Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Favorite Tracks of 2008: #10-1

It's New Year's Eve!  2008 was a great year for music... so even if you had the suckiest year yet, you can celebrate all the great songs that graced blogs and airwaves this year.  So tonight, go out to a club, get a ride to yr rich friend's mountain home, stand out in the cold in new york city, or pack yrself into a small, crowded apartment with all of yr drunk best friends  and pop champagne for the great year we've had.  And in case you've forgotten, DJ Earworm did a mashup of Billboard's top 25 songs of 2008 just to remind us that even pop music was dope this year.

And now for my top ten songs of 2008:

10. T.I. - Whatever You Like (DiscoTech Remix)
So my only rule when I composed this list was no remixes, but as you will see, there are two remixes in my top ten.  That's because these remixes are perfect - they don't completely change the track to the point that it is unrecognizable, but they change a few elements so dramatically that the new version is substantially different music than the original.

Everybody loves this song!  The original is one of the most downloaded songs of the year and a #1 hit for T.I.  The lyrics are fun, simple, and egotistical, making it a perfect pop anthem, and the beat is fairly smooth and slow.  DiscoTech makes the song a little more abrasive, replacing the bass and light synth with heavy and rough synth that seems more fitting than the original production.  I think it makes it a little more danceable too.

09. Van She - Changes (G.L.O.V.E.S. Remix)
Van She has been on the scene for a while, remixing the likes of Feist and Ladyhawke, but they released their debut album V this year.  This song in its original format is just okay.  The 80s beat is pretty insistent and fast, despite the slow and laidback rhythm of the lyrics.  And the instrumentation on the original is sort of mismatched, with thick sort of annoying snythesizer with spacey effects.  It's a fine track, but G.L.O.V.E.S. remix just sounds more right.  The synth on the remix is slow and glossy with an Air feel.  The spacey effects are countered with sounds of car traffic.  And the beat while fast and still appropriately 80s-esque is less in yr face... the kind that makes you start dancing without even being aware of it.  Also this is an awesome break-up song.

08. Delta Spirit - People C'mon
Most of my top ten is electro.  It's been a great year for synth and disco beats, but /i don't want to forget the amazing works of other genres.  Delta Spirit is not an electro band.  As the name suggests, they have harnessed the spirit of Mississippi Delta blues into indie rock, with clear undertones of anti-folk.  This song is complete with ragged and soulful vocals, hand claps, a moment of singing in chorus, and revivalesque piano, atop pretty impressive drumming and noisy guitar.  Everything is right in time, and no element overpowers the others.  And the content of the song adds to its quality - it's basically a call to arms to everyone who doesn't know what they're doing with their life.  I can almost picture a group of wanderers marching along together in celebration of being totally lost.  (Sidenote: this was originally released in 2007, but was rereleased this year)

07. Santogold - L.E.S. Artistes
Of the next 7 songs, I heard 4 and a half in one visit to Urban Outfitters.  I'm not sure if I'm excited about this.  At the time, I was, as the music (and cute girls that urban is always full of) turned the store into an oasis in a South Charlotte mall the day after Christmas.  But, overall, I am undecided on how I feel about the popularity of artists like Santogold.  It'd be one thing if these bands were actually gaining name recognition and such.  Instead, they have this unnamed sort of popularity, where they're featured on Gossip Girl and commercials and played in stores but no one really knows who they are.  I got my cousin Santogold's self-titled debut for Christmas and she said "Oh I don't know who this is," and my other cousin said, "Yes you do - you just don't know it."  The kind of "Oh I loooove this song - who is it?" attitude... or the kind of popularity that eventually leads to an extremely high number of high schoolers and college students downloading a single on iTunes, but pretty low overall album sales.  I think it's frustrating.  This whole album deserves popularity and celebration.

Okay, that little rant aside - woo, I love this song!  It doesn't get old!  It's simple indie rock with a little bit of electronic support.  It showcases the impressive vocals of frontwoman Santi White and is just catchy enough to stick with you, but not so catchy that you're singing it constantly and want to shoot yrself to get it out of yr head.  AND it's a slam at the "poseurs" of the lower east side.  Awesome.

06. Hot Chip - Ready For the Floor
Two years ago, I was waiting for a Mirah and The Blow concert at Wellesley and it sort of turned into an anticipatory dance party, thanks to some students that were playing Hot Chip's The Warning over the main speakers.  My friend and I decided at that point that Hot Chip could do no wrong.  They're nerdy and look like they should be awkward, but they make unique and interesting electronic pop and dance music that is as seductive as that genre can get.  This song is a good example of that.  They kind of dork out on certain electro elements.  The synth rhythm in the background is bouncy and would be laughable if it wasn't so well done.  A lot of the melody is comprised of elements that are suspiciously similar to video game sound effects.  BUT IT'S SO GOOD.  Everything falls in place and the vocals are beautiful and clear, with the backup vocals serving as another element in the mix.  The beat of this song is probably the most accessible of all the tracks on the album, and helps make it one of the best dance songs of the year.

05. The Kills - Cheap and Cheerful
This song has a cheery rhythm, and I don't mean cheery like Christmas cheer.  I mean I can picture some tough, mean, punk cheerleaders performing this track.  The rhythm is comprised of coughing, slamming doors, hand claps, and marching-band drum rolls, in addition to the more typical indie rock drum riffs.  The guitar is low, noisy and minimalistic, leaving room for the vocals to take center stage.  And per usual, The Kills frontwoman VV gives us attitude and spunk, as she sings "I want you to be crazy cause you're boring baby when you're straight // I want you to be crazy cause you're stupid baby when you're safe."

04. Cut Copy - Lights and Music
The final Cut Copy song on my list, this tops them all.  If you're looking for a dance anthem of 2008, you can find it in Lights and Music.  I don't want to do the song injustice by trying to list all of the different things that make it so great, so just listen to it.

03. Lykke Li - Dance Dance Dance
Marry me, Lykke Li!  She's one of 2008's indie sweet hearts and all the dorky blogger boys are totally in love with her.  But I suppose I am, too.  Her voice is cute, but not in some empty, shallow way.  This song showcases how her vocals can be simple and adorable but deep.  The instrumentation on this track is very minimal, and totally really take a major role in the song until almost three minutes in.  The song is about how she can't express her feelings (assumedly toward some love interest) in words, but only through dancing.  But the song manages to make that sound surprisingly uncheesey. She's magic.

