Stranded In Stereo: December 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Monday Morning Newsletter (12/29/08)

The year is almost over as Jose has eaten many, many Xmas cookies; more than planned. In the world of music we’ve lost a few more legends and the rock n’ roll dead pool is looking ripe for a 2008 lottery winner.

Eartha Kitt died of colon cancer this week. Kitt’s life was the ultimate rags-to-riches tale starting as a child picking cotton in South Carolina. Today she’s best known for her pop hit “Sana Baby”. People under the age of 50 will be more familiar with the inferior Madonna version. For the majority of her career she was better known as a damn foxy, sultry R&B singer. She was 81. Younger readers should be directed to the tune “I Want to be Evil.”

Delaney Bramlett
died yesterday from complications due to gallbladder surgery. He first rose to prominence in the 1960s as half of the rock duo Delaney & Bonnie. During his career, he wrote songs, performed, produced and recorded with numerous artists including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Janis Joplin, John Lennon, Etta James and even Elvin Bishop. He was 69. Younger readers should be directed to the tune “
Comin' Home."

Also dead this week is guitarist Davy Graham, an influential 1960s folk musician. Graham died of a seizure in his London home. The musician had long suffered from lung cancer. In his career his innovative tunings and fast fingering influenced many including Simon and Garfunkel. He was 68.

Almost dead is mentally disturbed country singer Mindy McCready. She was hospitalized Wednesday after slashing her wrists in a failed suicide attempt. McCready has been arrested in the past on drug related charges. She entered a Texas rehab center after a nervous breakdown.

Not dead or dying is Michael Jackson despite rumors originating from writer Ian Halperin. Halperin claimed before Hanukah that Jackson was in need of a lung transplant because of emphysema and was suffering from chronic gastrointestinal bleeding. For the cherry on top Ian also claimed that the king of pop was nearly blind in one eye. Jackson called the allegations “silly.”

Pete Wentz of Fall out Boy made two strange comments this week. He announced wife Ashlee Simpson frequently gives him lap dances, and that he drinks his wife’s breast milk. Wentz described the lactation as “soury" and "weird". Wentz went on to inform America that he wanted 5 more children and that he is converting to Mormonism.

From the irony department we’ve learned that The former Guns N' Roses drummer Steven Adler is headed back to rehab. Just last week, Adler "graduated" from the VH1 reality TV show Celebrity Rehab supposedly clean as the driven snow and cured. While on probation Adler was arrested for felony drug possession in July. A Los Angeles court commissioner has sent Adler up for State-sponsored rehab in lieu of prison time.

In lighter news, Los Angeles Police confirm a burglar broke into the home of Paris Hilton Friday. The thief is rumored to have made off with $2 million worth of jewelry and goods. Somehow the thief missed the stacks of naked home movies she has left in piles around the home.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Monday Morning Newsletter (12/22/08)

Nobody likes iLike as Warner Bros. and Sony Music have said ixnay on the atalog cay. They claim that iLike has been illegally getting audio from the music streams from the subscription service Rhapsody. Jose says you're a mean one Mr. Grinch!

In the holiday spirit, indie-stalwarts Deep Elm Records are making their compilation Sampler No. 8 "Bonfire Of Trust" available for free download. Get it here for the next 30 days:

Kevin Cogil, the blogger charged under a federal anti-piracy law that makes it a felony to distribute a copyrighted work on computer networks before its releasem has pled guilty. You know him as the man that tipped off the world that Chinese Democracy sucked. For leaking 9 songs this past June he could face a year in prison. He is cooperating with authorities to identify where the original leak came from. Slash was quoted as saying "I hope he rots in jail."

The Sex Pistols are discussing recording a new album in 2009. Glen Matlock has not stated any firm details, but has said repeatedly that the band will meet to discuss. “The Sex Pistols? We’ve done our bit this year,” Matlock said. “We’ll meet again in the new year and see what we want to do."

Rumors are flying that Britney Spears will be performing at Coachella next year. The assumption is that Britney will do a dance tent set, as her role-model Madonna did back in 2006. Evidence is filmsy, but her tour-schedule has a big gap at the right time and place. There are blank entries in L.A. and Anaheim, California, on Saturday, April 18.

There will be a benefit concert tonight for the comatose Deftones bassist Chi Cheng. Cheng has been in a coma following a car wreck back in November. The show will take place at The Viper Room in Hollywood, including performances from Will Haven, Death Valley High, Tinfed, Last Angels and a number of surprise guests. All proceeds from the show will go towards Cheng
's mounting medical bills

Former teen star Hilary Duff says she never told anyone that she was a virgin, even though it has been reported many times. "I was quoted saying I was a virgin, but I absolutely did not say that.” Then she rambled on about lap dances. Jose could not be more proud.

Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi is suing Live Nation for trademark infringement. Tony claims that Live Nation has been using the band's logo after their contract expired. Live Nation bought out the merch company Signatures last year, but Sabbath's deal with Signatures expired in 2006. Iommi is seeking damages and immediately ceasing sales of Sabbath products via Live Nation.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Band of the Week: Pony The Pirate

One of the problems with writing about bands from other countries is the lack of biographical information in English. Listening to bands sing in another language may be a different story -- good music is good music, but if I can't educate my readers about a band, then I have a little problem.

There are a few things that I can tell you about Oslo's Pony the Pirate. The Norwegian group has just recently relocated to Oslo and they feature a total of eight members, which may seem like quite a mess onstage, but they manage to make it work quite well. The band's soaring indie rock brings to mind bands like the Arcade Fire, and they are already grabbing a lot of fans, including the folks at NRK P3, which is Norway's largest radio station.

