Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Return of the Mack

Remember this kid?

Well, in two days, he is back.

It has been a pretty good two years.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

7. People Under The Stairs - Fun DMC (tie)

Initially, I didn't plan to put this in the top 10, but through about five listens since I made the list, I have decided that is even more deserving than some of the albums already on the list.

While 2008 was a weak year in music overall, it was a terrific year for hip-hop (as the rest of the list will show).

Southern California hip-hop does something to me that no other music does: it makes me wish I was in the geographic area where the album takes place. Need proof? Listen to People Under The Stairs' 'Fun DMC'.

My friend who gave me this album called it a, "perfect car or party soundtrack". I can also see it being the soundtrack of summer 2009, so long as the car windows are down and BBQs are being thrown. The comment sections of their songs usually contain the word 'chill' and on a lot of the songs, it is completely appropriate. But the album is also aware of the state of hip-hop, calling out MCs who rap about the drugs the done did or sold and decrying rappers for taking themselves too seriously. If you like hip-hop or like to bob, you should try this on for size.

'Fun DMC' is solid throughout, but the best stretch of the album are tracks 12, 13 and 14 ('Critical Condition', 'The Wiz' and 'People Riddum'), but don't take my word for it......

Saturday, January 24, 2009

7 days and counting down....

(the real versions of this song have embedding disabled, so instead I found this dude with a uke)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

7. Less Than Jake - GNV FLA

Yeah, yeah, yeah....I know. Ska? Less Than Jake? Well, friend, sit back, take off your skinny jeans (they ugg), and give your favorite band in high school a chance. (by the way, Fleet Foxes isn't going to be on this list, so feel free to move along if you feel this list isn't going to be for you)

Less Than Jake might be back. From the first line in the first song, 'City of Gainesville' ("we have our master plan, bottled and canned, living in the 3-5-2."), to a solid finishing song, 'Devil In My DNA', this album delivers. LTJ said that the reason behind the album name -- which is the Gainesville airport code -- was it signified a return to their roots. Seeing as how they have always been obsessed with Gainesville, by return to their roots, I think they mostly mean a return to their musical roots. No more trying to distance themselves from being a ska band, which was unsuccessful anyway. Instead, they have re-invited their brand of fusing pop-punk with ska into their lives. And it works, as this album is better than anything Less Than Jake has had since 'Hello Rockview' or 'Losing Streak' -- depending on how you feel about 'Hello Rockview' (which, if you are like me, is an opinion that constantly changes).

Sure, Less Than Jake has had some nice songs in their three previous releases, 'Gainesville, Rock City' and 'For The Rest Of My Life' come to mind, or even that one song that played on the radio all the time back in 2004 that was the most ska thing LTJ has ever done (after research, I have found that it was called 'The Science Of Selling Yourself Short'). But their complete albums have either been boring or difficult to listen to (one song on Athem was called 'That's Why They Call It A Union' or something made me hate happiness and the thought of eternal life). This album, though, is full of songs that might be your favorites ('Does the Lion City Still Roar?', 'Malachi Richter's Liquor's Quicker', 'The Space They Can't Touch', 'City of Gainesville', 'State of Florida').

If you ever liked Less Than Jake, I think you'll like GNV FLA. It doesn't sound like 'Pezcore', and I don't even think they have that in them anymore (though, have you listened to that album in the last five years? it hasn't really held up), and it also isn't like 'Losing Streak', but there is something about GNV FLA that almost reaches the level of those albums. Maybe it is better that it isn't much like those two albums, because it is something you can enjoy because is it good right now, not because it reminds you of 1996, 1997 and 1998.

GNV FLA also has some addictive horn parts, no better displayed than on the best song on the album, 'Abandon Ship'. But don't take my word for it.....

Sunday, January 11, 2009

8. Dressy Bessy - Holler and Stomp

This is a good album. It is kind of similar to 'Blame It On Gravity' by the Old 97s in that the songs on it don't quite measure up to the band's body of work, but the difference is, 'Holler and Stomp' isn't quite as much of a fall-off as 'Blame It On Gravity'. Unlike the latest Old 97s album (#9 on this list, by the way), I could see some of these songs being included in a Dressy Bessy best-of album, especially since this album gets a little bit (albeit a tiny tiny bit) better with every listen.

One important thing about Dressy Bessy: singer/frontgirl Tammy Ealom seems like real cool girl. I usually have a hard time with bands who have girl singers. I'm hoping-slash-pretty sure that it isn't because I am sexist. Let me clarify a bit before moving on: I have a hard time liking bands who make fast and/or loud songs who have girls singers. Girls are excellent at the slower, pretty songs. Maybe we should also add a 'rock' band description, because there are some good woman singers of dancey type music. So, to break it down: I don't usually like fast-slash-loud rock bands with girl singers.

