Listener Discretion is Advised

Despite the rumors and innuendo that persist, year after year, about the dearth of good, new music or the death of good, old rock n' roll, 2008 proved to me that both presumptions are as far off-base as they could possibly be. So here, in the spirit of providing an alternate take on the year's musical accomplishments, I present to you my favorite albums and artists of This Foul Year of Our Lord, 2008.

Max Tundra - Parallax Error Beheads You

It's been more than six years since UK's DJ extraordinaire Max Tundra's last release, Mastered by Guy at the Exchange showed us the future hybridization of glitch, IDM and sickly-sweet pop. Parallax Error Beheads You more than lives up to the promise and hype that last release created, with pop hooks and falsettos discussing a lively variety of everyday topics at times as endearingly banal as meeting a girl on Myspace over clicky, gappy electronics as complicated as they come. If nothing else, 2008 will be remembered by me as the year everyone stopped fearing pop music and embraced catchiness; Max Tundra caught on to this years ago, and is back to reap the rewards.

Kurt Vile - Constant Hitmaker

Taking up the tradition of lo-fi, one-man pop auteur started by R. Stevie Moore and kept alive by Ariel Pink, Kurt Vile's first full length for a label (indie imprint Gulcher) has given me some of the most satisfying musical moments of the year. Partly satisfying because after the first time you hear the album's opener "Freeway," nothing else can quite scratch that itch again. Partly satisfying in a nebulously nostalgic way; reminds me of being a very young child and the first songs that really got me then, in the car with my parents, when the actual words were obscured by primitive radio technology and youthfully limited vocabulary. The muddy recording quality that dominated many of my favorite records of the year is present here, in dreamy soundscape wash rather than abrasive wall-of-sound, and the vocal inflection's rise and fall will stick in your head well before and after any of the lyrics you manage to decipher.

Sic Alps - Long Way to a Short Cut

A compilation of all extant 12", 7" and cassette releases by ultra-prolific, ultra-primitive San Francisco duo, this release shows them in their best sixties form. From the grimy, early Beatles bop of "Message from the Law" ending with "nothing but crack, crack, crack, crack," and then, harmonized: "sales-mennnn" to the "Kids Are Alright" Who primitive of "Hey Sofia!" the Sic Alps are, to me, the leading figures in the sixties-primitive revival that's making its presence known more with each passing month. Long live analog recording!

Tune in next week for part 2 of my year's best list; too much good stuff came out over the course of the past twelve months to let it go at just three. Next week: the Barbaras, Deerhunter, Why? and, oh I don't know, maybe the Ohsees. Continue Reading>>


TV On The Radio's "Family Tree"

Music is moving. It's emotional. It is partly because of this that people always consider their music the best. It simply must be because everyone's favorite artists are their own cup of tea, the certain strumming gee-tahr or soothing melody that makes them feel alive.

I was raised on good music and I have always told people I can tell within 10 seconds if I love a song or not. TV On The Radio's new album "Dear Science" is good, but one particular song has got IT.

That it? The first time I heard it, I was moved near tears. It chronicles a relationship, two lovers it seems that have found whatever is perfect for them.

Just listen. Take a trip to TV On The Radio's MySpace and invest the 5 minutes and 34 seconds to let the raw emotion envelope you and tell me you didn't feel something. Anything. If not, you are a robot. A heartless robot.

Or maybe it's not your certain something that moves you. For a real look into the song, here is a fan video of "Family Tree" live in Atlanta, GA at the Tabernacle.

Beautiful. Be moved.

Briana Monasky can be reached at bmonasky@statehornet.com.
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Lily Allen, balloons, and social change.

Lily Allen is back and I could not be more excited. Periodically, Allen has been posting a track here and there on her MySpace, sweet little surprises for her fans to give a listen before the release date for her much-awaited sophomore album.

On Dec. 4, she went above and beyond, releasing her new music video for "The Fear," which was previously titled "I Don't Know" when she gave her sneak peek on her website.

Here is the video in it's entirety, chock full of balloons and dancing presents.

I've always loved Allen for her ability to produce sugary sweet pop with an underlying message, whether it was the line from "I wanna be able to eat spaghetti bolognese and not feel bad about it for days and days and days," or now with her commentary on the need to be thin, to shamelessly cover herself in blood diamonds, calling herself a "weapon of massive consumption. This song is exactly what it needs to be - catchy, sing-songy pop. Upon closer inspection and bears the same type of messages she needs to address. Continue Reading>>


Follow-up: Maybe Coldplay copied Satriani, after all

In our most recent episode of Sac in Stereo, we discussed songs that sound similar to each other (click here to listen). One of the similarities we mentioned was Coldplay's megahit "Viva la Vida" and the two other songs that sound suspiciously like to it - Creaky Boards' "The Songs I Didn't Write" and Joe Satriani's "If I Could Fly."