Download: "Walk The Shame" [mp3]

Stranded in Stereo Volume 12: Download For Free Right Now!

We're closing out 2008 with a digital version of our latest sampler. For those of your on our mailing list, this is the only format that it comes in, so download away! With the digital move, we hope to have more samplers next year, which is good for you, because you'll get your hands on even more new music. We're particularly happy with this sampler, as we have new stuff from Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, Breaking Laces, Supersuckers, Secret Dakota Ring (OK Go sideproject) and Underoath. New bands to keep an eye on include the Small Screen Light Show, the Takeover UK, and the Boxing Lesson.

1. Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan / "Seafaring Song"
2. Roger Joseph Manning Jr. / "Down In Front"
3. Small Screen Light Show / "Paths Collide"
4. Catfish Haven / "Set In Stone"
5. Sounds Under Radio / "Portrait of a Summer Thief"
6. Hafdis Huld / "Stop"
7. The Morning Light / "Brand, New, Friends"
8. Breaking Laces / "Here To Stay"
9. Matt Duke / "The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost"
10. Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band / "Mama's Fried Potatoes"
11. The Takeover UK / "Ah La La"
12. The Singhs / "Jealous"

1. Passion Pit / "Sleepyhead"
2. My Federation / "Honey Bee"
3. The Classic Crime / "Abracadavers"
4. Blackmarket / "Sheila"
5. The Clik Clik / "Did You Wrong"
6. The Boxing Lesson / "Brighter"
7. TIMZ / "Iraq"
8. Secret Dakota Ring / "The Fade To Black"
9. Rachael Sage / "Vertigo"
10. Waves on Waves / "We Want 2"
11. Hugh Cornwell / "Please Don't Put Me on a Slowboat to Trowbridge"
12. Underoath / "Desperate Times, Desperate Measures"
13. Supersuckers / "Get It Together" interview

Download: Audio [zip] / Video [zip]

SIS The Best of 2008: Top 30 Albums, #5-#1

And so here we are the Top 5 Albums of 2008. Are there any surprises? No, not really, not to me at least. But maybe for you, faithful reader, you will be inspired to investigate these bands and maybe you'll even like them. The possibilities, as they always say, are endless. But of course before we get to #5, if you are coming late to the party because you just finished drinking your free Dr. Pepper (quick aside -- I got my coupon in the mail the other day, thanks Axl!), here's the 25 leading in to the top honors of the year.

30. Lambchop /
OH (Ohio) / Merge
29. Portishead /
Third / Island
28. Kings of Leon /
Only by the Night / RCA
27. Bloc Party /
Intimacy / Atlantic
26. Plus/Minus /
Xs On Your Eyes / Absolutely Kosher
25. Nine Inch Nails /
The Slip / The Null Corporation
24. Throw Me The Statue /
Moonbeams / Secretly Canadian
23. French Kicks /
Swimming / Vagrant
22. Delta Spirit /
Ode To Sunshine / Rounder
21. The Walkmen /
You & Me / Gigantic
20. Death Cab For Cutie /
Narrow Stairs / Atlantic
19. Fleet Foxes /
Fleet Foxes / Sub Pop
18. Mason Jennings /
In The Ever / Brushfire
17. Department of Eagles /
In Ear Park / 4AD
16. Nada Surf /
Lucky / Barsuk
15. The Rosebuds /
Life Life / Merge
14. Damien Jurado /
Caught In The Trees / Secretly Canadian
13. R.E.M. /
Accelerate / Warner Bros.
12. Beck /
Modern Guilt / DGC
11. Hot Chip /
Made In The Dark / DFA/Astralwerks
10. Crystal Stilts /
Alight of Night / Slumberland
9. Portugal. The Man /
Censored Colors / Approaching AIRBalloons
8. TV On The Radio /
Dear Science / Interscope
7. Cut Copy /
In Ghost Colours / Modular
6. Oxford Collapse /
Bits / Sub Pop

5. The War on Drugs / Wagonwheel Blues / Secretly Canadian
It was at the hottest point in the summer that this debut from these Philadelphians landed on my desk. You know what song stuck out on that first listen? The epic, 10-minute penultimate “Show Me The Coast”. It asks for one’s patience, holding the same hum and shoegaze style guitar playing for the entire time, as a wandering and dwindling solo plays throughout. The leader of the war has vocals that channel early Bob Dylan, while The Boss’ “Dancer In The Dark” is channeled on “A Needle In Your Eye #16”. But it still all goes back to drone and haze of “Coast”; the third song in is actually “Coast Reprise” which, in theory, would be what leads in to the “Show”. Just follow the sounds of the people and the heat of the sun and you’ll get there, the coast that is.
4. Neil Halstead / Oh! Mighty Engine / Brushfire
The other band that my cousin once really tried his damndest to push on to me was Slowdive, the early 90s bastard cousin to My Bloody Valentine. Eventually I came around to them, more for Neil Halstead’s soothing vocals buried under the fireworks and catastrophe that was their Loveless (it was called Souvlaki, go find it if you’ve never heard it). On his second proper solo album, Halstead continues down the path he began walking down in his post-Slowdive outfit, Mojave 3. His voice has never been stronger, the words never so clearer, as he sings of door-to-door religious salespeople (“Sometimes the Wheels”), escaping to fame (“Elevenses”) and even dedication (“Baby, I Grew You A Beard”). Whether or not Mojave 3 makes another record, or if Slowdive would ever reunite doesn’t matter. Halstead just needs to keep making records and the world will be a better place.

