out after less than 2 minutes, and most of the next few songs also rush by without leaving much of an impression. But from "Pigeneration" onward, the songs are allowed more time to breathe and feel like more than a quick verse-chorus-verse-chorus, and that one turns out to be my favorite song on the album, even with Yasada singing lead.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

About a month ago, when it was announced that Baltimore rapper Heavy Gold had been signed to Epic records, I put up a big Gov't Names post with the news and a bunch of mp3's and YouTube links. This week, I've got a big feature on Heavy Gold in the City Paper, I think it came out well, he came of as a real humble dude. He's performing at a Team Fifty event this Friday, and I'll probably post about his mixtape Tha Testa on GN sometime soon.

In My Stereo

Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Kenna - Make Sure They See My Face
Enon - Grass Geysers...Carbon Clouds
Paramore - Riot!
Rufus Wainwright - Release The Stars
Radiohead - In Rainbows
Trill Fam - Survival Of The Fittest
Heavy Gold - Tha Testa
DJ Frie - Da Club Tip Vol 12: The Summer Rock Off
Avec - Lines
Kix - Kix

Sunday, October 21, 2007
So I was talking to Josh a while back about all those 90's internet artifacts like Geocities and Angelfire that noone seems to use anymore, and we realized that not only does Angelfire still exist, but their about page is totally bonkers. Whoever wrote on Wikipedia that the site's "levity has gradually become less pronounced" must not have seen this: is the Number One site for teens online*. We've been providing website building tools to cool kids the world over since 1995, unlike those johnny-come-lately social networking sites** your poser friends are using. We've got all the site building, blog building, photo album building, photo printing, street-cred-having*** tools you could ever hope to want - and they're yours for free. If you're not a fan of free, you can also subscribe - it's cheap! - and get even more, if that's even possible****. Sign up already.

* Seriously. You can look it up on the internet.
** And you know who you are.
*** Ok, so none of our tools have gotten in any fights lately. But if they did, they would so win. And, we the have awards to prove it.
**** It is. Think your very own domain name and email address, more storage space, and no ads!

And I'm still not sure what the "planet builder" service they're offering is. Is that some Hitchhiker's Guide shit?

Movie Diary

Friday, October 19, 2007
1. Hotel Chevalier
I love how much the story behind this sounds like Wes Anderson scamming Natalie Portman into doing a nude scene for his own private enjoyment. I mean, he self-finances a short film, and keeps it on his laptop and barely shows it to anyone else for a year or two before connecting it to a feature film and releasing it. At least, it's funny to think about that stuff, because this in and of itself is really nothing at all (including the nudity, fwiw), usual Wes Anderson aesthetic, but a little more sadsack than usual, and with no larger context to make it the slightest bit interesting. I kinda wanna see The Darjeeling Limited, but that's not on iTunes for free like this is, so I'll probably wait until it's on DVD. This really doesn't stand on its own, though, so hopefully it makes some sense as a companion piece.

2. I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With
I'm not much of a fan of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," but I've always liked Jeff Garlin, I think I can recite his "Dr. Katz" segments word for word. So my interest was piqued when I saw that this movie was available On Demand from my cable provider, although by the time I realized it wasn't free I'd clicked to exit and accidentally ordered it for a few bucks anyway, so I went ahead and watched it. It was nice and enjoyable, if suffocatingly cutesy in a way that cried out "love me!" Garlin plays a thinly veiled version of himself (albeit a more loserly out-of-work actor version of himself) and constantly makes his classy old-fashioned taste in movies and his classy old-fashioned taste in music a plot point, in almost a more shameless and cloying way than any college student-type indie movie. It also annoyed me that the score sounded like a straight hour of the "Curb" theme music. Still, again, Garlin is really likeable, and I'd totally watch a series with him in the lead if it were like this but less indulgent and more focused on the actual comedy part. This movie really gave me a craving for rice pudding, though.

