Feb 28, 2005

Slop From The Pops: UK Pop Chart 02.27.05
well, it appears that this week is the last show before the big shake-up in format, so let's enjoy what little time we may have left. i'm worried the new format may not allow for such a good listen to all the songs on the chart, and i'm not sure what effect that may have on this weekly update. anyway, lets dive right in...

40. "closest thing to heaven" - tears for fears (new entry)
this isn’t too bad of a song here, its quite solid in that typical over-produced Tears For Fears kind of way – as if we’d expect anything different. the backwards guitar loop weaving its way through the verses is pretty neat, and i’m digging the falsetto thing on the chorus. it’s not particularly exciting, but more importantly it’s not particularly bland either. this is a decent single, much better than I’d be expecting from the band nearly twenty years after their peak.

39. "looking as you are" - embrace (last week's position: 11)
38. "wrap my words around you" - daniel bedingfield (21)
37. "black and white town" - doves (19)

36. "she's got a reason" - dogs (new entry)
British indie-punk tune in which the singer gets all bent out of shape over his ex-girlfriend, as guys like this are wont to do from time to time. but i should say that this is really, really good stuff here – bouncy riffs and angular guitar spikes throughout. this makes me want to jump up and down, especially the breakdown towards the end with the gentle “ooohs” in the background as the circular guitar riff sits on repeat. the singer comes back in to whine and yell about the girl some more, but it’s not annoying – it really works with the song. this is far better than all of that Busted/Noise Next Door stuff, especially that acapella yelling mantra appearing just when you think the song is over.

35. "winter" - dt8 project f. andrea britton (new entry)
and now we get more dance floor fodder by some guy who has apparently recorded under fifteen or so different names. you know, if i was cranking out generic dance tracks like this i’d be trying to cover my tracks and hide my identity as well. this isn’t the worst dance track we’ve heard on the chart this year, but it falls victim to formula way too much. i’m also finding the almost new-age sounding synths in the background very, very annoying.

34. "boulevard of broken dreams" - green day (20)

33. "we close our eyes" - groove cutters (new entry)
trying to contain myself over here as we get another dance track, but wait a minute – this one’s actually not half bad. this one sounds like it has a little bit dirtier production than most of these songs and it serves it quite well. i’m also a fan of the fading-out gimmick that results in the track sounding like it’s coming out of a tin can. they overdo this trick by the end though, but it at least kept me interested longer than most of these dance tracks.

32. "wires" - athlete (25)

31. "bastardo" - charlotte hatherly (new entry)
Charlotte is the guitarist from the horribly underrated (in America) rock/pop/punk band Ash, someone i suggest you all go check out now if you haven’t. this is some bouncy indie-pop here, she really has a wonderful voice for this sort of thing. for some reason i’m wanting this song to hit in about June, as this would be a perfect summer anthem – what with the doo-wop backing vocals in the chorus and the overall summery feel. in fact, this is so sunny and happy that it takes awhile for you to realize she’s singing about a two-timing ass. if you are at all a fan of sunshine-flavored indie-pop, you would be doing yourself a huge favor by checking this out. i’m sure it’s only available on import here in the States, maybe you could find it on iTunes or something. well done Charlotte, if for nothing more than saving me from the mediocre dance tunes.

30. "only u" - ashanti (14)

29. "don't care who knows" - keisha white (new entry)
and the rule of diminishing returns kick in on this song, as we find Keisha giving us some highly forgettable R & B with some help from one-time R. Kelly partner Cassidy. for every hot Beyonce or Kelis single we get, there’s about 5-10 of these bubbling under the surface. i feel like i should give them some credit for trying, but nothing about this makes me want to hear it again – not even the re-use of that sample from the Ginuwine single "Pony" from back in the day. i don’t even think a hot team of producers can help this poor girl out, she just sounds average in every way.

28. "black horse and the cherry tree" - kt tunstall (new entry)
this is definitely a step up from that last track, this is how you really infuse your R & B with some fun and excitement. i could at least picture people wanting to dance this track, in fact i could almost see some line-dancing going on – as this really has some sort of modern R & B meets country mash-up thing going on. again, i think this falls into that trick of simplicity being a good thing for modern pop – some great vocals, simple beat, and just the subtlest of backing sounds and you’ve got a pretty hot track. i can really see people getting into this one in a club, well at least i know i’d love to hear this one next time i’m out.

27. "galvanize" - chemical brothers f. q-tip (13)
26. "cradle" - atomic kitten (10)
25. "angel eyes" - raghav (15)
24. "goodies" - ciara (12)
23. "sunrise" - angel city (9)
22. "out of touch" - uniting nations (16)
21. "numb/encore" - jay-z/linkin park (17)

20. "apply some pressure" - maximo park (new entry)
this is the first single from a new band from Newcastle Park, and its pretty damn exciting. those of you into easy categorization would probably lump this in with the Futureheads, Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand portion of the rock spectrum – and you wouldn’t be far off. this is bouncy new–wave inspired rock with a high danceability rating and some spiky post-punk guitars. its also got a nice synth line wavering around in the background somewhere. this is shaping up to be a pretty good week for new entries, i’m hyped to see how the rest of the top twenty plays out.

19. "surrender" - elvis presley (2)
18. "sometimes you can't make it on your own" - u2 (7)
17. "soldier" - destiny's child f. t.i. & lil wayne (6)

16. "love steals us from loneliness" - idlewild (new entry)
i was really excited to hear this single, but i’m left feeling slightly disappointed by it. i’ve been a big supporter of Idlewild over the years, each of their albums really hit me in a good kind of way – even though they were all quite different from each other. the last album was somewhat of a culmination of the band’s explorations into grandiose, epic pop music – full of lush instrumentation and huge climaxes. i was hoping the new one would represent another left turn for the band, but instead this single makes it sound like a tamer version of the last album. i’m hearing a mediocre soft-rock tune from a band that is capable of much better, let’s hope this isn’t indicative of the album as a whole.

