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Allana Mayer’s Musical Decade in Review

Posted by MUSIC_Jake On January - 20 - 2010

By Allana Mayer

Editor’s note: In this MONDOmusic special feature, former music editor Allana Mayer shares her views on the music of the last 10 years, nominating her favourites and some honourable mentions…

Ten years ago I was using AudioGalaxy to download Bjork and Depeche Mode tunes. Now, people use YouTube as a radio. It’s been one long, exhausting decade, and it’s fantastically impossible to keep on top of everything. And yet people (myself included) continue to use the best-of list as a viable format for journalism. Let’s be honest: it’s all about the name-dropping, and not a bit about the ranking… and we like the arguing, too. With that in mind, let’s make some unnecessarily pigheaded blanket statements about the 00s, shall we?

Here is my no-holds-barred, no-discussion, completely-unaccountable list of the best albums of the decade, one per year: Read the rest of this entry »

The Obligatory End-Of-Year Music Lists, Part Two

Posted by music On January - 6 - 2009

Confusion continues to reign in MONDOmusic as we present to you Part Two of kind-of-maybe-something-like-the-best-of-2008.

Cameron Kowalchuk’s Top Eight, Plus (Unordered)

Borko – Celebrating Life (Morr)
An act after my heart, Borko seamlessly layers acoustic guitars, dreamy synths, and vocal flourishes to fabricate the best indie-shoegaze-electronic-folk album of the year. The smatterings of instruments such as harmonicas, trumpets, and bells give it a true organic feel that’s strangely intimate in nature.

Chequerboard – Penny Black (Lazybird)
Setting the dank synths aside for his acoustic guitar, every strum and pluck captivates as Chequerboard lays down some of the most heartbreaking music I’ve ever heard. There’s still an unsettling electronic presence, but the glitch is there to set the tone and pace rather than take away the acoustic focus.

Dokkemand – HONS! (Other Electricities)
Taking the “quirky” crown on this list, it’s great to see artists successfully meshing familiar noises with the musical equivalent of brain farts, unafraid of sounding like a smorgasbord of anything and everything. A bizarre, cute, scary, ADD-inspired pop record.

Dom Mino’ – Time Lapse (Schole)
This record makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. It’s perfect curl-up-with-a-book-on-a-rainy-day music, all pretty bells and whistles and chirps and smiles. It’s sort of post-rocky, ambient, folky, and minimalist in spots, but it’s consistently gorgeous and inspires introspection.

Lineland – Logos For Lovers (Audio Dregs) While explicitly electronic, this album draws from a painstakingly wide selection of styles, as if it’s an attempt to emulate music history in its entirety. Imagine an African rain dance, a 1960s bubblegum pop record, and an obscure jazz pioneer in a vintage Easy-Bake oven and you’re halfway there.

Rumpistol – Dynamo (Rump)
Rumpistol’s previous work has been easily definable: based in funk, but edgy enough to be IDM. Dynamo is a risky and impressive evolution for the Dane, delving into darker, loop-based grooves and teetering close to *gasp* dubstep, while maintaining his trademark warm, curious melodies.

Why? – Alopecia (Anticon)
I have massive respect for Why?’s storytelling skills. This wordy, oddball pop piece, like a sex addict’s loosely adapted memoirs, paints a picture as vivid as anything but is oh-so-sparse musically, which makes me want to say it’s mathematically efficient.

Winter Gloves – About A Girl (Paper Bag)
A trying-too-hard, faux-passionate Julian Casablancas stand-in for a lead singer? Check. On a label repping enough local indie darlings to keep CanCon happy for months? Check. More plaid threads and stray facial hairs than a Value Village shopping spree? Check. Why do I love this generic scenester dreck? Because it’s catchy as fuck and completely self-aware.

Honourable Mentions:
Gouseion’s Anhedonia EP (RunRiot): Pure, unapologetic “me too” electro, with an dirty 8-bit slant. Sweaty nostalgia all over the dancefloor.
Four Tet’s Ringer EP (Domino): After a disappointing fourth full-length and a string of lacklustre cash-ins, it only took four songs to rekindle my man-crush on everyone’s favorite fro-wearing Folktronicist.

Brent Wilson’s Top Five

1. Johnny Dowd – A Drunkard’s Masterpiece (Munich Records)
It’s easiest to think of this as a slightly twisted sequel to the soundtrack Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle made for One from the Heart, Francis Ford Coppola’s attempt at a small personal movie. It’s about a couple’s marriage falling apart in Las Vegas, to which Waits and Gayle provide a bit of a Greek chorus. Of course the couple reconcile at the end of the movie, but imagine them now: they’ve left Vegas for some bumfuck Southern town, they’ve started cheating on each other again, and, rather than make up, they’ve decided to get as far away from each other as they can. Dowd and his usual vocal partner, Kim Sherwood-Caso, take on the Waits and Gayle roles, filling us in on the thought processes during the dismantling of the relationship. This “sequel” will never get made, but the quasi-soundtrack is good enough to fill that void. It’s the most ambitious album Dowd’s made to date, throwing meditations on family (“Easy Money”), his high self-opinion (“Johnny’s Got the Mic”), and his lady’s fine rear end (“Caboose”) into a trio of Southern Gothic opuses all peppered with Dowd’s surreal, dry wit.

