Best of 2006: Victor Scott

Since this is the first time I’ve actually written down a year end list for publication, allow me to subject you to the navel gazing I’ve been doing for the last 2 weeks. Should I include more obscure musics on my list? Should I put more Vancouver artists on the list? If everyone else puts Joanna Newsom on their list, should I bother? Crap, most of the stuff I’ve been listening to was released in 2005! And finally, the realization that, according to, my favourite artist of the year is myself.

This is no surprise actually, because I listen to my own music way too much when I’m demo-ing it and writing it. the real list of my favourite songs of the year are for the most part, the songs that I’ve written but haven’t recorded yet. They remain in my head pure and unsullied by the compromises and realities of the recording process (that belly dance version of “Gotta Go” with George Abdo and his Flames of Araby Orchestra will probably never be realized).

Favourite songs (I wrote) this year (and contradicting what I just wrote most of these have been recorded): “Pink Motorola,” “High Fructose Corn Syrup,” “Dreamland,” “Atomic Clock,” & “Hollow Leg.”

None of those songs have been released yet though, too bad for you. As far as the rest of the music world goes, I experienced more disappointments than anything, suffering as I was from new music fatigue. I stuck with new records by old favourites and old records by old favourites. With a few notable exceptions, the new records by old favourites didn’t stick.

There is nothing quite comparable to seeing a new record by a favourite musician in the local record store. The excitement that demands you must buy it unheard. The anticipation as you rip it open in the car ‘cause you can’t wait to get home. The rising panic as you flip through each track hoping that it will be the one that recaptures the magic that made you like their music in the first place and the disappointment when you realize that you’ve been through all the songs twice, the record sucks, and you just blew $20 on something you’ll never listen to again. Oh, emusic and itunes, your lows are not as low, but your highs are not as high.

There were some greats this year though and I’m not going to feel bad about only having four of them:

Ys by Joanna Newsom
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood by Neko Case
Cast Away the Clouds by Rose Melberg
Hell Hath No Fury by Clipse

The Neko Case and Joanna Newsom records were more wonderful than I could’ve hoped, but you can read all about them elsewhere on the internets. We saw Rose Melberg open for Belle & Sebastien when they came to Vancouver. Her music was not suited to the cavernous Commodore Ballroom, but she was sweet so we bought her record. We’ve listened to that record consistently throughout the year and I can’t recommend it enough for dreamy afternoons when you need to tune out the world.

I heard about Clipse on the Sound Opinions podcast and since then it’s only left the car stereo on Christmas Day so that my sweetie could play that Sufjan Stevens box set. We downloaded that last year though, so by the time it came out and we bought it, I was sick of it. “O Come Emmanuel” is beautiful though and I wish I’d written “Put the Lights on the Tree.”

Now in terms of what I actually listened to this year, nobody could touch Of Montreal in playcount, especially “Satanic Panic in the Attic” and “The Sunlandic Twins.” Here’s a list of some of other things I liked this year that weren’t released in 2006:

Song: Black Cab by Jens Lekkman
Band that I finally got around to listening to: Of Montreal
Record I bought cause of a 2005 best of list: Das Mandolinenorchester by Cobra Killer & Kapajkos
Best mp3 I bought/classic (new to me): 13 Songs by Fugazi
Vinyl: Young MC: Stone Cold Rhymin’ & The Duke Plays Ellington

But Victor, you might ask, what was 2006 like for a young musician trying to make his way in this post-p2p file sharing musical landscape selling record downloads through an mp3 blog turned label? My first answer to that ran on a bit, and wasn’t nearly as profound as I’d hoped, so here’s the short answer:

I made a lot more friends than I made money, and that’s all right with me.

Victor is a London-born singer/songwriter who resides in Vancouver.

Sonic Youth “The Destroyed Room: B-Sides and Rarities” Review

Moments into “Fire Engine Dream,” an outtake from the Sonic Nurse sessions in 2003, Sonic Youth begins to deliver an almost encyclopedic, note for note, version of themselves; a noisy, brash Sonic Youth reminiscent to a version of Public Image Limited lacking the electronics and boasting heavier emphasis on crass audible devolution. Surprisingly are the similarities to Lydon’s former self through developing tracks such as the hazily electronic “Campfire” and the rolling “Loop Cat.” But it is with that first moment of the first song that Sonic Youth instantaneously reiterates why the term art punk means what it does in today’s musical landscape. Much of art punk, let alone punk, is what it is because of the band, and for the better part of eighty minutes the band displays why exactly that is.

Two songs and roughly fifteen minutes into the collection the listener is graced with the whimpering vocals of Kim Gordon on “Razor Blade,” a b-side to the “Bull in Heather” single. The short acoustic track is the lone oddity, if such an album from such a band were to have an oddity. It lasts just a minute and doesn’t screech, hum or reverberate, but rather fills an artistic void created by the band indifference with musical confines. It is with that kind of brilliant self examination that the album redeems itself as necessary and before long the band crawls back into its safety zone of noise, where it stays for the remainder of The Destroyed Room.

