Monthly Report: March Albums

Tuesday, March 31, 2009
1. The-Dream - Love Vs. Money
The-Dream is a terrible singer, an overrated songwriter, and generally comes off as kind of a douchebag. But I'll be damned if he doesn't make good albums, and I'd be reaching to give all the credit to his producers, Tricky Stewart and LOS Da Mystro, brilliant as they are. "Take U Home 2 My Mama" and "Mr. Yeah" are hysterical, invigorating pop, and the two-part title track is dark and epic and over-the-top in a way he shouldn't be able to get away with, but totally does.

2. UGK - UGK 4 Life
As sad as the end of UGK was, as bittersweet as it was that Pimp C died months after their first #1 album, it made a nice tidy little storyline, and it was a great album to go out on, about as perfect as a rap double album in this decade could ever be. That narrative has no real need for a posthumous UGK album, there's not really any loose end to wrap up here. But the moment you hear Pimp's voice say "Back from the dead, it's still UGK for life" on the intro to UGK 4 Life, none of that matters, you're just overjoyed to hear another great album from them. Holy shit "Steal Your Mind" is crazy.

3. Prince / Bria Valente - LOtUSFLOW3r / MPLSoUND / Elixer
Last Saturday, my wife had some errands to run and wanted to go to Target, and I was instantly all "b-b-but Prince is releasing his new triple album in Target on Sunday! We need to go tomorrow instead!" So I ended up going to Target twice in one weekend. LOtUSFLOW3r is the kind of limp and only occasionally catchy rock album he's made too many times in recent years, but MPLSoUND is such a return to form it almost feels too calculated; it's like he finally listened to all the clamoring for his old '80s sound and brought back the Linn Drum and the Camille voice just to silence the haters. The thing is, though, it works. It sounds great and has some of his most infectious and fun music in a long time, even if it's nowhere near the level of his work from the era it resembles. Bria Valente's Elixer doesn't rise above any of the low expectations placed on Prince's female proteges, but her album isn't as worthless as you might assumed; "Another Boy" is a fucking jam, possibly my favorite song on the whole set and I wish it got played on the radio.

4. The Mean - Meet Us Here
A couple summers back I caught this really intriguing band from Philly with multiple singers, inventive song structures and time signatures, and a really laid back, unpretentious mix of rock and soul and country. I talked to a member of the band at the show and picked up a kind of rough-sounding CD of studio recordings they were selling, and was disappointed that it didn't live up to how good they are live. But I heard from them recently that they released a new album (which is streaming on their site) and was really glad to hear some better studio stuff. It's still not quite up to the standard of their shows, but they're getting there.

5. U2 - No Line On The Horizon
Say what you will about U2, but Achtung Baby remains one of the most successful left-field reinventions in pop music history, so when Bono made noises like "whatever it is, it's not gonna stay where it is" in advance of this album, I actually half-believed him. But this album is, more or less, the same mish-mash of '80s U2 and '90s U2 that their other two albums this decade were, and ultimately that doesn't bother me. I'm not a huge U2 fan but I'll be the first to admit they've got some cheap tricks that work really well, and when Eno and Lanois put in their best it ends not feeling like a cheap trick at all. And "Breathe" and "Magnificent" are the big grandiose jams I'm always happy to hear from them.

Monthly Report: March Singles

Monday, March 30, 2009
1. Keyshia Cole - "You Complete Me"
Sometimes it’s the little things that make me love a song. Here, you’ve got the kind of stuttery triplet beats that have been standard in R&B since the first wave of Timbaland in the mid-90s, but instead of crisp drum machine sounds, you’ve got big plush “live”-sounding kicks and snares that take on a whole new character when programmed in those rhythms, especially when they spill over into fills that never quite land where you expect them to. Add in the synth squiggles and the big hooky strings, and it’s one of the most endlessly listenable slow jams on the radio.

2. Electrik Red - "So Good"
The-Dream’s more explicitly Prince-inspired stuff is usually my favorite, so I have high hopes for his own faceless female protégés, especially when the single is some of his most blatantly Prince-jocking stuff to date. The fact that the main girl sounds exactly like Kelis (at least until she starts doing “hoo-hoo-hoooo” ad-libs and then sounds like a pitch-shifted Terius) is a plus, too.

