Friday, June 29, 2012

I wrote an entry on Noise on the Baltimore City Paper site about the rapper Maryland Menace, who guests on the new Lil Scrappy album.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

My latest Radio Hits One column for the Village Voice's Sound of the City blog is about the history of alternative rock radio hits crossing over to the pop charts, the recent resurgence thereof by fun. and Gotye, and the odds of bands like Grouplove or Walk The Moon following in their footsteps.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Another week, another Short List in the new City Paper.

Monthly Report: June 2012 Singles

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

1. Future - "Same Damn Time"
I would've had this song here a while ago but I didn't want to do it around the same time I had Future at #1 on the monthly albums list, so I let it breathe a little. Anyway, banger of the year, obviously. 

2. The Gaslight Anthem - "45" 
I had a lot of respect for The Gaslight Anthem for staying on their little indie label for another album after they'd already started getting a lot of national attention and some radio play. But I have to say, I'm kind of excited that they're finally making the jump to a major label with a Brendan O'Brien-produced album. This is already their highest charting single to date, while not really big yet, but it sounds so great on the radio, I hope it's huge, they really deserve to be a big mainstream band. Elvis Costello's "45" is better, though. 

3. Carly Rae Jepsen - "Call Me Maybe" 
Every year there's a couple really huge consensus pop songs that everybody seems to love, and I usually have a 50/50 chance of either falling in line with everyone else or being at least somewhat contrarian in resisting its charms. The fact that I've waited this song to put "Call Me Maybe" in this space, and not at #1, automatically means I think a lot less of it than most people seem to. It's nice, really, I'm just not blown away by it or anything.

4. Walk The Moon - "Anna Sun"
Last year I wrote a column about how so many of the new acts on alt-rock radio are "____ the ____" bands (Foster The People, Young The Giant, Cage The Elephant), so it amused me when I started hearing this song on the radio a few months ago and learned the band's name, after initially thinking it was maybe a new Young The Giant song. It's pretty dumb, but irresistibly catchy, in that way that all these post-Killers bands are. And it is weird how The Killers seem like the most influential band on alternative radio now.

5. Neon Trees - "Everybody Talks"
Neon Trees seemed to kick off the post-Killers wave a couple years ago with "Animal," and this isn't as good as that, but it is good in pretty much the same way -- even the little bridge that teases the verse before kicking back into the chorus repeats "Animal"'s best trick. 

6. Neon Hitch - "Fuck U Betta"
After that terrible Gym Class Heroes song she was on I didn't expect to see this lady do anything worthwhile, and certainly not a sleazy dance pop song called "Fuck U Betta" with an extremely watchable video. I didn't even know she was British. It occurs to me that Neon Hitch may be the first pop singer who actual sounds like she was influenced by Britney's vocal style, which should be a bad thing but doesn't bug me too much here.

7. Cher Lloyd - "Want U Back"
Another obnoxious British white lady doing dance pop (even with a heavily accented little spoken bit at the end like the Neon Hitch song), which I like way more than I would've expected to. I mean, she's essentially the U.K.'s Karmin as far as I can tell, but this song is a jam.

8. Pitbull - "Back In Time" 
I love that Pit has assumed Will Smith's action move soundtrack rap throne on a Will Smith movie, and that the song title evokes Huey Lewis's Back To The Future soundtrack work, while the Mickey & Silvia sample evokes Dirty Dancing. It's Pitbull's shameless soup of pop culture garbage in a nutshell.

9. Nas - "Daughters"
This is really dope, thought about including it in my Father's Day playlist. But Pitbull is still better than Nas, I guess.

10. Rick Ross f/ Usher - "Touch'N You"
Of the two Ursher/Ross joints that dropped around the same time, the boring "Lemme See" is doing better but I much prefer this, great production. And it pains me to say that since I've been so found of pointing out that people keep anticipating God Forgives, I Don't after a year plus of lousy advance singles.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I wrote a Noise blog post on the Baltimore City Paper site about how Rye Rye is one of six artists nominated to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine's "Women Who Rock" issue in September.