The capstone to the set is a twenty six minute version of “The Diamond Sea,” a track that solidifies any misconceptions one might have about the band in this stage of its career. After a year in which the group released its most celebrated success in recent memory, accompanying Rather Ripped with a strong tour, “The Diamond Sea” is, in a way, like listening to the ending credits to an epic film. Thurston Moore’s initial lyrics boast a defining statement to a career while divulging as little information as possible, “Time takes its crazy toll and how does your mirror grow.” If anyone were to suggest that the groups self image hasn’t solidified since its beginning they should be condemned a fool. Time has taken a toll on the band, and through the course of an obscene number of releases, a lapse into and out of mainstream popularity and a relationship unwavering, Sonic Youth and its listener stand the better for it.

Best of 2006: The Majestic Twelve’s Kenyata Sullivan

Here are four things I’m truly enthusiastic about, and perhaps they might not all have been created this year, but they were all new to me in ‘06. So, in no particular order:

1. FOUR VOLTS - “Triple Your Work Force”. There are tons of bands trying to inherit a forward-thinking mantle while building off the Pixies, the Buzzcocks, Gang Of Four, etc, but I think this is the only one I’ve heard that feels like a completely genuine pseudo-surf-explosivo-apocalypse. Fucking love it. Start with “Heartworm” (truly one of the great singles of the past few years, the cd sounds so much better than the MySpace, buy it), and work your way in.

2. JOSÈ GONZÀLEZ - “Stay In The Shade”. Hipsters, don’t be dissuaded by this guy being so damn visible. This guy is for real. Think Elliot Smith, Nick Drake, and if you’re fucking superhip, Arthur Russell’s late night 8-track recordings from when he came home from the bars half-drunk and barely half-alive. This is beautiful, private, patient, passionate music. Embrace it, it deserves it.

3. HERO PATTERN - “Don’t Even Miss Me”. One of the great modern rock songs of the last decade from one of the great New Jersey rock bands of the last decade. Hero Pattern are to New Jersey what The Suburbs were to Minneapolis twenty years ago, and I really hope that one day they get the shot they deserve.

4. KEITH JOHN ADAMS - “Pip”. Holy shit! Real songwriting, genuinely interesting instrumentation, fantastic arrangements, all of which make for a disc I can listen to over and over again, and still repeatedly smile like a grinning idiot. Very British, very enunciated, hell, even very Teardrop Explodes at times! A pulsating heartfelt recommendation from me, indeed.

Kenyata plays guitar and is the lead singer for the Wilmington, North Carolina based band The Majestic Twelve

2006 in Review: The Rise and Fallout of Jay-Z

It may or may not have started with Nas’ “Ether” back in 2001, but after both ended up together with Def Jam someone had to take the reigns in cracking down on Jay-Z and in 2006 Cam’Ron stood up ready to battle. Though the roots to both Cam’Ron and Dipset as a whole disputing with Jay-Z go back a ways it was in 2006 where Cam’Ron took the spotlight by releasing the well publicized dis track “You Got To Love It,” as well as the underground mix “Fuck Jay-Z.” The first track being an open call out that takes aim at everything from his business to his (then) girlfriend to his style with the second taking a deeper shot at his actual music and lyrical similarities with those that had come before him. In “Fuck Jay-Z” Cam’Ron literally cites examples of situations where Jay is biting rhymes and lyrics from the likes of Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dogg, Slick Rick, Big L, Rakim, Nas, Big Daddy Kane and 2Pac.

When Jay-Z announced his return to music in fall of 2006 with his album Kingdom Come it was immediately dismissed by critics though it took little time for fans to eat it up, giving the album platinum status in a matter of weeks. How fitting is it that the album’s lead single “Show Me What You Got” could however be another addition to the pile of songs compiled bu Cam’Ron which boast remarkable similarities to those of others? In this case the track straight up steals from another great duo, Public Enemy, and simply laces the bitten rhymes over an old Shaft loop. One has to wonder what Nas’ motivation was when recording with Jay-Z for his already acclaimed album Hip Hop Is Dead. Is hip hop dead, or just the motivation to push its limits? (oh, and by the way, Jay-Z wants to be President)

Remembering James Brown

I don’t believe any of us can recall the very first time we heard James Brown, but more than likely it was through some commercial project attempting to utilize “I Got You (I Feel Good)” or “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag (Part 1).” Chances are though, that if you’re a fan of the man’s music, you know when it first hit you, and for me it was while I was working in a restaurant sometime in 1999. The morning crew we had consisted of a five foot something (if that) Chinese prep cook, a three hundred pound opera singer, and a six foot five rapper. Which one of these people do you think introduced me to James Brown?

It would be the six foot five rapping chef who kept playing the Dead Presidents soundtrack over and over and over again which first truly introduced me to the Hardest Working Man in Show Business. The soundtrack would eventually grow on me, introducing me to not only soul and funk, also helping me begin to explore James Brown’s catalog with a song that still, to this day, stands as not only my favorite James Brown track, but one of my all-time favorites: “The Payback.”

My sophomore year in university was spent at a community college as I tried to figure out what direction I should head in. The second semester was a complete enjoyment for me as I took half of my workload to concentrate on classes that I was just taking for fun. One of the classes was “Rock and Roll History.” I passed.

Throughout the class there were students who I felt increasingly negative vibes from as they began to understand that while the subject matter is an enjoyable one on the whole, they would have to explore music and the corresponding history which touched on unpleasant topics behind the music; it was after all, rock and roll.