02. Immuzikation - All My Children
2008 gave us great pop music, nice bridges between electro and mainstream, crap-hop that wasn't too crappy, a wonderful return to disco, loads of great dance music, and much more, but one of my favorite gifts of this year was Immuzikation.  He is Alfredo Lapuz, Jr. of Athens, Georgia, and does mashups similar to those of Girl Talk and Diplo, but in a less loaded way.  That is, his tracks don't include 14 different samples.  Sometimes they have as many as 7, but my favorite of his is this mash up of All My Friends by LCD Soundsystem and MGMT's Kids.  It's just two tracks layered together in a way that makes you say "why didn't I think of that?"  The two different songs sound like they were written for each other, and the result is beautiful.  Two of my favorite artists from the past few years, LCD Soundsystem and MGMT have similar enough sounds that the production work probably wasn't too much of a stretch for Immuzikation, but it's done with such perfection that I imagine not just anyone could do it this well.  And it's pure fucking genius, so that's my number two.

01. Frightened Rabbit - Keep Yourself Warm
If you want to hear a really depressing view of sex and relationships, look no further than Scottish band Frightened Rabbit's Keep Yourself Warm.  Off of their wonderful album Midnight Organ Fight, which the band says is a euphemism for sex (what a lovely perspective), this song combines the melancholic melodies of the Constantines or Smashing Pumpkins with the equally melancholic drag and depth of Okkervil River with the ballad and anthem-like rock of the Foo Fighters.  Musically, a blogger at Pop Tarts Suck Toasted, described the music as "swirling guitars and sorrowful singing" that "stems from the steady beats," creating "a sound that is emotional and catchy at once."  A pretty accurate description... this song is definitely pushed forward by the drums, leading it through a series of build ups, break downs, and anthemic explosions of music.  Beautiful.  Also, despite the occasional corny or dumb lines, this song's lyrics echo the powerful melancholy of the instrumentation, as frontman Scott Hutchinson gives a strong yet depressing "fuck you" to an ex that nearly drove him to suicide.

Runners up...
MGMT - Time to Pretend
Leona Lewis - Bleeding Love & Better In Time (both tracks are endorsed by Frightened Rabbit)
Let me know if you think I forgot something

And as a congratulations for making it through my ramblings, here are some great tracks for your New Years Eve celebrations...

Ron Brown - Pop Champagne ft. Jim Jones and Juelz Santana (Electrik Cokaine Club Mix)
Justice ft. Uffie - The Party (LA Riots Remix)
Lady Gaga - Just Dance (LunyP Dance Dance Dance Bmore Mix)
Usher - Love in This Club (MSTRKRFT Remix)
Cut Copy - Lights & Music (Boys Noize Happy Birthday Remix)
Tittsworth - New Years (EWF)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Black is Beautiful

Despite the snow I'm in a surprisingly good mood so I've decided to share some beautiful Black eye candy that I enjoy looking at on a regular. Plus I just wrote a paper on race and representation so it's still in my system.

Toccarra Jones, my dream woman.

This is one of my favorite images and I plan to reproduce it (with myself of course) before 2010.

Black looks and Black lungs, so beautiful.

Snoop Doggy Diva.

My godmother.

Boy you so crazy! Prince, pre Jehovah Witness status.

Outkast, so beautiful.

"Naomi Campell walk.."

Jamaican Bobsled Team. Yes, Cool Runnings was the first movie I ever watched in theaters.

Biggie, too beautiful.

Keep yo man, I want yo hair.

(Urban takeover)

One last treat
(hint, this is my diva identity)

How could I forget America's new favorite Black eye candy? The adorable Barack and the Obamas. Three images for my mistake.

SO BEAUTIFUL. Countdown to January 20th? Yes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

pink and yellow and read all over

WOZQ DIRT IS BORN! Get your copy now--you'll find stacks in hillyer, nielson, the cc and the station. It's free...and college students love free shit, right? They come in two colors, pink and yellow...WHAT'S YOUR FLAVOR?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Interview with Jessica Larrabee from She Keeps Bees
By Danger and Sarah Barr
Nov. 2008

Why don’t you tell us about the name, She Keeps Bees
I love telling this story about when I was younger. The most traumatic thing when I was little chubette I got stung by bees a whole bunch. It was because my mom gave me all this money and it was the first time I was alone and I was like “I’m gonna get a bag a chips that’s like HUGE and I got a six pack of root beer.” And my little chubette self with just like a swim suit on and shoes, came around and was like “cool guys, I’m here with my six pack of root beer.” And the root beer attracted bees. I was like, oh man.

So did She Keeps Bees start with Andy?
No it was just me. Even in high school I played drums and at the end of high school I started playing guitar cause I always wanted to sing and I didn’t want to play drums and sign cause I didn’t know you could do that for some reason. So I was always playing, and it was a lot more folky. I listen to a lot of ani and that’s really dangerous when you’re younger, cause then you’re just like “I went to the store and had a sandwich” cause she is so narrative. That when you are young its like “oh I wrote all these songs already! Just talking about my day, you know!” but they are like the worst songs ever. I had a long journey you know. In college I played in a bunch of rock bands. And that was always interesting because there would be like two bands going on tour and it would be like nine boys, and me. And they would be looking at me like “oh well you know, the merch table is over here…” and I was like…uh…. Thanks. It was such boy’s club weirdness. And I broke up that band. It was called the English System.
Anyway, I really missed the drums and when I met Andy he was engineering stuff and recording. So that worked really well, and we have been together two years as a band.

What are your songs about? What inspires your lyrics?
Sometimes I feel like they are photographs of sort of emotional times you know. It’s sort of an interchangeable person. There was a lot of throwing my heart at everyone, for years and years searching, you know? Like, “oh yeah, are we in love yet??? Do we love each other??? Im moving in! where do I put my shoes?” I hope it can resemble something for everybody. I mean most of it is about being in a dark place and trying to understand what the correct move is, or like how you love somebody that is so awful and it is always a fight. But hopefully a good fight.

What did you listen to growing up?
When I was really young it was always really old school R&B and soul and Stevie Wonder. But then you know when I was in high school it was all, Alice in chains. But I feel like I have come in full circle. I love discovering old stuff now.

