Animal Collective “People EP” Review

Animal Collective are at such a stage in their career which its members can take liberties with its fans, this is no better reflected than with the band’s People EP. Its three studio tracks deliver a fully functional prog rock interpretation clouded with futuristic overtones all seemingly set in a time when it is a complete faux pas to make sense of your music. Dirty, lovable liberties.

The music doesn’t so much follow the pattern of Feels on a whole, though “Tikwid” wouldn’t seem out of place, as People teases something sonic throughout but evolves only as a harmonic tease. If it weren’t for that song it might seem as though People were attempting to stray further into abstract, which for a band like Animal Collective is like asking ‘How can Tom Cruise get any crazier?’ How much more experimental can they get? Possibly a collaboration with John Zorn? Richard D. James? Shifting its sound into the realm of industrial realism (the type which literally uses the kitchen sink to conceptualize its intent)? Whatever it is that People is leading up to might not develop as such a momentous artistic exploration, but it might not be as far off as the EP’s first blurry listen may suggest.

Teddybears vs. The World & The Historical “Punkrocker”

Since the release of 2003’s Skull Ring it has seemingly become cool again to be Iggy Pop. The band’s backing him on the album, Green Day The Trolls and Sum 41, had heaps of cred with with kids on the street and since then Mr. Pop has recorded with the likes of Peaches and most recently Sweden’s Teddybears. The video here shows an immensely tamed down Pop fighting the law from a passive role while driving the streets in New York (subsequently concluding without any mention of the law, Pop fights the law and we win). Hey, he’s a punkrocker (yes he is).

The track “Punkrocker” actually dates back to around 2000 when a Swedish band Caesar (formerly Caesar’s Palace) released the track domestically. It was later covered by Thomas Rusiak and his version, which featured Teddybears STHLM, became one of the biggest Swedish singles of the decade. It was rumored that Caesar approached Iggy Pop to do the remake, but whatever went down, we obviously know where the song is today (everywhere).

Deerhoof “Friend Opportunity” Review

It used to be that Deerhoof made little to no sense to the average listener and lived within the outskirts of musicianship. But with a sly shift towards the sound developed for Friend Opportunity, the recently dubbed trio (resulting from Chris Cohen’s departure) has now embraced a sound that was once never imagined when listening to the band, pop. But with one original member remaining and a steadily growing listenership it would be hard to expect another Milk Man, wouldn’t it?

Friend Opportunity is a tightly wound record which opens with two of the most rock-based tracks the band has produced in recent memory, “The Perfect Me” and “+81.” Both show exactly what longstanding Deerhoof fans have come to hate about the band, which is expectedly what new fans are basing their praise on – they are accessible. After a few times through these two tracks it becomes apparent that it’s not an entirely impossible inevitability to hear Deerhoof on the radio amongst your Shins, your Ryan Adams’ and your Walkmen (if you’re not already hearing such a line-up). Not to say that this is a bad thing, nor is it a statement questioning the bands motives, but it is a shift towards something different, and in the minds of diehard listeners – something different may not equate something good.

“Believe E.S.P” is what reels its audience back into the reality of the situation however, as after the first two songs it may be hard to remember that Deerhoof is still spinning in your jam box. The song stands as something different from both the tracks before and after it; its unbalanced rhythm paces the oddly funky guitar chops until the song unwraps itself revealing its electronic insides. But before “Believe” can be absorbed the band fiercely rolls through a few more tracks, all embellishing the character which the band has become, before greeting listeners with “Cast Off the Crown.” Its rapid introduction teases an art-rock ultimatum before drummer Greg Saunier gently asks “Oh lover, oh lover, where is the thunder?” The album’s twists are tough to detect but after the majority of the album has been played out, Satomi Matsuzaki takes the band to a place where many of its fans first fell in love.

“Kidz are so Small” starts the “This is What We Expected From Deerhoof” portion of the record, with some of the album’s only comprehensible, though misunderstood, lyrics “If I were man and you were dog I’d throw a stick for you.” With hollow electro-harpsichord mixed with a varied pace of inconsistent percussions all inevitably reducing the lyrics to “Oh-oh oh oh oh-oh oh oh oh, bodeto tshetpu bodeto tshetpu, badata patta batada pappa;” the group almost satirizes itself with such Deerhoof-like aggregation of sound.

It’s the final track though that possibly explains the most about the band and its direction. Given the choice as to how Friend Opportunity should end, doesn’t it seem somewhat fitting to subject the listener to a nearly twelve minute sit through of random intertwining progressions and lulls? Is “Look Away” the best representation of the album? No. Is “Look Away” the best way to cap off an otherwise listenable set of songs? Probably not. But what it is is a sensible release from an otherwise uncharacteristic set of music, and one so that fully clarifies that Deerhoof is still in fact Deerhoof.