3. Birdman f/ Lil Wayne – “Always Strapped”
You can’t help but make fun of the whole situation between these guys, if not for the gay jokes then just for the way Baby’s shamelessly hitched his wagon to Wayne as Cash Money’s only remaining star in the past few years. 2005’s Fast Money had four Wayne features, including both its singles, and during those years when they perpetually stalled on dropping Tha Carter III, they instead put out a joint album, 2006’s Like Father, Like Son, and another Birdman solo, 2007’s 5 Star Stunna, which had seven Wayne features, including all three singles. But here’s the thing: Wayne’s records with Baby are way more consistent than his solo output the last few years. Like Father is a better album than Carter III, straight up, and “Stuntin’ Like My Daddy” and “Pop Bottles” are among his best later hits. That’s mainly because Birdman is such a bland monotone figure that he can’t do anything but cold-hearted street rap (his hilarious AutoTune flirtation on the “Foolish” remix excepted); even when the Big Tymers got super goofy he was kind of Mannie’s straight man, no pun intended. So when Wayne gets on a track with Baby, he’s in the lane he’s still best at, the stuff he hasn’t been focusing on regularly for 2 or 3 years now, so I have no problem with a new Birdman album squeezing what it can out of Wayne’s stardom if it’s full of awesome deadpan bangers like this.

4. Robin Thicke - "Dreamworld"
Something Else remains one of my favorite albums of ’08, and it’s a shame that it’s not gonna have a late-breaking sleeper hit to make it a success like his previous album. But I am glad that he finally released one of my favorite cuts as a single, and shot a beautiful grainy dramatic video to go with it. I mean shit, this song sounds so chilling it actually made the end of an episode of “Entourage” seem dramatic.

5. Beyonce - "Halo"
B’Day possessed one of my favorite strings of singles of any hit album the past few years, but so far I Am has been a pretty big dud for me. A lot of people seemed to hype up this song as a would-be smash early on, but while it’s been easily outperformed by that awful “A Milli” knockoff thing, it’s started to really grow on me. In sound and structure it’s almost identical to “No Air,” but I loved “No Air” so this is at least the kind of knockoff I can deal with.

Movie Diary

Saturday, March 28, 2009
a) Live Free Or Die Hard
This takes place in D.C. but a lot of it was shot in Baltimore, which was of course a big to-do a couple years ago when they were downtown shooting it. My mother-in-law works in the city court, and I remember her reporting that Bruce Willis used the bathroom in her building; there's actually a whole big traffic scene right at that intersection downtown by the courthouse, which is kinda cool. Anyway this was actually kinda decent, which you can not say about many oh-god-one-more-time fourquels. And even though I've never been much of a fan of Justin Long, it was just refreshing to see someone other than Shia LeBeouf in what I guess at this point we might as well just call the Shia LeBeouf role. It's still weird to see Kevin Smith pop up in random non-Kevin Smith movies, though.

b) Hard Times At Douglass High
Even though I'm well aware of the shortcomings of the Baltimore public school system, it's always an eye-opener to get some real footage and firsthand testimony, and this HBO doc (which was, surprisingly enough, shot even before "The Wire" did their school-themed season) does a pretty good job of getting you good and depressed but also hopeful but also pessimistic, which is pretty much the way topics like this tend to make you feel.

c) The Descent
When J.G. and I were watching horror movies recently and one we got on Netflix, Skinwalkers, turned out to be a dud, we turned to the 'Fearnet' menu on our cable's OnDemand system, and found a much better alternative. I was afraid it would be too much like The Cave, another movie about mysterious underground beasties that we watched two years ago, but it was way better. Part of it was that they really let the settings and the anxiety of the characters set the tone for the first half before anything creepy really showed up, and then didn't let up from the action once it started. I'm glad to hear they're doing a sequel, even if it looks like it's going to have one of those terrible numbers-in-the-middle-of-the-word gimmick titles (The De2cent, ughh).