Ok now for some favorites questions:
Favorite dance move? With a demonstration please.
Probably my mom’s shimmy, which she stole from Michael Jackson.

Your favorite dish at thanksgiving?
Oh the cheese cake that my friend Adriana made. It was like white chocolate raspberry. It was unreal. I made chili corn cheese pie. That’s my famous dish that I bring everywhere.

Anything you are dying to tell us?
That I just appreciate what you guys did. It was really seriously a magical night. Just as a girl it was like so awesome to see everyone just let all that bullshit go that we are trained to attach ourselves with. None of that looking over your shoulder kind of thing. It was like such a warm incredibly freeing feeling, to just do whatever and it just gave me strength- it was beautiful to see.

Favorite Tracks of 2008: #20-11

Another day, another part of my list.  And this one has a clip from Gossip Girl!  Ooh!

21. Lykke Li - Little Bit

Youth Novels was another one of my favorite albums of the year. Lykke Li is Swedish and 22. And amazing. Her debut album is full of gems, but Little Bit is one of its best. Definitely the best 22-year-old love song I've ever heard. I guess I lied earlier when I said that Cloud Cult had written my favorite lyrics of the year. I'd say for relatability and accuracy, Lykke Li takes the prize on that. Czech this out and tell me you haven't felt this way exactly:
hands down
i'm too proud for love
but with eyes shut
it's you i'm thinking of
and for you i keep my legs apart
and forget about my tainted heart
and i will never ever be the first
to say it
but still I,
yes you know I..I..I..
i would do it,
push a button
pull a trigger,
climb a mountain
jump off a cliff,
'cause you know baby
i love you love you a little bit
i think i'm a little bit, a little bit
a little bit in love with you
but only if you're a little bit, a little bit
a little bit in love with me
Oh also, the music is amazing and fresh. Really, I have nothing to compare it to. It's so great.

19. Passion Pit - Sleepyhead
I can't begin to explain how amazing this song is.  I've never heard anything like it, though Pitchfork draws comparisons to the dreamy work of A Sunny Day In Glasgow and Air France.  This is what electronic indie rock is supposed to sound like.  So much of that genre (read Metro Station) sounds like unoriginal crap you could make yourself, but after listening to the first 30 seconds of Sleepyhead, you'll know it's something special.
...there's really not much sleepy about "Sleepyhead", a genre-crossing jolt of euphoric energy set to appear as a bonus track on Boston five-piece Passion Pit's debut Chunk of Change EP. "Everything is going to the beat," a man mutters at the outset (the sped-up voice is Jack Kerouac's, from one of his spoken word albums), and a steady, wooden thump soon falls in beneath synthetic handclaps, gliding bass, and strobing, keyboard-like sounds.    -Pitchfork [who else?]
18. Santogold - Shove It (ft. Spank Rock)
Santogold is Santi White, the former frontwoman of ska punk band Stiffed, and fellow Stiffed member John Hill.  Their musical roots shine through on the group's self-titled debut, as they find a happy intersection of reggae, dub, M.I.A.-style tribal music, hip-hop, indie rock, and electro.  While Creator already made the list, I put Shove It in the top 20, because it's got this grimy hip-hop sound complimented by some nice dub elementz.  Plus, I fucking love Spank Rock, and the chorus - "We think you're a joke // Shove yr hope where it don't shut" - is hella catchy and spunky.  PS - this is the track that Kanye samples in Jay-Z's Brooklyn We Go Hard.  Sounds better in its original state, I think.

17. MGMT - Electric Feel
Overplayed?  Yes, maybe even to the point of annoying.  When a song starts making frequent appearances on The CW, I start to lose interest.  When I hear it in class on a regular basis, because it has become the most popular ring tone among Smith College's JAPS (look it up - it's not a racial slur), I really start to lose interest.  And when 17 year olds approach me at parties and go on and on about how much they love Electric Feel by "MGMT" (who I at that time still called "The Management" in a sort of bitter musical elitism), I am done with the track. But, there's a reason this song got so popular - it's really great.  I think I heard it first in March, when MGMT started to hit the bogs, and I probably played it on every radio show I had after that.  So when I started to roll my eyes about the song I had to say "fuck you" to myself and get over it, because god damnit, it's a good song, and it deserves top 20.  I can't actually verbalize why I like this track more than Kids or Time To Pretend... except that its groove is unbeatable and the lyrics are fun.  Ooh girl.

16. Kanye West vs. Yelle - A Cause De Kanye
This mashup of Love Lockdown and A Cause De Garcons is the work of Nashville Nights' Jeff Olson.  It's a great example of why the often looked-down-upon genre of "bloghouse" is actually great.  It's a blogger who wanted to spice up Love Lockdown and did so beautifully, then posted it on his blog and let the world discover it.  It's one of the best mashups of the year, and it's definitely the best party mashup.  I actually heard it for the first time on WOZQ (props to Kayden), so that's pretty cool for 91.9.  So good.

15. Department of Eagles - No One Does It Like You
Okay, you want to hear the best roommate story ever?  Daniel Rossen (you know him from Grizzly Bear) went to NYU and was randomly assigned to roommate Fred Nicolaus.  They self-recorded some demos for kicks while they were in school.  They went their separate musical ways, coming together in 5 years later to make a couple of EPs... and in 2008 they reunite and release their full-length debut, which will be on most bloggers' top 10 albums of the year.  So, the moral of the story is... start making music with yr roommate.  The other moral of the story is In Ear Park is a damn good record.  All Music Guide explains:
In Ear Park was inspired by [Rossen's] childhood, dedicated to his late father, and named after what he called one of his favorite places to go as a boy. The band frames these very personal observations in experimental, symphonic/acoustic/ electronic pop, using its grandiosity to convey the power of memories. Its rippling guitars conjure up a far-off, sun-dappled yesterday, and the way its backing vocals and waltz rhythms swell capture the way a memory can completely immerse someone.
No One Does It Like You is my favorite off the album, a less experimental and wandering track that All Music describes as a "bounce, wistful homage to '60s pop."  It's still haunting in its own right, and per usual, Rossen's vocals compliment the song perfectly.

14. Estelle ft. Kanye West - American Boy
Oh, what do I say?  It's a great song.  My favorite R&B/hip-hop track of 2008.  Estelle's voice is powerful but soothing and goes well with Kanye's laidback sound.  It's arranged and produced brilliantly.  Do I need to go on?

