Tuesday, October 30, 2012
New Short List.

Monthly Report: October 2012 Singles

Sunday, October 28, 2012

1. Eli Young Band - "Even If It Breaks Your Heart"
Country radio is good at pushing my AOR '80s rock buttons, and this song is so Tom Petty it kills me. The first day that it got really good and stuck in my head was the night I watched the "Nashville" pilot, which opens with this song playing over the first scene.

2. Keyshia Cole f/ Lil Wayne - "Enough of No Love"
Keyshia has really excelled so much at carving out a niche and just working the hell out of that niche that it's easy to take her for granted, but when her shit hits, it hits hard, the hook on this is huge. It's a shame that Wayne just gets thrown on 20% of all R&B singles still just as a matter of tradition, but he gets in the way here less than usual.

3. PSY - "Gangnam Style"
It's crazy how quickly this song took America by storm, I don't think I'd even heard it when I last did one of these posts in September. And over the last few weeks I've kinda gone up and down about whether I like it or not or don't even really have any opinion about it. But when it comes on the radio, I'm surprised at how happy I am to hear it. Although obviously a lot of the charm is in the video, which is probably the first time any music video has upped the ante in visual spectacle since "Bad Romance."

4. 2 Chainz f/ Kanye West - "Birthday Song"
Although I'm generally pro-2 Chainz, and really like his album, I generally feel like he hasn't really been firing on all cylinders on most of his guest verses (besides "Mercy") and that "No Lie" was a terrible single. So this, while not a total triumph, at least feels like a step in the right direction, and is also kind of a callback to old pre-nutjob Kanye with some goofy relatable details -- I always crack up at "Last birthday she got you a new sweater/ put it on give her a kiss and tell her 'do better.'"

5. Three Days Grace - "Chalk Outline"
Their last single a year or two back, "Lost In You," was the first time I ever really enjoyed a Three Days Grace song, I think partly because I was surprised they could pull of a nice generic midtempo track like that. Likewise, the big bombastic fuzz bass on "Chalk Outline" and its skittering drumbeat would be kind of expected and lame from Korn, but to hear this usually totally bland grunge band try on some new textures is vaguely exciting.

6. Seether - "Here And Now"
I have been fond of pointing out that two of Seether's earlier singles nicked hooks from Alanis Morrissette and Republica hits, so it saddens me to report that "Here And Now" does not rip off Letters To Cleo. It is pretty good, though, one of their most bearable singles to date. And now that bands like them and Nickelback and Shinedown are kind of on the decline even on rock radio, and neo-grunge seems to be finally waning as a commercial force, it feels a little easier to give these guys a tiny bit of credit when they're decent.

7. Robin Thicke - "All Tied Up"
Thicke's last album was pretty dope and I really didn't spend enough time with it, so I'm glad this song has become yet another sleeper hit for him. This song is a really good example of how his voice is increasingly taking on Michael McDonald qualities when he sings in a gruff lower register, and even a little in his falsetto.

8. Train - "50 Ways To Say Goodbye"
When "Drive By" didn't do anything for me, I breathed a sigh of relief that I wouldn't feel the need to be that fuckin' guy defending a Train song as I had been with "Hey, Soul Sister" (and "Drops Of Jupiter" and "Meet Virginia" before it). But oh shit, I kinda like this. Weirdly it was produced by Butch Walker and the non-Stargate guys who did all the guitar strumming bits on Stargate hits like "Irreplaceable" and "With You." And the video ends with a kid holding up a poster that says "rack city bitch."

9. Trey Songz - "Dive In"
Back over the summer during the Olympics, I was listening to the D.C. radio show Elliot In The Morning and they were doing some bit drooling over women on the U.S. swim team and started playing this song, which was the first time I heard it, and now I crack up every time I hear Trey song "SPLASH!" even more than I would otherwise. I feel bad that Usher just released a much more serious song with a similar metaphor called "Dive" as a single, because that's a pretty good song and one of the best on his album, but not remotely as memorable as this.

10. Maroon 5 - "One More Night"
The whole current era of Maroon 5 is kind of awkward, because they never really had much rock band cred to begin with, but they still sold out to whatever extent a band like Maroon 5 can sell out, in terms of just giving up their sound to dance pop producers to stay on the charts and actually becoming bigger than ever in the process. And I still kind of think Adam Levine's writing good songs, even enjoyed "Moves Like Jagger" and "Payphone" more than I'd like to admit and this one's kind of a banger, despite his annoyingly squeaky vocal delivery. The drum pattern is kind of a knockoff of "Umbrella," except weirdo I am I like these drums more than "Umbrella."