Okay. The reason why, is because they seem have a hard time finding their voice, both lyrically and sonically (this is the least dumb word I could think of to put here). Or at least it seems to me, you might feel different. Anyway, girl singers in fast-slash-loud rock bands can try too hard to be all hard, be not hard enough, or be too snotty with their lyrics and voice. It can seem like they are trying to be something they are not, which is a rock dude. Now, I'm not saying that all girls want to be like boys, and that all girl rock singers want to be like boy rock singers. It's just that music over the last quarter-century hasn't provided a lot of girl rock singers. Girls who sing don't have a lot of examples of a girl making it work by keeping it real. There are some, sure, but not a lot. Then again, it could be because I haven't heard a lot. Maybe they do exist.

Tammy Ealom is cool, though. She can write and sing lyrics that aren't bitter and aren't always angry. She seems comfortable with what/who she is. Maybe I'm just attracted to her confidence, musically. She can use the word 'honey' in reference to her man without being too sugary or sarcstic about it. She can be sugary, though, but doesn't overdo it. She can also be sarcastic, but does it without being over-the-top. She injects her girl-coolness into her songs, and the result is wonderful.

Then again, maybe boy singers have been doing it wrong all along and I have just been conditioned to like how things are.

I couldn't find any videos from 'Holler and Stomp', so you'll just have to take my word for it. But, here is an older song of Dressy Bessy's:

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

9. Old 97s - Blame It On Gravity

The latest Old 97s album was tough to write about. Especially after seeing "The Breakup", wherein Jen Aniston's character makes an attempt to re-conjugate with Vince Vaughn's character by saying something like, "Hey, my friend got these tickets to the Old 97s tonight. She can't make it, so if you're interested....."

Long story short, he says he's interested, but then he never shows, adding another 30 minutes to the movie. It was frustrating, because he appears to also want to get back with that, but she broke up with him (I think. I didn't watch the first hour of the movie) so he doesn't think that she too wants to rekindle their flame. Somehow he misses that she was obviously opening a door for him. For them. He was so BACK IN. But, like I said, he never showed. She waits for most of the concert, but eventually leaves. Vince Vaughn's character lost his shot at love with Jen Aniston's character. I haven't seen a lot of Jen Aniston's stuff, but judging by the 20 or so episodes of friends I watched and her getting ditched by Brad Pitt for that lady who is like the cat lady, only with kids instead of cats, poor Jen has a hard time keeping-slash-sealing the deal with dudes.

And the Old 97s ended up being no help at all. Thanks for nothing. It was obvious that Vince Vaughn's character had interest their music, but not enough interest that Jen Aniston's character's offer of a free ticket was an offer that he could not refuse, even though the three or four songs that they showed bits of the Old 97s playing were some of their better stuff. Which is where watching this part of "The Breakup" made writing this even more difficult.

See, it reminded me of how great the Old 97s can be and that none of the songs on 'Blame It On Gravity' were Old 97s-great. It would be weird-slash-inappropriate to award something a top 10 ranking and then write about how none of the songs on the album would-slash-should make it on an Old 97s best-of album. Top 10s are supposed to be about positives, not negatives (unless, obviously, it is a 'top 10 worst' list).

And this album is good, and it seems better than the last Old 97s album ('Drag It Up', or something), which left me not wanting more (real minimal listening of that one by me; I don't even know that I listened to it all the way through).

The strength of 'Blame It On Gravity' might be its variety. There are so many different types of songs. There is a dancey tune (the aptly named 'Dance With Me'), a song where the chorus sounds almost exactly like a Pavement chorus ('I Will Remain'), a song where Rhett Miller sounds like a drunk fellow during a hangover ('Early Morning'), three slower songs that could probably be considered ballads and a song where a guy who seems to be on a ship that is going down is commiting to God that he will change his life should the good Lord spare that life ('Here's To The Halcyon'). That's seven of the thirteen songs. The other six sound like most Old 97s songs (they also might be the best songs, no offense to the others, which are also good).

The equation of quality + variety of that quality merits 'Blame It On Gravity' a spot on the You Know How I Do 2008 Top Ten Albums List (YKHID08T10AL).

It's tough to choose a favorite song to play here. I chose 'Dance With Me' only because it is the only song on Youtube that isn't merely a live recording. It should be noted that somebody named beasticular wrote in the comment section of the Youtube video: "I was in love with the old 97's until I watched this...". It's true, it isn't a great music video (in fact, the only top 10 list it would be on is one of those aforemention worst-of deals). Battlestar Galactica fans might like it, though. But don't take my word for it.....

To honor its variety, I will add one more video from 'Blame It On Gravity'. This one is the song I like most today from the album, 'No Baby I'. But don't take my word for it......