3. Step Up
This was the silly dance movie from last year that was set in Baltimore (and featured homeboy Mario in a supporting role!), and was largely filmed on location at the arts school around the corner from where I work. So I kinda watched this for the scenery, and for the geographic LOLs of scenes like the one where the girl says she's gonna take the guy to a spot near Hampden, and then they're out by the fucking bay. But generally it's just really stiff and boring, even by the standards of "contemporary urban dance" movies about girls dating boys from the wrong side of the tracks or whatever.

4. Fifty Pills
I remember right after I watched Thumbsucker, which ends with Lou Taylor Pucci's character graduating high school and escaping the problems of his home life at college in New York, I turned off the DVD, and channel surfed around the movie channels, and ended up watching this directly after, which begins with a character played by Lou Taylor Pucci starting college in New York. It was just one of those really weird coincidences that I kinda went along with. That's pretty much where the common ground between these movies, ends, though. This is more of a broad, bawdy comedy, albeit a really low budget, crappy-looking one. Kristen Bell is both underused and too good for it.

5. My Super Ex-Girlfriend
My situation with this movie was pretty similiar to what happened with Stranger Than Fiction: the cast and premise looked good enough for me, but the lousy reviews and low box office lowered my expectations, so that I ended up being pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be as good as I'd originally thought it would be. I was going to praise Eddie Izzard playing a super-villain as inspired casting, until I realized that Mystery Men did the same thing 7 years earlier. He's better in this, though. I never really thought Uma Thurman was hot stuff in the 90's, but suddenly I've been really attracted to her in all the mediocre movies she's been in lately like this, The Producers and Prime. Lord help me, I actually kind of want to see Be Cool now.

6. Cars
It was kind of weird watching this right after Owen Wilson's (alleged) suicide attempt. This was enjoyable, as all Pixar movies are, but still probably represents their nadir, if for no other reason than they really didn't find a satisfactory way to make a world of talking cars that wasn't both creepy and deeply illogical.

7. John Tucker Must Die
The funniest thing about this movie is watching Ashanti play a) a high schooler and b) someone coordinated enough to be a cheerleader. But I'll watch Sophia Bush in any old crap, and this is certainly any old crap.

8. Accepted
Justin Long has always grated on me, ever since "Ed," right through Dodgeball and those Mac ads. And I'm getting pretty tired of watching him play college students and recent high school grads now that he's pushing 30. This had its moments, though, and reminded me of a cheesy 80's college movie from the concept on down, which beats more contemporary approaches to the genre.

9. Farce Of The Penguins
A bunch of nature special footage of penguins with B-list comedians doing voiceovers had the potential to be funny, especially since a lot of them are working blue, but the execution is really poor here, especially when it focuses on the main characters voiced by Bob Saget and Lewis Black. I'll forgive Lewis Black for taking a check on generic crap like Accepted where he at least gets to play himself, but the character he tries to play is really cringe-inducing, mostly because he says "bro" and other ill-fitting colloquialisms in every line.

10. Waiting
An ensemble comedy half-full of people I like (David Koechner, Luis Guzman, Chi McBride) and half-full of really annoying people (Andy Milonakis, Justin Long again, Anna Faris), but mostly pretty good. This is pretty much the only movie Dane Cook has been in so far where he's actually funny and does something with the same appeal as his stand-up, instead of playing the straight man in shitty romantic comedies. Vanessa Lengies is extraordinarily well cast as jail bait.

11. Stick It
Slightly more enjoyable than any old crap, but still kind of shoddy. But hey, Vanessa Lengies in tights.

12. Friends With Money
Featuring several actresses I generally like and would watch in almost anything, and also Jennifer Aniston. One of those really dull, calculated movies where each of the 4 principal characters represents a different type of woman/relationship in a really transparent way, and it all just kind of goes on and on and nothing happens at the end.