13. Bloc Party - Signs
So, I have taken quite a liking to Gossip Girl.  It may mostly be that everyone on that show (Well most everyone) is gorgeous, or it may just be that I am very susceptible to slightly predictable melodrama amongst wealthy elite.  But, whatever the reason, I watch it every week and one thing I've noticed that the show does amazingly is pairing the perfect music with each scene.  Signs was already on my list when I watched the most recent episode of Gossip Girl, but hearing it over the progression of scenes that started with Blair's mom's wedding and ended with Chuck in Blair's arms may have inspired me to move it higher on the list.  I admit it.  It provided some sort of emotional context for the persistent synth pulse, glossy bells and chimes, and melodic vocals of frontman Kele Okereke.

12. Cut Copy - Out There On The Ice
Remember how I said you should just pretend I put the whole Cut Copy album on here?  Well, I basically did.  Here's the third song from the group gracing my top 50 countdown.  Like the two that came before it, it's more of an electro dancefloor jam than the band-led more rocky anthems Pitchfork mentioned.  If you just heard the incredibly housey backbeat, you probably wouldn't expect much from the song.  But that's what I love about it.  Cut Copy has taken a synth riff and club rhythm that you could probably find automated on a cheap keyboard, and layered it actual drums, airy synth orchestrations, bouncy melodies, jock jam-esque samples, and solid vocals, turning an otherwise generic house song into one of the best electro tracks of the year.

11. Kleerup - With Every Heartbeat (ft. Robyn)
Let me divulge a little personal information here... I got dumped this summer.  Ouch, I know. One of the good things that came out of this was my ability to actually understand all of these heartbreak songs I'd heard so many times.  Cheesey, maybe, but I now had a legit connection to them, which transformed already beautiful songs like this into "the best song I've ever heard."  Some tracks, like Eamon's Fuck It, perhaps were not deserving of such praise, but Kleerup's #11 song on my list without a doubt deserves all the praise I'm about to lay out.  Like Robyn's song that hit earlier in the list, this song has been around since 2006.  And being a Robyn fan, I've loved it since it dropped as a single two years ago.  But this year, it was released under Kleerup's name on his self-titled debut of synth love and production genius.  And it came out just in time for my heartache, with all sort of new meaning and layers.  Musically, its production is seamless, from the echoing synth-strings opener to the steady synthesized beat, to the crispness of Robyn's knockout vocals... to the pre-chorus synth-heavy build up... to the minimalistic climax under Robyn's "so I don't look back," which fades into a lovely strings instrumental section, which in turn fades into a spacey sounding subtle backdrop to Robyn's repeated "and it hurts with every heartbeat" that eventually gives way to its opening dancefloor beat.

Favorite Tracks of 2008: #30-21

Despite my best intentions, I spent my day playing video games, shopping, drinking hot chocolate and baileys, listening to live music, and watching dexter.  Why not conclude my not-productive-in-the-way-it-should-have-been day with part three of my list?

30. a) Girl Talk - Play Your Part (Pt. 1) (mp3)
       b) Girl Talk - Don't Stop (savefile)

Girl Talk at Smith Spring 2008
How could I choose just one?  These are my two favorite tracks off of Girl Talk's smashing Feed the Animals, which I'd say topped his seemingly untoppable debut.  You guys know Gregg Gillis' style so I won't bore you with basic definitions.  Let me just tell you my favorite moments of each song... I love the way Girl Talk does buildups, and there's a minor example in Don't Stop, though it never really climaxes, when he uses the instrumentals from Born Slippy as a base and adds a new sample on top of the others every couple of seconds, until it sort of fades into Usher's Love In This Club.  Opening track Play Your Part (Pt. 1), offers another prime example of Gillis' genius as he mashes T.I.'s What You Know with Gettin' Some by Shawnna and Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead O'Connor, feeding right into a sample from Big Pimpin'.  Beautiful work, Gregg.

29. Blitzen Trapper - Furr (mp3)
The first 10 seconds of this track offer testament as to why it's my pick for 29.  As soon as the Dylan-inspired, doubled vocals come in over the simple acoustic guitar, I'm sold on this track.  A minute later, a harmonica, drums, and a tambourine kick in to signal a chorus whose lyrics I still don't understand.  The song, overall, tells the most interestingly illustrated story of growing up (and out of adolescence) that I've ever heard, and compliment the music perfectly.

28. a) Cut Copy - Far Away (mp3)
      b) Cut Copy - Hearts on Fire (mp3)

Okay, seriously... just pretend I put the whole album In Ghost Colours here, because good fucking lord, I love it so much... and I've listened to it so many times that it's hard to rank the songs individually.  Here's what Pitchfork had to say about the album:
Sure, as you might expect, there are still blushes of French house and electro scattered liberally all over the show, but they're always deployed in ways that serve-- rather than overshadow-- the song. And while Cut Copy's principle and founding member Dan Whitford may come from a DJ background, the band-led songs come across every bit as muscular and as noteworthy as the dancefloor crossovers. To that end, this is one of the best bridges between electro and rock in a long time; the joins are so seamless that you don't even think of the songs on those terms.
These songs are definitely on the more electro end of the record, with Hearts on Fire actually actually being pretty housey, but even within these songs, you can see what Pitchfork is talking about.  It's not generic electro in any sense and every single element of each song seems perfectly appropriate and in place.  Ah, musical perfection.  And you can dance to it!

27. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down - Bag of Hammers (mp3)
First of all, youtube Thao right now.  She's soooo cute.  She's a women's studies major and is signed to Kill Rock Stars.  Loving it.  That said, she could be an anti-woman, Palin-loving loonie, and this song would still be GREAT.  One of the catchiest tunes on my list, this song will literally make you bob from side to side as you sing along.  As a lyricist, Thao is honest and raw.  As a musician, she successfully makes indie folk fun and cute again, without being annoying.  This song could charm its way into the heart of anyone and will probably dance its way onto many a best-of list this year.  Oh, and to make it easy for you, I went ahead and youtubed her:

26. Ra Ra Riot - Can You Tell (mp3)
Ra Ra Riot is a stupid name.  There, I said it.  I thought they'd sound like Arctic Monkeys or that band that did the cool music video on treadmills.  I was pleasantly surprised to have my ears/brain graced with well-written (and not overly simplified) indie pop melodies and appropriately simple lyrics we can all relate to.  In fact, if I had an aim profile, I'd probably put them in my profile as soon as I had an unrequited love:
When I look into your eyes
I tend to lose my thoughts
Don't forget your stare
Oh what was that you said
Would you let me know
'Cause I can't read your mind
Oh can you tell
I can't even explain

Oh baby I can't even explain
What am I supposed to do
It's hard to stay cool
When you smile at me
And I get nervous every time you speak

My bed's too big for just me 
Yeah, pretty fucking cute.  Their 80s-ish sound will sound familiar if you've heard Vampire Weekend, but the music itself is way more interesting than those Harvard boys.

