Thursday, December 31, 2009

Animal Collective - Not What You Think

I'm not going to sit here and blab on about the brilliance of Animal Collective's 2009 masterpiece, Merriweather Post Pavilion. Does it deserve top ten lists? Yes. Is it a transformation from AC's obscure alien sounds into funky electronic pop glory? Yes. Is "My Girls" one of the best songs of the year? Yes. And even though the album didn't make my top 10, it still probably makes my top 20.

But what I'm here to rave about is an old AC gem (and by old, I mean, like, 2007 or 2008... sooooo old in blog years).

"Fireworks" is a companion to creepy late night running. I put this song on last night, and I was transported South four hours, back in time a couple years, and into the supreme happiness you feel when you rediscover something that really resonated with you before that you've since forgotten.

What I really enjoy about Strawberry Jam is the way the creepy noises throughout make you feel like aliens are constantly flogging you. You are getting burped at. There is shouting and lewd, uncouth gargling. You feel slightly claustrophobic, worried that any moment something bizarre and inexplicable will jump out from the song and freakin' weird you out. And for some reason, there's something so comforting about how uncomfortable the music makes you feel.

"Fireworks" does all that and more. At almost 7 minutes, it packs in a lot of strange oddities, but also maintains a rather tuneful chorus and this kind of constant chugging rhythm that beautifully frames the tribal, otherworldly feel. When in need of a distraction (and I often am, while running on my treadmill in the dead of winter), this song will provide it. Spastic "woo woo" vocals, asymmetrical rhythms perfectly conducive to finger tapping, lyrics that bizarrely speak of warm cereal and ugly pores - it all culminates into an epic adventure into an alternate universe. For 7 minutes, I don't quite feel human. And sometimes - let's face it - life's just better when you don't feel human.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

#1 Album of 2009

Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Phoenix deserves the recent Grammy nomination and the worldwide recognition it’s getting for crafting 40 minutes of near-perfect ear candy for the synth-loving generation. On Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the Parisians reveal how to transform ‘80s cheese into an album of spunky pop effervescence and experimental wonder.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Japandroids – Post-Nothing

My love for this album is as vapid and shallow as its lyrics, which are passionate odes to lust and reckless young behavior. The loud, lo-fi debut, a messy mastery by two dudes from Vancouver, is ferociously alive with rollicking drum fills, biting guitar licks, and unison shouting.

Monday, December 21, 2009


St. Vincent – Actor

On Annie Clark’s second album under the St. Vincent moniker, her angelic voice haunts and her cinematic orchestra recalls romantic French cinema. Then she pulverizes all that beauty with ferociously angry synths and irregular chord progressions, twisting Actor into one of the most thrilling, startling rides of the year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

Songs on Veckatimest build on 2006’s critically acclaimed Yellow House, adding a fourth dimension with layered vocals, hints of dreamlike ambient guitar, and swelling choruses. “Two Weeks” finds the four-member band at its best; frontman Ed Droste’s voice floats over bright, sparkling piano like a honey-sweet Jens Lekman.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You

Seriously: how often do you find a band that writes utterly sincere music, masters the spirit of Appalachian punk and folky balladry, and gets Rick Rubin to produce an absolutely flawless tribute to love? Once. Get your hands on this album.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Dan Auerbach – Keep it Hid

He’s no Barry White, but The Black Keys’ guitarist takes sexy to a new level on a solo album full of blues-ridden rock and soulful crooning, where the slow churning ballads are as hot as the barnburners.

WAIT, pause.

Not to be a shameless hipster jerk or anything... but I just finally put some headphones on my ears and blasted some Dirty Projectors on my iPod, and let's just say it was magical. I have been trying to avoid this conclusion for several months now, but it's inevitable. I'm a prick, and I enjoy really stereotypically indie bands.

I have known this for about 4 months now, though:

"Knotty Pine" by David Byrne + Dirty Projectors is my favorite song of the year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Metric – Fantasies
Metric Music International

Emily Haines continues her rein as hottest frontwoman of the decade. As she wails atop skittering drums and hooky electronics, your legs are prone to cramping from all the uncontrollable dancing you’ll be doing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


White Rabbits – It’s Frightening

If the members of Spoon had a musical baby, it would sound a lot like White Rabbits. Boasting tribal dual drumming, spastic keyboard plunking, and scratchy, indier-than-though vocal stylings, It’s Frightening is a blast of hipster greatness.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Bowerbirds – Upper Air
Dead Oceans

Months of my summer were devoted to Upper Air. I woke up to the delicate piano of “Northern Lights”, fell asleep to the harp-like finger picking on “Crooked Lust,” and spent countless hours in between telling all my friends about the spacious, natural beauty this North Carolina duo captured.

Monday, December 14, 2009


M. Ward – Hold Time

Embarrassing secret: I was so stuck on the timeless energy of M. Ward’s latest masterpiece that, while listening to his Buddy Holly cover, it took me five listens before I realized he was not crooning “when you say I love you, I say Ray Vaughn.” It was “Rave On.” (Though I think a tribute to Vaughn would have been quite nice, as well.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ten Days of Top Albums

It's like the 12 days of Christmas, but better! It's the ten days in which I count down my ten favorite albums of 2009. The list will be featured in its entirety in the Cleveland Scene, but I wanted to... you know... give you guys some suspense, and uh, blog candy for the next week or so.

