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Entries on the topic of “Lists” 19 results

Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Tom Waits Edition

In the '70s, Tom Waits was a troubadour whose gruff voice served songs that were steeped in traditional American music and often focused on the seedy side of life. Waits reinvented himself in the '80s, expanding his musical horizons by incorporating influences from Kurt Weill to Captain Beefheart. He may have alienated some fans, but he gained even more, pursuing an idiosyncratic path that still wasn't wholly removed from his core sensibility.

The result is a slew of memorable albums, mixed in with some pretty decent acting turns. Waits is underrated as a singer, as his limited voice is extremely expressive, and no matter how often he runs his songs through funhouse mirrors, he is a masterful songwriter who can spin the prettiest of melodies. Let's pay tribute to this American original by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle, and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.

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Topics: lists, mp3

Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday RL Burnside Edition

RL Burnside is proof that music isn’t always a young man’s game, as he didn’t make a mark in the blues until the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. He had moved to Chicago in the ‘40s, befriended Muddy Waters, but had his life derailed when his father, two brothers and an uncle were all murdered in Chicago, which, as one could imagine, inspired his music.

He then moved back to Mississippi, where he killed a man during a dice game and was convicted of murder. After serving only six months (!) in a work farm, he eventually recorded his first sides in the ‘60s, but wasn’t discovered until the late ‘80s, and when he was signed to Fat Possum in the ‘90s, the world finally got to hear Burnside’s classic Delta blues sound. He even did an album with Jon Spencer producing. Let’s pay tribute to a modern blues giant by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle, and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.

Keep Reading…

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Topics: lists, mp3

Nicole Oppenheim: Ear Candy writesMidwestern Housewife - They Won’t Strike Out with Mom

“Try Jell-O Pudding Pops, Frozen Pudding on a Stick!”

What’s up with quoting this seemingly random and delightfully kitsch-y commercial from the 1980s? Because I’m about to get all Bill Cosby on your asses. No, not Bill Cosby like THAT. I was thinking more along the line of his “Kids Say the Darndest Things” schtick. Bear with me. It’ll be good. I promise.

Because everyone and their sister is putting out a year-end Top Ten list, I decided I’d do the same. Except instead of ranking best albums of the year, best television events of the year, (Come on! They’re television events, for Chrissake! They deserve a Top Ten list!), or best crazy rants overheard on the Western bus, I’m going to rank my Top Five Shining Moments in Parenting for 2009. (This is a short column, so I’m only listing five). Many of them have to do with funny things my kids have said over the past year—this is where the Bill Cosby part comes in—and unlike the boring stories your boss and/or coworkers tell you about their annoying kids, you will actually get a chuckle out of these.

So, without further ado, I present for your consideration my year-end list:

5) The kids started preschool! Okay, this isn’t a humorous story about Winchie and Squeaky, but it was easily the best thing that happened to me on the parenting front this year. And to the kids. Preschool is for the kids. I keep forgetting that. It’s only a two-mornings-a-week kind of thing, but those are two mornings I get to live an adult life again. I can drink coffee and surf the internet! I can take a shower without someone screaming “Mommy!” and opening the shower curtain every five seconds! I can write a really excellent column for CHIRP! * grin * And the best part? Someone ELSE gets to take care of the kids! In fact, THREE other people get to take care of the kids. And, unlike me, those three people have degrees in child development and early education. I help my kids learn the alphabet; the magical Other Three help my kids learn to read. The Other Three help my kids learn to paint, to share their toys, to sing nursery rhymes that I’ve either forgotten or repressed. In other words, these Other Three, like all preschool teachers, are angels sent from heaven who create child-friendly environments designed to help make toddlers civilized members of society. (Not to mention the well-earned breaks they give to harried moms and other caregivers.). In short: Yay, Preschool!

4) Child One: “Eff-you! Eff-you! Eff-you!” Child Two: “A-hole! A-hole! A-hole!” Kids hear EVERYTHING you say. Then they REPEAT everything you say. While driving up to grandma’s house (really!) this summer, another car cut me off on the highway. Like any good mom with kids in tow, I screamed out, “Holy S#^&! F*&% you, you crazy a**hole!” and laid on the horn for a good 30 seconds. My kids were in the middle of a songfest at the time, and they decided to put some of Mommy’s creative language to music. For the duration of the trip, about 20 minutes, I was serenaded by Winchie singing “Eff you!” and Squeaky countering with “A-hole!” in the sweetest toddler-style sing-song voices this side of the Mississippi. Needless to say, I have watched my tongue since then. While I found the song hilarious, I really don’t want them to be the kids who teach all the other kids in school to swear blue streaks. I don’t want to get the angry phone calls from other parents and be rendered ineligible for the PTA before the kids even get to elementary school.

3) Sweet Squeaky. The family dog was feeling under the weather earlier this year. We took her to the vet, got her some meds to which she responded quickly, and all was well within a week. But there were a couple of days there where the dog did nothing but lay around on the couch. (This is not to be confused with her usual routine of laying around on the couch. When she’s feeling well, she will occasionally bark at other dogs walking by the house. When she’s sick, she will simply growl at them or fart in their general direction.) My daughter, Squeaky, loves our dog and was upset that she wasn’t feeling well. To make her feel better, Squeaky sought out the dog’s favorite toy and placed it next to her. Then she covered the dog with her favorite blanket and started singing “Rock-A-Bye Baby” in the hopes that it would make our dog happy. When the dog recovered, Squeaky was convinced it was due to her singing and the well-placed chew toy. Now Squeaky has decided to be an animal doctor when she gets older. That is, if the princess thing doesn’t work out.

2) Peace, love, empathy. While shopping at Target with both kids, we encountered another mom with a toddler. Ever the outgoing twins, Winchie and Squeaky both tried to say hello to the other kid, who, as it happened, was in the middle of a stage four meltdown. There was crying. There was screaming. There was stomping of little feet and shaking of little fists. Not for the first time, I thanked my lucky stars that it wasn’t me attempting to control that crazy toddler cyclone. I smiled what I hoped was an understanding smile at the other mom and tried to walk by without incident. But Winchie had other plans. When we pulled up next to the screaming boy, about to pass him in the aisle, my little boy shouts from the cart, “Hey, kid! Stop fussing! It makes your mommy crazy!!” Then he turns to me and says, “Right, Mommy?” To which I responded, “That’s usually the case, honey, but his mommy seems to be taking it in stride.” I shoot the other mom a kids-say-the-darndest-things/please-don’t-judge-me-by-my-son’s-behavior look and exit the aisle quickly.

1) The Only Band That Ever Mattered. I’ll admit it: I’m one of those moms who subjects her captive children to her favorite music when we’re all in the car together. I play it loud-ish (there are little ears in the car, after all). I sing along. The kids tell me to shut it, although not in so many words. I know it’s only a matter of time before they become mortified at the thought of riding in the car with me because someone might discover that Mommy is, in fact, a crazy person with horrible taste in music. Thankfully, that day has not yet arrived and the kids, for now, are digging my selections. Exhibit A: While pulling out of the driveway this summer en route to kiddie camp, Winchie asked me a question that brought tears to my eyes. Literally. Like the Grinch on Christmas, my little black heart grew three sizes that day. He asked me, “Mommy, can we hear The Clash?” What? Did I really hear that right? “What did you say sweetie?” I replied. “The Clash! London Calling!!” My God! There is nothing left to teach this little man! At 2.5 years old, he gets it! Go forth and conquer! As we listened to the album, I stole glances in the rearview mirror and saw him rocking out in his car seat with his favorite Thomas the Tank Engine toy in one hand and a juice box in the other. I’m not a huge fan of reality TV, but I sincerely wish someone had been filming this particular moment of my parenting experience. Exhibit B: While my daughter doesn’t complain when we listen to bands like The Clash, she definitely prefers music by female-fronted bands. One day this fall she asked who we were listening to because she liked the “girl singer.” I told her it was Le Tigre and the singer she liked was named Kathleen Hanna. Now whenever we get in the car, she asks to hear “Kathleen with the pretty voice.” I know every parent thinks their kids are the most amazing people on the planet, but I think this is definitive proof that mine actually are. (Sorry, other parents).

So, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed the official Midwestern Housewife’s Top Five Shining Moments in Parenting from 2009. Thank you for reading my column this year. I appreciate all the feedback I’ve received from readers whether in the form of comments here, on my Facebook page, or in person. Have a great 2010, everyone! Now I’m off to troll the internet in the hopes of finding a recipe for pudding pops. For some reason, I have a craving for frozen, over-processed, dairy-like dessert.

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Topics: lists

Mike Bennett writesiPod/MP3 Friday Shuffle — Happy Birthday Tyra Banks Edition

Let’s give it up for the supermodel who’s become a super talk show mogul. The one and only Tyra Banks. In honor of the woman who will pull almost any stunt to get people to watch her show (as the accompanying picture shows), you go girls (and boys) and get your iPod/MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 tunes that come up.