25. Laura Marling - Cross Your Fingers (
She's younger than me... 18 or 19, and this is her second time she's appearing on my list (which obviously means she's made it!).  She was a guest on Young Love by The Mystery Jets.  This song is even better, probably because she wrote it.  She's got a knack for songwriting, adding just enough poplove to turn a basic folk song into something splendid without watering it down.  And the production on this track is outstanding.

24. Cloud Cult - The Ghost Inside Our House (mp3)
I really like Cloud Cult, but I can see how they aren't for everyone.  Some of their tracks get the "weird" response from a non-adventurous audience, and that's understandable.  It's too bad, though, because it's really beautiful music and their lyrics are actually interesting.  I really like this song, because it is pretty palatable to any music-lover.  While many of their songs tend to throw electronic elements into the mix, this track is purely acoustic guitar and simple (but powerful) orchestration under frontman Craig Minowa's boyish voice.  There's no backbeat to distract from the music and words (which by the way are probably my favorite lyrics on the list).

23. The Dodos - Winter (mp3)

Off of one the best albums of the year, Winter is the most accurately/appropriately-titled song on my list.  The music is wintery, opening with rumbling subtle drums, a lulling melody, and some treble-y guitar strumming that legit sounds like snowflakes.  This gives way to a bigger sound, as some horns come in over a bigger (though still not overpowering) beat.  And the story of the song is about the "winter" phase of a relationship, as the afterflow wears off and the love slowly fades, but the couple stays together.  It even gets bitter at the end, just like the cold winter wind.  I'm serious, The Dodos, hit the nail on the head (pardon the cliche) with this one.

22. Lil' Wayne - Lollipop (mp3)
Okay, I feel pretty dumb putting this song this far up, after writing such glowing reviews of the musical perfection and lyrical complexity of my other picks.  But, fuck it - I love this.  It would be an understatement to say it was produced well, and it'd be a lie to say the beat wasn't dope as shit.  Also, I love the lyrics, despite their profound lack of, well.. profoundness.  If I felt comfortable saying certain words in public, I'd sing this part all the time and make it my anthem:
Shawty said the nigga that she with ain't shit
Shawty said the nigga that she with ain't this
Shawty said the nigga that she with cant hit
Well shawty imma hit it(hit it) like I cant miss
Thank you, Mr. Carter, for putting my feelings in such poetic and perfect words.  PS -- think we look alike?


21. Bon Iver - Skinny Love (mp3)
So my radiowife (aka co-disc-jockey, DJ Hype) doesn't like this song.  I've listened to it over and over trying to figure out what she could possibly dislike... and I've got nothing.  Unless she just really can't stand falsettos and acoustic guitars or strong-but-slightly-whiny choruses... cause this song has a lot of that.  But don't let that discourage you - it sounds great. It's this high up on the list because it's anything-but-complex, and yet doesn't sacrifice any quality to maintain that simplicity.  Just pure musical goodness.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On the 5th of November, Matt and Kim played a dance-tronic show in the company of musical gems Best Fwends and Eric Hnatow. It was a magical night and there might as well have been confetti falling from the sky. Alyssa Pluss and Laura Galu had the chance to interview Matt and Kim beforehand, here is what they got:

We’ve both seen Matt and Kim perform a few times, and we totally agree with what people say about them – that their music is party music, and their show is a PARTY!!! What we found out is that even interviewing them is a party – during the interview, we chatted about crazy responses to Obama being elected, the bad-tasting burritos that they were both eating during the interview, stink bombs, and they even let us give them some listening advice (re: Fleetwood Mac). We also found out the secret behind Kim’s smile – Matt’s goofy face (aw, isn’t that cute?). Later that night, they put on a great show. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that rowdy of a crowd at the Iron Horse. What more could we ask for both of our first interviews? Pretty much nothing.

DIRT: [We’re] interviewing Matt and Kim, the day after Obama got elected.

KIM: I’m gonna say, this could have been a really bad tour. Not to think selfishly, but in life, it would have been really bad.

MATT: Well, tonight, for me, it’s a celebration party. It could have been really depressing.

KIM: Yeah, it’ll be a good night. Last night, we took the night off, of course. We were in Brattleborough, it’s close to where Matt grew up, in VT. It was amazing just to go out in the streets afterwards, and everyone was just so excited, it was amazing. Matt got up on the table, did a little dance.

DIRT: People at Smith were going crazy too. People were screaming, getting naked-

KIM: Really?

DIRT: A lot of running. People at Smith always want to get naked. Any opportunity. One of the questions we wanted to ask you is, how do you deal with it when the crowd isn’t giving you good vibes?

MATT: Well, first step is to try to get people into it. There’s a couple of techniques I try. One is to turn out all the lights in the venue, and see if you can do it in the dark. For some reason, it makes people less self-conscious, and that’s one area of defense. Another one is just to make fun of yourself, you know, if you make fun of yourself, you all get on the same ground. But sometimes nothing works, and sometimes people don’t get into it and it sucks.

KIM: Well, it’s tough, the way we work – we work off the crowd.

MATT: There’s nothing that’s like we’re the band, you’re the crowd, it’s not that kind of thing. With some bands, it doesn’t matter, they’re just doing the same thing.

KIM: So yeah, if the crowd’s going crazy, we get more excited and more energized, and that I feel like that goes back to the crowd. It’s just kind us playing off of each other.

MATT: And then sometimes, in a worst-case scenario, in a bad turn-out, and people aren’t that into - whatever – with Kim there, that’s where I do have to start blocking out the crowd.

KIM: And then we just play to each other.

MATT: And then it’s just us, and if I just make a stupid face, and then that makes you smile, and that just makes me more psyched.

KIM: So that happens a lot, cause Matt makes a lot of stupid faces.