13. The Baxter
This is very much in keeping of the theme of this post, along with the Jeff Garlin movie and Fifty Pills, in that it's less an indie comedy (with the 'quirky' aesthetic that usually goes along with it) than a mainstream comedy with a lower budget and production values. I mean, they could shot the exact same script as a $50 million Ben Stiller or Luke Wilson vehicle and not changed anything, including the supporting cast (even the quirky indie girl is just Michelle Williams with her hair dyed brown!). But instead the lead role is played by the writer/director, one of the many annoying guys from "The State," a show I always regarded as thoroughly average 90's sketch comedy that amassed a huge fanboy following from impressionable MTV viewers who didn't know better to fixate on "The Kids In The Hall" instead. I liked the titular concept of this movie, though, and most of the best jokes were the ones tied to it, but the execution was just so predictable and not very funny. And they jack the bears/menstruation joke from Anchorman for no apparent reason.

14. Happy Endings
I remember one day channel surfing and there were like 3 different movies on cable with near-identical capsule descriptions about ensemble dramas about interlocking lives of people in L.A. or whatever. Granted, these were fairly disparate movies when you get down to it (one of them was Go and Crash might've been another), but goddamn am I sick of that whole approach to moviemaking as a whole, all the slowly revealing how one character is connected to another or having them stumble into each other in some stupid coincidence.

15. Thank You For Smoking
This reminded me very much of American Psycho, in that its whole satirical take on a morbid sobject is so flat and devoid of surprises that it doesn't even register as dark comedy, there's no weight to it. The ending is really lame, too. No wonder they're developing this into a TV series. It'd probably work better there.

16. Moog
Pretty interesting look at Robert Moog's huge contribution to modern music filmed not long before he passed away, although it's a little more straightforward doc than the cool animated intro had me prepared for. The scene of Moog standing between Rick Wakeman and Bernie Worrell while they wax about his invention alone is worth watching this for. And the scene where this Austrian woman, Pamelia Kurstin, plays the theremin in the most incredibly graceful, sensual, musical way that I could've never imagined, I'd love to see her at the High Zero Festival someday.

17. See This Movie
Seth Meyers has grown on me during his tenure at SNL, so I gave this movie a shot on the strength of him and Harold (of and Kumar fame), but wow, what a piece of crap. It's a big meta exercise about a filmmaker trying to shoot a movie on the fly during a film festival in time to premiere it at the film festival, so the whole thing's making funny of underwritten, shakey-cam indie movies that seem to be making it up as they go along, which would be OK if it didn't actually play exactly like that itself. Man oh man is Jessica Paré hot, though.

18. Shot In The Dark
Saw that this was on TV right after Anthony called it the best Inspector Clouseau movie, and while it was kind of OK, it more or less cemented for me that I don't really care for these movies.

19. Rebecca
J.G. was watching this a while back, early Hitchcock that I'd never seen, really good stuff. Hitchcock is one of those directors that one of these days I need to make a list of all the movies I haven't seen and just put 'em all on the Netflix queue.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Twista - "Seven Day Hustle" (mp3)

My first review in the City Paper's Sound Tracks section in quite a while, of Adrenaline Rush 2007, is in this week's issue. It's a pretty good album, although for all the hype of this album being a return to Twista's roots in response to the last one (which my review buys into, to some extent), it's really pretty similiar to The Day After and, if I'm being honest, that album had as many or more songs that I really like. But then, I'd probably listen to Twista rap the phonebook. It'd only take him 4 minutes, anyway.

Monday, October 15, 2007
mix for John, October 2007

1. Thin Lizzy - "Cowboy Song" (mp3)
2. Dropkick Murphys - "I'm Shipping Up To Boston"
3. Dinosaur Jr. - "Can't We Move This" (mp3)
4. The Pretenders - "The Wait" (mp3)
5. They Might Be Giants - "Ana Ng"
6. Polaris - "Hey Sandy"
7. Steely Dan - "My Old School"
8. Foo Fighters - "Summer's End"
9. Sloan - "G Turns To D"
10. Ruth Ruth - "Jerome"
11. Morningwood - "Easy" (mp3)
12. Spymob - "2040"
13. The Raconteurs - "Intimate Secretary"
14. Television - "Marquee Moon"
15. Faraquet - "Sea Song"
16. The Posies - "Open Every Window"
17. Ted Leo/Pharmacists - "Six Months In A Leaky Boat" (Sharkbite Sessions version)
18. Queen - "Liar" (mp3)

This is the third mix I've made for J.G.'s younger brother John, after one last year and a double disc Sonic Youth primer a few months ago. She said he was gonna be stopping by while home for Fall beak from college, and I realized I had half a playlist of a mix I wanted to do for him and decided to finish it while he was here. John's a guitarist, so I always try to turn him onto some of my favorite guitar rock stuff (like holy shit, "Marquee Moon"), he said he wouldn't mind some hip hop stuff but I think I'll have to do that as its own mix sometime.

