Monday, January 19, 2009

Hard Knock Life in a Glass House

I’m a sucker for mash-ups, especially if they’re cheesy.
Like any other college rock enthusiast, I love Radiohead.
At the drop of a hat, I will recite “99 Problems” in full.

As such, Jaydiohead is everything I could ask for. New York deejay Minty Fresh Beats has added himself to the outrageously long list of mixers who cross Jay-Z with artists that they probably shouldn’t (The Beatles, Pavement, Beethoven). The trend continues when the mastermind behind The Black Album is thrown against the geniuses responsible for classics such as Kid A, OK Computer, and In Rainbows. As awkward and clumsy as this may sound initially, it surprisingly works out well. Very well.

To begin, this album is not an incredible piece of music. It’s another mash-up prominently featuring cuts from The Black Album, and it will not redefine the way you look at either artist. Regardless, it’s still an enjoyable distraction full of songs that are just to fun to listen to. Jay-Z is the star here when it comes to vocals. Minty Fresh puts a heavy emphasis on Mr. Carter’s fluid lyrics, usually only incorporating Yorke as backing vocals or for the occasional chorus. Radiohead’s front man has an even more ethereal sound here than normal, adding a cold, haunting resonance to many of the tracks. The real surprise here is how well the band’s music fits with hip-hop verses. This is made abundantly clear from the beginning as the album opens with “Wrong Prayer” and possibly shines brightest on “Lucifer’s Jigsaw.” With this set and the recent mix between “Reckoner” and Kanye’s “Love Lockdown” (also not as terrible as it sounds), perhaps Radiohead’s discography will become the new Black Album in terms of mash-up popularity. Okay, let’s not hold our breaths.

Unlike most mash up attempts, tracks actually sound good together. Absent are segments so mismatched and forced that they completely remove one from the music. The two selected cuts blend together smoothly and naturally, with only a handful of minor mistakes along the way. Some will find slight faults with the ham-fisted way Yorke’s “yeah” right before the refrain in “Dirt Off Your Android” is tossed in. Others may call foul on the slight edits to songs, most notably the timing of “15 Step.” These people should realize that Jaydiohead is nothing to be taken overly seriously.

All of the tracks have an interesting sound, and my top two or three change after every listen. At the moment, however, “Change Order” reigns supreme. While a melancholy guitar plays out, Jay-Z gives a rundown of his crime and drug expertise while Thom Yorke chimes in with the chorus, “A couple more for breakfast / A little more for tea / Just to take the edge off.” As said, don’t go in expecting groundbreaking things, but enjoy these different approaches to old favorites. This set of remixes is the ultimate Jay-Z/rock mix (apologies too all you die-hard Collision Course fans out there, all four of you). All ten tracks are available downloadable and free at

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Another List, Yo.

Think you were done reading 2008 year-end lists? Not quite! Here’s the rundown of my three favorites from a great year of tunes.

1. Dear Science, - TV on the Radio
Rolling Stone is getting some stuff right these days, and one of them is putting TV on the Radio’s most accessible album to date at the tip-top. For years I had been wondering when I would have my first experience listening to a masterpiece album when it dropped, and Dear Science, provided the opportunity. Tunde’s “Ba-ba-bas” on “Halfway Home” signal an album loaded with singalongs sure to fail as fans attempt to create the hauntingly beautiful voices of Tunde Adembimpe and Kyp Malone. “Family Tree,” my favorite song of 2008, moved me almost to tears from the ethereal piano and perfect place shaker beat. Its line “cozy red rainbows” is one of the most interesting bits of imagery I have heard in today’s popular music. The album ends with a bang, literally. Malone’s song “Lover’s Day,” is a song lyrically about fucking, and a march-worthy tune to back it up.

2. In the Future - Black Mountain
Being a sucker for some good Psychedelia, I loved Black Mountain’s In the Future. Listen up, Zeppelin fans, if you haven’t heard this record yet, I’d highly recommend it. Stephen McBean’s songwriting is the basis for a band that knows how to flesh out a song. Dazzling key work and intense drums keep the record sounding full during the balls to wall rock and roll Black Mountain can create. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the sound is Amber Webber’s soulful, pleading voice. Its eerie beauty propels this record to heights of beauty, and high on my list (“Highs” seem to be a motif and creative tool for the members of Black Mountain).

3. Evil Urges – My Morning Jacket
Despite the scrutiny, the soul inspired LP from MMJ this year proves to be one of the most forward moving pieces of rock, while getting in touch with the “golden age of music.” A nearly immediate starkness is the funk-metal song “Highly Suspicious.” Carl Broemel provides the throat-shredding titular chorus while Jim James does some Prince inspired squeals. Its oddball sound can alienate some devotees, but seeing the track live solidifies it as a misunderstood piece of Rock & Roll gold. There is familiar territory for MMJ in this release as well, as in “Aluminum Park,” which could be a stripped down version of a track off Z. The eight-minute disco closer is one of the best tracks James and Co. have put out, and makes for a great outro for my number three album of 2008.