During the discussion of the Detroit Race Riots the classroom only played the music of James Brown, and during those discussions there were two people who actually seemed to enjoy the music: the professor and myself. The song that was played most during the time was James’ “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud,” just one of the man’s 48 top ten singles.

All this considered, and I have only really been a fan of the man’s music for the better part of a decade — I can’t even imagine what impact he has had on those who have followed him throughout his entire career. James Brown was human and he fell, especially in his later years, but he continually attempted to use his celebrity to help those around him. Last week Brown participated in his annual holiday giveaway in Augusta, the city which he was raised in, the city that since last year has dawned a bronze statue of their patriarch.

I hope those who condemn Brown for his failures also look at what he has done for our culture as a whole. James Brown: Soul Brother Number One, Mr. Dynamite, the Hardest-Working Man in Show Business, Minister of The New New Super Heavy Funk, Mr. Please Please Please, The Boss, the Godfather of Soul… you will be missed.

(This post was featured by The Boston Globe December 27, 2006.)

Best of 2006: The Sky Drops’ Monika Bullette

In 2006 The Sky Drops recorded and released our debut EP Clouds of People, toured the Midwest and Eastern Seaboard, played several shows in London, and started preparing new songs for our next release for early 2007. I had less time than usual for seeking out new bands but I quite enjoyed the “don’t call it a come-backs” and new treasures I did find.

Caveat: I’ve read some year-end lists and up at the top are bands that I name-recognize but have only heard maybe 1/2 of a song. I can only pull from the smaller roster of albums that I have actually lived with this year - and go out to investigate this top feeders later. Discretionary funds are going towards funding The Sky Drops’ new EP, not album purchases!

I’m interested in lyrics. I give kudos to these writers for perfect use of words I doubt I’d ever place in one of my songs: The Black Angels “Iraq”; Beck “cellphone”; Morrissey “retroussé”; Beyonce “chinchilla”; Clipse “gobstoppers”; Arctic Monkeys “robot”; Amy Winehouse “rehab”; Justin Timberlake “shackles”; Regina Spektor “cleavage”; Lily Allen “al fresco”; The Flaming Lips “Donald Trump”; Nellie McKay “balderdash”, & Bob Dylan “Alicia Keyes”.

I played these [artist's] albums most this year: Wolfmother, Phoenix, The Raconteurs, Neko Case, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Darkel, Sonic Youth, Tom Waits, Licorice Roots. Best Soundtracks: Marie Antoinette, The US vs. John Lennon, Stranger Than Fiction. 

Monika provides vocals, drums for the Delaware based band The Sky Drops and has a solo project called Bullette.

Norah Jones: “Not Too Late”

Though it wont be released for another month, Norah Jones’ highly anticipated third studio album Not Too Late stands as something that could either identify her as a centerpiece of her generation, or demote her to a once triumphant musician now fading into the shadow of her celebrity. Having emerged as one of the most celebrated artists to find a niche between adult contemporary and mainstream successes in recent years Jones left the mainstream to follow various other projects after the release of her sophomore album Feels Like Home. The album, while a commercial success, failed to touch fans in the same way as her debut and despite its personal aspect, one has to feel that Jones herself strives for something greater. All this yet Jones is still a few years away from crossing the border into her thirties, a sign that no matter what, chances are that her best years, and songs, are ahead of her. Check out her web site to hear a preview of the album including a stream of Not Too Late’s first single “Thinking About You.”

Campamento Ñec Ñec “Alimana” Review

How is it that the band with one with the year’s best EP in disguise as a LP can be so unknown? Not even in sense that your borderline indie, borderline corporate music mag hasn’t written about them. Not in the sense that the once-underground, now far above sea level internet hype hasn’t touched them. Not even in the sense that Zach Braff hasn’t already tried signing them on for a role as musical accompaniment to one of his many new movies that, despite correlating undertones, most definitely have different storylines than Garden State. But rather in the sense that there is no web site, there is no MySpace and there are only a scattered handful of attempts across the internet to try and define the band’s sound. There is simply little about the Spanish noise-pop trio that is out there. What is known, almost immediately to the band’s listeners however, is that Campamento Ñec Ñec plays a unique reflection of noise rock based far deeper in pop than anything the Animal Collective is widely known for.

Though, when considering the Animal Collective, and last year’s Feels in particular, something becomes to greatly relevant about the band on a global scale. Case in point: what happens when your band creates an amazing album that explores the boundaries of modern music without overwhelming listeners with media overexposure? To much of the world that means listening to an album filled with unintelligible lyrics, those which are completely foreign to their ears. But they listen anyways because in some way, shape or form, the music makes sense.

And without suggesting that the album’s speed skat which defies translation is typical Spanish dialect, it is pretty safe to suggest that Alimana is essentially Southern Europe’s Feels to its English-speaking audience. It makes no sense, musically even, and the loveable album, which neglects to span ten minutes as a whole, blends together as a dream which can only be tolerated in the context of experimentalism. Hopefully one way or another Campamento Ñec Ñec will too cross borders and find a way to offer their brand of unique music on an international scale.

Best of 2006: The Upsidedown’s J-Sun Atoms

It’s been an interesting year because I expected our album to come out, but that’s what happens when you expect something. Thank the universe for showing us who’s the boss and slowing us down; something always comes along and turns us into something else. 2007 is going to be an exciting year for us, I feel like the album we are working on right now is a life’s work, something timeless that you can listen to proudly for a lifetime. For much of the year The Black Angels’ Passover was something that I listened to daily. Peter (Dandy Warhols) turned me on to Serena-Maneesh, he drove over the CD and dropped it off after they were on tour with them and I knew it was going to be special.

