Friday, January 25, 2008

All I Have to do is Stream

In addition to running a first-rate record label, the good folks at Yep Roc are far more forward-thinking than their big-label counterparts. Instead of suing their customers for trying to turn others on to new tunes, Yep Roc shares them for free, with the understanding that if people can hear new music, they might like it, and, in turn, buy it. They currently have a veritable cornucopia of superb offerings on their site, including Flock, by huge-in-Ireland homeboys Bell X1, and Honey Songs, by alt/trad country crooner Jim Lauderdale, whose crack band includes members of the Crickets and the E Street Band, plus James Burton, who played with a couple of guys named Elvis.

The real jewels, though, are a pair of upcoming reissues - Brit rock god Paul Weller's 1993 opus Wildwood, and the genre- and era-defining Nick Lowe classic, Jesus of Cool.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Doing it for the kids

I have worn many hats in my time: husband, father, lawyer, author. But my highest calling is as a roving resource for America’s youth. If a kid is walking down the street and needs to know who threw the pitch that Carlton Fisk deposited over the Green Monster to win Game Six of the ’75 World Series (it was Pat Darcy), I’m there. If a group of Cub Scouts is debating which actor, movie for movie, was in the highest quality films (it’s John Cazale), I’m there. If a middle school science club ponders how Bobby Fuller met his end (officially, it’s unsolved, but appears to have been murder-by-gangsters), I’m there.

And I was there this past Sunday night, when I made a quick grocery run at halftime of the Packers-Giants game. I flew through the aisles in hopes of making it back in time for the second half kickoff. The place was all but empty when I blasted past the meat department, where two kids (about 17 or 18, one of each gender) who work there were talking. As I made my turn and headed for home, the young man said something to me. “Sorry,” I say, “what was that?” “Who’s your favorite band?,” he replies. Understand that the place I live, while quite nice, is not even remotely cool, and this is not a question one is likely to be asked by strangers in this neighborhood.

Nonetheless, and needless to say, I am happy to be asked. I offer that I’m a fan of The Hold Steady of Brooklyn, NY, a declaration that is met with quizzical looks. I ask if they know the Replacements, and they nod approvingly. The Hold Steady are the new ‘Mats, I declare, and I think my work is done.

But before I can head toward checkout, the guy asks if I know Animal Collective. Sure, I say. He informs me that they’re the best band in the world right now. I give him a smile and a look that says “grasshopper, you know not of what you speak.” He asks if I like bands from New York, which is a bit like asking if I like people from earth. “Some of them,” I reply. He mentions Sonic Youth, and we trade opinions about Daydream Nation. He asks if I like Pavement. I reply that I did when they were still around, and that I even saw them way back when, and I mention something about the quality of Steven Malkmus’s contributions to the I’m Not There soundtrack. He says something about Wilco, and I tell him that I saw Jeff when he was still the kid bass player in Uncle Tupelo. I then briefly extol the virtues of the Ike Reilly Association and Spoon (more quizzical looks), and head on my way.

Somewhere in Parkville, Missouri tonight, a kid hears “Your Little Hoodrat Friend” for the first time. Or laughs with his friend about the old-time rock and roll geezer who cast his shadow on the meat counter last Sunday night.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Felice Brothers - Catskills' Soul

Perusing the mp3 blogs last week, I came across The Felice Brothers on the always teriffic I Am Fuel, You Are Friends and immediately decided to investigate further. I needed to hear more and found their my space page, which provides the following ordering ordering instructions:

We have 3 older albums for sale on New York Pro, our own little backwoods label: Tonight At The Arizona, Iantown, and Adventures of The Felice Brothers. To own them please come to our shows and buy they them there or send 15 American dollars in a greeting card to: Felice Brothers P.O Box Palenville NY 12463....... or to our paypal: just say what you want and we'll mail the music right out to you. Love, The Felices.

Somehow that ordering process fits in perfectly with all things Felice. Their loose, acoustic take on appalachian soul combined with desperado lyrics that seem like they were written 100 years ago and uncovered years later by Harry Smith or Alan Lomax give their songs an insouciant yet menacing spirit. The easy call is to say they bring to mind Basement Tapes-era Dylan and The Band, but I hear the spanish harlem soul of Willy DeVille filtered through a raggedy mix of Woody Guthrie and the softer side of Los Lobos.

And for those in the Philly area, here's a link to purchase tickets to the brothers' R5 show at The Barabry (951 Frankford) - only 65 tickets will be sold! And for the curious, one of the opening acts is Justin Townes Earle, son of Teenage Kicks favorite Steve.
In addition to the two tracks on Heather's blog, here are two more to get you primed for Team Love's March 4th release of The Felice Brothers.