Movie Diary

Saturday, June 23, 2012
a) Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Other than my antipathy for "The Office," I will watch Steve Carell in pretty much anything, even the corny dramedies like Dan In Real Life and Little Miss Sunshine. This, unfortunately, is a little closer to those movies than his full-on comedies, and Carell as sympathetic middle-aged sadsack is becoming a bit played out, but it's alright, has its moments, particularly in the first half. Towards the end it kind of falls into some really lame, predictable beats in the denouement, though. Emma Stone is great as always, though.

b) X-Men: First Class
The old X-Men trilogy wasn't perfect but they really did a good job or putting together an ensemble that gelled and made it watchable no matter what. That doesn't really happen here, and nothing else matters really, since we've already seen these effects in those other movies.

c) Just Go With It
I almost feel bad for Brooklyn Decker, she had an unusually brief reign as America's favorite giant-breasted swimsuit model before Kate Upton took her spot. She looks good in this movie, obviously, but it's not really worth it to watch, it's still an Adam Sandler movie. 

d) Sanctum
My wife was watching this, but she also has a total claustrophobic reaction to situations like the one depicted in this movie, so I'm not sure if she even finished watching it. It was kind of harrowing at times, but I never really got into it for felt anything either way about it.

e) The Green Hornet
Watching this movie, I get a distinct sense of what Seth Rogen was going for an appreciate that he was trying to get a cool director and cool cast together and do something creative and offbeat with a second-tier superhero franchise, but aside from these little flashes of cool stuff it really doesn't come together. Somehow the whole thing kind of looks shitty and has a really off rhythm.

f) happythankyoumoreplease
I feel bad for Josh Radnor, there's not really any reason he can't be in other high profile projects like everyone else but "How I Met Your Mother," but instead he's spent most of the time the show's been on the air getting this passion project off the ground that turned out to just not be very good at all. Not as bad as the title or anything, but nothing memorable. Malin Akerman without eyebrows is only slightly more creepy and off-putting than she is usually.

g) Let Me In
Pretty cool, moody little horror flick, definitely one of the best 'modern' vampire flicks I've seen.

h) 13 Going On 30
I've been told by some people that don't go to bat for any old rom-com that this is an especially charming one. I dunno, though, I tried watching it and it was kinda dumb and not very funny, if admittedly amiable. 

i) All I Want
I met Mandy Moore recently, when I was working the teleprompter for an event she was speaking at. It was kind of cool, since I have long swooned over her in movies, and she was beautiful in person, but it was a pretty awkward way to meet and I think she thought I was a jerk or incompetent or something because I wasn't properly prepared for a rehearsal. Anyway, one of her movies that I hadn't seen was on cable so I felt the need to watch it afterward, and she's as lovely in this one as in any other, although otherwise it's just kind of a boring Elijah Wood coming-of-age movie.

Friday, June 22, 2012

I posted on the City Paper's Noise blog about the YouTube footage of the homie DDm performing a tribute the late great Baltimore club icon Miss Tony at Baltimore Pride 2012.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012
I wrote the Short List again in this week's Baltimore City Paper, which I can only hope warrants a comment as great as last week's "You guys are faggot dickheads."

1995, Reconsidered

Monday, June 18, 2012

Top 50 Albums of 1995: 

1. The Geraldine Fibbers - Lost Somewhere Between The Earth And My Home
2. Superchunk - Here's Where The Strings Come In
3. Pulp - Different Class
4. Big L - Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous
5. Fugazi - Red Medicine
6. Mobb Deep - The Infamous
7. Goodie Mob - Soul Food
8. Tricky - Maxinquaye
9. Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...
10. Radiohead - The Bends
11. Ben Folds Five - Ben Folds Five
12. Bjork - Post
13. Bruce McCulloch - Shame-Based Man
14. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony - E. 1999 Eternal
15. Nels Cline Trio - Ground
16. D'Angelo - Brown Sugar
17. The Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness
18. 8Ball & MJG - On Top Of The World
19. Rocket From The Crypt - Scream, Dracula, Scream!
20. E-40 - In A Major Way
21. Pavement - Wowee Zowee
22. Sparklehorse - Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot
23. 2Pac - Me Against The World
24. Emmylou Harris - Wrecking Ball
25. Thurston Moore - Psychic Hearts
26. Mike Watt - Ball-Hog Or Tugboat?
27. Black Grape - It’s Great When You’re Straight...Yeah
28. Primus - Tales From The Punchbowl
29. Smart Went Crazy - Now We're Even
30. Garbage - Garbage
31. Ani Difranco - Not A Pretty Girl
32. Morphine - Yes
33. Foo Fighters - Foo Fighters
34. Mudhoney - My Brother The Cow
35. 4hero - Parallel Universe 
36. Sonic Youth - Washing Machine
37. The Meat Puppets - No Joke
38. Prince - The Gold Experience
39. Nine Inch Nails - Further Down The Spiral
40. Spiritualized - Pure Phase
41. Elliott Smith - Elliott Smith
42. The Ramones - Adios Amigos
43. Neil Young - Mirror Ball
44. The Presidents of the United States of America - The Presidents of the United States of America
45. Sun Ra - The Singles
46. Lee Ranaldo - East Jesus
47. Superchunk - Incidental Music 1991-95
48. Portastatic - Slow Note From A Sinking Ship
49. The Roots - Do You Want More?!!!??!
50 . Ruth Ruth - Laughing Gallery