Some of the best live shows I saw this year were Dead Meadow, BRMC, the Dandy Warhols with the gathering of the geezers (drawing and painting and music together worked well), I picked quite a few northwest bands because they really were the soundtrack to our lives this year. Jeremy from The Village Green is making our album with us and listening to “Feeling the Fall” makes me excited about drums. I just heard a high violets remix for “Cool Green” that blew my head back, or my hair or whatever. One of my favorite songs that won’t be released until next year is The Sun The Sea’s song “Even Happier” (which you can check out here)… at any rate…Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind, Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And auld lang syne…

The Upsidedown 2006 Top Ten:

1. The Black Angels “Passover”

2. Serena-Maneesh “Serena-Maneesh”

3. The High Violets “To Where You Are”

4. The Dandy Warhols “Odditorium or Warlords of Mars”

5. The Village Green “Feeling the Fall”

6. The Strokes “First Impressions of Earth

7. Hypatia Lake “…and We Shall Call Him Joseph”

8. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah “Clap Your Hands Say Yeah”

9. Kings of Leon “Day Old Belgian Blues”

10. Muse “Black Holes and Revelations”

Honorable Mention:
Tom Waits “Orphans”
Thom Yorke “The Eraser”
Raconteurs “Broken Boy Soldiers”
Band of Horses “Everything All The Time”
Kasabian “Empire”

J-Sun is the vocalist and plays guitar for the Portland-based band The Upsidedown

My Morning Jacket “Okonokos: The Concert” DVD Review

The DVD begins and the world is transformed, a first person experience as a man with a mission, on an evening like no other, a socialites dream somewhere in a mansion in the deep South. An estate lost in the backwoods, one which you arrive to as your horse drawn buggy calmly smoothes its speed to a gentle stop. As you prance up the stairs that lead to the house’s entrance you are greeted by the doorman, who awakens as you dance towards him, generously opening the door for you, welcoming you to the evening in all its grandeur. Inside the gathering room you are greeted with a fancy of the elite surrounded by the finest of defeated animal pelts, hides and mounts. You begin to make your way from one side to the next, each side greeting you with less and less generous acceptance. As the frowns elevate each attendees nose to a point where you no longer feel the slightest bit welcome you notice a llama that has also joined the party.

The others don’t seem to take notice as you lead the llama out of the room, out of the house and towards the dreary swamp that surrounds much of the bordering woods. As you are drawn closer and closer, you hear bass thumping and the sound of a large crowd. The llama grunts as the two of you enter the bright light, the bright light of a concert in the woods, a concert being performed by My Morning Jacket. As the performance begins one is left to ponder, as a viewer of this odd introduction, whether its creators have either an abnormal level creativity or an uncanny supply of drugs. I don’t believe that it would be out of place to suggest that there is a little bit of truth to both of those questions.

“Wordless Chorus” opens the show with a tremendous feeling of presence that is cast from not simply the band but the entire showcase that is being presented, the set, the stage and the lighting, all provoking a sense of patient urgency from the crowd. All the while you, the mustachioed man in the top hat, still accompany the llama in the crowd, though your presence still makes little to no sense to anyone around you, but the music goes on.

Throughout Jim James and company wade through their lengthy catalogue, bouncing between obvious crowd favorites and the occasionally lost, oft-empty jams. Sometimes with saxophones, sometimes with raging Kentucky hair-jams, My Morning Jacket seems a little unsure as to which direction it looks to go though the crowd justly loves every second of it. Seasoned fans will love the visual accompaniment to the double disc audio set of the same name, but will find a few key discrepancies in the set list.

The man, top hat still intact, leads the llama out of the light, and back through the dark forest as the concert comes to a close. As the dusk settles they are mauled by a bear which kills the man and frightens the townspeople. Despite the music, the allure of the band’s unfashionable roots-based fans and the unique stage setting this still makes no sense. Be warned, this is Okonokos.

Best of 2006: Division Day’s Kevin Lenhart

I think it’s always a good year for music, whether or not you consider the albums that have been released that year to be good work. Music that we deem bad can still have a positive effect by pushing us toward something different, distinct from whatever it is we didn’t like about it. And of course, music that we deem amazing will inspire people as it always does to make beautiful music of their own. So yeah, I thought last year was great for music, though I wish I’d managed to hear more new stuff than I did. With regard to my list, I guess it’s a little far flung, but it all more or less falls under the rock umbrella. For each of these albums, I feel like each of the artists did an excellent job in fully realizing their vision of how they wanted their record to sound. That’s presumptuous of me - I have no idea what the writing/recording sessions were like for these records - but regardless of whatever the scenario behind these records actually is, these albums all communicate a purity of intention to me that I find irresistible and totally inspiring. They all do what they set out to do really, really well.