  1. Guided By Voices — The Official Ironmen Rally Song (Under The Bushes, Under The Stars): Sure, Robert Pollard has released way too much material, but boy, he certainly had a ton of great songs. This majestic mid-tempo song, which was also released as a single, is nearly up there with GBV classics like “Motor Away” in the hierarchy of Mid-Fi Arena Rock Classics.
  2. Queen — Killer Queen (Sheer Heart Attack): This was the song that broke Queen big as a pop act. They had devoted a lot of their first two albums to being a poofier, sleeker alternative to Led Zeppelin, with some success. But this led them to being one of the biggest bands in the world. On this playful pop number, Queen shows off the influence of Roxy Music and Sparks, but the campy flash and high energy is just dialed down a little bit.
  3. The Hives — Main Offender (Veni Vidi Vicious): The Hives aren’t the best garage band around, but they are really good and very few bands have as much flair or personality. This song sounds like the New York Dolls meet The Move, and that’s fine with me.
  4. The Young Nashvillians — Follow That Girl (The Sad Smiles Of The Young Nashvillians): A second appearance from this rag tag group of college students from, you guessed it, Nashville, who recorded in the mid-‘80s. This is one of their later recordings, as evidenced by the polished. This is goofy retro pop, with a prominent Farfisa organ and alternatively scratchy and twangy guitars in the vein of early XTC and The B-52s.
  5. Sagittarius — Artificial Light (Of All The Living Lies) (Present Tense): This ’60s studio band was the brainchild of Gary Usher, who co-wrote songs with Brian Wilson and produced The Byrds and Simon & Garfunkel. He collaborated on this awesome psychedelic soft pop effort with Curt Boettcher. The result is something akin to The Free Design, The Association and The Beach Boys, but with unique dense arrangements, and a general trippier vibe. Listening to the myriad instruments on headphones, perfectly placed in the mix, is a real treat.
  6. The Hollies — You Need Love (Evolution): This is a proto-power pop number from one of the underrated bands of the ’60s. They may have been the best harmony vocalists of all of the British Invasion, with Graham Nash always stacked on top with an angelic voice. If you are in a power pop band, and have some good singers, cover this number. You’ll be glad you did.
  7. The Rolling Stones — Lies (Some Girls): I’d rather listen to Some Girls than Exile On Main Street. On Some Girls, the band established a new type of groove that carried them for about five or six years until it was impossible to stop the rot. This is not one of the stellar tracks from this album, but it still sounds good. Charlie Watts effortlessly taps out a beat that is metronomic, and yet it still swings, while Ron Wood and Keith Richards just fill the track with cool blues guitar tomfoolery.
  8. The dB’s — Working For Somebody Else (The Sound Of Music): Peter Holsapple has such a great hangdog voice and it is perfect for this bitch session about having to have a job. After all, as someone smarter than me once asked, if work is so great, why do they have to pay you to do it? This song has a wobbly R & B foundation, while Holsapple’s melody pushes him near the top of his range. There’s lots of great guitar business going on here, but this song would work if it were just Peter on an acoustic.
  9. The Merry-Go-Round — On Your Way Out (The Merry-Go-Round): This ’60s band was led by Emmit Rhodes, who went on to become a cult figure in pop/power pop circles for McCartney-esque solo albums. On this band’s sole LP, Rhodes showed proficiency for melodic folk-rock in the vein of The Byrds and The Youngbloods. I think there is a best of for these guys, and Rhodes was a really good songwriter, so if you like this sort of stuff, look for the compilation.
  10. Myracle Brah — Hearts On Fire (Plate Spinner): What started as a side project for Baltimore’s Andy Bopp (of Love Nut) became a favorite of the power pop underground in the late ’90s/early ’00s. Bopp mastered the canon of The Beatles, Badfinger and Cheap Trick, and then created bittersweet gems by the fistful. He’s vacillated from more classically retro material and attempts to take power pop into more contemporary directions without losing its roots. He did that latter thing quite well on Plate Spinner, which had creative production and compositions and arrangements that connected dots. This sounds like Paul McCartney fronting Radiohead in an “Eleanor Rigby”-“Karma Police” mash up. Great tune.

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Topics: ipod, lists

CHIRP DJ writesChris Siuty’s Best of 2009

Throughout the month of December we’ll be posting lists of the best music of the year as determined by the volunteers that make CHIRP what it is. Today’s is from CHIRP’s Sound Doctor, Chris Siuty.

  1. Dear Landlord – Dream Homes (No Idea) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Made up of Midwest punk veterans from such bands as Rivethead and the Copyrights, Dear Landlord’s first release annihilates rest of my list. This is probably the best pop punk record to come out in the last ten years. Either they’re too good at it and aren’t pulling any punches, or this was a total fluke. This record should be on everyone’s shelf. Not even kidding. If they stay a band and not call it quits, as this appears to be a “side project,” they will be the most important pop punk band of the next ten years.
  2. Canadian Rifle – Visibility Zero (Residue Records) Interpunk
    Straight forward, blunt and unapologetic. Dark, yet catchy and melodic. Canadian Rifle cuts through all the B.S. and puts together a collection of some of the best songs to come out of Chicago. Gruff vocals reminiscent of Jawbreaker, on top of urgent melodic punk songs. If this was exclusively a Chicago list, this record would be tops. Ex-members of Ambition Mission, (Lone) Wolf and Cub and many many others.
  3. Nothington – Roads, Bridges and Ruins (BYO Records) Amazon / iTunes
    San Fransisco natives Nothington manage to combine the gruff vocals and song structure of Hot Water Music with the melodies and drunken wit of the Replacements, creating a sound that is more recognizably Gainsville or Minneapolis than the Bay Area. This record is one heart-string jerk after another. If you get a chance to see them live, it’s well worth your time.
  4. No Slogan – Aversion Therapy (Residue Records) Residue
    If anything, 2009 was the year of Residue Records. Three releases hit my top ten and I’m looking forward to future releases from Jordan Pedestrian and company. This release, coming in at number 4, is the most “Chicago” sounding release on my list. No Slogan are long time staples of the Chicago DIY punk scene and constant favorites of mine. They manage to channel classic Chicago bands such as the Bhopal Stiffs, the Effigies and Pegboy, while maintaining a sound that is far from derivative of any of these bands. This is easily the best thing this band has done. Looking forward to more quality releases.
  5. Star Fucking Hipsters – Never Rest in Peace (Alternative Tentacles) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Admittedly, I sometimes feel a little goofy liking the output Leftover Crack and their crew release, because there’s ska parts and their politics are so unbelievably black and white. But, aside from that, these NYC crusties really can write good, interesting songs. They combine a lot of different influences, from street punk to death metal, ska to 80’s hardcore. If you can put down your hang ups and listen to this album without judgement, you’ll find a lot of quality within the grooves of this record.
  6. Banner Pilot – Collapser (Fat Wreck Chords) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    The only thing that can possibly make an adult who still listens to punk rock with the enthusiasm of a teenager feel more awkward than ska parts is admitting that Fat Wreck has put out something you like. Well, every year, there’s at least one album. Last year it was the Dillinger Four. This year, it’s D4’s fellow Minneapolis natives, Banner Pilot. The crazy thing is, there’s two Fat Wreck releases on the list this year. Banner Pilot are bound make anyone still lamenting the break up of Jawbreaker feel a little bit better about themselves. Emotionally tinged punk, driven by honest lyricism and engaging song structure echoes the passion and energy that draws people to punk rock. If you haven’t listened to a punk record since you stopped going to the Fireside in the mid 90’s, it’s probably time you revisit an old friend. This would probably be a good place to start.
  7. Daylight Robbery – Red Light EP (Residue Records) Residue
    This Chicago group take equal parts influence from early L.A. punk bands such as the Weirdos and X, as well as modern garage rock. Daylight Robbery have put out yet another fantastic 7” driven by female and male vocals exchanged in the urgent crust punk tradition layered over a west coast punk influence and a core rooted in midwestern lo-fi honesty.
  8. MK Ultra – Discography (Youth Attack Records) Interpunk
    Chicago by way of Dekalb veterans finally released a comprehensive discography. If you weren’t there, or you’d like to have all of your records in one handy place, this collection does all the foot work for you. Someone should do a commercial for this, in the style of those “Hits of the 70’s” collections. Brutal, socially conscious hardcore. It doesn’t get any better than this. This ends up towards the bottom of the list, only because it’s a collection. It doesn’t speak of the quality of the songs at all. Besides, this edges out a lot of records that came out this year that I really liked.
  9. Teenage Bottlerocket – They Came From The Shadows (Fat Wreck Chords) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Every time I think “this is probably the last Teenage Bottlerocket album I’ll ever buy, because I don’t think their next one will be as good,” I’m proven wrong. I know what you’re thinking: “how many bands that sound like a cross between the Ramones and Screeching Weasel can there possibly be and how can they be any good?” Well, I’d probably agree with you, but Bottlerocket continues to be the exception to the rule. They manage to continue to take a painfully derivative genre and reinvent it in interesting ways over and over again. If I were to pick a top ten fun albums of ’09, this would be number one.
  10. The Ergs! – That’s It… Bye! (Don Giovanni Records) Interpunk
    So the Ergs! called it quits in 2008, but released their final three songs in 2009. These are the final three songs they ever wrote, closing the book on the best pop punk band of the 2000’s. The Ergs! will be seen as this generation’s Screeching Weasel or Descendents and I can guarantee you that their influence will be seen in bands to come, no doubt. Just to make sure I say something about this record other than the facts, one of the best songs they ever wrote, “Anthem for a New Amanda” is on this record. Do yourselves a favor and check out their discography. You won’t be disappointed.
 

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Topics: best of 2009, lists

Shawn Campbell writesShawn Campbell’s Best of 2009

Throughout the month of December we’ll be posting lists of the best music of the year as determined by the volunteers that make CHIRP what it is. Today’s is from CHIRP’s President, Shawn Campbell.

