Favorites of 2007

I started with a list of 45 favorites. Over the course of December I tried to give each one another listen to decide a) where it would land on the list and b) whether or not it would make the cut. I ended up with a list of 24 and, not much to my surprise, many are female-fronted or British bands. I am surprised more alt.country didn’t make my list (I guess Wilco is the token alt.country band) and a complete lack of hard rock is unheard of (oh, how I wanted to love the new Down CD but it just didn’t happen).

From the first 30 seconds of listening to Great Northern’s ‘Trading Twilight for Daylight’, I knew it was going to be my top pick. But along came The Dollyrots a few months later and nearly stole the top spot. Actually, in my mind, they tied for my favorite of the year, I’m sure I listened to both of them an equal amount of times. The rest of the top 10 is pretty interchangeable but I figured I had to put them in some sort of order.

So, here’s my list of Favorite CDs of 2007:

1. Great Northern – Trading Twilight for Daylight (Eenie Meenie Records)
Part of the Silverlake scene (Sea Wolf, Earlimart, Silversun Pickups), Great Northern provides the soundtrack to a lazy/hazy Friday afternoon. Though Rachel Stolte is the lead singer, her vocal interplay with guitarist Solon Bixler adds depth to the songs.

2. The Dollyrots – Because I’m Awesome (Blackheart Records)
Signed to Joan Jett’s label (Blackheart Records), The Dollyrots embody a punk rock spirit and, to a degree, a punk rock sound though the band’s single “Because I’m Awesome” (as featured in a Kohl’s commercial) is gaining steam on pop radio stations such as WNCI in Columbus, Ohio. Based on comments left on The Dollyrots MySpace page, the trio is appealing to a wide age range including pre-teen girls whose iPod Shuffles are loaded with songs by Kelly Clarkson, Hannah Montana, and Avril Lavigne.

3. The Twilight Sad – Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters (Fat Cat)
From the thick Scottish accented vocals to the wall of guitar sounds, The Twilight Sad sound like Snow Patrol if Snow Patrol had started just a few years ago and was influenced by Mogwai, Aereogramme, My Bloody Valentine, and Dinosaur Jr. The band’s SXSW performance in a tent outside of Emo’s left my ears ringing for days … and I liked it!

4. Zolof the Rock and Roll Destroyer – Schematics (Le Pamplemousse)
As long as Zolof keeps putting out records, there will be a place for them on my year-end list. The synth-driven pop-punk with an edge is infectious and I can’t get enough of Rachel Minton’s spunky vocals. This band could sell a ton of records if they catch the right break.

5. The Frames – The Cost (Anti)
The Once soundtrack made a lot of year-end lists, as well it should and it would have made mine had Glen Hansard’s band, The Frames, not put out a record of their own this year. Fully fleshed-out versions of Once’s best tracks (“Falling Slowly” and “When Your Mind is Made Up”) appear on The Frames’ tenth studio album and are just as passionate and emotional as the stripped-down soundtrack versions. My hope is that everybody who loved the music in Once will explore The Frames’ back catalog.

6. Via Audio – Say Something (SideCho)
Early fans of the New York/Boston band included Chris Walla (Death Cab for Cutie) and Jim Eno (Spoon), associations which paid off for Via Audio in 2007. Jessica Martin’s pretty vocals undoubtedly broke a million blogger boy hearts this year while the boys in the band (Danny Molad, Tom Deis, David Lizmi) laid down some smart and sophisticated pop ala DCFC, The Postal Service, etc. Martin’s solo side project, The Stenographer’s Alibi, is also worth checking out.

7. Idlewild – Make Another World (Sanctuary)
I once said that if I could only listen to the recorded (past, past, and future) output of one band for the rest of my life, I would choose Idlewild to be that band. Despite some ups and downs (continuous critical praise but poor concert attendance and CD sales in the US), Idlewild soldiers on and delivers yet another consistent release. In a recent blog entry, frontman Roddy Woomble shot done rumors of the band’s demise saying the band will get to work on a new CD.

