So, since Jim is the only legitimate journalist posting on this blog, most of my entries will probably be random reminiscences that may excite you, anger you, enthrall you, or disappoint you. In any case, instead of doing a year-end Best-Of list, or even a year-end “This is what I liked that came out this year,” I'm doing a year-end “This is what I discovered this year.” I'll be chatting about albums that came out before 2008 that I didn't listen to until this year, but only the ones I really really liked. And here's where I find it important to assure you all that I do have good taste in music, and passing phases like the Bloodhound Gang are most likely only phases. Maybe. Anyway, here it goes...
5 55-Charlotte Gainsbourg
I saw Ms. Gainsbourg in a movie called The Cement Garden a couple of years ago, and let me tell you. She is an amazing actress. When I found out she had an album, I was reluctant. After all, Milla Jovovich, that sexy sexy Ukranian woman we all know and love, released an album in 1994. And, well... yeah. But Charlotte sings beautifully! Sometimes her lyrics are a little trite (see “Beauty Mark), but her voice is always breathy and sweet, and she has an accent. Bonus points. Songs like “The Operation,” by far the best on the album, even make me uncomfortable when I listen to them with other people, because they seem so personal.
Dear Catastrophe Waitress-Belle & Sebastian
I know, I know. This came out YEARS ago. And I didn't technically discover it this year... I've been listening to “Step Into My Office, Baby” for a while, but not until this year did I realize that the entire album is amazing. Lyrically, I admit that Belle & Sebastian can be a little pretentious, but most of the time it's good pretentiousness. My favorite is definitely “Piazza, New York Catcher;” it meanders along for just over three minutes and it's so simple that you can really concentrate on the lyrics. This album is almost Flaming Lips-quality cheeriness. Coming from me, that's a HUGE compliment. As you will all come to realize.
Hear It Is-The Flaming Lips
Oh, and look who it is! Yeah, I know. This is the Lips' first full-length album (it came out in 1986) and I've had it for a while, but was so stuck on The Soft Bulletin that I never listened to it. Lately, though, as I've been on my 87th Flaming Lips kick, I've been hungry for more of them, hence my finally sitting down to listen to Hear It Is. It's really really good, and that's not just my fanaticism talking. It seems like it's somehow ahead of its time... it kind of reminds me of the noise-rock-iness of Beck's Mellow Gold, except eights years earlier. Songs like “Charlie Manson Blues” and “Man from Pakistan” are just messes of mediocre guitar playing and Wayne Coyne attempting to sing well, but the riffs are so catchy and there's so much energy that it really works. And then on the other end of the spectrum, “With You” and “Godzilla Flick” are acoustic-y and hint at the glory that is “She Don't Use Jelly” on 1992's Transmissions from the Satellite Heart.
Hooray for Boobies-Bloodhound Gang
You all know and love “The Bad Touch,” commonly referred to as the “Discovery Channel Song.” Don't lie. If it came on your iTunes right now, you would most likely squeal with delight. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I have embraced that love and discovered the raunchy goodness that is Hooray for Boobies. Everything on this album caters specifically to the 8th grade boy crowd, including lyrics like “It's hard to rhyme-a/word like vagina/Calvin Klein-kind-of/North Carolina.” And honestly, Jimmy Pop is full of wise maxims. Like, in the timeless classic “Yummy Down On This,” when Mr. Pop orates, “Ouch/It won't reach my mouth/If I could do it myself/I'd probably never leave the house.” Genius. The fact that this album is insufferably trashy is what makes it so good... a quick check on my iTunes confirms that I have about 150 plays in the last two months on this album alone. Go listen. Now.
I'm not someone who particularly cares for dancing. But when I hear just the first few bars of “Bird Flu” or “Lady Killer,” I can't help myself. Unless I'm in a public place, in which case I resign myself to mental butt-shaking. Every single song on Kala is catchy and fun. Plus, M.I.A. is really hot. And here at TDoFS we don't (or at least, I don't) shy away from saying when an artist has good looks going for him or her. But seriously, songs like “Bamboo Banga” aren't just good for dancing around my room when no one is watching, they're also amazing for walking down the street and feeling like a badass. And everyone needs to do that sometimes.