d) Catch Me If You Can
This was nice, I always wanted to see this. Nothing spectacular but it's good to see all these guys on their game with something not too ambitious but kind of unique and interesting.

e) Pootie Tang
I know this is kind of a cult movie at this point and people love to quote it and stuff, but I hope they all realize that ultimately, it is a pretty crappy little comedy flick and there's a reason it flopped. I mean, maybe I don't get it. But I like lightweight Chris Rock stuff like CB4, which this felt like but not as funny, and I like Louis C.K. but this didn't even seem to have his usual sense of humor in it. In a way I like how absurd it is and the fact that it even got made, but I dunno, it's kinda got one joke and it's not a great joke.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

My review of Dan Deacon's Bromst is up over on

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

In the past month or so on the Baltimore City Paper's Noise blog, I've posted a bunch of new concert reviews: Ms. Stress, Si-Notes, Shy, Mz Streamz and others at Tayland Promotions' Queen Of The Mic 2 @ Sonar, Greenspan and others at No Guts No Glory @ 5 Seasons, George Clinton @ Rams Head Live, Eureka Birds @ Mobtown Studios, the Awesome Fest @ the Sidebar, open mic night @ 8x10 and Witch, Earthless and Vincent Black Shadow @ the Ottobar.

Monday, March 23, 2009
I'm still bummed about the fact that Scratch Magazine shut down a couple years ago, not long after I started writing for it. So when the Scratch Blog on the XXL site started taking submissions for guest entries, I jumped on the opportunity, and wrote a piece about Kanye West's co-producers that went up today. It's kind of a continuation of some observations I first made a couple months ago in The Producer Power 20: The Biggest Beatmakers of 2008.

Sunday, March 22, 2009
I was just saying a few weeks ago how much I've been missing contributing to the Singles Jukebox ever since its parent site, Stylus Magazine, closed down. And then, as luck would have it, the original crew went ahead and re-started SJ again as its own site at Here are the first few songs I've scored and/or written about, and as before the numbers indicate my score and also the average score from all the votes:

Asher Roth - I Love College [1/2.18]
Jamie Foxx ft. T-Pain - Blame It [9/5.13]
The-Dream - Rockin’ That Thang [8/6.14]
Keri Hilson ft. Lil Wayne - Turnin’ Me On [7.6.8]
Soulja Boy ft. Sammie - Kiss Me Thru The Phone [2/4.75]

Saturday, March 21, 2009

I was pretty down on Havoc's 2007 album The Kush, mainly because I expected a lot more for the solo debut from a member of a group as important as Mobb Deep, let alone a rare rapper/producer who's actually good at doing both. Plus Prodigy had just started on a busy little run of much better solo records. And I don't know if Havoc's new one, Hidden Files is a lot better or just a little better, but I'm sure my lowered expectations this time around are helping me enjoy it.

Hidden Files is by no means great, and there's at least one really lame track, which happens to be the single. After months of hearing Ron Browz do budget T-Pain, there's something wholly new and depressing about hearing Ricky Blaze do budget Ron Browz on Hav's "Watch Me" (I know Blaze is a dancehall guy, but still). And even with P upstate for the time being, there's no kind of renewed passion here, like Hav becoming Bun B circa 'free Pimp C,' fighting hard to keep the name alive, he's just biding his time and doing this to keep busy until Mobb Deep can go back at it. But in general he sounds more engaged as a rapper here, less willing to fill up tracks with guests, and it sounds like he's digging deeper into his bag of beats for good stuff. It's always refreshing to hear a pairing like Havoc and Cassidy, two guys who you never really would've thought to put on a track together but make a certain kind of sense on "You Treated Me." The weird popping percussion on "That's My Word" is the kind of nonchalant creativity that Mobb classics used to be made from, and it's good to hear he still has something like that in him.

