Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Megan's Top 18 of 2008 - #1a - The Black Angels

I'm notoriously fickle, as regards just about anything and everything, but especially when it comes to music. So to have captured my attention for nearly half a year, an album has to be pretty fucking spectacular.

And friends, that's exactly how I would describe the second LP by Austin's Black Angels.
Directions to See a Ghost is fucking spectacular.

I was recently discussing the weighty merits of the two Black Angels albums with my friend Laura, another ardent Black Angels fan. She prefers debut
Passover to Directions to See a Ghost, arguing that the songs are stronger and more inventive. While I certainly love Passover furiously, I give the nod to Directions as my favorite of the two.

I think Laura's right, the songs on
Passover are just a touch better, but the ideas begun on that mighty fine debut are expanded here, given new depth and breadth and much closer examination. It's psychedelia under a microscope, if you will. It's not just about the simple art of recording killer track after killer track, it's the pieces of the song and how they work together and how they can be fleshed out until they have a life of their own. I also feel like the album has a better flow, the songs merge into one another in a haze of sonic fuzz and pulsating drums. It's pretty dang seamless.

Directions to See a Ghost is a great big bastard of glorious mindfuckery, a heady concoction of sheer noise that by no coincidence is as beautiful as it is loud. It's sexy rock'n'roll that owes much to the vibrant days of years gone by, but just might end up being revered in its own right in years to come.






The Top Albums of 2008 According to Chris: #1 - The Black Keys

Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, quite frankly, are the best touring rock band in all of rock-bandom these days.

Between Dan's sucking on glass 'til his throat is raw vocals and Patrick's insistence on beating the skins like they grabbed his little sister's ass at a party, these two consistently put out some of the most powerful tunes intended to grab you by the boo boo, and this year's
Attack & Release was no different.

Composed with the idea that Ike Turner would play a major role on the CD, that version did not come to be, as Ike beat Tina to death (Best Headline of the Year? Probably.), and the boys took the journey themselves. They did, however, have the foresight to invite producer extraordinaire DangerMouse along for the ride, though, and the results are incredible. DM opted to add flourishes not heard on previous BK CDs, such as more female backing vocals and, believe it or not, actual keys. The result actually is a somewhat softer sound for the most part, though rockers like "Strange Times" and "I Got Mine" certainly wail as mercilessly as anything on the duo's earlier albums.

Add to the mix that both guys did a boatload of side work as producers for everyone from Jessica Lea Mayfield to Royal Bangs PLUS their nearly non-stop touring and it's hard to believe these two even have time to sleep, yet alone continually rock our socks off. Would now be a crazy time to mention that Dan has his own solo album scheduled to hit in early February of 09 and he's touring it, too, a scant few days after finishing the latest on-going Keys tour? Yeah, I've already got my Keys tickets for when they come to Baltimore AND the Dan solo tickets when he hits the 9:30 less than a month later.

God damn, I love the Black Keys. In case you missed their last visit to the 9:30 Club, here are a couple of goodies from said show.



mp3: 10 AM Automatic (link expired)

mp3: Strange Times (link expired)

Megan's Top 18 of 2008 - #1b* - Radiohead

The Bends is my favorite. OK Computer is second. But In Rainbows might just have supplanted Pablo Honey as my third favorite Radiohead album of all times.

I'd like to take just a moment to address the issue of why Radiohead is sitting here at #1 (well, #1b with asterisk) on my list in the first place. Yes, I do in fact realize that
In Rainbows was digitally released last year. However, as I addressed when I wrote about this record back in January, the actual, physical manifestation appeared in that very month, thereby rendering it fair game (in my books, anyway) for my 2008 list. So there, purists. We're a little more relaxed about things here. Now back to the album.

It took me approximately ten seconds to fall in love with
In Rainbows. Ten teensy, tiny seconds into opening track "15 Steps" and it was all over. It's as though they're just mocking everyone, by making yet another great, great album. Every single track is pretty much brilliant, adding to just how prolific this band has always been. "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi"? "All I Need"? "Reckoner"? Great, greater, greatest. And don't even get me going on how much I love "House of Cards". I mean, even the Grammy folks have recognized how fucking good this song is. It's that undeniable, and it kills me. Every damn time.

I know the popular opinion is to be more into the later works of Radiohead, but until this record I was a member of the Older is Better minority. Well, I still think older is mostly better. But there's something about
In Rainbows that makes it sound truly comprehensive. In this album is the ghost of Radiohead past, and yet another peek into the future.



Monday, December 29, 2008

The Top Albums of 2008 According to Chris: #2 - Sia

Is there a more lovable pixie in all of musicdom than Sia? Whether you adore her for her work with Zero 7 or her solo stuff, the gal not only has an amazing set of pipes, but I can't think of a performer who looks like s/he's having more fun on stage than her.

2008 finally saw the release of the heavily leaked
Some People Have Real Problems (she even invited fans to download illegally at one of her 07 stops at the 9:30 Club). Sure, she released it on the Starbucks label, but what can you do?

I'm sorry, but the lady just does something for me and, when 08 gave us Lykke Li, that's really saying a lot. It's just something about the way she seems to have boundless energy and a playfullness on stage that's downright contagious. That being the case, she remains one of my favorite acts, year in, year out.

2009 allegedly will see the release of her next CD, which, incidentally, was written about two CDs ago, but was shelved by her then label for being "too upbeat," proving yet again that label execs are fricking maroons (also, morons).



mp3: Little Black Sandals (link expired)


Here's hoping Sia makes it back DC-way in 09.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Video Vixens: Feliz Navidad Edition

Rather unbelievable, isn't it, to think that another Xmas is just about upon us. When I was growing up, there were few things I looked forward to more than a White Christmas. As a little pigtailed scamp, Christmastime always seemed so magical, what with the festively-decorated tree and the twinkling lights and the stockings. I always made sure to leave a plate of cookies and a glass of milk for one S. Claus, too.

These days, I think that a White Christmas is prettier in pictures than in practice (seeing as how I now drive to the old homestead for the holidays), and I know the rather deflating truth about Santa. But there's still something special about holiday music. So, while I've been at home in bed for the past few days (no, not for fun reasons, but because I've been cursed with some sort of plague), I've rounded up some of my all-time faves, and some new favorites, too.

