Monday, March 26, 2007

Year in Music 2006 - Part II

Just Missed the Cut

Arctic Monkeys – “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not“ (Domino). It seems like this album came out so long ago that it was a 2005 release. But, it actually was released in the States in January 2006. It took awhile to grow on me and still didn’t really find my sweet spot. If this had come out like 4-5 years ago, it probably would have been one of my favorite albums. But now there are so many bands doing the same kind of thing that the Arctic Monkeys just don’t stand out all that much to me. I give them credit for kind of doing an end-run around the music industry and becoming a Myspace hit and then using that marketing to sell a boatload of albums. But musically, there’s nothing really groundbreaking as you can hear a lot of the Strokes and Franz Ferdinand here with a little old school 70’s punk flavor. It’s a pretty good album and flows well together. But at times it almost feels like you are listening to one long 40-minute song, rather than an entire album, since so many of the songs sound alike. “Mardy Bum”, “Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secure”, “I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor”, “Fake Tales of San Francisco”, and “When the Sun Goes Down“ are my favorites.

Cordalene – “The Star Ledger” (Dalloway). I picked up this CD in December. I had started listening to some older Cordalene when I was ripping my CD collection to my iPod and decided to search around to see if Bella Vista resident Mike Kiley and his band had done anything new recently and I stumbled across this. Cordalene’s music has always been pretty hard to categorize. If you were asked to describe their sound to someone, although it’s familiar, I’d still have a hard time nailing what bands they sound like. They mix their influences very well together without leaning too far in any one direction. Kiley has great pop sensibilities and bass player Jim McGuinn (former Y-100 Program Director, current host of Y-Rock on WXPN) has an encyclopedic knowledge of pop/rock music of the last 40+ years – everything from the Beatles to the most obscure garage band.

This album pretty much goes the same way. They still blend 70’s punk with 60’s pop/rock in a very effective way. As with their stellar EPs, the biggest criticism of this album is that it’s just too damn short, although the last 3 songs all tend to drag on a little bit longer than usual. You hear vintage Weezer at times and some contemporary alt/rock bands like Death Cab For Cutie, but you also hear songs reminiscent of the Modern Lovers and the Jam of vintage 70’s punk/new wave, and just great melodic pop/rock songs of the British Invasion. The standout tracks are “Kissed Awake”, “The Lightning Song”, “The Most Earth Shattered in a Single Day”, “If You Didn’t Love Me”, “The Last Break Up Song I Write”, and “You Become So Bright.” It’s a good listen all the way through.

The Long Winters – “Putting the Days to Bed” (Barsuk). The Long Winters’ frontman and principal songwriter, John Roderick, has been compared to Michael Stipe. And I think it’s a fairly apt description. A Long Winters album is really more or less Roderick playing many instruments backed by a different cast of musicians on nearly every song. Members of Death Cab for Cutie, Sunny Day Real Estate, REM, the Posies, and Built to Spill have backed him on previous releases. And on this album he once again gets help from Chris Walla of Death Cab, Chris Funk from the Decemberists, and Kurt Bloch of the Fastbacks among others. Pretty much any like-minded musicians who make their home in the Seattle-area have contributed to Roderick’s albums. It’s only 11 tracks with no filler, so it’s a great listen from start to finish with great harmonies and melodies. “Pushover”, “Hindsight”, “Teaspoon”, “Sky Is Open”, “Seven”, “Rich Wife”, and “Ultimatum” are some of the best pop/rock songs you’ll hear all year.

Loose Fur – Born Again in the USA (Drag City). This is the 2nd release of the Wilco side project featuring the trio of Jeff Tweedy and drummer Glen Kotche from Wilco and bassist/multi-instrumentalist Jim O’Rourke. Besides playing bass in Sonic Youth for a short stint, O’Rourke is probably most famously known for being the noise-rock maven producer who many feel was responsible for influencing Wilco’s experimental classic Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. This album was a big improvement over their first self-titled record, which amounted to an extended EP. It was nearly 40 minutes long, but consisted of only 7 songs. And a few of those songs felt more like “ideas”, rather than songs. This is 10 songs with no filler and only one song on here is longer than 5 minutes – the meandering YHF-esque “Wreckroom.”