The Felice Brothers - Radio Song mp3

Saturday, January 12, 2008

10 Greatest Breakup Records of All Time

After sifting through a sizable amount of 2007 releases, I settled on a rather prickly album as one of my ten favorites of the year - the Mendoza Line's 30 Year Low. And even rather prickly is selling it short, as it's an incredibly frank dialogue between our married antagonists (Shannon McArdle and Tim Bracy) as they ponder exactly where it wrong and on "Aspect of An Old Maid", appropriate split garb as McArdle sings "“It’s so hard to know how to dress for the last days of our lives". Is it the end of the band? The end of the marriage? Aye captain.

It's a bracing disc full of venom, resignation and some scathingly biting dark humor ("31 Candles" suggests the accused infidel should "build a shrine around your dick"... funny stuff). It's a rumbling, revved-up alt-country stew where you hear echoes of Gram Parsons, Lone Justice and Neko Case.

And guess what - it turns out heartbreak is not that uncommon. And makes great fodder for the arts. And there have been some tremendous breakup records. Here are the ten greatest:

1. Richard and Linda Thompson - Shoot Out The Lights (probably closest in spirit to the Mendoza's falling apart together to go out in a furious blaze of glory)

2. Bob Dylan - Blood on The Tracks (Hard to bump this to # 2 but we here at Teenage Kicks rise to the challenge of making the tough calls)

3. Otis Redding - Otis Blue

4. Bruce Springsteen - Tunnel of Love

5. Uncle Tupelo - Anodyne

6. Fleetwood Mac - Rumours (thanks partner)

7. Matthew Sweet - Girlfriend

8. Spoon - Girls Can Tell

9. Beck - Sea Change

10. Marvin Gaye - Here, My Dear

And for you sad sacks going through relationship hell, here's 3 tunes to help you sort things out, including the greatest breakup song ever recorded - Tonio K's "H-A-T-R-E-D".

mp3 - Tonio K - H-A-T-R-E-D

mp3 - Richard & Linda Thompson - Walking on A Wire

mp3 - Mendoza Line - 31 Candles

Friday, January 11, 2008

More Best of 2007: Michael's Songs

Unlike the albums list, I don’t have (and won’t make) a list of my favorite songs of the year, but I do have a reasonable proxy in the form of the track listing for my year-end mix for 2007. This year, it swelled to four discs of new music that I compiled for myself and then forced on a few friends. To them, I can only apologize.

Disc One
1. Black Magic – Jarvis Cocker
2. Chelsea Dagger – The Fratellis
3. Unless It’s Kicks – Okkervil River
4. Fluorescent Adolescent –Arctic Monkeys
5. In Context – Field Music listen
6. Mistaken For Strangers – The National
7. I’ve Gotta Try – Sloan
8. I Think We’re Lost – Ron Sexsmith
9. Time Is A Lion – Joe Henry
10. Unsuffer Me – Lucinda Williams
11. Brand New Kind of Actress – Jason Isbell
12. The Day We Met – Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles
13. (I Don’t Need You To) Set Me Free – Grinderman
14. Isn’t Life Strenge? – The Clientele
15. Phantom Limb – The Shins
16. Impossible Germany – Wilco

Disc Two
1. Smile – Lily Allen
2. Tears Dry On Their Own – Amy Winehouse
3. Right Moves – Josh Ritter
4. Girls In Their Summer Clothes – Bruce Springsteen
5. Two – Ryan Adams
6. Cigarette – Jeremy Fisher
7. Shiftee – The Broken West
8. Hope For Us All – Nick Lowe listen
9. The Underdog – Spoon
10. Let’s Get Friendly – The Ike Reilly Assassination
11. Who Do You Love? – Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
12. Make It Wit Chu – Queens of The Stone Age
13. Rag and Bone – The White Stripes
14. Dream World – Rilo Kiley
15. Floating By – The Red Button
16. Wolves (Song of the Shepherd’s Dog) – Iron and Wine

Disc Three
1. Patty Lee – Les Savy Fav listen
2. No Cars Go – Arcade Fire
3. All I Need – Radiohead
4. Herculean – The Good, The Bad and The Queen
5. My Little Japanese Cigarette Case – Spoon
6. Young Folks – Peter Bjorn and John
7. Dashboard – Modest Mouse
8. Direct Hit – Art Brut
9. My Rights Versus Yours – The New Pornographers
10. You Made Me Like It – 1990s
11. Knock ‘Em Out – Lily Allen
12. Concrete Jungle – Céu
13. Paper Planes – M.I.A.
14. Us v Them – LCD Soundsystem
15. Atlas – Battles

Disc Four
1. When Irish Eyes Are Burning – The Ike Reilly Assassination
2. Radio Nowhere – Bruce Springsteen
3. You Can’t Hold the Hand of a Rock and Roll Man – Okkervil River
4. Chicago Promenade – Jason Isbell
5. Bottom of the Rain – Buffalo Tom
6. Halloween Snow – Ezra Furman and The Harpoons
7. Hate It Here – Wilco
8. I Could Get Used To You – The Red Button
9. Close Call – Rilo Kiley
10. Four Winds – Bright Eyes
11. Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On) – Robert Plant/Allison Krauss
12. God Only Knows – Joe Henry
13. Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time – Jarvis Cocker
14. Freckle Song – Chuck Prophet
15. Watch the Tapes – LCD Soundsystem
16. Little Star – Jesse Malin
17. Another Way I Could Do It – Sloan

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Return of the Friday Night Gods

Marah - a band that bears the Teenage Kicks seal of approval - is back with Angels of Destruction, their first studio long-player since 2005's excellent If You Didn't Laugh You'd Cry. For those who'd like to try before they buy, the good folks at Yep Roc Records are streaming the whole thing for free.