Reading Diary

Thursday, March 19, 2009
a) Rock and Roll Cage Match: Music's Greatest Rivalries, Decided, edited by Sean Manning
My wife got me this for I think my birthday (or maybe it was Christmas -- one thing that sucks about having your birthday really close to Christmas is you actually forget things like that by March), just because she saw it and thought it was the kind of rock critic nerd thing that would appeal to me. And she was exactly right, in fact I had already been thinking about picking it up since a couple dudes I kinda know (Breihan and Matos) authored chapters in it. I've actually developed kind of a strong distaste for the kind of false dichotomies rock criticism so often relies on that are the foundation of this book, but in a way the best essays in here really examine the pairings for the artificial constructs they are, and goes somewhere more interesting with it. I haven't finished it yet, but so far my favorite chapter is Mark Spinz on the Cure vs. the Smiths, in part because he totally acknowledges how different they are, and actually posits that their rivalry may come from the fact that their huge shared fanbase kind of forced a comparison that never really should've existed. But he still picks a winner, and gives a compelling reason why, which on a completely different level is satisfying.

b) White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith is one of a whole wave of young novelists that got a lot of press 5-10 years ago that I kind of casually followed but casually dismissed, sometimes because it didn't seem like my kinda thing and sometimes because it seemed like maybe too much my thing but there are still a lot of older books I should be reading instead. But over the years Smith had managed to impress me again and again and again every time an essay or non-fiction piece by her appeared anywhere, which really displayed an incredible combination of heart and wit and invention (most recently the 'Speaking In Tongues' one in the New York Review of Books), so I finally gave it up and said OK, I should read her novel. And it is very flawed and precocious but also pretty charming at times, and though there are definitely whole sections of the book I love and sections I strongly dislike, but still, not a bad read, and ultimately I do like her as a writer, although more in non-fiction.

c) Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
My brother got this for J.G. for Christmas, back in the run up to the movie, and so far both of us have read parts of the book but have yet to actually go see the movie. I might try to finish it before seeing it in the theater, but more and more those are looking like two mutually exclusive options I'll have to choose between. I haven't read comic books on the regular since I was like 12, and even then I wasn't super heavy into them, so it's a little funny getting acclimated to them again reading this, and remembering that even the best comics (er, 'graphic novels') still have the subtlety of a sledgehammer. I mean parts of this are just ridiculous. I'm enjoying it, though, looking forward to seeing the flick, fanboys be damned.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009
I generally don't like the idea of cluttering up music blogs with personal real life stuff except for the most significant announcements, but I guess this qualifies: my wife Jennifer and I are expecting our first child in October. We just started really telling people outside of family and making it public in the last few days, but we've known for a minute and are pretty excited. So if I've seen scattered or anything lately, that's probably why, or maybe it's not but that's the excuse I'm gonna be using.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Asobi Seksu's album Citrus was one of the few indie promos I stumbled upon out of many in 2006 that ended up being a really good album I was happy to have randomly ended up hearing. I've never been big on the original shoegaze bands (probably the only record from that era/scene that I've spent significant time with is the Boo Radleys' Giant Steps), and the newer ones for the most part don't seem terribly interesting to me. But Asobi Seksu at least seemed to capture the blaring sonics in an accurate way, while building on them with some new textures and adding a brighter, girlier pop sensibility to the songs and vocals. And really, a few of the tracks on that album were just massive, tidal wave crescendos and irresistible choruses.

But then, Citrus established Asobi Seksu as the kind of band that had found the exact sound I wanted to hear from them, and any tinkering with that sound, large or small, seemed bound to lose my interest, while I didn't quite love it enough that I'd welcome a retread either. A real damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. Still, I gave their new album, Hush, a chance, and the fact that the quartet stripped down to the singer/guitarist nucleus for this album wasn't a good sign. Predictably, given the title and lineup changes, Hush isn't nearly as loud or attention-grabbing as Citrus, and while "In The Sky" has a fetching little melody, the songs aren't grabbing me enough to overlook the less appealing sound. Still, I've heard they're good live, and I'm hoping when they come to Baltimore later this month the show will help bring the album to life for me.