These albums, in my opinion, rocked the harder than most other albums released this past year (except for Chinese Democracy, of course). Also, it kind of pains me not to put Fleet Foxes, Jay Reatard, and the Hold Steady on here, but that just gives an example of how good 2008 was for new music.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

April 13

Mates of State & Black Kids

4/13/09 Kansas City, MO

Beaumont Club

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Quest For Every Beard Type

Just so you know, if you didn't already (and if you did, just to reiterate), is possibly the best waste of one's time... besides Moustache Salad.

Check this:

I know I will be following this quest.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Think About It.

100: The Odd Couple – Gnarls Barkley
99: Konk – The Kooks
98: Everything Is Borrowed – The Streets
97: The Age of Understatement – The Last Shadow Puppets
96: Stainless State – Neon Neon
95: Rising Down – The Roots
94: Blessed Be Our Ever After - Burden Of A Day
93: Donkey - CSS
92: You And Me – The Walkmen
91: A Thousand Words - Styrofoam
90: Hold On Now, Youngster… - Los Campesinos!
89: 21 – Mystery Jets
88: The Secret Wars – Ace Enders And A Million Different People
87: Partie Traumatic – The Black Kids
86: Sleep Well – Electric President
85: Viva La Vida - Coldplay
84: Reality Check – The Teenagers
83: Evil Urges – My Morning Jacket
82: Blessed Be Our Ever After – Burden Of A Day
81: Animal!/Not Animal – Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s
80: Walk It Off – Tapes ‘n Tapes
79: Fortress – Protest The Hero
78: Nothing Happens For A Reason - Pompeii
77: Re-Arrange Us – Mates of State
76: Innerpartysystem - Innerpartysystem

75: Cardinology – Ryan Adams
74: Beautiful Future – Primal Scream
73: Acid Tongue – Jenny Lewis
72: Intervals – See You Next Tuesday
71: Sky Eats Airplane – Sky Eats Airplane
70: Midnight Boom – The Kills
69: Texas – Playradioplay!
68: Nights Out - Metronomy
67: Where Myth Fades To Legend - Alesana
66: Velocifero - Ladytron
65: Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst
64: Caesura – Helios
63: Arm’s Way - Islands
62: A.M. – Magnetic Morning
61: Ghosts I-IV – Nine Inch Nails
60: Chemical Chords - Stereolab
59: Ladyhawke – Ladyhawke
58: At Mount Zoomer – Wolf Parade
57: Microcastle – Deerhunter
56: Censored Colors – Portugal. The Man
55: Dance Gavin Dance – Dance Gavin Dance
54: The Chemistry of Common Life – Fucked Up
53: Go West Young Man, Let The Evil Go East – Greeley Estates
52: Falling Off The Lavendar Bridge – Lightspeed Champion
51: Elephant Shell – Tokyo Police Club

50: Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
49: This Town Needs Guns – This Town Needs Guns
48: Seeing Sounds – N.E.R.D.
47: Skeletal Lamping – of Montreal
46: Modern Guilt - Beck
45: The Hawk Is Howling - Mogwai
44: Great White Whale – Secret and Whisper
43: Guidebook For Sinners Turned Saints – Jamies Elsewhere
42: A Coloring Storybook And Long-Playing Record – Cinematic Sunrise
41: The Tide – Oceana
40: Take Me To The Sea – Jaguar Love
39: Wires… And the Concept of Breathing – A Skylit Drive
38: The Stand Ins – Okkervil River
37: Casey – The Rise of Science
36: Saturdays = Youth – M83
35: Suicide Season – Bring Me The Horizon
34: Do Say Make Think – Do Say Make Think
33: We Started Nothing – The Ting Tings
32: Lost In The Sound of Separation – Underoath
31: This Will Destroy you – This Will Destroy You
30: The Devil, You + Me – The Notwist
29: The Ocean & The Sun – The Sound of Animals Fighting
28: For Emma, Forever Ago – Bon Iver
27: Ghost Is Not Real – Husky Rescue
26: Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

25: Fasciination – The Faint
24: Attack & Release – The Black Keys
23: Want – 3Oh!3
22: Street Horrsing – Fuck Buttons
21: Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust - Sigur Rós
20: Illuminate - Lydia
19: Third - Portishead
18: Antidotes - Foals
17: Someday Came Suddenly – Attack Attack
16: You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Into – Does It Offend You, Yeah?
15: Oracular Spectacluar - MGMT
14: LP3 - Ratatat
13: Avalon – Anthony Green
12: Santogold - Santogold
11: Feed The Animals – Girl Talk
10: Dear Science, - TV On The Radio
09: In Ghost Colors – Cut Copy
08: V – Van She
07: Narrow Stairs – Death Cab For Cutie
06: Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles
05: Only By The Night – Kings of Leon
04: Relativity - Emarosa
03: Made In The Dark – Hot Chip
02: Bring Me Your Love – City & Colour
01: Intimacy – Bloc Party

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Ira's Top 8 of '08

2008 shaped up to be a pretty decent year for music. Over this year I’ve probably listened to more music than ever before, producing a substantial shuffling in my favorite music. I fell in and out of love with countless artists (In: Silver Jews, Drive-by Truckers. Out: The Decemberists, Band of Horses), discoved fresh bands and dusted off old legends (Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones) I’d never had the chance to get properly acquainted with. Here’s my list of favorite albums of 2008. This list is unranked other than the top two spots, mainly because I feel the top two albums really stuck out above the rest of the competition.

1. Dear Science- TV on the Radio
Towering far above the rest of the albums released in 2008, Dear Science struck me harder upon first listen than any other album since OK Computer. David Sitek removed the fuzz and cacophony of Return to Cookie Mountain, letting the band’s songs flourish in the company of horn and string sections. Every song on the album has its own unmistakable sound, from the funkiness of “Crying” to the horn-filled celebration of “Golden Age” to the emotional resonance of “Family Tree” to the Bush-fueled rage of “Red Dress” finally concluding with the sensuous and optimistic “Lover’s Day.” At its core, Dear Science is a great rock album from one of the most talented and innovative groups today, and also my favorite album of 2008.

2. S/T- Fleet Foxes
My favorite album of the year until the October release of Dear Science, Fleet Foxes’ self-titled album is an excellent collection of songs that evoke the American wilderness and ethos both lyrically and musically with beautiful harmonies and rustic instrumentation. Robin Pecknold’s incredible voice dominates this album; a perfect companion for a spring morning, a summer stroll through a forest, an autumn drive, or a winter night reading beside the fire.

Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea- Silver Jews
When I first heard the opening track on Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea I was disconcerted. Why did David Berman’s voice sound so strange? Where was the sly, witty wordplay I fell in love with on American Water? By the third track, “Suffering Jukebox” my fears were allayed with Berman firing off classic lines over great alt-country sounds. Although, in my opinion one of the weaker albums in the Joos’ catalog, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea is still a treat to listen to, continuing Berman’s streak of quality songwriting and finding him tweaking his style as he ages.

The Stand-Ins- Okkervil River
Originally intended to comprise a double album with 2007’s The Stage Names, The Stand-Ins displays Will Sheff’s skill at characterization in song writing, and Okkervil’s continued maturation into a full-on rock band. This aborted twin isn’t as fully formed as its sister but still has plenty of great moments, especially the epic farewell song for Jonathan Meiburg, “Lost Coastlines.”

Stay Positive- The Hold Steady
Stay Positive is different from the other Hold Steady albums. It rushes out the gates with two great rock songs, “Constructive Summer” and “Sequestered in Memphis”, then explores the darker aspects of drinking and the party life, an area touched upon in other albums but never allowed to become the overriding focus of songs. A hint of age and weariness creeps into Craig Finn’s voice during these songs, suggesting some doubt and disillusionment, worried that life may be just "excuses and half-truths and fortified wine." These down and out ballads coexist along with Finn’s own self-referential rockers to form another solid album from The Hold Steady, one of the best rock and roll bands in America.

Feed the Animals- Girl Talk
Sample-master Greg Gillis deserves all the acclaim he gets merely for this album’s ability to turn drab boring parties into wild dance affairs. Never has an entire album been this danceable for so many different people of varied musical tastes. This album is also fully responsible for my recent obsession with Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone.”

The Evening Descends- Evangelicals
The Evening Descends alternates its sound between that of a pleasant trippy dream and a terrifying nightmare, one that I found myself visiting time and time again in 2008. Utilizing samples and strange sound effects, Evangelicals’ The Evening Descends is an atmospheric and frequently catchy album of psychedelic rock.

S/T- Vampire Weekend
I like catchy pop songs. Vampire Weekend’s got ‘em, along with enough semi-obscure references to keep me interested in the lyrics. Although these guys may not be the capital “I” important band some sources labeled them as, they know how to put together a pop song, something that shouldn’t be overlooked. Any band that tosses in an homage to Lil Jon’s “Get Low” is okay by me.