We begin with the somewhat cheesy but totally fabulous
David Bowie/Bing Crosby duet on "Little Drummer Boy". It's the meeting of two different styles, and it never ceases to be great. Next up, an even older classic, the purrfect Eartha Kitt lending her feline vocals to "Santa Baby". It's the ultimate in materialistic holiday songs (and so appropriate for the greedy times in which we live). Then it's on to something new, with the Raveonettes' haunting "Christmas Song". We sure are suckers for that Danish duo around these parts. And really, nothing says Christmas like Glam Rock, so I'm throwing in a little Slade with "Merry Christmas Everybody". I always felt Jose Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad" was one of the best Xmas songs ever recorded, and so he is included here. Hope you get a kick outta the videos.










The Top Albums of 2008 According to Chris: #3 - Lykke Li

At some point during the past year, those pesky Scandinavians decided they were going to make an end run towards usurping the throne of indie coolness from those beloved Canadians. And you know what? It looks like they damn well may have succeeded. For me, the defining moment was when Lykke Li came into my life.

At first glance, I wasn't too impressed. And then I saw the video for "Little Bit" and have been hooked like a junkie fish ever since. What's up with those background dancers? What drugs are they all on? Perhaps more importantly still, where can I gets me some of that?

Li's
Youth Novels has everything you could want in your indie pop goodness. It's confectionery sweetness, but there's definitely some hard candy awesomeness just beneath the surface. Tracks like "Dance Dance Dance" and "I'm Good, I'm Gone" proved that 2008 was not going to allow the crap coming from mainstream radio overpower actually "good" pop music. You've got an impishly stunning girl who dresses like an updated Debbie Gibson talking about leaving her legs apart for me? Yes, please, I'll take 47 of those.

Once I saw her live at the Black Cat, well, shit, I damn near gave up the family business to shave my head and start following her around the world. Fortunately, I quickly realized I make a very comfortable living and am bald, so that took care of that, but still. I already have my tickets to see her at DC's Historic Synagogue this coming January. I strongly suggest you do the same. If she continues to cover Tribe Called Quest's "Can I Kick It?", you'll be sure to get your ticket's worth there alone.

Here are a few live tracks from a radio performance on WXPN in May. You can thank me for that later.



mp3: Dance Dance Dance (link expired)

mp3: I'm Good, I'm Gone (link expired)

mp3: Little Bit (link expired)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Megan's Top 18 of 2008 - #3 - She & Him

Actresses aren't supposed to model, models aren't supposed to act, and neither of them are supposed to even attempt singing. Right? Well, just about.

You see, there is in fact one actress who can really sing. I mean, really, really sing. I know, I was dubious myself, but then I listened to She & Him's
Volume One, and I was sold. Zooey Deschanel (the She to M. Ward's Him) has some pipes on her, and I've come to the conclusion that she's a mix of Patsy Cline and Karen Carpenter. Blasphemy, you say? Listen to her sing and then try to tell me I'm wrong.

Volume One is a collection of simple, mostly lovelorn vignettes, some covers and some original songs (written by Deschanel), beautifully arranged by M. Ward and beautifully given voice by Deschanel. Employing a throwback, lo-fi sound works wonders for the songs, lending authenticity to their love of music belonging to days gone by. It's cute at times, but never twee. Like many good artists before them, She & Him know how to make a sad song sound like a delightful little pop song.

It's impossible to pick favorites here, because I love every single song on this record. So just listen to the whole damn thing, repeatedly.






The Top Albums of 2008 According to Chris: #4 - The Pack A.D.

Sure, you love the Black Keys and have a thing for the White Stripes, but really, what's up with all those penises (peni?)? Why does the whole punk/garage/blues genre seem to be a boys only club (no offense, Meg White)? That previously might have been the case, but Vancouver's The Pack A.D. is ready to take the tried and true and turn it on its head. 2008 saw the release of both their debut and follow-up. Sadly, I still haven't been able to get my hands on Tintype (the debut), but Funeral Mixtape has been blowing my doors off since August.

We've got our whiskey soaked vocals that sound like they've been shredded through glass, kick ass guitar licks and some drumming that would make Patrick Carney blush. Comprised of Becky Black on vox/guitars and Maya Miller on skins, these two are doing their damnedest to return the recent Crown of Indie Rock Goodness back to the Great White North (take that, you Scandanavians!). And, quite frankly, they're doing a bang up job.

My fervent hope is that this duo will somehow start opening for the Black Keys in 09, but I suppose we'll have to see if that ever transpires. Since Dan Auerbach already has Hacienda and Those Darlins' opening on his solo tour, that might be a tall order, but a guy can dream, right?



mp3: Don't Have to Like You (link expired)

mp3: Shiny Things (link expired)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Megan's Top 18 of 2008 - #4 - Crystal Castles

Several weeks ago, I briefly scanned an NME list of the coolest motherfuckers in music from the year 2008. It was full of those you'd expect, and a few that I had absolutely no clue who they are.

But all lists have their end, their pinnacle. Looking down at all the other cool people, according to this particular list, was Alice Glass. If that name doesn't ring a bell, allow me to introduce you. Ms. Glass is one half of my possible favorite Canadian band these days, Crystal Castles.

So what is it about Alice (and for that matter, Crystal Castles) that got her the number one spot? Well, I like to think it all started with this here self-titled record.

It's a bevy of bleeps, a veritable feast of 80s video game sound-alike noise. It features two remixes (of Death from Above 1979 and Health) that are just about better than the original tracks. It's an album made for dancing, for drinking, for having a grand old fucking time. If a preponderance of pulsation is your thing, if you get turned on by the twiddling of knobs, if albums with excessive ego (with the goods to back it up, of course) make your day, then chances are good you too might agree that Crystal Castles is a fine, fine record (and that Alice Glass is indeed pretty damn cool).

It's all great, but I recommend excessive listening to "Air War" (both of them), "Courtship Dating", "Vanished", "Knights", and "Tell Me What to Swallow." You won't be disappointed.