Mindless Self Indulgence: Tearin’ Up the Christian iTunes Charts!

It’s typical for most press releases be cast aside but this is most certainly a case all unto itself and deserves an opportunity to be heard (read), “Philadelphia, PA.—NYC electropunk outfit Mindless Self Indulgence has been asked by iTunes to change the genre that they are filed under. Presently MSI is filed under ‘religious’ because of their devout fan base and cult-like following (currently having shipped 180,000 CD’s in the last year alone). Apparently this has angered some Christian organizations who have filed complaints with the digital music giant to get the band’s music removed from that category. Several Christians appear to have purchased the seemingly offensive material, on faith, even though it clearly was marked as being explicit material. Part of what seemed to annoy them was how well MSI’s album, You’ll Rebel To Anything, did reaching #27 on the iTunes Christian/gospel charts! When asked what he thought of this controversy, MSI’s singer, Jimmy Urine had this to say… “It was iTunes, not us, that interpreted “religious” to mean Christian. What is offensive to some people is obviously inspirational to others. To our fans this IS inspirational music. I have no intention of changing the genre listing of this album.”

Purchasing an album under the pretense that it represents Christian-based content despite song titles such as “Stupid MF,” “2 Hookers and an 8 Ball” and “Bullshit”?! Ever heard of blind faith? Being a casual fan of the band (in all fairness – who doesn’t love electroshock hip hop covers?) it’s easy to take the band at face value, however I’m sure there are those who believe the band to be a true source of inspiration. Some might say it’s inspiring that a band with so little musical talent sells almost two hundred thousand CDs a year (or even a million CDs, see: Hinder), while some might actually find solace in lil’ Jimmy Urine’s over-the-top lyrics or the band’s disarming musical attempts. Either way, it’s still fairly hilarious to know that even one person seeking a new-breed of evangelist ended up with an album sounding more like KMFDM on crank.

Van Halen to Tour, “Best of: Volume 1″ Not Presumptuous?

It has been roughly a decade since my interest in Van Halen plateaued; Van Halen mind you, not Van Hagar. I was young, I was innocent and I was just learning the ropes of rock and roll. Having had recently picked up No One Here Gets Out Alive, the acclaimed Jim Morrison biography, I thought it would be fitting to delve a little deeper into the world of rock frontman grandeur with the (at the time) newly released David Lee Roth autobiography Crazy from the Heat. It blew my young mind; stories of crazy backyard parties (and sex), selling out headlining tours (and sex), and midgets (and sex). I loved Van Halen, and they must have loved me back because just as my interest was peaking the band released new original material with DLR for their greatest hits collection, Van Halen: Best of Volume 1. But even at the time I thought it a bit much to suggest that the best was yet to come, eventually to be showcased with “Van Halen: Best of Volume 2.”

And I was right. Roth was fired barely after finalizing the track’s production. Former Extreme singer Gary Cherone fronted what was to be a new era for the group, which shortly crumbled there after. Sammy Hagar reunited and toured with the band before quitting. Hagar and Roth even took a stab at a tour together in which they rotated the headlining position but that too didn’t pan out as their egos collided. Bassist Michael Anthony, who had joined Hagar and Roth for thier “Best of the Other Half Tour,” made it public that he had only played on three tracks on the Cherone-lead III album and was discouraged from playing with the group during its 2004 reunion tour before being officially fired from the band (to be replaced by Eddie’s fifteen year old son Wolfgang). Roth took time off from training to become an EMT to replace Howard Stern for what would be an extremely short lived radio show disaster. Oh, and Eddie Van Halen soundtracked a porn movie.

There is only one Van Halen.

But somehow, some way, through the past decade of ridiculousness I lost touch with the band, as many of their millions of fans have. But with the announcement of a new tour featuring Eddie, Alex, DLR and Wolfie was immediately a surprising amount of interest and buzz around the internet. I can’t explain it. The announcement of the band’s upcoming induction into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame seems to have reignited a spark in fans that hasn’t been seen since the soundtrack to Twister was released. And though he’s lost the long locks (still a brunette?), and Eddie has lost his mind (and much of his voice) Van Halen (the band) still apparently holds a place deep in the hearts of its fans. Turn on any mainstream rock radio station in the country and before long you’ll still hear some Van Halen (and to a lesser degree Van Hagar).

So, whether or not they pull this as-yet-to-be-made-official forty date amphitheater tour off, it has shown that there are still a ton of fans still getting their kicks from (personal favorite) “Atomic Punk,” “Panama” and “Runnin’ With The Devil.” It has also shown that in the minds of your fans, until Buckethead signs on for the reunion, Van Halen has not gone too far. So with that in mind, as Scott Stereogum insisted on flying splits, I think that if the tour does come together, it wouldn’t be too much to request at least one date with assless chaps.