Friday, October 26, 2012

I interviewed Teddy Douglas and DJ Exclaime on the Baltimore City Paper's Noise blog, about their Respekt party this Saturday at the Paradox.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012
The Short List in this week's Baltimore City Paper.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I wrote a piece for Splice Today about Billboard's revamped genre charts, and why I think the new methodology applied to them is a big mistake.

Monthly Report: September 2012 Albums

Thursday, October 18, 2012

1. Dwight Yoakam - 3 Pears
Yoakam is someone I like and respect a lot but don't really know too much of his stuff beyond that great first album, and this is just a serious testament to how good he can still be. Now that he probably pays his bills with movie roles and hasn't been on the radio in ages, it's fun to hear him just making great music in the style he always has just because he feels like it. I love that this guy can pull off a refrain like "If I had a big giraffe, he'd have to take a real long bath, and that's why waterfalls are really neat."

2. Dinosaur Jr. - I Bet On Sky
I've noticed over the years that reunited bands very rarely make it to a third new album after getting back together -- sometimes it's a one-off, sometimes that first one goes so well that they have enough momentum to quickly put out a follow-up, but almost never do they manage three records. So the existence of I Bet On Sky is rare enough, and an interesting testament to the fact that J, Lou and Murph have gotten along for longer now than they did in the '80s. But the really remarkable thing is how good these records are, and that on songs like the swinging, auxillary percussion-heavy "I Know It Oh So Well" they actually manage to expand the familiar Dinosaur template in ways that are small but instantly noticeable and strangely perfect.

3. Pink - The Truth About Love
I loved the shit out of Pink's last album Funhouse, to the point that I wasn't sure if she could top it for me but still wanted to see her try. At her best, Pink strikes such a great balance of obnoxiousness and big-hearted sincerity, and this kinda swings back and forth those extremes less gracefully, but it still works pretty well. There are some sketchy guests (the fun. guy is a fungus upon pop music right now) and the one Max Martin track is terrible and mixes Scarface quotes with a stupid British accent. But "Are We All We Are" is crazy, and "Beam Me Up" and "The Great Escape" are gorgeous, and girl is still kind of running circles around most of her contemporaries.

4. ZZ Top - La Futura
ZZ Top are another act I've always kind of admired from a distance, for their longevity, for great run of singles, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I could enjoy an album from them in 2012. My interest was piqued by the lead track that interpolates "25 Lighters," which is one of most badass and unexpected rap/rock crossovers in recent memory, but the whole thing just has a great sound and great vibe. The trio sounds their age but in that kind of loose relaxed way that works well with their music, and "Chartreuse" and "Consumption" are great songs too.

5. Gunplay - 601 & Snort
In one of those depressing turns of events that feel all too common in rap, by the time I get around to writing about my favorite Gunplay mixtape to date, he's in the news for robbing his own accountant and probably going to jail for life or long enough to ice his career. This tape is great, though -- it's rare that I ever prefer a freestyle/industry beat heavy mixtape to one with all original beats, but this is just more direct and engaging thatn Bogota Rich: The Sequel, perfect showcase for his voice and his way of putting words together.

6. Young Dro - Ralph Lauren Reefa
I was going to say that Gunplay's biggest problem was that he may plug along as a talented sidekick to a superstar for a few years, without ever getting his own momentum at the level he deserves like Young Dro, but obviously that's the least of his problems now. But Dro, man, Dro is still the shit and it's a shame that whatever juice Grand Hustle has left is being focused on B.o.B and Iggy Azalea.

7. Heart Of Hearts - My Society
Greg from Heart Of Hearts is a guy I've met a couple times at my friend Mat's studio, and is also in a really good band called Mr. Moccasin. I'd been hearing for a while about this album he'd been working on, he owns a lot of birds and I think a lot of it is inspired by that (one of his birds is on the album cover) and the whole thing has this kind of has this strange ambiance that I think evokes surrounding yourself with animals rather than people.

8. Firewater - International Orange!
Hearing these songs live didn't do as much for them as it did for Firewater's last album, The Golden Hour, but these guys are still in a pretty good mid-career groove right now, not as good as the early albums but a lot of fun. "The Monkey Song" is the clear favorite but some of the other songs are growing on me.

9. Matchbox Twenty - North
I've gradually fostered a fondness for these guys over the years for their later singles, and "She's So Mean" features so many odd, surprising production flourishes that I was just curious to see what the rest of the album was like. The rest isn't so lively except for "Put Your Hands Up," but as far as adult alternative goes they've grown into a pretty respectable, versatile band.