2. James Blackshaw – Litany of Echoes (Tompkins Square)
3. Why? – Alopecia (Anticon)
4. Matt Elliott – Howling Songs (Ici D’Ailleurs)
5. volcano! – Paperwork (Leaf)

Miles Baker’s Top Five

I used to be with “it.” But then they changed what “it” was. Now what I’m with isn’t “it,” and what’s “it” seems weird and scary to me. — Abe Simpson

1. David Bowie - Hunky Dory (Virgin, 1971)
Look out you rock and rollers, this album is awesome. It’s naked and intimate, and it features amazing songs like “Changes,” “Oh! You Pretty Things,” and “Life on Mars?”

2. Tom Waits – Blood Money (Anti, 2002)
Waits’ record about the shittiness of humanity is addictive. I routinely hurt my throat trying to sound like him.

3. Aimee Mann – @#%&*! Smilers (Superego, 2008)
I heart Aimee Mann hard. Her newest record continues the tradition of intelligent lyrics with strong songwriting.

4. David Bowie – Aladdin Sane (Virgin, 1973)
Two years later, the moxie from Hunky Dory is harnessed to be sexier and better produced.

5. Mother Mother – O My Heart (Last Gang, 2008)
Vancouver’s Mother Mother improved their already polished and unique sound on this record. They remind me of The Pixies in every good way possible, god bless them.

Allana Mayer’s Top One, Plus

1. Why? – Alopecia (Anticon)
I won’t lie: I feel less of an authority than ever right now. It’s pretty tempting to put Bowerbirds’ Hymns For A Dark Horse as my number one again, on the technicality of it being a re-release and all. But I wouldn’t do that to you. The truth of the matter is that I was so bowled over by the brilliance of Alopecia, and so totally underwhelmed by everything else that came out this year, that I can’t help but leave the rest vacant. Take that.

How I felt when I reviewed Alopecia back in the spring hasn’t changed, which is the surprising part. Usually albums take their time to grow on me (which is, I hope, the case with most 2008 releases that haven’t won me over yet) and then lose their places in my heart as other stuff comes out. Not this time. I still know all the words.

Honourable Mentions:
Yann Tiersen – Tabarly (EMI France); National Bank – Come On Over To The Other Side (Universal Norway); Helvetia – The Acrobats (The Static Cult); Black Angels – Directions To See A Ghost (Light In The Attic)

The Other Things I Listened To A Lot This Year:
1. Supersilent – “6.1″ (from 6, 2004)
2. Couch – Figur 5 (2006) and Profane (2001)
3. Sybarite – “Identity #2″(from Placement Issues, 2001)
4. The Dirty Projectors – The Getty Address (2005)
5. Field Music – Tones Of Town (2007)
6. King Cobb Steelie – Junior Relaxer (1997)

The Obligatory End-Of-Year Music Lists, Part One

Posted by music On January - 6 - 2009

I know we all spent the year RickRolling each other and reliving A-Ha nostalgia. Believe it or not, some people released some albums this year, too. But most of us found ourselves reliving past interests, researching long-gone releases, and feeling positively old. Thus, Part One of the semi-sort-of-not-really-best-of-2008, as disagreed upon by your friends at MONDOmusic.

Jake Shenker’s Top Five

1. David Byrne & Brian Eno – Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (Todo Mundo)

In 1981, Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and acclaimed producer Brian Eno teamed up to produce the electroacoustic, tape-loop-driven My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. The record was a complete departure from Byrne’s Talking Heads style, lacking conventional vocals and built upon samples of voices and loops. In 2006, while working on the re-release of that record, Byrne and Eno decided to collaborate again, producing this year’s Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. This time, the duo took a more conventional approach, producing catchy pop songs with just a tinge of eclecticism. Byrne’s recognizable voice soars as dexterously as it did 25 years ago, and his songs are still top-notch; Eno’s production adds an electronic vibe to Byrne’s organic style, accenting acoustic folk songs with strange percussive hits and often unrecognizable instrumentation. The result is a record that is immediately digestible and appealing, but with enough bizarre nuance to produce something unique.

2. 340ml – Sorry For the Delay (Sheer Sound)
3. Hey Rosetta! – Into Your Lungs (Sonic)
4. Hawksley Workman – Los Manlicious (Universal)
5. Zaki Ibrahim – Eclectica (Sony)

Natalie Sylvie Plourde’s Top Five, Plus

1. Fleet Foxes -Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)

I found this year to be quite slow compared to years past; in the rough, however, there were a few gleaming diamonds. New indie darlings Fleet Foxes have received much love from the music elite: Pitchfork and Mojo both recently named Fleet Foxes the best album of 2008. This lovely record will soothe your soul with its enchanting melodies and soft but sometimes complex acoustic guitar. The warm four-part harmonies used in many tracks contrast with the haunting vocals of Robin Pecknold, disputably the lead singer. Though it needs a bit of patience for the first listen, it grows on its listener with every play. It isn’t an album that will grab anyone by the face and shout “We rule!” but, really, it’s damn beautiful.

2. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular (Sony/Columbia)
3. Vampire Weekend -Vampire Weekend (XL)
4. Girl Talk- Feed the Animals (Illegal Art)
5. Portishead – Third (Island)

Honourable Mentions:
TI – Paper Trail (Atlantic); Lil Wayne – The Carter III (Universal); Kings of Leon – Only by the Night (RCA)

Leo Moncel’s Top Five

1. CBC Radio 1
From the friendly, quick-witted Matt Galloway of Here and Now to the hard-edged, focused manner of The Current’s Anna-Maria Tremonti, you know CBC Radio kept it engaging, entertaining, and educational. In the kitchen or the car, I know they got you hooked on the daily.