3. The Republic Tigers / Keep Color / Chop Shop/Atlantic
This would have to be the band that got the most coverage on ye olde Stranded this 2008 and with good reason. After the loss of one of my favorite bands, The Golden Republic, I was at saddened by the prospects that there wouldn’t be a follow-up to their pristine debut. But Kenn Jankowski took “Buildings & Mountains” and called it his own, returning to his little project he had going before The Golden Republic with friends in Kansas City. “Golden Sand” rocks hard, while serene numbers “Contortionists” and an all-time favorite song in “Made Concrete” balance out the Color palette.
2. The Dandy Warhols / …Earth To The Dandy Warhols… / Beat The World
Who knew it would take them being dropped from Capitol to make quite possibly the best album of their career? Many will argue that 2000’s breakthrough Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia is the standout in their catalog, but I’m not so sure. After the horribly dismal Odditorium or Warlords of Mars, the band finally made what I call the album they were born to make. Coming from a life long fan, it’s definitely their most accessible and cohesive effort since Bohemia, channeling that album’s pop sheen (“The Last of the Outlaw Truckers aka the Ballad of Sheriff Shorty”), flare for the Stones (song of the year “Welcome to the Third World”), and even bringing back to life a song from the dead (“And Then I Dreamt of Yes”). Even the half-cover that is “Valerie Yum” with its nod to Ween In the way Courtney Taylor-Taylor manipulates his vocals is something great and unpredicted. And though they continue the tradition with worst-last songs on an album, the neat thing is how when on repeat, the last song goes in to the first, displaying a band who has made one complete revolution and is on to their next.

1. Abe Vigoda / Skeleton / PPM
Back in July in an interview with AV guitarist Juan Velasquez, I called it then. In one clear sentence I wrote it out that I, Rusty, had named his Album of the Year within a week or two of having it. And I stand before you, five months later, and can still say that without a doubt it is the greatest album to come out in 2008. It does best what one’s Album of the Year should – it catches you off guard, it is a surprise, it is so out of the blue. You never know the first time you’ll put a record on the impact it will have on you and your life. The first 32 minutes I spent with it floored me, making me put it right back on the second it was over. It’s an album that has taken up several half hours this year. It does what more records should do these days, bringing the listener in extra close and not letting them go for one second of its duration. Earning their keep through undivided attention.

Every time I put it on it still sounds so fresh to my ears. The ferocious playing is juxtaposed by the melodies and harmonies buried beneath it all. That gallop that signals the change in opener “Dead City/Waste Wilderness”, the portrait I paint in my head of four men younger than me going to war with their instruments in “Animal Ghosts”. And need I say any more about the mind equals blown catastrophe that is the title track that rounds out this record?

Now that they have established themselves, my hope is that Abe Vigoda is no longer just an actor and a death clock on the internet, but a quartet of guys younger than me making some of the most daring music today.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

SIS The Best of 2008 Guest List: Write-Ins, Part Two

Today we bring in our second round of Top 10's sent in by you, faithful readers. While we find more of the same, we also see our first apperances from bands that I .... haven't even heard of. It's true, I never heard of every band, ever. Tim, really - what the hell is a Bar Kokhba Sextet?
Either way, I'm happy to have people send their lists in and perhaps even turn us all on to a few new bands. Nothing wrong with that. Also, thanks to Ben Grimes of The Golden Republic/Soft Reeds fame - if you don't give the world a Soft Reeds record in 2009 ......

Tim Bugbee
, Tinnitus Photography
1. Mogwai /
The Hawk is Howling / Matador
2. James Blackshaw /
Litany of Echoes / Tompkins Square
3. Grails /
Doomsdayer’s Holiday/Take Refuge in Clean Living / Temporary Residence
4. Dungen /
4 / Kemado
5. Bar Kokhba Sextet /
Lucifer Book of Angels Vol. 10 / Tzadik
6. Religious Knives /
Resin / No Fun
7. Drive-By Truckers /
Brighter Than Creation’s Dark / New West
8. Endless Boogie /
Focus Level / No Quarter
9. Ulaan Khol /
I / Soft Abuse
10. Baby Charles /
Baby Charles / Record Kicks
10a. Barn Owl /
Raft of Serpents / Root Strata

Ashley Fruscella, Recent College Grad
1. Kings of Leon /
Only by the Night / RCA
2. Foals /
Antidotes / Sub Pop
3. Does It Offend You, Yeah? /
You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Yourself Into / Virgin
4. My Morning Jacket /
Evil Urges / ATO
5. MGMT /
Oracular Spectacular / Sony/Columbia
6. Vampire Weekend /
Vampire Weekend / XL
7. Nine Inch Nails /
The Slip / The Null Corporation
8. Thrice /
The Alchemy Index, Vol 3 & 4: Air & Earth / Vagrant
9. Coldplay /
Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends / Capitol
10. Portugal. The Man /
Censored Colors / Approaching AIRBalloons

Ben Grimes, Soft Reeds
1. Hercules and Love Affair /
Hercules and Love Affair / DFA
2. Quiet Village /
Silent Movie /K!7
3. Santogold /
Santogold / Downtown
4. Fleet Foxes /
Fleet Foxes / Sub Pop
5. Nico Mulhy /
Mothertongue /Brassland
6. Portishead /
Third / Island
7. Lil Wayne /
Tha Carter III / Cash Money/Universal
8. Magnetic Fields /
Distortion / Nonesuch
9. Lykke Li /
Youth Novels / Atlantic
10. Flight of the Conchords /
Flight of the Conchords / Sub Pop
[and a special mention to the most overrated, over-hyped album of the
year, and maybe the millennium so far: Vampire Weekend]