The album has a cynical religious flavor to it, hence the album title. And even some of the track titles reveal sardonic takes on that. The Jeff Tweedy songs are actually very good and not the b-side level material you would expect on a side project. And the Jim O’Rourke songs are pretty good too. “Hey Chicken”, “The Ruling Class”, “Apostolic”, “Thou Shall Wilt”, “Answers to Your Questions”, and “Stupid As the Sun” are the best cuts on here.

Rhett Miller – “The Believer“ (Verve). This is Miller’s 2nd solo release since Old 97’s started (he had two pre-97’s solo releases in the early late 80’s/early 90’s). And it took awhile for this to grow on me. 2002’s The Instigator just seemed head and shoulders above this at first, mainly because the highs were so much higher. But this was still a good release, even though 2 of the 12 songs were older – “Singular Girl” was a b-side/import bonus track from the Old 97’s Satellite Rides and “Question” appeared on the same album in pretty much the same style. Both are good songs, but unfortunately they are old news to me. I guess I just didn’t see the reason for Rhett to rush a new solo album, when it appears it didn’t have as many quality songs as his previous one. And it’s not like there is material that he is unable to find an outlet for in the Old 97’s. Ex-Jayhawks frontman Gary Louris appears on nearly every song on this, providing mostly background vocals and harmonies, along with guitar work on a few songs. Anyway, “My Valentine”, “Meteor Shower”, “I’m With Her”, “Delicate”, and the title track are the best songs. And a folky duet with Rachael Yamagata called “Fireflies” is surprisingly catchy.

The Rewinds – “S/T” (Livewire). I discovered this band through the recommendations page on Amazon. So I read a little about them and sampled tracks from the album and decided to check them out. They hail from Birmingham, AL, so their alt/rock sound has traces of twang in it, but also with the jangly guitars that were always a calling card of early R.E.M. I hear Superchunk, the Kinks, R.E.M, the Minus 5, and Crowded House in their music. It’s just a really good pop/rock record with no bad tracks. My favorites are “New Shade of Red”, “Something Else”, “Ghostriders”, “Killing Me”, “Sentimental Flow”, “It’s Not the End”, and “See You in the Underground.”

Saves the Day – “Sound the Alarm“ (Vagrant). After Saves the Day’s breakthrough album in 2001, Stay What You Are, they followed that up with the mildly disappointing In Reverie on the Dreamworks label in 2004. It had its moments, but it wasn’t as good as SWYA. The weird thing is they seemed to sound more Indie on the major label than they did on Vagrant. And now that they are back on Vagrant, I actually think this new record harkens back even more to their first two records – Can’t Slow Down and Through Being Cool from 1997 and 1999, respectively. Chris Conley’s voice seems to be even more of an acquired taste than before. But if you don’t mind the voice, there’s a lot to like here. Fans of the band’s sound from SWYA will like some songs on here, but generally it’s a little rougher. The biggest difference between SWYA and their last 2 albums is the lack of memorable songs. The highs on SWYA were a lot higher compared to the alst two records. “Head for the Hills”, “Eulogy”, “34”, “Delusional”, and “Don’t Know Why” capture the band at its best on Sound the Alarm. And there aren’t many tracks you’d skip on here. Overall, I was surprised at how much I liked it, compared to In Reverie.

Sonic Youth – “Rather Ripped“ (Geffen). I really liked this album when I first got it. But my interest in it faded by the end of the summer. Now that I started listening to it again fresh for the first time in a while, I really like it much more. Much like with Mudhoney, is it crazy to suggest that this is one of Sonic Youth’s best records ever, at this late date? Or do I just like this better because its songs are catchier and without too many extended instrumental jams? It’s hard to say. It continues where the shorter songs on Murray St. left off. “Do You Believe in Rapture?” reminds me a little of the Velvet Underground and it’s a pretty inciteful political track too. “…Rapture”, “Reena”, “Incinerate”, “Sleepin’ Around”, “What a Waste”, “Jams Run Free”, “The Neutral”, and “Lights Out” have to be as good as anything they’ve done in a while – at least in the last 15 years or so.