Last month when I tackled 1996 I started to get into the era that I really feel the strongest nostalgia for, and that really ramps up even more with '95. I heard less than half of these albums in the first year or two they were out, though, and even fewer of the upper reaches of the list. I was 13 that year, and I'd just really started to dig into the '80s back catalogs of bands like Sonic Youth and the Meat Puppets and that was a big year for me discovering that stuff, which really overshadows what those bands were doing at the time (I went to buy Washing Machine within months of picking up Daydream Nation, Goo, etc.).

The top 3 are easily in my top 10 for the whole decade (making '95 pretty competitive with '94 for favorite year of the '90s, at least for albums), all records I discovered a few years later after hearing the bands' later albums, all records that continue to mean more to me with each passing year -- I recently transplanted the disc and booklet of Lost Somewhere Between The Earth And My Home from its long-ago smashed jewel case into a nice barely used one that once belonged to Chinese Democracy. I didn't think anything would unseat Mobb Deep as my default favorite rap album of that year until I finally listened to the Big L album recently and was just blown away by it.

Top 100 Singles of 1995:

1. Method Man f/ Mary J. Blige - "I'll Be There for You/You're All I Need to Get By"
2. The Toadies - "Possum Kingdom"
3. Mobb Deep - "Shook Ones Part II"
4. LL Cool J - "Doin' It"
5. Luniz - "I Got 5 On It"
6. Pearl Jam - "Corduroy"
7. The Jayhawks - "Blue"
8. White Zombie - "More Human Than Human"
9. Jeff Buckley - "Last Goodbye"
10. Adina Howard - "Freak Like Me"
11. Hole - "Violet"
12. Seal - "Kiss From A Rose"
13. Radiohead - "Just"
14. Raekwon - "Ice Cream"
15. Weezer - "Say It Ain't So"
16, Foo Fighters - "This Is A Call"
17. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony - "1st Of Tha Month"
18. Sparklehorse - "Someday I Will Treat You Good"
19, Notorious B.I.G. - "Big Poppa"
20. Primus - "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver"
21. Elastica - "Stutter"
22. Brandy - "Baby"
23. R.E.M. - "Strange Currencies"
24. Our Lady Peace - "Starseed"
25. Shaggy - "Boombastic"
26. Ol Dirty Bastard - "Brooklyn Zoo"
27. Mary J. Blige - "I Love You"
28. Better Than Ezra - "In The Blood"
29. Michael Jackson f/ Janet Jackson - "Scream"
30. Black Grape - "Rev. Black Grape"
31. Matthew Sweet - "Sick of Myself"
32. Natalie Merchant - "Wonder"
33. Son Volt - "Drown"
34. The Black Crowes - "Wiser Time"
35. 311 - "Don't Stay Home"
36. U2 - "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me"
37. Folk Implosion - "Natural One"
38. Pearl Jam - "Immortality"
39. Goodie Mob - "Cell Therapy" 
40. Dave Matthews Band - "Ants Marching"
41. R. Kelly - "You Remind Me Of Something"
42. D'Angelo - "Brown Sugar"
43. KoRn - "Blind"
44. Better Than Ezra - "Good"
45. The Meat Puppets - "Scum"
46. Ol Dirty Bastard - "Shimmy Shimmy Ya"
47. TLC - "Red Light Special"
48. Superchunk - "Hyper Enough"
49. R.E.M. - "Star 69"
50. Toad The Wet Sprocket - "Good Intentions"
51. Green Day - "JAR"
52. Mary J. Blige - "I'm Goin' Down"
53. Montell Jordan - "This Is How We Do It"
54. Morphine - "Honey White"
55. The Notorious B.I.G. - 'Warning"
56. Oasis - "Wonderwall"
57. Pearl Jam - "I Got Id"
58. Bush - "Everything Zen"
59. Tom Petty - "You Wreck Me" 
60. E-40 f/ Suga T - "Sprinkle Me"
61. Blues Traveler - "Hook"
62. Juliana Hatfield - "Universal Heartbeat" 
63. Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Warped"
67. No Doubt - "Just A Girl"
68. Collective Soul - "December"
69. Sublime - "Date Rape"
70. Rednex - "Cotton Eye Joe"
71. Mariah Carey - "Fantasy"
72. The Ramones - "I Don't Wanna Grow Up"
73. Live - "White, Discussion"
74. Hum - "Stars"
75. The Lost Boyz - "Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz & Benz"
76. Alanis Morissette - "You Oughta Know"
77. Bjork - "It's Oh So Quiet"
78. Scatman John - "Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop)"
79. Junior Mafia - "Playas Anthem"
80. Everclear - "Heroin Girl"
81. Pearl Jam - "Better Man"
82. Rancid - "Ruby Soho"
83. Skee-Lo - "I Wish"
84. Madonna - "Human Nature"
85. Sonic Youth - "The Diamond Sea"
86. Dr. Dre - "Keep Their Heads Ringin'"
87. Monica - "Don't Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days)" 
88. Tripping Daisy - "I Got A Girl"
89. Mary J. Blige - "Mary Jane (All Night Long)"
90. 8Ball & MJG f/ Nina Creque - "Space Age Pimpin'"
91. Radiohead - "Fake Plastic Trees"
92. Notorious B.I.G. - "One More Chance (Remix)"
93. Mad Season - "River Of Deceit"
94. The Magnificent Bastards - "Mockingbird Girl"
95. Poe - "Angry Johnny"
96. Smashing Pumpkins - "Bullet With Butterfly Wings"
97. Madonna - "Take A Bow"
98. Pearl Jam - "Not For You" 
99. The Stone Roses - "Love Spreads"
100. The Presidents of the United States of America - "Lump"