Saturday, December 20, 2008

LP Lust: December 15 & 20

I've been up to my newish old tricks, friends. In between all that serious brow-furrowing whilst contemplating my list of the top albums (and other things) of this year that we've almost finished with, I made not one but two shopping trips this week that resulted in, surprisingly, more records. I know, you're stunned.

Now, this all makes perfect sense, especially when you consider the fact that I'm moving at the beginning of February. I mean, carrying lots and lots of records up many stairs to a third floor apartment makes complete sense, right?

Insanity aside, I've been really having a good time over the course of my newly-vigorous record collecting. After a while, I have started to notice patterns emerging. One of the most amusing is that no matter the store, there is always (yes, always) at least one Bread LP. A lot of Herb Alpert, too. It's the darndest thing. There's almost always a bevy of Fleetwood Mac. And then, friends, there's a lot of good stuff.

Here's my latest batch of good stuff:


*Bob Booker & Earle Doud Present the First Family

*Marianne Faithfull - Broken English

*Rod Stewart - Absolutely Live

*Rod Stewart - Never a Dull Moment

*Rod Stewart - Every Picture Tells a Story

*The Association - Greatest Hits!

*Henry Mancini - The Music from Peter Gunn

*Various - Modern French Music

*The Charlie Daniels Band - Million Mile Reflections

I guess it was my time to continue stocking up on post-Faces Mr. Stewart. But I'll stand by my convictions here, friends. Old Rod is good Rod. You can take that to the bank.

The Top Albums of 2008 According to Chris: #5 - Alan Wilkis

The best part about this whole music blogger gig for me is all the music I receive, a boatload of which is completely DIY.

Hell, some of the stuff has no label (other than what the artist is calling his own effort), but that, of course, doesn't necessarily mean it's not incredible stuff.

When it comes right down to it, some of the best stuff this year has been straight from the artist's efforts.


Which brings me to Alan Wilkis and his Babies Dream Big. I'm assuming at least some of the LET readership actually lived through the 80s and remembers that wonderfully cheesey, yet oh-so-funk-a-groove-a-licious synthesizer vibe that made everything sound slightly futuristic and instantly danceable.

Whether you do or don't remember, Alan Wilkis has created a perfect update to that sound. Part Prince, part Stevie Wonder, all tasty. Seriously, this CD was the most "fun" album of the year for me, hands down. Mr. Wilkis can play my birthday party each and every year so long as he continues to groove like this.



(WIlkis comes in at the 1:04
mark)

mp3: Burnin' (link expired)

mp3: It's Been Great (link expired)

Megan's Top 18 of 2008 - #5 - Mississippi Witch

Black Gamble is the dirtiest record I've heard all year.

Dirty in the way that it sounds like the morning after the night before. Dirty as in tarred, feathered, sweaty, painfully hungover. Dirty as in sleaze. Dirty, friends, in an excruciatingly glorious way.

Mississippi Witch (i.e. Oli and Dan) first caught my ear a couple years back, via Myspace. I've written about them a few times since then, and was delighted that their debut was the first album I heard in 2008.

11 months after listening to it for the first time, I love it even more. It's all so simple, really, this band. One drummer. One guitarist who also happens to sing. Put these two pieces together, and let 'er rip. And lemme tell you, the racket these two make together is nothing sort of sensational.

Definitely akin to the Black Keys, these US ex-pats (they now live in the UK) have my eternal love and devotion. It's impossible not to be entranced by their sexy as all get out noise. It's cocky, explosive, and intense. Pay extra close attention to "Black Gamble", "Van Nuys", and "Rot Foot", though the entire album is not to be missed (after all, it wouldn't be so high on my list otherwise).

Below is a not-really video clip, but an audio track taken from a Mississippi Witch gig. It'll give you an idea of just how fucking incredible they are.



mp3: Van Nuys (link expired)

The Top Albums of 2008 According to Chris: #6 - Andy Mullen

Not only is The Toenail Jar one of my top ten CDs for the year, I'm damn near positive it's one of the best CDs you've never heard of in your life.

Mullen plays a unique style of indie-folk with some countrified leanings that should have even the most hipster-ish amongst us tapping their toes. What does it for me, however, is his incredible way with words. His lyrics are incisive, sharp and witty, whether it's the rambling discourse of "Stream of Consciousness" or the tongue-in-cheek playfulness of "Quit Quittin'".

He also digs deeper emotional veins with tracks like "Running Out of Time" and "So Does the Beer", making for a nice contrast here and there. I've never particularly considered myself a huge proponent of the newer folk movement, but if Andy Mullen is anywhere in that mix, I think it's time for me to start paying more attention.



mp3: Quit Quittin' (link expired)

mp3: Stream of Consciousness (link expired)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

When LET Met LITA

We here at Les Enfants Terribles have great relationships with a lot of wonderful people, labels, and PR firms (hi, guys!).

One of those labels is Light in the Attic. They're home to one of Megan's most favorite bands of the past few years, the Black Angels, and are constantly unearthing lost classics to unleash upon the general populace.

They also do this little Year End list, a massive missive comprised of lists (of any shape size and contest) from a variety of contributors, be they bloggers, musicians, writers, what have you.

And this year, yours truly were asked to partake. And we pretty much took about a millisecond to accept the invitation.

You'll see lists from label heads, bloggers like us, DJs, noted writers, musicians (um, we're part of the same feature as Greg Dulli? Color us in heaven)...it's a fantastic, eclectic mix of anyone and everyone, and the lists are pretty much fascinating.

Bottom line, you should check it, us, and Light in the Attic out.

Megan's Top 18 of 2008 - #6 - These United States

I'm sure, my dears, this selection will come as a surprise to exactly none of you, given the heaps and heaps of praise I've directed in the general direction of These United States over the past 350ish days. To be sure, I most certainly have a soft spot for my (former) local faves. But also, Crimes, their second album of 2008, is absolutely fucking brilliant. There's just no getting around it, and you probably ought to consider it a fact.

Future generations will undoubtedly consider TUS ringleader Jesse Elliott a musical genius. He's that good. For now, trust me when I say he's one of the best lyricists around (an entire album about criminal activity, really? Why not?), as well as one of the most naturally gifted frontmen you're likely to have the pleasure to come across, on record and on stage. And as a band, the current configuration simply can't be beat, working together so well you'd think they've been together for decades. And who knows? Perhaps in spirit they have been.