The 2009 Remix Report Card, Vol. 3

Sunday, March 15, 2009
"All My Life (Remix)" by Jay Rock featuring Lil Wayne, The Game, Gorilla Zoe and Busta Rhymes
It's appropriate that The Game is on this since all I could ever think of when I heard the original was "Hate It Or Love It." I still don't really have any idea who Jay Rock is or why he would have a video with Lil Wayne, but I guess that's the point of a label shelling out money for Lil Wayne verses, to make me wonder that. I wish Gorilla Zoe's verse was longer, his voice sounds great on a track like this, kinda out of his comfort zone in a good way.
Best Verse: Gorilla Zoe
Overall Grade: B-

"Kiss Me Thru The Phone (Remix)" by Soulja Boy Tell 'Em featuring Pitbull and Sammie
I was confused as to why Pitbull of all people would be on the official remix of this, but then he shouted out Mr. Collipark on the intro and I remembered that they have a producer in common. Pretty boring little nothing of a guest verse, though.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: D

"Make The Trap Say Ay (Remix)" by OJ Da Juiceman featuring Cam'ron and Gucci Mane
Gucci Mane's been kinda growing on me since he's become this weird grassroots mixtape favorite, but his protege/surrogate that's been getting shine while he's been away is pretty indefensible, and this is by far the most annoying song I've heard on the radio in a long time, especially since the single edit inserts even more "AY!" ad-libs to cover up censored words. The beat is so weak and cheap-sounding that I think it's below the standards of most of the local stuff I get sent. I'm not really sure why people seem genuinely excited to have Cam back, since his last album was trash and the new stuff doesn't sound much better, but his verse
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: C-

"Rotate (Remix)" by Capone-N-Noreaga featuring Ron Browz, Swizz Beatz, Busta Rhymes and Jadakiss
This is pretty much the only nu-Ron Browz AutoTune record I really fuck with, mostly because the beat is like some hard late '90s Swizz Beatz shit, so it's nice to hear a remix of it even though it's not really doing anything on the radio. There's apparently another official remix but that features 11 MCs who are less famous than anyone on this and I just don't have the time for that shit (just like there's a 2nd "Arab Money" remix that I just can't muster the energy to listen to). Jada and Capone drop good verses but they're kinda blink-and-you'll-miss-it 8 bar verses, and weirdly as much as I hate Browz's voice he really makes this remix, switches up the hook and does a good varied verse that's like even more new hooks.
Best Verse: Ron Browz
Overall Grade: B

"Turnin' Me On (Remix)" by Keri Hilson featuring T-Pain and Lil Wayne
As much as I've been complaining about the overkill of multiple remixes for one song, I'm glad they went back to and did another for this one once it became an actual hit, because that first one with Busta Rhymes was not worthy of a track this good. As I've said once or twice lately, it's great to hear T-Pain do verses on remixes again, I think that's where he really shines the most besides his solo albums, and I love the little trick Wayne does where he starts his verse like on the original but then it turns out it is a new verse, although it's definitely kinda scattered and not nearly as good as the previous one (and generally Wayne should only rap on a track twice, like "We Takin' Over," if he's ready to kill it the second time). Of course, Keri's verse is getting all the attention for being one of those random diss tracks taking shots at an unnamed target, leading to a bunch of speculation and denials about it being addressed to Ciara or Beyonce or whatever, which is lame, whether it's a publicity stunt or not. But in a weird way, it's nice to hear her do something like that and display some sass and ego, since I kinda feel like her public image so far has been a little lacking in terms of personality.
Best Verse: T-Pain
Overall Grade: B+

"Turn My Swag On (Remix)" by Soulja Boy Tell 'Em featuring Lil Wayne, Jim Jones, Maino and Jadakiss
I've never really had a problem with Soulja Boy on an ideological level, he's a goofy kid and "Donk" was a jam, but I can't really stand most of his music just because he has this really awful, dead-eyed droning voice, and I kinda miss the days when the despised sell-out rappers were at least guys like Nelly who had really pleasant, tuneful voices. "Turn My Swag On" always struck me as one of the worst songs I'd ever heard for the way it emphasizes how monotonous his voice can be, and it seemed like a really weak attempt at a bombastic "What You Know"-style southern rap anthem. So you can imagine how horrified I was when the song, which seemed to come and go without making much of a blip months ago, suddenly got a second life once a bunch of A-list and B-list rappers started jumping on it. One thing I will say that's good about the remix is that Soulja Boy actually raps a decent verse instead of just singing in that horrific voice again.
Best Verse: Soulja Boy Tell 'Em
Overall Grade: C-