10. Ben Folds Five - The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind
If you would have told me in 1997 that someday I would enjoy a new Matchbox Twenty (or, as they were known in those days, Matchbox 20) album more than a new Ben Folds Five album, I would've foamed at the mouth, but there it is. It's fun to hear these guys play together again, since they had such a chemistry together and I was never really clear on why they ever stopped, but Folds hasn't been a reliable songwriter in a long, long time. "Draw A Crowd" and "Do It Anyway" are pretty good, though.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012
This week's Short List.

Sunday, October 14, 2012
I decided it would be appropriate for Soundgarden's "Been Away Too Long" to be the first song I blurbed on The Singles Jukebox in almost exactly a year. I didn't even mean to stop writing there, I just fell out of the habit.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

I wrote a post on the City Paper Noise blog in which I counted down the 10 Baltimore musical acts with the most followers on Twitter.

TV Diary

Friday, October 12, 2012
a) "The Greatest Event In Television History"
Adult Swim had been advertising this special involving Adam Scott and Jon Hamm, whille making a point of not coming out and saying what it was, that I stayed up and watched it on Thursday night just to satisfy my curiosity. What it turned out to be, which I feel OK spoiling because it really wasn't much of a joke, was a shot-for-shot remake of the opening credits of "Simon & Simon," preceded by a 10-minute making-of mockumentary starring Paul Rudd as the obsessive director of the project (in reality Adam Scott directed it). It had its moments but at a certain point the ironic name and deliberately underwhelming result kind of felt like a disappointment, given the talent involved, just like the kind of hype and disappointment they were satirizing. I mean, how many times can Adult Swim go "lol 80s TV" over and over?

b) "Nashville"
I was skeptical about this show's buzz because it looked like the same plot as that damn Gwyneth Paltrow movie, but wow, this really is easily one of the best pilots of the season. Kind of feels similar to "Smash" in its attempt to use a certain corner of show business as the backdrop for a backstage soap opera for the first time on TV, except here the music is less of a focus and the drama is much more convincing (although still kind of boilerplate). I don't know how to feel about this show making me extremely attracted to Hayden Panettiere, though, I wasn't prepared for that.

c) "Chicago Fire"
I guess the networks try to do a sexy firefighters show every few years, huh? There has to be a new way to tell stories about this profession, and if there's not they should just stop trying, this is so boring.

d) "Beauty And The Beast"
I was just channel surfing tonight and The CW was playing this, fuck outta here, man.

e) "666 Park Avenue"
I think I'm starting to get really intolerant of supernatural type shows on TV, which were kind of rare and fun a few years ago, but are now just in overkill mode. I have no idea why anyone thought this show was a good idea.

f) "Last Resort"
This is another one of my favorite pilots of the fall, partly because it strikes such a good balance between high concept and solid, convincing drama. I joked that the pilot was the best "Star Trek" episode in years, because even through the wild premise and the cheap sets and effects, with the crew bouncing around the boat when they got "hit," it all kind of worked, because it was thought-provoking and dramatic, and Andre Braugher is a great conflicted Starfleet captain type character. I didn't find the second episode as gripping but I'm still excited to see where this goes.

f) "Elementary"
My wife was super excited about this and seemed to enjoy the pilot episode, but hasn't been in a rush to watch more episodes. It wasn't as stupid as I expected it to be, but the whole thing rubs me the wrong way and Lucy Liu wasn't really good enough to make the sketchy 'female Watson' concept work.

g) "The Neighbors"
I almost want there to be an alien-themed sitcom that's good, because hey why not, but this ain't it.

h) "Vegas"
Super boring show -- if you're gonna have Michael Chiklis play the heavy, you've gotta raise the stakes from "The Shield," because anything on a straightforward network drama is make him seem so dull and defanged by comparison.

i) "Partners"
One of CBS's annual transparent attempts to groom the successor to "How I Met Your Mother," this time with TWO architect characters! I don't feel like I've seen enough of this to really judge it either way, though, and I think David Krumholtz is too likable not to be on TV, and Sophia Bush is too good-looking to not be on TV, so maybe I'm kinda rooting for it?

j) "Mr. Box Office"
Amazing trainwreck of a show on The CW that stars Bill Bellamy (as a disgraced movie star who has to teach high school for some reason?) with Jon Lovitz, Gary Busey and Vivica A. Fox. Just a fascinating pile of shit.