8. Wilco – Sky Blue Sky (Nonesuch)
I consider myself a casual Wilco fan. I own all of their CD (including the live one) but I don’t listen to them as often as I should. Something about Sky Blue Sky, however, struck me from the moment I heard it and of all Wilco’s catalog, this one has definitely gotten the most play on my iPod. Wilco seems to be inching closer and closer to becoming the Eagles of our generation (though Tweedy still definitely is the ringleader), this became apparent to me as I saw the band live for the first time since the Summerteeth tour in 2007. And while it maybe doesn’t have commercial radio appeal, “Impossible Germany” is, without a doubt, the song I listened to the most in 2007.

9. St. Vincent – Marry Me (Beggars Banquet)
My first encounter with Annie Clark came while watching her play guitar with The Polyphonic Spree at SXSW this year. When I got home and Googled “cute Polyphonic Spree guitar player”, I discovered St.Vincent (Clark’s nom de plume) and was instantly mesmerized by the songs on her MySpace page (“Paris is Burning”, “Marry Me”, “Your Lips are Red”). If I could buy stock in musicians, I’d dump a load of money on St.Vincent stock as this is just a start to what I’m sure will be a very promising career.

10. Tigers Can Bite You – Tigers Can Bite You (Tune Core)
Dave Woody started Fiver around the same time Death Cab for Cutie and Granddaddy were getting off the ground. While those bands saw some success over time, Fiver missed out. Woody is back with a like-minded band, Tigers Can Bite You, and fans of DCFC and Granddaddy should pay heed and give TCBY’s spacey pop sound a listen. This was my favorite random discovery of the year (thanks to Alex of Sea Wolf for introducing me to their music).

Other CDs that got lots of play on the iPod this year include:

Adam Franklin – Bolts of Melody
Bracken – We Know About the Need
Editors – An End Has a Start
Film School – Hideout
Jill Cunniff – City Beach
Minmae – 835
Radical Face – Ghost
Sea Wolf – Leaves in the River
Sebastian Bach – Angel Down
Silver Needle – Halo
Soulsavers – It’s Not How Hard You Fall, It’s the Way You Land
The Comas – Spells
The Donnas – Bitchin’
Wolf and Cub – Vessels

Bands to Watch (2008): Hi Electric

Came across my copy of Those Bastard Souls ‘Debt & Departure’ the other day and popped it in the old CD player to revisit the music that I hadn’t listened to in a few years. The band was started by ex-Grifters singer Dave Shouse who was looking for a more personal outlet for his songs (coincidentally, the Grifters came up recently on a message board I frequent). After TBS ran their course, Shouse started Bloodthirsty Lovers but that band seems to have run it’s course as well. So what is Shouse doing these days? A quick search on MySpace revealed a band called Hi Electric which listed a Dave Shouse as the keyboard player.

I was instantly taken aback by the 3 tracks available to stream on the MySpace site, particularly “Someone Else’s Name” which I’ve probably listened to a dozen times this week. I hear bits and pieces of everybody from the Beatles to Queens of the Stone Age to the Foo Fighters in the music – a really rich, dark pop sound that I just love. And “Handshake Ethics” sounds like a mix of the Posies and Blind Melon to me. Other than Shouse’s name, though, I didn’t recognize any of the other members so I sent off an email asking somebody from the band to give me the lowdown. Lead singer Neil Bartlett gave me the lowdown:

Hi, my name is Neil, I write all the songs for Hi Electric and sing and play guitar. Steve Selvidge from Big Ass Truck and Bloodthirsty Lovers found me on MySpace and offered to produce a record. We recorded a few songs at his home, and then started getting a live band together, at this same time Dave Shouse mentioned to Steve that he was wanting to get out and play some more, and so Steve invited him to join, and Dave has been a really amazing part of our band ever since. Kevin Cubbins, guitar, is from the Pawtuckets, Robert Barnett, drums, is from Big Ass Truck, Vending Machine, and a handful of other projects. Me and Allen, bass, are not as well known around Memphis as our counterparts. The recordings done at Steve’s house are mostly demo quality and also the songs have become a little grittier since we started playing out live. In 2008 we hope to do a series of singles before working on a full length, and I would doubt that we would be playing SXSW this year, but next year is definitely a possibility. I’ve still got one more year left in college, so the plan is to hang out in Memphis for a while and really see what kind of attention we can get.

