Archive for December, 2007

THE TOP 20 SONGS OF 2007

Posted: December 31, 2007 by dillion in Uncategorized

Remember when I said I was done with lists? I lied. Out of complete self-interest (or, more precisely, interest in self), I began wondering what were my favorite singles of the year. Lots of other folks picked theirs, so why not me? To arrive this list, I first reviewed what 2008 tracks had the highest play counts. I noticed that, because I listen to albums a lot, much of the time a single artist had many high numbers (e.g.: NaS, Amy Winehouse, Arcade Fire), so I took only the one song by each artist with the highest play count. I also eliminated those songs that I really enjoy on an album, but not so much as standalone songs. Then, I added a few songs that for whatever reason didn’t have high play counts but I know I really really really dug. So not all of these artists were featured in my prior lists. Plus, hip hop really lends itself to singles, so here I get to reel off a few rap tunes!

Here’s the results. Discuss. Debate. Insult me by asking my rhetorically how I could have left off _______. I love it all.

Note: These tracks are in no particular order. I just can’t rank ’em. It’s too hard. Those with a (DL) have mp3 links on savefile.

1. I Feel Like Dying-Lil’ Wayne (DL). With all the hype about Da Drought 3, folks nearly forgot about his Carter 3 mixtape, which contains this rare example of a more serious side to Weezy, rapping about drugs and death. Chilling.

2. Da Art of Storytelling Part 4-Outkast. One of the greatest rap bands ever promises a strong return, after their misstep in Idlewild.

3. Cheekbone Hollows-The Child Ballads. Rising from the ashes of Fire*Eater, an awesome rootsy single.

4. You Got Yr Cherrybomb-Spoon. Britt sounds like he’s choking on the chorus.

5. Duffle Bag Boyz-Playaz Circle and Lil’ Wayne. The hook from this one rolls around my skull at least twice a week. Millz just tried to bite it on his last mixtape, but it’s nowhere near as good as the original.

6. I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You-Black Kids.

7. Is There a Ghost?-Band of Horses.

8. International Player’s Anthem-UGK and OutKast. An awesome collaboration that blends not only unique rapping styles but also completely disparate beats.

9. Stronger-Kanye West.

10. The Hucklebuck Slice-Blockhead (DL). “Uncle Tony’s Coloring Book” didn’t make my best of 2007 list because I hadn’t heard of the album yet–but it’s fast becoming one of my favorite albums of the decade.

11. Underwater (You and Me)-Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (DL). A great song from a not-so-great album.

12. Dumb it Down-Lupe Fiasco. Lupe will probably be on my best albums of the year list for 2008 (it was released too late in December to make the ’07 cut), but for now I’m content with this single, which actually makes me laugh out loud. Few artists can do this. The only two I can think of off hand are Eminem and The Hold Steady.

13. Skinny Love-Bon Iver.

14. Battles-Atlas. I don’t care for the entire album–it’s just too much for one sitting–but this track is hot.

15. Talkin’ Smart Project Pat and Pimp C. Pat’s 2007 album, Walking Bank Roll, was sadly slept on by many. It’s a great example of what the Southern rap genre can deliver, with lots of guest appearances by various Three 6 Mafia dudes.

16. American Dreaming-Jay-Z and Marvin Gaye. I know everyone else loves “Roc Boys,” and I do, too, but this song sounds less tossed off.

17. Black Republican-NaS and Jay-Z.

18. Dreams (Fleetwood Mac cover)-Sandro Perri & Friends (DL). From their 2007 tour EP. Download it and give it a chance. It’s not what you expect.

19. I’ve Seen It All (Bjork cover)-Bonnie Prince Billy(DL). This track from his November EP is haunting and fantastic.

20. To Know Him is to Love Him-Amy Winehouse.

Number 21: 200 More Miles-Cowboy Junkies and Ryan Adams. From the Trinity Sessions reissue. It’s just not top 20.