In short, Crimes is the best damn backwoods-meets-barndance-meets-folk-meets-pop rock'n'roll ruckus of the year. And if 2008 is any indication, there's no stopping These United States.



Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Top Albums of 2008 According to Chris: #7 - A.K.A.C.O.D.

Musically speaking, 2008 was excellent in terms of the fact that damn near every one of my favorite bands (or off-shoots thereof) put out something for my hungry ears. Saxophonist extraordinaire Dana Colley of Morphine fame formed yet another band, this time with the sultry Monique Oritz and the possibly humid Larry Dersch.

Their debut, Happiness, is a kick-ass piece of moody mood music. Monique has the kind of throaty vocals that would make an 90-year-old blues singer sound high pitched, as her time in Bourbon Princess proved. Colley plays the sax more in the place of the lead guitar here, creating an interesting sound that's even more catchy live. Dersch provides a steady backdrop for it all, with snakey percussing throughout.

And let us never forget that time when I wrote about my misunderstanding with Mr. Colley at their show at the Red and the Black, which prompted him to write us with his side of the story, proving that even the world's greatest saxophonists read Les Enfants Terribles. And there's a lesson there for all of us, isn't there, kids?



mp3: Spanish Fly (link expired)

Megan's Top 18 of 2008 - #7 - Hot Chip

My top ten has changed no less than a dozen times over the course of my trying to rank them. So at this particular moment in time, when the chips fell, Hot Chip landed at lucky number 7.

While their previous album The Warning helped them make a name for themselves, this one really catapulted them into the big time, and it's easy to see why.
Made in the Dark is a dance-big beat-electro-folk-Prince loving-funkadelic triumph. It sizzles like steak on the grill in the middle of July, baby, and don't you forget it. For being a bunch of pale dudes from London, Hot Chip knows, and has perhaps always inherently known, how to get the kids to shake their asses. Never fails.

Some of Hot Chip's finest moments are to be found on Made in the Dark, including the first three romper stompers "Out At the Pictures", "Shake a Fist", and "Ready for the Floor." The most sublime moment for me comes at song #8, "One Pure Thought", the song that looking back on their 9:30 Club show this year most gave me the chills. O, that guitar, o those beats...slays me every time. And then there's "Hold On", that devilish imp of a song with some of the best lyrics of the year ("I'm only going to heaven/if it feels like hell/I'm only going to heaven/if it tastes like caramel"). Love it, love them. End of story.



Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Top Albums of 2008 According to Chris: #8 - Girl Talk

I'll be the first to admit, I'm not into current hip hop these days. The only cats in the game making music worth listening to these days are the fringe underground players, such as MF Doom and the like.

Sadder still, when did the DJ officially die off as a necessary component to the "He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper" super combo? Sure, we all love Rakim, but, Lord Almighty, you are sorely missed, Eric B.

Lest I digress too far from whatever original point I was attempting to make, this year, along came the latest from Girl Talk, aka Pittsburgh's own Gregg Gillis. Now, I'll leave it up to you, gentle reader, as to whether or not Gillis more adequately belongs in the category of hip hop DJ or mash-up master, but I think it's pretty much inarguable that he's put out one damn fine mix this year.

Naming every group/artist he samples in the magnificent Feed the Animals would take more time and space than I'm willing to commit here, but some of the highlights include the J. Geils Band, Roy Orbison, Outkast, Toni Basil, Kayne, Radiohead and dozens upon dozens of others. For me, at least, it's the combination of old and acts side-by-side that really makes this thing pop.

The fact that Girl Talk offered the CD on a "pay-whatcha-like" basis certainly didn't hurt the equation one bit, either.



mp3: Set It Off (link expired)

mp3: Don't Stop (link expired)


Monday, December 15, 2008

The Top Albums of 2008 According to Chris: #9 - Left Lane Cruiser

As I've made abundantly clear 'round these parts, I digs me that scuzzy, bluesy, garage rocky sound.

Left Lane Cruiser has said sound in spades, and their debut Bring Yo' Ass... hits all the necessary high points to make my Top 10 for 08.

Furthermore, the band is on Alive Records, quite probably my favorite record label. Alive brought a little something special to the party, a group with which you might be familiar...the Black Keys. Indeed, fine company to keep.

Also, I feel it imperative to give props to any band that sings about Pork 'n Beans. I'm not sure why I feel that way; I just do. With that, a heartfelt tip of the hat to Fredrick "Joe" Evans and Brenn Beck. I'm looking forward to hearing what these cats put out next.




mp3: Wash It (link expired)

Best Live Band of 2008: Nine Inch Nails

This one was pretty much the hardest category to choose. I was fortunate enough to see dozens of amazing bands this year, and they sure did make this one big ole bastard of a tough choice, which is why I have about a billion Honorable Mentions. But in the end, I'm pretty happy with my final decision.

I can officially state, for the record, that Nine Inch Nails just might be the best live band out there these days.

This year I saw Mr. Reznor and co. twice, one at the Virgin Festival in Baltimore in August, and again in Charlottesville last month.

I've never been a huge NIN fan (which I'm working on correcting), but each time I've seen them I've been totally blown away. They're incredible live. As in, jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring, ass-kicking incredible. It's not just that the music sounds so perfect, which it most certainly does. It's more than that. When you go to an NIN show, you're getting a total concert experience. The Charlottesville show was especially elaborate, a bonanza of fancy lighting and unique stage settings. Nearly every couple of songs, the stage setup and lighting would be rejigged to totally chage things up. And when it comes to showmanship, there are few people out there who can match the intensity of Trent Reznor.

Honorable Mention: The Stooges, Dead Confederate, These United States, Die! Die! Die! the Verve, the National, the Black Angels, Fleet Foxes, Spiritualized, My Bloody Valentine, Brian Wilson





[Photo by Megan Petty]

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Megan's Top 18 of 2008 - #8 - Die! Die! Die!

