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10 Categories, 10 Albums – 100% Awesome: The 2009 Record of Records

As the holiday season is coming to a close, the last throes of Christmas music are making their way over the airwaves. I heard a whimsical song yesterday called “Merry Christmas Baby, Please Don’t Die” (a joint effort by Crocodile and the Dum Dum Girls) and it put me in a great mood, something good tunes often do. So as you’re ringing in the year, I hope some of these records, and the tunes on them, jangle something in your aorta and make you excited about great world class rock. So here are ten whimsical categories, in no real order, and ten great albums that fit ’em. Ok, enough said. Let’s get started.

10. Peak Pick: Chris Herrmann’s Fav

Album: Wilco (The Album)
Band: Wilco
Why: Ok, so I haven’t talked to Chris on this one, but as the Peak’s Program director, he deserves a spotlight. He’s said to me that he wants to be remembered as the guy who brought Wilco to the Peak. And Jeff Tweedy & Co. are making it easier and easier for him to do that. They’ve come a long way since some of their rawer albums, broadening their sound and reaching a huge audience. This album’s a great step up from their last Sky, Blue Sky – and definitely one to check out from this year.
Starter Tracks: “You Never Know”, “One Wing” and “Wilco (The Song)”

9. Best Sound


Album: The Satanic Satanist
Band: Portugal. The Man
Why: The first track on the album, “People Say”, has got everything you could want from a solid rock song – a great hook, tight guitar, organ, and it only gets better from there. “Work All Day” sinks into a subterranean world of soul. And later on, “Do You” almost outshines the rest of the album with it’s burning intensity. The drum and guitar tracks and the vocals and well, pretty much everything sounds great on this album.
Starter Tracks: “Work All Day”, “Do You” and “The Sun”

8. Greatest Expectations

Album: Them Crooked Vultures
Band: Them Crooked Vultures
Why: With great names comes great responsibility. And few names hold star power like John Paul Jones, Dave Grohl, and Josh Homme do. That being said almost everyone who was waiting for the release of this record held almost impossibly high hopes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great record, but people were going to be disappointed if it fell anywhere short of Led Zeppelin II or Nevermind. But a sick record nonetheless, that finds a great rock ‘n’ roll groove and holds it’s own from start to finish.
Starter Tracks: Three great songs in a row: “Elephants”, “Scumbag Blues” and “Bandoliers”

7. Funnest

Album: I Think We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat
Band: The Brighton Port Authority (The BPA)
Why: Yes. You, me and everyone knows that “funnest” is not a word (and OK, “You, everyone and I”). But there’s not a better way to describe this Fatboy Slim project. With each song on the album featuring a different artist, this record is fun times from start to finish. Sure some of the songs may not be “good” (see psych pop singer Connan Mockasin’s track “Jumps the Fence” – mostly because he sings the same seven words for a whole minute) but all are poppy and catchy and most importantly fun to listen to.
Starter Tracks: “He’s Frank” (feat. Iggy Pop), “Toe Jam” (feat. David Byrne and Dizzee Rascal) and “Seattle” (feat. Emmy the Great)

6. Smallest Size, Biggest Punch

Album: Our Living Funeral
Band: Zombie Season
Why: The resurgence of Lo-Fi + An inventive take on the Arcade Fire’s sound + zombies = the essence of awesomeness. Zombie Season is a small, nearly unheard of band (compare Zombie Season’s 14,400 views on MySpace to Coldplay’s 34 million, Aimee Mann’s 1.4 Million or even Black Taxi’s 120,000). ZS was created only last year by Ali Jafaar out of the University of Minnesota. But don’t mess with them just because they’re small. They’ve got a powerfully dark sound, and a solid two records out. Our Living Funeral is a great follow-up to their 2008 EP, “Life is Tragic”. So they’re definitely worth a listen.

Starter Tracks: “Evil Heart” off of Our Living Funeral and “Slow Out” and “Heart Attack” off of “Life is Tragic”

5. Most Over-the-Top

Album: The Resistance
Band: Muse
Why: For most people who’ve heard this album, this one is pretty self explanatory. For those who haven’t, I think their over-the-topness can be best portrayed by a walkthrough of their song, “I Belong to You (+ Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix)”. So, 0:00 to 0:13 – poppy piano and sensuous crooning from Matt Bellamy. 0:14 – cue the full chorus and bell tree. 0:22 – a full showtunes-y glissando on the piano leads into the first verse. 2:08 – the song fades into an aria from the French opera, Samson and Delilah, sung in full voice by Bellamy 3:13 – the drums come back in and an orchestra joins the chorus as Bellamy’s voice spirals upwards. 4:35 – the glissando marks the return to the main song with a bouncy bass clarinet solo. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. The first time I heard that part I laughed out loud. Only Muse could pull it off, and only Muse deserves this category.