2. Teach Yourself Korean recordings
From Berlitz’s practically-oriented series of handy phrases and short dialogues, to the more comprehensive Mastering Korean, I was bumpin’ the elementary Hangukmal this fall. Hottest track from M.K. has to be “Dialogue A” where Mr. James meets Ms. Kim and they introduce themselves formally! But I won’t front like Berlitz didn’t put it down with their dialogue on reserving a table at a restaurant.

3. Old Leonard Cohen MP3s I borrowed from York University’s library
This shit had my speakers blazin’! From the sombre, condemnatory growl of “Avalanche” to the frustrated, self-loathing cries of “Dress Rehearsal Rag,” Cohen had it locked. If it’s dark and profound you’re after, Leonard Cohen’s your man.

4. Q-Tip – The Renaissance (Universal Motown), if I’d heard it
Yeah, Q-Tip emerging at long last with another release! If you’re a Tribe fan (that is, anyone with a pulse who can hear), then I know you were psyched about this one. I was, too. I heard from Facebook that it was excellent. I almost went and bought it. Then I kinda waffled and forgot about it. If I had heard this album, I probably would have loved it enough to give it my number four slot.

5. Nas – Untitled (Def Jam/Columbia)
Nas is, to my mind, the greatest rapper there is, period. I know why others don’t share my opinion when he keeps dropping albums that are just “fairly good.” Like this one. It is good. It even has something to say. It didn’t put my jaw on the floor, but it has the distinction of being the only real album on this list.

Jan Streekstra’s Top Five

1. Larkin Grimm – Parplar (Young God)
2. The Dodos – Visiter (French Kiss)
I’ve been mocked a lot in my life. And I’ve mocked a lot. A lot of writers — a lot of people — feel out their poignancies using the arts. I look at mockery and wonder how I can be so hypocritical as to tolerate this situation: like every childhood, mine was stained with taunts that caused me to cry almost before I knew what had happened. Yet I cannot abandon it — I would not feel safe abandoning it. While I have no pretensions that mockery serves as my first psychological guard, I do it and enjoy it.

I’ve realized that true mockery, spontaneous and free-reined, is fed in part by malice. Malice breeds in the wake of revealingly powerful apprehensions about your place in the state of the world. Mocking uses conviction, and conviction is the seat of conscious identity: mockery brings us a flavour of truth, an addictively direct, effective, and precise way to be clear about what we’re thinking.

Parplar and Visiter cap off the list and get nods because they mocked me directly, lyrically; I was lucky enough that their self-critical dementias spoke to mine. They pointed me out, and laughed at me, and in turn I learned from them. The rest are brilliant works, and relentlessly mocked me with their images of my history, teaching me that my tastes are predictable even when I’m firm in my belief that I have found something new. I don’t think this is the same as eternal recurrence, but it is equally discomforting.

3. Small Sur – We Live In Houses Made Of Wood (Tender Loving Empire)
4. Menahan Street Band – Make The Road By Walking (Dunham)
5. Why? – Alopecia (Anticon)

MONDOmusic’s Best Articles of the Year

Posted by music On January - 6 - 2009

Holiday! Celebrate! Commence the self-congratulatory back-patting as soon as the hangover dries up — you’ve made it through another year, and so have we. Not only did we survive, we thrived, and we threw down some pretty badass music criticism, too. We gushed. We sniped. We got ecstatic. We got mean. We waxed nostalgic. We abstracted philosophically. And we actually left our bedrooms to do it.

So, with no ado whatsoever, here are our eight favourite music articles of ‘08:

An Interview with Hawksley Workman by Jake Shenker

An Open Letter to the B-52’s by Bryan Hopton

Nick Cave and Black Mountain in Concert by Peter Gorman

Rasputina’s Oh Perilous World by Kayleigh Girard

Sleepercar’s West Texas by Nathan Hoffman

Sons & Daughters – This Gift by Jess Skinner

Times New Viking Rip It Off by Beej

Why I Hate Liz Phair by Allana Mayer

John Hastings’s Top 7 of ‘07 (sort of)

Posted by music On February - 5 - 2008

By John Hastings

Making a “best-of” list can go in many different directions; I’m going to tell you the albums that I listened to the most, as opposed to those I thought were most genius. Some of them fall into both categories. Sometimes the mainstream produces some pretty kickass music, and hey, occasionally that’s not just a fluke. We can all appreciate Person Pitch and In Rainbows for the masterful pieces of art that they are, but I wasn’t blasting these gems in cottage country all summer, or hosting Halloween parties with them humming in the background. So, my list rocks a little harder, and may overlook some golden discs that deserve mention, but here’s to variation!

1. Kaiser Chiefs — Yours Truly, Angry Mob (Universal)

Kaiser Chiefs: Yours Truly, Angry MobI chose the Kaiser Chiefs’ Yours Truly, Angry Mob because, well, it’s awesome. The single “Ruby” is just the right catchy song for radio station overkill — but if you don’t listen to radio, it’s just an incredibly irresistible song for your stereo. The second track, entitled “The Angry Mob,” is my reason for putting the Chiefs first. Despite being an obvious rail against conformity and the like, I found myself destroying this song all summer. It’s great for the car, great for the dock, great for an iPod on the streets, and perfect for making cleaning dishes a little more exciting. With all the tranced-out-dark-folk-meets-cheerful-geek-and-ancient-instrument-crossover music (to lump several genres under one unfair moniker), it’s nice to have a disc that lets you bang it out without having to think about it. (Same goes for the Foo Fighters’ newest.) Let’s hope that 2008 can provide us with a few mainstream beauties like Yours Truly, Angry Mob, and that our lesser-known favourites continue to be as stunning.