Despite certain evidence to the contrary, I'm desperately in love with noise. I frequently drive long distances with my car's stereo turned up as loud as it'll go, and my iPod is constantly at unsafe levels (doubtlessly). My ears hate me, but I've gotta have my noise.

Both instances are especially true when I'm in the mood for dissonant, angular punkish behavior, this year kindly provided by the delightful New Zealanders known as Die! Die! Die!.

My favorite purveyors of punctuation hit the ground running this year, releasing album #2 Promises, Promises, and touring it across the States for months in the early part of the year (a tour that included a gig opening for Wire in NYC, not bad!).

Like their insanely good debut, Promises, Promises is obnoxiously loud, gritty, and brash. And like their debut, it's killer. The band's belligerent sound deviated slightly, with a bit of the edge taken off, but thankfully the album is still a bitter pill (and trust me when I tell you that's a good thing).

"Blinding", "A.T.T.I.T.U.D", and "Throw a Fit" are all in the super short, super loud, and super in-your-face style I first fell for listening to their self-titled debut. "Whitehorses" is a welcome addition, perhaps as close to a ballad as Die! Die! Die! will ever come, and proof of some, dare I say, maturation in their sound.

The band seems more cohesive these days, with Andrew's oft-snarling vocals and fierce guitar riffs anchored by Lachlan's pulsating bass and Mikey's fearfully violent drumming. Together, the trio makes one unholy racket, and goddamned if it's not fucking fantastic. My favorites (as of right now) are "People Talk", "Blinding", and "Hold Me", but believe you me, the entire album is worthy of your attention on a regular basis.



Saturday, December 13, 2008

Megan’s Top 18 of 2008 - #9 – Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes’ self-titled Sub Pop debut is quite possibly the most beautiful, most pitch-perfect release of the year. I’m almost convinced that if you looked up “idyllic” in the dictionary, there might just be a picture of Fleet Foxes in the entry.

Everything about the album is bliss, the lovely harmonies, the warm, gentle tones, and the all-encompassing enveloping feel that permeates the whole of the album. I close my eyes and see pastoral scenes of vibrant fall foliage and sunlit meadows and smoky, misty mountains. There’s a definite, deep-rooted earthiness to the Fleet Foxes sound that I find undeniably appealing. I mean, it’s almost not fair how good this band is. Their live show in July left me speechless, and the album has the same effect.

Highly recommended tracks include, well, all of them, but especially “White Winter Hymnal”, “Quiet Houses”, and “Meadowlarks”. They’re simply stunning.

It’ll be exceedingly difficult to follow up this kind of output, but I can’t wait to see how Fleet Foxes approach their next record.



Xmas Gift Guide - #3

Dear Friends,

I would like this for Xmas.

Love,

Megan

Now this, this is a killer present. A turntable AND iPod dock, making it super easy (so they say) to upload actual, honest-to-goodness vinyl onto your newfangled iPod (which, just to make sure you knew, doesn't actually come with the turntable to the left). It can handle 33, 45, and 78 rpm records. The only immediate problem I can see with this baby is the lack of a cover of any sort. So ideally, one of these with a cover would be probably one of the best gifts ever.

Xmas is only 12 days away, friends.

Most Annoying Band of 2008: Kings of Leon

Now that we're safely ensconced in Top 10 territory round these parts, it's time to break out some other superlatives to help sum up the year that was 2008. I'm feeling a little feisty this afternoon, so my first entry's gonna be on the spicy side.

For the record, there was a time when I seriously loved me some Kings of Leon. I thought their first album, and especially their first EP, were both off the charts. They had great Tennessee accents, and were unassuming in their awesomeness. I dug them for their country-fried rock and roll, and for their tattered jeans and worn plaid shirts. They were salt of the earth, sorta sleazy (in a good way), good time dudes.

But now, oh my how times have changed.

Kings of Leon actually started earning the Most Annoying (and Most Disappointing) mantle late last year, when I saw them live with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and saw how they had begun to transform. It was like Samson, once they cut off their hair into trendy cuts and zipped themselves into the same old skinny black jeans everyone else wears, their music began to suffer. And their new album is nowhere near the Kings of Leon I used to love. "Sex on Fire", seriously?! I found every song of theirs that I heard I had to turn down the volume on, because it made me so sad to think about what happened to them. They now sound so middle of the road I can't stand it.

This isn't a case of not liking someone who gets popular, it's not liking someone for totally changing who they are. And then there was the whole comment about how they were the first Jonas Brothers. That, my friends, sealed the deal for me. It's as if they have no concept of how good they used to be, regardless of whether or not that comment was tongue-in-cheek or not.

Honorable Mention: Coldplay, the Hold Steady

Megan's Top 18 of 2008 - #10 - Dead Confederate

Remember that Toadies' song, many many many years ago, "Possum Kingdom"? It had a creepy as all get out video, and was itself dark and ominous and full of grit and entirely, wickedly awesome. If not, you should immediately reacquaint yourself. Not only because the song is fabulous on its own, but because Athens' new favorite sons of Dead Confederate remind me a whole lot of that superb track. Both bands have that sound I love, big and unabashedly in your face. And I just can't get enough.

From the opening behemoth of "Heavy Petting", you'll immediately know you're onto something rather special with Wrecking Ball. Between the almost painful dual guitar riffs and pounding drums, not to mention singer Hardy Morris and that voice of his that is one moment pleading and plaintive and the next fierce and snarling, it's one of the most riveting songs (and albums) of the year. Popular single "The Rat" is a rock triumph, no doubt about it, and it sounds just about perfect here (check out the haunting video below). Current single "Start Me Laughing" is more of the same, deafening guitars taking the lead and complimenting those signature vocals, delivered at times like Morris is almost spitting out the lyrics. The album ends with my favorite track, the titular "Wrecking Ball". Starting quietly, it builds and builds and finally spills over into noisy oblivion. It's pretty much breathtaking.

Wrecking Ball is a heavy record, overcast and gloomy but beautiful all the same. When it comes right down to it, sometimes a gal just wants to hear some fucking rock. And Dead Confederate sure does oblige.



The Top Albums of 2008 According to Chris: #10 - Nine Inch Nails

It's no secret that I think Trent Reznor is a bit of the tortured genius when it comes to his music.

