hello.shuffle 2 (prologue 2)

Well its due time to get our our dusty iPods music storage devices and get to some more random listening. In case you don’t remember how this works here are some instructions:

1) Get an electronic audio playback device ( iPod or whatever )

2) Set playback order to shuffle

3) Press play

4) Write little mini-reviews of the first 5 songs that show up

5) Disclose one each day for a week to all of your many readers on your internet web site.

6) Enjoy the praise from the obscure tracks that show up (or don’t) in your list.

Ok so thats how this will work. Next week, Mon-Fri, a new track reviewed by each of us will be uploaded for the whole plugged in world to see. You can’t wait, I know..

NOTE: This idea is HEAVILY based on The Onion’s

FIVE Releases in 2007

Andrew Bird

For music fans, the holiday months can be the best and the worst of times. This being the time when fan and critics alike take stock of all the music of the past year, crafting lists and feverishly pouring over their rankings of the good, bad and ugly. But this is also the most stagnant time of year when when it comes to new albums. So while you wait for that next Shins album to change your life (again), here are five upcoming releases just migh thaw those cold winter doldrums.

FIVE Releases to look forward to in early 2007:

1) Clap Your Hands Say Yeah — Some Loud Thunder (Jan 30)

As many will recall (who could forget?), the Brooklyn five-piece broke the internet in half in 2005 with their self-titled debut all without assistance of a record deal or press campaign. Since then, fans of the archetype DIY band have been clamoring for the follow-up, Some Loud Thunder. Predictably, its getting major blog buzz due to producer Dave (The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev) Fridmann’s assistance. To curb some of that long anxious wait until the January 30th release, the band has made two tracks available for download on their website.

2) The Frames — The Cost (Feb 20)

The Frames have always seemed on the cusp of breaking out into something bigger. It seems that everyone who knows them, loves them, but that’s just it. Not that many people know The Frames, or its braintrust, Glen Hansard. Already released in overseas, The Cost was recorded live in the studio and captures and expands upon the Irish band’s live sound. On a dime, they can dynamically swing from quiet self-conscious folky dirges to all out swells of energetic guitars and cinematic noise. This album is already on my list of most overlooked albums for 2007 and it’s not even out yet.

3) Ry Cooder — My Name is Buddy (Mar 6)

Rumour has it this album’s moniker and namesake was decided upon while recording the last album. Being sent a mysterious photograph of a cat, the guitar player’s guitar player and Bueno Vista Social Club founder wrote a song cycle of sorts that told Buddy’s story. Instead of focusing on traditional Cuban music this album seems to be tailored towards blues and Americana, something of a return to his early career. Cannot go wrong with Ry.

4) Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha (Mar 20)

Proving on his last album that he can not only be a skillful violinist but a prolific songwriter and composer. Andrew Bird‘s latest follow up will continue on that path and hopefully I will finally get to see him live when he tours behind it this spring. Still not living down skipping out on seeing him and Sam Prekop in Chicago over Thanksgiving 2005. So it goes.

5) Radiohead — untitled seventh album (???)

When is this thing finally coming out? WHEEEEEEENNNNNNNNNNNNNNN??!!??! The heavily anticipated seventh album that people were expecting last year never came. But with last summer’s US tour roadtesting over a dozen new songs, all we can do is wait for them to finish formally recording it. Some of the tour favourites were “Arpreggi,” “Nude” and my personal favourite, the ethereal 70’s Mick Jagger-esque “House of Cards.” You can check in on their glacial process at the band’s official blog Dead Air Space or the all encompassing fan site Green Plastic.

Music fans can also expect new releases this year from The Shins, Arcade Fire, Bloc Party, the Sea and Cake, Wilco, Rufus Wainwright, Rilo Kiley, Interpol, Modest Mouse, Wolf Parade, the New Pornographers, Bright Eyes, Feist and so many many more. However half the fun every year is discovering that new artist coming completely out of left field. With all these great artists its shaping up to be a great year for music. What albums are you looking forward to in 2007? Respond in the comment thread or email us at albums2007@hellocomein.com

Best Albums of 2006

So here it is. The list. Well at least the list as it was cobbled together with twine, duct tape and ample amounts of chewing gum. I am pretty confident that these few were my favourite albums this year and while glancing over I realize there are few obscure picks here, it was a pretty great year for popular rock music overall.