Michelle Martin, Planetary Co-Op
1. Jenny Lewis /
Acid Tongue / Warner Bros
2. My Morning Jacket /
Evil Urges / ATO
3. Fleet Foxes /
Fleet Foxes / Sub Pop
4. Cat Power /
Jukebox / Matador
5. Dr. Dog /
Fate / Park The Van
6. Conor Oberst /
Conor Oberst / Merge
7. Death Cab For Cutie /
Narrow Stairs / Atlantic
8. Lykke Li /
Youth Novels / Atlantic
9. Jolie Holland /
Living And The Dead / Anti
10. Thao with The Get Down Stay Down /
We Brave Bee Stings And All / KRS

Jess Pye, Planetary
1. Portugal. The Man /
Censored Colors / Approaching AIRBalloons
2. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals /
Cardinology / Lost Highway
3. Cloud Cult /
Feel Good Ghosts (Teapartying Through Tornadoes) / Earthology
4. Polar Bear Club /
Sometimes Things Just Disappear / Red Leader
5. Bon Iver /
For Emma, Forever Ago / Jagjaguwar
6. The Gaslight Anthem /
The ’59 Sound / Side One Dummy
7. Kings of Leon /
Only by the Night / RCA
8. American Princes /
Other People / Yep Roc
9. Damien Jurado /
Caught In The Trees / Secretly Canadian
10. Sun Kil Moon /
April / Caldo Verde

DJ Short, Planetary
1. Fleet Foxes /
Fleet Foxes / Sub Pop
2. Bon Iver /
For Emma, Forever Ago / Jagjaguwar
3. Department of Eagles /
In Ear Park / 4AD
4. TV On The Radio /
Dear Science / Interscope
5. Frightened Rabbit /
The Midnight Organ Fight / Fat Cat
6. No Age /
Nouns / Sub Pop
7. Wye Oak /
If Children / Merge
8. Jay Reatard /
Matador Singles / Matador
9. Why? /
Alopecia / Anticon
10. Little Joy /
Little Joy / Rough Trade

SIS Best of 2008 Guest List: T. Letteney

2008 has been a great year for horror. Hollywood is starting to get out of the habit of remaking every moderately successful Japanese fright film, but I fear they will slowly turn their sights to the French who have just had a phenomenal year in gore. That is not to say that Americans were slouches this year though, we had a few films that shined through the bloody pile of sequels and remakes. Without further ado, here is the list for the top 10 horror films released in 2008.

Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in)
This little Swedish gem is by far and away the best vampire film in the past decade and easily the best horror film this year. Director Tomas Alfredeon directs with such confidence and vitality that his images immediately evoke the mis-en-scene of Stanley Kubrick and the wide angled suburban horrors of John Carpenter.

Inside ('À l'intérieur')
I still have a group of friends that are pissed at me for showing them this film this summer. Alexander Bustillo and Julien Maury have made a film so wet, so gory, and so disturbing that my wife and I were actually shocked. That is not faint praise, after years of foreign horror (Italian and otherwise) we have developed a bloody thick skin. This French home invasion horror film pushes the boundaries for what fans of the genre will pay to see on screen (c-section on a stairwell with a pair of scissors anyone?). Hopefully Hollywood doesn’t swallow them whole and suck out their creativity like Haute Tension Director Alexndre Aja.

This has been a phenomenal year for French horror. This film is another version of city folk going where they don’t belong, very much in the same vein as the
Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Frontier(s) starts out like a poor imitation of one of Guy Richie’s lesser works, quickly turns into a mixture of Hostel and Texas Chainsaw, and then it just totally jumps the fucking zombie shark as it rides on a pre-nuked fridge. The movie gets so gory and so intense it actually begins to rain blood in the climax.

The Signal
The Signal is an intimate horror film that shows that a big concept does not need a big budget. When a discordant signal is broadcast on the television the whole populace of Terminus loses their collective shit and attacks each other. The Signal is broken into three parts that directed by three different directors. The tone is all over the place because of this. What starts as a horrific vision ends up turning into a pitch black comedy. That being said, The Signal is still a great horror film (that can be streamed instantly on Netflix).

My Name Is Bruce
Bruce “Fucking” Campbell.

The Strangers
Bryan Bertino’s
The Strangers is a solid exercise in home invasion horror. While remarkably similar to David Moreau’s THEM (the German film, not the one about giant ants) and Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (sans the self-referential narrative) it still has a few beats of originality to it. The reason I have to compare this film to foreign horror is because this type of horror film hasn’t been made in the states by an American director since the horror boom of the mid to late 1970’s. While Bertino traverses a very similar path to some popular foreign horror, the films he truly owes the most to are Bob Clark’s Black Christmas (1974) and John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). Just please for the love of god, don’t pay attention to Scott Speedman and his magic tie. Continuity errors almost kill a good film.

Neil Marshall’s
Doomsday is such an amalgam of movies it is hard to categorize it as just horror. The movie has elements of Mad Max, 28 Days Later, Escape from New York, and Lord of the Rings. Doomsday is an incredibly self aware romp that at its best it transcends some of its references and at its worst it plays like a highlight real of terrible B-movie imitations. All of it though, is fun. Grab some beer and at least two friends, this is the perfect “before the bar movie.”

I know. I am surprised this sucker is on here too.
Quarantine, which is actually a remake of a Spanish film titled Rec, is another take on the zombie apocalypse genre. No, there aren’t actually “zombies” in the film (and lord strike me down if I have to talk about running zombies vs. shambling zombies or undead vs. infected ever again). Director John Erick Dowdle keeps the tension high and the scares abundant throughout the 89 minute run time. This is a brutally effective skillfully made film even if it is about as original as 1990’s fashion sense.