More importantly still, I'm hoping the guy is the bellwether for where music as an industry is headed. Between his Web 2.0 efforts to giving away countless free mp3s (thanks, Trent!), this guy has his finger on the pulse of where things are right now in terms of meaningful and important distribution channels.

I noticed that a number of folks out there felt strongly about NIN's 08, too, placing Ghosts I-IV on their own Top Tens. While a wonderful exercise, I'm going to have to give the nod to The Slip. Another "pay what you want, if anything" exercise, a few of the tracks on this bad boy rank among the best in the NIN catalogue.

It's good to hear Trent break out of the malaise that mired some of his more recent work (which is kind of weird to write, since the guy's musical output is largely based on malaise, but whatever).

I can't wait to find out what Mr. Reznor has in store for us in 2009.



mp3: Discipline (link expired)

mp3: Echoplex (link expired)

Megan's Top 18 of 2008 - #11 - Spiritualized

There are so few things one can actually count on in life. There's the inevitable, unpleasant things (y'know, death and taxes), and then, friends, there is Jason Pierce.

Ever since the days of the Spacemen 3, Pierce has been making his stratospheric space rock beautifully. He's a master at etherealism, adept at creating sonic symphonies more suited to another time and place. While he may tinker with the formula every now and again, the song, in general, remains the same.

Latest effort Songs in A&E is yet another brilliant Spiritualized album. It's got that added appeal of being Pierce's first record since nearly dying not long ago, and the after-effects of that close shave lend new levels of fragility to the songs. J. Spaceman again focuses on some of his favorite subjects (fire, souls, souls being on fire), with much success. The album also features two of my favorite lyrics of, quite possibly, ever; "I've got a hurricane inside my veins", and "freedom is just another word/when you've no one left to hurt" (both from "Soul on Fire").

The orchestration is soaring, glorious, and the vocals are some of Pierce's best ever, in my humble opinion. Songs in A&E is a must, must, must listen.




Xmas Gift Guide - #2

The other night I surfed over to the great and powerful Sub Pop site, just to see what was new and exciting over in that part of the world. You've probably noticed that we kinda have a thing for Sub Pop here at Les Enfants (you'll be seeing a member of their talent roster in my top albums list within the next week or so).

In any event, those good people at Sub Pop like to keep us informed. So much so, that they even tell you the most popular items in their online store. At the time I was perusing the site, the Band of Horses Cranberry Flourish Tee (official name) was the shop's top seller. It's a mighty fine shirt, I must say.

And if you've got a Band of Horses fan among your present-recipients, this might just be the gift for them. It's a foxy little tee, the color is great, and I don't know about you but I am particularly fond of flourishes. As far as I'm concerned, there isn't nearly enough flourish and script lettering in band tees these days.

While you're picking up this lovely little shirt, why not check out some of the other multitudinous items in the Sub Pop shop? They've got clothing, accessories, and oh yes, records galore.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Top Albums of 2008 According to Chris: #11 - Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele

Dent May came THIS close to making my Top Ten based entirely on the video at the bottom of this here post.

Seriously, if that isn't the coolest cat you've ever seen, then you hang out with far cooler cats than I ever have.

He's the perfect embodiment of anti-cool cool, and you just don't see enough of that these days. Bottom line, I want to go to that dance party.

Plus, I see the ukulele making a huge comeback in the near future. Mark my words, Dent is leading the charge, my friends. Before this year, I probably hadn't watched a video in damn near a decade. This one here renews my faith in the genre.

All I'm saying is get on the boat, people. Dent May's brand of scholarock (TM pending) is the new bee's knees and cat's pajama's all rolled into one.














mp3: Meet Me in the Garden (link expired)


December 12: Dead Confederate Day

It’s 12/12, friends, and that can mean only one thing. Yes indeed, it’s Dead Confederate Day. Rejoice! That's right, today belongs to everyone’s favorite band (mine, anyway) to come out of Athens, GA, since that band with three letters…

You’ll soon be seeing Dead Confederate in my Top 18 of 2008 list, and if you haven’t yet heard their debut LP Wrecking Ball I strongly suggest you correct that situation. It’s some of the finest, loudest, messiest rock you’ll hear this year. You might have heard the term “grunge” bandied about in reference to Dead Confederate, but there’s a lot more to them than that.

For those of you here in Richmond, what better way to celebrate Dead Confederate Day than to head over to the Canal Club, where the band will be gracing the stage this very evening. I’ve been looking forward to this show since, well, the first time I heard about it. I have no doubt it’ll be one for the ages.

Here’s a glimpse at the band’s new clip for “Start Me Laughing”. Shockingly, it kicks all sorts of ass.



Thursday, December 11, 2008

Megan's Top 18 of 2008 - #12 - The Raveonettes

I do believe Lust Lust Lust is the only album my dear partner and I have in our top list at all this year, which means of course that it's twice as nice.

Before Lust Lust Lust, I had seen the Raveonettes live once or twice, and felt just kind of, well, indifferent about them. And then, that wily Danish duo went and made this album, a Valentine to both the late 50s/early 60s and shoegaze. I pretty much gushed about it (read: foamed at the mouth over it) when Chris and I did our joint review way back towards the beginning of the year, and my love of this record has yet to abate. It's gloomy, it's sexy, and it's almost just a little bit dangerous. It's like one of those early 60s, black and white flicks involving chicks in tight sweaters and cigarette pants and leather jacket-clad dudes drag racing on back roads in the blackened, misty midnight or something.

"Dead Sound" was my ringtone for months and months. "You Want the Candy" is adorable, painfully loud, and effortlessly danceable (and the "boo hoo" line is pretty fantastic). "With My Eyes Closed" is a delicious little mopey ballad, channeling the moroseness of Morrissey with ease. Did I mention I love this album? Because I do.

It totally changed my mind about the Raveonettes, and I'd emphatically say it definitely deserves its place here among the best of the best.