The top 10 (plus 1) best albums (that I listened to, but weren’t necessarily released) in ‘06:

1. TV on the Radio “Return to Cookie Mountain”
2. Mastodon “Blood Mountain”
3. Silversun Pickups “Carnavas”
4. The Mae Shi “Heartbeeps”
5. The Movies “American Oil”
6. Band of Horses “Everything All the Time”
7. Mew “And the Glass Handed Kites”
8. Liars “Drum’s Not Dead”
9. Joanna Newsom “Ys”
10. My Morning Jacket “Z”
11. Mission of Burma “The Obliterati”

*Special nod to Lavender Diamond’s “You Broke My Heart” and Midlake’s “Roscoe” for being pretty much the best songs of the year.

Kevin is the drummer for L.A. band Division Day

Favorite Mashups of 2006

#25) Arty Fufkin “Barrel of a Goo” [MP3]
(Beastie Boys vs. Sonic Youth)

Had you heard this song without any previous knowledge of the Beasties but “Sabotage” you’d have no other choice but to believe it to be a b-side. Likewise devoted Sonic Youth fans have to feel a sense of pride as the boot proves the band’s most successful material to have legs far beyond the interest of its critics.

#24) Totom “Get Down Only” [MP3]
(Nine Inch Nails vs. Kool and the Gang)

Developing a complete mash album is a tricky task at best. Somewhere between the über successful Grey Album and the hit and miss American Edit mix comes Totom’s With Boots, a strange mix revolving around Nine Inch Nails’ 2005 album With Teeth. While the mix compels itself towards a darker theme through mashes with the likes of Joy Division and David Bowie it is the mash with Kool and the Gang that offers the best and most complete contrast on the mix.

#23) Sam Flanagan “Witness The Curtains Closing” [MP3]
(Arctic Monkeys vs Roots Manuva)

Not simply finding itself the prominent track featured from the Arctic Monkeys Remixed project, Flanagan’s “Witness the Curtains Closing” found its own audience through a variety of under the radar fan sites. Despite mild critical acclaim (finding itself noted on Zoo Magazine’s ‘Top 10 New Tracks’) the song, determined to contradict the backlash facing one of the year’s most hyped bands, left its impact on fans and bootleggers alike.

#22) Bobby Martini “Big Time Dare” [MP3]
(Gorillaz vs Peter Gabriel)

Having the ability to create a deeply enjoyable song out of two songs that only appeal on a superficial level is what bootlegs are all about and “Big Time Dare” is one such song.

#21) DJ Maxentropy “Short Skirt London Bridge” [MP3]
(Fergie vs Cake)

My dad hates Fergie, and I can’t say that I don’t agree with his sentiments. But when fitted with a new pair of comfortable musical clothes however she becomes tolerable. Well, mildly tolerable… “Short Skirt London Bridge” reminds you why you liked Cake in the first place…even if that means that you have to listen to Fergie in the process.

#20) DJ Nicky T “Shaggy Fat Boy” [MP3]
(Shaggy vs. Fatboy Slim)

“Say it wasn’t you.” Fatboy Slim’s music is essentially a shoo-in for laying the backbone to any successful mash-up. With that being said, mixing in a somehow-lovable story of infidelity makes more sense than others, allowing “Praise You” to act as an additional voice in the story rather than simply musical accompaniment.

#19) dj BC “Beneath Dumaine Street” [MP3]
(Wu Orleans)

How rare is it to create a relevant mash-up, let alone an entire album’s worth? dj BC’s Wu-Orleans grasped the most attention of the year as its timely release fueled pride in The Big Easy with a shot of hip hop royalty. “Beneath Dumaine Street” is simply a drop in what the mix has to offer.

#18) DJ not-I “Feel All Apologies” [MP3]
(Blackalicious vs Nirvana)

Literally hundreds of mashes attempt to interject some freshness into Nirvana however most find themselves far too busy. The oversimplified loop of “I Feel All Apologies” allows the mash an unglamorous headliner to shine over top it, allowing both acts to flourish. Neither too much nor too little Nirvana, but just enough to make you feel that way.

#17) Synchronoize “Sweet Times of Mine” [MP3]
(Foo Fighters vs Guns N’ Roses)

When I first heard how easily these two songs fell into each other it blew my mind. Though not the finest example of a mash-up, it takes two songs that the majority of modern rock fans are aware of and creates something refreshing out of them. And at this point, anything that includes both Axl and the words refreshing should be given your attention.

#16) DJ BC “They Might Be Starting” [MP3]
(They Might Be Giants vs. Will Smith vs. Pink)

Remember when you first heard The Fresh Prince theme song and felt it slightly edgy, all the while you still realized that it was on NBC. This song is kind of like that, successfully reminding you that however innocent his words might be, Will Smith can still be at least a little bit entertaining.

#15a) Go Home Productions “Oasis Are Gaye (Sexual Wonderwall)” [MP3]
(Oasis vs. Marvin Gaye)
#15b) Go Home Productions “Sexual High” [MP3]
(Marvin Gaye vs Radiohead)

2005 proved The White Stripes to be one of the most overmashed groups, this year found Marvin Gaye in quite the same position. But along the way Mark Vidler found not just one, but two ways to give Gaye mashes a new energy. Brit pop was apparently all it took, who knew? If you have to choose, though, I suggest the Radiohead mash.

#14) Irn Mnky “Shake Lylas Rump” [MP3]
(Oasis vs Beastie Boys)

One of the greatest things about making vocal only tracks available to fans for the purposes of mixing is the freedom fans have when tinkering with the songs. Likewise, when you find the perfect few chords and figure out a way to make things work just right, nothing is better.