I've been going through a big Thin Lizzy phase lately, and "Cowboy Song" is easily my favorite right now. John said that he'd been getting into Dinosaur Jr. and mentioned a song from 1996's Hand It Over, which I've always thought was great and underrated, so I picked a favorite from that one. I also remember John once remarking that he couldn't believe there was a band called Morningwood, so I dug out the one really good song from their album (I really wanted to like the record, partly because of just how critically reviled it was, but that is pretty much the only keeper). "My Old School" namedrops John's school, William & Mary. And "Liar" would have to be my favorite Queen song not counting the big hits, John's a Meat Loaf fan so he should appreciate it in all it's over-the-top 6-minute glory.

Saturday, October 13, 2007
Bruce Springsteen - "Your Own Worst Enemy" (mp3)

They Might Be Giants - "Your Own Worst Enemy" (mp3)

So all the blogs are hung up on the idea that a couple of songs from the new Springsteen album supposedly sound like the Magnetic Fields. To me, "Girls In Their Summer Clothes" sounds more like "The Kids Are Alright" than anything else, and "Your Own Worst Enemy" reminds me of an 11-year-old They Might Be Giants song of the same name. The similiarity isn't so uncanny that I'd presume that it's anything other than an amusing coincidence. But really, the title lyric is sung in almost the exact same way in both songs (in TMBG's chorus, not the first verse), and the tempos are close enough that I can quite easily imagine singing one over the other. Bottom line, though, is that speculating on this stuff is way more interesting than talking about Magic as an album.

Thursday, October 11, 2007
For the past year I've busied myself during slow days at the office by incessantly leaving comments on posts on Idolator, and Jess and Maura finally threw me a bone and gave me a recurring column, on the subject of mainstream rock radio. The first Corporate Rock Still Sells just went up, and it's kind of a broad intro, I'm going to try and do some more interesting and specific things with future installments. But please feel free to leave some comments and disagree with me, poke holes in my logic, make some suggestions, whatever, because I'm still sorting out what direction it's gonna take but I think there's a lot of potential here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Keyshia Cole - "Got To Get My Heart Back" (mp3)

When I think of Keyshia Cole now, I think of that line she sings in Diddy's "Last Night" that sums up her entire career so perfectly: "all cried out with nothing to say." So much of her music, particularly the songs she became famous with, is just drama drama drama. And even after the breezy perfection of "Let It Go" (which was probably my favorite concert moment of this past Summer, at Artscape when she performed the song just as it was cresting into radio ubiquity but still sounded fresh), her second album Just Like You is still mostly about that catharsis, that constant attempt to find the most soulful way to say "why you trippin'?" She sings every song the exact same way, the same climactic big note on every song, even the one that could've had a tender/sexy delivery, "Give Me More," gets the big blown out heartbreak treatment.

I would probably talk at length about how baldly Keyshia emulates Mary J., and how she'd probably be better off forging her own identity, and is at her best when she transcends those comparisons instead of courting them, but many people have already summed it up better, particularly four four. Part of the problem is that not only does Keyshia often do warmed-over 90's Mary J., but the Shareefa album did it better (and boy does that new single "Shoulda Let You Go" sound like Darkchild recycling the beats he did for 'Reefa). Mostly, though, I wish Keyshia had followed the lead of "Let It Go" and "Last Night" into an album full of juicy 80's R&B (or at least included the whole 6-minute version of the latter instead of that stingy radio edit). Maybe next album she'll get around to fleshing out that aesthetic. In the meantime, the nods to hip hop are a little awkward: Keyshia's attempt to show some love to the Bay with the Too $hort cameo on "Didn't I Tell You" is well-intentioned, but Short Dog unfortunately sounds completely out of place on an expensive-sounding Runners beat, awkward in all the ways he somehow avoided on his other recent big time R&B guest spot, Kelis's "Bossy."