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Last month, my guitar idol Nels Cline released my favorite album of the year so far, but on the same day his twin brother, drummer Alex Cline, also released a pretty damn good album called Continuation. I've mostly heard Alex before as a supporting player on a number of projects with Nels (Destroy All Nels Cline, Gregg Bendian's Interzone, New Monastery), but I've always felt a weird sort of kinship with him, since my name is Alex, I'm a drummer, and I learned to play growing up with a brother who played guitar/bass. But Continuation is the first album I've heard from him as a bandleader, and while his avant jazz is a little less avant than his brother's, it's still damn creative stuff that constantly grabs your attention with intriguing instrumentation and arranging choices.

Cline's quintet on Continuation is string-heavy, matching his percussion with violin, cello, bass and piano, and Jeff Gauthier's violin is more often than not the dominant texture; Cline is a generous writer and arranger who never lets virtuoso drumming dominate the proceedings. "SubMerge," written to accompany a choreography piece by Japanese Dancers, brings out the rough theme of Eastern scales and textures more explicitly than on other tracks, but you can hear the influence on Gauthier's playing throughout the album. It's also one of a couple tracks where pianist Myra Medford switches to harmonium, which is one of those instruments that I pretty much adore hearing in any context, and she uses it to particularly great effect on "Clearing Our Streams." In a way, I feel bad that Alex Cline chose to release this album the same day as his more famous brother released one, but I'm happy to have both records anyway.

2006 Reconsidered

Friday, March 13, 2009
1. My Brightest Diamond - Bring Me The Workhorse
2. The Roots - Game Theory
3. Parts & Labor - Stay Afraid
4. Young Dro - Best Thang Smokin'
5. Beyonce - B-Day
6. T.I. - King
7. John Legend - Once Again
8. Asobi Seksu - Citrus
9. Witch - Witch
10. Ne-Yo - In My Own Words
11. The Evens - Get Evens
12. Karmella's Game - The Art Of Distraction
13. Trae - Restless
14. Blaq Starr - I'm Bangin'
15. Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
16. Fat Joe - Me, Myself & I
17. Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
18. Lil Boosie - Bad Azz
19. J-Zone & Celph Titled Are...The Boss Hog Barbarians - Every Hog Has Its Day
20. Birdman & Lil Wayne - Like Father, Like Son
21. Lupe Fiasco - Food & Liquor
22. Little Clayway - Still Movin' Independently: The Takeover
23. DJ Khaled - Listennn...The Album
24. Shareefa - Point of No Return
25. Labtekwon - The Ghetto Dai Lai Lama V. 777

When I started this little OCD personal canon exercise last month, I knew I'd have to go back a few years before I start getting some interesting now-and-then perspective, but I'm definitely starting to feel that a little here. I probably wrote more album reviews in '06 than I have any other year of my humble little freelancing career to date, at least 40-50, most of them for Stylus. But since I was kind of digging around for albums noone else there wanted to review, I ended up hearing more random shit I'd probably never buy of my own free will otherwise, and less of the artists I really want to hear albums by, which is what I've kinda tried to focus more on the past couple years since then. So out of all those albums I reviewed that year, I think 3 of them are on this list now, and 8 albums I heard more recently or at some point after the end of '06, that I missed while I was spending time reviewing lesser albums.