2. Modest Mouse — We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (Sony)
3. Foo Fighters — Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace (RCA)
4. The National — Boxer (Beggars Banquet)
5. Interpol — Our Love To Admire (Capitol)
6. Arcade Fire — Neon Bible (Merge)
7. Band Of Horses — Cease To Begin (Sub Pop)

The Top Seven of 2007: Part 2

Posted by music On January - 8 - 2008

More of the music that we liked in the last 365 days

Sal’s Seven Samurai

1. Efterklang — Parades (Leaf)

I always love it when bands exceed expectations. The classic example is Radiohead, who – circa Pablo Honey – were nothing more than a third-rate, Johnny-come-lately group of UK grunge kids with some glam-rock sparkles and an okay single (“Creep”); you’d forgive critics at the time for being underwhelmed, but much history would prove them wrong. Same idea with Efterklang: discovering that the band was still active earlier in the year was a bit of a shock for me. While their earlier albums were a really good marriage of múm’s organic-glitch and, say, Sigur Rós’ orchestral take on post-rock, Efterklang were both late to the party and, um, not Icelandic. Given the muted reception to their output, I’d have assumed they’d disbanded by now. Thank God these five Danes chose to stick it out, because Parades is a stratospheric spike in greatness for Efterklang and the best album I heard all year.

Demanding a fully-immersive listening experience each time, Parades is also one of the biggest albums of the year, and boasts a string quartet, a brass quintet, and three choirs (for a total of thirty guest musicians). It is able to sustain all at once the brass sections and koras of Björk’s Volta, the ecstatic choruses of Akron/Family’s Love Is Simple, and The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse’s approach to indie songcraft. Meanwhile, Parades maintains digital manipulations of traditional folk sounds à la Greg Davis, a commitment to classical instrumentation, and phrasing in the vein of Max Richter. In sum, everything you wanted in an indie album in 2007, and then some, you found in Parades.

2. Phosphorescent — Pride (Dead Oceans)
3. Caribou — Andorra (Merge)
4. Dark Bird — Long Gone (Alien Girl)
5. Deerhunter — Cryptograms/Fluorescent Grey 2LP (Kranky)
6. Tunng — Good Arrows (Thrill Jockey)
7. Fridge — The Sun (Temporary Residence)

Jan Streekstra’s Selections

1. Skeletons & The Kings Of All Cities — Lucas (Ghostly Int’l)

I never expected to have so much trouble picking through genres I had loved and dismissed already: I figured French-touch electro and synth pop were relics of my youth. Although 2007 makes me suspect that I’m getting old and that nostalgia is beginning to cement my tastes, I’m happy that this list represents some unique and fun stuff that happened this year. I picked Lucas because it had a profound and mysterious influence on my concept of melody; there are still so many parts about this sound that don’t make sense to me. I don’t understand why I like the faster-than-fast guitar loops, or the ring-modulated echoes skulking under every chorus, or the saxophones that just won’t shut the fuck up. I don’t understand why such an oppressive barrage of traditionally loud instruments breaks down into something I’m tempted to call pop. I don’t understand why the breathy, rambling singer is fun instead of annoying. I especially don’t understand why other people like it too.

2. Bumps — Self-Titled (Stones Throw)
3. Dag Rosenqvist & Rutger Zuydervelt — Vintermusik (independent)
4. Studio — Yearbook 1 (Information)
5. Erik Friedlander — Block Ice & Propane (Skipstone)
6. Best Fwends — Alphabetically Arranged (Moshi Moshi)
7. Karl Blau — Dance Positive (Marriage)

Eva Bowering’s Top Seven

1. José González — In Our Nature (Mute)

José González surpasses his first album Veneer with In Our Nature, by far his best work yet. Following in the footsteps of his debut, it branches out further than his primarily melancholic past, focusing on Gonzalez’s master guitar work and vocals. Unembellished and bare, In Our Nature is a solid force of a folk record. It’s truly original, and bursting at the seams with introspective earthiness. His work is strong, polished and forceful. Never does González get carried away or try to impress with over-the-top performance antics. After having had the opportunity to see him live this month at the Mod Club, he proved that, for one man, he is quite the presence. The album is comfort and solace at its best. Of this year’s lyrical and instrumental works, In Our Nature is truly one of the most beautiful.

2. Feist — The Reminder (Cherry Tree)
3. Blonde Redhead — 23 (4AD)
4. Sunset Rubdown — Random Spirit Lover (Jagjaguwar)
5. M.I.A — Kala (XL/Interscope)
6. The National — Boxer (Beggars Banquet)
7. Arcade Fire — Neon Bible (Merge)

Allana Mayer’s Picks

1. Bowerbirds — Hymns For A Dark Horse (Burly Time/Revolver)

I know I was shouting to everyone within earshot about Panda Bear being album of the year. But I missed the chance to crow about Ticonderoga’s angry and bitter self-titled album in 2005, so when lead singer Phil Moore resurfaced at the helm of Bowerbirds, well….

