Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Best of 2008 albums that didn’t quite make the cut, though now that I ask myself, maybe they should have.-- by Jason @ Chandler
Wovenhand - Ten Stones
David Eugene Edwards and company (on this release, he’s joined by former 16 Horsepower bandmate Pascal Humbert and guitarist/co-writer Peter Van Laerhoven) make terrifically Old Testament music, replete with sackcloth and ashes lyrics and thundering, prophetic implications. “Ten Stones” found the band moving in a more violent, jarring rock ‘n’ roll direction, while still maintaining the Middle East folk and Native American drone textures or their earlier, more ambient work. Dan and Elin Smith of Danielson show up, lending their creaking voices and Samuel and David Durling of avant-garde Christian black metal/industrial band Mental Deconstruction offer up “guest noise.” A fantastic and unsettling album, absolutely too weird for Underoath fans or Christian bookstore browsers.
Little Joy - Little Joy
The biggest obstacle preventing one from immediately falling in love with this album is the fact that, yeah, singer Rodrigo Amarante (Los Hermanos) sounds a little like Julian Casablancas, the singer in Little Joy songwriter/guitarist/drummer Fabrizio Moretti’s other band, the Strokes. But trust me, it’s easy to get over, once those cool Brazilian melodies wash over you, once singer Binki Shapiro offers up here sexy little coo, once you allow Devendra Banhart cohort Noah Georgeson’s warm, all analog, all tropical production to make a little birdhouse in your soul. You are powerless. This album’s just too beguiling, to inviting, the gentle garage rock tug here, the samba comedown there. Just give up. Just start listening, don’t watch me dancing.
Grouper - Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill
It’s a formula others have followed, but Liz Harris (Grouper) does it better than most. Step one: write gorgeous little songs, strum them on an acoustic guitar, sing sweetly and lonesome-like. Step two: Bury those songs in distortion, screeching tape drag, hiss, fuzz, delay, static, white noise, organ drones, I mean completely submerge them, obscure all that apparent beauty and make it utterly subtle. Make everyone dig for it. This record put me to bed a lot this year. Gorgeous doesn’t even start.
Nada Surf - Lucky
Nada Surf make powerpop self help albums. Pop “Lucky” in and listen to singer/songwriter Matthew Caws’ lyrics, full of inspirational declarations of independence, freedom, hope and dedication to the life affirming glory of solid rock ‘n’ roll. Sure, the whole thing might be a little too polished, a little too clean sounding, but the melodies and the sentiments thrive, even under the spit-shine sheen.
Richard Swift- Swift as Onasis
When an artist releases 3 excellent albums in one year, it gets hard to pick exactly which one you dug best. Swift’s free EP “Ground Trouble Jaw” made my list, but “Swift as Onasis” and his electronic soundtrack project “Instruments of Science and Technology” were just as worthy. “Swift as Onasis” sounds utterly frazzled. Garage rock stumbles into Bo Diddly work-ups, blown speaker dub and pop from another room, like an awesome Kinks cover band playing far away, the block between their cranked amps and your beer addled ears stripping the complexity from the chords, just pure punk junk, jukebox fodder for your screwed up brain. Swift for president. Swift for God-Emperor of Dune. Swift for bartender and toilet scrubber.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Let’s face it. Try as we may at times we all fall short of the laws set in place for us to follow. Particularly with respect to moral laws as most of them are set up in opposition to human nature or at least in opposition to common impulses we all share. Noble as they may be, upholding them becomes a losing battle when our urges override our self control. But then…we dust ourselves off, get back on the righteous horse, and try again knowing all too well of the certainty that we will surely fall off again. It is with the admission of this inevitability for all of us that I offer a soundtrack to our failure to uphold the 10 most influential laws in western culture. If, like me, the first few laws don’t necessarily apply to your own moral integrity you can still enjoy the sinful music and empathize with the futile effort that is any pursuit of moral perfection.
1. I’m your God…put none before me
Eminem “Stan” found on the album The Marshall Mathers LP
What song better describes pushing everything in the world aside in the name of false worship? And it’s written in first person! All the better for vicariously magnifying whatever your own personal idolatry happens to be.
2. Make no graven images
Tom Waits “Chocolate Jesus” found on the album Mule Variations
“Don’t go to church on Sunday, don’t get on my knees to pray, don’t memorize the books of the
bible, I got my own special way…” and that special way is consuming an image of Jesus made out of chocolate. Tom goes on to explain how he finds his salvation by pouring his melting Jesus over ice cream to make a nice parfait. I suppose deliverance is deliverance any way you can get it.