Notably absent, but loved by everyone else who made lists:

Umbrella-Rhianna. I just don’t get why this song is supposed to be so crazy good. I find it dull. And I’m not a snob. I loved “Crazy in Love” and “Let’s Get Retarded.”

COVER WARS: BRITNEY VS. MADONNA

Posted: December 31, 2007 by dillion in Uncategorized

Both are formerly hot chicks, one of whom got ls hot naturally, the other of whom got less hot through hard livin’. Neither are known for their songwriting. In fact, it’s hardly fair to call Brit a songwriter–Madonna was at least somewhat involved at all stages of her career. Nevertheless, I asked myself, “How do their tunes stand up to the cover treatment?”

Let’s put my favorite indie covers of their songs, head to head, and find out.

Round one:

Toxic-Boss Hoss
vs.
Borderline-Counting Crows

Britney’s dance classic easily crosses genre boundaries into hillbilly rock. Borderline doesn’t translate as well into Americana. Adam Duritz’s mournful wail helps the song transcend total lameness, but he can’t save it. Winner: Britney.

Get Into the Groove-Sonic Youth
vs.
Baby One More Time-Nicotine

Nicotine’s postpunk cover does nothing to change the original, and as a result it’s kind of flat. Sonic Youth, however, manages to make an innocuous dance song sound creepy. Largely due to the skill of the performance, I’m giving this to Madonna.

Hung Up on Soul-Death Cab for Cutie vs. Madonna
vs.
B-Girl Battle (Brit, Beyonce, Black Eyed Peas)

In the mash up round, Britney pulls out Beyonce and Fergie–two ladies with far better voices than her own–while Madonna turns only to formerly-indie superstars Death Cab. This is a very close call, but I’m going with the chick with the crazy driving habits on this one.

Oh Father-Giant Drag
vs.
Toxic-Stevie Ann

In the gals with guitars round, Giant Drag pulls their female-version-of-Chris-Isaak trick while Stevie Ann goes with a more earnest, singer-songwriter approach. Both do interesting things with the material, but “Oh Father” is clearly a much better song for this style of music. Winner: Maddie.

Holiday/Who Do You Love-Jack Johnson
vs.
Baby One More Time-Travis

With the score tied even, we go into the guys with guitars round. Jack Johnson is far from a favorite of mine, but he does a nice job here. Unfortunately, he’s up against Travis, who turns Brit’s tune into one of the best covers of all time. Give it up to the bald chick one more time!

I’ve only allowed for one more round here. Isn’t the suspense killing you? Who’d a thought she’d have made it this far? And by she, I could mean either one of them! (I’m deliberately being ambiguous.) Time for the funny treatment.

Hit Me-Chad Michael Murray
vs.
Like a Virgin-Ryan Adams

Chad is definitely funny, but it’s one-hit-wonder kinda funny (pun intended). Ryan is just frickin’ hysterical. Plus, thus far I’ve noticed that I enjoy a variety of different songs when it comes to Madcovers, but only a few for Brit Brit. So, Madonna wins this one, and I’m giving her the edge for her versatility and longevity. That makes her the first Berkeley Place Cover War Champion! Congrats! Someone call and tell her.

Digg!


Digg!

2 COOL MOVIES TO RENT

Posted: December 30, 2007 by dillion in Uncategorized

So, I’m feeling like crap today and I’m flat on my back watching a couple DVDs.  I’d heard of both of them, but never got the chance to see them, and it’s so rare that I rent two movies and neither of them suck.

The first one is Hard Candy, which takes the whole victim-turns-on-the-creep concept of films like The Accused and I Spit On Your Grave and mixes it with the modern day equivalent, i.e., the “torture porn” of films like Saw, where sadism is used by a psychopath to achieve some warped end of justice.  In this one, a young girl catches a short eyes trawling for chicks in a chat room and instead of calling John Stossel, she takes matters into her own hands.  I’m not going to give away more, but suffice to say it’s a very tough film to watch made tougher by it’s intimacy.  There’s really only two characters in the movie, and most of it is dialog between them.  What made the film really stand out for me is that I couldn’t predict the ending, which is so often my problem when I see a film these days–there’s no real suspense because I figure it out too quickly, even when I don’t try to.  Hollywood (and even indiewood) doesn’t manufacture much subtlety anymore.