#13) A plus D “Beethoven’s Fifth Gold Digger” [MP3]
(Kanye West vs. Beethoven vs. Walter Murphy)

One of the most acclaimed duos in all of bootlegging, DJs Adrian Roberts and The Mysterious D, find a way to create one of the year’s best mashes by being one of the first to supremely utilize classical music. Oh, and by helping people forget how ridiculous Kanye West became this past year doesn’t hurt either.

#12) CCC “3 MCs and 4 Mods” [MP3]
(The Who vs Beastie Boys)

Last year proved Beastie/The Who mashes to be a terrific blend pace and rhythm. And like all Beastie mixes, one of the greatest upsides to it is that, well, the Beasties are in it.

#11) DJ BC “Free ADIDAS” [MP3]
(Run DMC vs. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers)

This is ridiculous. In a similar manner to that of the Foo Fighters/Guns N’ Roses mash, “Free A.D.I.D.A.S.” sounds like it was always meant to be a single from the beginning. While Petty hasn’t ever really publicly accepted hip hop the way that Aerosmith did in the 1980′s, the song makes you wonder what might’ve been if he had.

#10) Arty Fufkin “Crazy Logic” [MP3]
(Supertramp vs. Gnarls Barkley)

“Crazy Logic” doesn’t completely reinvent the wheel but rather serves as a great way to listen to the best of both Supertramp and Gnarls Barkley after hearing “Crazy” for the two hundredth time this year.

#9) Irn Mnky “J.C.R.E.A.M (Johnny Cash Rules Everything Around Me)” [MP3]
(Johnny Cash vs Wu-Tang Clan)

Not simply diving into uncharted waters with the Wu-Tang/Johnny Cash mix, but doing so successfully proves Irn Mnky to be one of the most unique mashers of the year. And come on, the song’s name alone is well worth the price of admission.

#8) Menegaux “Going Back To Dani” [MP3]
(Notorious B.I.G. vs Red Hot Chili Peppers)

A lot of song’s attempt to utilize Notorious B.I.G.’s lyrics over a well known rock song but for some reason “Going Back To Dani” works the best. Even if the song might not really be the Chili’s finest work, it still works. Or is it even a Chili Peppers song at all?
Also: Dan Gaffney Show – Tom Petty vs Red Hot Chili Peppers [MP3]

#7) Go Home Productions “Flaming Mary Can (Out) Run Prince” [MP3]
(The Flaming Lips vs. Mary J. Blige vs. Can vs. Run DMC vs. Prince)

Though the song as a whole isn’t better than any of its parts, it is the year’s best 3+ artist mashes, showing that it is in fact possible to hold my attention for more than five minutes. If only my childhood psychologist could see me now.

#6) DJ Erb “Regulate Dust in the Wind” [MP3]
(Kansas vs Warren G)

When first listening to this song you may not understand why I think so highly of it. Though I now cannot listen to “Dust in the Wind” without thinking of Old School, I now cannot listen to Warren G without thinking of Yacht Rock. It’s just so smooth! (find out what I’m talking about – click here)

#5) DJ Riko “For Those About to Clown” [MP3]
(Angus Young vs. Smokey Robinson vs. John Bonham)

Ever get the feeling that you can’t express your love for Smokey Robinson because your metal friends will more than likely kick your ass? Fear no more my friend, allow DJ Riko to introduce you to the solution, “For Those About to Clown.”

#4) DJ BC “Da Sound of Da Irish Police Band” [MP3]

The song itself isn’t overly complex, but the vision to mash KRS-One’s well versed rhymes over the fiddle (thanks Jon) is. And it’s awesome!

#3) A plus D “Nelly Furtado’s Crazy” [MP3]
(Nelly Furtado vs Gnarls Barkley)

Again taking a “duh” idea and creating something amazing out of it A plus D provide a look into celebrity karaoke by mashing one of the many hundred covers of “Crazy” with “Crazy” itself. The first listen proves to be a moment where you can’t believe that you didn’t already think of it…or for that matter, why anyone else didn’t think of it.

#2) Go Home Productions “Alive and Nellified” [MP3]
(Nelly vs Mooney Suzuki)

If rap-rock were ever to rear its ugly face ’round these parts again I would only dream that it take the face of Vidler’s “Alive and Nellified.” Utilizing both an overrated rapper and an underrated garage band proves nothing less than mind-blowing with this track.

#1) Flosstradamus “Overnight Star” [MP3]
(Twista vs Sigur Rós)

Chicago’s Flosstradamus join many in that they simply dabble in bootlegging while devoting the bulk of their time to DJing, but the creative input that went into this Icelandic speed-flow would suggest that the duo might want to spend a little more time mashing.

PJ Harvey "Peel Sessions 1991-2004" Review

It will take Rid of Me another half decade before it settles in with a new audience, the children of those who it was first adopted by. Harvey’s music was timely and appropriate considering her surroundings and the ears it originally fell upon, but it will prove itself instead timeless. A period where there was such a distinct changing of the musical guard was ushered in at a time when Harvey first bloomed, and though her music stood outside grunge’s confines she compelled music fans to believe that there was something far deeper beneath rock’s plaid surface. And yet, with the album’s 1993 release, at a time when many fans first discovered her, they were still years behind John Peel.