1995 was the only period of my adolescence that I didn't have cable for most of the year, my mom probably rightly assumed it was a distraction from our schoolwork and temporarily got rid of it. And since at that point I lived in Delaware and couldn't drive yet, and we only listened to rock stations in the and I didn't even know what the urban/pop stations we could get a signal on were, if any, MTV and The Box and BET were my only real exposure to rap and R&B at that point, so I have this weird blind spot for '95. Like, I barely knew of Biggie or anything, a lot of songs on this list I eventually heard later on. By the time I got cable back, "Yo! MTV Raps" had gone off the air. And before that my interest in rap was kind of spotty anyway, so I didn't really pay much attention until '96 and '97. This year's rock singles, like those of '96, feels like a mixed bag. Alt-rock radio hadn't quite started to curdle yet, but it definitely felt like even the good new bands scoring their first hits at the time were decidedly more minor in some sense than the class of '91 or even the class of '94. I had to really cherrypick the Bush and Live and Alanis songs I could stand amongst the garbage I never want to hear again.

Friday, June 15, 2012

This year for Father's Day, I put together a little Spotify playlist of songs that say something interesting, if not necessarily positive or sentimental, about fathers or fatherhood, and wrote a piece about them for the Village Voice's Sound of the City blog.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

In this week's Baltimore City Paper, I wrote a feature about rapper Rickie Jacobs, who's performing at the Golden West on Thursday.

I also did The Short List this week, along with some brief concert previews (for Lindsey Buckingham @ the Baltimore Soundstage and Welcome 2 The Court @ the Talking Head, both on Thursday) that I think are only in the print edition.  

Monthly Report: May 2012 Albums

Monday, June 11, 2012

1. Rufus Wainwright - Out Of The Game
I've loved Rufus Wainwright's debut album since it came out in 1998, but I have not been any kind of diehard fan since then; last year he released a career-spanning 19-disc box set, and I am familiar with about 3 discs of it. This is quite good, though, very much in line with his previous stuff. Which is why it surprised me to find out after listening to it a couple times that the album was produced by Mark Ronson and is being hyped as his 'danceable' record. What really intrigues me, though, is that Nels Cline plays on it, although I have no idea which tracks, and haven't been able to easily pick him out on any in particular.

2. Travis Porter - From Day 1
I loved the weird hyped up sound of Travis Porter's three big radio singles ("Make It Rain," "Bring It Back" and "Ayy Ladies") so much that it genuinely bummed me out to learn that they weren't produced by a member of the group and that the producer, FKi, didn't do anything on their major label debut besides those three joints. This is still a pretty solid album that more or less lives up to the expectations set by those singles, though, at least until "Party Time" and the fucking Mike Posner feature pull down the album's batting average. Travis Porter are not exactly feminists and there's some gross lyrics on here, but I have to admit there's something refreshing about hearing some exuberant hedonism that reminds me of Mannie Fresh-era Cash Money these days, surrounded on the radio by Drake-era Young Money where barely any rappers actually sound happy to be getting laid.

3. Meek Mill - Dreamchasers 2
The original Dreamchasers was my favorite mixtape of 2011, but at this point I'm more interested in seeing whether Meek can maintain that same vibe on a major label album than whether a follow-up mixtape is consistent, which this isn't. But it's still got some jams, especially back half tracks like "The Ride" and "Real" that he gets to hold down without any big name guests.

4. Chants - Night After EP
Jordan from Chants is a cool guy who I've long enjoyed talking about drummer nerd stuff with, and a few years ago I saw him play with a New Orleans-style brass band that was pretty fun. Chants is his new moody downtempo dance music project, and that kind of thing is generally not my scene but I'm glad I checked out the record on the strength of him being a good dude, it's got a very richly textured, unique sound.

5. Gary B & The Notions - How Do We Explode
I already reviewed this album a while back, but the songs are still slowly growing on me, don't know if I like it as much as their previous full-length but it's definitely a great-sounding record, big step forward for these dudes as a recording unit.

6. Sara Bareilles - Once Upon Another Time EP
I've always had a soft spot for gooey sentimental piano pop (see also: Rufus Wainwright at the top of this post), and Sara Bareilles has exploited that soft spot big time with her adult contempo hits in the past couple years. She even recorded a new stopgap EP produced by one of my old favorites, Ben Folds, who she was on that canceled singing reality show with. This is really nice, very plainly and beautifully recorded compared to her slicker album stuff, starts with a gorgeous a cappella piece that shows off her voice. The goofy pottymouth song "Sweet As Whole" seems influenced by Folds's sometimes regrettable sense of humor, but it's kind of a nice palette cleanser in the context of this fairly downtempo record. Apparently this is just her little personal indulgence as she gets in the studio with hacks like Ryan Tedder to make sure the label greenlights her third album, but it had a top 10 debut on Billboard, so maybe she actually does have a fanbase beyond random people like me who have a weakness for VH1 singer-songwriter stuff?

7. Lower Dens - Nootropics
As someone who listens to and loves a ton of Baltimore artists who are virtually unknown outside (and sometimes in) the city, I always feel very awkward when someone from around here becomes very successful that I'm not that into, like I don't wanna feel like a hater for not being excited for them or understanding what other people see in them. That has always and continues to be the case with Beach House, who released yet another album I'm not at all into this month, but it's less true than it used to be of Lower Dens, who've actually switched up their sound a fair amount for their second album and brought in some synths and krautrock grooves and created something a little surprising and refreshing.

8. Rye Rye - Go! Pop! Bang!
Similarly to what I was just saying re: Lower Dens, I've always had a little trouble embracing Rye Rye's music like a lot of people outside Baltimore have, partly because I hold her mentor, Blaqstarr, in such high regard. But I interviewed Rye Rye recently and she was really sharp and nice, and that piece hasn't come out yet, but I will say that this album surpassed my expectations, particularly since Blaqstarr doesn't produce anything on here (besides a couple of previously released bonus tracks on the deluxe edition). The whole patchwork global dance approach here works better than it has a right to because Rye Rye raps very fast and with total commitment whether it's a Bangladesh track or a RedOne pop tune. My favorite track is the Chicago juke track, "Dance," since it's pretty close to the Baltimore club sound she's most at home on anyway.

9. Rickie Jacobs - Live Epic
Another Baltimore rapper that I recently interviewed for a forthcoming article, really a cool smart, dude. Sometimes this album is a little too chill and brooding for my taste, but I think he's got an interesting perspective, starting to get a unique sound.