15. "almost here" - brian mcfadden & delta goodrem (8)

14. "need to feel loved" - reflekt f. delline bass (new entry)
and my disappointment grows with this, yet another mediocre dance anthem. i’m starting to think i shouldn’t even bother to comment on these unless there’s actually something that sparks my interest, you know that whole “if you can’t say anything nice…” line. let’s just move on, shall we?

13. "let's get blown" - snoop dogg f. pharrell williams (new entry)
and now we move on to the follow-up single to one of my absolute favorite tracks of 2004, yet another Snoop/Neptunes collabo. obviously, this is nowhere near as hot as “Drop It Like It’s Hot”, but what is? Snoop kicks some decent verses, he’s still miles ahead of his No Limit days (let’s all just try to forget about those) – while Pharrell and some random girl mix it up on the slow jam tip. the beat is nothing to write home about, proving that the Neptunes hit to miss ratio is nowhere near as high as it once was. in fact, take out the Snoop raps and this wouldn’t have sounded out of place between Billy Ocean and Luther Vandross back in the day. anyway, this is just biding time until the fantastic J-Tim assisted “Signs” hits the UK charts..

12. "like toy soldiers" - eminem (4)

11. "don't play nice" - verbalicious (new entry)
wow, this is really awesome. how have i not managed to have heard of this Florida born girl before? this is like an omelette of excellence made up from equal parts hip-hop, electro, and chart pop. the beat is awesome, the lyrics are fun, the production is superb – i just can’t fully explain how enjoyable this track is. the closest i can come up with right now is saying that this is what you might get when you mashed up the Spice Girls at their most fun with the Beastie Boys at their most irreverent. i’m hyped as hell for the top ten now, but i’m not sure if this one will be topped this week.

10. "how we do" - the game f. 50 cent (5)

9. "caught up" - usher (new entry)
it’s somewhat inevitable that by the time you get to the fifth single off an album, you’re gonna have to dip down into the “mediocre” choice of tracks. and that is just what we get with Urrrsherr’s latest single, which still means that it’s miles ahead of the vast majority of male R & B on the charts these days. the shuffling beat works pretty well with the bubbly bassline that perks up from time to time. it’s also nice to hear Usher work a song on his own again, he’s more than capable of carrying a tune without duets or guest rappers helping him along. save those appearances for the Cassidys of the world who really need them. personally i’d rather have seen “Bad Girl” be the next single, what with its super hot beat and all, but i’ll take this.

8. "hounds of love" - the futureheads (new entry)
and the top ten gets better with this amazingly awesome cover of the old Kate Bush alt-radio standard. the call-and-response intro leads into a driving beat that sends this song into an overdrive that it never lets up from. everything about this song just sounds so frantic and wired, which works wonderfully with a tale about being chased by the hounds of love. you can just feel the tension building up higher and higher throughout the song, leaving you with no choice but to shut up and enjoy the ride. by the time the song ends and you catch your breath, you find that you have just bounced yourself silly no matter where you are. this new wave of new wave bands is just about the best thing that has happened to chart pop in some time, and it’s nice to see some major mainstream love as opposed to that whole “dance-punk” movement that never happened. sure, this whole scene has got nowhere to go but downhill from here, but screw it – as long as we get singles like this i’m going to bounce along and enjoy the trip.

7. "hush" - ll cool j (3)

6. "oh my god" - kaiser chiefs (new entry)
oh my God, just when i thought this week’s chart couldn’t get any better – this one has to come along. the verses chug along on an organ drone and peppy guitars during the long ride on the escalator up, up, and further up before crashing all the way down again in that awesome chorus, “Oh my God I can’t BELIEVE it / I never been THIS FAR away from home”. and we jump right back into the second verse, picked back up by that drone and carried a million miles away back to somewhere more familiar. we crash down with the chorus again and spend some time wallowing in the gutter with a greasy guitar solo before we are picked back up and dropped all over again. this time the chorus is even more staccato and raging than before, impossible as that might seem. amazingly, i think this might be even better than that Futureheads single. this is truly a wonderful, wonderful week to be listening in to the UK Top 40. let’s just hope these bands can make as big of an impact in America, because let’s face it – throw these guys in with the Killers and Franz Ferdinand and mainstream radio would be a whole lot more awesome.

5. "locked up" - akon (new entry)
and i suppose this is where my hyper high gets brought back down to more manageable levels, as Akon tells us all about his days of being locked up. this is really mediocre, and the annoying overuse of the jail doors slamming sound effect just makes me want to never hear this guy’s voice again. how this song charted ahead of the Futureheads and Kaiser Chiefs is beyond me, but it’s a damn shame. i suppose this says something about the dominance of urban radio around the world, but come on people – no matter what genre we are dealing with, a song this gimmicky and lame should be called out for the pure crap that it is.

4. "wake me up" - girls alound (new entry)
hell yeah, we are back in action with yet ANOTHER awesome single by the ladies of Girls Aloud. you might have heard their cover of “Jump (For My Love)” in the film Love Actually, or if you’ve had your ear to the UK pop you might have heard the excellent gems “Love Machine” or “The Show”. this one is a hard, driving dance banger that features the ladies partaking in some excellent harmony action. basically, imagine the Spice Girls on a sugar high in a sleazy disco and you just might get an idea of what this one sounds like. and while we are on the subject, Girls Aloud may just be putting together a run of singles that pisses all over the Spice Girls’ collective output. for real.

3. "marie's the name (his latest flame)" - elvis
presley (new entry)
so Elvis gets his lowest chart entry position of the year, which means that we’ve either got J-Lo or another new entry at number one. but we’ll get more on that shortly, as we check out what the King’s got in store for us this week. Elvis is back on the lonely tip after his game of seduction last week, but he’s not gonna be all maudlin on us now – instead he’s going to toss off a half-decent little rockabilly tune. this shuffles along at a decent pace and has the sense to wrap up before it overstays its welcome, if only every artist could learn this kind of restraint when needed.