Remembering Bam Bam Bigelow

Though never achieving the super-stardom of The Undertaker, Ultimate Warrior, or Hulk Hogan, Scott “Bam Bam” Bigelow represented something of superhero status for a generation of young wrestling fan — a generation of fan including myself. And as we grew up and moved away from our childhood heroes, Bam Bam, with his tattooed head and cartwheels, was never forgotten. Scott Bigelow was found dead last week in his home in Hudson, Florida. He was forty five. Though his death is far from the first amongst high profile professional wrestlers, it signifies something important for myself (and perhaps for many others).

He was cartoonish in the fact that his character was over the top, but he could easily represent an entire age of wrestler which I watched religiously on Saturday mornings as a child. That being said, it was shocking to revisit Bam Bam later in his career as a member of the independent company Extreme Championship Wrestling, a promotion that I became a fan of in my teens which flourished with an abundance of violence, irreverence, and flaming table & barbed wire matches. His acrobatics weren’t what they once were, but nevertheless he served a key role in the company and won the hearts of many new fans through the promotion.

Bam Bam’s life was important to me in that it represented a piece of my personal childhood fading away. And even if only a trivial part, I’m sure such sentiment is shared by millions.

Pay Up, Here Come the Metermaids

Inevitable comparisons to Minneapolis’ Atmosphere aside, New York’s Metermaids blaze a strict duality, finding balance between their grounded roots, gritty rhymes and lovable accessibility. MC Swell and DJ Spacecaboose offer up their own “bad advice” on the duo’s 2006 eponymous EP which lures its listener in through the soft and rhythmic “Let it Rain,” the suburban funk of “Don’t Sleep,” the organ-heavy “Back and Forth” and the introspective “Brand New.”

When asked recently what I was listening to, I had no other choice but to reply the Metermaids. I haven’t been this fond of a hip hop group for years, and if you take the time and listen to the rhymes, I hope you’ll feel that way too. Don’t stop with the EP, which is streaming from the group’s e-card, but check out some other great tracks like “Love Song” from the group’s MySpace site.

Kelly Osbourne: Papa Don’t Help

Drowned in Sound begins the day with an interesting note of news surrounding a family of oft-tainted musical royalty, The Osbournes. What was eye-catching about the blurb was not simply the fact that Ms. Kelly Osbourne announced recently that the lack of commercial success surrounding her solo career can be attributed to her father (or more importantly being her father’s daughter); but mostly a fact that was quietly pointed out in the article’s comments section, “the STARTING of your music career can also be attributed to the fact that your father is Ozzy Osbourne.” Indeed.

When first moving to the US I was introduced to the entire family, as most were, through their widely successful ‘reality’ show The Osbournes. Week to week the show kept the attention of millions as it lured the audience in with act after act of such shenanigan and tomfoolery as “The Ozz Man and the Sea,” “Mama, I’m Stayin’ Home,” “Beauty and the Bert” (anyone remember The Used?) and “The Kids’re on the Drugs” (though not an episode title, the last was a key feature of the show, as was the entire family’s drug use).

All in all though, the dirt helped the show lure a fan base, with the show actually winning an Emmy in 2002 for “Outstanding Non-Fiction Program,” it was indeed a good time for the family Ozz.

However, despite the show helping elevate every family member’s celebrity and net worth (each member reportedly receiving $5 million for the second season, a monstrous jump from the $5k per show they were to have received for the first) Osbourne daughter Aimee continued to stayed clear of the scene. Aimee Osbourne, a model, actress and columnist, refused to take part in the show, but rather continued her ventures the way she saw fit; that being with as little help from her parent’s celebrity as possible.

Kelly continues in the article, “I’m really proud of my second album. I still think it’s great. People didn’t give it a chance. If it was released by someone else I think people would have loved it.” Rather than delivering another unshockingly dim rendition of the time’s thinnest trend, it may be time for Kelly to depend on the means of her sister and fall below the surface of celebrity for a while in search for her own style, sound and even her own reputation because as it stands she continues to follow the path of the man who set the stage for her entire career.

And while her bank account may not have discovered the riches that accompanied the oddly contagious television program, Aimee Osbourne has the luxury of not having the public remember her by lyrics such as “Blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah.” Until Kelly finds her own voice and stops relying on her family’s fame for advancement in the public eye she should continue to thank her father for her money and for a moment follow her own advice, “Shut Up.”