Top 20 Albums of 2006

20. The Black Keys – “Magic Potion” (Nonesuch). They have jumped labels from Fat Possum to Nonesuch. Both labels cater to bluesy, Americana artists, so it shouldn’t change much about their music or how they are marketed, although Nonesuch does have a more eclectic roster of artists. The nuts and bolts of what they do remain the same. They just seem to do it better now. In some ways the Black Keys seem like a more authentic blues band than their peers the White Stripes. But the White Stripes are definitely the more experimental and challenging of the two bands, with seemingly more of a spectrum of influences. Still, although this is a tad disappointing compared to Rubber Factory, I’d still rate it pretty high. I’d put these Dan Auerbach riffs up with any from their previous albums. “Your Touch”, “You’re the One”, “Just a Little Heat”, “Modern Times”, “Elevator”, “The Flame”, “Give Your Heart Away”, and “Strange Desire” all stand up well compared to their previous work. Not too many people today do what they do as well or better.

19. Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Stadium Arcadium“ (Warner Bros). It took me a while to get into this album. I guess I just saw the 2-discs and 28 songs and running time of about 2 hours and felt that it was too long of a slog to really get into it. So I’d listen in bits and pieces and grew to like it over time. It’s just hard to listen to 28 consecutive songs by anyone, so I can’t really offer an opinion with any degree of certainty about how it flows. And the lead single “Dani California” didn’t really do that much for me. I do find myself liking the album better with every listen though. This collection sounds like a more expansive version of 1999’s Californication. My favorite tracks are “Snow (Hey Oh)”, Slow Cheetah”, “Torture Me”, “Especially in Michigan”, “C’mon Girl”, “Desecration Smile”, “Tell Me Baby”, “Make You Feel Better”, “So Much I”, and “Death of a Martian.” Overall, I like it a lot. But I just think it suffers a little bit from just having so many songs on it. At 28 tracks, they tend to repeat themselves a little with a few too many songs that sound alike. It might have worked better as one huge 18-song release.

18. You Am I – “Convicts” (EMI). This is You Am I’s 7th full-length studio album and somehow this band remains as strong as ever. After 7 albums and over 17 years together, this hard-rocking Aussie trio is still making great music. They’ve been one of the most underappreciated bands in the world over the last 15 years, even though they’ve always been loved in their homeland, with several #1 albums, and a string of platinum albums. But I thought there was a little drop off with their last 3 releases. Of that bunch, only Dress Me Slowly is really stellar, while #4 Record and Deliverance were lacking. But after listening to their catalog again recently, I’d say that was just a minor downturn. Convicts ranks up with their best releases (Hi Fi Way, Hourly Daily, Sound as Ever, and Dress Me Slowly). And the title pays tribute to who founded their motherland – the convicts from England. They’ve always been the great sum of their influences – The Who, the Kinks, the Replacements, and the Clash. And that doesn’t change on here. This is a short, sharp collection of songs averaging about 3 minutes a pop. The highlights are “Thuggery”, “Thank God I’ve Hit the Bottom”, “Friends Like You”, “The Sweet Life”, “Explaining Cricket”, “Secrets”, and “It Ain’t Funny How We Don’t Talk Anymore.” But really all 12 tracks are good. You won’t be hitting the skip button. You’d think this was a band in their early 20’s releasing an edgy debut album. Instead, it’s just great garage rock at its finest by a trio in their late 30’s.

17. Cracker – Greenland (Cooking Vinyl). I heard some advance reviews of this album, calling it the best album by Cracker since 1993’s Kerosene Hat. And I liked a lot of the tracks on subsequent releases like The Golden Age and Gentlemen’s Blues, but I would tend to agree that this is the strongest album front to back since Kerosene Hat. It gets better and better every time I listen to it. Former Whiskeytown member and Ryan Adams cohort Caitlin Cary guests on a few songs, giving them more of a pop/twangy feel. And long time guitarist Johnny Hickman does a great job on here. “Something You Ain’t Got”, “Where Have Those Days Gone”, “The Riverside”, “Gimme One More Chance”, “I Need Better Friends”, and “Everyone Gets One For Free” are the best of a strong set without any filler.

16. The Minus 5 – “The Minus 5 (Gun album)” (Yep Roc). This outfit started out as a side project for Young Fresh Fellows’ Scott McCaughey. And now it’s evolved into a full time project with a lot of guests on each release. Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer from the Posies and Peter Buck from R.E.M. appear on almost every release. And the last album, 2003’s Down With Wilco, McCaughey obviously had Wilco backing him. Members of Wilco appear on a few songs here as well. McCaughey’s voice and pop/rock sensibilities have always drawn apt comparisons to Alex Chilton, George Harrison, and Tom Petty. I’m just amazed that McCaughey hasn’t gotten more notoriety as a major songwriting talent over the years. Really up until the attention he has gotten the last few years, the most I know about him is that he and the rest of the YFFs played at Paul Westerberg’s first wedding in the late 80’s.