Keep your eyes on this kid and his band, it’s some really, really good stuff.


New Dead Meadow MP3

Dead Meadow

Good lord, Dead Meadow is set for an early 2008 return and the MP3 that was posted on Matador Record’s website at the end of November hints towards a delightfully hazy return for the jammy, psychedelic band from D.C.

If you’ve somehow managed to miss the aural delight of Dead Meadow, you can do some catching up in anticipation of the February release of ‘Old Growth’ by picking up something from the band’s back catalog (I’d recommend ‘Feathers’ as it’s a personal favorite).  For the uninitiated, think a mix of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, early Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, and Bardo Pond – at the same time it’s both stoner rock and shoegazer rock with some trance-inducing guitar work.

DOWNLOAD: Dead Meadow – “What Needs Must Be” (from ‘Old Growth’)

Live review: Stephen Pearcy / Jetboy / Antidivision

December 4, 2007 / Whiskey Dick’s (Columbus, Ohio)

The opening band (The Antidivision) was completely forgettable – a bad mix of rock/punk/goth/electro. They are on Stephen Pearcy’s label. Hope he’s not planning on retiring from the money he won’t make from them. They played to about 30 people, none of whom stood in the pit area up front. At one point they finished a song and nobody in the whole place clapped. The singer was like, “What, you can’t even clap? We drove 12 hours through a blizzard to play for you.” They did 2 David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust covers (“Spiders from Mars” and “Suffragette City”) but even those sounded uninspired.

Jetboy, on the other hand, was great – a nice tight setlist with mostly tracks from ‘Damned Nation‘. They truly seemed to be enjoying themselves, particularly guitarist Fernie Rod. Last time I saw them (at the Hollywood Rocks boxset release in L.A.), they didn’t play “Heavy Chevy” which was disappointing to me but they played it this night along with “Groove Tube” and about 10 others. There were definitely some die-hards in the audience and in my recollection, this might have been the first ever Jetboy show in Columbus.

Setlist (to the best of my memory)
Make Some Noise
Bad Disease
Heavy Chevy
Groove Tube
Bullfrog Pond
Stomp It (Down To The Bricks)
Don’t Mess with My Hair
Folsom Prison Blues
Feel the Shake

I wasn’t expecting much from Pearcy, even told my friend that if he played more than 3 or 4 solo songs right at the beginning, that I was going to leave. Fortunately, he played mostly Ratt classics which made it worth the $15 cover charge. I’m not really sure why he tossed Judas Priest’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” into the mix, but it didn’t sound too bad and the rest of the Ratt stuff sounded nearly as good as it did back in the day. And it was cool to see ex-Sea Hags guitarist Frank Wilsey playing in Pearcy’s band (he also played in Pearcy’s side project, Arcade, many years ago).

20 years ago, when I was sitting in shitty nosebleed seats at Richfield Coliseum (Poison opened), I never would have thought that some day I’d be standing 5 feet in front of Stephen Pearcy as he sang “Back for More”.  

Setlist (Not in order)
You’re In Love
You Think You’re Tough
Slip Of The Lip
Lack Of Communication
Lay It Down
Back For More
Walkin’ The Dog
Body Talk
Wanted Man
You Got Another Thing Comin’
Draw The Line
Way Cool Jr.
I’m Insane
You’re A Lot Like Me (New Pearcy song)
Round And Round