1. Ciara - "Promise"
2. Pink - "Who Knew"
3. Justin Timberlake f/ T.I. - "My Love"
4. Rich Boy f/ Polow Da Don - "Throw Some D's"
5. Evanescence - "Call Me When You're Sober"
6. Chamillionaire f/ Krayzie Bone - "Ridin'"
7. T.I. - "What You Know"
8. Killers - "When You Were Young"
9. Remy Ma - "Conceited"
10. Fergie - "London Bridge"
11. Chris Brown - "Yo (Excuse Me Miss)"
12. Young Dro f/ T.I. - "Shoulder Lean"
13. Lloyd f/ Lil Wayne - "You"
14. Birdman and Lil Wayne - "Stuntin' Like My Daddy"
15. Beyonce - "Irreplaceable"
16. Foo Fighters - "No Way Back"
17. Diddy f/ Nicole Scherzinger - "Come To Me"
18. DJ Khaled f/ Paul Wall, Lil Wayne, Fat Joe, Rick Ross and Pitbull - "Holla At Me Baby"
19. Gnarls Barkley - "Crazy"
20. Robin Thicke - "Lost Without You"
21. Ne-Yo - "When You're Mad"
22. John Legend - "Heaven"
23. Kelly Clarkson - "Walk Away"
24. Muse - "Knights of Cydonia"
25. Keyshia Cole - "Love"
26. Notorious B.I.G. f/ Twista, Bone Thugs N Harmony, 8Ball & MJG and Swizz Beatz - "Spit Yo Game (Remix)"
27. Ne-Yo - "So Sick"
28. Fergie f/ - "Fergalicious"
29. Pussycat Dolls f/ Snoop Dogg - "Buttons"
30. Cassie - "Me & U"
31. All-American Rejects - "Move Along"
32. Pink - "U + Ur Hand"
33. Lil Wayne - "Hustler Musik"
34. Ray Cash f/ Scarface - "Bumpin' My Music"
35. DJ Khaled f/ Kanye West, Consequence and John Legend - "Grammy Family"
36. Ghostface f/ Ne-Yo - "Back Like That"
37. Omarion - "Entourage"
38. Beyonce f/ Slim Thug and Bun B - "Check On It"
39. Paris Hilton - "Nothing In This World"
40. Fall Out Boy - "A Little Less 16 Candles, A Little More 'Touch Me'"
41. Young Dro - "Rubberband Banks"
42. Yung Joc f/ Nitti - "It's Goin' Down"
43. Jamie Foxx f/ Ludacris - "Unpredictable"
44. Twista f/ Pitbull - "Hit The Floor"
45. E-40 f/ Keak Da Sneak - "Tell Me When To Go"
46. The Killers - "Bones"
47. Beyonce - "Ring The Alarm"
48. Snow Patrol - "Hands Open"
49. Vanessa Hudgens - "Come Back To Me"
50. Pussycat Dolls f/ - "Beep"

As so-so as I feel about '06 in terms of albums, I really think it was a standout year for singles, probably one of the best of the decade. One thing that's fun about looking back after a couple years is getting a little more hindsight about which artists were real at the top of their game. Great year for Polow Da Don, great year for T.I., although I've kinda softened on "What You Know" after 3 years of big slow majestic Southern rap anthems that arrived in its wake. The one thing I went back and added that wasn't on my original '06 list at all was "Bones," which in retrospect is one of my favorite Killers singles, and Gnarls Barkley, which I liked and burnt myself out on when it was first out so much that by the time it was a hit I was over it, but in retrospect still appreciate.

Thursday, March 12, 2009
I reviewed Caleb & Saleem in the City Paper this week, and posted an mp3 on Gov't Names.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The first two singles from Ryan Leslie's self-titled album ("Diamond Girl" and "Addiction") were two of my favorite hits of 2008 (and he produced a third, Slim's "Good Lovin'"), so I was pretty hyped about the album once it finally dropped last month. And while it further proves what a promising and versatile producer he is, it also ultimately proves that as an R&B singer, Leslie is...a promising and versatile producer. The fact that the cover photo does the guy's gawky, weak-chinned appearance no favors is appropriate for an album that never quite plays to his strengths vocally, even though he wrote and arranged all the material himself. Oddly enough, though, the twinkly ballad "Valentine," which he has no right pulling off, is somehow by far my favorite track on the album. And while the skronky sonics of "Just Right" and the hilarious AutoTuned nothings of "Gibberish" help make the album less bland than it would otherwise be, it's still a slight and unmemorable album, especially at a time when the similarly vocally impaired auteur The-Dream is coming into his own as an artist.