Maybe Satriani's lawyers were listening. The day after our podcast was posted, Satriani officially sued the British band for copyright infringement.

The guitar icon said hearing Coldplay's song was instantly very painful for him.

"I felt like a dagger went right through my heart. It hurt so much," Satriani told MusicRadar.com. "The second I heard it, I knew it was (my own) 'If I Could Fly.' "

He said the most painful thing about Coldplay's alleged ripoff was the fact that his song took over 10 years to craft, and was a love song dedicated to his wife, Rubina.

During, the podcast, we played the following mashup track, courtesy of YouTube user Matt Bethel, aka iGotSpaceLikeNasa:

During the podcast, I suggested that maybe all these musicians just happened upon this fairly simple melody in a bit of coincidence. Satriani and Bethel seem to disagree, and more and more people have been hearing their case: Bethel's original video comparing the two songs has been viewed almost 1.5 million times.

Coldplay hasn't officially commented on the lawsuit, although frontman did "promise" in a recent Q&A session (video at the bottom of the page - skip to 3:30) the band didn't borrow the melody from anyone whose name "rhymes with Moe Batriani."

Oh, and Joe, if you'd like to tell us what you think of our comparison, our e-mail address is podcasts@statehornet.com.

[photo courtesy flickr user Giandomenico Ricci]
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Chinese Autocracy

Leave it to Axl Rose to illustrate what an ill-conceived corporate orgy the mainstream recording industry has become.

The new album, "Chinese Democracy," was finally released last month to a relatively minor applause. It didn't manage to top the Billboard chart, thanks largely to the retail exclusivity agreement Axl made with Best Buy (who, beyond a cardboard standee in the store failed to promote the album). The now-public feud with Dr. Pepper--that's right, Guns N' Roses is feuding with Dr. Pepper--has failed to draw much beyond a snicker.

Back in March, Dr. Pepper (or rather their parent company) offered a free can of soda to everyone in the country if Axl would get off his ever-widening can and put out the damn album, already. The band denied having anything to do with it, until Dr. Pepper--stymied by the calling of their bluff, apparently--was unprepared to meet the demand the offer sparked. Now GN'R are upset that their image has been, ahem, tarnished by what Axl's lawyers are calling a "fiasco."

But really, the Guns N' Roses frontman has always been a representative of the absurd and indulgent qualities that made late 20th century rock so ridiculous. Small wonder that rock was easily and deservedly supplanted by rap as the soundtrack the kids opted to bop to. At least guys named Diddy and Fiddy can get an album out now and then, and without so much self-congratulatory pomp and fanfare. They're businessmen, these rappers; the rock gods of the late 80s and 90s took themselves way too seriously to compete.

Perhaps nobody's ego loomed larger in the haunting of mainstream metal--the term used here ceremonially; nobody, in this age of Deathklok, considers "Paradise City" much shy of silly--than Axl's. "Chinese Democracy" finally dropped last month after a seventeen year gestation, dizzying series of lineup rearrangements and corporate tie-in snafus. Seventeen years. If you had a kid when the last album came out, chances are you're too old to care and your ingrate offpsring is, at best, wondering why people were so infatuated with a man named Rose as Children of Bodom blast-beat their earbuds into oblivion.

This album was threatening to be the mythologized and legendary modern equivalent of "Smile" which, for the uninitiated, was the long-lost Beach Boys opus that Brian Wilson worked on, schizophrenia in full bloom, for some untold number of years. Like that album, "Chinese Democracy" was, upon its final release, something of a disappointing reality check where legend would have probably served better.

The actual album sounds completely overdone: overproduced, overhyped, everyhing sounds too Pro-Tools'd and the endless lineup changes make every song sound like it's got at least fifteen people shredding as hard as they can simultaneously. Half the album sounds like it was made specifically to go with the opening credits of a summer blockbuster, and i suspect that was a purposeful move. Jerry Bruckheimer is probably pondering the use of "If the World" for his next title sequence as we speak.

Don't get me wrong, though: if you liked GN'R before, I can't see any reason you wouldn't still. I imagine this holiday season I'll hear a couple of the songs repeated at nauseum at the trashier bars and roadhouses up in Placerville, just like that "Crazy Bitch" song by Buckcherry threatened to drive me away from drinking last year. The goons up in the hill are nothing if not insistent on their favorite jams.

So am I, actually. But I can't conceive of a reason for anything from "Chinese Democracy" to make its way into my standard rotation. I've barely managed to play the damn thing all the way through.
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