On the opening track, "Coughing Up Blood," David Bielanko sings "I'm a snowflake, I'm a dove." I'd like to take that cat sledding.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Teenage Kicks’ Best of 2007

We sent out a call to a manageable group of music-loving friends (the size of the group was manageable, the members not so much), and asked everyone to give us a list of their ten favorite albums of 2007. Fifteen ballots came back, with 81 different discs being named at least once. It’s a savvy, generous group of people, and each of them has our thanks for participating (as do you for reading). We then set about compiling, sorting and filtering through a point system (20 points for a first-place vote, 19 for second, down to 11 for tenth), to create a master list of the top Teenage Kicks albums of 2007.

We list here the top seventeen, each of which garnered at least three votes (the album at the top appeared on eight lists). We also list each of our contributors, their top five discs, and links to their full lists.

For capturing the top spot in our first-ever year-end albums poll, Bruce Springsteen wins a Teenage Kicks t-shirt (you can pick it up at my house, Boss).

1. Bruce Springsteen, Magic
2. Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
3. Wilco, Sky Blue Sky
4. Radiohead, In Rainbows
5. The Ike Reilly Assassination, We Belong to the Staggering Evening
6. Arcade Fire, Neon Bible
7. Amy Winehouse, Back to Black
8. LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver
9. Okkervil River, The Stage Names
10. The Shins, Wincing the Night Away
11. White Stripes, Icky Thump
12. M.I.A., Kala
13 (tie). Lily Allen, Alright, Still . . .
13 (tie). Jesse Malin, Glitter in the Gutter
15. The Fratellis, Costello Music
16 (tie). The Mendoza Line, 30 Year Low
16 (tie). Rilo Kiley, Under the Blacklight

Trip McClatchy
Teenage Kicks
Philadelphia, PA

1. The Ike Reilly Assassination, We Belong to the Staggering Evening
2. Jeremy Fisher, Goodbye Blue Monday
3. Linda Thompson, Versatile Heart
4. Bruce Springsteen, Magic
5. Jesse Malin, Glitter in the Gutter

See Trip's full list (with comments)

Michael Atchison
Teenage Kicks
Kansas City, MO

1. Bruce Springsteen, Magic
2. Sloan, Never Hear the End of It
3. The Ike Reilly Assassination, We Belong to the Staggering Evening
4. Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
5. Lily Allen, Alright, Still . . .

See Michael’s full list (with comments)

Bill Connelly
Columbia, MO

1. Amy Winehouse, Back to Black
2. Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, Living With the Living
3. Bruce Springsteen, Magic
4. Radiohead, In Rainbows
5. Wilco, Sky Blue Sky

See Bill’s full list (with comments)

Dan DeLuca
Pop music critic, Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia, PA

1. Amy Winehouse, Back to Black
2. Lily Allen, Alright, Still
3. LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver
4. Miranda Lambert, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
5. Kanye West, Graduation

See Dan’s full list

Pat Feeney
Owner, Main Street Music
Philadelpha, PA

(in no order)

Wilco, Sky Blue Sky
Jason Isbell, Sirens of the Ditch
Ryan Adams, Easy Tiger
The Thrills, Teenager
Bruce Springsteen, Magic

See Pat’s full list (with comments)

Don Giordano
Really smart rock and roll guy
Philadelphia, PA

1.Okkervil River, The Stage Names
2. Grinderman, Grinderman
3. Radiohead, In Rainbows
4. Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
5. Wilco, Sky Blue Sky

See Don’s full list (with comments)

Art Hinshaw
Professor of Law, Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ

1. LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver
2. M.I.A., Kala
3. Peter Bjorn and John, Writer’s Block
4. Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
5. Radiohead, In Rainbows

See Art’s full list (with comments)

Peter K
Teenage Kicks resident heckler
Pottstown, PA

1. Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
2. Bruce Springsteen, Magic
3. Glossary, The Better Angels of Our Nature
4. Joe Henry, Civilians
5. The Fratellis, Costello Music

See Peter’s full list (with comments)

Michael Mannix
Young hipster
Villanova University

1. M.I.A., Kala
2. The Arcade Fire, Neon Bible
3. Animal Collective, Strawberry Jam
4. Okkervil River, The Stage Names
5. Laura Veirs, Saltbreakers

See Michael’s full list

Kevin McClatchy
Columbus, OH

1. The Ike Reilly Assassination, We Belong to the Staggering Evening
2. Bruce Springsteen, Magic
3. Jesse Malin, Glitter in the Gutter
4. Arcade Fire, Neon Bible
5. Steve Earle, Washington Square Serenade