Hymns for a Dark Horse is actually phenomenal. Not in a joyous we-are-Panda-Bear- join-us-in-worship way, but in an I’ve-returned-to-nature- and-am-now-one-with-the-animals way. I’m not sure which is better, but I’m putting Bowerbirds first this time, dammit. Okay, the point is, the songs are beautiful and heartbreaking and tender, and Moore’s voice is as expressive and arresting as ever. Despite a few rough patches where the rickety old piano seems a bit out of tune with their sea-shantying vocal rounds, the arrangements and dynamics are clever and moving, and every instrument has the power to rip out a ventricle. I think that’s enough reason, don’t you?

2. Panda Bear — Person Pitch (Paw Tracks)
3. Oxbow — The Narcotic Story (Hydra Head)
4. Eluvium — Copia (Temporary Residence)
5. Pterodactyl — Self-Titled (Jagjaguwar)
6. Stars Of The Lid — And Their Refinement Of The Decline (Kranky)
7. Menomena — Friend and Foe (Barsuk)

The Top Seven of 2007

Posted by music On January - 1 - 2008

The music that we liked in the last 365 days

I’m not actually sure if this was an excellent year for music, or if somehow my dependency on music managed to grow even greater and thus I welcomed each new release with a sort of religious zeal. I’m thinking it’s not just me, because many of my writers reported struggles with the arbitrary ranking of their favourites. Although I will mention that Jose Gonzales, The National, Oxbow, Feist, and The Arcade Fire make frequent appearances — unlike last year, when we only had one repeat (the Decemberists’ Crane Wife). Anyways, apparently even MONDO comes with its moral dilemmas. And I’m sure you’ll be equally offended by us missing something absolutely essential. (Maybe you should’ve written for us, huh?) Cynical indignation, engage! — Allana Mayer

Elodie Bonaparte’s Seven

1. Dave Gahan — Hourglass (Virgin/Mute)

My top album of 2007 has a lot to do with the fact that I saw this sexy motherfucker with a full band, in the very studio he records in, performing songs featured on this, his second solo record. This was in October, and I still cannot fully explain how mind-blowing this was. I’ll sum it up best with DAVE GAHAN PERFORMED FOUR FEET AWAY FROM ME, IT WAS SO AMAZING I CAN DIE HAPPY NOW. The passion and full-bodied performance Gahan gave was one I’ll never forget. Oh, and since he’s not planning an album tour, we were pretty much the fortunate few who got to see a live performance of these songs.

Being the long time fan of Depeche Mode that I am, I have waited patiently for a solo album that I thought would do Gahan justice. Any uncertainty I had melted when I heard single “Kingdom:” this is what I had been waiting for. More electronic than his first solo record, Hourglass opens with the hypnotic sounds of “Saw Something” that reach a sweeping climax. It’s a song that could easily fit in with the best of dM, and is now one of my favourite dM-related songs ever. Also notable is the dark and gritty “Deeper and Deeper,” the kind of song that would make the perfect soundtrack for a hate-fuck with an ex-lover. Gahan’s sexy and penetrating voice is as always one of the main features of his songs, and it shines here. Really, any fan of Depeche Mode and “dark electronic” will be more than happy to give Hourglass hours of repeat listening.

2. Sea Wolf — Leaves In The River (Dangerbird)
3. Josh Ritter — The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter (Sony)
4. Feist — The Reminder (Cherry Tree)
5. Maps — We Can Create (Mute)
6. Aarktica — Matchless Years (Darla Records)
7. Dan Deacon — Spiderman of the Rings (Carpark)
Jake Shenker’s Seven

1. Michael Kaeshammer — Days Like These (Alert)

Days Like These is the newest record from the best jazz singer you’ve never heard of. His previous records have all had tinges of greatness, but it’s on his 2007 effort that Canadian pianist/singer Michael Kaeshammer truly comes into his own. Days Like These sounds like Ray Charles meets Nina Simone, with a little ragtime and pop thrown in for good measure. But what sets this record apart from others is the calibre of Kaeshammer’s songwriting — it’s punchy, fresh, and hypnotically energetic. Album opener “Cinnamon Sun” says it all: starting with a ragtime groove on a Hammond B3 organ and catchy horn section punches, Kaeshammer sings a couple of verses before launching into a blazing piano solo. If you haven’t heard Days Like These, treat yourself to a listen.

2. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss — Raising Sand (Rounder)
3. Michael Jerome Brown — Double (Borealis)
4. Feist — The Reminder (Cherry Tree)
5. Soulive — No Place Like Soul (Stax)
6. Various Artists — Jonny Greenwood is the Controller (Sanctuary/Trojan)
7. Grand Analog — Calligraffiti (Urbnet)
Jessie Skinner’s Seven

1. The National — Boxer (Beggars Banquet)

Unlike a lot of critics who slapped it as a “grower,” I loved Boxer after one listen, instantly drawn to its weary-yet-grinning tone. No other album this year so immediately fascinated me. It seems good enough to avoid critical description, instead offering (with a bit of modesty) the best listening experience of the year, bar none. Some young indie bands these days seem to think the best way to get attention is to stand up higher and shout louder than everyone else in the room, but The National know better. They’re the ones at the back, going over everything carefully and synthesizing it into a cohesive and accessible whole.