If you read this and have comments or suggestions, or your own list feel free to add to this chain, or to send an email to bestmusic2006@hellocomein.com. So without further ado… read on.

Belle & Sebastian

10) Belle & Sebastian — The Life Pursuit
After hearing this album, it was apparant the recent staleness of the last few albums had subsided. The band sounds rejuvenated and trying new approaches to their Scottish chamber pop. Very few opening tracks stayed with me like this album’s “The Act of the Apostle Part 1.” A great catchy album worthy of road trip sing-a-long when you’re looking for that boost of energy.

9) Sparklehorse — Dreamt for Light Years In the Belly of a Mountain
This might the one questionable vanity pick I am championing higher than it probably deserves because I really love this the melancholy vibe so much. As a relative sequel to the previous It’s A Wonderful Life, not much is radically different, but that is not a bad thing. Nice to have Mark Linkous back to writing these darkly morose yet wonderfully warm, orchestrated dirges.

Regina Spektor
8) Regina Spektor — Begin to Hope
Probably one of the most perfectly constructed pop songs of the year is that of the lead track, “Fidelity.” The album is richly emotional and cinematic. Regina’s voice can be so sharp tounged and funny, with an adorable fragility underneathe. Add that to her dexterous piano arrangements and you have an album that is lovely and delicately fun.

Juana Molina
7) Juana Molina — Son
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that Molina was once a comedian on Argentinian television. But only because her free form songs are so lushly exotic and romantic. The surreal electronic swells and burbles border on experimental pop yet they compliment the intricate guitar work and seductive yet hushed voice. A perfect record for a quiet late night road trip. That is if you drive through the Midwest late at night and you like songs in Spanish sung by beautiful women.

Cat Power 6) Cat Power — The Greatest
As I look at this list more closely, it seems the albums that resonated the most are female singer songwriters. And this one by the fragile and often tormented Chan Marshall is a great example. There is something appealing about singers of this ilk (Fiona Apple for instance) because you feel like in some way you are strangely intruding on some painful personal experience. Yet the motifs they explore to exercise that pain are universally thematic. Marshall is backed by Al Green’s Memphis Rhythm Band on this soulful collection. Cat Power has never sounded better: strong, vibrant and perhaps a little less anxious.

M. Ward
5) M. Ward — Post War
Finally an album that is not only about the war (or at least a war) but a world afterwards. Matt Ward’s songs are filled with poignent vignettes and song structures that harken back to a long forgotten era of music. His attention to old song styles and mysterious melodies are further benefited by Ward’s gravelly husk of a voice and impressive guitar work.

Neko Case
4) Neko Case — Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
Further exploring her love for Southern country roots music, Case slinks and slides through this new collection of entrancing and engaging tunes. Case’s elegant voice is instilled with a beauty that is both cinematic and hard worn that make it easy to relate to such as the highlight track “Star Witness.”

3) Jenny Lewis — Rabbit Fur CoatJenny Lewis
While a fan of Lewis’ indie pop band Rilo Kiley, I always found some of the arrangements a bit straight forward. The songs I was drawn to were the more personal quiet moments that unfolded the more private moments. In her solo debut, Lewis has crafted a series of intimate songs that also tackle the bigger questions of love, religion and God. The music takes on a gospel country feel especially when joined by the equally lovely and transcendent Watson Twins whose backing vocals shimmer and emotionally swell underneathe each titular phrase. This is a nearly perfect character study and glimpse into Lewis’ mind and a great sign of music to come.

TV on the Radio
2) TV on the Radio — Return to Cookie Mountain
This was one of the most anticipated records of the year and yet for me, still lived up to the initial hype. It is by far the most interesting and unique sounds of the year. I have waxed on and on about this band all year in many forms so I am not sure what else to say about the futurist noise cluster of rock, hip hop, doowop and soul. The songs are not simply a collage of static-filled soundscapes. When you strip them down, the record proves to be a fully thought out collection of real pop songs. While I enjoyed the first album, this one will surely be difficult to top. There really is nothing else like it this year.