There isn’t a bad tune on here. “Cigarettes Coffee and Booze” has a twangy alt/country feel to it. “Rifle Called Goodbye”, “Out There on the Maroon”, “Twilight Distillery”, “Bought a Rope”, and“Cemetary Row” are great pop/rock songs. “Aw Shit Man” wouldn’t sound out of place on a Sebadoh album. “Leftover Lilfe to Kill” and “Hotel Senator” are two of the Jeff Tweedy collaborations. For fans of any of the aforementioned groups and styles, this record is highly recommended.

15. Mudhoney – “Under a Billion Suns“ (Sub Pop). When I first listened to this album, I thought ‘Am I crazy or is this one of the best things Mudhoney has ever released?’ It really took me by surprise, inspite of the nearly universal good reviews it received. It’s definitely their best since My Brother the Cow. And amazingly, the group who penned such songs as “Suck You Dry”, “Touch Me I’m Sick” and “You Got It (Keep It Out of My Face)” now seems to have a pretty heavy socio-political conscience. They raise questions in songs like “Empty Shells” and “Where Is the Future?” questioning the emptiness of the culture and the lack of accomplishments of their generation. And when you wonder where they are going with this, they point the finger directly in the mirror and outward with “It Is Us.” And “Hard-On for War” pretty much sums up their feelings about the Iraq endeavor and the “horny old men with a hard-on for war.” “I Saw the Light”, “Let’s Drop In”, “Endless Yesterday”, “On the Move”, and “Blindspots” sound like vintage Mudhoney with their heavy Stooges and Animals influences, augmented by horns and keyboards at times. And Mark Arm’s voice may have never been better. It’s hard to notice any difference between Arm in 2006 and Arm in 1991. This does not sound like a group who will soon be entering their 20th year together. It was definitely one of the most spun discs for me this past summer.

14. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins – “Rabbit Fur Coat” (Team Love). Early last year I was just discovering Rilo Kiley and digging their 3 albums, when I read about Jenny Lewis going solo. You can definitely hear the difference. This album draws more on Lewis’ folk and country influences, than the pop/rock of Rilo Kiley’s last two albums. It’s probably most similar to Rilo’s debut album. And with quieter and more subtle music backing her on this, she really gets to showcase her versatile voice. She recorded this with the Kentucky duo the Watson Twins. And they helped add great country/bluegrass harmonies. And some other guests include Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes and Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie.

For the first part of 2006, this album was an early favorite to be my top album of the year. It fell out of favor with me a little bit, but still holds up well. This album is sort of part of a trilogy of 2006 rootsy white-soul albums by female artists, along with Cat Power’s The Greatest and Neko Case’s Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. This is definitely a record that gets better on subsequent listens. The highlights are “The Big Guns”, “Rise Up With Fists”, “Happy”, “The Charging Sky”, “Melt Your Heart”, the title track, and a solid cover of the Traveling Wilbury’s “Handle With Care” with guests like Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) and Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie) sharing the vocals. And for fans of Lewis and Rilo Kiley, news got even better during the summer when word got out that she was back with the rest of Rilo Kiley working on their next album. I guess this is going to be a Rhett Miller/Old 97’s kind of thing with her, where she will do her solo thing and band thing at the same time.

13. The Raconteurs – “Broken Boy Soldiers” (V2/Third Man). I kind of dismissed this album when I first got it. Then after about a month or two it just clicked with me. I guess I went into it with a negative bias, thinking of it as a “side project”, figuring we’d be getting b-side type material here. But meanwhile, this is actually a pretty solid band and not just a bloated side project for these gents. And it’s nice to hear Jack White play guitar in a full band setting for a change with a bass player and another guitar player. I just hope this doesn’t mean that the White Stripes are going to continue going in the direction they were with Get Behind Me Satan. I hope White saved some more of this quality rocking material for the next White Stripes album. “Steady As She Goes”, “Hands”, “Broken Boy Soldier” are a great way to start the album. The acoustic-y tracks on here like “Intimate Secretary” and “Call It a Day” are very reminiscent of Led Zeppelin or the Faces. It was a pretty good debut and I have a feeling they’ll be reuniting to continue this side project in the future.