Matt Reeves proves that a lot of forethought and talent go into the framing of shots in a first person perspective movie. The narrative is told with great skill and little exposition.
Cloverfield is the high mark for directors who are working in this first person genre. It has been a long time that I have seen a monster movie on the screen that I was this happy with. It was marketed hard and there is a backlash against this movie because of it, but that does not stop it from being a great monster movie.

10. George A. Romero’s
Diary of the Dead
Hey, hey you there…George A. Romero. Hey baby. How you doing? We had some good times didn’t we? Remember the time you made Night of the Living Dead? Oh man, that was smoking. Then there was
The Crazies and Martin, oooh yeah you like that? Then you made Dawn of the Dead ,and I just about finished all over your face, but you weren’t done with me yet, were you baby? No, you went out and made Day of the Dead and don’t get me wrong it was pretty hot when you brought Bub in the room to make it freaky, but I just wasn’t feeling it and I’m sorry. Then it seemed like forever had gone by and I heard you were slutting around with Monkey Shines and The Dark Half, finally selling yourself to Bruiser for some amyl nitrate and a handful of Ju Ju Bees. I just couldn’t follow you down that path baby. Then out of nowhere you show up on my doorstep in a see-through shirt drenched in caro-syrup with a rock hard and writhing Land of the Dead sticking out of your pants. I took that in baby, I took it all in. It had been so long. It was epic. Remember the sky flowers baby? We had some great times, we did. But George my love, I refuse to let you stick Diary of the Dead up my ass. I am so sorry, I just don’t want to take it in. Hey! Hey stop it! George! George, stop raping me with Diary of the Dead! Ahhh! You are ruining the memories! George! Nooo! No, uh, it hurts, it hurts so bad. George!!!!!!

SIS The Best of 2008: Top 30 Albums, #10-#6

Every year I find it gets a bit more difficult to pick the 10 best albums in the given year. When I start out with my typical equation that I mentioned days earlier, it is usually pretty easy to pick a few of them that will end up in that upper echelon. Last year was one of the best ones for music; I had a pretty terrible time deciding on what would be #1. Looking back, I think I can happily say I'm ok with how it looks on paper and blog post, but that the top 3 contenders (The National, Spoon and LCD Soundsystem) were also in a three-way tie for the throne each having their own valid reason. This year was not the case: #1 came in by a mile.

That will be announced tomorrow. Until then, we inch ever so closer as we enter the Top 10 Albums of 2008. Want a few insider secrets? #10 was a dark horse that jumped up last week from #14. #6 could be a little higher, but as I told one Gianni Antonaccio yesterday, I think the highest it would've ever gotten, though, was #4. Why you ask? Because I can validate this year's Top 3, but could make a case against 4 and 5.

10. Crystal Stilts / Alight of Night / Slumberland
Ever since I heard their theme song and ever since I missed their every last performance at CMJ (the closest one because they weren’t going on ‘til about 4 in rhe morning and I copped out at 1), this record keeps finding itself getting played over and over. It’s an album one must sit with for awhile – although songs like the above mentioned “Crystal Stilts” and epic closer “The City In The Sea” are catchy, I only just now am finding the inner beauty of “Spiral Transit” and the murky goodness of “Shattered Shine”. Like I said before, it’s as if Thurston Moore and the Jesus and Mary Chain hopped in Doc Brown’s DeLorean and went back and made a murky surf record, and beat the Velvet Underground to the punch of taking the crown as possibly the forefathers of what we now called “indie rock”.

9. Portugal. The Man / Censored Colors / Approaching AIRBalloons
Last year was my introduction to the band that once called Wasilla, Alaska home. Then some wench who liked to wink and throw the word maverick around as loosely as her vagina became famous, and they decided to call Portland, Oregon their new abode. Was this maybe what inspired them to make such a profound concept record? The opening song, “Lay Me Back Down”, harkens back to the bells and sermons of last year’s Church Mouth, but from there on the listener is taken on a different journey. Acoustic guitars and secular arrangements of harmonies fill up the first half leading to the Censored intermission. On the flip side we find a series of songs interconnected, not just segueing one to the next, but also from a spiritual perspective as well. The men who make up Portugal are not afraid to die, nor are they afraid to do things their way, either.
8. TV On The Radio / Dear Science / Interscope
The best 1-2-3 out of the gate belongs to the Brooklyn bros who just keep getting better and better. You didn’t think they would be able to top Return To Cookie Mountain, but then they do. “Halfway Home” comes off as the best song Bloc Party never wrote; “Crying” is soulful with its brass swirling around the atmospheric sounds brought forth by Dave Sitek; “Dancing Choose” is just a flat out romp that I always find myself clapping out loud too. And then there’s also “Love Dog” and “Red Dress” which has the best lyric of the year, easily. “Fuck your war, cause I’m fat and I’m in love”. Perhaps I should’ve had this album higher on my list.

7. Cut Copy / In Ghost Colours / Modular
This was the frontrunner for the #1 spot this year, that is, until what takes the throne of #1 came along and gave it a run for its money. I guess albums between two and six also staked their claim to be ahead of this one as well. Not that it isn’t an instant classic for the decade, full of dance this the likes of which have not been brought forth since the 1980s. “Out There On The Ice”, “Nobody Lost, Nobody Found”, “Feel The Love” – are all songs that have cemented the Australian troupe. Maybe since they’ve made the best record second that only the best is still yet to come?