1) The Decemberists — The Crane WifeThe Decemberists
Upon first listen, I knew this would be an album that stayed with me the rest of the year. As soon as the chorus to “The Crane Wife 3” came in, the song was so instantly recognizeable and memorably catchy. I was already singing along as though I had heard it many times before. And for me, who has trouble hearing lyrics, that is saying something. The band has made the segue to major label success without any noticeable murmur or palpatation. One would expect them to make a quick and easy album that treads on the waters of the past, but that is not the case here. Colin Meloy and company have pushed the boundaries of their literary minstrel indie folk sing-a-longs by incorporating traces of prog rock and fusion that would give Jethro Tull or Yes a run for their money. Not only was this album stellar, but the band delivered one of the most memorable and unpretentiously fun nights of live music I can remember in a long time. When it comes down to it, The Decemberists have that perfect mix of superior songcraft and great showmanship. I eagerly anticipate this band’s next tour and next album. I know I’ll be there.

Mike’s SPECIAL BONUS!… albums that might have made my top ten but barely missed and deserve some attention and love (i.e. the runner-ups) in no particular order:

Bob Dylan — Modern Times
The Walkmen — Hundred Miles Off
Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton — Knives Don’t Have Your Back
Tilly & The Wall — Bottoms of Barrells
The Flaming Lips — At War with the Mystics
Camera Obscura — Let’s Get out of this Country
Beck — The Information
Thom Yorke — The Eraser
The Black Angels — Passover
Joanne Newsom — Ys

ten things about a built to spill concert…

okay then…
so i went to Built to Spill last night at the 930 Club …here is some reactions and observations:

1) opening band Camper Van Beethoven was painfully terrible. a bevvy of guitar wankery and overabundance of FORTE!!! rocking without dynamics. somehow the crowd seemed into this shite and apparantly this band has been a favourite of many since the mid eighties, but perhaps they should have faded away. (please people, don’t clap…it will just encourage them)

2) Camper reminded me of a bad jamband but without the melodies, directed solos and focused improvisation (ala Phish) and mostly without, um, LYRICS!?!! just think of a stage full of 4 guitarists strumming loudly in one key over and over and over and over into a godless eternity… i dont know why so many jambands get such a bad rap…especially when this shit is out there.

3) i briefly felt bad for them as they projected their own iMovie-made home video music video montages on a screen behind them, but really it was just a bunch of random clips found no doubt off youtube and compiled with their own badly shot band videos.

4) ugh…they could have played 8 less songs and i would have been thrilled.

5) between sets i ran into some other NPR types and while chatting it up i strangely got light headed and thought i was going to faint. for about 5minutes i was sweating heavily and dizzy. i went to bathroom and sat in stall for a bit until it passed. this could have been because a) i was tired and and had just drunk a beer too fast b) i saw a freshly raw tattoo on one of the NPR girl’s wrist …either way i was afraid i was going to have to bail out, but luckily i recovered. could it have been the opening band? the world will never know.

6) i might be more squemish to gore than i thought. i once got light headed like that in high school health class while watching a video about open brain surgery. weird.

Built to Spill have beards...lots and lots of beards7) maybe it was the juxtaposition of Built to Spill compared to the last band’s aural assault, but i thought this band was freaking good live. for years i hated or at least had a strong disliking for this band. their records always seemed so contrived and reminiscent of the OAR-type love fest, drunken pseudo jams that so many a college frat guy would listen to. but i think this band converted me with their live show.

8) Lead singer Doug Martsch’s voice and vocal melodies of their songs reminded me of Ben Gibbard (death cab) yet not as sweetly warm and romantic. they are more aggressive in that My Morning Jacket, Shout out Louds kind of way. Built to Spill have more of a southern rock improvisational style reminiscent of the Allman Brothers but don’t tell their fans because they might get upset that they listen to a jamband (!?!)