2. Parts and Labor — Mapmaker (Jagjaguwar)
3. Akron/Family — Love is Simple (Young God)
4. Low — Drums and Guns (Sub Pop)
5. José González — In Our Nature (Mute)
6. Handsome Furs — Plague Park (Sub Pop)
7. Arcade Fire — Neon Bible (Merge)
Brent Wilson’s Seven

1. El-P — I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead (Definitive Jux)

Putting I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead at the top is probably both the most logical and weirdest part of my list. Logical, because the album’s fucking awesome, taking all the good ideas that bubbled under on Fantastic Damage and building the album around them. Logical, because collaborating with The Mars Volta and Cat Power on the same album, and making both sound better than they have in years, is a feat that needs to be noted. Logical, because every collaborator except Trent Reznor brings his or her A-game. Logical, because El-P’s lyrics have gotten better with every release and are pretty much at their apex here. Yet it’s weird, because the last thing a white, lower-middle-class music snob should be doing is calling a hip-hop album his favourite of any year. Fuck that last part though. I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead rules and nothing came close to touching it this year.

2. Oxbow — The Narcotic Story (Hydrahead Records)
3. Sir Richard Bishop — While My Guitar Violently Bleeds (Locust)
4. Frog Eyes — Tears of the Valedictorian (Absolutely Kosher)
5. The National — Boxer (Beggars Banquet)
6. Himalayan Bear — Attacks the Brilliant Air (Self-Righteous Records)
7. Yeasayer — All Hour Cymbals (WE ARE FREE)

Ten Songs for Winter

Posted by admin On December - 11 - 2007

The Moodswinging Weather Mix

By Natalie Sylvie Plourde

Whether you’re putting out your Christmas lights, lighting your menorah, or cringing at holiday commercialism, we can all agree that we have our rituals around this time of year. Yes, it’s freezing and miserable outside, but for those of us fortunate enough to have a bed and iTunes, it doesn’t have to be so bad. And so, I give you my 10-song playlist for the wintertime – served best while cuddling in bed with a significant other, a significant book, or a significant thought. Read the rest of this entry »

Ten Songs for Winter

Posted by music On December - 11 - 2007

The Best Sides of Winter Mix

By Allana Mayer

You should all know by now that I’m waaaaaaay too serious about this whole winter mix thing. So, with no more overemphasis, I’ll clue you in on ten of the best tracks I’ve so kindly foisted on my unwilling friends and colleagues over the years.

Humcrush – “Anamorphic Images”
With twinkly bells and a furtive sort of melody, this is the perfect I’m-having-a-snowball-fight -and-I-just-built-a-REALLY-BIG-FORT-to-hide-behind -and-no-one’s-ever-gonna-take-me-down song.

Animal Collective – “Winter’s Love”
There’s a reason this was the unofficial theme of Shortbus and used a million times over in other places. This track is fucking gorgeous and by far the best thing Animal Collective has ever done. It’s got a tribal vibe, a spiritual sort of hum, and says cuddle parties, campfire communes, and nude romps galore. Being warm, essentially. The echoes of fingers sliding up frets; the muted drumming like pencils hitting whatever’s lying around…. It’s a drug trip. A very good one.

Tom Waits – “Bronx Lullaby”
Bootleg-only as far as I know, this haunting track is recorded impromptu in a documentary called Poetry in Motion. It’s a black little ballad about two minutes long, featuring sparse guitar chords and including lyrics “Wake God up in heaven, have him look down below / There’s a little lost angel blooming in the snow.” Your guess is as good as mine as to what’s going on here, but I’m completely certain it’s not good. Beautiful, though.

Hidden Cameras – “Golden Streams”
To lighten the mood a bit, you’ve got some Canadian heroes singing about golden showers in wintertime. That’s pretty much all I have to say about this. Gotta find warmth wherever you can, I guess.

Papa M – “Over Jordan”
Death!
I was just gonna leave it at that, but my word count’s low. A friend actually used this on his winter mix, and the entire disc was so enjoyable I had a hard time picking just one track. It’s exemplary of the dark acoustic energy, the rough echoes and swells that his mix collected. This one in particular seems archaic and spiritual, Cormac McCarthy-an, a eulogy for oneself before one’s death has even occurred.

Great Lake Swimmers feat. Polmo Polpo – “Moving Pictures, Silent Films”
A melancholic refrain about hibernation, a sad withdrawal, a resigned cocooning… Somehow Tony Dekker manages to make this song as much about heartbreak as the weather. It’s one of the most gut-wrenching tunes I’ve ever spent all night listening to on repeat.

A.C. Newman – “Better Than Most”
This song has absolutely nothing to do with winter. It made it onto my mix one year because it’s pessimistic and overly artistic and vague, and somehow it mimicked my own melodramatic feelings at the time (I promise not to elaborate). I still can’t get enough of it. It’s got a dark sort of energy that keeps you trudging through the snow, albeit in frustration and anger.

Skyphone – “Sinne Gas”
What’s funny about this track is that it opens with crickets (or some sort of critter) scuttling, things being knocked about, noises of the forest – definitely not wintry. But the echoey sort of vibraphone somehow seems Christmas-y to me, and when those crackling noises develop into a rolling little rhythm, the entire piece feels organic and natural. Somehow this seems more appropriate for a city covered in soft snow than one with exposed concrete and garbage strewn about the place.

Billie Holiday – “Moonlight in Vermont”
This made it onto a winter mix but always felt out of place with more contemporary selections. Regardless, Billie’s voice is warm and aged and rich and mellow, and the song is one of the most peaceful narratives I have ever heard.

Emiliana Torrini – “Snow”
This woman’s voice is crystalline, elfin, and absolutely innocent. It really didn’t matter what song I chose from her, but this one has, you know, that whole “Snow” thing going for it. It’s a short little burst of emotion, much like the Tom Waits entry on this list. Maybe winter – and all the hibernation that happens, because you’re not really content to get up and go outside – lends itself to contemplation, reliving, second-guessing, and regretting.