There is some debate about this commandment and whether or not images of Jesus are allowed, chocolate or otherwise. Though it’s common place in most Christian houses and churches many of the original interpretations of biblical texts expressly prohibit the creation of images of anything found “in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” Still, I imagine even the more modern churches would hold contempt for eating Jesus…unless it’s for communion. Jeez, religion is confusing.
3. Do not take my name in vain
Modest Mouse “Bukowski” found on the album Good News for People Who Love Bad News
Isaac Brock mentions God in a number of his songs but this one is the most appropriate for commandment number 3 because he takes the lord’s name in vain the same way most of us do…by casually appealing to him at the start of an incredulous or exclamatory statement. Brock repeatedly asks “God, who’d wanna be such an asshole?” This kind of blasphemy is widespread in songs and our everyday life but while those doing the blaspheming are usually addressing God and asking him to damn something or someone thereby giving him credence, this song delivers its sin in passing hardly acknowledging the existence of God at all. And that’s why it takes the cake.
4. Keep the Sabbath holy
Black Sabbath “Black Sabbath” found on the album Black Sabbath
Oh man. No brainer. I mean, the band and the song and the album are called BLACK SABBATH! What more do we need for this to be the soundtrack to watching football or whatever else you do on Sunday while you’re not sitting in church? Not much, but the image of Satan sitting in a crowd of flames while Tony Iommi single handedly invents Metal doesn’t hurt either.
5. Honor thy father and thy mother
Descendants “Parents” found on the album Milo Goes to College
There is little in life more universally relatable to all of us than the “parents just don’t understand .why won’t they get off my case?” phase of adolescence. This is perfectly exemplified by the woefully juvenile grade school lyrics in this Descendants classic.
“Parents! Why won’t they shut up? Parents! They’re so Fucked up!”
6. Do not kill
Johnny Cash “Delia’s Gone” found on the album Murder
Oh there are probably 10 J.C. tracks that would be perfect for this commandment but Delia wins on account of the lack of regret expressed by the narrator. Though he winds up being haunted by Delia in his jail cell after he fills her full of lead the song ends on an indifferent note… “So if your woman is devilish you can let her run or you can bring her down and do her like Delia got done.”
7. Do not commit adultery
Pedro the Lion “Rapture” found on the album Control
I debated whether to use this track to symbolize making forbidden love more than any other track on the list because I wanted everyone to have at least some familiarity with each selection and many people have yet to cozy up with Pedro. Ultimately I decided this track was too perfect not to use. There are plenty of songs about lust, sex, and even cheating on your partner but this song from the opening line “This is how we multiply, pity that it’s not my wife” has the combination of being the smartest, most evocative, and most enjoyable song altogether. Plus, it’s the song that most literally addresses the sin in question.
Bonus point for this song is that the majority of former Pedro the Lion fans who are Christian and no longer listen to him due to moral objections cite this song as the reason they could no longer listen to him. How could this not make the list?
8. Do not steal
Jane’s Addiction “Been Caught Stealing” found on the album Ritual de lo Habitual
This one is too easy. I mean, some things are so obvious because they’re so perfect. Everyone knows this song. The playful rhythm, the downright joyful celebration of theft, and the authenticity brought on by taking one look at Perry Farrell and having no doubt that he was singing from experience.
As cheesy as it may be, we used to keep a copy of this song by the CD player when I worked in the stores to cue up when shoplifters were being escorted out of the building by the police. I’m sure we weren’t the first or the last.
9. Do not bear false witness
Henry Rollins “Liar” found on the album Weight
Another perfect fit. Henry Rollins spends the duration of the track taking disturbing levels of pleasure in conning the song’s unseen protagonist into trusting him over and over again and then berating him/her for falling for his manipulative tricks by proclaiming “I’m a liar! I feel good! I lie!”
Go back and listen to that track again. Better yet, watch the video. Listening to that track for the first time in years I was taken back by how clever, if evil and unsettling, that song really is. I find myself saying “wow, I know that guy! I’ve seen people use these same horrible antics!” it’s scarily accurate.
Man, the climax with the laughing and Rollins screaming “Sucker!” is extra creepy in the video.
10. Do not covet
The Smiths “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” found on Hatful of Hollow
Oh Morrissey, why so glum? There’s nothing quite as self loathing and pleasingly pathetic as a sad Smiths song. That’s what makes this particular song about craving what we haven’t got so appropriate. I love this song but Morrissey sounds like a pitiful and feeble dish rag, incapable of gratitude and begging for a hand out. This song is perfect for whimpering in self pity about how nothing ever goes right for you while drearily gazing out the window at a gray and rainy evening.
Come to think of it…in a weird way this song could be sung from a bizarro world Job after God makes that deal with the devil to test Jobs faith and he let’s ol’ red kill his family and all his livestock.
Now, back on the horse! Good luck, friends.
Leave a comment and share your own opinion about what songs you may have chosen for a particular sin!
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Mazzy Star – So Tonight That I May See
This is a classic amongst the reverb-drenched dreamy folky acoustic set. It hurts your heart in a way that makes you beg for more. I wish their crooner, Hope Sandoval, would reunite them once more. Mazzy Star should be paired with a cheap Cabernet Sauvignon from your corner store.
Cranes – Wings Of Joy
It’s an atmospheric nightmarescape designed to scare the hell out of you.Meanwhile it’s fronted by what seems to be a 6 year old girl holding your hand while you cry about it. Definitely drink some quality Absinthe first.
Slowdive – Souvlaki
Ah this is so soothing. Touched by the hand of Brian Eno, “shoegaze” would fall short in describing Slowdive’s bedrock of ambience. If the Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine made love, Souvlaki would be their K.Y. Jelly. Vanilla Vodka and Cranberry Juice will keep it sweet.
Cat Power – The Greatest
I don’t care that Chan Marshall is a cliché darling of hipster rockers.
She’ll break the heart of any hater out there if they’d simply let
their guard down. A great spot to listen to this timelessly haunting album is either on a barstool at a local dive (preferably with the whole thing in the jukebox), or on youtube – that way you can see how incredibly gorgeous she is while she’s breaking your heart. Even though it’s wonderful that she finally quit drinking Whiskey straight from the bottle while on stage, that shouldn’t keep the Jack Daniels out of our hands!
Beach House – Devotion
Don’t let the name or the album cover fool you. Even thoughthe album cover and name read as “emo crap,” this album really stands out. It comes complete with soaring and whispering lyrics, heart-string tugging organ backdrops, and minimalist guitar melodies. I still have a hard time understanding how that voice comes out of that small, shy-looking young woman’s mouth. At first, the density caught me off guard, but with each listen, I find myself falling deeper in love its complex nature. Beach House goes perfect with a Merlot by a brand you’ve never heard of and a price you usually wouldn’t pay.
The Cure – Faith
OK, so far, each album has been about drinking and relaxing to haunting dreamy music – but not in order to wallow in depression and loneliness. This one is. So skip track 2 (Their upbeat single “Primary”) and get angry on track 6. During the rest, grab the closest bottle of Anything Hard, open your mouth - and let go.
My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
The ultimate shoegazer album - play it loud and with friends at a party after payday, because it’s a dream everyone should be in. Drop the extra bucks to get premium beer from a liquor store, like Chimay Grand Reserve. If you’re sticking with the hard stuff, than a Glenlivet 15-Year Single Malt Scotch will go tremendously with this premium guitar magic masterpiece.
Billie Holiday-Greatest Hits (The Millenium Collection)
re-mastered stuff will sound better. Billie is the Queen Bee of jazz-themed heartbreak. You can feel the passion she puts into each performance- it’s so genuine. Just look at that picture! There are songs not so dreamy here, but by and large, she belongs in all of our dreams. I recommend a 3-olive Gin Martini or a sweet Harvey Wallbanger, but any old-fashioned cocktail will fit the mood.
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy
If you want that dreamy psychedelic wall of sound, with a dash of pop, this is the ticket. The Beach Boys have an orgy with an amped-up Velvet Underground. While shooting heroin into their eyeballs. Nice! This is simply 80s at its best. Thanks
Nick Drake – Pink Moon
This sweet old recording sounds like it was made before it was possible. When itstarts to rain, grab this album immediately. Pink Moon is straightforward male vocals with guitar and piano. If you’ve been up all night listening to all these other albums getting drunk, and the sun’s coming up, pop this in and don’t go to sleep at all. Make sure it’s your day off, and spike your coffee with some Irish Cream.
Now go nurse that hangover.