9) what is the story with all these bands having so many beards? i thought Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy) had enough facial hair to go around for all of rock and roll. then, maybe i’m just jealous of my inability at a real beard.

10) overall a nice surprise from a band that i had previously written off because a) i probably didn’t like them at the time b) probably associated them with people i didnt like at the time c) their albums kind of suck, at least compared to this show…i almost felt guilty for liking it after years of haterism. not the best concert in the world, but pretty good generally and worth checking out.

tonight’s show is being webcast on NPR.

hello.shuffle (part five of five)

Here is the last part of our shuffle…

Mike’s Songs

5) ‘Alice Childress’ by Ben Folds Five (Ben Folds Five)

This was one of my favourite songs in high school back when Ben Folds was fresh and full of energy. I think over the years he has forgotten how to rock. Great songwriter, but needs his band back to light a fire under his ass a bit.
Greg’s Songs

i have this same midi controller!5) ‘No Love’ by Dinky (Carpark records sampler)

Decent electronic dancy song. Not really in the mood for this right now. I think I will go back to Takk…

Aryn’s Songs

5) ‘Jazz Crimes’ by Joshua Redman (Elastic)

Great band. I haven’t listened to this one is quite awhile. Very tight rhythm section, awesome syncopations and a fantastic flow to the music. These guys have played together quite a bit and you can really hear it in the music. I like the “gimmick” that is the octavizer pedal with the saxes… very effective. I enjoy the solo work of the keyboardist Sam Yahel on this record, but on the next one it has that same sound, which when returned to doesn’t quite hold up. But this one… fantastic.

Hope you enjoyed this feature… I find it pretty cool to see what comes up; good or bad. Let us know what you think here on the blog or athelloshuffle@hellocomein.com.

hello.shuffle (part four of five)

The penultimate chapter in our ongoing hello.shuffle saga…

Mike’s Songs

4) ‘Loving Cup’ by The Rolling Stones (Exile on Main Street)

I grew up always listening to the 1960s Rolling Stones stuff from my dad’s record collection and I think I liked them because they sounded like the Beatles. I dont even think I realized at that time that the old geezers in leather on tv were the same band. It wasnt until later that I got into the amazing 1970s albums like Exile on Main Street and Sticky Fingers when my uncle bought them for me. I think asked for Exile first because it had THIS song on it which was a constant staple of Phish in concert. I figured if Phish played it, it must be a great song. Its amazing actually.

Greg’s Songs

4) ‘Give It Away’ by Zero 7 (Simple Things)

Hah! How ironic, after just mentioning them above. I like Zero 7 for the most part, and there are moments when Zero 7 is perfect (like when you are Zach Braff trying to figure out your life). But, they seem to be lacking something. Few of their songs are that distinctive… so they often sound better in mixes with contrasting songs than within the album they come from. Perhaps over reliance on Fender Rhodes, string chords, soul beats, etc. I remember first seeing Zero 7 on the late late show in high school and was blown away. it was before Google, and I knew the band was zero-something. It took me roughly a year before I figure out who it was.

Aryn’s Songs

4) ‘What Is The Light?’ by The Flaming Lips (The Soft Bulletin)

I just finished their biography. Good book, its nice to read about a band that works their asses off and eventually have it pay off. Uplifting tune– you can hear hints of what is to come in this one, kind of a more radio sounding song, might be neat to hear live though.

Back tomorrow for the last installment. If you have any comments or suggestions of your own shuffled music, feel free to drop them here or at helloshuffle@hellocomein.com.

hello.shuffle (part three of five)

We continue on with part three of our hello.shuffle…

Mike’s Songs

3) ‘We Wont Just Be Deflated’ by The Go! Team (Thunder, Lightning, Strike)

I imagine this is what would happen if you went to a music buffet, ate a bunch of old hip hop, blaxploitation soul and funk, 70s action theme songs, surfer rock and kids playground rock records and pooped out the most perfect golden nugget. This record is great fun party music.