k) "Brickleberry"
This, though, this is the actual worst new show of the fall. I actually kind of like Tosh's standup and "Tosh.0," when he's not too smugly 'edgy,' but this is basically a transparent "Family Guy" knockoff with worse drawing and even more smug edginess. Just unwatchable.

l) "Mob Doctor"
I liked the premise of this show at first, until I realized that they'd basically never be able to do anything with it that wasn't done better in Tara's storylines on "Sons of Anarchy." Also I don't think Jordana Spiro can carry a drama, networks should be focused on trying to put her in a sitcom less crappy than "My Boys."

m) "Bomb Girls"
It's sad that the Reelz Channel keeps jumping into original programming with retro crap like that "Kennedys" mini-series, all these post-"Mad Men" period shows that are basically an excuse to dress up actresses in cute old-fashioned frocks are, well, they're appealing to me on a shallow level but not compelling enough to watch more than once or twice.

n) "Live! With Kelly And Michael"
After the year of post-Regis guest hosts, it seemed like there were a lot of possible new co-hosts for Kelly Ripa but I had no idea it would be some random genial ex-NFL player. It works better than I would've expected but it's still an odd fit, I don't really understand the decision.

o) "Big Morning Buzz Live"
Another bland talk show I pass the time with on mornings when I don't have work, although Carrie Keagan is just so incredibly bland that it kind of underlines how good Kelly Ripa actually is at this very silly line of work. It's cool to occasionally my music crit homie Rich Juzwiak pop up on one of their discussion panels, though.

p) "Key And Peele"
I didn't love this show in its first season, but these guys are growing on me. They still seem to have one really obvious lame sketch for each one that works, though, and the host segments kind of fall flat.

q) "Homeland"
The idea of this show winning a ton of Emmys is kind of absurd to me, but that first season was pretty addictive stuff, and I'm interested to see where they take the story this year, partly because I have no idea how they'll get out of the corner they painted themselves into. A couple good moments in the episodes so far, nothing amazing but I like where it's going.

r) "New Girl"
Still the unlikely maybe best comedy on TV at the moment, was excited about Schmidt getting an Emmy nomination as I was confused by all the "Homeland" wins.

s) "2 Broke Girls"
This show is still kind of awful and I still kind of don't care and watch it anyway. I liked the self-aware bit about "vagina going mainstream" in the season premiere, though.

t) "Treme"
Now that David Simon has confirmed that there'll be just one more season after this, I'm like OK man, I've gotten this far, I'll try to get to the end with you and see if you're able to justify this ride somehow. It really is just kind of bizarre how low stakes this show feels, it's like one of the least eventful non-procedural dramas in TV history.

u) "Raising Hope"
Kind of was less enamoured of this show last season than I was when it started, but it's still really very consistent and the cast just works together so well.

v) "Modern Family"
Another show I kind of want to dislike on principle because of its absurd number of Emmys, but when I watch it it's pretty decent. Loved Phil's bit this week: "Dance until your feet hurt, sing until your lungs hurt, act...until you're William Hurt"

w) "Parks And Recreation"
I've settled into a nice groove of not understanding why people overrate this show so much but still finding it mildly enjoyable. I like the Ben/April dynamic this season.

x) "Warehouse 13"
I tried watching this season when it started, then got bored and got off the bus. But then more recently there was a marathon and I started catching up, and started to like this show again, partly because they seemed to have realize that Claudia is the best thing about the show and made this season center heavily on her.

y) "Sons Of Anarchy"
This is really just the most gut-wrenching show on TV for me, as far as the combination of emotional impact, shocking plot twists, and over-the-top violence and gore (maybe some people would say "Breaking Bad" or, I dunno, "The Sopranos" beats it in those categories, I dunno, but this is it for me). I'm continually amazed at how much darker it keeps getting. But man, I love it.

z) "30 Rock"
Fuck what anyone says, this show is going out at the top of its game, first episode of the last season was great.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012
This week's Short List.

Monday, October 08, 2012

On Friday night, I went to see the Dismemberment Plan at Rams Head Live, which was nice since I missed that Metro Gallery show a few weeks earlier where, it turned out, they played new songs for the first time since reuniting. I wanted to wait to hear the new songs live at Rams Head, but when I found out I'd get to interview Travis Morrison before the show, I went ahead and treated myself to the YouTube spoilers from the Metro Gallery show. I saw the Plan over a dozen times back before they broke up, and those shows between Emergency & I and Change where they were consistently writing and previewing new songs from the latter were such a great period that really cemented them as one of my favorite live bands of all time. I enjoyed the 2011 reunion show I saw, and they played as well as they ever have, but I missed that little extra charge that comes from seeing a band at the top of their game and still building their catalog.