12. The Hold Steady – “Boys and Girls In America” (Vagrant). There’s something about the Hold Steady when you first hear them that doesn’t quite fit. The combination of the singer Craig Finn’s voice with this particular style of music sounds a little odd at first. But the more you listen the more it seems to fit them somehow. He sounds a little like 1970’s Bruce Springsteen and that combined with the kind of music they play, reminds you of Marah or Drive-By Truckers at times. And after many listens the band I think they most closely compare to from recent years is the much-underappreciated now-defunct Slobberbone (now with 60% of the members in a new band called The Drams…see previously), especially on their up tempo songs. The songs have tons of hooks in them. And there are some guitar solos. Then I’m thinking it’s kind of rootsy and punky at the same time. So it’s very appropriate that none other than Dave Pirner shares guest vocals on “Chillout Tent.” Other than maybe David Lowery, not too many others have done the rootsy/punky combo better than Pirner over the last few decades. I’ve really taking a liking to it. This has probably been my most played CD the last few months.

This is another CD without a really bad song on it. My favorite songs are “Stuck Between Stations”, “Chips Ahoy!”, “Hot Soft Light”, “First Night”, “You Can Make Him Like You”, “Chillout Tent”, and “Southtown Girls.” In reading the stories about the Hold Steady over the past 6 months or so, it seems that quite a few critics and industry insiders are hanging their hopes on this band (and some others who I don’t think will ever reach that status – Fall Out Boy, The Arcade Fire, etc) to be the Pearl Jam or Springsteen or U2 of this generation. That is, the cool crossover band that could sell out arenas and many millions of albums and have their music enjoyed by at least two different generations, as well as respected by critics and indie snobs. I think I read the same kind of stories about Dashboard Confessional about 4-5 years ago. That’s a lot of pressure for young bands. And I don’t think any of this generation of bands will be able to accomplish that in a such splintered market place. But this album is very good and I’ll have to start checking out their previous work in the coming months and get ready for their next release.

11. Drive-By Truckers – “A Blessing and a Curse” (New West). I didn’t realize the Truckers have been around since 1997. But from what I’ve read it sounds like they’ve made a smooth transition from alt/country gimmick band to just a really good hard rock band, period. I had just gotten done reading a great review of this record and a few days later I happened to catch a song on WXPN and I bought the album the next week. A Blessing and a Curse sounds like vintage Lynyrd Skynyrd (with the 3 guitar players) combined with the Rolling Stones of the early 70’s. It definitely has the feel of a “live recording” and according to the press releases all of these songs were written in the studio and recorded in very few takes, giving it that sense of urgency. The result is a tight 11-track album with no filler. The highlights are “Feb 14”, “Gravity’s Gone”, “Easy on Yourself”, “Aftermath USA”, “Goodbye”, “Daylight”, and the title track. But almost all of them are pretty good. This record was definitely one of the most pleasant surprises of the year for me. The only downer for me was that I missed their set opening for the Black Crowes in July.

10. Cat Power – “The Greatest” (Matador). Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) has been at this for over 10 years now. I heard a song of hers on a compilation album about 4-5 years ago and kind of dismissed her as being, well, a little weird. Then in 2003 her latest release received some hype because of guest appearances by Eddie Vedder and Dave Grohl. It was well-received, but I still didn’t give it a chance. Finally, after reading some great reviews of The Greatest, I sampled some tracks and went out and bought it and it was surprisingly good. It was made as sort of a homage to southern soul and pop songs from the 60’s. And she is backed by cast of legendary Memphis soul musicians on this. When you think of southern soul and pop, it also encompasses gospel, blues, and country. It’s just part of the broth of the soup that makes up that sound. And she did a great job of bringing it all out on here. One reviewer called this “the most listenable album she has ever made”, and I agree. I actually think her piano-based songs on here are the strengths, but it’s all good. The title track, “Living Proof”, “Where Is My Love”, “The Moon”, “Lived in Bars”, “Islands”, and “Love & Communication” are my favorites. It all flows well together though, so there aren’t many clunkers.