Not that Hard Candy is terribly subtle.  It’s brutal, but not explicit; disturbing, but not graphic or crude.  It’s not a film for everyone, but if you like movies that make you think about what should happen to the truly evil people of the world, it’s for you.

The second film is a UK horror movie called, Severance.  (Don’t worry–it’s in English, even if the above posters is not.)  The basic plot is a group of salespeople lost in the woods and they find a cabin and then bad bad things happen.

I’m 2/3 of the way through it and it has managed to take all the typical horror/slasher/splatter conventions and make them interesting.  It’s funny but creepy at the same time.  It’s not ove-the-top funny like Shaun of the Dead, but it’s got a quirky oddness to it.  Like when the stranded group of travellers is hiking through the woods and a random bear crosses their path.  What the hell is that about?  And the interlude where they do a Nosferatu take off is genius.

This movie has kept me highly entertained, as did Hard Candy.

Any of you see these movies?

TOMMIE PEDDER

Posted: December 30, 2007 by dillion in Uncategorized

Rainy Day Women (Everybody Must Get Stoned)-Tom Petty and Eddie Vedder (Bob Dylan cover)

American Girl-Tom Petty and Eddie Vedder

The Waiting-Tom Petty and Eddie Vedder

TWILIGHT HOTEL-“Highway Prayer”

Posted: December 30, 2007 by dillion in Alt Country, Americana, Indie, MP3, Music

Twilight Hotel occupy that strange space in the alt-country landscape occupied by artists from Canada who make Americana rock. I’m proud to make them one of my first 2008 reviews (album release date: January 29), because they have an authentic sound that offers more variety than the typical release in this genre.

Highway Prayer, the Winnipeg band’s second album (their first was nominated for Best Americana Album at the 2007 American Independent Music Awards), goes from dark storytelling to rockabilly and twang, and covers much ground in between. Working with folks like Richard Bell (Janis Joplin, The Band), Stephen Hodges (Tom Waits), and Dave Roe (Johnny Cash), it’s easy to see how they’ve managed to create such a rich album. Courtesy of Killbeat.

Oh, and if Highway Prayer doesn’t make you want to walk across the Key Bridge at dusk, with the whooshing of cars and blurry glow of headlights at your side, then you may just have no soul at all. It is the standout track on the album and truly haunting.

Viva la Vinyl

Highway Prayer

DIGITAL PRIMATE–“Siege Mentality”

Posted: December 29, 2007 by dillion in Electronica

I should say, right off the top, that techno/house music isn’t my thing. But there’s a sense of humor, and a variance of rhythm, in Digital Primate’s “Siege Mentality” that made me listen to it all the way through. More than once. I don’t know if it was the foray in dancehall (“Career a Move Up”), the slight grime infecting several songs on the album, or the Beyonce rip on “I Ain’t Wid It,” but something about this album puts it several cuts above the rest of its class.

Snake Charmer

I Ain’t Wid It

I Deserve

THE ROOTS, LIVE IN CONCERT

Posted: December 28, 2007 by dillion in Uncategorized

The Roots are one of the few rap bands that are actually better live than in-studio. Jay-Z knew it when he recorded his unplugged set, and if you’ve never had the pleasure, you can find out for yourself today.

As always, a few tastes and a zip.

The Roots: July 16th, 1999 (Montreux Jazz Festival)

Without A Doubt
Table of Contents
The Next Movement
Step Into The Realm
Proceed
Mellow My Man
Jusfuckwiddis
Ain’t Sayin’ Nothin’ New
Concerto of the Desperado
The Ultimate
The Lesson Pt III (It’s Over Now)
Double Trouble
100% Dundee
You Got Me w/Jill Scott
You Got Me (with Keyboard Solo)
Freestyle
Human Turntable solo
Adrenaline
Y’all Know Who