Xmas Gift Guide - #1

I'll admit, I'm pretty much slacking like there's no tomorrow in terms of my Xmas gifts this year. Fortunately, this isn't such a big deal, as I don't actually buy many people presents. But sometimes, no matter how many people (or how small your list), it's hard to find super awesome presents for the folks you care about. Sure, gift cards are all well and good, but you want points for originality, right? So here's the first of my suggestions for dialing up the perfect gift for anyone and everyone on your list.

Let's talk about Light in the Attic for a minute. You already know how much I adore one of the bands, the Black Angels. But LITA is about more than just bitchin' new bands. They've been putting out tons of super fly old stuff, from Karen Dalton to the Trikont series (like the Black Country album Chris wrote up not too long ago). Someone over there is a huge smartypants, because LITA is now offering a killer package for 2009: the 2009 subscription. It'll cost you $150, including (North American) shipping, but the package includes 10 (count 'em, 10) albums released over the course of the coming year. Subscribers will get their hands on the albums before the general public, and I've heard treats will be involved, too, over the duration of the subscription. Sounds like one hell of a present to me, and I for one would be stoked to be on the receiving end of such a fabulous gift. See the LITA site for more info.

The Top Albums of 2008 According to Chris: #12 - TV On the Radio (Honorable Mention)

TV On the Radio is easily one of my favorite bands these days, but I appear to be in the kind of minority about this CD. Yes, it's incredible and continues to prove just how great a band they are. However, I certainly think it fell short of the praise given by a lot of other lists I've seen, which have Dear Science, as not only the best album of the year, but TVotR's best CD ever.

Whoa there, killers.

It's good, but is it Return to Cookie Mountain good? Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes good? I'm not so quick to say it is. What was nice, however, was hearing more of the band's continually evolving sound. For all the talk about this CD tackling even darker issues than usual, it sure sounds upbeat. While the sound might have changed slightly, the formula remained the same, throwing together an amalgam of different sounds, ranging from funk to spoken (shouted?) word. And that oh so tasty harmonizing remained intact, too.

While I don't have any live, legal stuff from Dear Science,, please enjoy this kickass performance of Kyp doing a stellar performance of "Playhouses".



mp3: Playhouses (link expired)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Newsflash: Win a CSS Office Party @ 9:30 Club

Admittedly, I'm not all that much of a fan of theirs, but the 9:30 has a pretty awesome contest running for all you CSS lovers out there. Here's the little blurb that came to my inbox this very evening:

"With the economy in shambles, your Scrooge-of-a-boss’ idea of a holiday party most likely involves a cobweb-covered fruitcake left in the office kitchen. Fear not: 9:30 Club and electro-pop Brazilians CSS are here to save the holidays for you and 29 of your coworkers. First, you’ll start off with a private happy hour with free drinks from Budweiser and a sampling of 9:30 menu items. After that, you’ll head to a private VIP viewing area for CSS’s off-the-wall indie rock antics.

Want to win? Simply send a YouTube video link to list_serve@930.com telling us why your office needs this party. Keep the videos funny, but clean, and under one minute. Deadline is Tuesday, December 16 by 7pm. The winning video will be posted in next week’s email blast."

CSS performs at the 9:30 on December 20th.


Megan's Top 18 of 2008 - #13 - Does It Offend You, Yeah?

Throughout the course of history, there have been great poets, gifted wordsmiths who extolled the virtues of love and beauty (most frequently the former) in language so moving and profound that they are still celebrated to this day.

Does It Offend You, Yeah? doesn't quite fit into that category.

But what's to say there's not a time and a place for succinctness? We're a busy population, we don't always have time for forsooths and flowery phrases.

Sometimes, when you see a lady or gentleman you'd like to get to know better, you just don't have time for wooing. And so, friends, there was never a better song for such occasions than the raging, rampant, hormonally-fueled 4 minute modern sonnet: "Let's Make Out". Bratty and ballsy, it epitomizes the Does It Offend You, Yeah? sound. It's nigh on impossible to not dance to the song, given the combination of the simple, base lyrics and the perfectly sassy beats. It's the perfect way to get your beloved's attention, guaranteed.

But "Let's Make Out" is but one reason to enjoy You Have No Idea What You're Getting Yourself Into. My other favorite track, "Being Bad Feels Pretty Good", not only has one of the best song titles ever, but it's got that 80s synthy thing working overtime, making it one of the best dance songs of the year. And "Epic Last Song" is just that, a slice of youthful exuberance and cheeky melodrama.

It's not an album fit for being taken seriously, but if you're looking for a good time, you could do a lot worse.



The Top Albums of 2008 According to Chris: #13 - Broken Social Scene Presents...Brendan Canning (Honorable Mention)

I recently read a "Best of 08" list where the reviewer quite candidly and honestly said, "... if so and so took a shit on a snare drum, I'd probably still love it."

That's pretty much how I feel about Broken Social Scene.

Not only has the individual solo artist stuff been great, but the Broken Social Scene Presents series also has kicked ass thus far. First came Kevin Drew's, and this year we received co-front man Brendan Canning's.

Does it sound an awful lot like Broken Social Scene? Sure, but how is that any kind of problem at all? I mean, the guy's an integral member of the band and helped create that BSS sound.

I was fortunate enough to see the BSS tour this year, and the band took the time to do a track or two from BC's album. Let me assure you, the crowd was impressed. As you can hear for yourself, "Hit the Wall" is a pretty fine little song. It's got that excellent indie Canuck goodness that we all know and love smacking throughout it. The rest of the album does the same.




Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Newsflash: Blur Reforms for Summer 09 Gig!

Holy flashback, Batman!

The year is 1997. My favorite three bands are the Verve, Oasis, and Blur. Blur at the old Black Cat was actually my first club show in DC, back when I was but a wee teen. Oasis at the Patriot Center in Fairfax was my first ever gig, at age 16. And the Verve, well, that show in Atlanta in late 1997 was the first time I saw God at a gig.

Fast forward to the year now, and my former favorite trio have all been in the news. First, the Verve gets back together (hallelujah) and plays Coachella (hallelujah), and releases a new album, their first since Urban Hymns a decade ago. Then, Oasis tries their hand at another record, which makes it into several big deal End of Year lists.

And now? Now Blur's getting back into the game.