Monday, March 09, 2009

I reviewed Lake Trout's new live album for

Sunday, March 08, 2009

On Thursday night, Baltimore Sun writer Sam Sessa held a little party for his nightlife blog Midnight Sun, and handed out his 'Best of the Best of the Best' awards, and I was one of the recipients. I don't know how to feel about an award that addresses me as 'baby,' but otherwise it was really nice, I'll have to put it next to my other recent award. Full rundown of winners here and a recap of the event here.

Saturday, March 07, 2009
I've got a review of the new mixtape by NOE in the City Paper this week, and I posted an mp3 on Gov't Names.

In My Stereo

Friday, March 06, 2009
Havoc - Hidden Files
Alex Cline - Continuation
Witch - Paralyzed
The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
UGK - Too Hard To Swallow
The B-52's - The B-52's
Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin
Caleb & Saleem - Outgrown These Walls
Lynee' Michelle - Love
Club Queen K-Swift - Jumpoff Greatest Hits, Vol. 1-5

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Say Anything is one of the few bands to justify the existence of 21st century emo, and Max Bemis is a loudmouthed genius of a songwriter who transcends the genre even as he defends it. But of course, he grew up worshipping Saves The Day, one of the biggest reasons to hate contemporary emo, so it was just a matter of time before Bemis and Chris Conley of STD (heh) got together for a side project that would make me feel all conflicted. But just as the Raconteurs split the difference between me liking Brendan Benson and hating Jack Black and found a middle ground I could enjoy, Two Tongues has enough of the guy I like to make the annoying one less of a concern.

I would compare the self-titled Two Tongues debut to the last Say Anything album that featured a lot of guest vocalists, but the songs aren't nearly as good generally and Bemis's personality and sense of humor aren't being displayed as prominently. It's still pretty good, though, and "Silly Game" and "Back Against The Wall" have a surprising amount of groove that kind of helps break up the monotony of the album's more deadly serious emo power ballads. And ultimately, it really helps the album that there is something kind of moving about how the project arose from a mutual admiration society like the one between Bemis and Conley that seems utterly sincere and ego-less in the kind of embarrassing but genuine way that you tend to get from emo bands, whether good or bad.

Netflix Diary

Monday, March 02, 2009
a) The Pineapple Express
This is the kind of movie where I always knew it couldn't live up to its trailer, and I've become accustomed to every Rogen/Apatow project being entirely too long and structurally slack. But once I adjusted my expectations accordingly, this was a whole lot of fun, and strangely enough the more action-heavy bits in the second half that a lot of people took issue with were when it really got going for me, mainly because they did a great job of striking a unique balance between slapstick violence and actually making you uncomfortable with realistic gore and expressions of pain, something you really rarely see in movies. I gotta say, though, I was disappointed with the Huey Lewis song, which I'd heard so much about but never actually heard until the credits rolled. Not one of Huey's catcher tunes, in my opinion.

b) Skinwalkers
This Valentine's Day, as we have every year since we started dating, the wife and I watched horror movies and had Chinese takeout for dinner. But the movies we rented were kind of a wash and we ended up watching something better on cable. One DVD was scratched and wouldn't play, and the other was this turd, which was so bad we might as well not have watched it. My favorite IMDB message board subject lines for this movie are "Somehow, this is worse than underworld" and "quite possibly the worst movie ever made!"

c) "The West Wing," Season 3
I know this is one of those shows that started out strong and gradually petered out over time, but how far on is it worth my while to keep going? So far this season hasn't really been holding my attention as much as the first two, but I know there's gotta be good stuff later on, maybe it's just me. I really liked that whole "Isaac and Ishmael" episode they aired immediately after 9/11, though, I had never heard about it so to kinda pop in the disc and get that instead of the season premiere was kind of a good jolt just like it must've been originally intended to be.

d) Apocalypse Now Redux
Speaking of Martin Sheen, this was sitting in our apartment for like a month before we finally found the time to sit down and watch it, just because it seemed so long and daunting. And though I'm glad I finally saw it, and I'm not gonna be blasphemous and say it sucked or anything, it really kinda wasn't my cup of tea, even if there were a handful of pretty amazing scenes and setpieces.

Sunday, March 01, 2009
New Corporate Rock Still Sells column on Idolator.