9. Built to Spill – “You In Reverse (Warner Bros). I took a crash course in Built to Spill 101 last spring before their scheduled shows at the Trocadero (which were eventually rescheduled). This is only Built to Spill’s 6th full-length studio album in their 15+ year existence, so I was able to catch up quickly. There’s something about Built to Spill that reminds me of vintage R.E.M., at least on their slower songs. But overall they have many more jams and guitar solos – ala Sonic Youth or Pavement or even old Dinosaur Jr.. The opening track runs nearly 9 minutes. And it probably wasn’t until about the 15th listen before I fully appreciated “Goin’ Against Your Mind.” It’s a definite highlight on the album. And “Wherever You Go” rocks like vintage Neil Young. Other favorites include “Liar”, “Conventional Wisdom”, “The Wait”, “Gone”, and “Just a Habit.” All of the tracks are stellar, though. Many reviewers regarded this as one of Built to Spill’s finest, if not the best, albums to date. And I can’t really argue with that assessment.

8. The Subways – “Young For Eternity” (Sire/Reprise). I picked up this album after downloading “Rock & Roll Queen” after hearing it in an episode of Rescue Me. And it crept up pretty high in my list of albums this year. The band formed in 2002 in England when the trio was still in their teens. And the list of influences includes AC/DC, T Rex, Nirvana, the Pixies, Oasis, the Ramones, Mudhoney, and the Sex Pistols, among others – a veritable who’s who of punk/alternative music from the last few decades. So it’s kind of a fine line between honoring the influences and being contrived copycats. But then again pretty much every recent rock band sounds like some mixture of those influences, so how would you be able to tell?

It is sort of a more catchy version of what the Arctic Monkeys, Art Brut, JET, and others have done the last few years. It was just a great listen for me all the way through. Along with, “Rock & Roll Queen”, “I Want to Hear What You Have Got To Say”, “Holiday”, “Mary”, “Oh Yeah”, “With You”, “She Sun”, and “Somewhere” are all extremely catchy pop/punk/neo-garage rock styled songs. The album lags a bit at times with a few slower songs. But it’s hard to complain.

7. The Living End – “State of Emergency” (Adelina). I heard the Living End described as the world’s most popular punkabilly band and that description fits pretty well. Try to imagine a combination of the best parts of the Clash, Green Day, AC/DC, and the Stray Cats and that’s what you have. They’ve been a platinum-selling act in Australia since the late 90’s, but they first garnered notice in the States with their minor alt/rock radio hit “Roll On” in 2001 (also featured in a beer ad). This album is their strong follow-up to the disappointing ’04 release Modern Artillery. It debuted at #1 in Australia, but its release was delayed in the States due to distribution issues. Finally, the label that Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong co-owns, Adelina, released it in the summer. Seeing them play live, I have a newfound admiration for singer/guitarist Chris Cheney. His guitar solos were amazing. The 4 singles they released in Australia were “What’s On Your Radio?”, “Nothing Lasts Forever”, “Long Live the Weekend”, and “Wake Up.” They were 4 excellent choices, as they are probably the 4 best songs on the record. But some others like “We Want More”, “’Til the End”, “Reborn”, “No Way Out”, “One Step Behind”, “Into the Red”, and the reggae-tinged “Nowhere Town” are pretty close. Overall, it was a stand out record for me in ’06.

6. The Strokes – “First Impressions of Earth“ (RCA). This album came out in early January ’06, probably the worst time of year for a high profile release. Usually any CD or movie that is released in January is considered something that was a stinker and the label or studio didn’t want to waste any money promoting it during the holiday rush. I’m surprised the label didn’t hold this until at least March, considering it had to be regarded as one of their highest profile releases of the year.

It took several listens to really appreciate this album. Many of the songs cover familiar territory and you will enjoy it if you are a fan of the previous Strokes albums. And while those songs are good, there are also a few new wrinkles. And I find the more I listen to this album the more I like it. It’s still pretty fresh for me, unlike Room on Fire, which I recall tiring of in my regular rotation within about 6 months after it was released. I just listened to First Impressions again recently and still enjoyed it immensely.

There’s not a bad track on here, in spite of having 14 tracks, which set off “filler” alarm bells for me. “You Only Live Once”, “Juicebox”, “Heart in a Cage”, “Elecrtricityscape”, “Fear of Sleep”, “15 Minutes”, and “Ize of the World” are the familiar sounding tracks that kick off the album. “Razorblade”, “On the Other Side”, “Ask Me Anything”, “Killing Lies” are a little different. Some tracks have more of a reggae/ska influence. And others have choruses that wouldn’t feel out of place on a U2 album. Overall, it was a worthwhile addition to the Strokes catalogue and one of the best records of 2006.