Harvey’s first appearance for the BBC came on Peel’s show during the fall of 1991, in which she played four songs, “Oh My Lover,” “Victory,” “Sheela-Na-Gig” and “Water;” all of which are present on Harvey’s, if you will, Best of the Peel Show album. It was in this performance in which the strongly favored “Sheela…” begins to explains Harvey’s musical and lyrical direction to new ears, a direction which she would follow through her nine total appearances on Peel’s show. The song’s grit without grunge basis is followed by 1993’s performance of “Naked Cousin,” and 1996’s “Losing Ground” in specific; two songs which apparently had no place on proper albums yet defined her sound so genuinely.

The album’s liner notes are scarce at best, with a brief statement written by Harvey commemorating her relationship with Peel, yet it proves to prove her humanity and love, traits which are absurdly scattered despite her outspokenness. “John’s opinion mattered to me. More than I would ever care to admit. For fear of embarrassment on both sides, but I sought his approval always. It mattered.” With her emotion so clear, she continues, “Every Peel session I did, I did, FOR HIM.”

For those who have ever lost a friend, let alone one who honestly made sense to you, it hurts. But to lose a friend whose opinion truly mattered to you is something akin to losing a part of your self opinion, a segment of your self-esteem, a branch of who you are. But Harvey’s loss was different, it was all those things felt through the loving heart of a student, one that never scoffed criticism but internalized every moment of it. And with each performance she shared with him their mutual admiration grew, proving her final words in her letter to him so completely honest, “I chose these songs, in his memory. A way of saying Thank You. Once more, Thank You John.”

It is this emotion; this pageantry of what so many lack, and even more never knew existed that makes Harvey’s music powerful. It characterizes relationships universal with the release of her time shared with her friend she capitalizes not on finances but on sharing their love for each other and for music. And never for one second did John Peel suggest that he thought otherwise.

The Fire Now Teases: Jake La Botz

Something remarkable happens when you listen to music that you’re jealous of. Not jealous in the sense that you’re jealous of the musician or his struggles and accomplishments. Not in the sense that you wish you could bend a note like them, or whisper a truth the way they do. But it’s a complete feeling that overcomes you, without forcing a dirty convoluted afterthought. Jake La Botz plays and you feel like you have found music, something remarkable, and something to openly be jealous of.

At times he can roll a Dr. John growl where one would expect a gritty country slur, at times his music pushes the limits of lost Delta greats, and at times he makes you reconsider whether or not he could be Hank III’s running mate. But sometimes it’s the stories behind the musician that spark jealousy’s interest. Recently completing a twenty three date tattoo parlor only tour has its effects on a musician, typically being mental and physical wear which come from the toils the road has to give. But in La Botz’s case, in addition to the road’s pains, the effects included twenty three tattoos. The fire now teases.

Something remarkable happens when you watch a movie that makes you jealous; and most of the time that jealousy stems from an actor’s capabilities to confine your mind into believing that the screen’s deception is reality. Steve Buscemi is one such actor.

“Jake is the modern day Hank Williams.” – Steve Buscemi.

Ben Kweller Interview

Finding the most critical acclaim from his most recent self titled album, singer/songwriter Ben Kweller now looks to take a rest from touring before continuing the international leg of his endeavors next year. While latest album interrupts his past writing process by completing a shift towards a fuller, complete musician, he still seems able and almost curiously willing to try and find something that would still startle his most dearest of fans. In this interview Kweller discusses his recent video accompaniments to his album, who he feels to be the most well rounded living multi-instrumentalist and sharing songs at Brian Wilson’s house.

What was the inspiration for your One Minute Pop Song series?

Ben Kweller: We had a ton of footage of me working in the studio. I didn’t want to make a DVD with it but I wanted my fans to see some of the footage so I came up with the idea of a TV show. YouTube was really taking off at that point so I thought it would be a fun experiment to use that as the channel. It was very fun!

In one of the episodes you mentioned that your dad was the person who introduced you to the drums. When did you first begin to take interest in a wider variety of instruments?

Ben Kweller: Soon after I learned the drums someone showed me heart and soul on the piano. I immediately wrote 5 songs with those 4 chords. I was about 8 I guess…when my hands were big enough, at 10, my dad showed me “E” and “A” on the guitar. I wrote a song with the 3 chords and never looked back. I took real lessons on guitar and piano but dropped out due to my lack of interest in learning other people’s music. Now of course I regret that! But I did get a head start at writing my own music which has probably helped me more than the classics I would’ve learned. One day ill go back and restudy all that again.

Sort of jokingly, you rated your ability to play a variety of instruments on a scale out of 10 during the One Minute Pop Song series. Who are some of the best living multi-instrumentalists in your opinion?

Ben Kweller: Best living multi-instrumentalists are: Jon Brion, Paul McCartney, Todd Rundgren, John Kent, Prince, Nils Lofgren, Tony Scalzo and Mike Stroud.

You’ve worked with a ton of musicians, many of which can play a variety of instruments. Following your self-ranking you note that it’s not really who has the most technical skills that make for the best musician, but rather who is the best at interpreting the music. How do you interpret the music?

Ben Kweller: I try to figure out what I’m feeling by the music, find the emotions that are happening and make the lyrics true and direct, not sugar coated. It’s actually a very hard thing to explain now that I’ve tried to!