DIRT: That’s why you’re always smiling.

KIM: Yeah, I’m just up there laughing at Matt.

DIRT: Do you guys have a routine you go through to get ready to perform? Do you distinguish between performing onstage and not performing off-stage?

KIM: No, you basically get us the same way either way.

MATT: Well, it does make a difference-

KIM: If it’s hip-hop-

MATT: We put on music we like before we play. If we can do that, and when we set up gear, we just dance when we do it, I get so much more psyched up. But sometimes you have no control and the sound guy is into something that I would consider really awful, or it’s something super-mellow, and I just start out not psyched.

KIM: I think it’s that, and if we have time to chill. Sometimes tour gets pretty stressful, and you’re just kind of running around a lot, and then they’re like, you gotta go on.

MATT: And also the bands you play with. Our show – how the whole show is to someone going – it’s an accumulation of the night. If the bouncers are shitty, that makes you have a worse night, which makes us have a worse set. If the club just is a place you wouldn’t want to be- remember that time, [with] Against Me – all the stink bombs? You just didn’t want to be there.

KIM: Even though, I really love the smell of stink bombs. It’s kind of like that egg smell that you sometimes get when you’re driving. I like hard-boiled eggs a lot, and it’s kind of like that, so I’m like, yeah, I’m getting hungry.

MATT: Also, the bands you play with. Like this band we have with us right now, Best Fwends, is just a total riot, and they make me get psyched and laugh, and just put me in a good mood.

DIRT: How did you get hooked up with them?

KIM: We were friends with them for a while.

MATT: They’ve been playing longer than we’ve been playing. I remember going and seeing them before we had ever started.

KIM: They just kind of toured – basically, a lot of the bands we tour with are friends. Because now we’ve gotten to the point where we can take friends with us, which is really nice, just to kind of have your posse roll into town, instead of just the two of us. So, we, through mutual friends, kind of were introduced to them and have been friends with them for the past 6, 7 years. So now we’re able to take them on the road with us, which is good. They’re very entertaining.

DIRT: So one good thing about being more well known is being able to take people on the road. Is there anything else that comes along with that?

KIM: Venue people are nicer to you.

MATT: Sometimes.

KIM: Sometimes (laughs).

MATT: You have to be moving in some direction. I have bands that have – there’s a certain DIY circuit that you can do in this country, and are just committed to that, that’s what they do. Things have to change. I could change and do a support tour for a bigger band and do these bigger venues where everything’s really boring, and then I could go back and do some of those shows, but I have to switch around. I guess if you have more popularity, you have more options. Not that you have to do one or the other. Some bands look like they can’t go back to gallery shows or warehouse shows, or things that they used to do. But I think having more options keeps things more exciting because if you want to do a better place – but then there’s also more expectations. That’s kind of been killing us on this tour.

KIM: It’s kind of like this: if you have a party at your house, and it’s early, and you’re kind of nervous that no one’s going to show up, you get that every night.

MATT: Does anyone like me? You start worrying about these things, and it’s totally the same, you take it to heart, as if it’s not about your band, it’s about you. So we’re in Boston, where we had played at a little art gallery to like 70 kids before, and it was awesome, and now we play the Middle East to over a couple hundred. And they’re all going crazy, and it should be fun, but because the venue’s that much bigger, it’s like, well it should be more full than this. Even though it was an awesome show and there were hundreds of people there, and they were going wild, it still had this undertone of depressing because there was this other expectation.

DIRT: What were you setting up with the projector?

MATT: Well, we had this idea – we were going to venues that people had been to a bunch of times, and we just wanted to make it somehow more specifically a MATT & KIM show. You’ve been here a million times, seen a million shows – what can we do to make it feel like it’s its own thing? We could make big art on sheets and stuff but that would be really hard, so we thought just to use a couple projectors on the walls and try to make them big. We have Shaun of the Dead in there, which is one of my favorite movies, right now. I made this animation, but we didn’t get it on DVD in time. But to start it – I can’t get through the menu, but it has previews for such awful movies as The Real Cancun, which I think was the only attempt at a reality movie that ever existed. I’m projecting this ten feet high.

DIRT: Is there anything you want to tell us about the new album?

KIM: It’s awesome! No, we’re really excited – actually, we recorded in MATT’s parent’s house. Actually, we recorded in the room that MATT grew up in, that still looks like a 16-year-old lives there. So we had full control, and we got to do exactly what we wanted. We took about nine months doing it. We were on tour at the time, so we’d kind of go on tour and come back. It’s exactly what we wanted to make, and we’re really excited about it. But now it’s done, but with the whole record label thing, they need three months to get it ready.

MATT: Whatever, we just want it – that’s so long, we started last December.

KIM: We put out two free tracks online to kind of be like, here you go.

MATT: It’s different than anything we’ve done, but only in a way that would have been exactly what I would have wanted to do from square one if we had the means. Our last recording we did in seven days, as opposed to this, we did in like nine months. It was like, good enough? OK, keep going. Do you want to try something? No, no time to try something. Sometimes you want to try something that could be shitty, but it could be that special thing that you didn’t know was going to work. But then again, having too much freedom is brutal, and that’s why it took so god damn long, and I would never do it myself ever, ever again.

KIM: But now we know how to tell someone exactly what we want.

DIRT: So how do you see yourselves fitting into “DIY,” or do you?

KIM: I mean, it’s kind of what our band grew on. And I really don’t feel like we’ve changed at all. So I feel like we could play a venue one day and play a DIY space – like in Providence, we played a DIY space, and then we played the Middle East in Boston. I just feel like we haven’t really changed. New songs, but –

MATT: Like I said, there are certain things that if you are only part of the DIY scene, it will just drive you nuts. Doing long drives to New Orleans Louisiana just to have your show get shut down one song in, while other people drove hours to get there, and stuff like that. Or the person who’s throwing the show not showing up when you get there. If you’re doing this as a hobby, or you go out and do a tour once every year – but if you’re doing this all the time, you just can’t do that all the time, it just wears you out. But, on the other hand, the organization of venues, and everything being worked out beforehand, can be really great but then it can get really boring.

DIRT: Do you guys ever listen to Fleetwood Mac?

MATT: What would be a Fleetwood Mac song?

DIRT: What? “Gypsy,” “Rhiannon,” “Never Going Back Again,” “Dreams,” “The Chain.”