6. Oxford Collapse / Bits / Sub Pop
There wasn’t a more consistent album to come out in 2008 than the latest from this Brooklyn trio. Originally conceived as a double album, it appears the three men of the Collapse picked the best Bits for the album, serving up the rest of the treats on seven and ten inch slabs of vinyl. While not one track stands out like “Please Visit Your National Parks” did in 2006, that doesn’t take away from the consistency factor. Experimenting with violins and Saturday afternoons at a country club (“A Wedding”) contrasts the additional 12 songs that channel that pristine time in the 1980s when college radio was on the rise. Pop sensibility and blending harmonies come in on “Featherbeds” while Wire-style angular guitars and nasal-y vocals shape the 115 seconds of “Men And Their Ideas” shaping up the best Bits for your buck.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

SIS The Best of 2008 Guest List: Write-Ins, Part One

As much as I love to sit, flip some coins and balance chemical equations to determine my Top 30, there is nothing I love more than reading everyone else's Top 10 lists. I like to know what everyone is thinking, too -- not that I let it influence my list because it doesn't. What it does make me do is either question why I might have forgotten Album X, why I could not have put Album Y a bit higher, or just call people out and question the validity of their lists altogether. This year it's no different, and while no one record dominated the top spot for the people who sent in their top 10 lists, there were a few records that kept popping up repeatedly from list to list. Here is the first sampling of those readers who sent their Top 10 lists in to share with me and, in turn, the rest of you:

Melissa Bridi
1. Frightened Rabbit /
The Midnight Organ Fight / Fat Cat
2. Bon Iver /
For Emma, Forever Ago / Jagjaguwar
3. MGMT /
Oracular Spectacular / Sony/Columbia
4. Sigur Ros /
Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust / XL
5. Sebastian Tellier /
Sexuality / Phantom Sound + Vision
6. M83 /
Saturdays=Youth / Mute
7. Magnetic Fields /
Distortion / Nonesuch
8. Death Cab For Cutie /
Narrow Stairs / Barsuk/Atlantic
9. Radiohead /
In Rainbows / TBD
10. Elbow /
The Seldom Seen Kid / Geffen

Allie Fletcher, The Daily Collegian
1. Conor Oberst / Conor Oberst / Merge
2. Bon Iver / For Emma Forever Ago / Jagjaguwar
3. Butch Walker / Sycamore Meadows / Original Signal
4. Vampire Weekend / Vampire Weekend / XL
5. Coldplay / Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends / Capitol
6. TV On The Radio / Dear Science / Interscope
7. Kings of Leon / Only By The Night / RCA
8. Foals / Antidotes / Sub Pop
9. Fleet Foxes / Fleet Foxes / Sub Pop
10. MGMT / Oracular Spectacular / Columbia

Justin Habenstreit, Boston Spaceships "Space Crew"
1. Boston Spaceships /
Brown Submarine / GBV Inc.
2. Ezra Furman & The Harpoons /
Inside The Human Body / Minty Fresh
3. Robert Pollard /
Robert Pollard Is Off To Business/ GBV Inc.
4. Drive-By Truckers /
Brighter Than Creation’s Dark / New West
5. Nada Surf /
Lucky / Barsuk
6. Of Montreal /
Skeletal Lamping / Polyvinyl
7. The Wedding Present /
El Rey / Manifesto
8. Foals /
Antidotes / Sub Pop
9. Fleet Foxes /
Fleet Foxes / Sub Pop
10. MGMT /
Oracular Spectacular / Columbia

Bill Morgal, The Silent Ballet
1. Fleet Foxes /
Fleet Foxes / Sub Pop
2. Cut Copy /
In Ghost Colours / Modular
3. Giants /
Old Stories / Cavity
4. Beach House /
Devotion / Carpark
5. Pg. Lost /
It’s Not You, It’s Me! / Black Star Foundation
6. Crystal Stilts /
Alight of Night / Slumberland
7. Vampire Weekend /
Vampire Weekend / XL
8. Upcdowncleftcrightcabc+start /
Embers / Bad Moon
9. Russian Circles /
Station / Suicide Squeeze
10. North / What You Were / Cavity

Want to share your Top 10 with me and the rest of our readers? Then send 'er on in.

SIS The Best of 2008: Top 10 Movies

Stranded in Stereo: Top 10 Movies of 2008

So, find me one person who hasn't seen
The Dark Knight and we'll talk. It comes as no surprise that it is pretty much everyone's choice for the best movie of the year. Some will argue it's the best movie of the decade. Some will go as far to even say best of movie of all time. Some will be shocked to read that this is the first Batman movie I have seen from start to finish. I saw parts of Batman Forever but just couldn't take Jim Carrey so seriously as the Riddler for some reason. I kind of want to go back now, see how it all began in 1989 when Jack Nicholson was then the Joker. Heath Ledger's performance as a batshit psycho robber with a deformed face easily takes the cake as one of the greatest villians of all-time, maybe even dethroning Javier Bardem's performance in No Country For Old Men as Anton Chigurh for me.

Want to see a magic trick? (Yes, spoiler alert if you actually haven't seen
The Dark Knight yet):

So, besides that, what else was there at the local cineplex? Laughs, and lots of them. Our #2 film comes from a movie that has one of the more questionable jokes about chocolates, Belgium and what kind of people come from that country. There was also a pretty good book adaptation, that performance Tom Cruise gave that now has him nominated for a Golden Globe, a film finding us questioning our inclination, and a penis. Yes, I said it.