2. "get right" - jennifer lopez (1)

1. "over and over" - nelly & tim mcgraw (new entry)
so J-Lo gets knocked off the top spot by one of the more unlikely team-ups in recent top 40 history. i’m really not sure what to say about it at this point, as i’ve heard it enough on the radio over here that i could die quite happily not ever having to hear it again. thing is, though, that it really isn’t a bad song at all when the day is done. Nelly manages to keep his delusions of grandeur in check, giving this song just enough space to breathe and take on a life of its own. Tim, meanwhile, keeps himself from overdoing the saccharine sentiments a song like this could have easily called for, especially from someone who readily falls into such a trap (see any song of his that features Faith). the song would probably have benefited from an extra verse or two, as the repeating of the chorus gets very tired by the end, but for all intents and purposes this is a solid pop song that is surprisingly subtle given both artists’ propensity for over-doing things.

Feb 25, 2005

np: "is there something i should know" - duran duran

yet another reason why it rules to have the shuffle function on iPod, this wonderful sequence of songs that came up this afternoon:

"Sleeping Pills" by Suede -> "Slide Away" by The Verve -> "Friday" by Sunny Day Real Estate -> "Demons Sing Love Songs" by Unwound

one of the best four song sequences i can remember since i got this thing, beautiful.
iTunes Random 10:

1. "Three Hopeful Thoughts" - Rilo Kiley
2. "Go Or Go Ahead" - Rufus Wainwright
3. "Contre le Sexism" - Sonic Youth
4. "Father to a Sister of a Thought" - Pavement
5. "Mine's Not a High Horse" - The Shins
6. "Adrenalin" - Throbbing Gristle
7. "You Will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will." - Bright Eyes
8. "Music is Math" - Boards of Canada
9. "Battle for Asgard" - Cannibal Ox
10. "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" - Jay-Z

and while i'm at it, here's some book recommendations so you can get your read on:
Loser: The Real Seattle Music Story by Clark Humphrey - pretty interesting history of Seattle music, one that lets you in on the rest of the story behind the grunge thing. i just find it fascinating to read about insular scenes such as this. and mad props for showing Sir-Mix-A-Lot some love for the pre-"Baby Got Back" days.
Here, There, and Everywhere: The 100 Best Beatles Songs by Stephen Spignesi & Michael Lewis - as with any list or book thereof, this brings up lots of points for debates but it makes for an entertaining read. i think its especially informative for those who aren't huge Beatles fans, at least for all the little trivia behind some of these tunes.
The Four Books on Architecture by Andrea Palladio - always good to fall back on the classics, especially when it comes to architecture. this is pretty dense reading, but gives some wonderful insight to the classical forms.

Feb 22, 2005

np: "a baltimore love thing" - 50 cent

until i heard this song i was pretty concerned that the new 50 Cent album was going to go down as one of those huge disappoinments by a rapper with an awesome debut. "Disco Inferno" featured a really tight Dre beat, but Fiddy just sounded tired and bored throughout his verses. i was hoping the next single would excite me, but i found "Candy Shop" to be just a weak re-write of "Magic Stick" - hardly something to inspire confidence in me. i was starting to think that i wasn't even going to buy The Massacre when it came out, i didn't want to be disappointed after how much i loved Get Rich Or Die Trying. but all my fears came to rest when i heard "A Baltimore Love Thing", quite possibly the best thing Curtis Jackson has committed to wax yet. i always knew he had a more thoughtful side than he was showing in most of his mainstream bitches and bling raps, but my suspicions weren't confirmed until i heard this track. basically this is a love story between a junkie and her heroin, except this time it's told from the drug's perspective. the junkie is trying to wise up and kick her habit, but the drug just keeps luring her back with promises of ecstasy and threats of violence. it's also interesting to hear how he compares this relationship to that of an abusive spouse - the heroin makes the junkie feel worthless so that she will become dependent on it and feel that she can't live without it. 50 raps lines about how glamorous the drug is and how everyone from Cobain to Hendrix was down with it - definitely a big switch in subject matter from "In Da Club" and "P.I.M.P.". but Fiddy more than pulls it off, as he kicks a really tight flow and manages to sound more impassioned than usual. 50 Cent fans will be very wise to check this out and cop the new album when it drops March 8th. and the haters that doubt he can pull this off should put their preconceptions aside and peep this.

Feb 20, 2005

Slop From The Pops: UK Pop Chart 02.20.05
somewhat of a calm week this time around, gearing up for a whole boatload of new singles next time around. we do, however, get the first UK single from The Game and the brand new one from Jennifer Lopez - so let's have a little look, shall we?

40. "are you lonesome tonight" - elvis presley (last week's position: 20)
39. "so here we are" - bloc party (19)

38. "you've given me something i can't give back" - new rhodes (new entry)
i'm not really certain whether i like this one or not, it's kind of an upbeat little pop-rock ditty. the guy's got a pretty cool voice and he really keeps things swinging along, especially in the chorus. i'm somewhat reminded of Morrissey, although this guy isn't nearly as self-absorbed as the Moz is. and of course, these lyrics aren't even fit to breathe the same chart air as Morrissey's. this is growing on me the longer it plays though, definitely something i wouldn't mind hearing again. not a bad start to this week's new entries at all.

37. "penny & me" - hanson (29)

36. "lady lady" - mark johnson (new entry)
before the song starts, we learn that this guy lists Oasis as one of his main influences, i’m not sure whether to hold that against him or not. and actually, i can kinda see that influence shining through, as this has sort of a latter-day Oasis ballad feel to it. but it really lacks the swagger that the Gallagher brothers could infuse into even the most weepy of ballads. this, however, does kick into overdrive at the chorus with the swelling string section and over-delivery of the vocals. as far as overwrought, emotional pop epics go this is pretty good stuff, but i wouldn’t mind hearing Liam giving this one a go.

35. "staring at the sun" - rooster (34)
34. "filthy/gorgeous" - scissor sisters (30)

33. "blood on our hands" - death from above 1979 (new entry)
wow, and i am surprised to see this band on the top 40 – really something we’d never see hit the Billboard top singles chart over here. but we really should, as this is some cool noise action. not noise as in the whole Wolf Eyes/Load Records vein, but noise when compared to your average top 40 band. anyway, on to this song… this is driven by a harsh guitar riff and neat little keyboard section, while the drums pound away in the background. this makes me want to jump up and down and shout along with the lyrics, “there is blood on our hands again… bring it back to the start again”. you should really check out these Canadians if you get a chance, especially live as I hear they pack a hell of a punch.