Ten Notable Tributes to Elvis Presley

Posted by music On August - 21 - 2007

No holds barred!

By Matt Blair

To his friends and his momma, he was Elvis Aaron Presley. But to fans all over the world, he was the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Thursday marked the 30th anniversary of Elvis’ death in 1977, and yet his contributions to music and culture still live on – which is why we at MONDO decided to take a little time this week to pay tribute to the King.

Unfortunately, it turns out that a decent tribute takes a lot of work. And the thing is, we’ve had a lot on our plate, and it’s been really hot out, and the fact of the matter is that anything you could say about Elvis has probably already been said. So we’ve decided to take a look at ten existing tributes to Elvis, in the hope that it’ll make up for not doing anything original. Oh, and we’re also happy to confirm that he didn’t die on the toilet, if that helps.

1) Mojo Nixon’s “Elvis is Everywhere”

Who built the pyramids? Who built Stonehenge? These questions and more are explored in a strange, uptempo single released in 1987 by psychobilly artist Mojo Nixon. Punctuated by a catchy guitar riff and a charmingly low-budget video, “Elvis is Everywhere” taught us all that there’s a little Elvis in everyone – except, of course, for the evil opposite of Elvis.

2) Tiny Elvis

Speaking of a little Elvis, Nicholas Cage played perhaps the littlest Elvis of all when he hosted Saturday Night Live in 1992. Like many SNL sketches, “Tiny Elvis” was basically one long joke, but Cage played it well. No explanation or context is provided, other than the late Phil Hartman shouting “Tiny Elvis!” over a title card. At the end of the day, that’s really all you need to know.

3) The Elvis Stamp

1992 was also the year that the US Postal Service asked the American public to decide whether they’d rather see young Elvis or old Elvis on a stamp. More than 75 percent of the voters preferred young Elvis, who officially “went postal” on January 8th, 1993 – just twelve days before Bill Clinton became the 42nd president of the United States. Apparently, 1992 was a great year for charming young southerners who still had a few good years to go before everything went horribly, horribly wrong.

4) Paul Simon’s Graceland

In 1986, Paul Simon revived his lagging solo career by releasing one of the most successful albums in history. Named after Presley’s estate, Graceland spawned three hit singles, won two Grammy awards, and made an excellent Father’s Day present. Much like the King himself, Simon was accused of exploiting black musical traditions – the album was recorded in South Africa and featured many local performers, including Ladysmith Black Mambazo. However, none of those performers have had to spend more than two decades dealing with complete strangers calling them Al, as if nobody else had ever thought of that joke before.

5) Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”

We can’t mention apartheid without bringing up Public Enemy, who famously declared that “Elvis was a hero to most / but he never meant shit to me / you see, straight up racist that sucker was / simple and plain / motherfuck him and John Wayne.” Because when it comes to Elvis, that’s… um… Actually, you know what? Let’s not do this one. It’s a great song, and it mentions Elvis, but… Well, it’s not really much of a tribute, is it?

6) Junkie XL’s Remix of “A Little Less Conversation”

Presley’s ode to girls who wouldn’t shut up and have sex with him didn’t do very well in 1968. But Junkie XL’s remix, released 34 years later, shot to Number One in over 20 countries. Terry Gilliam put the remix to use in a series of Nike commercials that looked cooler than the actual video. Oh, and Howard Dean chose the song for his official campaign theme, which…uh…

7) Val Kilmer in True Romance

If you’re a character in a Quentin Tarantino film, and you hear a voice in your head that tells you to kill a pimp, then that voice might as well be Elvis Presley’s. And if somebody’s got to play your psychotic hallucination of Elvis in that film, then it might as well be veteran actor and oddball Val Kilmer. Unless he’s tiny, in which case, yeah, get Nicholas Cage.

8 ) Living Colour’s “Elvis is Dead”

The second single from Living Colour’s sophomore album references Paul Simon and Public Enemy, along with featuring an excellent rant by Little Richard. Here, the band takes aim at those who exploit Elvis in death – and those who exploited him in life – with as much irreverence as they can muster. If nothing else, it reminds us that Elvis was pretty damned good at what he did – and so were Living Colour, come to think of it.

9) Celine Dion’s American Idol Duet

One can only wonder what Little Richard would have thought about Celine Dion’s “duet” with Elvis on American Idol earlier this year. During a charity episode in March, Dion sang “If I Can Dream” with a rotoscoped Elvis, who some schmuck in a suit introduced as “the world’s greatest Idol.” If you haven’t seen it, then don’t, because it’s basically just the worst thing you could possibly imagine. Short of featuring a digital recreation of Muhammad Ali in his prime punching your mother, this clip could not be more difficult to watch.

10) Every Other White Person Who Has Ever Played Rock and Roll

All other tributes aside, the greatest testament to Elvis’ cultural impact is the 50 years that white people have spent playing rock ‘n’ roll. Elvis is the one who made the genre safe for uptight white folks, for better or for worse. He can take a little credit for the Beatles, for example, but he’d also have to take a little blame for… Well, the Killers have nobody to blame but themselves and possibly New Order, but you know what we mean.

Twelve Memories: Songs of Summer

Posted by music On July - 31 - 2007

Please don’t make fun of my list.

By Alicia Glavac

A Side – All I needed to know about life I learned from Q107.