Initially, I was pretty underwhelmed by the album, and had it pegged as the same situation as that Kelly Rowland album: the one great single right up front, and then a steep slide downhill from there. But it's really grown on me, though, particularly "Losing You," and "Was It Worth It," while "Got To Get My Heart Back" has been my favorite from the start. But "Got To Get My Heart Back" is somewhat frustrating because, with its O'Jays sample and lush strings, it's by far the best-sounding track on the album, but the liner notes are strangely unclear: every other song's credits begin with "Produced by," but next to this song it simply says "Additional production by Ron Fair" (in addition to who!?). It's also the one song where Keyshia jumps out of her comfort zone and raps a little, which has been increasingly common among R&B singers in the last few years and, and is usually a bad idea. But for some reason it totally works for her, which probably has more to do with the way it's deployed in the context of the song than Keyshia being a particularly good MC.

Monday, October 08, 2007
The latest of my blurbs on the Singles Jukebox:

Avril Lavigne - Hot [7/5.25]
Beanie Sigel ft. R Kelly - All Of The Above [7/7.25]
Webbie ft. Lil Boosie - Independent [6/5.2]
Dan Deacon - The Crystal Cat [6/4.83]
Garth Brooks - More Than A Memory [6/5.8]
Omarion ft. Bow-Wow - Designated Driver [5/3.25]
Aly & AJ - Bullseye [4/7]
Lupe Fiasco - Superstar [4/6.25]
Plies ft. Akon - Hypnotized [3/3.5]
Papoose - Fitted Hat Low [3/5.4]
New Found Glory - Kiss Me [3/3]
Tiny Masters Of Today - Hey Mr DJ [3/2.5]
H.I.M. - The Kiss Of Dawn [2/2.5]
Jay-Z - Blue Magic [2/5.8]

I decided that from now on, when I round these up here, I'll order them by the number I rated them with, from favorite to least favorite. As usual, I feel like I'm only doing what little I can to not allow shit like those Papoose and Jay-Z songs to collect respectable averages from the other panelists. My only regret is that I didn't find the time to voice my opinion on that horrific musical abortion by Ashley Tisdale.

Saturday, October 06, 2007
Foo Fighters - "Cheer Up, Boys (Your Make-Up Is Running)" (mp3)

In Your Honor aged really well for me, at least one half of it. If it'd been released as two seperate albums, the louder first disc probably would've made my top 10 that year, but the quieter second disc was so dull that it dragged down my overall impression of the album. "No Way Out" and "The Deepest Blues Are Black" consistently stayed at or near the top of my most played list on iTunes for a solid year or two. So I was pretty primed for a new Foo Fighters album that was as balls-to-the-wall hard rock as the first disc of In Your Honor, or at least one without a large amount of acoustic material. In general, I thought maybe this year Foo Fighters would start getting a little more respect, although I was proven wrong by Pitchfork shitting on a reissue of the band's best album (and they always overrate reissues), and the general critical reception to "The Pretender," which as far as I'm concerned is already one of their top 5 singles (somehow incredibly derivative of "All My Life" while at the same time way better than it).

If the title wasn't a dead giveaway, though, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace is not a balls-to-the-wall rock record. Dave Grohl's advance press soundbyte about how "it has always been my dream to mix Steely Dan with No Means No" got me a little excited for the soft rock element of it, although the only song on here that I can even halfway picture the Dan playing is "Statues." Mostly, the more restrained parts are in the standard alt-rock quiet/LOUD/quiet/LOUD mold, which sometimes works to great effect, particularly on "Come Alive" and "But, Honestly." It's a good structure, but it gets a bit old, and I prefer In Your Honor's approach of songs that were kind of pretty and midtempo while still being completely over the top and loud.