See Kevin’s full list (with comments)

Scott McClatchy
Singer/songwriter/recording artist
Havertown, PA by way of Brooklyn, NY

1. Bruce Springsteen, Magic
2. John Fogerty, Revival
3. Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles, Diamonds in the Dark
4. Steve Earle, Washington Square Serenade
5. Original soundtrack to the film I’m Not There

See Scott’s full list (with comments)

Todd Palmer
Rock and Roll True Believer
Nashville, TN

1. Glossary, The Better Angels of Our Nature
2. The Ike Reilly Assassination, We Belong to the Staggering Evening
3. Jason Isbell, Sirens of the Ditch
4. Two Cow Garage, III
5. Mendoza Line, 30 Year Low

See Todd’s full list (with comments)

Daniel Rubin
Metropolitan Columnist, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia, PA

1. Radiohead, In Rainbows
2. Bruce Springsteen, Magic
3. Josh Ritter, The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
4. Bettye LaVette, Scene of the Crime
5. Wilco, Sky Blue Sky

See Dan’s full list (with comments)

Tom Szwech
Bag of Songs
Near Philadelphia, PA

1. The Swimmers, Fighting Trees
2. The Broken West, I Can't Go On I'll Go On
3. Julie Doiron, Woke Myself Up
4. The Clientele, God Save The Clientele
5. Blitzen Trapper, Wild Mountain Nation

See Tom’s full list (with comments)

Mary Zajac
Baltimore, MD

1. Wilco, Sky Blue Sky
2. Radiohead, In Rainbows
3. Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
4. Amy Winehouse, Back to Black
5. The Clientele, God Save the Clientele

See Mary’s full list (with comments)

Michael Atchison's Best of 2007

It came like an avalanche, the music of 2007. Overpowering, cascading, all-consuming. Sensational new releases seemed to come every week, too many and too quickly to digest. Welcome to the new golden age.

In some ways, that age will be defined by Radiohead. They made the album of the year, a recording that succeeded artistically and also signaled the coming of a new way to do business – but it didn’t make my top ten list. It would have been there in almost any other year, and it was on various drafts of my list. In Rainbows has an icy, luminous beauty that continues to reveal itself over time, and five years from now, when I finally catch up to it, I may declare that I was a brain-atrophied stooge not to proclaim it a masterpiece upon release.

But in a year when Radiohead made a recording of and for the future, much of my favorite music echoed the past. Bruce Springsteen made an album with a dense 1960s wall of sound that swelled with melodies carried by a croon that would have elicited Gene Pitney’s envy. Nick Lowe gave us a note-perfect blend of classic country, soul and pop, a batch of new songs that sound like standards you can’t quite place. Wilco settled into a warm Me Decade groove (and channeled the Beatles on “Hate It Here”) with new guitarist Nels Cline sounding like Mick Taylor updated for the 21st Century. The Red Button made the last great Merseybeat record, the sort of piercingly melodic pop music you rarely hear anymore. And Canadian guitar pop stalwarts Sloan were the anti-Radiohead, a band that embraced and perfected convention. With In Rainbows being available only as a download (for a time at least), Radiohead stripped the album of the physical vessel that had defined it in the rock era. When vinyl ruled the earth, an album lasted about 40 minutes. In the CD age, the potential grew to twice that. But how long is an album now? How much memory you got? Sloan, instead, embraced the compact disc’s limitations, cramming 76 minutes of music onto the shiny silver platter. They also embraced pop classicism on Never Hear the End of It, fashioning ringing, chiming, endlessly melodic songs into suites, a la Abbey Road.

When I think back on 2007, I’ll recall that when I was thirty-nine, it was a very good year. What’s old is new again. Here’s my top ten:

1. Bruce Springsteen, Magic. Bruce Springsteen has always been a perfecter, not an innovator. From his earliest records, discussion of his influences has gone hand-in-hand with discussion of his music, be it Dylan (the debut), Van Morrison (The Wild, the Innocent . . .) or Phil Spector and Roy Orbison (Born to Run). Even as he became a Brand Name, Springsteen’s folkier turns inevitably invoked Woody Guthrie, and in 2006, he put the influence right on his sleeve and released a batch of songs made famous by Pete Seeger. This year he came back hard with a lush, gorgeous disc that conjures memories of 1960s California pop, with the grand Spectorian density it demands. True to the album’s name, Bruce sets up his audience with some sleight-of-hand. The hard-driving opener “Radio Nowhere” bears little resemblance to the rest of the affair, and no Springsteen title track has ever seemed less essential to an album than the quiet, minimal “Magic.” But the songs that form the disc’s emotional core – ones like “You’ll Be Coming Down,” “Girls in Their Summer Clothes,” and “Long Walk Home” – give Magic cohesion in their rich melodicism, overt romanticism and unrelenting realism. The music swells and swoons, the Boss bites and croons, and the audience gets one of the finest efforts of a legendary career.