“Sweet Emotion” – Aerosmith from Toys in the Attic (1975)
The first CD I ever owned was Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits. When I was 15 my sisters and I all got CD players for Christmas and ONE precious CD each. We would take turns playing a song from each disc on our own player. My favourite song on that CD was “Dream On,” but “Sweet Emotion” equals summer because all I can think about when I hear it is Pickford’s Orbit Orange 1970 soft-top Pontiac GTO and I’m reminded of that magical summer we partied at the moon tower.

“Layla” – Derek and the Dominoes from Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970)
Every time this song comes on the radio my mom tells me about the summer when she and her best friend bought this record and listened to “Layla” all day for three months. Now I associate it with summer and my mom in jean cut-offs.

“American Woman” – The Guess Who from American Woman (1970)
Once this guy I know went to a music industry party and got a glass of wine spilled on him by Burton Cummings. He was pretty mad, but then he was like, “What can you do – it’s Burton Cummings.”

“She’s a Rainbow” – The Rolling Stones from Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967)
“Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side? Someday we’ll find it – the rainbow connection – the lovers, the dreamers, and me.”

“Summertime” – Big Brother & The Holding Company from Cheap Thrills (1968)
In grade six I heard Janis Joplin for the first time in music appreciation class. I decided at that moment to devote my life to her teachings.

“Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” – Neil Diamond from Hot August Night (1972)
Every night is a hot August night with Uncle Neil and his sweaty, raspy, sparkly-shirted ways.

B Side - Classic Rock of the future.

“Hard Road” – Sam Roberts Band from We Were Born in a Flame (2003)
It’s not officially summer until I’ve seen Sam Roberts sweat his way through a tight, white t-shirt.

“Love Her” – The Redwalls from De Nova (2005)
The Redwalls are cooler than you. They know they’re cool, and they know you’re intimidated by their coolness. The best you can do is quietly rock out in the corner hoping that they don’t see you and make fun of how lame you are.

“Another Travelin’ Song” – Bright Eyes from I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning (2005)
No summer road-trip mix is complete without this baby…for obvious reasons.

“Outdoor Type” – The Lemonheads from Car Button Cloth (1996)
Remember that girl from YM who got to go to her prom with Evan Dando? I hated that bitch. This is the theme song for people like me who love The Lemonheads and NOT camping.

“Mama’s Got a Girlfriend Now” – Ben Harper and The Innocent Criminals from Live from Mars (2001)
Every time I see Ben Harper live I wait the whole time for him to sing this. He never does…and apparently only did this one time…on Mars.

“I’ll Bring the Sun” – Jason Collett from Idols of Exile (2005)
Jason Collett is like my porn. The video for this little gem is the reason I’m ruined for all other men. After all, he brings the sun.

Twelve Songs of Summer

Posted by music On July - 23 - 2007

Quite literally. Most of these songs have the word “summer” involved somewhere.

By Miles Baker

1) Pixies – “Cecilia Ann” from Bossanova (1990)
There is no talking during “Cecilia Ann.” Only rocking.

2) matt pond PA – “Summer is Coming” from The Nature of Maps (2002)
If the appropriateness of this song wasn’t apparent in its title, it would become during the epic cello line – it’s majestic.

3) Aimee Mann – “Ghost World” from Bachelor No. 2 (2000)
There’s always a time in summer when I feel different and alienated from all of my friends. This happens because the summer brings out something different in everyone; it’s a great chance to re-invent yourself like Lisa did in that episode of The Simpsons when they went to Flander’s cottage. This song is about that feeling: “Everyone I know is acting weird or way too cool/ They hang out by the pool/ While I just read a lot and ride my bike around the school.”

4) Talking Heads – “Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town” from 77 (1977)
The first song from their first record heralded a new age of awesome-good times.

5) Bob Marley & the Wailers – “Natural Mystic” from Exodus (1977)
This entire record should be put on the list because it’s perfect from top to bottom. I know a lot of douchebags like Marley, but don’t let that ruin him for you – because you know the douches are going to change it to Dave Matthew any second now.

6) Pinback – “Fortress” from Summer in Abaddon (2004)
Few bands can sound the same all the time but call it a sound. Pinback can and it works just fine.

7) Pavement – “Summer Babe (Winter Version)” from Slanted & Enchanted (1992)
This song makes me feel like I’ve come home – it’s messy, drags it’s feet, and possibly references Vanilla Ice.

8 ) The Rentals – “My Summer Girl” from Return of The Rentals (1995)
Where the fuck is this band? What the hell is Matt Sharp doing right now? If it isn’t making six new Rentals records I’m going to kick his ass. Then ask him to sign my copy of Pinkerton.

9) Beck – “Mixed Bizness” from Midnite Vultures (1973)
Puppet-dancing Beck is fun and everything, but I miss bed-descending Beck of yesteryear.

10) Joni Mitchell – “You Turn Me On I’m a Radio” live recording from Miles of Aisles (1974)
When listening to this record you can almost feel what seeing it live would have been like: a slight chill of summer air, unruly hair every where, and so much marijuana that the band would get high from breathing the audience. However, they were probably already high.

11) Paul Simon – “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard” from Paul Simon (1973)
I don’t care if you like or don’t like Paul Simon, this song is fun and worth singing along to in the car.

12) Regina Spektor – “Summer in the City” from Begin to Hope (2006)
The first line of this song is just so very true and so very funny: “Summer in the city means cleavage, cleavage, cleavage.”

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