5. Soul Asylum – “Silver Lining“ (Sony). This was a long-awaited album for me. I’ve been reading about a new Soul Asylum for several years and it kept getting postponed, partially due to the deteriorating health of the late bassist Karl Mueller. Mueller passed away during the recording of this album from throat cancer. He plays on about half of the songs. And producer John Fields handles bass on most of the others with Tommy Stinson filling in on a few songs. Stinson also played some live shows with them. And the drummer is Michael Bland – Paul Westerberg’s touring drummer these days. So it has a very incestuous Minneapolitan feel to it…back to the roots, with singer/guitarist Dave Pirner relocating back to the Twin Cities from New Orleans a few years ago. But the principles still remain – Pirner and guitarist Dan Murphy.

The album has a very socially-conscious, “living in war time” feel to it. The first three songs are all very good and are all about the times we live in – “Stand Up and Be Strong”, “Lately”, and “Crazy Mixed Up World.” “Lately” just might be the catchiest anti-war song ever written. And its subtlety is refreshing, showing war from the side of the solider that must leave his family to go fight and how he deals with and readjusts after he returns home from the war. And this album rocks like late 80’s/early 90’s Soul Asylum. There are still a few twangy songs and ballads on here, but it’s definitely a guitar-based album. But even the slower songs have a very groovable danceable feel to them, reminiscent of their “Sexual Healing” cover from the early 90’s. “All Is Well”, “Bus Named Desire”, “Whatcha Need”, “Success Is Not So Sweet”, and “Oxygen” are the best of the rest. And the album closes with a hidden untitled track. It’s actually an updated version of a b-side of “Misery” circa 1995 called “Fearless Leader” – another political song.

The more I listen to this album, the more I like it. There’s really not a bad track on here. “Standing Water” is my least favorite track on it since it sounds like mellower re-write of “Misery.” But it’s passable. I’d rank it as Soul Asylum’s best since Grave Dancers Union. And that’s no small consolation, since for awhile I thought their somewhat poorly-received GDU follow-up Let Your Dim Light Shine was the better of the two records. And it’s a worthy entry into their long, distinguished catalog, right next to the aforementioned GDU, And the Horse They Rode In On, and Hang Time.

4. The Lemonheads – “Lemonheads” (Vagrant). Sometime in 2005, Evan Dando started using this monicker again. Unfortunately, it contains none of the original members of the Lemonheads other than Dando. But they are a band in the truest sense and not just Dando and studio musicians. This consists of Dando and the rhythm section of the seminal 80’s punk band the Descendents – bassist Karl Alvarez and drummer Bill Stevenson. There are some other guest appearances on the record – most notably Dinosaur Jr guitarist/singer J Mascis who wails away on lead guitar on 2 songs.

And it doesn’t hurt that this is arguably the finest collection of songs Dando has released at one time since 1993’s Come on Feel the Lemonheads, even though the sound of the album is actually more akin to some of their pre-It’s a Shame About Ray material. “Pittsburgh”, “Become the Enemy”, “Poughkeepsie”, “No Backbone”, “In Passing”, and “Steve’s Boy” are my favorite tracks on the album. “December” and “Black Gown” are pretty good too. “Let’s Just Laugh” is a rare political song from Dando. It’s an anti-Bush song, but the theme is that we’re really powerless to do anything about him now, but he’s only got two more years left in office – “Two more years to go \Then you’re supposed to know \How to get back home \Someplace near Waco…..Let’s just laugh \We can never do anything about anything, anyway \Whatever will be, I guess we'll see \So let’s just laugh.” Overall, it was one of the finest releases of 2006, capped off by seeing a drunken trainwreck-in-a-good-way Dando performance at the North Star in December.

3. The Capitol Years – “Dance Away the Terror” (Park the Van). After a disappointing release in 2005 with Let Them Drink, I wasn’t expecting much from them on this. But it blew me away on the first listen. The songs are just so much better than their previous release, even though sonically they remain pretty much the same. It is steeped in 60’s and early 70’s rock – British Invasion, early punk, and even some Dylan-esque folk, but with a Jeff Lynne or Pet Sounds-esque Wall of Sound type of production. The up tempo songs remind me very much of Wilco’s Summerteeth. Yet inspite of the many influences, this album has great flow and it took me dozens of listens before I even identified what my favorite songs were. It’s just like one big party of music. And this album will get you up dancing, as the title suggests. The title was singer/songwriter Shai Halperin’s quaint notion on how to get through these times. Halperin has been an outspoken critic of the current administration over the years and this album almost seems like a therapeutic way of dealing with it. The title track appears on here twice – in slightly different forms – the 2nd time as a reprise. The first time it’s piano-based and the 2nd time it chugs along like a CCR or ELO song.