A Decade of Degeneration: An A.F.I. Retrospective

The band’s decade-long history is actually closer to sixteen years, but it was with the 1997 release, Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes, and in particular the album’s single “Third Season,” which A Fire Inside’s sound began straying from that of typical punk. It may be suggested that it was with this album that the band began too straying from what many consider historical punk ethos. But as time wore on the band’s sound and message changed further, developing both spirit and theme far from what can be perceived as the band’s original motives. As history has shown, however, the band is far from the first to have changed artistic paths.

Last month alone saw the likes of former pop-ska queen Gwen Stefani fall into some sort of yodel-core pitfall as her turn further towards MTV culture failed to garner any solid attention outside of the fickle TRL crowd. It’s at times like these when age old questions begin coming to mind: does the music suffer because of the musician’s search for popularity and fame, does the music simply cater to the modern attentions of the band, or does the relationship between bad music and success simply have no correlation? Some may believe that A.F.I. have betrayed their fans and more importantly their music with its most recent shift towards a fashionably emo pretense. But instead of making a traditional assertion that the band’s music has come as simply an artistic progression rather than a blatant shift towards a commercial sound I suggest the opposite. With Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes and each subsequent release A.F.I. have alienated a fraction of its fan base in exchange for broader coverage and increased commercial success suggesting that its do not lay with its fans.

Despite moving from Wingnut to Nitro Records with the group’s second official release the band attempted to keep its music exciting and youthful, and despite doing so there were those who called the music was stale and suggested that the band had already sold out. Seemingly unwavered, the group moved on playing its form of punk while addressing its critics as unwavering purists. The band’s form of punk eventually evolved into Shut Your Mouth, the band’s third official release, and with it both critical acclaim and deflation became enhanced.

Each subsequent album attracted detractors decrying the band for hastily changing its sound and image. Through the three years following Shut Your Mouth A.F.I. released an album and three EPs, all of which, while discouraging to many fans, attracted an increasing following heading into its breakthrough 2000 release, The Art of Drowning.

From a musical standpoint the album was nothing like the band had ever released, it was the closest any band had come to commercial success, subsequently resulting from the band’s shift towards combining gothic and hardcore. The album gave the band its highest chart position, 174 on the Billboard 200, as the band’s following too reached an all-time high. Fan sites became flooded with pictures of tattoos, depicting logos, artwork and other pictures all coming as tributes to the now widely popular band. But as the group leaned towards its gothic themes its East Bay Hardcore fans completely disowned them and the one-time punk band now faced a crossroads. It’s future success would be based on the availability of its label to market and distribute any further albums and after extensive touring the band decided that it would be best suited if the band left Nitro records in favor of mainstream label Dreamworks, at the time a subsidiary of Universal.

It was with the band’s 2003 release Sing the Sorrow which mainstream radio and media took notice, but unfortunately this came at the cost of a softened sound. Though a solid album it became apparent that through the promotion of the album that the band was shifting well apart of a trend, one which utilized a decreased level of the band’s hardcore roots while taking on a more fashionable, accessible exterior.

With the band’s latest release, Decemberunderground, reaching the peak position on the Billboard 200 it was no surprise that the album received a negative response from many fans. The band’s video for its lead single “Miss Murder” was premiered not simply on MTV, but on its after-school countdown Total Request Live. It was over.

Many who had championed the band as one which respected itself with its once-empowering lyrical content now stopped doing so. Those who had submitted their bodies to the toils of body art tributes now found themselves questioning their decisions. Those who had once criticized the band for (lead singer) Davey Havoc’s devillock now craved nothing more. And the band who was once one of the greatest underground successes of the new millennium had completed what can only be considered its ultimate goal, indisputable commercial success.

A.F.I. recently made a few covers available, one through AOL’s Sessions and the other through a performance during MTV’s New Years program. After listening to them it’s fairly safe to say that there is in fact a relationship in this situation between bad music and success. The music has suffered due to the musicians’ search for popularity. The music may or may not cater to the current attentions of the band, but it most assuredly caters to the attentions of those with expandable incomes, to those who shop trends, to those who make music expendable. But none of that matters, nor do cliché suggestions implying that the band has sold out. Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes was good music.Black Sails in the Sunset was good music. The Art of Drowning was good music. Even Sing the Sorrow was good music. It comes down to making good music and if you’re doing that then critics be damned. However, A.F.I. is no longer creating good music.

Best of 2006: Daniel Toccalino of Leopold & His Fiction

At one point or another I devoted an immense amount of attention, in some form or another, to each of these songs. I can’t rightly tell you if I was obsessed with the thirteenth song I heard in March and I am not able to say if the tenth song is better than the last song on the list; but as much as I would like to describe what I feel and know about each individually, I will pick a few that had a marvelous influence on me and those I can easily connect to the idea of my encouragement and songwriting. The idea of old versus new is the first thing came to my mind when revisiting this list of songs, the oldest having to be “When I Was a Cowboy” by Leadbelly.