The Dark Knight
02. In Bruges
03. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
04. Burn After Reading
05. Tropic Thunder
06. Choke
07. Doubt
08. Zack & Miri Make A Porno
09. Role Models
10. Religulous

SIS The Best of 2008: Top 30 Albums, #20-#11

After yesterday's startling revelation that Shirley Manson & Co. took home the first ever Album of the Year demarcation from yours truly, I was surprised that people were rallying behind me agreeing that it's a great album. Makes me feel pretty good to know that in 1998 I wasn't the only who thought that album was killer. I then sat down and listed my picks for Album of the Year from 1998 through 2007. The only one I can't remember is 2000; was it Yo La Tengo's brilliant ode to love,
And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out or was in Harvey Danger's amazing sophomore non-slump, King James Version that features one of my all-time favorite songs ("Loyalty Bldg.") I'm sure everyone is curious, so here is the actual list of my Albums of the Year since 1998:

'98 Garbage /
Version 2.0 / Almo Sounds
'99 Filter /
Title of Record / Reprise
'00 [you tell me]
'01 Gorillaz /
Gorillaz / Virgin
'02 Interpol /
Turn On The Bright Lights / Matador
'03 The Shins /
Chutes Too Narrow / Sub Pop
'04 Arcade Fire /
Funeral / Merge
'05 Eels /
Blinking Lights and Other Revelations / Vagrant
'06 The Flaming Lips /
At War With The Mystics / Warner Bros.
'07 The National /
Boxer / Beggars

You thought I was just gonna list '08 there, weren't you? Ha! As a consolation, let's take a look at the next set of albums on this year's Top 30. For the albums ranked between #11 and #20, there's a few surprises: albums that were pretty due for the Top 10 missed out, especially one that was in the Top 10 until the very last second. There's also an album from a band that were locked right in to the Top 10 last year, and that album that everyone and their mother seem to pick to take the top spot this year.

20. Death Cab For Cutie /
Narrow Stairs / Atlantic
19. Fleet Foxes /
Fleet Foxes / Sub Pop
18. Mason Jennings /
In The Ever / Brushfire
17. Department of Eagles /
In Ear Park / 4AD
16. Nada Surf /
Lucky / Barsuk
15. The Rosebuds /
Life Like / Merge
14. Damien Jurado /
Caught In The Trees / Secretly Canadian
13. R.E.M. /
Accelerate / Warner Bros.
12. Beck /
Modern Guilt / DGC
11. Hot Chip /
Made In The Dark / DFA/Astralwerks

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

SIS The Best of 2008: Top 30 Albums, #30-#21

For as long as I can remember, I was always picking albums of the year. Actually I know the first album of the year I ever picked was in 1998. Do you know what it was? Version 2.0 by Garbage. I'm not kidding. For as much as I pride myself in those posts called My Formative Years on being in to all the hip and cool stuff at the time, thus giving me more than enough indie cred years later. But, yeah, I was 14 at the time and this just goes to show that I like good, catchy pop songs and singles. Do you remember "Push It"; if not go find the single just for their rather good cover of Big Star's "Thriteen" that is a b-side. And you know what, I'm not afraid to say it - "Temptation Waits" is a great opening song.

When I was a DJ and Music Director at my college radio station, I started to really take the whole Albums of the Year thing pretty seriously. I heard lots of albums over the year, and would keep a word doc listing every album in alphabetical order before narrowing it down to 50 and begin to rank it by drawing boxes numbered 1-5 and putting them in the according box and then ranking them. I would then print out the rough version, draw arrows and pluses, minuses, check marks denoting if it was good where it was or it needed to be moved around. This is a science I still keep in tact to this day for my Top 30.

And now you know, and the secret is out on how I pick my Albums of the Year. So, without further ado, I unveil numbers 30 through 21. Truth be told, I was still locking up the bottom 20 24 hours ago or so. In this third of my list, we find an album of mine that was once actually destined to be Top 10, but then a few albums got in its way. There's also an album that I've been spending a lot of time with since seeing them open for Nada Surf a few weeks ago that if I had longer, would have an even stronger case to make a run for the top. Instead, it's down here with a pretty stellar set of records none the less.

30. Lambchop / OH (Ohio) / Merge
29. Portishead / Third / Island
28. Kings of Leon / Only By The Night / RCA
27. Bloc Party / Intimacy / Atlantic
26. Plus/Minus / Xs On Your Eyes / Absolutely Kosher
25. Nine Inch Nails / The Slip / Null Corporation
24. Throw Me The Statue / Moonbeams / Secretly Canadian
23. French Kicks / Swimming / Vagrant
22. Delta Spirit / Ode to Sunshine / Rounder
21. The Walkmen / You & Me / Gigantic

SIS The Best of 2008 Guest List: G. Antonaccio

Ever since this blog was started almost two years ago, the one person from my non-blogosphere life who always got a nearly once a month mention was my best friend, Gianni Antonaccio. Whether it was giving him flak for things we disagree on, or plotting and mapping out our plans for Lollapalooza, it was always nice to integrate him in to this little slice of daily life.

This year, I've upped the best friend's ante by asking for him to not only provide me his Top 30 albums of 2008, but also to write out his reasons for his Top 10. Now that I've gotten him to write two whole posts on his own for the blog, I really hope I can convince him to start up his own column in 2009.