Damon, Graham, Alex, and Dave are throwing their hat back into the ring, and are reforming to do a July 3, 2009 gig in Hyde Park (London). No word as to whether this reunion is to be a one-off, but given the success of their contemporaries' comebacks, I have to say they'd be silly not to milk their reformation.

London's pretty lovely in the early summer, perhaps I'll be heading over to catch their first gig as the original foursome since 2000...

In the meantime, here's a little vintage Blur for all my fellow Britpoppers out there. "Beetlebum", though later in Blur's catalog, has always been one of my all-time faves.



The Top Albums of 2008 According to Chris: #14 - The Raveonettes (Honorable Mention)

Man alive, we certainly lurved us some Lust Lust Lust when it first came out, but I'll be damned if it didn't seem to miss everyone's "Best Of 08" lists. This was so much so the case, I even went back and double checked the release date (Feb 19, 2008, in case you cared).

So why the sudden lack of love for this reverb-heavy, certainly sexy music?

Maybe it was all the EPs the band released as the year continued.

Maybe it had to do with a track or two leaking back in 07.

Regardless, it seems a shame that it's getting lost in the shuffle, so I'm going to throw it on my Honorable Mention list.

And if this video doesn't make you want to see the Raveonettes live, well then, something clearly is wrong with you.







You've got to admit, the Danish duo have a sort of sinister snarl to them that makes their grooves infectious.

Megan's Top 18 of 2008 - #14 - Flight of the Conchords

I'd like to clarify one thing before I go any further: I am not a fan of comedy albums. Even when I thought Weird Al was hilarious, I never owned a single one of his (many) albums. I haven't really watched a "comedy" show since "In Living Colour" went off the air. I managed to resist the pair of Kiwis known to the world as Flight of the Conchords for many moons, until one day my best friend Laura turned their self-titled album on while we were tooling around the California desert last April. From that moment on, friends, I was hooked. When Laura and I started having FOTC night, wherein we would watch episodes of their HBO show and drink wine and coo over how funny the boys are, I began to morph into a straight up fan.

From the opening, Serge Gainsbourgian "Foux de Fafa" to the Pet Shop Boy beats of "Inner City Pressure" to the too cute white boy rap of "Hiphopopotamus Vs. Rhymenoceros", it's one clever, damned catchy song after another. No genre or artist is spared the Conchordian treatment. "Think About It" owes its existence to Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On". "Prince of Parties" reminds me a smidgeon of Donovan's "Sunshine Superman" with some early Bowie thrown in for good measure. Yet even more superior to the aforementioned songs are my trio of favorite Conchordian songs; "Robot Boom", wherein robots take over the world and "the humans are dead", backhanded ballad "The Most Beautiful Girl (In the Room)", and my all-time favorite, "Bowie", in which Brett and Jemaine do their best Bowie impressions and sing about sparkly jumpsuits and nipples. It's a must-listen. There's also this little song they do, you might perhaps have heard it, something about "Business Time". Yeah, that's pretty good too.

And in closing, I have but this to say. If loving comedy rock parodies is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Best Albums of 2008: Let the Madness Continue!

Ms. Megan is right. Who doesn't love Best Of… lists? Nobody. Not even your grandfather.

My big "problem" with "Best of…" lists for CDs of the year is the fact that I seldom listen to full albums anymore. The reasoning is fairly simple: most of the music I receive, either to review or for "personal consumption," seldom comes in the form of full albums anymore. That and the fact that most bands these days can't put out a full CD worth of good music, but that's an entirely different conversation.

Interestingly enough, at least for me, was the fact that most of my faves for the year came out in the first half of the year, if not the first few months. What does this mean? Absolutely nothing, but that doesn't mean I didn't find it interesting.

Also of note, I don't think Megan and I had one top 10 in common. And what does that say? Not much, other than the fact that between the two of us, we've probably got all your musical bases covered. And what more do you want out of your music blog?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Megan's Top 18 of 2008 - #15 - Darker My Love

Take Deep Purple's cover of "Hush", the Beach Boys (circa the early 60s), the Dandy Warhols' "Be-In"-era pysch-heavy sprawl, dashes of the Beatles and the Stones, throw it all into a blender with some hard liquor, and you're getting warmer. With sophomore effort 2, California's Darker My Love (complete with Virginia transplant!) paints a pretty picture of swirling, booming soundscapes full of voluminous waves of heavy, crunching guitars, twinkling of the (electronic) ivories, and tunes drenched in reverb and perfectly muddied vocals. Oh, and they know how to harmonize, too.

In other words, 2 is a fucking awesome album.

They belong among the best of the nouveau psychedelics, but unlike bands like the Black Angels and Black Mountain, there's less of a far out element, less frenzy among all the noise. There's no threatening to veer out of control.

I've got a handful of favorites begging to be brought to your attention, so consider yourself highly encouraged to give special attention to "Talking Words", "Northern Soul", "Blue Day", "Two Ways Out", and "Pale Sun". Of course, the rest of the record's not too shabby, so you might also wanna listen to the whole thing. Many, many times.


Megan's Top 18 of 2008 - #16 - The Walkmen

It seems so long ago that the DC-bred, NYC-transplant Walkmen first entered my musical frame of knowledge. I always tell this story, but dammit here it comes again. From the first second I heard Hamilton Leithauser's trademark wail in that Saturn commercial, I've been a Walkmen convert, and with the release of their latest album, You & Me, the band has sunken their collective hooks just that much deeper into my affections.

While Leithauser's vocals are definitely the easiest recognizable feature of the Walkmen's sound, You & Me also cashes in on several of the others. Sharp, jangly guitars have been a big part of my love affair with the Walkmen, and the new album has the sound in spades. The stellar drumming, tight and crisp and fierce, also makes appearance after appearance. And then there's the production, that like the band itself is effortlessly cool, somewhat too loose and yet sounding exactly the way it needs to.

Truth be told, there are two songs on You & Me that I listen to rather incessantly, and would cause me to put this album on my list regardless of how good (or bad) the remainder of the songs were. Happily, they're also fabulous, but I'd give serious attention to the albums first single, "In the New Year", and my absolute favorite, the bouncy "Canadian Girl." I promise, you won't be sorry. Check out the live version below (as performed in Canada, of course).