As it happens, it's been almost exactly a decade since the last time the Plan were testing out new songs live -- the aborted 5th album that would've been if the band hadn't decide to break up and let Morrison use those songs for the ill-fated solo album Travistan. I still maintain that that album is better than its reputation, but I also know those songs wouldn't have gone down much better as a Dismemberment Plan album; the buzz at the shows they played them at didn't feel very enthusiastic either. And in a way, it's better for the band's legacy that those songs got written out of their history, the backlash contained in Morrison's solo career. The new songs are better than that, and should actually be a good way to pick the story back up.

The ode to Northern Virginia "White Collar White Trash" is probably my favorite of the new songs, partly because it brings back the spastic synth punk aspect of the band's sound that had been downplayed toward the end of their original run. It was especially welcome in Friday's set, which confirmed my suspicion that new songs would mean that the first two Plan albums will make up an even smaller sliver of setlists than they had for a while, the ever-present "The Ice Of Boston" and "OK, Joke's Over," and little else.
I got to the show a little late, at which point they were playing "The Other Side" (which, as I mentioned in the interview piece, was influenced by Lake Trout, whose guitarist Ed Harris was in the audience at the show). I don't know how much of the show I missed, but it wasn't much, since I saw a good 90 minutes of show -- I'm assuming they opened with "What Do You Want Me To Say?" since they never do a show without that one.

I'd offered my +1 on the guest list to a few friends, including a couple that I'd used to go see the band with all the time back in the day, but none of them could come, at least one of which because of the Orioles playoff game going on that night. Still, I ran into another friend at the show who I didn't even know was a big Dismemberment Plan, who'd come with a friend of his who he'd recently bonded with over the discovery that they were both into the band, so that was fun. Before the show, I worked an event across town, at which one of the speakers was a local newscaster who'd call the newsroom during breaks, to get the score to tell the crowd. Then I got to the Plan show, and the band would ask the audience for the score between songs. One of the single biggest eruptions of applause during the whole show came from the bar, when the O's officially won the game during "OK, Joke's Over." I'm reasonably sure the show would've sold a good number of additional tickets had that game not been on that night. I would say they coulda picked a better night to play Baltimore, but it is kind of fun to be out on the town when a city is that charged up, even if it's about something going on somewhere else at the moment.

1992, Reconsidered

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Top 50 Albums of 1992:

1. R.E.M. - Automatic For The People
2. Dr. Dre - The Chronic
3. Jonathan Richman - I, Jonathan
4. Gang Starr - Daily Operation
5. Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - Live And Let Die
6. They Might Be Giants - Apollo 18
7. Paris - Sleeping With The Enemy
8. UGK - Too Hard To Swallow
9. Peter Gabriel - Us
10. Screaming Trees - Sweet Oblivion
11. Izzy Stradlin & the Ju Ju Hounds - Izzy Stradlin & the Ju Ju Hounds
12. Ice Cube - The Predator
13. PJ Harvey - Dry
14. Sonic Youth - Dirty
15. Alice In Chains - Dirt
16. Faith No More - Angel Dust
17. "Weird Al" Yankovic - Off The Deep End
18. The Jesus Lizard - Liar
19. Tori Amos - Little Earthquakes
20. Lord Finesse - Return Of The Funky Man
21. Nine Inch Nails - Broken EP
22. The Cure - Wish
23. Beastie Boys - Check Your Head
24. Neil Young - Harvest Moon
25. Vic Chesnutt - West of Rome
26. En Vogue - Funky Divas
27. Shudder To Think - Get Your Goat
28. Annie Lennox - Diva
29. Mary J. Blige - What's The 411? 
30. The Pharcyde - Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde
31. various artists - Singles: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
32. Nirvana - Incesticide
33. Sloan - Smeared
34. Pavement - Slanted And Enchanted
35. Television - Television
36. The B-52's - Good Stuff
37. Morphine - Good
38. Mudhoney - Piece Of Cake
39. Soul Asylum - Grave Dancers Union
40. various artists - Wayne's World: Music From The Motion Picture
41. Blind Melon - Blind Melon
42. The Afghan Whigs - Congregation
43. Alice In Chains - Sap EP
44. Primus - Miscellaneous Debris EP
45. Spiritualized - Lazer Guided Melodies
46. Stone Temple Pilots - Core
47. various artists - Reservoir Dogs: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
48. Eric Clapton - Unplugged
49. Ugly Kid Joe - America's Least Wanted
50. Def Leppard - Adrenalize