The problem here, really, is the relative dearth of drums. Even though Grohl doesn't play drums on the Foos' albums anymore, he did pick a great drummer for the band. And I feel like he writes songs with drums in mind, more than the overwhelming majority of rock songwriters, which I really appreciate. So I tune into a Foo Fighters album expecting DRUMS, and lots of 'em. On Echoes, 3 of the 12 songs feature no drums at all, almost half of the tracks start with no drums for the first verse or two, and there's only really a handful of songs that have drumming in every measure of the song and no brief quiet parts like "The Pretender" does. One of them, "Summer's End," is pretty nice, and evokes a place and time (September in Virginia) that I can identify with and reminisce over, but it's still one of the slower songs. Predictably, the fastest of the drum-filled tunes, "Cheer Up, Boys (Your Make-Up Is Running)" is one of my favorites, and practically the only song that has the kind of uptempo swagger of early singles like "Monkey Wrench." The title's been perceived as a potshot at guyliner emo bands, but it doesn't really seem to be about that. But I'm gonna be mad if it's not a single at some point.

TV Diary

Thursday, October 04, 2007
1. Pushing Daisies
I've been binging on the new slate of primetime shows, after starving for decent first-run TV for the last few months with little to subsist on other than a subpar season of "Entourage" and a few guilty pleasure Summer reality shows that weren't actually that pleasurable. The Fall season is kind of depressing and exciting at the same time, because most of the new shows invariably suck, and even the ones that are good are unlikely to survive a full year, which really puts the pressure on to enjoy and support them while they're here. So far, this is my favorite of the new season, which I hadn't heard about at all beforehand but has apparently been really well reviewed. The premise is somewhat similiar to Jeff Goldblum's recent short-lived mid-season replacement, "Raines": a guy who talks to the dead, and tries to solve their murder or cause of death. But in "Raines" it was all in his head, while this one goes all the way supernatural with the concept, albeit in a more overtly comedic and almost overbearingly cutesy way. But the love story at the center of it is kind of touching, the unknowns in the cast are likeable, and it's good to see Chi McBride finally get a role that taps into his comedic talents in a series for the first time since "The John Laroquette Show," after a run of playing it straight on shows like "House" and "Boston Public."

2. "Chuck"
Conversely, this is one of the other best reviewed new Fall shows, but it's pretty much the worst one I've seen so far (granted, I haven't seen "Cavemen" yet). It's an 'action comedy' with no sense of tone, poorly shot action sequences, and zero laughs. Part of it's that the lead guy sucks (the blonde girl has potential, though), but mostly I can't believe they gave this thing a full hour timeslot. I've only watched it in passing, during commercial breaks from CBS, but this probably could've been done better as a half hour comedy and go for a modern "Get Smart" vibe. While I'm glad NBC has held onto "30 Rock" and some other good shows with unspectacular ratings, it seems like a total bonehead move that they didn't produce a single new half-hour sitcom for the Fall season (and its one comedy mid-season replacement, "The IT Crowd," has reportedly been pre-emptively cancelled already).

3. "Reaper"
This show has a lot in common with "Chuck": it's a comedic action show, about a young guy who works at a fictional stand-in for a real-life chain store (in "Chuck," Best Buy becomes Buy More, in "Reaper" Home Depot becomes Work Bench) and gets unexpectedly saddled with a life-changing responsibility (in "Chuck" spies are after the guy, in "Reaper" the guy has to work for Satan). This one is a lot less hyped, mainly because it's on the CW, but it's better in just about every way as far as I can tell. It's also good to see Bret Harrison in a series again so soon after "The Loop" was unjustly cancelled.

4. "Gossip Girl"
J.G. got hooked on this show right away, although she admitted up front that it's kind of trashy/cheesy, but I gave it a chance, partly because of the involvement of Kristen Bell, and I'm still feeling burned about the cancellation of "Veronica Mars." It's really just kind of blank and barely there, though, partly because Bell is more magnetic and charismatic in her 2 minutes of voice-over narration than the rest of the cast is in the whole episode. Plus it feels like so much more could be done with a scripted drama that feels like a clusterfuck of Cruel Intentions, Paris Hilton and "Laguna Beach" and totally preys on our national obsession with spoiled, debauched rich kids. The girl who plays Blair is cute, though.