Starter Tracks: “I Belong to You (+ Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix)”, “Uprising” and “Exogenisis: Symphony, Pts. 1-3”

4. Indiest

Album: THREE WAY TIE: Veckatimest, Merriweather Post Pavillion, and xx
Bands: Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, and The xx respectively
Why: This year, Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective have dominated indie charts and minds. Stereogum ran an article back in January pre-empting Merriweather Post Pavillion as the best album of 2009, and Veckatimest has been hot on the trail ever since its May release. But the sleeper here is the London-based group, The xx, a band so cool that they don’t need to move in their music videos. Their first record, xx, placed above both other bands on Rolling Stone’s 25 Best Albums of 2009, reaching the 8th spot. Take a listen, and you’ll be drawn in by the quiet intensity held in every pause in their lyrics.
Starter Tracks: Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks”, Animal Collective’s “My Girls”, and The xx’s “Crystalised”

3. Most Innovative

Album: Agressively Humble
Band: Chll Pll
Why: “I’ve never experienced a man like you.” “That’s because I’m not a man I’m a [blowing noise that sounds like a rainbow]”. This is how Chll Pll (formed by Zac Nelson of Hexlove and Zach Hill of Wavves), starts off their debut album, Aggressively Humble. But there’s not a lot of humility to be found here. The album is subtitled “Ten Rips by Chll Pll”, which is certainly more accurate. The Zac(h)s tear their way through distortion, polyrhythms, and plenty of electronic effects. It’s out there for sure, but that’s no reason to not embrace a band that’s too cool even for vowels.
Starter Tracks: “Dick Moves”, “She Owns”, “Pass Out”

2. NY’s Best Backyard Album

Album: Things of That Nature
Band: Black Taxi
Why: ’nuff said.
Starter Tracks: “Up Here For Thinking, Down There For Dancing”, “Pretty Mama” and “Shoeshine”

1. Most Likely to Be Compared to a Meteor: 2009’s Record of Records

Album: Wolfgang Amadeus
Band: Phoenix
Why: A few reasons. First: just months after Wolfgang Amadeus was released, a remixes album was put out. Second: artists who contributed this remix album include Animal Collective, Chairlift, and Passion Pit. Third: It is Time Magazine’s 5th best album of the year, Rolling Stone’s 3rd, and it generally placed between 10 and 1 on other charts, usually on the 1 side of the spectrum. Now, I’m not a huge phoenix fan (disclosure: on their track, “1901” I thought the hook  was “balling” instead of “falling” but it makes much more sense now) but I can appreciate catchy music when I hear it. And they’re the first French band to click over here in a long time. So when I watch ticket prices for their sold-out shows rising steadily, I can tell you that next year is only going to be better and bigger for this band.

Starter Tracks: “1901”, “Lisztomania” and “Love Like a Sunset Pts. 1 & 2”

So that just about wraps up this decade. As always, check back here for news about bands, records and of course, the station bringing you World Class Rock, 107.1 The Peak. Have a safe and happy new year.

Best,

~Josh

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PEAK KEYWORD: 2010

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Where in the World is David Byrne? [Part 2]

In the last post, I said that Byrne has a way of incorporating the world around him into his own work. And he doesn’t do it small, quiet ways. Take for examples his Playing the Building series which started in Stockholm, Sweden in 2005. Byrne describes the series as follows:

"Playing the Building" at the Roundhouse in London

"Playing the Building" at the Roundhouse in London

“Playing the Building is a sound installation in which the infrastructure, the physical plant of the building, is converted into a giant musical instrument. Devices are attached to the building structure — to the metal beams and pillars, the heating pipes, the water pipes — and are used to make these things produce sound. The activations are of three types: wind, vibration, striking. The devices do not produce sound themselves, but they cause the building elements to vibrate, resonate and oscillate so that the building itself becomes a very large musical instrument.”

Musical may not be the best word to base your expectations off of but it is very large. In 2008 Byrne re-envisioned the installation a the Battery Maritime Building in New York City, and he has just put the finishing touches on the installation at the Roundhouse in London (see above).

These installations produce some fantastic sounds. For example, listen to Robert Gomez’s haunting “Hunting Song” which uses samples taken from the installation in New York.

David Byrne and company on office chairs

David Byrne and company on office chairs

In the meantime David Byrne is finding new ways to occupy his minimal free time between shuttling back and forth across the pond to work on Playing the Building while touring for his new album Everything That Happens Happens Today, which includes dances choreographed on office chairs.

He has also been heavily involved in the developing indie music scene. His record label Luaka Bop signed Os Mutantes in 2006, a band that was originally formed in 1966, but shut down after 12 years and has now found new legs [download their latest single “Teclar” here].

He has also collaborated recently with The Brighton Port Authority (BPA), Fatboy Slim’s side project that just released their first album I Think We’re Going to Need a Bigger Boat (2008). Byrne sings on the song “Toe Jam” also featuring Dizzee Rascal, which is definitely a heavenly pairing. The video for the song, which you can find in the “This Week” section has plenty of nudity – but it’s still kid-friendly due to jolly black bars that dance around the screen with the music. Check it out!

A still from the "Toe Jam" video

A still from the "Toe Jam" video

And, perhaps most surprisingly, David Byrne has lent his voice to North America South America (better known as N.A.S.A.) for two songs, “Money” and “The People Tree” for their record The Spirit of Apollo which was released in February of this year. With these songs, it seems that N.A.S.A. has brought out Byrne’s subversive nature once again – something that can be better explained by watching the music videos found in the “This Week” page.

"Bicycle Diaries" by David Byrne

"Bicycle Diaries" by David Byrne

David Byrne is looking as fit as ever and he’s not slowing down. He  just released a book called Bicycle Diaries that chronicles his travels and thoughts while biking and designed a series of funky bike racks for NYC. He also had a full-length article in Wired magazine last year about the ins and outs of the music industry. It’s really fascinating and has lots of interesting clips of Byrne talking with people from the industry including Brian Eno. While you’re there, look for his interview with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke from the same issue. And if you have the desire to stalk him even more like a psycho killer you can follow his day-to-day activities in his online journal. Happy hunting!

Oh, and one last thing:

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