Greg’s Songs

3) ‘Se Lest’ by Sigur Ros (Takk…)

Ahhhhhhhh….. I love this album so much. I think it is their best. The songs are really listenable in comparison to the previous albums (which I also love so much). This song is perfect for the setting right now- late night, in bed, roomate out of town, really quiet and dark. I think Sigur Ros is really inspiring- with the sweeping crescendos, huge endings. [Im about halfway through this song now… oh yes!! i love this change. this vibraphone melody is going to be ringing in my head as i fall asleep. i wish it would have come up last because i would have finished the email right now, turned off my bed lamp and fallen asleep to it. brass band, synth tremelos. bass drum- cymbals.] And the repetetive, building nature of the music seems to me to be very much inspired by film score music. Im suprised you dont hear more of their stuff in movies or commercials.

Aryn’s Songs

3) ‘Blown A Wish’ by My Bloody Valentine (Loveless)

Another band that I don’t frequent, I feel like their sound gets tiresome after a few tracks, Its a nice sonic scape they create, but maybe not quite diverse enough to fill albums worth of material. Worthy for some of those key cinematic moments though. you know.. the ones in movies.

comeback again tomorrow for part four…If you have any comments or suggestions of your own shuffled music, feel free to drop them here or at helloshuffle@hellocomein.com.

hello.shuffle (part two of five)

Welcome back for part two…

Mike’s Songs

2) ‘Black Cadillacs’ by Modest Mouse (Good News For People Who Love Bad News)

Wow…havent listened to this band for awhile. Issac Brock is an amazing lyricist and pop song writer and I think this song is a perfect mix of his skills in melody and his noise freak rock-out tendencies. I listened to this record a lot when I was walking the streets in Berlin. I especially loved the song ‘The Good Times Are Killing Me.’

Greg’s Songs

2) ‘Nr. 9’ by Hooverphonic (A New Sterophonic Sound Spectacular)

This band is pretty decent- I know nothing about them to be honest. A couple of tracks on this album sound straight off of a Portishead album. This one is great- another track I havent really noticed before. Some of their stuff is a little too chill-ala-zero-7-ish. But this track is driving, open high hat rock. I like. Good whispy female voice.

Aryn’s Songs

2) ‘Youth Worshipper’ by The Church (Heyday)

This is one of the Ross tracks that I acquired. Typical 80’s sound, heroic vocals, nice synth pads, orchestrated hits. This one seems a little over produced to keep that edge that they may or may not have been going for. Amusing to say the least.

Come back tomorrow for part three… Feel free to email us at helloshuffle@hellocomein.com or leave comments here if you like. We would like to hear what you think or provide your own playlist.

hello.shuffle (part one of five)

Welcome to the first part in our hello.shuffle.

Mike’s Songs

1) ‘I Bellieve in Symmetry’ by Bright Eyes (Digital Ash in a Digital Urn)

I read over and over that this guy (Conor Oberst) is the next Bob Dylan of our generation. But then, isn’t EVERYONE dubbed that at somepoint? I want to like him and I have a few of his records, and I generally do like him. But his voice, after awhile seems to grow on my nerves. I normally cannot listen to a full record by him, but this is a pretty good pop song though; he certainly knows what he is doing.

Greg’s Songs

1) ‘Anticipation’ by Blonde Redhead (Misery is a Butterfly)

I really like Blonde Redhead- although this song seems to have slipped by me before. There’s a select few songs I listen to on this album usually (Magic Mountain in my favorite)…usually I cue them up when I feel like listening to Interpol but dont want to listen to Interpol. Whenever I listen to Blonde Redhead, I am reminded of how frustrating it is to discover a band a week after they come to town. sigh.

Aryn’s Songs

1) ‘Fidelity’ by Regina Spektor (Begin to Hope)

I have just recently heard of her, maybe in the last few months or so. But a great voice, and very precise vocal punches in this track. Definitely a great way to kick off an album… and maybe the best track on it.

Stay tuned…part two tomorrow. Feel free to email us at helloshuffle@hellocomein.com or leave comments here if you like. We would like to hear what you think or provide your own playlist.