  1. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Self-Titled (Slumberland) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I love a pop song. Make it a nice, fuzzy, lyrically-nasty-but-sweet-sounding pop song with male-female vocals, and that’s even better. The best C86 record since, if not 1986, at least the last Velocity Girl album.
  2. Phoenix – Wolfgang AMadeus Phoenix (Glass Note) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Proof that, at least occasionally, what’s good and what’s popular can collide. When I first heard them years ago, I never would’ve tagged this French band as a future Next Big Thing, but with bigger production and a strong set of songs, WAP is impossible to deny, whether you’re a giddy Twilight fan or a jaded indie rocker.
  3. C. Joynes – Revenants, Prodigies and the Restless Dead (Bo’ Weavil) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    A step outside my usual realm for this gorgeous, pastoral instrumental album from a young guitar player often compared to John Fahey. Perfect rainy day, time-to-think music.
  4. Kurt Vile – Childish Prodigy EP (Matador) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    From the moment I heard his name (and later, when I learned it was his REAL name), there was no way I was not going to like Kurt Vile. The fact that he’s got a bit of a lo-fi Springsteen thing going on doesn’t hurt either, what with my previous Springsteen guy, Craig Finn, letting me down by using the exact same “this means so much to me” stage patter for the last several years – but that’s a whole different story. Undeniable songs about going places and standing still.
  5. Rose Melberg – Homemade Ship (K Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    The onetime Tiger Trap and Softies frontwoman delivers another album full of quiet, lovely, wistful songs. No worse for it being exactly what we’ve come to expect from her. A good book, a warm afghan, a cup of hot chocolate.
  6. Hidden Cameras – Orphan (Arts & Crafts) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Another band whose sweet vocals and general twee sensibility run head on into some very, shall we say “mature,” lyrics, their self-identification as “gay church folk” is surprisingly on the money. With great big production that finally lives up to the band’s legendary live shows, this feels like the album Hidden Cameras have always wanted to make.
  7. St. Vincent – Actor (Matador) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Annie Clark is a mysterious creature, with her lovely voice, disturbing lyrics, mean guitar playing…sometimes seemingly detached, other times, on the verge of a complete breakdown. Some say “quirky,” but there’s too much darkness here for that label to fit. You find something new every time you listen to this record.
  8. Lily Allen – It’s Not Me, It’s You (Capitol) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Yeah, it’s glossy and got played on the Mix, but the songs are clever and hilarious, and the whole thing is a tremendous amount of fun.
  9. Passion Pit – Manners (Frenchkiss) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Another album that got a lot of exposure this year, and I liked it from the first time I heard it. Hey, I like to dance. I like to sing in a falsetto. What’s not to love?
  10. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Why There Are Mountains (Sister’s Den) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Yes, along with twee indie pop, I also like grand, sweeping guitar rock, and this debut from four young Staten Islanders offered up several, alongside plenty of shorter, more exuberant pop songs. Couldn’t really pull it off live in the middle of the afternoon at Pitchfork, but the record is solid and enjoyable, if not groundbreaking.
 

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Favorite boxed set
Big Star – Keep an Eye on the Sky (Rhino) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
The easy pick this year is the Beatles’ Mono Box, but this long-awaited Big Star set has gotten less press, and holds plenty of treasures. Early glimpses of Chris Bell, songs that have been floating around the Big Star collector world for ages, an entire previously-unreleased live set…far more rewarding to discover “new” Big Star tracks this way, than to live under the threat that the current incarnation of the band will decide to record another album.

Favorite Compilation
Various Artists – This LP Crashes Hard Drives (Numero Group)
The Numero Group can do no wrong, and the Record Store Day comp that they curated (actually consisting of one track from each of ten great specialist labels) was no exception. Not only is every track a standout (raising the question, can every track BE a standout?), but the packaging is top-notch as well, with a gatefold sleeve that holds posters, stickers, zines, and more goodies.

Favorite EP
Very Truly Yours – Reminders (Self-Released) MySpace
Local indie popsters opened for The Pains of Being Pure at Heart at Schuba’s this past spring, and garnered some positive attention following that show. This EP is full of charming, catchy songs featuring sweet boy-girl vocals. As you can see by now, it’s the kind of thing I am completely powerless against.

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Topics: best of 2009, lists

Mike Gibson writesMike Gibson’s Best of 2009

Throughout the month of December we’ll be posting lists of the best music of the year as determined by the volunteers that make CHIRP what it is. First up is Mike Gibson, CHIRP’s Director of Online Media.

  1. Windmill – Epcot Starfields (Friendly Fire Recordings) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Windmill’s sophomore album bridges the narrow gap between an optimistic future and a disappointing past. Science and technology create a majestic backdrop for tales we can all relate to; Tales of loss and disappointing everyone that is important to you. This delicate balance plays out perfectly in each song’s fragile composition. Simply put, I haven’t heard an album with this much depth in quite some time, and it quickly became the soundtrack of my summer commutes.
  2. Lemuria – Get Better (Asian Man Records) Amazon / iTunes
    It’s no secret that I’m both a huge fan of well executed pop-punk and band’s that can help redefine a genre in 30 minutes or less. Lemuria does that, and more, creating one of the most intimate and heartfelt listens of the year.
  3. Future of the Left – Travels With Myself and Another (4ad Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    If I were asked to sum up Future of the Left’s second album in just a word, it’d be explosive. One of the best live acts around (and one we were lucky enough to get not once, but twice this year here in Chicago) has done the volume and fury of their live show justice on Travels With Myself and Another.
  4. Ume – Sunshower EP (Sonablast Records) Amazon / iTunes
    This Austin-based trio has been putting out some of the loudest, most well thought out and perfectly executed rock this side of the Y2K scare. Lauren, Eric and Jeff may cringe when I say this, but if you’re looking for a snap judgment description for that sound Ume just clubbed your ears with, start with Kim-fronted Sonic Youth, turn the volume up a few notches, beef up the sound spectrum and you’re in the right zone. Here’s to hoping they get things together for their next full-length in 2010.
  5. Good Luck – Into Lake Griffy (No Idea Records) Amazon / iTunes
    Great songwriters don’t write in verse. They tell stories that weave their way through the rhythm and chords that surround them. Ginger Alford and Matty Pop Chart solidify their spots amongst the greatest with the debut album from their new band, Good Luck. Wordplay that’d make John K. Samson jealous with some of the catchiest, smile inducing melodies I heard all year.
  6. Converge – Axe To Fall (Epitaph Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Just before they went out on the road leaving the country speechless in an opening spot on the Dethklok tour, Converge put out what is arguably their most progressive and intense album album of the band’s career. There’s just no one out there in the metal/hardcore communities doing anything remotely resembling what these guys are doing. This, along with the band’s seminal Jane Doe will still be at the forefront of the genre a decade from now.
  7. Busdriver – Jhelli Beam (Anti Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    With it’s opening indictment of “conscious rap”, Busdriver puts it all on the table, and when the dust clears we’re left with the most groundbreaking hip-hop album of the year. With his speedy delivery, pounding bass, freeform jazz drums and one of the best samples of the year (think third grade piano lessons), no influence was left unscathed, leaving me simply speechless by the end.
  8. Amazon / iTunes
    Remember when you were a kid, spending your summers in the basement playing Nintendo all day with your friends? If you were anything like me, you used to make up your own words to the soundtracks that filled the day: Contra, Super Mario Bros., Gradius. Well, :( took it one step further by making a band out of it 20 years later. 8-bit pop-punk at it’s best.
  9. Strike Anywhere – Iron Front (Bridge 9 Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    People that say punk rock as a genre has become irrelevant haven’t listened to Strike Anywhere. More blast beat, sing-along, fists-in-the-air anthems that the band has been churning out now for the better part of a decade, but this time with a passion that hasn’t been seen since those first few albums. This one reminded me why i fell in love with the band all those years back.
  10. Tegan and Sara – Sainthood (Sire Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    This was a late edition to the list, but I’m an absolute sucker for crunchy synths, heartfelt lyrics and a great voice.
 

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Favorite album of the year that ACTUALLY came out in 2008
Fight Like Apes – And The Mystery of the Golden Medallion (Self-Released) Amazon / iTunes
Had this album come out in 2009, it’d have been the top of my list, for sure. Few albums combine melody, spazziness, restraint, poppiness, and crunch into something so fun and accessible. Now I just have to keep wishing they make their way to the US sometime next year.

Best result of a band reuniting in 2009
Coalesce – Ox (Relapse Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I was stunned when I heard that the marble-mouthed marauders would be reuniting in 2009. I was even more floored when I actually heard the result of the band’s time in the studio. Not to mentioned the follow-up Ox EP that just hit the streets a couple weeks ago.

Best “Anniversary” re-issue of 2009
Sunny Day Real Estate – Diary (Sub Pop Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
The 10th anniversary of “emo’s finest moment” saw the remaster/reissue of this classic with a fuller sound/bonus tracks and a nationwide tour proving that the band hasn’t missed a beat. (We’ll of course ignore those final couple of albums, sigh…)

Most pleasant surprise of 2009
Weezer – Raditude (Geffen Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Listen, I’m just as shocked as you are. From the piss-poor post-Pinkerton track record to the half-assed cover art and absolutely ridiculous song titles (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To I Want You To? Really? That’s what you’ve got for us Rivers?) this album had failure written all over it. But you know what? I can’t stop listening to it. While the album will never match the Matt Sharp era output, it gets back to what Weezer does best, which is taking all the formulas and clichés of modern pop music and turning them on their head. Give it a chance. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Best album from a fake band that is better than most real bands
Dethklok – The Dethalbum II (WIlliams Street) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Who’d have thought that a cliché metal band created as the subject of a late-night cartoon would not only release one of the most crushing albums of the year, but also that they’d be the headliners for hands down the best show of 2009. If you got a chance to catch Dethklok as they toured the US this summer with Mastadon, High on Fire and Converge then you too would know that Brendan Small and Gene Holgan have more than enough chops to stand out in front of the novelty and crush your skulls in the process.

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Topics: best of 2009, lists

Mike Bennett writesiPod/MP3 Friday Shuffle — Happy Birthday Mike D. Edition

You’ve got to fight for your right to birthday party!  Hey ladies (and gents), it’s a Beastie Boy b-boy b-day for Mike D.  So get out your iPod/iTunes/MP3 player, put it on shuffle, then hold it now hit it, and share the first 10 tunes that come up with everyone.

  1. Mandy Barnett — Falling Falling Falling (I’ve Got A Right To Cry): Mandy Barnett is a wonderful country vocalist who has, unfortunately, not recorded much.  She put out a couple of records back in the ‘90s, but once those didn’t hit, she earns her dough playing Patsy Cline in a musical revue, and sometimes appearing at the Grand Ole Opry.  And Patsy Cline is certainly one of the reference points.  Mandy is a natural classic country singer.  On this album, she works with Nashville session pros, and the result is a time warp — this loping honky-tonk number sounds like it could have come out in 1965.
  2. Mott The Hoople — Crash Street Kidds (The Ballad Of Mott: A Retrospective):*  Mott is often lumped in with the ‘70s Brit glam rockers, primarily due to their association with David Bowie, who wrote their breakthrough song, “All the Young Dudes”.  But, for the most part, Mott didn’t have a glam sound.  The bands songs were more in line with Bob Dylan and The Faces.  They also had a proto-heavy metal side, more evident on their earliest work.  This song edges towards that, powered by a crunchy guitar riff.  The song also has a surprising use of dynamics, dropping into silence before launching into some more guitar tomfoolery.
  3. Dogmatics — MTV O.D. (1981-86):  In the wake of punk, there were bands all over America that played basic rock, but with a snotty edge.  Once a while, a band like that became The Replacements.  More often, the band was like Dogmatics.  This music isn’t quite as retro as garage rock, but it works traditional elements in a fresh way.  The band had relatively interesting lyrics, as on this slow bluesy dirge which laments a life wasted watching Quiet Riot and Martha Quinn for hours on end.
  4. John Hiatt — I Could Use An Angel (All Of The Sudden):  Hiatt is best known as a Adult Alternative pioneer, with a gruff voice and clever rootsy tunes.  Before he broke through with Bring The Family in 1987, Hiatt was actually positioned as an American alternative to Elvis Costello, Graham Parker and Joe Jackson.  His third and fourth records were very much in the Costello mode, but with thin production.  That wasn’t a problem for his Geffen Records debut.  Tony Visconti (production credits include David Bowie, T. Rex, Sparks, The Boomtown Rats) provided lush, dense backing for Hiatt’s snide, tense tunes.  This is one of the best songs on the album, a propulsive slice of drama.
  5. Prince — Dirty Mind (Dirty Mind):  The early-‘80s were such a rich period musically, because so many artists were disregarding genre boundaries and bringing different styles together.  Prince certainly did his part, bringing together his deep understanding of R & B and funk with the keyboard oriented sounds of the so-called New Wave.  This produced fabulous pop music.  I think one of the secrets is that the trebly keyboards and computer drums mixed with a heavier bottom that made Prince’s sturdy songs all the more appealing.  This song works a constant chilly rhythm with just enough melody to make it work.
  6. LCD Soundsystem — Thrills (LCD Soundsystem):  I’m sure that somewhere in the world, there is an LCD Soundsystem backlash, but I haven’t seen it.  Both LCD albums have been universally acclaimed.  James Murphy has mastered a modern electronic dance music vocabulary, but he has a strong sense of history, so influences like Kraftwerk, David Bowie, Television and The Fall, just to name a few, pop up in his work.  This song is a good fit after the Prince tune, as it also works a single rhythm to death, but Murphy layers the various percussive sounds and adds other variations to keep this lesser cut fairly interesting.
  7. Hepcat — Mama Used To Say (Right On Time):  This L.A. band played a more traditional R & B inflected version of ska than many of punkier ska outfits of the ‘90s.  This really is more of a pure reggae number, with bright horns and sunny vocals. Singer Alex Desert was in the supporting cast of the shockingly long lived Ted Danson sitcom Becker.
  8. The Young Nashvillians — Eagle Man (The Sad Smiles Of The Young Nashvillians):  A lot of high school and college students got together to jam in basements throughout America.  Some cut their teeth on “Gloria” or “2112”.  Others wrote silly songs, inspired by some of the post-punk and New Wave sounds of the time.  Most never recorded those songs, but The Young Nashvillians were discovered by members of The White Animals, a popular Nashville band of the early-‘80s, and they put out a couple of records, compiled onto one CD.  The playing is suspect in spots, but, for the most part, it’s good enough.  The songs are inspired fun.  This is somewhere between white boy funk and The B-52s, with some relatively ambitious harmony vocals.  Good stuff.
  9. The Beach Boys — Girl Don’t Tell Me (Today!/Summer Days and Summer Nights):  This is one of those pre-Pet Sounds songs that indicated what a terrific composer Brian Wilson was.  This is an mid-tempo acoustic love lament that sounds simple on the surface, but is full of sophisticated melodic tricks.  At different points, the melody rises and falls, in such an unconventional fashion, but without sounding dissonant or odd.  This wasn’t a major hit for The Beach Boys, but it ranks among their best songs.
  10. Peggy Lee — Don’t Smoke In Bed (Miss Peggy Lee):  I think Peggy Lee has one of the sexiest voices ever.  It’s honeyed and enticing, mixing a sweetness with a knowing edge.  Her readings of lyrics are always brilliant.  She captures the essence of the song.  On this break up tune, she balances the sadness of leaving a relationship with the knowledge that she is doing the right thing.  I’m no expert on torch and saloon singers, but that won’t stop me from declaring that next to Sinatra, Peggy Lee was the best pop singer of the pre-rock ‘n’ roll era.

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Mike Bennett writesiPod/MP3 Friday Shuffle — Happy Birthday Jack Elam Edition

It’s another Friday, and this time, we celebrate the birthday of the late character actor, who appeared in countless Westerns full of menace, and a lazy eye.  In ol’ Jack’s honor, grab your iPod/iTunes/MP3 player, hit shuffle, and share the first 10 tunes that come up.

  1. Morphine — The Jury (Yes): This Boston’s trio’s film noir music has aged really well.  The late Mark Sandman was like Tom Waits’ Boston cousin, and the combination of Sandman’s two string bass, cocktail drums and saxophone made for late night decadent magic.  This is a particularly atmospheric outing, with Sandman narrating instead of singing over disembodied sax wailing.
  2. Slow Jets — Up The Country (Good Morning, Stars): More oddball oblong rock along the lines of Big Dipper and Archers of Loaf, with a bit of a Wire influence creeping in.  Catchy, in a real offbeat way.
  3. The Rascals — Carry Me Back (Anthology 1965-1972): Why have these guys fallen off the radar when great ’60s bands are discussed?  The Rascals were a terrific white R & B band.  “Good Lovin’” and “Groovin’” were just the tip of the iceberg. This is a gospel inflected workout that a young Reginald Dwight probably studied a whole lot before changing his name to Elton John.
  4. *The Hollies — Searchin’ (30th Anniversary Collection): Speaking of great ’60s bands, while The Hollies deserve their glory for the amazing harmony laced pop hits they unleashed a year or two after this Coasters cover, they were a pretty fun British Invasion rock ‘n’ roll band before hitting their stride.
  5. Neko Case — Soulful Shade of Blue (The Tigers Have Spoken): Neko’s work has been so consistently high quality, evaluating her most recent albums is a matter of noting incremental progress.  On this live effort, what is most noticeable is that things twang just a bit more than the more Western type sounds on her last couple of studio efforts.  This isn’t a bad thing at all.  It’s nice to know that she won’t abandon the country tuneage that she made her reputation on.
  6. Split Enz — Wail (Corroboree): Early Split Enz had a bit of a prog-pop vibe, with influences such as Roxy Music (whose Phil Manzanera produced the second album) and Genesis.  Even as the band went to a more overtly pop sound that dovetailed nicely with the whole New Wave thang, they never totally abandoned some grander sounds, primarily thanks to keyboardist Eddie Rayner, who composed this instrumental.  Generally, I find instrumentals to be time wasters between the “real” songs with vocals, but Rayner’s contributions never disrupted the flow of the Enz’s albums.
  7. Betty Wright — Clean Up Woman (Can You Dig It?: The ’70s Soul Experience): This was a swell ’70s soul hit with a bright vocal by Ms. Wright.  She sings of the perils of neglecting her man — the clean up woman swept in and swept him away.  The syncopated bluesy lead guitar licks and horns sound fantastic.
  8. Cheap Trick — If You Want My Love (One On One): Cheap Trick was in the most peculiar position in the early-‘80s:* they were a big hit rock band with roots in The Beatles, The Who and The Move, surrounded by the likes of REO Speedwagon, Journey and Foreigner.  It’s no wonder they couldn’t sustain their commercial success.  While crap like Journey’s “Faithfully” and REO’s “Keep on Loving You” hit big, this substantially less overblown ballad (in the vein of ELO and John Lennon) couldn’t dent the charts.  This has two or three distinct melodic hooks and is one of the first exhibits in the “Robin Zander is one of the greatest rock vocalist ever” file, as he shows off his range and power, without ever showing off.
  9. The Sun — Demons (Did Your Mother Tell You?): This Ohio band put out two really good EPs of indie pop-rock back in the early part of this decade, before releasing their debut on DVD, which had to be one of the dumbest ideas ever.  Stylistically, their music was mix of scruffy Replacements rock, garage rock, The Clash with a bit of lighter melodic material, like this tender acoustic guitar number.  The band didn’t have a distinctive personality, but everything it did, it did quite well.  Until they put out their first full length on a DVD
  10. Tangiers — Your Colour (Never Bring You Pleasure): This Canadian duo put their own twist on post-punk revivalism, falling somewhere in between The Strokes and Spoon with tense songs that resolve in memorable choruses.  The Velvet Underground’s inspiration looms over everything, but I can also hear Modern Lovers, Pixies, Comsat Angels, Elvis Costello & The Attractions and others lurking in the mix.  This is the second of the band’s three albums, and the band’s best, where every song offered something extra.

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Mike Bennett writesiPod/MP3 Friday Shuffle — War of the Worlds Edition

What’s the iPod/MP3 Shuffle? It’s just a way to get people to share music and foster some discussion. I started doing this on my Facebook page a while back and it’s been great seeing friends exchange comments on each others lists. Every Friday, I get out my 120 GB iPod (which has about 24,000 songs now), hit shuffle and write about the first 10 songs that come up. Sometimes the 10 songs are kind of conventional, sometimes there’s a lot of obscure stuff. So check mine out and please add your own shuffle or discuss other people’s shuffles!

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It was 71 years ago that Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre scared the living you-know-what out of everyone with a radio production of H.G. Wells’ War Of The Worlds that fooled some people into thinking that Martians really were invading Earth. In honor of this Grade A chicanery, grab your iPod/iTunes/MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 tunes that come up with everyone.

  1. D.O.A. — World War 3 (The Dawning Of A New Era):  This is old style punk from this Canadian band.  The music is pretty basic, made for raising one’s fist in the air, with the requisite angry left wing political stance.  This sound is dated, but the feelings and attitude still translate.
  2. Elvis Costello & The Attractions — Brown to Blue (Almost Blue):  This is my favorite song from Elvis’s country album from way back when.  I think this was originally by George Jones.  It’s a pretty classic honky-tonk tune — “you changed your name from Brown to Jones/and mine from Brown to Blue.”  This album was produced by Billy Sherrill, an architect of the ’60s Nashville Countrypolitan sound.  Sherrill was best known for producing Tammy Wynette.  The Attractions fit uncomfortably with standard country motifs.  And Elvis is not anyone’s idea of a classic country singer, but on this track, and a few others, he gets the emotions underlying the clever lyrics, and connects pretty well.
  3. Nouvelle Vague — Friday Night Saturday Morning (Nouvelle Vague):  Yes, this French band, who does mellow bossa nova versions of old punk and new wave songs, is a novelty.  But, for the most part, they do a good job of capturing something in each song they choose.  This Specials song was a B-side of their classic “Ghost Town” single.  Unlike some of their interpretations, this song isn’t recast too much.  Terry Hall was a hangdog loser on the original, and now it’s a cute French gal (I’ve seen them live — she’s a looker) doing the same thing.  It still works.
  4. Lush — Hey Hey Helen (Gala):  Lush worked with Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins, who were a big influence on the band’s sound.  They combined that airy, floaty Cocteau thing with some shoegazer guitars and the winsome harmony vocals of Emma Anderson and (major crush object) Miki Berenyi.  I think this was an Abba song.  It certainly sounds like it could have been.
  5. The Minutemen — Swing to the Right (Post-Mersh, Vol. 3): A short buzzing live track from what may be the greatest American rock band ever.  They were lumped in with punk, but incorporated funk, jazz, CCR and so many other things into their music.  But this is a quick punk riff type of tune.
  6. Buddy Holly — Peggy Sue Got Married (The Buddy Holly Collection):  I wonder if Buddy would have dropped some of his vocal affectations if he hadn’t died so young.  This sequel to one of his best known songs has some rock ‘n’ roll twang, but also has a little bit of a Latin flavor.  A good, but not great, Holly tune.
  7. Robert Gordon — Sea Cruise (Red Hot 1977-1981):  Gordon was an early rockabilly revivalist, down to the duck’s ass haircut.  He was generally reviled by mainstream rock critics.  He wasn’t authentic enough.  Perhaps.  But he had a really good voice and worked with ace guitarists like Chris Spedding and the legendary Link Wray.  This is a rocked up version of Frankie Ford’s one big hit.
  8. k-os — B-Boy Stance (Joyful Rebellion): This Toronto hip-hop artist seems to come from the school of acts like A Tribe Called Quest, as his songs are pretty introspective.  This was the first single off this album, and the rhythm track is sample heavy and constantly moving, with two big hooks in the chorus.  The production is creative, and when he breaks into the flamenco styled middle eight, you get the idea that k-os isn’t going to play by anybody’s rules.  His first three albums are all worthwhile.
  9. XTC — This is the Way (Drums & Wires):  This is a lesser track from the band’s first album with guitarist Dave Gregory replacing keyboardist Barry Andrews, who went on to form Shriekback.  This almost sounds like it was written for one of the two prior albums, as it has a bit of that herky-jerk sound.  But they slow it down just a bit, and then throw in this languid pretty instrumental break coming out of each chorus that is totally cool.  A lesser XTC track is better than about 96% of everything else out there.
  10. The Morrells — Beatnik (The Morrells Anthology “Live”):  This ’50s style instrumental is a showcase for guitarist D. Clinton Thompson.  It’s not quite surf rock, not quite Duane Eddy or Link Wray.  But it’s insinuating.  This comes from a limited edition 4 CD set with four full concert recordings of this Springfield, Missouri bar band.

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Mike Bennett writesiPod/MP3 Friday Shuffle — 51 Years of Smurfs Edition

What’s the iPod/MP3 Shuffle? It’s just a way to get people to share music and foster some discussion. I started doing this on my Facebook page a while back and it’s been great seeing friends exchange comments on each others lists. Every Friday, I get out my 120 GB iPod (which has about 24,000 songs now), hit shuffle and write about the first 10 songs that come up. Sometimes the 10 songs are kind of conventional, sometimes there’s a lot of obscure stuff. So check mine out and please add your own shuffle or discuss other people’s shuffles!

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It was 51 years ago that the French devised an evil plan to get Americans to spend money on a cutesy cartoon. Yes, the Smurfs made their first appearance in a comic book. On another note, it was eight years ago that Apple introduced the iPod. So there are two good reasons for you to get your iPod/iTunes/MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 tunes that come up with everybody in Internetland:

  1. The Dentists — My Heart Is Like a Town You Moved Away From (Deep Six): The Dentists were an ’80s British indie pop band who almost everyone says got worse when they signed to a major. This basically translates as:* the music became a bit more slick and professional, as the songs were always catchy. I have had very little exposure to the band’s early stuff, so I only have to go on their two U.S. major label albums, and they contain lots of well crafted, jangly pop songs with clever lyrics, as indicated by the title of this song. It’s not all melancholy jangle, there’s a nice crunchy guitar instrumental break.
  2. The Virgin-Whore Complex — Succumb (Succumb): This is the type of band that would weave in excerpts of the Zodiac Killer’s letters into a song. In fact, they actually did this on a different song on this album. The basic approach is arch pop songs with decadent or macabre song writing. This song has a strummed mandolin (or is it a ukelele?) with mysterious keyboard sounds in the background, while the singer sketches out some bizarre scenarios that one should just give in to.
  3. The Ramones — Danny Says (End Of The Century): For some, this Phil Spector produced album is when the Ramones jumped the shark. While this album doesn’t rank up with the band’s first four classics, this was an album that the Ramones had to make. The band’s whole identity was based on taking classic ’60s pop-rock forms and playing them in speedy rocked up fashion. Why not try to just make real ’60s styled pop with one of the masters? The songwriting wasn’t consistent, but there were some songs that were truly Spector-worthy, and this charmer would have sounded great with Ronnie Spector or Darlene Love doing the lead vocal. Not that Joey doesn’t sound swell on this.
  4. David Garza — This Euphoria (This Euphoria): Garza is a Texas rocker who developed a big regional following. On his major label debut, he mixed big pop hooks with flights of fancy. On this song, he breaks out the falsetto on a psychedelic-pop number that shows that all of his years of making homemade recordings had made him quite the producer. The layers of guitars and keyboards and the use of various reverb and panning effects is very impressive. He was probably one big break away from becoming a star.
  5. The Undertones — Family Entertainment (The Undertones): The sugar coated spunky, punky pop of The Undertones has rarely been replicated. They fell somewhere between Ramones and Buzzcocks, probably leaning a bit more towards the latter, with so many of their songs driven by catchy lead guitar parts. And there’s also the unique and endearing lead vocals of Feargel Sharkey and, on this track, the great sing along chorus and the synchopated Gary Glitter style drum beats.
  6. Johnny Cash — Ring Of Fire (The Legend): Listening to this on headphones is a trip. The mariachi horns, backing vocals and Johnny’s plucked guitar are on the left channel, while his vocal is on both sides, and the drums, bass and the other guitar part are on the right. Oh, and there’s a piano on the right side too.
  7. The Living End — Roll On (Roll On): This Aussie punk band comes off like a cross between the early Clash and Green Day. Their gimmick is that their bass player plays a stand up bass, and sometimes they throw in a bit of rockabilly. But for the most part, this is full of big fat melodic guitar riffs, non-specific “political” lyrics, and choruses that usually involve a bit of group shouting. This is pretty rousing.
  8. Simon & Garfunkel — Kathy’s Song (Old Friends): For whatever reason, Simon & Garfunkel doesn’t seem to get bandied about as a hip ’60s influence, as opposed to let’s say The Kinks or The Zombies. But Paul Simon wrote so many great songs. He had the ’50s rock and pop background, but was also attuned to the ’60s folk scene. He was at the forefront of the blending of folk and pop (along with The Byrds, Donovan, The Beatles and others) and wrote some of the best lyrics of the era. This is pretty much a straight folk tune, with Art Garfunkel apparently taking a bathroom break.
  9. The Morells — Don’t Let Your Baby Buy a Car (The Morells): From the first come back album from this classic Springfield, Missouri roadhouse band. The Morells were on par with NRBQ, playing rock ‘n’ roll, country, R & B, power pop, and anything else that’s rootsy. This is a jaunty mid-tempo honky tonk number with Uncle Lou Whitney telling a cautionary tale (“cause there she goes/and there you are.”).
  10. Yo La Tengo — Sometimes I Don’t Get You (I Am Not Afraid Of You and I Will Beat Your Ass): This 2006 YLT release is bookended by droning Velvet Underground inspired numbers and in between, the band indulges in a variety of different styles. This is a tender ballad with Ira Kaplan breaking out his falsetto. The song definitely has a bit of a soul vibe, though it’s more twee soul than deep soul.

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Mike Bennett writesiPod/MP3 Friday Shuffle — Happy Birthday Nico Edition

What’s the iPod/MP3 Shuffle? It’s just a way to get people to share music and foster some discussion. I started doing this on my Facebook page a while back and it’s been great seeing friends exchange comments on each others lists. Every Friday, I get out my 120 GB iPod (which has about 24,000 songs now), hit shuffle and write about the first 10 songs that come up. Sometimes the 10 songs are kind of conventional, sometimes there’s a lot of obscure stuff. So check mine out and please add your own shuffle or discuss other people’s shuffles!

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Everybody knows that she was a femme fatale — the late, great Nico, whose model-tastic looks and chilly vocals added a sophisticated yet decadent dimension to the early work of the Velvet Underground. In her honor, let’s celebrate by grabbing your iPod/iTunes/MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 tunes that come up (no cheating!) with everyone!

  1. Madness — The Sun and the Rain (Ultimate Collection): This is majestic, ’60s Beatles/Kinks/Move inspired Brit-pop balladry at its best.  This came out in America on the Keep Moving album, but I don’t think it was included on the British version.  This is keyed by the piano and is augmented by horns and strings, propelling this song into lush pop heaven.  There isn’t a moment on this song that isn’t melodically appealing and it ranks up there with the best of this brilliant band.
  2. Stevie Wonder — Girl Blue (Music Of My Mind): I’m still in catch up mode on Stevie’s amazing run of ’70s albums.  This song combines a pretty melody that has been stretched out, and has a bit of a psychedelic vibe to it.  Not only is Stevie’s vocal a bit distorted, but he sings over spare ornamentation with lots of creative drumming used to fill in the ample sonic space.  He could have tightened this up into a happy pop song, but instead decided to go for something more textured.
  3. The Model Rockets — The Dress Up Girls (Tell The Kids The Cops Are Here): This Seattle band plays fun jangly pop rock with whimsical lyrics.  This music touches on pub rock, power pop and some of the ’60s British Invasion.  Nothing earth shattering, but it raises a smile.
  4. The Jam — Private Hell (Direction, Reaction, Creation): They started out as a punked up Mod band, and really progressed so much.  This song, originally on Setting Sons, matches classic Townshend/Davies quality pop craft with a doomy, post-punkish approach in the verses.  Rick Buckler lays down a steady beat, Paul Weller plays atmospheric guitar chords, and Bruce Foxton is a bass fiend on this song, providing clever melodic and rhythmic accents.  This is a song The Stone Roses had to have listened to a lot.
  5. The Pointed Sticks — Somebody’s Mom (Waiting For The Real Thing): This late-‘70s Vancouver punk-pop band comes with the endorsement of Jack Rabid of The Big Takeover Magazine.  They offer a different approach than either Buzzcocks or The Undertones, while having similar virtues.  This song is angular and kind of new wavey.  And, compared to a lot of their material, it is in the vein of Buzzcocks and Wire, with the clipped guitar line.
  6. Robyn Hitchcock — The Devil’s Radio (Moss Elixir): Robyn is becoming a shuffle regular.  This is off my favorite of his solo records.  This album isn’t as stripped down as the previous Eye, but it had Robyn going back to the basics, stripping some of the gloss that was on the last couple of albums he did with The Egyptians.  This is simply a very inviting folkie tune, with just the right amount ornamentation to supplement Robyn’s voice and guitar.
  7. Harry Nilsson — Cuddly Toy (Legendary Harry Nilsson): This frothy pop concoction was first recorded by The Monkees, a bouncy ditty that was tailor made for the voice of Davy Jones.  Nilsson’s version isn’t nearly as produced, but the strength of the song is apparent.  The fact that this song is dissing a groupie for having sex with a whole lot of guys is masked by the seemingly innocent metaphors used by Nilsson (“You’re not the only choo choo train/who was left out in the rain/the day after Santa came.”) makes it quite disturbing.
  8. Sparks — Academy Award Performance (Number One In Heaven): This 1979 album is most influential album that nobody has ever heard of.   At an artistic and commercial crossroads, Ron and Russell Mael heard Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” and immediately sought out the track’s producer, Giorgio Moroder.  The three collaborated on what was an historic electronic dance album.  The combination of sequenced electronics, heavy BPMs and Russell Mael’s soaring falsetto announced the beginning of Hi-NRG dance music and provided inspiration for countless synth-pop duos like Pet Shop Boys and Erasure, and singers like Jimmy Sommerville of Bronski Beat. This pulsating track is about sexual role playing and faking orgasm.  Really.
  9. The Fall — Hey! Student (Middle Class Revolt): This was an old Fall song (1977’s “Hey Fascist”) revived and rewritten a bit for their 1994 Middle Class Revolt album.  This brings back memories of the band’s creaky take on rockabilly, but it’s a little bit faster and a little bit more forceful.  And Mark E. Smith is at the forefront, spitting out the lyrics with his patented sneer.
  10. Ultimate Fakebook — Soaked In Cinnamon (This Will Be Laughing Week): This Kansas band was fun to see live — the singer was a bespectacled geeky looking sort, while the rhythm section looked like the jocks who would have beaten him up freshman year in high school.  This album was released on an indie and got picked up by a major.  I’m sure the thought is that they could tap into the same audience as Weezer.  That’s a facile comparison, but this is a band that is clearly informed by The Replacements and Cheap Trick.  This song has a real strong guitar riff, which combines with a neck snapping stop-start rhythm, with a great melody to boot.

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CHIRP DJ writesSide A, Side B: Making the Perfect Mix

With the advent of compact discs, and now MP3s, the cassette tape went the way of the dinosaur. And, with it, went the mixed tape. Made of an “A” side and a “B” side, the mixed tape provided music lovers with the opportunity to create a sonic theater of sentiment complete with an intermission. Having two sides made it possible to fit two themes onto one tape, to make two full acts of music and to draw the crescendo of the tape out in a dramatic way.

It is easier, of course, to make a mix on a cd. All that is needed is a computer and a burner and a mix can be made in less than ten minutes. Tapes required elbow grease. Pulling the tapes you wanted to dub, searching for the tracks. Re-taping it if the sound didn’t come out right the first time, and trying to get the timing just right, so that no songs got cut off but also trying to avoid minutes of blank tape at the end of a side. I have fond memories of spending nights hunched over my tape deck, meticulously making mixes for friends (“Tori Amos Essentials”, “Good Going Out Tape”, “Girls!”) and for partners (“Love/Lust”, “Make Out Mix”, “You, Me, Rock”). Getting a handmade mixed tape was the best gift one could get. There was such an excitement in throwing it in your tape player and putting on your headphones, wondering what the next song, and the next side, would be.

In 2009, it is rare to find someone with a tape player. The last time I made a mixed tape was in 2003, and then subsequently had to buy my boyfriend a tape player to play it on. Cds are the wave of the future, but how can we make them just as good as the old standard, the mixed tape? And what just plain makes a good mix?

  • Shorten the sentiment, or double up: Abbreviate the message that you want to send, or make two discs and emphasize that they should be listened to in succession. After a recent trying time, my best friend made a set, with one disc carrying the theme of heartbreak and sorrow; the other was full of songs about redemption and survival. Trying to fit all of that on one disc could have been too much – the story was better told on “sides”, and it worked perfectly.
  • Know your audience: Even if you are making a mix for a specific occasion, like a holiday or a celebration, pay attention to what your listener likes. If they love noisy rock, dig around for Christmas song covers instead of putting traditional standards on their Xmas Jams 2009 cd. Customize the music to their specific tastes, even if those aren’t necessarily the songs you want to hear. And use caution when making a mix for a new sweetie. Songs that use the words “love” and “forever” could be taken the wrong way. Keeping all of this in mind…
  • Surprise them: Mixes are a great way to expand someone’s musical knowledge. Use the bands you know they love as a spring board for artists they might be unfamiliar with. Throw in a few groups that they know as anchors, but perhaps include b-sides instead of their more popular songs. Don’t forget liner notes so that they know what the wonderful new tunes you gifted them with are!

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Mike Bennett writesiPod/MP3 Friday Shuffle — Happy Birthday Jacques Tati Edition

What’s the iPod/MP3 Shuffle? It’s just a way to get people to share music and foster some discussion. I started doing this on my Facebook page a while back and it’s been great seeing friends exchange comments on each others lists. Every Friday, I get out my 120 GB iPod (which has about 24,000 songs now), hit shuffle and write about the first 10 songs that come up. Sometimes the 10 songs are kind of conventional, sometimes there’s a lot of obscure stuff. So check mine out and please add your own shuffle or discuss other people’s shuffles!

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Let’s pay tribute to the intricate comic genius of Frenchman Jacques Tati, the man behind Monsieur Hulot. I’m not sure how Tati would view the iPod, as a man who parodied technology, but I’m sure he would have had a great shuffle. And I’m sure you do too. So please grab your iPod/iTunes/MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 tunes that come up. Here’s mine:

  1. Black Sabbath — Junior’s Eyes (Never Say Die): Never Say Die is my favorite Black Sabbath album.  I’m one of 17 people on the planet who share this notion.  Ozzy Osbourne had already nearly left the band, but came back for this finale.  What some see as disjointed and half-hearted sounds to me like the band stretching out a bit.  This is a slower atmospheric number with a big chorus.  Iommi plays some fuzztoned jazz-blues in the verses before riffing more heavily elsewhere. 
  2. The Byrds — I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better (Mr. Tambourine Man):  This is a quintessential jangle rocker, with the 12-string guitar simply glistening.  The harmonies are sweet too.  Not a hit single, but one of The Byrds’ best pop numbers. 
  3. Beulah — Popular Mechanics For Lovers (The Coast Is Never Clear):  This band recorded for the Elephant 6 label, briefly, but wasn’t a retro ’60s psych outfit. Instead, they were one of the better late-‘90s indie pop band, playing music that was bouncy and uplifting, but with normal guy vocals and sort of clever lyrics.  This is a nice song, but not one of the best on this album. 
  4. Orchestral Manouevres In The Dark — Stanlow (Organisation):  OMD had a few American hits with frothy light synth-pop songs.  But the band’s early stuff had so much more texture and depth.   Yes, they had their share of hooky singles, but even those had chilly atmospheres and cool influences, like The Velvet Underground.  This album closer is ominous and pretty, and shows how much the band had grown sonically.  They learned some lessons from Kraftwerk on how to sequence the synths, and then added some touching melodies. 
  5. Petula Clark — Things Go Better With Coke (Things Go Better With Coke):  This is an excellent ’60s Coca-Cola ad, where they manage to meld the renowned Coke jingle with Clark’s biggest hit, “Downtown”.   
  6. The Association — Names, Tags, Numbers & Labels (Just The Right Sound: The Association Anthology):*  Wow, my iPod is on ’60s kick today.  Best known for lightweight fare like “Windy” and “Cherish”, The Association basically only did lightweight fare in that vein.  This is soft pop of the highest order, with buttery melodies, cascading harmonies and big crescendos.  This song also sports a great strings-and-brass arrangement. 
  7. Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3 — Hurry For The Sky (Goodnight Oslo): The second Hitchcock album with the Venus 3 is a comfortable affair.  Hitchcock sounds relaxed and the songs are pretty good.  This song is all strumming acoustics and an ebbing and rolling rhythm.  This song is more to the Dylan side of Robyn than the Syd Barrett side.  More than 30 years after The Soft Boys got him started, he can still deliver ace tunes like this one. 
  8. A House — Hay When The Sun Shines (On Our Big Fat Merry-Go-Round):  From this incredibly underrated Irish band’s debut.  The band’s early music was folky Brit indie pop in the vein of James and Hellfire Sermons.  But A House had extra vigor, extra brio, extra sarcasm.  David Couse wasn’t always on key, but he had a lot to say and said it loud.  This song clatters around until the instrumental break after the second chorus, and from there, it’s like a locomotive running off the tracks. 
  9. Joy Division — Passover (Permanent): A spooky Joy Division song (yes, that describes many of them).  It’s mid-tempo, with the drums driving everything, so that the Bernard Sumner’s guitar and Peter Hook’s bass provide decoration.  Ian Curtis’s voice seems to come out of the depths of the Earth, or his tormented psyche.  These guys were so influential, but no one seems to have topped them.
  10. Donovan — Hurdy Gurdy Man (Love Is Hot, Truth Is Molten): One of Donovan’s better known hits.  For a truly hippy dippy guy, he made some nice forays into psychedelia.  His fey vocals are offset by some pretty stinging guitar and lively drumming. 

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Topics: ipod, lists

Mike Bennett writesiPod/MP3 Friday Shuffle — Happy Birthday Groucho Marx Edition

What’s the iPod/MP3 Shuffle? It’s just a way to get people to share music and foster some discussion. I started doing this on my Facebook page a while back and it’s been great seeing friends exchange comments on each others lists. Every Friday, I get out my 120 GB iPod (which has about 24,000 songs now), hit shuffle and write about the first 10 songs that come up. Sometimes the 10 songs are kind of conventional, sometimes there’s a lot of obscure stuff. So check mine out and please add your own shuffle or discuss other people’s shuffles!

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Good morning! Here in Chicago, the Goodman Theater is reviving The Marx Brothers’ Broadway play Animal Crackers. And today is Groucho Marx’s birthday. Remember, as Groucho once said, “The Lord Alps those who Alps themselves.” — so Alp yourself and everyone else by grabbing your iPod/iTunes/MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 tunes that come up with everyone else.

  1. Jerry Lee Lewis — What’d I Say? (18 Original Sun Greatest Hits): This is The Killer’s take on the song made famous by Ray Charles. This is surprisingly subdued, as if even Jerry knew that his version couldn’t hold a candle to The Genius’s version. There’s a good ad lib here or there, but it’s merely alright.
  2. King Crimson — Walking On Air (Thrak): I really need to explore King Crimson. All I have is a couple latter day albums that I got as promos. While on Virgin Records, the band had a double trio format (a pair of guitarists, bassists and drummers) which was interesting but not as interesting as the three ’80s albums the band did for Warners or its seminal ’70s work. Regardless, Crimson was less overblown than most prog-rockers and that was especially true on any of the albums Adrian Belew appeared on, as he always made sure there were a few songs to balance Robert Fripp’s theoretical constructions. This is one of those songs, which falls somewhere between The Beatles and Talking Heads. Pretty.
  3. Sweet — Little Willy (Funny How Sweet Co-Co Can Be): This is a bonus track on the first full length album by Sweet. The first record I ever bought was “Ballroom Blitz” and ever since then, I’ve always been a fan. The band’s early records were massive bubblegum hits written by Mike Chapman (with the financial assistance of Nicky Chinn, who got co-credit). This was the band’s first U.S. Top 40 hit and it still gets played on oldies radio today. It’s like The Archies on steroids. Soon after this, Chapman began to pen harder rockers that fit in with the glam rock craze sweeping the nation that were more in line with the songs the band was writing. That’s when Sweet went from fun to pretty darned great.
  4. To My Boy — The Grid (Messages): I got his album based on the sticker affixed to it by a Reckless Records employee. To My Boy is a throwback to ’80s Brit synth pop, a la OMD, early Depeche Mode, Erasure, Blancmange and others. If those bands sloshed down a case or two of Red Bull. They mix in some guitars with the hi-NRG synth stuff and every song has at least one killer hook. It’s been a few years since this came out — I should see if they ever followed this up.
  5. Echobelly — Today Tomorrow Sometime Never (Everyone’s Got One): Echobelly was a ’90s Britpop band fronted by Sonya Aurora Madan, an attractive lady of Indian descent who had really long fingers (that’s what I remember from seeing them live). Musically, they were two parts Blondie, one part Suede and one part The Smiths. This was the first cut on the band’s debut album and it holds up very well today. Madan had a lot of personality, the song is really driving, and the playing is quite spirited.
  6. Eleventh Dream Day — Bomb The Mars Hotel (Beet): Of all of the bands that had a chance to really break during the beginning of the alt-rock era, Chicago’s own Eleventh Dream Day was the most influenced by Neil Young. Rick Rizzo and crew added a punkish jolt to classic, vaguely rootsy rock. This was one of the best cuts on the band’s second album (and major label debut). Rizzo shouts over his power jangle playing while Janet Bean drives the music with her drumming. Any song that disses the Grateful Dead is worth hearing.
  7. Slow Jets — Snare Coda (Good Morning, Stars): Another band I discovered through Reckless. The Slow Jets fell somewhere between slightly off-beat college rock bands like Big Dipper and Hypnolovewheel and post-punk acts like Wire. Their songs are short, have odd herky-jerky elements, yet are generally pretty catchy. This is a more atmospheric tune that is quite short, but does the job.
  8. The Swingin’ Neckbreakers — Hail To The Baron (Return Of The Rock): New Jersey’s Neckbreakers are possibly the best garage band of the past 15 years or so good. Unlike a lot of modern garage rockers, they don’t stick with one sound over and over, though there is a consistency to everything they do. Moreover, they get their source material, whether it’s The Sonics, Chuck Berry, The Golliwogs or whoever. This is a tribute to a pro wrestler from bygone days and it is made for singalong to, while rocking out.
  9. The Jam — I’ve Changed My Address (In The City): This is an early Jam side, showing how they took classic mod rock and turbo charged it with punk. Paul Weller was not a consistently great songwriter early on, but this band simply cooked. Weller could carry the load on guitar and the Bruce Foxton (bass) and Rick Buckler (drums) rhythm section is simply killer. They are hard enough to rock, but deft enough to make this danceable.
  10. Tammany Hall Machine — Pedal To The Metal (Amateur Saw): This Austin, TX band made its final album count. The piano plays prominently, but not in a Ben Folds fashion. Instead, the band seems to have soaked in a lot of Kinks records and then mixed in some glam rock and power pop influences. This song also has some killer horns. One of the great lost of albums of this decade.

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Mike Bennett writesiPod/MP3 Friday Shuffle — Happy Birthday Anson Williams Edition

What’s the iPod/MP3 Shuffle? It’s just a way to get people to share music and foster some discussion. I started doing this on my Facebook page a while back and it’s been great seeing friends exchange comments on each others lists. Every Friday, I get out my 120 GB iPod (which has about 24,000 songs now), hit shuffle and write about the first 10 songs that come up. Sometimes the 10 songs are kind of conventional, sometimes there’s a lot of obscure stuff. So check mine out and please add your own shuffle or discuss other people’s shuffles!

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Let’s give it up for the man who played Potsie on Happy Days, Anson Williams. He may not have been as cool as the Fonz, but he was the lead singer of the band he was in with Richie Cunningham and Ralph Malph. That’s worth something, isn’t it? In Anson’s honor, grab your iPod/iTunes/MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 tunes that come up!

  1. Translator — Sleeping Snakes (Heartbeats and Triggers): This ’80s band mixed a wide array of influences — everything from post-punk to jangle rock to even some jamming tendencies. As is often the case, the band’s debut album, which this tune is from, was its high water mark, though they put out some other good stuff. This song is definitely post-punk gone Cali, with a cool choppy guitar part and military style drumming with dollops of melody and ’60s folk-psych style vocals. Great song.
  2. The Plod — Neo City (Velvet Tinmine): Velvet Tinmine is a swell compilation of obscure UK ’70s glam rock. Almost every song is a winner. This sounds like the compilers couldn’t get the master tape and worked off an off-center 45. Unlike a lot of the songs on this comp, The Plod aren’t so indebted to Sweet, Slade or T-Rex, as they are The Raspberries. And what’s with the band name? How about The Sloppy or The Unrehearsed or The Turgid?
  3. The Wondermints — Tracy Hide (Cover Version)(Wonderful World Of The Wondermints): If you want to know how The Wondermints became the core of the band that has backed Beach Boys genius Brian Wilson on his tours, this original off the band’s second album would answer all questions. Written by Darian Sajanaja, the musical director for Wilson, this is simply a gorgeous song in the Beach Boys tradition with that certain melancholy yet sunshiney melody that Wilson patented, a strong lead vocal and a brilliantly inventive backing vocal arrangement. Wonderful.
  4. The Everly Brothers — Poor Jenny (24 Golden Classics): Speaking of harmony vocals, how about Phil and Don? This is a country song that is pepped enough to be classified as an early rock ‘n’ roll song. It’s a great tale about a bad girl having a bad night. Did I mention those harmonies — wow! And lyrics like, “It seems a shame that Jenny had to go get apprehended.”
  5. Guided By Voices — Shocker In Gloomtown (The Grand Hour): GBV was so prolific, great songs could come from anywhere — an album, a 7”, an EP, a bootleg. This was from an EP and the tune was later covered, quite well, by The Breeders. It centers on a repeated guitar riff and the nifty up-and-down rhythm, and like a lot of Guided By Voices tunes, ends a bit too soon. Always leave you wanting more.
  6. New York Dolls — Babylon (Too Much Too Soon): Like a lot music that influenced and pre-dated punk, it’s important to put the Dolls in context. Not that their flashy variation on Stones-y rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t hold up on its own, but if you put this up against the prog rock and Laurel Canyon singer-songwriters and plodding metal bands that were touring the nation, true rockers in drag were revelatory. Of course, having a great guitarist like Johnny Thunders was a help and David Johansen was, and still is, a wonderful singer who does a theatrical take on R & B styling and gets away with it because he gets it, if that makes any sense.
  7. The Long Blondes — Round The Hairpin (“Couples”): The second and, sadly, last Long Blondes album was not as well-received as their debut, as the band delved further into post-punk. This track exemplifies the approach, as it is premised on a droney electronic rhythm track and isn’t nearly as poppy as most of the first album. I think the chilly music is perfect for Kate Jackson’s clenched teeth delivery and the guitar fills add a little heat to the proceedings. I hope Kate is involved in a new project soon, but I’d rather this band get back together.
  8. Bad Religion — I Want Something More (No Control): I find that most hardcore punk has dated pretty badly. This is not the case with Bad Religion, as evidenced by this song off of what may be their very best album. I think it’s because the band managed to play fast but clean. The songs don’t pound so much as they take off and soar. This is helped by Greg Graffin’s powerful vocals that are much more than pointless shouting. He puts his Ph.d to use with lots of big words, which is tough enough to do with a mid-tempo song.
  9. The Fuzztones — As Time’s Gone (Lysergic Emanations): This NYC band was one of the better mid-‘80s garage revivalists. Led by Rudi Protrudi, the ‘tones channeled equal parts of The Seeds and The Sonics, and added a certain haunting vibe to their songs. This song is, at its heart, a hyped up folk-rock number, but add some atmospheric organ and a rhythm that is perfect for driving down a dark highway at night, and it sounds pretty cool.
  10. Scissor Sisters — Comfortably Numb (Scissor Sisters): The Sisters’ swell debut album had been out in the UK for a while when they played their first Chicago gig at Double Door. A pal of mine was working for their U.S. label and I asked him if they’d release this discofied Pink Floyd cover as a single, and he said no. But this is the song that got the biggest reaction from a crowd that was probably 50 to 60 percent gay men. Of course, that might be why they passed on it, but this is a great cover. The guitar part from the original is stripped down, a mid-tempo dance beat is pumped up and the vocals are falsetto a la the Bee Gees. The arrangement is brilliant. It’s club ready yet the best aspects of the melody and hook are intact. Moreover, despite the dance floor aspects the emotional poignancy of the song is not messed with one bit. Awesome.

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Mike Bennett writesiPod/MP3 Friday Shuffle — Happy Birthday Otis Sistrunk Edition

What’s the iPod/MP3 Shuffle? It’s just a way to get people to share music and foster some discussion. I started doing this on my Facebook page a while back and it’s been great seeing friends exchange comments on each others lists. Every Friday, I get out my 120 GB iPod (which has about 24,000 songs now), hit shuffle and write about the first 10 songs that come up. Sometimes the 10 songs are kind of conventional, sometimes there’s a lot of obscure stuff. So check mine out and please add your own shuffle or discuss other people’s shuffles!

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Let’s give it up for the man from the University of Mars, the man with the steam coming off his bald dome (bald in an era when real men had big afros), former Oakland Raiders defensive lineman Otis Sistrunk. In honor of Otis, grab your iPod/iTunes/MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 tunes that come up with everyone else.

I’m now over 23,300 tunes on my iPod and this is what I came up with:

  1. The Four Tops — Just Seven Numbers (Singles) This song comes closer to Southern soul than Northern soul, as it has more of a classic blues chord structure than the typical Motown single. Of course, Tops’ lead singer Levi Stubbs would have been great doing deep soul, with his gruff, passionate voice. This isn’t a great song, but it’s a nice change of pace.
  2. Glen Campbell — These Days (Meet Glenn Campbell) I’m not sure if this song has come up on a prior shuffle, but this recent comeback album has. This cover of the ’70s Jackson Browne staple fits in so well with the classic Glenn Campbell style. It’s like it’s the next best thing to Jimmy Webb. This may be the best song on this album.
  3. The Coasters — Yakkity Yak (Greatest Hits) The court jesters of ’50s rock ‘n’ roll, they had great material (primarily from Leiber and Stoller) and a good natured sass that was perfect for these songs. The fun never ends with The Coasters.
  4. Richard Thompson — You Dream Too Much (Rumor & Sigh) This might be my favorite Richard Thompson album. The songwriting shows off all facets of his personality and he was just spinning off great melody after great melody. This is a hooky number, somewhat akin to Crowded House, but with that special exuberant bitterness that only Thompson can provide.
  5. Tavares — Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel (The Best Of Tavares) The first crossover smash for Tavares, who were guided by producer Freddy Perrin, who was one of the first soul producers to successfully integrate disco into a vocal groups sound. Tavares did not boast a single great lead singer, but had such a winning, joyous sound. The harmonies, the strings, the woodwinds and that every present beat. Great song.
  6. Pernice Brothers — One Foot in the Grave (Yours, Mine & Ours) On this album, Joe Pernice and company showed that they weren’t just about reviving lush ’60s pop with a little alt-country mixed in. Here, the band shows its affinity for ’80s college radio, especially Brit bands like New Order and The Smiths. What is exceptional is that the core of the Pernice sound is intact, just dressed up a bit differently.
  7. Kid Creole & The Coconuts — Broadway Rhythm (Doppelganger) Funk never sounded more urbane than when Kid Creole and his menagerie laid it down. The chicken scratch guitar mixes with a percolating rhythm and a smooth melody. It’s no surprise that the Kid can still wow crowds in Europe, whereas August Darnell’s music never quite fit in with the rigid U.S. radio formats of the ’80s. One of the most underrated groups of their era.
  8. The Go-Betweens — The Streets Of Your Town (16 Lovers Lane) One of the singles from the album that closed out the initial phase of the band’s run. As the band honed its pop sense, it’s large debt to the Velvet Underground became less noticeable, and they developed such a distinctive sound. Literate, pretty and memorable.
  9. Biz Markie — Just a Friend (The Biz Never Sleeps) This song was featured in some annoying commercial with some Lincoln Park types in a cab singing along, joined in by the old fart cab driver. This commercial did not dampen my enjoyment of hearing the marble mouthed Biz’s big moment in the sun. Years later, he is a regular on Yo Gabba Gabba. Good for him.
  10. The Rutles — Living in Hope (The Rutles) The soundtrack to the Eric Idle Beatles spoof mockumentary was so key. While Idle’s parody of documentary filmmaking and the Fab Four was very funny, the music penned by Neil Innes of the Bonzo Dog Band turned it into the classic. Some songs are inside out rewrites of moptop classics. But this is a mid-tempo song for Barry Wom, the Ringo-esque drummer. I’m not sure if John Halsey (of the bands Timebox and Patto), the drummer played Wom actually did the lead vocal or if it’s Innes, but whoever it was nailed that Ringo hang dog vocal sound.

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Tony Breed writesValentine’s Day playlist

Oh no oh no, it’s Valentine’s Day! Date tonight? OK, did you get chocolates? Go get ‘em! And flowers? Are they fair trade flowers? OK, ready?

Now you need some music. We’re going to lay it on a little thick here. It’s Valentine’s Day; if you’re going to celebrate, just go for it, right? Resist the urge to get ironic with CocoRosie’s “By Your Side” or Love Is All’s “Last Choice”.

First, some classics:

So In Love – Cole Porter. I particularly like KD Lang‘s version.

That Old Black Magic – Johnny Mercer. Try Shirley Horn‘s version.

La Vie En Rose – Edith Piaf or try Grace Jones‘s cover

Wild Is the Wind – Nina Simone and David Bowie both have great versions of this one.

I Only Have Eyes for You – The Flamingos

At Last – Etta James

I’ll Be Your Mirror – The Velvet Underground & Nico

Everyday Clothes – Jonathan Richman

Let’s Stay Together – Al Green (OK, maybe you should leave this songs out if your relationship is just starting out… don’t push it too hard.)

Now, some newer tracks:

Sweet Lovin’ Man – The Magnetic Fields

Love Endeavor – Alice Smith

Inside and Out – Feist

Amy – Mark Ronson featuring Kenna

I Melt with You – Modern English did it originally, but you might prefer Nouvelle Vague‘s bossa nova cover.

Baby – Rufus Wainwright

And if you can take little drama, you might throw in:

We Both Go Down Together – The Decemberists

Your Arms around Me – Jens Lekman

OK, ready? GO.

Wait, what? No date tonight? OK, that’s OK. There’s lots of things you can do tonight instead. Go have some fun. Whatever you do, do not sit at home with a bottle of whiskey and listen to the Mountain Goats on repeat.

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CHIRP DJ writesTime Out Tracks Record Stores’ Top 10

For their new blog section titled Ranked & Filed, Time Out goes Billboard; choosing a few Chicago-area record stores every Wednesday and listing their top 10 bestsellers. They kicked things off this past Wednesday with Laurie’s Planet of Sound, Jazz Record Mart and Dusty Groove. Each store also adds their own staff pick at the end of the list. It seems like a good way to remind those of us who focus solely on our Pandora and LastFM charts that great music is still, in fact, selling out of brick-and-mortar retail locations.

You can check out this weeks hottest hits here.

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