If y’all haven’t heard it’s about time you cough up a measly dollar or two and buy the song, actually don’t be a cheap skate and buy the whole goddamn album. It could very well beat anything you have worth living for. This story in particular could chill the flesh off of your scrawny self and if it doesn’t, you’re not listening to what the man is saying. He’s talking right from everything he knows; he is the encyclopedia of scary shit in the old world. You try going to battle with Jessie James on the dusty plains of the ol’ west when bullets are falling all around just like the showerin’ rain. It beats the hell out of a lot of folks writing songs today, or any day, trying to get a point across of some evil things.

Now skip ahead a few years, about forty, to The Stooges. This song hasn’t the disenchanting element of “When I Was a Cowboy” and it doesn’t touch on the substantive ideals which a good portion of the band’s other work consists of, but “Real Cool Time” has a damn good story line. It’s Simple and I feel pretty cool every time I listen to it; a raunchy visceral fascination of Detroit mediocrity and pleasure. Head hung low and demure emotion towards the cold cement and its virtue. Have you been to that part of the world? It hasn’t changed a whole lot. I think I left for a good reason.

Across the sea, across the sea, across the sea to London, England. Right around the exact same 1968 that the Stooges were recording their debut album Joe Cocker had him a big party inside a recording studio and called his debut album With A Little Help From My Friends. God dang right he had some help. A lot of the songs were covers and though he might have done a very exceptional job I must insist it was his friends on the album that made Joe shine. Take a little listen to track two on the album, a song published in 1926 that is very omnipotent and important in history, “Bye Bye Blackbird.” Joe does a pretty good job as do the background singers but none of that really means a thing once you get to the guitar solo at just about 1:40 in the song. The soloist? Some guy named Jimmy Page. It makes me downright moan. Now fast forward to recent times with “Strange Desire” by the Black Keys.

As a newer music or an older music, this song leaves me wanting to keep my band a rock duo. Every time I go and look for a bass player or an organist The Black Keys find their way to my ears and all that extra instrumentation is equaled to rubbish. Have you ever been to Ohio? Akron mind you? I have and I don’t remember it being as awesome as the band might lead you to believe, but wanting to move to the Midwest after hearing the band definitely says something of the music.

The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, “Phenomena” is powerful through its guitar tone, but more importantly through its vocal tone. I am so impressed how tight this band is, but then again the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are essentially a group of two instrumentalists. A rock duo with the addition of a singer makes all the sense in the world. Show Your Bones is pale in comparison to their debut but it holds its ground with songs like this.

I will have to encapsulate all of the independent bands that I cannot say enough about with our good, good friends The Studiofix. The pretty little things they are, down the way of Los Angeles, play some of the best music I’ve heard in my day! Certainly one of the best bands we’ve ever played a show with. Buy their whole album, get it, buy it, steal it, they just want you to give it a go. The Bloody Hollies are a San Diego based band you wish you were cool enough to know. I wish I was cool enough to know them. They have a ton of albums so you haven’t any reason to not listen to them. The Happy Hollows, another Los Angeles based group, are phenomenal. See them live for their best features, watch Sara roll around and she’ll make you wanna roll around too. They’ll make you want to do things you ain’t never done before. Listen to my favorite song of theirs,”Tell Me.” Ride the Blinds, by far the most talented band we’ve played with in terms of each member knowing its place – voice, instruments and how to use each of them. You like Cream? You like Led Zeppelin? Then why the fuck you haven’t you listened to everything Ride the Blinds has released? And Siddhartha, a Detroit born rock n’ roll band that will make you know something good one way or another. I think all these bands are going to be huge soon, I would say just you wait but you wont be waiting long. Buy into them before some enormous record company they become associated with makes you. Go and listen, do it for ol’ times sake. Do it just for me.

I want to pick apart each song on the list but all in all they make sense on their own. I don’t really mind when these songs were released because to me they might as well have always been around. Thank the good Lord that I crossed them this year. I haven’t worn the shoes of each of these songwriters but I try my hardest to put myself in their place. I think in a manner of traveling when I hear these songs with each story taking me a place I haven’t been. A state of the United States of America is as new to me in my head as it is in these songs. I have been to a lot of places but I haven’t stood in a lot of people’s shoes. These songs have been the most beneficial in allowing me to attempt to do so in 2006. Thanks.

The Best of the Rest:

Devendra Banhart “Now That I Know”
The Bloody Hollies “Cut it Loose”
The Stooges “Little Doll
Link Wray “Rumble”
The Allman Brothers “Whipping Post”
The 5th Dimension “California Soul”
The Jimi Hendrix Experience “Bold as Love”
Jacques Dutronc “Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi”
Wolfmother “Woman”
Johnny Cash “Big River”
The Kills “Hitched”
Love “My Flash On You”
Bob Dylan “Shelter From The Storm”
T-Rex “Ride a White Swan”
Nico “These Days”
Howlin’ Wolf “Shake For Me”
The Kingsmen “Jolly Green Giant”
Hank Williams “Lonesome Blues”
Patsy Cline “She’s Got You”
The Detroit Cobras “Last Night”
The Castaways “Liar, Liar”
Ride The Blinds “Whiskey at Church”
Cream “Four Until Late”
The Faces “(I Know) I’m Losing You (BBC Live)”
Jack “Never Far Away”
Soledad Brothers “White Front St. Front”
Siddhartha “Dumbcake”

Daniel is the lead singer and guitarist for Leopold and His Fiction

Favorite Albums of 2006

At the time of this writing Largehearted Boy had already compiled some 1346 year end lists ranking all things music. Alone this statistic offers enough evidence to suggest that producing yet another list would serve little purpose but that of self-gratifying fulfillment. However true this may be, doing so may also allow time to reflect on an interesting year in music, one which deeply impacted the personal tastes and preferences of thousands and thousands of music fans; myself included.

This determination of musical tastes has almost as much to do with the music that was heard as the music that went unheard. While scanning Pitchfork’s Top Fifty Albums of 2006 the realization began settling with me, that being that I had made a terrible mistake this year. Only having heard eighteen of the fifty albums on the list didn’t serve to condemn my own musical tastes as much as it helped me realize that I hadn’t paid enough attention to my own musical interests this year. Mistake number one.
Many times conversation with other music-focused “bloggers” revolved around the question as to why the majority of like-themed sites seemed opposed to genres such as electronic, hip hop, country or jazz. Though there are terrific sites dedicated to each of the just-mentioned styles the majority of the sites bearing the greatest amount of publicity and interest typically revolved around the curious term, “indie rock.” This too was a cause for another self-realization as the focus of my writing was on that suspicious “indie rock” despite my continual questioning of the like.

This past year found an interesting set of developments within the music “blogging” community, much of which surrounded an anonymous voice who began questioning the ethics and underlying motivations of many music “blogs.” As sincerely as I enjoyed the commentary supplied by “Gerard” it started serving a dual purpose, one which allowed me to question my own motives.

And finally, much of my listening habits this year were determined by external sources rather than my own personal tastes, much of which was done so out of a feeling of obligation to the companies supplying the music. Huge mistake. Despite discovering some amazing music along the way I occasionally foundmyself feeling as suspect as some more celebratedbloggers” this past year. So, as 2007 begins it is a hope that I can pay more attention to the music which I love. It is a hope that the year’s musical exploration isn’t hindered by either blogospheric or promotional hype. Before we get to that however, and despite how unnecessary it may be, here is a list of the albums which I feel stood out from the pack.

30) Be Your Own PET Be Your Own PET

As much as music blogs were deemed unnecessary and deluded by mainstream media due to their quick-to-act hype of certain bands, so too can music fans classify those major media outlets for their sometimes unreasonable hype. Outlets along the lines of Rolling Stone or the disheveled SPIN among others were questioned for deeming bands such as Be Your Own PET “the next big thing,” but just as groups such as the Bound Stems and Annuals proved “bloggers” to be right some of the time, sometimes - where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

29) Viva Voce Get Yr Blood Sucked Out

Get Yr Blood Sucked Out presents itself best through the first three songs, “Believer,” “When Planets Collide” and “From the Devil Himself.” The duo’s ability to displace the listener’s mind through acoustically distanced fuzz and reverb helped create one of the finest mood altering albums of the year.

28) Deftones Saturday Night Wrist

Get Yr Blood Sucked Out presents itself best through the first three songs, “Believer,” “When Planets Collide” and “From the Devil Himself.” The duo’s ability to displace the listener’s mind through acoustically distanced fuzz and reverb helped create one of the finest mood altering albums of the year.

27) The Tiny Starring; Someone Like You

It can often be discomforting when attempting to listen to a piece of unclassifiable music. Occasionally however, a side effect of your journey into the unknown can help expand your understanding of not only the beauty of music but the vastness of the world we live in. Starring; Someone Like You is one such piece of music.

26) Tom Petty Highway Companion

Some things in life are relative. Some may not perceive Picasso an artist when compared to his contemporaries, however when comparing his works to those of modern artist Banksy those same critics might just change their tune. If Picasso were alive today he might well adopt certain styles of a younger generation, proving both himself and new artists worthy of merit. Not to say compare Petty to Picasso, but his fresh album should quiet any of his critics and relative to a few of his prior works and those of his contemporaries, Highway Companion shows a slow adaptation to the tastes of a younger generation.

25) Rodrigo y Gabriela

Listening to Ali Farka Toure’s Savane, Metacritic’s highest ranked album of 2006, invigorates its listener with a ripe willingness to reopen their willingness to explore world music. However its inaccessibility prevents its listener from truly exploring that world. Rodrigo y Gabriela are the commercial ying to Farka’s yang. Both provide beautiful insight to music less traveled by the average listener, but it is Rodrigo y Gabriela that honestly allow the listener to go further with the music, providing a sincere need to explore the world (or at least its music).

24) Kaki King ...Until We Felt Red

Infatuation can blind even the most critical of listener. At the time of the release of Until We Felt Red my ears (and maybe eyes) had turned on me, unintentionally blinding me from some of the album’s inadequacies. However there are few to be found in King’s gentle voice and guitar, the album’s finest example being “Yellowcake.”

23) Bob Dylan Modern Times

In response to a post I wrote asking which classic musician still carries the most weight a reply read “Dylan: he’s still The American Songwriter.” After considering the man’s entire body of work and that Modern Times was his first release to reach the plateau on the album charts in some thirty years I have to agree; Dylan is still The American Songwriter.

22) Ghostface Killah Fishscale

Ghostface’s More Fish is as good a record as any and deserves its place on this list aside Fishscale. However, it and Clipes’ Hell Hath No Fury find themselves following Fishscale as the leader in one of hop hop’s most unexpectedly invigorating years. Utilizing the late J Dilla and MF Doom as producers in addition to the excellent use of classic soul on the album helped this decade long Wu-Tang fan remember that despite Nas’ words, hip hop is not dead.

21) Mastodon Blood Mountain

Metal fans were given a few curveballs this year, one being the development of Mastodon being quickly hyped as the genre’s savior. Not simply that but it represented metal in 2006 to indie fans the way that Clipse represented hip hop. Fortunately it served as a genuine look at the some of the best music of the year, let alone the year’s best metal.

20) The Decemberists The Crane Wife

In 2005 it was almost shameful to do anything but love Picaresque, but the overall feeling regarding The Crane Wife seems to have lessened since the album’s release a mere two months ago. While the album has its lulls it still fails to disappoint, offering, as expected, one of the year’s literary gems.

19) The Fever In the City of Sleep

Before the band’s unlikely split in September The Fever played a show just as surprising in Minneapolis with faux-new wavers Rock Kills Kid and the adult-contemporary version of electro-punk, Electric Six which I was able to see. While the other bands played their electro-fused sets The Fever delivered powerfully soulful music that channeled equal parts of both The Rolling Stones and New Order. In the City of Sleep conveys this perfectly.

18) LCD Soundsystem 45:33

Though The Crystal Method were the first to contribute to Nike’s Original Run series James Murphy has probably produced a piece as close to perfect as the series will see.

17) Teddybears Soft Machine

Originally a guilty pleasure, Teddybears’ Soft Machine slowly grew into an album that one can only be proud to listen to. In reference to the album’s “Yours to Keep” Idolator recently wrote “How often do you hear a song about ‘(driving) around with the top down’ that actually sounds good while driving around with the top down?” I couldn’t agree more.

16) Hank Williams III Straight to Hell

Though much of the album has been available through bootlegs, hearing official releases hits home with an unmatched power that refutes the merit given to country’s recent shift towards glossy, overproduction. All this from an album recorded in Williams’ home on a $400 Korg workstation. An album preaching a DIY ethic spouted from a modern day country outlaw, definitely something that should be give your attention.

15) Mew And the Glass Handed Kites

2006 saw Denmark’s finest rock band embark on a voyage into North America and take over. While some were dissuaded by the band’s dramatic approach to prog they landed in the minority as the band invited and entertained a whole new base of fan; J. Mascis being one of them.

14) Pearl Jam Pearl Jam

The greatest comeback of the year comes from a band that many hate and even more loathe. Subsequently Pearl Jam has been my favorite band for years, but don’t let that get in the way of the music. After the band’s extended performance debuting new material on The Late Show with David Letterman the band proved that fans were in for a treat and the album did not disappoint.

13) Neil Young Living With War

Neil Young’s grittiest album in years peaked interest in members of both sides of the political spectrum through both its insinuations and its blatant accusations towards the Bush administration. Though I agree with much of Young’s message on its own merit and understand freestanding quotes to be somewhat tacky at this point in the game, “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” - Noam Chomsky

12) NOFX Wolves in Wolves' Clothing

A strong album from a group of (almost) forty somethings who had to reclaim some youthful energy while finding a balance with searching for relevance in terms of modern punk. As such Wolves in Wolves’ Clothing is a success.