KIM: You know who would know that?

MATT: Who?

KIM: Best Fwends.

DIRT: You guys should just take a listen – no, take a look, on youtube.

KIM: Give us one song.

DIRT: “Dreams” – no, “The Chain,” from 1982. The reason we wanted to ask you about it is because they a really intense energy on stage that could maybe be compared to you guys.

MATT: My brother blamed all of soft rock on Fleetwood Mac.

DIRT: Fleetwood Mac is not soft rock.

MATT: So then I didn’t choose for myself. Because soft rock is one of the worst genres of music.

DIRT: They’re intense.

KIM: “The Chain”?

DIRT: Yeah, 1982, that’s the best one.

MATT: That was a good year.

KIM: That’s the year you were born.

MATT: All right, I’ll give it a chance. My brother, I have to tell you, he doesn’t always know what he’s talking about.

KIM: What are you talking about, your brother has no idea what he’s talking about.

DIRT: Well, we both love your music and we both love Fleetwood Mac.

MATT: OK, all right.

KIM: I’ll take that.

DIRT: Well, thanks so much for the interview.

Many, many thanks to Matt and Kim for agreeing to sit down with DIRT. You're dreamboats and I want you at all my birthday parties from now on.
Here is the video from their new single, "Daylight," off of their new album (of the same name).

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Favorite Tracks of 2008: #40-31

Let's see - I have an exam tomorrow, a presentation I know nothing about, a lab report to write, a paper that's already late, and I'm stuck at work for hours.  Seems like the perfect time for part two of my list. 

40. Mystery Jets - Young Love (mp3)
This song is produced by DJ Erol Alkan and features the young, folksie Laura Marling (she's also on my list for a solo track and can be found on Noah and the Whale's 5 Years Time, which almost made the list) on vocals.  It's indie pop at it's best - an intelligent cute story, a boy/girl duet, a slightly-80s inspired rhythm, an "instantly catchy" melody, complex arrangement, and one of my favorite music videos of the year.  Check out the song and watch the video below:

39. She & Him - Sweet Darlin' (mp3)
She is super cute indie film queen Zooey Deschanel (think Elf and All The Real Girls).  He is brilliant alt-country god M. Ward.  Together they were this year's best musical duo.  Zooey's voice reminds me of the great female country singers of the 50s and 60s, and this song combines that sound with the harmonies and rhythm of old girl-groups.  M. Ward's instrumentals make the simple track deeper and even more enjoyable.

38. Black Kids - Hurricane Jane (mp3)
You know that song, I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You?  Well, it was great and all, but this one's better.  Same artist and similar style, but more interesting.  Black Kids have managed to combine a whole lot of genres, which I think is what made them such a blog sensation.  This song's slow, off-beat tempo and simple melody are sort of Miami Vice disco-y, the vocals are strict indie-pop goodness, the lush instrumentation combines electro with a more old-fashioned sound, and the lyrics are pure pop heaven.  The Twelves' remix of this track was my summer anthem, but the original stands on its own.

37. Mystery Jets - Two Doors Down (mp3)
The UK band is back on the list already with the even better track, Two Doors Down.  Bloggers went crazy for this shit at the beginning of the summer, swearing that you could close yr eyes and think you were back in the mid 80s.  As that era predates little 21 year old me, I'm just going to have to take their word for it.  I can say, however, that this is the best track off their wonderful album (21) and honestly pure pop perfection.

36. Dr. Dog - The Rabbit, The Bat, And The Reindeer (mp3)
I'll be honest - I hadn't even heard this song until two days ago.  In preparing for my best of list, I checked out some of my favorite blogs' recaps of 2008 and Dr. Dog kept coming up.  I actually wrote them off earlier in the year because their name sounded dumb.  How wrong I was!  This song is really great and actually the rest of their songs are great, too.  This song is dripping with 60s pop and features "ragged-but-right" [according to all music guide] vocals with clever lyrics you won't feel silly singing along to.

35. She Keeps Bees - Release (mp3)
What can I say about She Keeps Bees?  I could write a whole post about them... and actually Camila already has.  They're a bluesy indie-rock duo, with Jess Larabee on guitars and vocals and Andy LaPlant on drums.  The music is simple in theory, but has an unexpectedly deep sound that separates it from other drum/guitar duos like The White Stripes.  It might remind you of early Cat Power and my mom thinks Jess's voice sounds like Jefferson Airplane singer Grace Slick.  While these comparisons definitely ring true, She Keeps Bees has a unique sound that makes me feel really super good inside.  I expect big things from them in 2009.

34.  Fleet Foxes - He Doesn't Know Why (mp3)
Fleet Foxes is going to be on everyone's best of list.  The band's 2008 self-titled album offered a fresh spin on indie pop.  The vocals are just right, the lyrics are intriguing, the music goes beyond the simple riffs of most pop songs, the arrangement is perfect with appropriate build ups and break downs, and talk about lush instrumentals.  This song stands out to me as being especially fresh.  I could listen to it over and over.

33. Santogold - Creator (mp3)
Santogold's self-titled debut is definitely one of my favorite albums of 2008.  She apparently used to sing for a ska punk band, but I'd say the electro hip-hop dub genre suits her way better.  Creator is mostly just her vocals over pretty bare electronic beats.  And yet the song never gets boring or repetitive.  And I fucking love the intro.  Czech it out.

32. Beyonce - Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) (mp3)
Just so you know, I'm currently working on perfecting my Single Ladies dance - be on the lookout for a youtube video.  But in all seriousness, one of the best R&B/pop songs of the year.  Sasha Fierce (aka Beyonce) hits this one out of the park.  A great beat, a beyond-catchy chorus, a dope dance, great sound production, and all the diva attitude you could ever want.

31. The Ting Tings - That's Not My Name (mp3)
Sure, Shut Up and Let Me Go is fun and Calvin Harris did a great job remixing Great DJ, but The Ting Tings best song this year was definitely That's Not My Name.  Just as catchy and danceable as Shut Up and Let Me Go, this one offers a little more variety, music-wise.  It has multiple layers, an instrumental breakdown, and a really great buildup at the end culminating in electro euphoria.  Hell, the track is so good Dizzee Rascal covered it (see below).