32. "shine" - lovefreekz (24)
31. "breathe in" - lucie silvas (17)
30. "la la" - ashlee simpson (28)
29. "i just wanna live" - good charlotte (21)
28. "do this do that" - freefaller (22)

27. "only one word comes to mind" - biffy clyro (new entry)
this is sort of a combination of recent emo/punk/pop bands like Taking Back Sunday and your basic mid-nineties alt-rock bands, which means it's really nothing special. there’s also almost a sort of goth band feel to this, not sure exactly why i am feeling that though. the earnest vocals and lyrics don’t really do much for me, but the crunch of the guitars before hitting into the bass breakdown before the noisy conclusion is kinda cool. now if only the whole song had sounded like those last twenty seconds, we could have really had something here.

26. "let's go" - trick daddy f. twista & lil jon (new entry)
i’m very surprised that this song didn’t chart higher, as it’s really awesome. the Ozzy sample is just perfect for Lil Jon’s noisy, hectic, crazed crunk sound in these club bangers. as i said last week, Lil Jon’s best work seems to come when he’s helping out other artists and this is no exception – i think this is my favorite track of his. it helps that both Trick Daddy and Twista drop some excellent flows. i really hope we get to see more of these heavy-metal/crunk mash-ups in the future.

25. "wires" - athlete (16)
24. "wooden heart" - elvis presley (2)

23. "oxygen" - willy mason (new entry)
so this is really cool stuff right here, just a dude and his acoustic guitar singing various clever lines about Ritalin, oxygen, and society in general. it’s fascinating to me when someone can create such an enjoyable tune like this out of something so simple. far too many singers go about it the wrong way, mistaking an acoustic song as free license to go overboard on the melancholy and earnestness. this is more like a blues singer from the early part of the 1900s, in that it’s just a guy singing a simple song about what he knows and nothing more. i’m really excited to hear more of Willy.

22. "hey now (mean muggin')" - xzibit (15)
21. "wrap my words around you" - daniel bedingfield (12)
20. "boulevard of broken dreams" - green day (13)
19. "black and white town" - doves (6)
18. "calendar girl" - noise next door (11)
17. "numb/encore" - jay-z/linkin park (14)
16. "out of touch" - uniting nations (13)
15. "angel eyes" - raghav (7)
14. "only u" - ashanti (8)
13. "galvanize" - chemical brothers f. q-tip (9)
12. "goodies" - ciara (10)

11. "looking as you are" - embrace (new entry)
slow moving, string-laden ballad here by Embrace, not to be confused with the proto-emo band on the Dischord label. nope, this is pure British overwrought balladry at its finest, and that’s not that horrible of a thing. the pacing of the song works really well – it doesn’t drown in its own sappiness, but propels along quite nicely. i rather like this one, good for those moments when Bono’s earnestness just isn’t going to quite cut it. it seems this recent wave of British bands have reversed the old formula – rather than one ballad amidst an album full of rockers, we get maybe one rocker amidst an album of ballads.

10. "cradle" - atomic kitten (new entry)
and here we’ve got another ballad, except this time it’s by a reunited girl pop group instead of boys with a piano and some guitars. the ladies of Atomic Kitten hit up some decent harmonizing on the chorus of this track, something about cradling their love in the wings of an angel. yeah, it is just about as crap as it sounds – this is like prom night 2005 fodder right here. i think i’d like to hear these girls team up with the Neptunes or Timbaland or something, maybe kick the excitement level up a notch or a hundred. instead, this is just making me want to sleep. at least we have a new Girls Aloud single to look foward to next week.

9. "sunrise" - angel city (new entry)
alright, i was starting to worry that we wouldn’t get a dance track on this week’s chart, but never fear as Angel City is here to hit us up with our latest dose. and yeah, this doesn’t do much for me as I pretty much expected. it just sounds like hundreds of other dance tracks I’ve heard over the years – the beat is very typical and this time we get lyrics about a sunrise. nothing to get worked up over here, let’s see what else we’ve got to come tonight.

8. "almost here" - brian mcfadden & delta goodrem (5)
7. "sometimes you can't make it on your own" - u2 (1)
6. "soldier" - destiny's child f. t.i. & lil wayne (4)

5. "how we do" - the game f. 50 cent (new entry)
here we’ve got awesome G-Unit newcomer Game trading lines with 50 Cent over a really hot Dr. Dre beat. this is why Dre is still in the game, because almost fifteen years after his classic solo debut, he’s still dropping hot ones like this right here. this isn’t really Game’s strongest track, but it’s an excellent choice for a single, as it ropes newcomers in with the familiar voice of Fiddy. lyrically, this is your typical car, girls, and cash rap track – so don’t be looking for anything spectacular in that department, but this one is all about that hot beat.

4. "like toy soldiers" - eminem (3)

3. "hush" - ll cool j (new entry)
LL gets to flowing over some old-school beatboxing on this one, with some slightly annoying backing vocals. but considering LL’s been around for over two decades now, it’s amazing to realize how tight his flow still is. this single is one of his trademark slower tempo love raps for the ladies, as he raps about how much he’ll do for his lady with multiple references thrown in about his cars and money. because really, what would a rap jam be without those? compared to most of today’s rappers, LL is a step behind in the innovation department but there’s something comforting about hearing a voice from my childhood still dropping rhymes in the top 40. i’ll give this one credit for the nostalgia factor, but it’s not going to be appearing on my year-end lists.

2. "surrender" - elvis presley (new entry)
well this is certainly a step up from last week’s polka/German clusterfuck of an Elvis single, as this one finds Elvis gettin’ his hardcore mack on. he’s throwing down the seduction game under the moonlight, as some suave backup singers harmonize him into her panties. from listening to this, i can almost see how many ladies fell for the King back in his heyday. i have to give this one props for keeping it short, sweet, and to the point. this just goes to show that not all of the Elvis singles we hear this year will be complete wastes of chart space – just most of them.

1. "get right" - jennifer lopez (new entry)
this one kicks off with great promise between that skronky horn sample and the intro verse from Fabulous, but it goes a little downhill after that. there's just too much going on with the production and it really takes away from the few things right with it - namely that kick ass horn loop and, surprisingly, J-Lo's vocals. throwing in all those random, tweaked backing vocals of Jennifer and the others just serves to confuse things. i think one lesson that pop producers should take from Lil Jon's oversimplified crunk production is that not every pop track needs to be doused in layer upon layer of overproduction. anyway, back to the song at hand - Fab shows up a little later on to drop another verse and it sounds awesome - just him, some drums, and that fantastic freakin' loop. that's all this song should have been based around in the first place - i'm waiting for someone to come up with a killer remix to this track. i'm thinking that horn loop is the best 4 seconds of pop music i've heard all year.

Feb 19, 2005

iTunes Random 10:
1. "Another No One" - Suede
2. "Slow Jamz" - Kanye West, Twista, & Jamie Foxx
3. "All Tomorrow's Parties" - The Velvet Underground
4. "Heart and Soul" - Joy Division
5. "Here Come the Sun" - The Beatles
6. "Open Mic Night Pt. 2" - MF Doom f. Lord Sear, Creature
7. "I Believe in Symmetry" - Bright Eyes
8. "College" - Animal Collective
9. "Bye Bye Blackbird" - Miles Davis
10. "Someone Take the Wheel" - The Replacements

Feb 18, 2005

np: "surface to air" - the chemical brothers

i finally got around to checking out Push the Button tonight and it managed to remind me just why i kinda fell off the Chems awhile ago. see, i used to really, really, really love these guys... but not quite when the rest of America was falling for them (i.e. the electronic invasion of '96-'97). i liked them then too, but i really didn't become obsessive about them until they dropped Surrender in 1999. now that was a jaw-dropping techno album that i immediately fell in love with, everything just totally worked for me on that one. from the psych-pop of "Let Forever Be" to the 1984ish robot rock of "Music: Response" to the Bernard Sumner guesting "Out of Control" - i loved it all from start to finish. i used to come home from the bars with my (semi-) roommate Gary and just blast the hell out of it while he smoked more pot than could have been good for any human being. i suppose us sitting on our asses was just about the pure opposite of what we should have been doing to this album, but that was when i enjoyed it the most. and i'll never forget the first time i heard that airplane sound effect come in with my huge speakers cranked, i thought my apartment complex was about to get bombed. after months of listening to that album religiously, i kinda drifted away from it and into other musical interests. i kinda forgot about the guys until i ran into both the "Star Guitar" and "It Began in Afrika" singles at Tower late one night and decided to snag them both. i drove around for awhile listening to them over and over, but felt amazingly underwhelmed by what i heard. so underwhelmed, in fact, that i never even bothered to pick up Come With Us when it dropped. and, much like before, i promptly blanked out on the Chemical Brothers. fast forward to fall of 2003 when i hear "The Golden Path" on the radio and start to remember all the good times Tom, Ed, and i used to share. with a quickness i went out and snagged Singles 93-03, just because i'm a completist dork like that and just HAD to get the bonus rarities disc. and i listened to that once or twice, but just never really felt that much of a connection with it like i used to have. so it was almost out of a sense of duty that i finally got around to listening to this one, and i think my recent feelings of "meh" were fairly justified. other than a few tracks, specifically "Surface to Air" and "Hold Tight London", there really wasn't a lot to excite me. maybe it will grow on me, maybe not... but given my past history with the Brothers Chemical - it will be a short-lived affair with Push the Button and i will spend the time remembering how much fun we used to have with Surrender.

Feb 16, 2005

Slop From The Pops: UK Pop Chart 02.13.05
ok so i apologize for the lateness of this week's chart look, but it's been a long couple of days since i got back from being out of town and it was difficult to find time to stream the show. but now it's done, and we'll take a look at what this week held in store...

40. "girls" - cam'ron f. mona lisa (last week's position: 25)
39. "object of my desire" - dana rayne (35)
38. "against all odds" - steve brookstein (33)
37. "jailhouse rock" - elvis presley (27)

36. "this will be our year" - the beautiful south (new entry)
i didn't even know this band was still recording, but apparently they are back with some sort of covers record or something, of which this is the first single. if you've ever heard a Beautiful South song before, you may know what to expect ? indie pop goodness with some lush orchestration backing up the dueling male/female vocals. this is pretty though, and keeps bouncy enough to stay enjoyable. this band never really made a dent on our side of the Atlantic, which is a shame.

35. "if there's any justice" - lemar (31)
34. "staring at the sun" - rooster (23)
33. "what happens tomorrow" - duran duran (11)
32. "a fool such as i" - elvis presley (22)
31. "one night" - elvis presley (26)
30. "filthy/gorgeous" - scissor sisters (24)
29. "penny & me" - hanson (19)
28. "la la" - ashlee simpson (20)
27. "it's now or never" - elvis presley (14)
26. "grief never grows old" - one world project (8)

25. "lion rip" - duke spirit (new entry)
here we've got a female fronted ROCK band that i really can't figure out, not because they are bad in any way but just because they remind me of someone else that i can't quite put my finger on. anyway, this is pretty solid straight ahead rock and roll here, with driving beat and passable guitar work. wait, actually i think it just hit me what i am reminded of - this is somewhat like a sweeter, more tame version of Brody Dalle from the Distillers. which is fine by me, as i love Brody's voice... so this is enjoyable enough.

24. "shine" - lovefreekz (16)

23. "the good ones" - the kills (new entry)
nice to see this band hitting the top 40 and especially nice with this song, as its probably the best thing i've heard on the chart so far this week. this definitely fits well within the standard "pop song" structure, but it also stands well outside it with a particularly noisy and disjointed guitar solo that wouldn't sound out of place on a Sonic Youth album. her voice is excellent as well, drawing you in and soothing you as the fuzzed out guitar hopscotches over the beat. pretty frickin' sweet.

22. "do this do that" - freefaller (17)
21. "i just wanna live" - good charlotte (9)
20. "are you lonesome tonight?" - elvis presley (2)
19. "so here we are" - bloc party (5)
18. "boulevard of broken dreams" - green day (21)
17. "breathe in" - lucie silvas (15)
16. "wires" - athlete (12)
15. "hey now (mean muggin')" - xzibit (13)
14. "numb/encore" - jay-z/linkin park (18)
13. "out of touch" - uniting nations (10)

12. "wrap my words around you" - daniel bedingfield (new entry)
um yeah, this song almost completely passed me by without even knowing it was playing, that's just how bland it is. i've never been a huge fan of Daniel, but this seems to be pretty bad even for him. i'd gladly take Natasha any day, and not just because she's far easier on the eyes.

11. "calendar girl" - noise next door (new entry)
this one starts off very promising with the crunching guitars that harken back to glam metal days of yore, but then the someone turns on the acoustic guitar ProTools filter and it's all downhill from there. seriously, we already have a Busted and McFly, is there any reason this band has to exist? at least the American pop-punk contingent seemed fit to let the trend die off after Simple Plan. who do we have to blame this on? Blink 182? Green Day? perhaps, but I highly doubt we'll ever see a late-career resurgence by Noise Next Door on the level of American Idiot or Blink's self-titled album.

10. "goodies" - ciara (6)
9. "galvanize" - chemical brothers (7)
8. "only u" - ashanti (4)

7. "angel eyes" - raghav (new entry)
this is some sort of reggae thing going on here, going for a summertime feel-good vibe that just feels really out of place on this cold February day. the chorus is kinda cool with the "oooohhhHHhh... angel i-i-i-i-ieeeeyyyes", but the beat seems to come from some producer's stock kit and leaves me with a bitter aftertaste. towards the end it starts to drift into some sort of middle eastern thing that just really doesn't fit at all. it's a decent attempt, but one that falls short of the simplicity that made something like "Oh Carolina" a wonderful hit for Shaggy back in the day.

6. "black and white town" - doves (new entry)
another great single by the vastly underrated (at least in America) Doves. very few bands are doing the subtle combination of guitar-based rock and electronica with the consistent quality of this band. this single, however, falls more heavily into the "rock" part of the equation and works quite well. the jangly chorus gives way to a superb guitar solo, just before the song's breakdown. there's just something that keeps this band very exciting to listen to after three albums, something that i don't think bands like Keane will have going for them, and i think that thing is an attention to detail. lovely.

5. "almost here" - brian mcfadden & delta goodrem (3)

4. "soldier" - destiny's child f. t.i. & lil wayne (new entry)
this is a pretty solid DC single, but like "Lose My Breath" it's miles away from the classic stuff this trio (quartet in the best years) used to crank out regularly. the guest verses from the always spectacular TI and decent Lil Wayne save this from complete mediocrity though, as the girls tend to get a little repetitive by the end. nice voices aren't everything ladies, where's the always stunning production of your early singles?

3. "toy soldiers" - eminem (1)

2. "wooden heart" - elvis presley (new entry)
so this week we get the King gone polka, and it just reeks. i've never heard this one before, and i can't say that my life was missing anything at all. unintentional hilarity ensues when the king inserts an awkward pause to fit the rhyme scheme in the "i've got a wood.... en heart" section of the chorus. but wait! now the King kicks it inna German stylee, this could really make this song awesome. nah, it still sucks. but it makes me wonder how awesome it would be to hear all of the King's number ones sung in German. project for the Presley estate with the 2025 reissue singles?

1. "sometimes you can't make it on your own" - u2 (new entry)
well U2 gets their second consecutive number one single with this ballad. i'm completely torn on what i think of this single, basically liking it and disliking it for exactly the same reasons. first of all, this is just as overdramatic and cringe-worthy as any of the band's other ballads over the years ? but at the same time, this is exactly the sort of thing the band does best. really, i don't think this song would have sounded out of place on The Joshua Tree - which i mean as somewhat of a backhanded compliment. that album was, in my opinion the band's highpoint and to have a song nearly twenty years later that sounds like it would fit right in is pretty swell, right? maybe. i mean, don't you think a band such as this should have evolved a little over the years between? all the explorations the band took throughout the '90s resulted in very little, as the band has come full circle back to this sound. but then again, it is U2 and u kind of love them for that. awesome guitar work by Edge either way though.

Feb 15, 2005

np: "long distance call" - muddy waters

i've said before and i'll say it again right now, there is no better way to expereince the blues than by seeing them performed live. especially when you've got amazingly talented bluesmen like John Primer, formerly a Muddy Waters sideman, leading things. the girlfriend gave me a Valentine's Day surprise by taking me to the legendary Chicago blues club, Kingston Mines, where we saw the aforementioned guitarist and a host of others. it was a Blue Monday Blues Jam, which kicked off with an excellent quartet tearing through blues standards with lots of ad-libbing before amateurs of all ages took to the stage to throw down. we left shortly after the wannabes took the stage, but more due to fatigue after a long day of driving rather than a comment on the talent on stage. it wasn't a very crowded house, but those that were there seemed to be pretty into it and i am definitely looking forward to returning soon. if you like in the Chicago area, or plan on being here sometime soon, it is well worth a visit.

while i was in Michigan, i had the fortune of being in Ann Arbor with someone who could show me where all the cool record shops are, so i got to do quite a bit of browsing. didn't pick up a whole lot, but i did get Operation Ivy's Energy and Palace Brothers' There Is No-One What Will Take Care of You on vinyl and Bright Eyes' A Collection of Songs: 1995-1997 on compact disc. next time i'm up there i will definitely be returning to Schoolkids, Encore, and Wazoo (good hip-hop selection) among others. as should you.

Feb 10, 2005

np: "reunited" - wu-tang clan

so the Wu is coming back out in full force to pay tribute to the late Ol' Dirty Bastard on a new track slated for his upcoming solo album.

"Every member is on it so far, besides Ghostface Killah," RZA told Billboard.com. "Method Man was the first guy to do his verse. Raekwon and GZA did their verses pronto. I had to take some time with U-God. Cappadonna is on it also. All I need is my Ghostface verse and it will be one of the first recordings in three or four years with every member again."

the track, tentatively titled "I Go Through Life", is expected to appear on the new ODB joint when it drops March 22nd along with several other RZA produced tracks. hotness.

Feb 9, 2005

np: "hideyaface" - prefuse 73 f. ghostface & el-p

this is one of those times when i think i really need to figure out how to host mp3's for this site. because this is a song that i really want everyone i know to hear. for those of you that don't know, Prefuse 73 is the recording alias of one Scott Herren. so far he's released two fantastic albums under the Prefuse 73 name - Vocal Studies & Uprock Narratives and 2003's One Word Extinguisher - both of which contain some of the dopest hip-hop production found in either the mainstream or undie rap worlds. its mostly instrumental with the occasional found sound sample or guest verse, but it all makes for a highly entertaining listen. "Hideyaface" is the first single off his upcoming Surrounded by Silence album, due out March 21st on Warp records. this track is probably my favorite production of his, it works perfectly with the verses that Ghostface and El-P drop over the top. it reminds me a little of early RZA productions, because it's all dense sound and noise that envelops your head while the emcees beat your eardrums with a vengeance. and that they do, as El-P is fresh as fuck and Ghostface is still flying high off the awesome Pretty Toney album. so find a way to check out this song, and by all means hit up Warp for Surrounded by Silence when it officially drops - i know i will be. and while we are on the subject, don't sleep on Herren's other recordings - in particular last year's fantastic Apropa't released under the name Savath + Savalas (also on Warp).
Slop From The Pops: UK Pop Charts 02.06.05
here we are with the first chart rundown of february and the first post-Wes hosted show. seems this month may be the last of the pop chart as we know it... more on that as things develop, but i really hope they don't stop playing all of the songs. i would be crushed, to say the least. anyway, let's enjoy what we've got for now. on to the charts...

40. "tumble and fall" - feeder (last week's position: 25)
39. "somebody told me" - the killers (18)

38. "what u gon' do" - lil jon & the east side boys (new entry)
the first of this week's new entries features some hot crunk action, sweet. except really not, since this is definitely not one of Lil Jon's best songs ever. he seems to give all of his best material to other people (“Yeah”, “Let's Go”) while the singles off his own albums pale in comparison. and yes, i'm fully aware of “Get Low” when i say that. but this is still twenty times better than any other dance type of crap we'd be hearing in the countdown. half-assed Lil Jon crunk awesomeness is still something worth listening to.

37. "plan of my own" - deeyah (new entry)
here we've got some decent r&b action going on, reminding me a little bit of Mary J. Blige – and that's not a bad thing at all. her voice is pretty strong, but it's the awesome guitar effect in the chorus that makes me fall for this song. obviously she's not going to replace Beyonce any time soon, but it's really not half bad.

36. "you can do it" - ice cube f. mack 10 & ms. toi (34)
35. "object of my desire" - dana rayne (26)

34. "i'm from further north than you" - the wedding present (new entry)
so here i'm excited before the song even begins, because it's just awesome to have a band like the Wedding Present anywhere in the top 40. for the uninitiated, these guys are sort of like the British equivalent of Pavement – been around for years, sizeable cult following, critical darlings (John Peel was a big supporter), but very little mainstream recognition. any time a band like this hits the charts, the little indie boy in me gets all giddy with excitement. as for the song itself, it's not too bad at all – nice and jangly guitar with a cool solo. lyrically there's really nothing special here, but with a jaunty little tune like this, who needs great lyrics?

33. "against all odds" - steve brookstein (27)
32. "destroy rock n roll" - mylo (15)
31. "if there's any justice" - lemar (30)
30. "strings of life (stronger on my own)" - soul central f. kathy brown (28)

29. "such a fool" - 22-20s (new entry)
i guess this is supposed to be some sort of attempt at garage rock, but i'm not entirely sure. for some reason this guy strikes me as someone who's spent too much time worshipping Bono and has now gone into the wrong genre. it really never seems to go anywhere, there's no real hook or chorus to pull you in, and the guitar just kinda propels this thing along aimlessly. this gets a major “meh” from me.

28. "take me away" - stonebridge f. therese (22)
27. "jailhouse rock" - elvis presley (re-entry)
26. "one night" - elvis presley (40)

25. "girls" - cam'ron f. mona lisa (new entry)
the pillaging of the 1980s continues on this hot Dip-set single here, with Cyndi Lauper's “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” being the latest victim. it's all good though, as this features a pretty hot beat and great rhymes from Cam'ron. it comes across a little lazier than you would expect with this sample, but it works with Cam'ron's laid back flow. and major points for the “stuck like stucco” line, represent.

24. "filthy/gorgeous" - scissor sisters (24)
23. "staring at the sun" - rooster (16)
22. "a fool such as i" - elvis presley (20)
21. "boulevard of broken dreams" - green day (14)
20. "la la" - ashlee simpson (11)
19. "penny & me" - hanson (10)
18. "numb/encore" - jay-z/linkin park (17)
17. "do this do that" - freefaller (8)
16. "shine" - lovefreekz (6)
15. "breathe in" - lucie silvas (12)
14. "it's now or never" - elvis presley (1)
13. "hey now (mean muggin')" - xzibit (9)
12. "wires" - athlete (7)

11. "what happens tomorrow" - duran duran (new entry)
can it ever be bad to have a new Duran Duran single? the answer, of course, is a resounding no... even if they only are a mere shadow of their former selves. this is nowhere near as awesome as the first single from the latest album, but this isn't bad. this is more a mid-tempo track here, but manages to stay out of the Coldplay/Travis/Keane rut that stinks up so much of British rock lately. the electronic flourishes are actually well-handled and keep this pretty interesting. positive lyrics about things being alright in the end, and who better to tell us that than Duran squared?

10. "out of touch" - uniting nations (13)

9. "i just wanna live" - good charlotte (new entry)
i'll admit that i just am not a big fan of GC at all, but i can at least say that they've had a couple of halfway decent singles over the years. this is certainly not one of them, in fact this is just pure crap even for them. i'm not sure what they are really going for hear, but the falsetto vocals, fake raps, and strings are not a good formula in the least. besides, bitching about fame is so unbecoming for teen punkers. Blink 182 and Green Day both managed to come up with a slightly more “mature” sound, but the twins' attempt just falls flat.

8. "grief never grows old" - one world project (4)
7. "galvanize" - chemical brothers (5)
6. "goodies" - ciara (3)

5. "so here we are" - bloc party (new entry)
so this isn't as upbeat as “Helicopter” or “Banquet”, but it's still nice to see the Bloc Party charting so highly. this is the Party in semi-ballad mode, complete with chiming guitars and an almost drum-and-bass type beat driving the song. i think what makes this band just so damned enjoyable is lead singer Kele Okereke's voice – he's got a wonderful range and all types of inflection without resorting to weird vocal gymnastics. i suppose it helps that this band can really lay down a groove too.

4. "only u" - ashanti (2)

3. "almost here" - brian mcfadden & delta goodrem (new entry)
so the former boy bander is back with another bland ballad, but this time he's got help from some girl with a pretty decent voice. she's really not enough to save this song though, because Brian's suckitude keeps it down. i'm not sure what effect is trying to be created with the crackling drums and piano combination going on in the background, but it certainly isn't a good one. i suppose bland ballads have always been the bread and butter of pop charts, but this is exactly why I'm a steak man.

2. "are you lonesome tonight" - elvis presely (new entry)
speaking of steak, here's Elvis. i'm not sure what steak has to do with Mr. Presley, but i'm betting he ate lots of them before the “fat and bloated” stage of his career. which he wasn't quite at when he recorded this pretty little ballad. this is nice enough, but i think this set the template for much of his later ballads as most of them seem to remind me of weaker versions of this. kinda like how Collective Soul and Goo Goo Dolls ballads all sound the same, but seemed to get progressively more bland as time went on. but i guess i can't write off all of Elvis' ballads so easily, as “In the Ghetto” is pretty much a ballad and the best song he ever recorded. i don't suppose it went to number one though, i'd love to hear it on the charts. anyway, this song does feature a laughably awful spoken word portion where Elvis mumbles something about being lied to and stuck on the stage or something. does this mean we have Elvis to blame for all those early '90s mid-ballad spoken word breakdowns such as those used by Boyz II Men?

1. "toy soldiers" - eminem (new entry)
and Elvis is knocked off the top yet again, but i think few artists could be more apporpriate for the feat than Marshall Mathers. i know i'm not the first one to mention this, but the two have quite a bit in common – more than one might first imagine. both had similar humble upbringings but managed to find fame by co-opting forms of entertainment that had been previously dominated by black artists. both used their fame to expand into other areas of media, most obviously into Hollywood. both have been considered quite controversial at times and have been frowned upon by parents. and, of course, both of them had what we can kindly call “issues” with the women in their lives. so I think it's quite interesting that here in 2005 the two of them would be battling for chart supremacy. anyway, let's talk a little bit about the song. first off, this is really an inspired choice of sample material and upon hearing it i'm surprised that another rapper didn't come up with the idea first. lyrically it's another meta-single from Em, as he talks about squashing his beefs with Benzino and others, proving that he's the bigger man by wanting to keep family out of it. it's an interesting path for someone who usually loves conflict and pissing people off, but i think it's a part of this new toned down Marshall aiming for mass acceptance. personally, i think this is the best single from Encore thus far – but it still wouldn't have placed in the top 5 on either of his two previous albums.

Feb 4, 2005

np: "waterloo sunset" - the kinks

the kinks are a band that i've slept on for way too long. sure i knew they did "Lola", "You Really Got Me", and "Come Dancing" - but i don't think i could have named much more than that. i'm sure i'd heard quite a few more, but never really processed it since '60s music isn't exactly an era i've explored much at all. i've always been into the Beatles and the Stones, and in the past few years i've gotten a great appreciation for the Byrds. well, tonight is as good a time as any to begin rectifying that mistake - as a trip to the always wonderful Record Breakers resulted in me copping a cheap vinyl copy of The Kink Kronikles, a two-album compilation of stuff from '66-'72. i'm still working through my first listen, but i'm really intrigued with it so far. "Victoria", "Waterloo Sunset", "This is Where I Belong", and "Shangri-La" are all tracks that really make me feel like my life has been incomplete without. ok, maybe a slight exagerration - but this stuff should be much more prevalent on classic rock radio than the tracks i mentioned earlier. it was a little odd to hear the original "David Watts", since i was so used to The Jam's version, but it's really a wonderful tune.

overall it was a pretty productive shopping trip tonight, i picked up some really cool shit that i'm pretty excited about:

(on vinyl:)
Heatmiser - Cop and Speeder (Portland band featuring a pre-Oscar nom Elliott Smith)
Killing Joke - What's This For...! (something i've been wanting to hear for some time now, well this and the debut)
Elton John - Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (for real, '70-'75 Elton could do no wrong, recognize)

(on disc:)
American Minor - Buffalo Creek EP (pretty nifty Strokes/Kings of Leon influenced Southern rawk)
Superdrag - Stereo 360 Sound (early tracks and singles from this underrated and sadly now defunct band)
Kasabian - Kasabian (not due out here for another month or so, picked up a used promo copy)

anyway, i'm off to listen to some more Kinks...

Feb 2, 2005

songs that i've been enjoying a little too much lately:

"Since U Been Gone" - Kelly Clarkson
"When the President Talks to God" - Bright Eyes
"BMFA" - Martha Wainwright
"Tribulations" - LCD Soundsystem
"Technologic" - Daft Punk
"Looks That Kill" - Motley Crue