11) Priestess Hello Master

Though not delivering an album as heavy as The Sword or one as commercially viable as Wolfmother, Priestess deliver an amazing album that yields songs ranging from full blown metal to those that could pass on modern rock radio.

10) Sonic Youth Rather Ripped

Reemerging as one of American rock’s great groups, Sonic Youth proved that it is in fact possible for alt-classics to reinvent themselves for a younger generation (without actually going to the extent of reinventing themselves).

9) Wolfmother Wolfmother

Trust me when I say that calling Wolfmother the greatest band to emerge from Australia since Silverchair isn’t a bad thing…because they are…despite what Mike Patton might say.

8) The Black Keys Magic Potion

The Black Keys are one of the purest blues rock bands to have released an album this past year and despite complaints that Magic Potion is really nothing more that a mock rehash of second rate acts from the 60s, it deserves your love.

7) Silversun Pickups Carnavas

Silversun Pickups found a balance between indie shoegaze and mainstream rock with a sound reminiscent of the Smashing Pumpkins. Only without the faux-goth look and self-satisfying solos.

6) Gnarls Barkley St. Elsewhere

Heading into the year St. Elsewhere was one of the most anticipated albums of the year and despite its omnipresent “Crazy” Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse did not disappoint.

5) Midlake The Trials of VanOccupanther

Early establishing the band with the greatest single of the year, “Roscoe,” Midlake continued by providing a theme to every young-at-heart die-hard Doobie Brothers fan’s dream.

4) TV on the Radio Return to Cookie Mountain

Though not my favorite album of the year TV on the Radio should have probably been given Pitchfork’s nod as the group broadly tested listeners without alienating them. The music is accompanied by some of the most baffling lyrics which reflect the exact same qualities as the music; unmatched, indescribable and incomparable.

3) Ane Brun A Temporary Dive

Though I thoroughly despise the new-age singer/songwriter Ane Brun defied my outlook with her songs that playfully touch on the emotions which most other artists don’t bother experiencing; sometimes even her words fail to describe the emotion that her voice represents. What cannot be said about her music is that it is characteristic of her time, however. Her words and music are universal, and A Temporary Dive is a classic.

2) The Majestic Twelve Schizophrenology

Schizophrenology is one of the most successful albums of the year. As far as albums that harmoniously criticize the woes of bipartisanship on the same level as it explores personal emotions such as love and fear, it is one of the most successful albums of the year.

1) The Raconteurs Broken Boy Soldiers

Leading up to its release Broken Boy Soldiers ranked as one of the most anticipated albums of the year. As the dust settled after its release the album failed to reach Jack White-levels of commercial success and its audience dwindled. With little news since the band’s phenomenal set of shows in the summer months it’s beautiful to see them even chart in Heart on a Stick’s 2006 Music Bloggregate, but I feel that people gave up on the band nonetheless due to obsessed “overexposure.” The funny thing about overexposure is it that the term itself is like much else in the world, relative. When attending the band’s show this past August I attempted to express to a lot of my friends how excited I was to see them. A band that, despite premature online rumblings of negative feedback due to this hype, they had not even heard of. Who had they heard of? Hinder. I love the band because it has star power. Its musicians have achieved their levels of individual success based on their talent, and not simply who they date (though I’m sure it hasn’t hindered their success). I love the band because they use a combination of sound that doesn’t seem watered down to me, it just sounds good. I love the band because I can get behind the lyrics, however non-literary focussed they may be.

This list had to neglect the Regina Spektors, the Lovely Feathers’, the Method Mans, the Margot and The Nuclear So & So’s, the Islands and the KRS-Ones (didn’t know he put out an album this year, did you?) of the world. While I was listening to The Majestic Twelve I neglected Yo La Tengo (whose album I have recently come to enjoy). While I was listening to Mastodon I neglected to bother with Converge. While I listened to Ghostface Killah I neglected to listen to Mr. Lif, Jedi Mind Tricks and even DMX (though I did listen to The Coup, but as it turns out I can only get behind a handful of songs).

The final result is a list that is pretty much, as previously thought, unnecessary. It is filled with overrated albums which I enjoyed but it also has at least one or two albums which (unless you’re one of my close friends) you’ve probably never heard (of). I still haven’t heard a lot of trumped up music from the past year (ex: The Hold Steady) but in it is increasingly difficult to not only discover solid new bands, but sample the recommendations of your friends, peers and media influences. Hopefully the next year will grant me the ability to explore music on a level which I never have before, scour genres which I was before only mildly familiar with, and even buy a vinyl album or two (to stay hip with the kids). But until then I ask of you to go download The Majestic Twelve’s album and listen to both it, Ane Brun and The Raconteurs. And if none of those acts are your thing, I hope (for your sake) that you’ve given TV on the Radio or Midlake a try by now.