(EDIT: Kristina's right, I would never refrain from acknowledging somebody's good looks... and I'll preface her remarks on Emily Haines by mentioning that she's really cute too. - Jim)
Knives Don't Have Your Back-Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton
Emily Haines should stick to this project. Metric is pretty good, but Knives Don't Have Your Back is a maze of pure goodness. “The Maid Needs a Maid” is the standout track here... how can this woman with a sultry lovely voice start a song with the words “Bros before hos”? But she can. And she does. Drawing on her feminist outrage against men who expect women to do all their work, she crafts a song that manages not to sound angsty. All of the songs do that, actually. They're really angsty but not in an annoying, Dashboard Confessional kind of way. Emily Haines lets you relate to her, and relate we do.
Marry Me-St. Vincent
Easily my most surprising find. I went to this show to see the opener (Basia Bulat, a few entries down), and was blown away by Annie Clark. This is her first solo album, but you can tell she's not inexperienced. She was a member of the Polyphonic Spree, and Sufjan Stevens' touring band, so she has some pretty sweet music under her belt. Marry Me is so good, it confuses me that she opened for Death Cab and it wasn't the other way around. “Your Lips Are Red” is an example of Ms. Clark rocking out. And “Jesus Saves, I Spend” sounds like Christmas music at the beginning and progresses to... sounding even more like Christmas music. I think there are even sleigh bells. But an amazing nontraditional Christmas song that makes you really really like Christmas.
Mickey Avalon-Mickey Avalon
What can't I say about Mickey Avalon? I can't say he's classy... I can't say he's a stunning lyricist... but I CAN say that I've listened to “My Dick” approximately 40 times in the last eight or so months. Actually, I was surprised to find how amazing his self-titled debut is. According to him, he “busts flows that turn nuns to hos.” That's a pretty substantial claim, but he certainly has the music to back it up. “Jane Fonda” is such an anthemic song (actually, I got in a fight with a drunk girl at a Mickey Avalon show during “Jane Fonda,” but that's another story.). And he really does have good beats and lyrics, though critics might not consider him to be legitimate. He's really just tons of fun, even though he's slutty and dirty. You have to love him.
Night Ripper-Girl Talk
Girl Talk, I'm embarrassed to say, is a very recent acquisition. Like, within the last two months. But I'll be darned if Gregg Gillis doesn't manage to take all of the good aspects of songs that I don't actually like and mush them together in little bits of dance-y glory! And according to Wikipedia, he was going to be a tissue engineer. Which I think has to do with body tissue and not with Kleenex, but that's besides the point: if he'd done that, we wouldn't have amazing songs like “Once Again” or “Ask About Me.” I hate when people don't give him credit as an artist. Have you ever tried to put two songs together, let alone 30? I have. It's really really really hard. Take my word for it.
Oh, My Darling-Basia Bulat
Last but not least, dear sweet Canadian Basia Bulat. Basia is sort of folk, sort of country, and all beautiful. I listened to this album disgusting amounts last semester. Like, at least 40 times through. On her first full-length album, she showcases not only her gorgeous singing voice but her talent on the hammered dulcimer and autoharp. Yeah. The song “I Was a Daughter,” which I wrote about a few blog entries below, is one of my current favorite songs... handclaps and acoustic guitar and all. You really need to listen to understand, I think. So enormously underrated.
Honorable Mentions-Albums I found this year that I loved but didn't feel like writing about. Ten album limit, you know. You should still totally check them out.
Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever- Explosions in the Sky
I-The Magnetic Fields
Emotionalism-The Avett Brothers
And check this playlist! The best songs from each of these lovely, lovely albums! Except for The Flaming Lips, 'cause I just straight-up couldn't find a song from Hear It Is on the internets. Anywhere. You're welcome to e-mail me if you want to hear some of it, it really is excellent.
How excited are you? SO excited? I thought so.