5. "Moonlight"
Another show with "Veronica Mars" alumni (Scientologist and accurately typecast charismatic creep Jason Dohring) and it's about vampires, which is a twofer pretty much guaranteed to get J.G. watching. I only watched a little of it, seems decent. Shannyn Sossamon's role is so small that I didn't even realize it was her.

6. "Dirty Sexy Money"
Another weird recycled-feeling new show, as Josh pointed out to me the other day, with Peter Krause playing a guy not unlike his "Six Feet Under" character who inherits the family business after his father dies. But then, I never liked "Six Feet Under" and mostly know Kruase for "Sports Night," so that's not really a hang-up for me. Also circling the same funny/trashy/dramatic axis that's so in vogue in TV these days (it's seriously like the networks stopped aiming for HBO territory with their more ambitious shows and started shooting for "Nip/Tuck" instead). Still kind of undecided about this, some of the cast is good and some of it is really bad, and the camera-work is all spastic and makes me nauseous. If I get hooked on this I won't be proud of myself. And there's Samaire Armstrong in a supporting role, joining Shannyn Sossamon in the "how the it-girls of yesteryear have fallen" files.

7. "The Big Bang Theory"
This show reminds me of "Beauty And The Geek," in that its foundation is a really antiquated, 1980's "Revenge Of The Nerds"-type depiction of geeks that rings hollow these days. And it's not that I'm enough of a nerd to feel misrepresented or self-righteous, it's more like, in a youth culture where a huge percentage of young males can quote Star Wars at length and play video games all day, the stereotypical nerd they're presenting is really outdated and Urkel-ish. But then, J.G. is more of a science geek than me, and she thinks this show is hilarious, so maybe there's something there that I'm just not getting. Of course, all Chuck Lorre shows are rooted in hoary old comedy formulas, but I can understand "Two And A Half Men"'s popularity, I see where it succeeds and almost transcends that formula. I really can't see this show doing that.

8. "Bob Saget: That Ain't Right"
At this point, Saget's been working against his "Full House" image with dirtier and dirtier material longer than that show was even on the air, so it's kind overkill for this HBO special to be nothing more than a reiteration of that schtick, which most people have probably been aware of at least since The Aristrocrats. But the sad thing about this is how shockingly bad it is, even compare to other times I've seen Sagat do standup. He just keeps babbling, with no sense of timing or pacing, as if to play up the idea that he has a sort of comedic Tourette's, and it ultimately comes off like an incompetent attempt at Sarah Silverman-style shock comedy.

9. "Ace Of Cakes"
I might've said something like this before, but my favorite thing about this show, aside from it being set in Baltimore and showing a somewhat friendlier side of the town than, say, "The Wire," is that despite the Food Network calling it a 'docu-soap,' it's one of the least soap-y reality shows on television. It's just people working really hard at an interesting job that they mostly seem to really enjoy doing, and there's no real drama aside from the occasional suspense of a cake collapsing or something. J.G. and I have talked about getting some kind of weird groom's cake from them for our wedding, but I'm undecided about whether I want to do that (the only obvious idea so far is a drumset cake, which they've already done on the show, and I'd want to do something more original). I'd say that I have a crush on Elena, but it feels weird saying that about someone who may be like blocks away from me right now when it's just a TV crush. I think they did a cake for the City Paper a while back, I wonder if that's featured on a recent or upcoming episode.

10. "Meerkat Manor"
It's probably a cliche at this point to say that this is one of the most dramatic and involving reality shows on television, despite being about animals, but it remains pretty much true. The show has always tempered the inherent cuteness of its subjects by not flinching from the darker plot developments, stating at the beginning of every episode that these are the "real life and death events" of the meerkats. But that contrast has become really stark this season, with Animal Planet's ad campaign becoming really silly and goofy, and the most recent episodes featuring one heartbreaking story after another. I think there were 3 consecutive episodes that featured the deaths of newborn meerkat pups. And in last week's episode, there was a death of a major character that was honestly pretty emotional and hard to watch, and I'm gonna go ahead and avoid spoilers and not say who.

11. "The Pick-Up Artist"
This show would be more interesting if it was about a guy who did airbrush designs on the hoods of trucks.

12. "Last Comic Standing"
Amy Schumer got eliminated from the show like 2 days after I posted about how I know her, but still, she had a pretty good run. And while I haven't always been crazy about John Reep, he was really consistent on the show and I totally see why he won. He killed on their fake Friar's Club Roast exercise.

13. "Gene Simmons Family Jewels"
This is the most laughably, transparently scripted 'reality' show (I hate using scare quotes for that, but seriously) on television, more than Laguna Beach, probably even more than that show about the Coreys if I'd bothered to watch it. The most pathetic instance, during a contrivance in which Gene leaves his wallet or whatever on a cab and then hails another cab to chase it and get his stuff back, the driver, like he's reading off a cue card, tells Gene that he watches the show, and asks him about a particular recent plot point. Come on, nobody watches this show (OK, correction: Wikipedia says it's "the second highest rated show on A&E, only behind Dog the Bounty Hunter," although that probably says more about A&E than the show). Even I wouldn't have watched this show if I hadn't noticed how smoking hot his daughter Sophie is (and it was the realization of how little screentime she gets, more than the realization that she's only 15, that quickly turned me off of the show). The son Nick is kind of weird to watch, though, mainly because he looks and talks so much like Gene he's like an eerie clone. Except he comes off more likeable, but then everyone is more likeable than Gene Simmons.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Talib Kweli - "Stay Around" (mp3)

There's a moment halfway through Talib Kweli's new album that's an unlikely combination of unintentionally funny and bitingly self-aware. The Pete Rock-produced "Stay Around" begins with Kweli voicing all the various nitpicky criticisms he hears about his music -- "you should rap on beat/ you should rap more street/ and never ever get your mack on, please" -- in an unsubtly mocking voice. He's kinda justified, too, I can't think of any established MC who gets dismissed quite as much as him, for being too this or too that, or just not as good as Mos Def, or whatever. Much in the same way that my favorite track on Right About Now was the title track's dissatisfied overview of Kweli's various career setbacks, I respect the point of "Stay Around" in spite of, and partly because of, the crabby way he delivers it.

I've always liked Kweli and rooted for him, too, admittedly enjoying the way Mos has fallen off the hip hop map without even being a good enough actor to justify his focus on a Hollywood career (amazing that Kanye can lament that he wishes Lauryn Hill's "heart was still in rhyming" on the same album where he enables Mos Def's ambitions as a mediocre R&B singer), while Kweli has broadened his fanbase and dropped albums more consistently, even surprisingly beating Swizz Beatz on the charts. Still, Eardrum is kind of a bland album, and only a slight recovery from the major missteps of Beautiful Struggle. Production-wise it's good but not great, and Kweli is mostly on point but really embarrasses himself a few times, either with with confused 'conscious' lyrics -- the part on "Give Em Hell" where he says "never question the fact that Jesus was Jewish not a Christian" is kind like, uhh, dude, um, you're not processing the idea that Christ wasn't a Christian? -- or with horrible choices in pop culture references: the Larry the Cable Guy impression he does on "Soon The New Day" is probably the single most cringe-inducing line I've heard all year, worse than a hundred of Common's "astronaut lady" lines.

And while I was kinda lukewarm on Eardrum to begin with, the 3 tracks produced by Madlib motivated me to finally check out Liberation, the mixtape/mini-album that Madlib and Kweli released for free all over the internet in January. Liberation is great partly because Kweli finds the kind of synergy with a producer that he hasn't had since the Reflection Eternal album (and based on Hi-Tek's one piss poor contribution to Eardrum, "More Or Less," he and Kweli might not have that chemistry anymore anyway). I always kind of slept on Madlib and assumed I wouldn't like his tracks, partly because of my general bias against indie rap, but mainly because I really hated that Quasimoto album back in the day when my roommate had it. But I'm glad I overcame that bad first impression, because at this point Liberation has pretty much usurped Eardrum's spot on my favorite albums of the year list.