1992 was kind of year zero for my active interest in popular music, the year I turned 10. I had started to dip my toe in in late '91, but in '92 I started watching MTV obsessively and spending what little money I came into the possession of on CDs -- the first CD I bought was the fucking Wayne's World soundtrack. I mostly bought embarrassing stuff back then: (the very odd set of albums on this list that I actually heard in '92 or '93: 1, 9, 11, 15, 19, 21, 24, 36, 39, 40, 41, 44, 46, 48, 49 and 50). Contrary to the usual theories about nostalgia and coming of age, very little of these albums hold any really serious sentimental value for me, and more and more over the years I've found other stuff from that era that I enjoy more, which makes up the bulk of this list.

Looking ahead to the 1991 list I'm still working on, as well as the '93 list I did a few weeks ago, I'm increasingly convinced that 1992 was kind of a weird dry spell in the middle of an otherwise fertile period, when a lot of great acts were either between albums, or dropped albums that weren't as good as the ones directly before and/or after. It's notable that nearly all of the rock albums that felt huge in 1992 were actually released in 1991. I do like the weird combination of wussy college rock and some of the hardest rap records ever at the top of the list, though. I actually somehow lived through the '90s without ever hearing The Chronic in its entirety, and since it's no longer sold anywhere I guess due to some Death Row bullshit (although Doggystyle is still out there, weirdly), I had to listen to it track by track on YouTube and wow, it's actually better than I expected.

Top 100 Singles of 1992:

1. Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth - "T.R.O.Y. (They Reminisce Over You)"
2. Matthew Sweet - "Girlfriend"
3. Mary J. Blige - "Real Love"
4. A Tribe Called Quest f/ Leaders Of The New School - "Scenario"
5. Metallica - "Sad But True"
6. Nirvana - "In Bloom"
7. En Vogue - "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)"
8. Sir Mix-A-Lot - "Baby Got Back"
9. Right Said Fred - "I'm Too Sexy"
10. Black Sheep - "The Choice Is Yours (Revisited)"
11. Screaming Trees - "Nearly Lost You"
12. Helmet - "Unsung"
13. Annie Lennox - "Walking On Broken Glass"
14. The Beastie Boys - "So What'Cha Want"
15. Boyz II Men - "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday"
16. Soul Asylum - "Somebody To Shove"
17. Temple Of The Dog - "Hunger Strike"
18. Snap! - "Rhythm Is A Dancer"
19. U2 - "Even Better Than The Real Thing"
20. Ozzy Osbourne - "Mama I'm Coming Home"
21. Bonnie Raitt - "I Can't Make You Love Me"
22. Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Breaking The Girl"
23. Peter Gabriel - "Digging In The Dirt"
24. Alice In Chains - "Them Bones"
25. "Weird" Al Yankovic - "Smells Like Nirvana"
26. Arrested Development - "Tennessee"
27. Prince - "Diamonds And Pearls"
28. TLC - "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg"
29. 10,000 Maniacs - "Candy Everybody Wants"
30. Vanessa Williams - "Work To Do"
31. R.E.M. - "Man On The Moon"
32. Metallica - "Nothing Else Matters"
33. U2 - "One"
34. Smashing Pumpkins - "Drown"
35. Pearl Jam - "Evenflow"
36. Guns N Roses - "November Rain"
37. En Vogue - "Free Your Mind"
38. Nirvana - "Lithium"
39. Wreckx-N-Effect - "Rump Shaker"
40. Nine Inch Nails - "Wish"
41. Eric B. & Rakim - "Know The Ledge"
42. Gang Starr - "Ex Girl To Next Girl"
43. Michael Jackson - "Jam"
44. SWV - "Right Here (Human Nature)"
45. XTC - "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead"
46. INXS - "Not Enough Time"
47. EPMD - "Crossover"
49. Das EFX - "They Want Fx"
50. 2 Hyped Brothers And A Dog - "Doo Doo Brown"
51. The Black Crowes - "Remedy"
52. King Missile - "Detachable Penis"
53. Technotronic - "Move This"
54. K.D. Lang - "Constant Craving"
55. The Sugarcubes - "Hit"
56. Shabba Ranks - "Mr. Loverman"
57. Chubb Rock - "Treat Em Right"
58. Van Halen - "Right Now"
59. Pearl Jam - "Jeremy"
60. Mariah Carey - "Make It Happen"
61. Cracker - "Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)"
62. Dr. Dre f/ Snoop Dogg - "Deep Cover"
63. Metallica - "Wherever I May Roam"
64. Paul Westerburg - "Dyslexic Heart"
65. Ice Cube - "Wicked"
66. Prince - "7"
67. Spin Doctors - "Jimmy Olsen's Blues"
68. En Vogue - "Giving Him Something He Can Feel"
69. The Lemonheads - "It's A Shame About Ray"
70. Tears For Fears - "Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down)"
71. Body Count - "There Goes The Neighborhood"
72. Jodeci - "Come And Talk To Me"
73. TLC - "What About Your Friends"
74. Faith No More - "Midlife Crisis"
75. Michael Jackson - "Remember The Time"
76. Genesis - "I Can't Dance"
77. House of Pain - "Jump Around"
78. Kriss Kross - "Jump"
79. The Pharcyde - "Ya Mama"
80. The Spin Doctors - "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong"
81. Guns N' Roses - "Garden Of Eden"
82. Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Suck My Kiss"
83. Prince - "My Name Is Prince"
84. Live - "Pain Lies On The Riverside"
89. The Soup Dragons - "Pleasure"
90. Ugly Kid Joe - "Everything About You"
91. Marky Mark And The Funky Bunch - "Wildside"
92. Blind Melon - "Tones of Home"
93. Digital Underground - "Kiss You Back"
94. CeCe Peniston - "Finally"
95. Guns N' Roses - "Knockin' On Heaven's Door"
96. U2 - "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses?"
97. Sophie B. Hawkins - "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover"
98. Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Under The Bridge"
99. Def Leppard - "Let's Get Rocked"
100. Sonic Youth - "100%"

Where I'm kind of ambivalent and unenthusiastic about the albums I heard in 1992, I have to say I feel a lot of visceral affection for singles from that year. As I said, it was the beginning of my infatuation with MTV and popular music, both of which had seemed like the biggest waste of time in the world to me a year earlier. The alt-rock hits, the novelty pop hits, the gangsta rap, there was such a wealth of different tones and styles all colliding in that moment, before things kind of settled into more clearly divided camps in the following years.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

This week's Baltimore City Paper features the latest installment of my local hip-hop column Rap Sheet, which includes news about Shaka Pitts and The Mid-Atlantic Battle Association's next rap battle tournament at the 5 Seasons, and about the forthcoming Von Vargas album World Famous Lexington Market. I also included a list of the most followed Baltimore rappers on Twitter.

Also in this week's paper, The Short List as usual, and an interview with Travis Morrison of The Dismemberment Plan, one of my favorite bands, who are playing Baltimore this weekend. A longer version of the interview is also available on the Noise blog.

The 2012 Remix Report Card, Vol. 7

Tuesday, October 02, 2012
"Adorn (Remix)" by Miguel featuring Wiz Khalifa
This song is so perfect as is that even sullying it with a rap verse at all is distasteful to me -- when freestyles over it started trickling out on rap blogs a few weeks ago when the song became a big radio hit, the only one I could bring myself to listen to was Ma$e's for pure comedy purposes. But now it turns out one of them is the official remix on the deluxe edition of Kaliedoscope Dream, which especially bums me out because I was impressed that Miguel was able to keep any guest rappers off of the album proper. Fake laugh aside, Wiz's verse isn't that bad, could've been much worse, but considering that he's rap's biggest sucker for love at the moment he's just completely incapable of summoning any emotion at all, much less the emotion required for a song like "Adorn."
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: F

"Cockiness (Love It) (Remix)" by Rihanna featuring A$AP Rocky
The original song is dumb awkard bullshit and the added guest is a worthless moron, so I can't really say anything's being sullied here, at least. But since Rihanna has already dropped the first single from her next album, maybe this will disappear without a trace despite the the VMA performance.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: D

"Feelin' Single (Remix) - Single Ladies" by R. Kelly
R. has a great history of rewriting whole songs for his remixes, which rarely even need a featured guest, but he hasn't done that much for a while and I didn't expect it to happen to something off one of his last couple retro soul albums. This is much, much better than the bland "Lovely Day" rip of the original, and certainly better than the swing interlude in the video for the original.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: B+

"Girl On Fire (Inferno Remix)" by Alicia Keys featuring Nicki Minaj
Oh look, another shit collaboration from the VMAs. It's kind of funny/sad that after the whole stupid controversy about Gabby Douglas's hair, the two superstars who make a big deal out of bringing her out onstage have straightened hair and a big blonde wig, respectively. Anyway you'd think at least hearing Nicki in a different mode from her usual animated schtick would make this work better, but no, song is just worthless in any form. How do you fuck up the Billy Squier drums? The downtempo 'Blue Light remix' may actually be worse for attempting to highlight the insipid melody and lyric.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: D

"Itchin' (Remix)" by DJ Infamous featuring Future, Young Jeezy, Yo Gotti and Fabolous
One of the many big Future/Mike Will Made It records from this year, not one of their best but it's kind of a cool ominous banger. Fab tries different things with his delivery more often than people give him credit for, but this weird low key verse is a good example of why it usually doesn't work.
Best Verse: Young Jeezy
Overall Grade: C+

"Mobbin' (Remix)" by Maino featuring Busta Rhymes, Jim Jones, Gucci Mane, Yo Gotti and Trae The Truth
The original is a mediocre fake Waka song featuring a verse by Waka, which since it was by Maino it probably got played around the clock by Hot 97 at some point this year. It kinda cracks me up how this remix is precisely 50% dried up old NY rappers and 50% dried up old Southern rappers.
Best Verse: Gucci Mane
Overall Grade: C

"Plain Jane (Remix)" by Gucci Mane featuring T.I. and Rocko
The super slow bleary-eyed joint with Rocko from Trap Back earlier this year was not a favorite of mine, but the rising tide of Mike Will Made It productions is rising a lot of boats right now (right after "No Lie" and "Turn On The Lights" hit the R&B chart top 10 old songs like "Bandz A Make Her Dance" and "Way Too Gone" started rising). So Gucci threw a T.I. verse on this and made a video, but it's all not very good.
Best Verse: Gucci Mane
Overall Grade: C

"Pride N Joy (Remix)" by Fat Joe featuring Ashanti, Trey Songz, Pusha T and Miguel
The original was one of those bloated pointless Kanye West guest fests where you can barely even hear half the people credited on the song. The remix at least improves it slightly by letting Miguel actually sing, instead of shouting a few words through AutoTune, and removes the grating gang shout chorus, emphasizing the slow jam feel of the track.
Best verse: Ashanti
Overall Grade: B-

"Put It Down (Remix)" by Brandy featuring 2 Chainz and Tyga
I don't really understand the appeal of this song in general, but subtracting Chris Brown and adding 2 Chainz is at least an improvement. Tyga is super gross with his bondage talk, though.
Best Verse: 2 Chainz
Overall Grade: C+

"Rooster In My Rari (Remix)" by Waka Flocka Flame featuring 2 Chainz and Gucci Mane
This was one of my favorite songs on Triple F Life, which I still maintain is better than its reputation suggests. Remix is pretty anticlimactic, though, Gucci's voice is really boring and basic, especially after listening to him steal that "Mobbin'" remix.
Best Verse: 2 Chainz
Overall Grade: C+

"Slow Down (Remix)" by Clyde Carson featuring Gucci Mane, E-40, The Game and Dom Kennedy
I'm not really up on what's going on in the Bay these days besides those new E-40 albums, and he drops so many of those a year now that it doesn't leave me much of a hunger to hear more, even though those are really good. But this song's alright, I can kinda see why it's a hit but it's not killing me or anything. 40 jumping on it definitely makes it more listenable to me, and there's a reassuringly good Gucci verse. Game is hilarious and sad as usual.
Best Verse: Gucci Mane
Overall Grade: B

"Triumphant (Get 'Em) (Pulse Club Remix) / (Vintage Throwback Remix)" by Mariah Carey
The original "Triumphant" sounds like a remix with Rick Ross and Meek Mill crowding Mariah's space, while the actual remixes are Mariah solo tracks. "Pulse Club" sounds like an awkward and outdated attempt at falling in with dance pop trends, which is a shame because Mariah should be able to catch up to that stuff and do it as well as anyone else. "Vintage Throwback," meanwhile, is weirdly titled and probably the most current-sounding of all 3 versions, and not really vintage in any clear way.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: D / B

"Turn On The Lights (Remix)" by Future featuring Lil Wayne
High profile rappers have generally been pretty well behaved throughout this Frank Ocean thing the last few months, and then Wayne had to go and ruin it with that "no Frank Ocean, I'm straight" line, in a song that also features the line "he gayer than a stylist." So fuck him, this remix is bullshit anyway since the whole appeal of Future's AutoTune ballads is that he's working in a unique new style that's distinct from the comparable things Wayne was doing a few years ago.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: F