Friday, December 21, 2007

Annie's Top 10

10. “Neon Bible“ - The Arcade Fire – I wasn’t as crazy about as this as I was for Funeral. Moments like the opening of “Intervention” that go right to your tear ducts made it great. However, moments like the opening of “Black Wave / Bad Vibrations” made me reach for the skip button on my iPod. In sum total though, an excellent album from a band I’m sure we all hope to see more from.

9. “Year Zero “ - Nine Inch Nails – I think when industrial fans heard that NIN was putting out a post-apocalyptic concept album, the expectations were really, really high. The clever and intriguing marketing campaign added a lot to that. So when the album came out and wasn’t phenomenal, a lot of critics ripped it apart. I can’t say it’s Trent’s best work, but give it another listen – not groundbreaking, but Trent is still God when it comes to industrial. It peaks too early, but there are a lot of great tracks. Survivalism, Capital G, and God Given are all worth downloading.

8. “Alright, Still” - Lily Allen– When this album came out, I think every chick out there, including me, wished they had a friend like Lily Allen – the kind who would take you out for a night of debauchery after you got dumped. The melodies are playful and pleasant and the lyrics are hurtful and scathing…what a great combination. If you take being called cheeky as a compliment, this album is for you. Key Track: Alfie, Knock ‘Em Out.

7. “Back to Black” - Amy Winehouse – Yes, she is currently on the fast train to Britsville, but think back to when this was released and how we were all reminded that sometimes….just sometimes….popular music is popular because it’s great. This long overdue update of the Motown sound has to be appreciated, as does the huge voice that comes out of Winehouse’s tiny, bony frame.

6. “Happiness LTD” Hot Hot Heat –(9/11/07) – I really enjoyed their previous two albums, but Happiness LTD shows a much more polished side of the band, in a good way. Steve Bays has an incredibly unique voice and can write a great hook. Check out “Let Me In” which either lets out his romantic side, or is a stalker confessional. Think of “Every Breath You Take” but dancier.

5. “The Black & White Album” The Hives – Given my affinity for bands who color-coordinate (see: White Stripes) and go by nicknames (see: Electric Six, Eagles of Death Metal) not surprising that these guys make my list. Disclaimer: If you don’t care for noise punk, this album probably isn’t going to convince you. But if you, like me, enjoy screeching foreigners and thrashing guitar, you’ll be in heaven. Key Tracks: Hey Little World, Giddy Up, You Dress Up for Armageddon.

4. “Hey Hey My My Yo Yo” & “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye” EP - Junior Senior – Their last release, D-D-Don’t Stop the Beat, was such a fantastic dance record it seemed like it would be impossible to improve upon. They didn’t, but this is still a pretty damn good album. You can’t help but be charmed by their lighthearted wit and earnestness. The real quality tracks are on the “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye” EP that comes in this set – very 80s electro, in a good way. Key tracks: Together for One Last Dance, Can I Get Get Get.

3. “Kala” - M.I.A. – What else can I say about this album that hasn’t already been said? I read somewhere M.I.A. explaining that what differentiates her is that, while most hip-hop artists get their giant budgets and immediately buy beats off of some expensive producer, she actually went out and created something new and exciting from scratch. Kudos for the use of Pixies lyrics on “$20”.

2. “Icky Thump” - The White Stripes – So far, of the White Stripes albums my favorite was the self-titled debut and each subsequent album seemed to fall more and more short of the previous. Icky Thump has broken that trend. What I always liked about the Stripes is that the strange balance between Meg’s steady drumming and Jack’s complex riffs gave the listener the sense that the two of them were constantly ready to go into battle – whether it be against ex-lovers, the big 3 motor companies, or….monkeys (Jimmy the Exploder). Well, they’re back in battle mode on this album, but have managed to maintain the playfulness that made them so popular - and to top it off they combine that energy with a lot of experimentation (bagpipes?). While the title track is the one everyone’s been inundated with so far, the real gems lay on the back half of the album – download “Rag & Bone” and “Little Cream Soda” for a dose of serious Jack Attack.

1. “Era Vulgaris” - Queens of the Stone Age – This album drips suspense from every pore. Just like a Tarentino film, even when the scene seems mundane and innocuous, you sense that something awful is brewing just beneath the surface – just before it explodes into intensity and violence. An example of this is the opening songs – “Turning On The Screw” ambles along, giving you a false sense of mellow composure – and then “Sick Sick Sick” erupts in a frantic explosion of harsh vocals and riffs. It also has to be said that Josh Homme is an extremely underrated songwriter, laying down some classic lyrics – one of my favorites being on “I’m Designer” where he issues a scathing critique of his own generation: “the thing that’s real for us is fortune and fame, all the rest seems like work”. Key tracks to download: I’m Designer, Battery Acid, Make it Wit Chu, Suture Up Your Future, and Run Pig Run (the best anti-cop songs since Nine Inch Nails “Hey Pig”).

Honorable Mentions: “Our Love to Admire “ - Interpol, “Elect the Dead” - Serj Tanikan, “Volta” - Bjork, “Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace” - Foo Fighters, Self-Titled - The Good, The Bad, and The Queen, “We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank“ - Modest Mouse, “American Doll Posse “ - Tori Amos, “Ultra Payloaded“ - Satellite Party, “Armchair Apocrypha” - Andrew Bird

And now, a few random awards….

Best Album Title & Artwork:
Electric Six – I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me that Prevents me from Being the Master
Too bad the content didn’t live up to the title.

Best Soundtracks:
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters – Original Soundtrack

Cock rock enthusiasts, please check out “Cut You Up With a Linoleum Knife” by Mastadon and Carl’s Theme by 9 Lb. Hammer (featuring the classic Carl line, ‘I don’t need no instructions to know how to rock” from the Foreigner Belt ATHF episode. I think we can all relate to this sentiment, no?)

“Into the Wild” – Eddie Vedder
I haven’t seen the movie, but I read the book and these songs really seem to capture the spirit of it. Even if you haven’t read or seen it, an enjoyable album of short but great folky tunes.

Best EP:

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Is Is (7/24/07) – A great little handful of distortion rock (is that a genre?). Down Boy is an especially good track – really highlights the range of this band…goes from vulnerable to brooding in .1 seconds.

Best Song: “Praise the Lord & Pass the Ammunition” – Serj Tanikan. Serj was always good at pointing out the absurdity of it all, and this track is no exception.

Best Video: “3’s & 7’s” – Queens of the Stone Age
It reeks of Grindhouse!

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