Both good and bad, my father has seemingly always has a story to tell and yours’ about your road manager Kitt was a great one. The situation that allowed his father to befriend Neil Young is remarkable. Is there a situation in the not so distant past has allowed you to meet or get to know someone you idolized?

Ben Kweller: When I was 15 I was invited to spend the day with Brian Wilson at his house. His best friend Andy, wanted to sign my band Radish so we hung out with him and Brian at Brian’s house. I played songs on my guitar for Brian and he played some for me on the piano. It was magical and I don’t really talk about it too much.

If you had one final show to play, who would you most like to share the stage with?

Ben Kweller: If we knew it was my final-final show, it would feel like a funeral; sad about the end but a celebration of life as well. Instead of having my idols, I would have my most important people by my side as well as some great artists to make the show good! My father, my mother, Lizzy, my son Dorian, Mason Jennings, Conor Oberst, Mike Stroud, Fred Eltringham, Roger Greenawalt, Julian Casablancas and Adam Green.

Katt Williams “The Pimp Chronicles: Part 1″ DVD Review

Through his smoke riddled introduction Snoop Dogg accepts a new role, that of an advisor to young Katt Williams. Through a progressively nonsensical speech Snoop encourages Katt to live up to the greats that have come before him, following the lines of “telling it like it is and not like it was,” and reminds Williams that in doing so he too will find great success. “I’m gonna go up to the stars, and I want you to meet me there;” Snoop concludes an introduction fit for one of comedy’s boldest young voices, an introduction fit for Katt Williams. Through the filmed-for-HBO performance Williams generates critically essential criticisms of life’s short-comings, the war in Iraq and the falsities of Hollywood glamour. But don’t worry, it’s not all straight, he still finds time to deliver a few jokes about drugs and DMX.

Before recently establishing himself as the first host of the BET Hip Hop Awards, Williams made it clear through this performance that he is no joke, he is all game. Despite cracking jokes with the likes of Lil’ Jon and co-Dipset member Cam’Ron throughout the show, Williams keeps a clear mind to that which he holds important, continually returning to a statement he holds dear “enjoy your life.” Even through the bills and the daily battles everyone faces, even after realizing how hard life is and how true people aren’t, you’ve got to enjoy life. And seconds into his routine it’s easy to figure out that Williams does just that.

In one of the defining statements of his performance Williams attempts to define the war in Iraq and why people are forced to plead apathy. He talks about how the government sugarcoats press releases, announcing the murder and killing of Iraqi civilians as the killing of insurgents. No one can identify with that, he continues “I don’t know no insurgents I don’t even have an insurgents friend.” But when disguised within his act his statements don’t come off as harsh or ingenuous. Williams is from middle America, he’s from Ohio, and through illustrations and jokes such as this he introduces his thoughts through relevant illustrations allowing people to grasp a deeper sense of his subject while not forgetting the absurdity of the whole thing.

The government is a bunch of pimps. If you’ve been selling weed since 1994 and you haven’t moved up to cocaine by 2006 - you are doing something wrong. Michael Jackson: if someone says you smoke crack for twenty years, chances are you smoke crack; stop playing with kids. Everything that Williams touches on showcases his grasp for current Americana, that being something that might only exist in idea. At his core Williams praises diversity and equalization, increased freedoms and a decrease in closed minds. But above all else, by the end of his routine, you too are reminded of the true importance of enjoying your life. Pimp.

Roger O’Donnell “The Truth in Me” Review

“It seems the bigger the band the more removed you are from the actual music.” As such Roger O’Donnell’s appropriately titled album The Truth in Me is what some might consider a realization of roots for an artist who has upheld quality and generated celebrity with all of the bands he has worked with in the past twenty years. There is no additional substance that would allow The Truth in Mea shiny exterior opposed to its jagged experimentalist shell, but the final product is the heart of a musician who had seemingly lost hope.

With the album O’Donnell takes a single instrument, a Moog Voyager, one which has been ineffective in acquiring general acceptance by popular electronic, rock and pop music, and has redefined not simply the instrument’s capabilities but his own. O’Donnell expands on the album, explaining it as something not simply derivative of his influences but of his inner emotions, “Consciously un-compromised or commercial, it’s a mainly instrumental journey through my musical influences and where I am. I was also inspired by Bjork’s use of a single instrument, the voice, on her record Medulla…Finally, music that I am satisfied with and that satisfies me, The Truth In Me says what I have been trying to say for a long time.”

It would be hard to define any song as a peak in the album, just as it would be hard to define the shape which the music takes. Throughout there are hints of up-tempo ambient and Asian popgaze, even hinting at fully developed vocal meshing with the assistance of Erin Lang, who contributes to three of the album’s tracks. The beauty can be found not on surface alone, but in the depth that multiple spins gives the listener. To analyze a sound or song is one thing, but to try and breathe in an entire album which is so smooth and well rounded it becomes a catastrophic deed to attempt to figure out the sound’s source and inspiration.

The Truth in Me is not a typical album, nor is the concept typical, nor the musician behind it. The album is a success in shifting O’Donnell’s scope and direction away from his historic sound, if he were to have even had one, and towards dangerous territory. O’Donnell has survived the journey into experimentalism and fared the hardships that come with channeling a source deep inside oneself, a feet few musicians get the opportunity to attempt; a feet which even fewer succeed at.