10. Travis Morrison Hellfighters - Cruisin' (All Night Long) EP
I saw Morrison's short-lived post-Dismemberment Plan solo band several times during their brief lifespan, and was happy to hear that an EP of three unreleased songs recorded by Devin Ocampo (Smart Went Crazy, Faraquet, Beauty Pill) a few years ago before the band broke up had been released. This won't change the minds of anyone who wrote Morrison off circa Travistan, but it's a nice little record.

TV Diary

Friday, June 08, 2012
a) "Duets"
I love all these stupid singing shows, but my infatuation usually has an expiration date. "Idol" has been dead to me for years, and even "The Voice" kind of lost my interest this year. And now I like this, which is much closer to the latter, and has mostly coaches that I really like as singers and own albums by.

b) "Men At Work"
As much as I like old-fashioned sitcoms, all these shitty little deliberate throwbacks starring people from old popular shows on TBS and TV Land are just sad, especially this one with the one guy from "That 70s Show" that everybody forgot about. Created by fucking Breckin Meyer!

c) "The Client List"
I don't think the world has properly recognized how incredible it is that there's a show about Jennifer Love-Hewitt giving handjobs. I mean it's on Lifetime so they don't actually show that, but she still looks pretty incredible. I love this stupid show.

d) "Hip Hop Squares"
This show is kinda lame. I mean even if they'd done it 'right,' and only had good rappers and not fucking Mac Miller or whatever, and actually made most of the questions rap trivia and not general pop culture, it might've be alright, but at its best it's just a goofy idea.

e) "Comedy Bang! Bang!"
A year or two back when IFC started showing all those old '90s Apatow shows like "Freaks & Geeks" and "Larry Sanders," they started running this boring interview show in between called "Comedy Death Ray." This is basically the same show with the same host, but instead of a sleepy TV podcast they turned the interview show into a full-blown surreal sketch show, like a live action "Space Ghost Coast To Coast" basically. Which, given that comparison, feels like kind of a stale idea to me. And this just isn't funny at all, just actively annoying really.

f) "Loiter Squad"
I've done a pretty decent job of avoiding O** F*****'s music and not dedicating any more internet bandwidth to their bullshit, and was going to do the same with their show until I gave in and watched an episode and wow, I really hate these kids, worst shit I've ever seen. 

g) "Girls"
This show is definitely a little more involving than I expected, in terms of actually being curious what they're going to do next with these characters even if I don't really care about them per se. The show's whole sense of humor is kinda not my speed, though, I dunno, it all leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I will probably keep watching it, though I will probably enjoy it more if I ignore all the terrible dialogue around it.

h) "Magic City"
I keep watching this show for superficial reasons and hoping that eventually it'll reveal itself to be an involving, well crafted drama that I don't need to watch just for all the hot chicks and retro fashion and whatnot, but I have no idea what's going on in the plot and don't care. Even Danny Houston's scenery-chewing villain is just kind of an empty character when it should be magnetic and fascinating. 

i) "Workaholics"
So glad this show is back, these guys are insane.

j) "Pound Puppies"
My son watches this show sometimes after "Fraggle Rock" before we leave the house in the morning, and it weirded me out how many familiar voices there are in the cast -- first I noticed Shirley from "Community," then Will from "Will & Grace," then frigging Michael Rapaport as a chihuahua for some reason. It's a decent show, really, but I'm glad I don't have a daughter and don't have to be led down the road of potential "My Little Pony" appreciation.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012
In this week's Baltimore City Paper I got to try my hand at the weekly Short List concert calendar rundown for the first time. I've been reading that section for 15+ years and thinking about how I would do it, fun to finally try it.

Monthly Report: May 2012 Singles

Sunday, June 03, 2012

1. Norah Jones - "Happy Pills" 
Now that Danger Mouse has no doubt made a nice amount of money, I think he should finally go ahead and treat himself to a new snare drum sound, preferably one that's not so flat and dinky. That said, I do really like this song and enjoy hearing NJ's voice on something more modern. "Sunrise," still my favorite thing she's done, was an intriguing early glimpse at what she can do outside of a trad jazz ballad context, and it's cool to hear a further step out. I enjoy how the title lyric is kind of buried in the first verse. Also, lord, she's just the most gorgeous person in pop music, always nice to have her around.

2. Dead Sara - "Weatherman"
I had a great mindmeld moment with Maura recently where we both discovered this band and this song the exact same way in the same week, browsing Billboard's rock chart Spotify playlist and being blown away by this roaring female-fronted hard rock band, who are a bit more awesome than Crucial Taunt flashbacks I was getting from Halestorm last month. The Dead Sara album is really great, too, if I'd heard it a little earlier it'd definitely be in my April ablums list.

3. Rihanna f/ Chris Brown - "Birthday Cake (Remix)"
I always loved the original minute-long "Birthday Cake" album cut, and when it became a huge radio hit in the Chris Brown remix incarnation, I felt as conflicted as I do anytime that shithead is on a song I enjoy, although I have grudgingly featured him in this space in the past (most recently with last year's "Yeah 3X"). Obviously, him working with Rihanna again makes this all too complicated to get into, and I wonder if them unfollowing each other on Twitter, in the latest chapter of this weird tiresome unpleasant saga, lets me off the hook slightly to say I like this song. But I dunno, fuck it, this is a good track.

4. Young Jeezy f/ Future - "Way Too Gone" 
This was a huge standout for me on TM 103 when it dropped, an amazing track that finally made me understand the buzz around Mike Will's beats, and at the time all I wanted was for the album to be successful enough that this track would get some burn. Six months later, it's the biggest radio album in Jeezy's career (three top 5 R&B chart hits where each previous album only had one top 10 hit), and my favorite song finally has a video and a little bit of mix show play.

5. Foxy Shazam - "Holy Touch"
Over the next few months, people will try to tell you that fun.'s "Some Nights" is a good Queen homage, and I want you tell those people to shut up and listen to Foxy Shazam's "Holy Touch" instead. It's not as good as their previous single, "I Like It," but it's also not as offensive, so there's that. Also, best ending of any song this year.

6. Ashanti f/ Busta Rhymes - "The Woman You Love" 
When people talk about those dark days of 2001-2002 when Murder Inc. ran shit, they tend to focus on how wrong it was that Ja Rule was arguably the biggest star in rap, when it was really equally offensive that Ashanti was arguably the biggest star in R&B for a minute. I've found myself appreciating her more in her commercial decline, though, as she's made some really dope songs like "Only U" and "Good Good" and now this big awesome banger.

7. Foo Fighters - "Bridge Burning"
Three months ago I grudgingly listed "These Days" while once again griping about what a lame choice it was to follow-up "Walk" with the closest thing to another song like "Walk" when there are so many great uptempo songs on Wasting Light. But the Foo Fighters finally threw hard rock radio a bone and released the fastest, heaviest song on the album as a single, albeit belatedly and without a video, when it really should've been in the middle of the singles campaign like "No Way Out" a couple albums back.

8. The Offspring - "Days Go By"
The Offspring have always had a pretty strange, unpredictable creative process, to whatever degree you can even say they have a creative process. There was the time they convinced Rancid not to sign to a major label, then did so themselves, and their first single was the fastest punk song they'd ever done, and then the follow-up sounded like The Cult, and then they had a weird period as a jokey rap/rock novelty act. Now, perhaps realizing that the Foo Fighters have had a much better career in recent years, they've done the logical thing and transparently rewritten "Times Like These." But I like "Times Like These," and this is a surprisingly listenable knockoff. Still, these fuckin' guys.

9. T.I. - "Love This Life"
As the initial buzz from his run of post-jail remixes dissipates, the run-up to Trouble Man is starting to feel just as listless and inauspicious as King Uncaged No Mercy. I do like this song, though, it's a much better variation on the "Whatever You Like"/"Got Your Back" formula with awesome drums, I will be sad to see it disowned as it sinks down the charts and they quickly move on to another single.

10. Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T and 2 Chainz - "Mercy"
As 2 Chainz continues to become more ubiquitous with every passing week without generating much actual excitement, I'm starting to feel disappointed in dude that he's not making the most of the opportunity and killing more of these features -- that awful "Beez In The Trap" verse being the most glaring example, but there are many. This is one song where he really does deliver, though, and makes me enjoy a track I generally have a lot of mixed feelings about. I love when DJs just skip past Big Sean and Pusha and just play that weird Kanye beat switch and the 2 Chainz verse.