I'll just give you a two sentence summary of each album, unless I feel like getting extravagant. But I'm feeling extra short and snippy lately, so relish in the fact that you can be lazy and only need to read small amounts to learn about the greatest music of all time (of this year, at least).

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

P.S. Can you tell from my picture that I cannot contain my excitement?!
P.P.S. Can you tell from my picture that I cannot contain my hair?!
P.P.P.S. Can you tell from my picture that I have not re-decorated my room since the 5th grade?! Butterflies, thrilling!!

Rooney @ the Beachland Ballroom: 12/10

The guys in Rooney must have had guilty consciences while writing most the songs off their 2003 self-titled debut album. Titles like “I’m a Terrible Person” and proclamations like “sorry for making your life a living hell” lead us to believe that the five-piece crew wasn’t all that innocent. But all that bumming around never kept Rooney from playing hooky, danceable pop songs.

Today, they’re still feeding off the same energy. And the same songs. With a set list fueled mostly by hits from their first album (and a few others from 2007’s Calling the World and a new EP), last night’s crowd stepped back five years in time.

Lead vocalist Robert Schwartzman and guitarist Taylor Locke perfected the cocky mic stand straddle, ripping bombastic guitar trills that sounded a lot grimier than the candy-coated production heard on their albums. Fan favorites like “Daisy Duke” and “Sorry Sorry” had girls drunkenly flailing their arms in the air like dying seals trying to reach land. Shout-along choruses and a big, anthemic resonance rippled through the ballroom as Rooney embraced the joy of simplistic pop songs.

Yet if you looked a bit closer, red flags went up. Bassist Matthew Winter was already sleeping from the moment he stonily walked onstage. Schwartzman didn’t even pretend to put an ounce of effort into his performance. Locke was smiling at other members of the band, telling some kind of secrets that the audience wasn’t allowed to get. Hell, half the band could have been playing from sidestage, and nobody would have noticed.

You could say that the structure of a Rooney song is comparable to going through the motions. Short verse, repetitive chorus, guitar solo, repetitive chorus. But at least the songs have some heart. And last night, that’s exactly what Rooney was missing.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Holiday Bears/Thai Restaurants 12/23

Comedian Eugene Mirman jokes on his latest album that Detroit has become so desolate that bears are invading the city, inhabiting warehouses and opening Thai restaurants. The last thing our town needs is another misfortune to be teased about – we’ve already got the Browns. So Cleveland’s Bears instead make sunny pop music. In the spirit of the season, the retro 60s band plans to throw its upbeat harmonies and effervescent keyboard plunking into a few non-traditional Christmas songs to mix up their set for this year’s Yulesville Pre-Holiday Bash. The warm tones that radiate from Bears’ swoon-worthy vocals and subtle handclaps help you forget that they’re singing about, oh yeah, December in Cleveland. It’s almost guaranteed that all their talk about dolphins and sweet, sweet love will feel like the start of Christmas vacation. (That is, if you expect to be spending your days off in California.) The Beachland is opening the ballroom and the tavern to make the most of the merry music-making occasion, which will feature other local faves like Modern Electric, Mystery of Two, and Unsparing Sea. The show starts at 9 pm at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124). Tickets: $7.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

All the Girlies Say

The Offspring: you made it REALLY, REALLY cool for us to make fun of white guys. And I will forever be thankful for that. And probably more thankful to Weird Al for creating “Pretty Fly For a Rabbi.” I don’t know if you have to be Jewish to understand this song fully. I’m gonna guess: no.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Getting Nerdy with Pharrell

Earlier this year, I went on a rampage where I listened to a song by N.E.R.D. about 15 times a day. I took a dance class, my teacher played it during warm-ups a few times, and I was soon hooked beyond belief. I've always though Pharrell Williams was something of a genius. But this song ultimately proves it. “She Wants to Move.”

He incorporates sick, wiry bass into the background. He includes dogs barking. The lyrics are perverted and really embarrassing, like a stale pick-up line. The lyrics are that guy in the bar who is too drunk, and talking an inch away from your face when you are still sickly sober. You know, the one who is so drunk that he has to ask you your name and where you’re from twice before you get the idea that now is the right time to walk away and NEVER turn back.

It’s also the kind of song that makes you shake your hips like there is no tomorrow. You are the only girl/guy fly enough to satisfy everyone’s wildest dreams. Because, for some reason, this song transforms you into the hottest thing since Michelle Obama on her wedding day. (Not that I’ve seen pictures, or want to imagine the president of my country having sex.)

The rest of NERD’s songs are eh, kinda slow, pretty good, decent, whatever. This song owns them. This song owns most other songs in the world. I’m talking to you, Adam Lambert. I don’t care how many girls’ crotches you grab on live TV. I don’t care how many dudes you coerce into making out with you on stage. This song is better than you, and Williams doesn’t even need eyeliner.

NERD - She Wants to Move