Favorite Tracks of 2008: #50-41

YES.  It's that time again.  When I distract myself from important exams and papers by spending hours compiling a list of my favorite songs of the year.  So today I locked my sick self in my friends' apartment armed with BOSE headphones, iTunes, and my trusted external harddrive (named "99 problems but a bitch ain't one"), and picked from hundreds of wonderful songs.  Here are 50-41.  Look out over the next couple of days for the rest of my list.

50. Chairlift - Bruises (mp3)
You'll probably recognize this track from the iPod nano commercial.  It's so cute and catchy, with lyrics like "I tried to do handstands for you, but every time I fell for you."

49. Mountain Goats - Thank You Mario But Our Princess is in Another Castle (mp3)
I'll let Pitchfork take this one...
... this song gives [Mountain Goat's John] Darnielle some of the warmest, most revealing production in his career, with his bare piano chords, [Kaki] King's gently jazzy drumming, and the Mountain Goats man's exposed, confident vocals.  When King's wispy voice comes in to join Darielle's at the climax, the two sing, "When you came in, I could breathe again," backed only by King's chiming glockenspiel.  "The Song is sung for the point of view of a Toad," Darnielle explains.  Any princess who could resist such charms has probably eaten too many mushrooms.

48. Baby Diamonds - Teenagers (mp3)
The first electro track on my list, this charmer features rough electronic stylings reminiscent of Justice and MSTRKRFT, with the lovely lyrics, "boy i'm not a slut just cause i always give a fuck.  girl i'm not a dick just cause i never give a shit."  Possibly an interesting commentary on gender relations amongst adolescents, possibly a borderline offensive display of stereotypical sex roles... definitely a great track for shakin yo booty.

47. Rihanna - Disturbia
You know this song.  You know it's great.  I love it.  Here is Rihanna performing it at the VMAs, hot faux hawk and all.

46. Crystal Castles - Crimewave (
I don't know that I've heard anything like Crystal Castles.  Their songs seem complex, but their melodies are simple and their synth riffs are basic and clear.  This song is perfect for bobbing yr head and definitely worthy of a spot in my top 50.

45. The Killers - Human (mp3)
Oh my god, I love this song.  The rest of the album kind of sucked, but Human is so dope!  It'd be higher if the lyrics weren't so stupid, haha.  "Are we human or are we dancer?"  Anyway, the Killers get a little new-agey and embrace the synthesizer on this track.  There are good build ups, a great beat, and a catchy-as-fuck melody.  They even sort of break it down at one point.  What else could I ask for in a song?

44. Okkervil River - Calling and Not Calling My Ex (mp3)
Okkervil River is one of my favorite bands.  Their 2007 album, Stage Names, was in my top ten, and I caught them at Pearl Street for one of my favorite live shows in Northampton.  In the band's typical narrative form, this song is the first person account of a man watching his ex-girlfriend on television.  The music itself is great, as to be expected.  It's upbeat and has a very Christmasy feel, with bells and all, but maintains the borderline-whiny, dragging pull that Okkervil is notorious for.

43. Nas - Black President (mp3)
Produced by DJ Green Lantern, Black President was Nas' pre-election pro-Obama track.  DJ Green Lantern samples Tupac and Barack himself, while Nas offers solid lyrics and a healthy dose of hope.  I'm not going to lie...  I got choked up when I played this the day of the election.  At the end of the track, a voice says "It is my distinct honor and privilege to introduce to you the next president of the United States, Barack Obama." Listen to that and tell me you don't get chillz.

42. Robyn - Cobrastyle (mp3)
Cobrastyle has actually been around for a while.  Robyn dropped her self-titled album featuring this track in Sweden back in 2005.  I've been in love with her ever since.  You'd recognize her old pop anthem, Show Me Love, but this shit is wayyy better.  The song won critical acclaim three years ago in Sweden, but only recently gained a following in the US when she rereleased it internationally on an EP.  It counts as a 2008 release, because the US edition of Robyn came out here in April.  About fuckin time America.  Robyn is fierce and I can't get enough.

41. Natalie Portman's Shaved Head - Me + Yr Daughter (mp3)

VICE Magazine loves this band.  And they hate like everyone, so I think that says something.  Also, I love this band.  They don't take themselves too seriously, they make great electro dance pop, they spell "yr" the way i do, and put a big smile on my face.  This song has just enough disco to send you into a fit of dancing euphoria, and a banger beat to keep you grounded.  I went through a two-week period earlier in the semester when this track was legit constantly on repeat.  It became an anthem, as I thought of all the parents I could sing this to.
Me and yr daughter
Never been hotter
Rocking this party

Me and yr daughter
Touching my body
She is so lovely

#10-01 (coming soon)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Barack vs. Hillary, the musical edition

Beyonce-I am...Sasha Fierce. November 2008.

Britney Spears-Circus. December 2008.

JUST KIDDING. More like Beyonce vs. Britney. Recently Beyonce/Sasha Fierce released her latest work, I am..Sasha Fierce and today Britney released "the highly anticipated" Circus. I've heard leaks of some of the tracks off of both albums. "Single Ladies" is glorious but what (??!) is with "Diva", oh no boo boo. "Single Ladies" and "Diva" come from Beyonce's cooler side, Sasha Fierce. I have yet to hear stuff from Beyonce's part of the album (I am) but don't worry, I will tonight so a more complete review/judgment will come. Off of Circus I am in LOVE with "If You Seek Amy", the title track "Circus", "Kill the Lights", "Trouble", AND after a while "Womanizer" has grown on me. Brit Brit's winning, sorry Beyonce, and Sasha Fierce too. I know, I know, Beyonce is Black and now that we have a Black president-elect all Black people should be winning things, racism is over and Al Sharpton is worth listening to but c'mon let's give the white ladies something. Britney's album is what Hillary's campaign should have been: good.

Yeah, it's true, I can say what I want because "I'ma a diva, hey, I'ma a diva, hey...diva is a female version of a hustla...".

Why should you listen to both albums? Let these photos explain

1. Because Britney loves and supports the Black/Asian drag community. (I wish I knew what the rest of that outfit was.)

2. Because Beyonce loves the animals and wants to remind you to save the Everglades.

3. Because Britney loves this blessed country.

4/5/6. Because Beyonce likes to dress gay Black men up as angels (or extras in her Single Ladies video, SO GOOD) and because Beyonce loves everyone's main man, G-O-D AND she pretends to cry, yes FAKE CRIES, during the performance of this song.

A final treat: