Dec 31, 2006

Authentic Sweetness Over Dinner

Fischerspooner - Sweetness (video)

2006-2007. Leaving the house for the sake of leaving the house. Cell phone calls about missed cell phone calls. Striving for a cerebral quietness that also collapses the capacity to find meaning in electronic beats. And turning the volume up on both the computer and the stereo. Not being drunk enough to be reckless enough to drink recklessly. Realizing the small scale of even the most esteemed of achievements. Spending more for hollower conversation with compromised company. Shaking dirty pants from the laundry and no one noticing. Compensating for dull tastebuds with increased dosages. Truly enjoying the beauty of the day being potentiated by forgetting the last beautiful day. Over-correcting for a slight mishap and smashing into the concrete wall on the opposite side of the road. And pretending being newfound authenticity.

Fischerspooner - Emerge [Adult mix] (sendspace mp3)

Bright Eyes - Haligh, Haligh, A Lie, Haligh (sendspace mp3)

Dec 28, 2006

You're Gonna Love Me.

Emily Bennett Beck - Best of Everything (2006)

Jennifer Hudson - And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going (sendspace mp3): Jennifer violently pounds the flaccid head of this bleeding-heart-ballad on the rigid floor of the stage, stopping just short of vomiting tears of her own desperation into the pumice of its withered carcass. The debilitating emotion isn't even self-realized until 1:40, when an authentic breakdown erupts from the predictably rolled cymbal crescendo, snare clicks, and lowering drum bridge of the cheap house band. As the long-distance vocal rounds the 3:00 minute mark, it cracks from powerful to memorable. Like any true passion, unwaivering strength surfaces from the depth of vulnerability at the exact minute of necessity. And instead of fading away with exhaustion or on a victorious high note, Jennifer won't let go of the chorus and continues to scream with desperately clinging and ultimately futile repetition.

Dec 25, 2006

I think about you everytime I pass a fillin' station; on account of all the grease.

Anna Svechnikova - Christmas Mermaid (2001)

Yelps coming from the sizzling fireplace tell larger-than-life fables of birth and death today; with the intense focus implying our place in between. And as our toes ooze sweat into the grisly fabric of our warm white socks, we yearn for (enough to always find) the physical homeostasis that keeps them from burning up with the fire's intensity.

Tom Waits - Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis (sendspace mp3)

James Brown - Merry Christmas, Baby (sendspace mp3)

Smog - In the Pines [live in Madison on 12/9/06] (youtube)

Dec 21, 2006

The Structure of My Endoskeleton

Gottfried Helnwein - The Last Days of Pompeij (1987)

Miho Hatori added a splash of fish sauce to her intoxicating sugar and water cocktail with "Ecdysis" and it swims with a similar playful wonder to her trademark Micheal Gondry Cibo Matto video. Music can be opressive to artists who want to expose their audience to a complete artistic frameshift, as every track needs to keep a beat to keep an ear (everything else lands in the barren "noise" pile). Miho, however, manages to articulate a simultaneous experimental confidence and vulnerable grace that a typically critical listener will use to excuse her for ranting on about a futuristic, insect-laden parable in pseudo-spoken-word. Entitled "Walking City", this is my favourite piece on the album, and its deeply thoughtful beauty is something I would never wish to be merited firstly on its "unconvention". Unconvention is completely natural on this pioneering solo-statement and after repeating the album a couple times, will be something you begin calling the radio. Because "Ecdysis" is its own kind of beauty and unconvention better applies to music that offers nothing; means nothing. What then is it for?

Miho Hatori - Barracuda (mp3)

Dec 18, 2006

A Linear Collection of 2006 Favourites

Appearing on this list is a better indicator of 1) my financial situation at the time of the album's release, 2) the amount of quality time we've spent together, AND 3) its coincidental relevance to current events in the world and my psyche THAN the overall value of the album. I guarantee albums that don't appear on this list may be "better", and albums that appear may be "worse"... the clash of these dichotomies spark the conversations that make lists meaningful. Because I don't work for a label or have the time to care, I often confuse what was officially released in 2006 and what I enjoyed in 2006... but I've tried my best to stick to 2006 releases. Following are some audio trinkets I've shelved and cherished this year:

Best Albums of 2006
1) Joanna Newsom - Ys (ressurects the entire album concept)
2) The Knife – Silent Shout
3) Hot Chip – The Warning
4) Girl Talk – Night Ripper
5) Sunset Rubdown – Shut Up, I’m Dreaming
6) Beyonce – B’Day
7) Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies (
8) Regina Spektor – Begin To Hope
9) Thom Yorke – The Eraser
10) Bonnie Prince Billy – The Letting Go
11) Chad VanGaalen – Skelliconnection
12) Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
13) Damien Rice – 9
14) Shearwater – Palo Santo (
15) Muse – Black Holes and Revelations
16) Espers – II
17) Grizzly Bear – Yellow House
18) Final Fantasy – He Poos Clouds
19) Junior Boys – So This Is Goodbye
20) Return to Cookie Mountain – TV On The Radio

I've separated my favourite songs of 2006 into joyously manic and transcendentally depressive lists. There were so many great songs that it's a torture to leave any out, so please comment with your favourites...

Manic Singles of 2006:
Beyonce – Irreplaceable
Girl Talk – Bounce That
Cold War Kids – Hospital Beds (
Justin Timberlake – Sexy Back
Crazy - Gnarls Barkley
Hot Chip – Over and Over (and Warning too)
We Are Scientists – Nobody Move

Leslie Hall – Mother Gem Lullaby
Condoleeza Check My Posse – The Majestic Twelve

Junior Boys – In the Morning
Pants Yell! – Your Feelings Don’t Show (
Tilly and the Wall - Bad Education
Voxtrot - Mothers, Sisters, Daughters and Wives (
Man Man - Engrish Bwudd

Depressive Singles of 2006:
Sunset Rubdown – Shut Up I’m Dreaming of Places Where Lovers Have Wings
The Knife – Silent Shout
Caroline – Sunrise
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone – Young Shields
Chris Garneau – Not Nice
Thom Yorke – The Eraser
Track a Tiger – Seashaken Heart
Cat Power – Where Is My Love
Bonnie Prince Billy – The Seedling
Jolie Holland – Springtime Can Kill You
Espers – Moon Occults the Sun
St. Vincernt – Marry Me
Muse – Starlight
Chad VanGaalen – Gubbish
Swan Lake - The Freedom

Dec 15, 2006

Newsish News

Imogen Heap - Just For Now [live performance] (2006)

Did you hear that indie darling and I'm Just Sayin Is All... favourite Imogen Heap is nominated for two 2007 Grammy awards? For best NEW artist? Sheesh Grammys, where have you been? And what hapened to your watery mainstream taste? Imogen will have to get infintely more annoying by February to even have a chance to compete with James Blunt and Carrie Underwood. Does this open the door for electonic-looped opera vocalist Amy X to infiltrate the mainstream music scene???

In Urbana news: I'm Just Sayin Is All...'s effervescently analytical Audio Research Associate, Mike, attended the Phosphorescent show yesterday at the Canopy Club and has this to report:

"Being (probably) your only reader in the Urbana area, I felt obligated to attend the Phosphorescent show... and comment. Less than a week after Joanna I've been trypsinized and resuspended in fresh media of tasty Americana. Phenotypic markers of differentiation include an unshaven face, a few pints of PBR and maybe the odor of the pig farm. I can't really tell anymore. Unlike the union and my favorite coffee shop, the crowd at the Canopy Club was far from confluent. Being exam week, fellow students failed to aliquot enough live music into their lives. Dropping the metaphor, local band Tractor Kings played a great set and brought in a fine group of fans. Half of them stuck around to see Phosphorescent. A shame, because they were also a great show. The band was much better than their Myspace downloads will have you believe. Worth a see if they ever make it Up North, hey."

Imogen Heap - Just for Now (sendspace mp3)

The Tractor Kinds - Side by Side (sendspace mp3)

Dec 14, 2006

Celebrating A Full-grown Man's Ending

Elmgreen & Dragset - Monument to Short Term Memory (2004)

Mika - Happy Ending (sendspace mp3): The inspirational choral backing and pop-molded falsetto in this Mika track remind me of the bombastic wailings my little sisters used to belt to the rhythm of the monthly Z104FM tune. For some reason, a specifically gospeled All Saints song called "Never Ever" comes to mind. I hope it motivates you to similarly strain your upper octaves and sway like it's hardest story you've ever heard. Because c'mon folks, that's what a really bad pop song is for. The rest of the record tastes like heavy inspiration from the Sissor Sisters, Cutting Crew, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and even the "Step by Step" theme song.

Phosphorescent - Fullgrown Man (myspace mp3): I am fully aware that this track is folk-inspired and that I have broken my word of hosting a folk-less week. But cut me some slack, I paired it with a late-nineties-reminiscent ultra-pop. Phosphorescent's [playing in Urbana tonight] subtle Man-man drunken instrumentation would be appropriate to score an Irish wake and would have been a swell opener for Charlemagne back in Madison's Catacombs hayday.

Dec 13, 2006

Robotic Holiday Pets

Untitled - Marc Swanson (2005)

I'm officially bothered by the mindless covers of Christmas songs that were ORIGINALLY bland and the cheaply-manufactured robotic toy Santas that compulsively sing them as I walk past. Boiling over with that holiday spirit, I am offering you a chance to win a robotic toy that won't utter a word while it terrorizes your living room's miniature plant-life. Actually maybe it roars... yeah I think it roars. Just send me an email or a comment that includes your mailing address and be entered to win Discovery Channel's My RoboReptile (Children Magazine's 2006 Toy of the Year)! And because it's Human Rights Month, even the losers win a CD.

In case you want more information (and because I think this is probably the radest robot I've seen in a while)...

PIMPED Robot Features
Realistic biomorphic movements, four-legged walking and high speed running, bipedal "attack" mode, jumping action, flexible neck, whipping tail, multi-sensory environmental awareness, infra-red vision sensors for obstacle avoidance and detection of movements, sonic sensors for detection of loud sounds, and a touch sensor for responding to human interaction [demonstration].

Three Distinct Moods
1) Hungry: his "natural" (default) mood, activate the "feed" button on the remote and he will track down the signal.
2) Satisfied: he calms down after eating.
3) Hooded: he becomes subdued; depending upon human interaction, will either wake up hungry or fall asleep.

The Knife - Christmas Reindeer (sendspace mp3): This is an indie holiday ornament from my favourite mechanically-dark artist of 2006. It's a carol you can blare while putting the avant-garde wax decorations on your galvanized metal tree. Please remember to warn Santa that the stockings hanging above the electric LED fireplace are holographic. [FYI, the DVD Silent Shout: An Audio-Visual Experiment is on my Christmas list]

Laura Barrett - Robot Ponies (sendspace mp3): Laura dreams of a futuristic 2053 Christmas when every Christmas tree shelters a robot pony that eats plastic bags chopped like lettuce out of your hand. It reaffirms my policy that anything set to a bouncy West-African kalimba thumb-piano is worth a listen.

Dec 12, 2006

Check Your Mailbox

Philip Lorca DiCorcia - Brian (1988)

Futility is a necktie and mine is vertically striped. I sat at the window this afternoon watching the rest falling down in theirs, but I could only think of how lucky I was that mine made me look taller. Tonight, I will write these things shielded in the calm of a letter and send it to you. When you don't recognize them and neglect to respond, it will be your fault. Your necktie must be skinny and black.

Rademacher - Last Letter Writer (mp3)

Rademacher - It Really Shouldn't Matter (mp3)

Dec 11, 2006

All I Knew of the Rote Universe Were Those Pleiades Loosed in December

Brendan Cook & Paul McNeil (pictureDRIFT video) and Bill Calahan (music) - Rock Bottom Riser (2005) [download .mov]

The headliners of this weekend's Madison Pop Fest, despite the exhaustive pairing of a late night start and desperate crowds (see the comments at Muzzle of Bees today for a wildly disrespectful discussion), presented their sounds with the poise and precision of a seasoned symphony.

Emotive vocal craftsman Bill Callahan strapped himself to a lonely and uncomfortably-centered chair on the grand stage and began the strenuous process that produces his soft, but stern reflective ballads. Slightly leaning forward, his spine straightened and rested his lower chest on the wooden platform at the top of his guitar to seemingly align his vocal ramp (and anticipated projectiles) with the microphone. Bill proceeded to clench every muscle in his face and after arching his brows to painful heights, he puckered his rigid lips to push out a bassy vocal bubble... glistening with clarity of smooth construction, but quickly dropping with its own weight to float calmly along the plane of the stage. It was the first in an awe-inspiring series that managed the fragility of being simultaneously strong and vulnerable while poignantly articulating miserable love in harmony with a subtle strumming of strings. Though the performance was distinctly missing the fragile descent of "To Be of Use" and some attention to diversity to keep the crowd engaged, Bill's choices remained appropriately stoic and unapologetic.

Terri Timely (video) & Joanna Newsom (music) - Sprout and the Bean (2004) [download .mov]

Joanna Newsom galloped eagerly onto the stage next, dripping fresh from the fields of a prolonged Harvest dinner. Her immediately noticeable awkwardness bounded with the grace of a beautiful female Gollum, draped in a deeply medieval-puffed gown and the glee of the apparent success of a new hair replacement therapy. She sat down, stretched her pale arms around the harp in a simulated hug, and perched her fingers on its rows of petite columns. On her own cue sprouted a dizzying outpouring of notes, arranged in angelic runs and rivaled in complexity only by the nuances of the words exploding from the right side of her crooked mouth. Joanna's voice itself transcends a traditional timeline by sounding both like a chirping child and a squeaky old woman and more surprisingly, sounding both like the strangest and most beautiful noises ever produced.

I was sure that after a couple stellar singles from "Milk Eyed Mender" her fingers would surely tire... but she instead proclaimed "We're going to play the new album now" and called a cohort of collegues onto stage to do just that. Embellished by arrangements from legendary composer Van Dyke Parks, the live performance of the album boasted focused instrumentation that made much more sense with the warmth of live bodies than the cold of the studio recording. And who would have guess that a harp would be so effectively complimented by a walking banjo and vulnerable performances from an accordion and musical saw? The collective opus was as personal as it was grand and lifted Joanna's strange sensibility to a level of creative genius that I trust will flourish in future symphonies.

Dec 8, 2006

Sweeping the Gravel

Sleeping in the Aviary (Phil Mahlstadt?) - Happy Birthday

Tonight launches Madison Pop Fest at Club 770 and if you're anywhere else, these manic tracks will hopefully get you in your car. It's all free, so put that money towards a trip downtown... perhaps some Mamochas at Himal Chuli or a Guiness at Brocach's.

Mason Proper - Lights Off (mp3): This is the result of dramatically shaking a heterogeneous jar of polarized low-fi and high-concept instrumentation, with the pop guitar and clear vocals always rising to the top. Their anti-interview is a MUST LISTEN.

Maps and Atlases -
Every Place Is a House (myspace download): The ease with which this hyper chaos falls into rhythms should be successfully applied to my filing cabinet or behavioral therapy.

Sleeping in the Aviary -
A Dream Confessed (mp3): Delightfully strange and honestly dynamic chordstorms are this premiere Madison band's interpretation of life's frustratingly ambiguous limbo... best visualized while vomiting, succumbing to clinical depression, watching talk shows when you should be doing something else, or sweeping gravel. Check out this video interview, complete with helmet-protected makeup application and living room thrash-rock.

Dec 6, 2006

White-bred Rap

Brendan Fletcher - Glossolalia (2004)

"Too folksy" is a recent criticism being lobbed at me, but one I pick up and pin to my lapel. Some of the most interesting musical parquetry can be found woven in the unassuming refurbished antique floors under the feet of consumers wrestling to secure products from the flashiest pop-centric displays. I guess that makes me the creepy janitor obsessing with a push broom and glaring at the passerbys who absentmindedly scuffle past with muddy feet.

BUT, I understand that recent selections have been noticeably banjoed, so I've agreed to switch it up this week. Because this may be a shock to regular readers, I'll ease the transition with songs that attempt to bridge prarie folk with the graffitied landmass of rap.

Sage Francis (ft Saul Williams & Will Oldham) -
Sea Lion (mp3): Sage Francis welds a negotiation of solid steel beams by mixing the molten forces of Will Oldham and Saul Williams. It never struck me to dream of hearing these two favourites in harmony, but now the pairing makes perfect sense.

DJ Whitebread (ft Garth Brooks & Outkast) -
Friends In Low Places (mp3): DJ Whitebread mashes a crude suspension of mismatched key signatures. His concepts are fun to an ear that doesn't listen too closely, but the shoddy construction can be terrifying.

DJ Whitebread (ft Merle Haggard & Youngbloodz) -
I Think I'll Just Stay Here & Drink (mp3)

Alela Diane, the new Meg Baird/Helena Espvall/Sharron Kraus songs, and Brian Michael Roff and the Deer will have to wait until next week.

Dec 5, 2006

The Nostalgic Smell of Ken Kopp's Produce Section

Hannah Starkey - Untitled (1997)

Sebastian Krueger, cultivator of The Inlets, was himself grown with the water and toils of Madison WI and though his music is now rooted densely in the concrete of Brooklyn NY, it still reeks of the blushing charm that a true Midwesterner never loses. Sebastian physically visits Madison often and his adult relationship with the city is self-admittedly a stack of observations from the eyes of his curious local childhood. When confronted about what ties the new EP “Vestibule” to Wisconsin, he responds coyly, “I wish I could directly link pieces of the album to Madison, but unfortunately very little rhymes with Michael's Frozen Custard”. But in an album built more on subtlety than rhyme, Sebastian’s musical choices are clearly driven from the depths of a familiar Midwestern subconscious where sparse instrumentation is always well-meaning and its perseverance self-effacing.

Vestibule leads with the subtle passion and sanguine plucks of a Sufjan-esque visualization of a forest sprung from a tree, via an orchestration sprung from the viola of Marla Hansen (another displaced Madisonian). Musical interest builds with an upturned woodwind and a brief twinkle to establish the album’s character, clearly clad in a classic grace only seen today under closed eyes and open thoughts of the faces behind your crackling grey photograph or weathered antique phonograph. The style slightly wanes, however, when the rising voices of “Roots on Sidewalks” are restrained from introducing a jazz hi-hat to tap the sidewalk with the beats of an explorative cane. After barreling through the stream of carefully taut writing, a slight breakdown is suggested near the end of “Sunfed Shapes” with a loosening of time that is surprisingly refreshing. The sound finally pulls itself together to produce my favourite album landmark and morbid complement, “You Are An Effigy”.

Sebastian manages to front sophisticated timidity without being apologetic for the Inlets’ retro-forward folk styling. And though he asserts that Vestibule is not necessarily more “Madisony” than “Brooklyny”, you can still dig up pieces of its inspiration in the small hidden prairie next to Randall School on Regent Street where Sebastian planted them in fourth grade.

The entire MP3 album is available for free download through luvsound! *

*The Inlets - Vestibule (zip)

The Inlets - You Are An Effigy (mp3)

The Inlets - Pictures of Trees (mp3)

My Brightest Diamond - Something of an End (mp3)

Awry - Brave Elephant (m3u)

Dec 2, 2006

Furnishing Your Life With Bells and Whistles

Atelier van Lieshout - Hermann [of "The Heads" series] (2005)

Furniture shopping is more like adopting a child than purchasing a product, and the decision is blessed with a similar gravity and intimacy. Before welcoming a leather-skinned object into my empty home, I first must accept its texture running past my inappropriately extended fingers and the thought of how its comfort will restructure my life for the better. The difficulty explodes exponentially with the unreasonable expectation that the piece must already feel like it belongs, even before meeting me or my life. And that somehow in the context of a sterile-white show floor it must be able to clearly articulate why its bold, but understated style should be allowed to complement mine. A foster-care return policy could ease the transition, but I'm sure the decision will be made after getting it up four flights of stairs and getting attached when it learns my name.

In case there are any music-loving furniture salesmen reading: I'm looking for a squared, black-leather Ola Podrida that is resistant to spray paint and inspires impromtu black-tie parties, but worried I will be misled by an overstuffed, micro-fiber Jay-Z that won't coexist with an antique writing desk and can't even read music.

Ola Podrida - Jordana (mp3)

Haley Bonar - Ransom (myspace download)

BY THE WAY, if you're not already convinced that your Madison weekend will be best spent with an influx of indie-rock, Madison Pop Festival was acclaimed by Pitchfork today.