2. Sloan, Never Hear the End of It. I had all but ignored this veteran Canadian collective until this album, which stopped me in my tracks. A band in the truest sense, this is four guys erupting with ideas and stitching them into something that sounds like it was conceived and executed in a moment of extreme clarity. It’s a pop opus the likes of which is rarely attempted (let alone achieved) anymore, thirty songs that flow, one into another, to reveal something much greater than the sum of their parts. Melodies, harmonies, epiphanies.

3. The Ike Reilly Assassination, We Belong to the Staggering Evening. With a heavy hand and a rockin’ band, Reilly delivers a Bringing It All Back Home for a generation raised on punk rock, a staggering, swaggering blend of liquor, sweat, charisma, blues and sex.

4. Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. I’ve reached a point of complete trust with Britt Daniel, Jim Eno and company. After this, their fourth straight stellar affair, I’ll go anywhere they want to take me. If their next album consists of goats farting into sousaphones, I’ll listen until I unlock its mystery. Luckily, there’s no flatulent barnyard brass here, just ten incandescent slices of off-kilter indie pop.

5. Lily Allen, Alright, Still . . . . No album brought me more joy this year. A smart, funny, charismatic voice supported by a propulsive rhythmic architecture that appropriates elements of R&B, hip hop, New Orleans and Two-Tone ska. In the hands of a lesser artist, this could have turned cloying and tedious. There’s nothing “lesser” about her.

6. LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver. James Murphy makes cold music warmly, taking metal machinery and heating it up until it pours like liquid. It shakes my ass and rattles my brain, and (in places) reminds me of Fear of Music/Remain in Light-era Talking Heads, and there’s little better than that.

7. Joe Henry, Civilians. After two albums of drift into the jazzy ether, Henry retreats to his wheelhouse – pristine, urbane songs made for the evening’s hazy small hours. Scotch and water for the soul.

8. Okkervil River, The Stage Names. This one grew on me slowly and refused to let go. It began with the T. Rex swagger of “You Can’t Hold the Hand of a Rock and Roll Man,” and then songs started to leap out of the woodwork, one after another. A group of tunes as diverse and memorable as this is a rare thing indeed.

9. Jarvis Cocker, Jarvis. Brit rock pioneer responsible for the classic “Common People” goes solo and retains all the wit and guile that made his band Pulp famous (in some circles). Cocker delivers songs by the armload, conjuring hooks galore and lifting one massive sample from Tommy James and the Shondells.

10. M.I.A., Kala. She quotes the Modern Lovers at the beginning and samples the Clash near the end. In between, M.I.A. cranks out some of the most exotic and thrilling contemporary party music I’ve heard. Maybe I’m not so afraid of the future after all.

Trip McClatchy's Best of 2007

I think I heard more new music in 2007 than I've ever heard in my life. Was it a good year for music because I heard more or did I hear more because it was such a good year? Thanks to all of you who visit this blog and have shared music and thoughts over the last year. We've had a blast.

1. Ike Reilly AssassinationWe Belong To The Staggering Evening – Wedding image-a-minute profane, cocky street poetry to firecracker riffs with a big ol’ heap of punk attitude, Ike Reilly recalls an unholy alliance of Bob Dylan fronting The Plimsouls. Any disc that features the boys gone wild rave-up of “When Irish Eyes Are Burning”, the anti-war lament “Broken Parakeet Blues” or the stimulant-cataloguing sing-a-long “Valentine’s Day in Jaurez” just seems too good to go unheard.

2. Jeremy Fisher – Goodbye Blue Monday – Wearing an early 70’s AM jones like a patchwork pair of faded jeans, Fisher mixes irresistible choruses, Beach Boy harmonies, sparkling boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl songwriting, and an uncanny approximation of “Me and Julio” era Paul Simon to deliver the year’s most unexpected pleasure. Hits in my mind: “Scar That Never Heals”, “Cigarette”, “American Girls” and “Remind Me”.

3. Linda Thompson – Versatile Heart – Linda Thompson’s third solo album in 22 years trades in stark, simple beauty. Her aching, graceful vocals carry secrets, love songs and sad songs with an unmatched gravitas. In year five of the Iraq War, her haunting, hesitating, heartbreaking cover of Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan’s “Day After Tomorrow” crushes the competition (including ex-husband Richard’s ham-fisted, leaden “Dad’s Gonna Kill Me”) as the best anti-war song of 2007.

4. Bruce Springsteen – Magic – 35 years later, Springsteen still matters. Forget Brendan O’Brien’s cheesy keyboard and drum pudding sounds, Springsteen still writes relevant, great songs (no small feat at this late date). You think you’ve heard “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” before, but it’s a totally fresh Spector meets Orbison cocktail of 50’s melodrama that scorches all the indie mope pretenders (I’m looking at you, The National). Part of me wanted this slot to go to Wilco, The Shins, Arcade Fire or Spoon - all terrific 2007 discs and part of the cultural zeitgiest, but Magic kept me coming back more than any of them. No part of me wanted this slot to go to Radiohead.

5. Jesse Malin – Glitter in The Gutter – Chronicling the flotsam and jetsam of the New York underground like a low rent Lou Reed, Malin has a real affinity and sharp eye for drawing character sketches of losers and lovers who wander. With punk rock passion infused by equal parts Willy DeVille, The Dictators and Jackson Browne, Glitter in The Gutter spins sugary hooks (“Lucinda”, “Black Haired Girl”), new wave riffs (“In The Modern World”, “Prisoners of Paradise”) and pop culture smarts (“Tomorrow Tonight”) into a singer-songwriter veneration of rock and roll past, present and future.

6. Rilo Kiley – Under The Black Light – I thought “Moneymaker”, this album’s first single, was a terrible turd of wooden dance rock. But the rest of it is a super slick, aimed at radio slab of pop goodness… a high compliment in my book. The handclaps of “Silver Lining”, the slinky sultriness of “Close Call”, the Ronettes meets Madonna dancefloor euphoria of “Breakin’ Up”, the Rumours-riffic “Dreamworld”, the Lolita redux of “15”, the ridiculous ear candy of “Smoke Detector” (pay no mind to the awful lyrics) and the alt-country sweetness of “The Angels Hung Around” keep me coming back again and again. And did I mention Jenny Lewis is a total babe?

7. The Red Button – She’s About To Cross My Mind – Sweet harmonies, jangly guitars, razor sharp songwriting and the most immediate, arresting hooks of any record that will come out in 2007 give the Red Button a leg up on all contenders to the power pop throne – read more fawning here.

8. The Fratellis – Costello Music – One decades old review of David Johansen called him a “fun junkie”… an apt description for The Fratellis. They mine a healthy obsession with late 60’s classic Brit-pop and marry it to a dizzying take on the spikiest Jam-Buzzcocks-T Rex punk-glam bursts of 3 minute nirvana. Exhilarating and irresistible, Costello Music should have spawned more hits than “Jamie Lynn pregnant”.

9. Romantica – America Miss the Jayhawks? Think Gram Parsons could do no wrong? Long for a touch of pre-migraine Wilco? Then belly up to the bar for a taste of Romantica, led by Irish immigrant Ben Kyle and featuring moody, lilting Irish-American tales sweetened by the moving pedal steel of Eric Heywood. Inspirational verse: “I’ve tried to live my life / Between the platter and the knife / Between my daughter and my wife / Is where you’ll find me” from “How To Live in A Modern World”. Pick to click: imagine Ryan Adams fronting Calexico for a lament of dashed dreams and hopeful schemes on “The National Side”.

10. The Mendoza Line – 30 Year Low – The best breakup record since Shoot Out The Lights. Or worst, depending on your current relationship status. The lyrics read like a warts-n-all divorce deposition, each combatant taking turns penning scabrous missives intended for maximum destruction. It sounds like how to make a record, end your marriage and barely escape killing each other. The opening lyrics are “I'll never get out the stench, lose the feathers / They cling and fray, attack the black on my skirt / I'll never know I'm alone when I'm sleeping / You come and go like the ghost of filth and dirt”. And then they start on the nasty stuff.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Mary Zajac's Best of 2007

Mary Zajac is a writer living in Baltimore, and her principal subject is food. But her ears are as refined as her palate, and we’re honored that she has struck a blow for women everywhere and joined our little rock-geek boys club.

1. Wilco, Sky Blue Sky
– Because of Tweedy’s plaintive, honest nakedness. Because the combination of “Impossible Germany” and a drive across the Bay Bridge at dusk now seems like the only way that song should be experienced. Because of the complementarity of Tweedy and Nels Cline. Because hearing this album emanating from an unmoving car caught up in stadium traffic this summer caused me to run across several lanes to enthuse to the driver (much to his surprise and seeming chagrin). Ah well, good music does that.

2 Radiohead, In Rainbows. This album is dark streets, late night trains, European cities, canned lager, and longing. I can’t get enough of it.

3. Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Every song sounds completely original and completely different from every other song on the album, yet it all hangs together via Britt Daniel’s rasp. Genius.

4. Amy Winehouse – Back to Black. Raw, saucy, yet brimming with a world weary regret, Winehouse manages to reinvent a retro sound to make it sound thoroughly modern. I hope she has another album in her.

5. The Clientele – God Save the Clientele. The rainy day, cup of tea, Davy Jones-meets- the-Kings of Convenience vibe wins me over every time. Sometimes quiet is the new loud.

6. The National – Boxer. Haunting moody gloom. Put a little something in your lemonade and listen.

7. 1990s – Cookies. I love the Fratellis, but I think I love the 1990’s even more. Maybe it’s drummer Michael McGaughrin’s keening background vocals or Jackie McKeown’s snide taunting leads or maybe it’s just good ol’ poppy pub rock.

8. Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala. When I first heard this album I thought Sufjan Stevens meets The Magnetic Fields, and I think that still applies. Lekman is all over the place stylistically, though there’s a lot of disco flute and horns, but it’s his wry vocals and understated singing that brings the whole package together and makes it sound like nothing else.

9. Teddy Thompson - Up Front and Down Low. I struggle with this album, as I struggle with Teddy Thompson’s beautiful voice yet lackluster presence. But the song choices on this album of classic country covers are spot on, and Thompson’s original song, “Keep it on the Down Low,” is one of the most heartfelt, heartbreaking songs released this year. I give in.

10. Rilo Kiley – Under the Blacklight. Aural cotton candy. There’s not a helluva lot of substance here, but Jenny Lewis’ vocals are so sweet and the whole production is so pretty that it seduces you into listening to it again and again.

Kevin McClatchy's Best of 2007

Kevin McClatchy is the Lee Strasberg of the rust belt, an actor and acting teacher based in Columbus, Ohio, and another in the string of smart, opinionated McClatchy men. Here’s his list:

10. Deadstring Brothers — Silver Mountain An eleventh-hour discovery, so I'm still all tingly and infatuated. Sure they sound like the Rolling Stones — I mean, they really sound like the Stones — but this is one blast of a record. All the songs have the potential to lodge in your head for days at a time. And in case you ever wondered what a Mick Jagger-Jonette Napolitano rocker might sound like, listen to "Ain't No Hidin' Love."

9. Jeremy Fisher — Goodbye Blue Monday Like my two older brothers, I love the hand-clap. And this dude uses the hand clap to great effect. And he's a really good writer — sharp and catchy without any cutesy or pretense. "Cigarette" is a song that, if you aren't singing along by the end, call an EMT. And how many guys can pull off a Paul Simon-Indigo Girls hybrid like "Scar That Never Heals" and come out smelling like a rose.

8. White Stripes — Icky Thump I just love this band. Not that I believe they're the saviors of rock and roll or anything. There is no savior, by the way, just keepers of flames of varying degrees of heat. The White Stripes just bring it — a kitchen-sink rock revival that has great songs and an underlying sense of mischief. Plus they threw in bagpipes ... I'm so easy. Indispensable track: "You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do What You're Told)"

7. Dropkick Murphys — The Meanest of Times Hardcore Murphys fans will bitch and moan but this is their best album yet. There have been greater individual moments on previous efforts but this one has nary a stinker in the bunch. There is something to grab onto on every track. Previously, whenever lead howler Al Barr would scream for several songs in a row, it started to kinda suck. On The Meanest of Times, the Murphs hit us with blasts of Irish punk that rolls a little with its rock. Killers are "Loyal to No One", "(F)lannigan's Ball" and "Famous For Nothing." And, holy mother o' Gawd — the acoustic version of "Forever" is as beautiful a song as you will ever hear from, well, anyone.

6. The Shins — Wincing The Night Away I'll have to give credit to Trip for this one. I was skeptical. I was one of the few people not mooning over The Shins after hearing them in Garden State. But Trip, plucky as ever, sent me this record. And I couldn't get past it on the iPod for a month and a half. The mood swings, pop arrangements, the harmonies, the friggin' falsetto stuff. It all clicked in. It feels like the 80's and tomorrow at the same time. That, my friends, is cool. Indispensable track: "Turn On Me"

5. Steve Earle - Washington Square Serenade Sometimes it all comes down to context. A friend of mine — a life-long Earle devotee — hated this record. "He's just singing all these songs about New York. Who cares?" I do! I care. Steve Earle's gift for painting a vivid snapshot or evoking a sharply felt emotion shines through nearly every track. I've walked where he's walked and felt what he's felt in NYC. Sure, he gets a little kooky a few times (Red is The Color, Jericho Road) but so what? He is a national treasure and no one else can sound as simultaneously muscular and vulnerable as he can. And the duet with the wife is spectacular.

4. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible This is a big record. The sounds and the themes and the idealism and ... Yeah, this record aims high, man. And it scores a direct hit. "Keep The Car Running" is an instant classic. So is "Intervention". Orchestral layers get all tangled up with messy, emotional ... hell, I don't know ... other stuff. The lyrics are haunting and make you want to sing along very passionately (and badly, in my case). The coolest song might be the one that isn't full of drama — "No Cars Go".

3. Jesse Malin — Glitter in the Gutter When I first heard this man sing a few years ago, my initial response was "Wow. Adenoids." But occasional vocal jackassery aside, I love Jesse Malin. He's so retro and out of fashion and downright earnest that he's irresistible. And there is no other record with more songs that my wife and I sang along to this year ... for extended periods of time. Glitter in the Gutter is a celebration of "The Struggle" — for love, happiness, truth, whatever. "Broken Radio" the sweet and scruffy duet with Springsteen got a lot of attention but the real stand-out ballad is "Aftermath". And the hooks and cool lyrics and rattling guitars keep coming at you from all directions — from "In The Modern World" to Don't Let Them Take You Down (Beautiful Day!)" to "Tomorrow, Tonight." Best line — "Count me in like Dee Dee Ramone."

2. Bruce Springsteen – Magic Man, I'll be honest — I didn't see this coming. I mean, I love Bruce and have for many moons through most of his creative wanderings. But this return to classic form — with a deeper melancholy thrown in for good measure — is a stunning record. It really is. I completely dig every song — even the rambling I'll-probably-only-listen-to-this-song-twice-ever "Devil's Arcade". "Girls In Their Summer Clothes" sounds like a song Bruce has probably wanted to do forever — you can imagine his hero Roy Orbison singing it. I'd go on about certain songs but if you're not with me at this point, what's the use? Oh, and there is nothing more heartbreaking and eloquent than "Gypsy Biker" — listen to it next to "Shut Out The Lights" and pray for peace.

1. Ike Reilly Assassination — We Belong To The Staggering Evening I was starting to worry that I had lost the ability to have my socks legitimately and immediately knocked off by hearing something for the first time. Then I heard "When Irish Eyes Are Burning". Then I heard "Valentine's Day In Juarez". Then "8 More Days Till The Fourth of July." For completely blowing my doors off on the first go, We Belong To The Staggering Evening is the album of the year. Ike Reilly would have you believe he is a drug-scarred, confrontational poet with a pure rock and roll heart. I'll buy it. Take equal parts Jim Carroll, Replacements, Clash, a pinch o' Dylan, a sprig of Iggy and a hint of Peter Case and blend well. For the love of God, what else do you need?

Michael Mannix’s Best of 2007

Michael Mannix is a 20-year-old student at Villanova. He has the soul of a 30-year-old contributing editor at Blender. His list is so good it makes me feel a little dumb.

This list is mostly generic. I haven't listened to much new music this year. Maybe Teenage Kicks could publish lists of the Top Ten Recordings not released in 2007, but discovered by the people [from the mailing list] in 2007? I would suspect that these records would tend to be more obscure, and they might expose readers of the blog to new styles of music.

1. M.I.A. - Kala
2. The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
3. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
4. Okkervil River- The Stage Names
5. Laura Veirs - Saltbreakers
6. Marissa Nadler - Song III: Bird on the Water
7. Joanna Newsom - Joanna Newsom & the Ys Street Band EP
8. Blonde Redhead - 23
9. Panda Bear - Person Pitch
10. Justice - Cross

Pat Feeney’s Best of 2007

Pat Feeney is the owner and chief musical curator of Main Street Music, a terrific independent record store in Philadelphia’s Manayunk neighborhood. Buying at places like Main Street is good for your soul, and the smart guys behind the counter can point you in the direction of great stuff you might otherwise miss. Pat gave us a list of his eleven favorite discs of the year, in no particular order.

Jason Isbell
Ryan Adams
The Thrills
Bruce Springsteen
The Red Button
Neil Young/Live at Massey Hall
Jesse Malin
America (that's right, America. Does somebody wanna take it outside?)
Iron & Wine

Also considered the White Stripes and Dito Montiel.But the most exciting release was the re-issue of Jules & the Polar Bears "Got No Breeding" with bonus tracks! ............Yikes.

Don Giordano’s Best of 2007

Don Giordano has some of the best ears we know. Anyone who can claim that Elvis Costello and the Attractions was the very first show he saw as a wee small boy can claim a certain cred, and Don has maintained it for three more decades. Here’s the music he liked best in 2007.

1.Okkervil River - The Stage Names (I wish I could tell you what it is I love about this record, but I’m not sure I can. I can tell you that nothing else was seriously considered for number 1.)

2. Grinderman – Grinderman (Raunchy, raw rock & roll as black comedy. Nick frightens and amuses.)

3. Radiohead - In Rainbows (Even w/o the novelty of the internet release an impressive record. It continues the legacy of a band hitting on all cylinders and growing gracefully and aggressively at the same time.)

4. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (I came fairly late to Spoon. I’m just discovering the pre-Gimme Fiction output. Consistently great tunes seems to be the hallmark. This might be the catchiest album of the year.)

5. Wilco - Sky Blue Sky (More grounded than the last two but far from dull. I flat out love this band.)

6. The Shins - Wincing the Night Away (Three in a row. Nice work boys.)

7. Lily Allen - Alright Still (Not one of the 10 best records of the year but THE most fun. That earns it a spot on my list.)

8. White Stripes - Icky Thump (Jack White is a Rock Star. Having the luck to see them live in a relatively small venue certainly helped this record for me. The best songs on here are absolute killers.)

9. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible (Heady stuff. I think even the kitchen sink got thrown in and it holds together anyway.)

10. The Good, The Bad and the Queen (The 2nd Gorillaz album opened up a soft spot for Damon and his tricks. Throw in Paul Simonon and Tony Allen and you’ve got some of the best grooves of the year.)