Isn't that picture of him so dreamy? Anyway, here's his list:

Guest List: G. Antonaccio
30. Portishead /
Third / Island
29. The Gaslight Anthem /
The ’59 Sound / Side One Dummy
28. Plus/Minus /
Xs On Your Eyes / Absolutely Kosher
27. The Hold Steady /
Stay Positive / Vagrant
26. TV On The Radio /
Dear Science / Interscope
25. Lil’ Wayne /
Tha Carter III / Cash Money/Universal
24. Oasis /
Dig Out Your Soul / Big Brother/Warner Bros.
23. R.E.M. /
Accelerate / Warner Bros.
22. Panic At The Disco /
Pretty. Odd. / Decaydance/Fueled by Ramen
21. Anberlin /
New Surrender / Universal Republic
20. Lovedrug /
The Sucker Punch Show / The Militia Group
19. Fools & Horses /
I Am The Ghost / Self-Released
18. MGMT /
Oracular Spectacular / Sony/Columbia
17. Does It Offend You, Yeah? /
You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Yourself Into / Virgin
16. My Morning Jacket /
Evil Urges / ATO
15. Kanye West /
808s & Heartbreak / Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam
14. Nine Inch Nails /
The Slip / Null Corporation
13. Beck /
Modern Guilt / DGC
12. Snow Patrol /
A Hundred Million Suns / Polydor/A&M
11. Nada Surf /
Lucky / Barsuk

10. Death Cab For Cutie / Narrow Stairs / Atlantic/Barsuk
Ben Gibbard & Co. open their second release on Atlantic records with two tracks that run nearly 14 minutes combined. A bit of a risky move for this type of band, but it works, particularly on the epic first single, “I Will Possess Your Heart”. Things get a little more predictable after that, but Narrow Stairs is a strong collection of songs, and one that for me sounds even better in the late fall/winter than it did during the summer immediately following its release.

09. Portugal. The Man / Censored Colors / Approaching AIRBalloons
I can thank none other than Stranded's own Rusty Roberts for turning me on to this album earlier this fall. This album definitely went under the radar, if it wasn't for Rusty, I'm sure I would have never even heard about it. These guys remind me of Brand New and Thrice in the sense that they are traditionally an alternative/rock band, but are really pushing the envelope with experimentation of different sounds and styles. And the flow of the “suite” that is the entire backside of the record is just perfect.

08. Copeland /
You Are My Sunshine / Tooth & Nail
Emo? Maybe. Actually, since 2006's Eat, Sleep, Repeat, these guys have been writing mellow, sometimes moody, but still catchy tunes that are perfect for a snowy or dreary day. Aaron Marsh's angelic falsetto (which at times is so high that I could probably convince people it was a girl's voice) complements their sound perfectly here though, and I foresee myself enjoying this album more and more as the cold weather approaches.

07. What Made Milwaukee Famous / What Doesn't Kill Us / Barsuk
This was my summer album of the year, plain and simple. It was another album that went under the radar, and I was quite surprised that it didn't fare better actually. Sure it's just straightforward pop-rock at times, but the hooks and melodies are infectious, and they also put on a really good live show. Hopefully these guys will get a little more recognition next time around, but for now check out “Sultan” and “For The Birds”.

06. Vampire Weekend / Vampire Weekend / XL
Yes, the most 'overhyped' band of the year. Out of nowhere back in January, I read about this little band out of New York and decided to check out their MySpace page. After checking out and enjoying “Oxford Comma” and “A-Punk”, it seemed like the very next day VW was everywhere. The cover of Spin, front pages of music blogs, and even MTV's Band of the Week. But what a lot of people are forgetting in brushing VW off as just another “flavor of the month” band is that this self-titled debut holds up quite well in its quirky catchiness and is just as fun to listen to as it was early in 08.

05. Coldplay / Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends / Capitol
What really needs to be said about Coldplay that hasn't already been said? You either love 'em or you hate 'em. With Brian Eno aboard to co-produce, the band easily trumps 2005's X & Y, and continue to cement their status among rock and pop's elite. Of course, everyone knows the big hits, but “Strawberry Swing” and “Lovers In Japan” are the real standouts in my opinion. The band also treated us to some of the outtakes from the Eno sessions in the form of the “Prospekt's March” EP, which was quite good as well.

04. Fleet Foxes / Fleet Foxes / Bella Union/Sub Pop
Normally I have stayed away from the indie folk genre, as I always had a hard time getting into it, but the songwriting and vocal performance on this self-titled debut is just undeniable. I have had a few friends and relatives say that it lifts almost directly from some Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young songs, but that hasn't seemed to bother the critics too much, has it? On the contrary, this is a record that I believe will stand the test of time, and has some of the most beautiful harmonies I have heard on an album released during my lifetime.

03. Foals / Antidotes / Sub Pop/Transgressive
Easily one of the most underrated records of the year. Yet another band that I thoroughly enjoyed at Lollapalooza this summer. While the music itself reminds me of a slightly more danceable version of Minus The Bear, lead singer Yannis Phillappakis has an obvious British accent in his vocals that at times sound like Bloc Party or Oasis. But even with the comparisons, this band has a unique sound of their own, and the repetition of their usually non-sensical lyrics results in ridiculously catchy and fun songs that should definitely make you want to shake your ass.

02. Thrice / The Alchemy Index Vol. 3 & 4: Air & Earth / Vagrant
This is the album that I had the hardest time ranking. Unfortunately, Thrice's The Alchemy Index Vol. 1 & 2: Fire & Water was released in 2007, or else I can say with confidence that the entire Alchemy Index set would be my #1 release of the year. Nevertheless, “Air & Earth” stand out as some of the bands most creative work, with harmonies soaring through Air's “The Sky Is Falling” and “Silver Wings”, and stripped down acoustic guitars plucking through Earth's “Moving Mountains”. This band never ceases to impress me, and I am left wondering what direction they could possibly go from here.

01. Kings Of Leon / Only By The Night / RCA
The Followill crew seems to get more and more flak from the critics with each subsequent release. Building off their success in the UK, KoL clearly is aiming to hit it big back here in the States, as Only By The Night is their biggest and most epic record yet. Personally, I love the direction they have been heading in, showing their maturation as a band, and disregard for what kind of music the critics things they should make. If Kings Of Leon continue to release albums as good as this, I believe that they can help save the total crap that has become mainstream and modern rock radio.