And Shai gets off some pretty good lines in these songs, like the following:

“I feel like 2000 and every year since has just blown / On the phone/ No one is laughing and no one is clapping/ And I think it's gonna be/ A long time” (Long Time)

“The rock scene in Philadelphia has hit a particular low” and “"Yes it’s a shame/ The Burning Brides Skipped Town..." (Mirage People)

“You can set your brain to stun” (You Can Stay There)

“Did you sing your saddest song/ Right before the bombs” (Oh Lord)

“Revolutions”, “Long Time”, “Mirage People”, “You Can Stay There”, “It’s Only Loveless” (an obvious answer to the Beatles song minus the ‘less’), “Seven Songs”, the George Harrison-influenced “Oh Lord”, and “It’s Not Okay” are my favorite tracks. And a hidden track called “Iraq Is Dead (Rock is Dead)” at least gets an A for effort. Overall, there’s not really a bad song on here though.

2. Pearl Jam – “Pearl Jam“ (J Records). After my first listen to this back in early May I was on record saying I thought this was Pearl Jam’s best record since Vs. and after over 8 months of perspective listening to it, I still agree with that originally assessment. And therefore it was a slam dunk choice to at least be in the Top 5 of 2006. Pearl Jam has really been the most high-profile musical artists, with the possible exception of Bruce Springsteen, to take public political stances and remain vocally critical of the war in the last few years. Some of that criticism showed up in songs on Riot Act in late 2002. But those themes are even more apparent on this record.

The string of rock songs that open this record hit you over the head like a sledgehammer – purposeful rockers highlighting the larger events in the world around them. “Life Wasted”, “World Wide Suicide”, “Comatose”, “Severed Hand”, and “Marker in the Sand” send the message immediately.

Then starting with Beatles-esque “Parachutes”, the record shows a little more variety. “Unemployable”, “Big Wave”, and “Army Reserve” continue where the first 5 songs left off. “Gone” at times reminds me alternately of Dave Matthews and Bruce Springsteen. “Come Back” with its timely usage of its Motown-sounding horns to accent the chorus. From the first time I heard it, I thought of it’s similarity to “Black” or “Yellow Ledbetter” and how it could very well become an encore fixture in their live sets for years. And the album closes with “Inside Job” – another very good track. It reminded me a little of something from the last Wilco album at first.

It just feels like their most focused, tight, and rocking set of songs since Vs. There are no experimental filler tracks on here, as you had on some other albums. For Pearl Jam, this record is very similar to what All That You Can’t Leave Behind was for U2. It was sort of a reaffirmation of everything they do well and a reminder of their greatness. They climbed the mountain and became extremely popular, and then they chose to slowly move away of the mainstream. And by sticking to their guns, the mainstream music scene has come back to them a little bit.

If you look at that generation of great bands who first gained notoriety in the immediate aftermath of Nevermind, Pearl Jam is really the last band standing. And they seemed to be the only ones to have figured out a way to co-exist with their newfound fame and fortune and all those demands, not break up, and still remain vital and relevant, consistently churning out new albums and consistently touring since 1996, all while doing everything on their own terms. They’ve also remained as fan-friendly as any arena rock band has probably ever been. It’s only been in the last 5-6 years that I’ve stopped fretting over albums with too much filler and stopped comparing everything to Ten and Vs. and just learned to appreciate them for doing what they do and staying true to themselves.

1. Ben Kweller – “Ben Kweller“ (ATO). This was another big comeback album. After a tremendous full-length debut album with Sha Sha in 2002, 2004’s On My Way was a big disappointment. On this self-titled offering, Kweller returns to the greatness of Sha Sha and secured the coveted #1 album spot on this list. It’s really hard to put into how words how good this album is. You just have to get it and press ‘play.’ Kweller plays all of the instruments on the album and wrote all of the songs. A few of these were leftovers from the Sha Sha-era. “Run”, “Nothing Happening”, “Sundress”, “I Gotta Move”, “Penny on the Train Track”, “I Don’t Know Why”, “Magic”, and “Until I Die” are superb. The rest are good also.

And to show that eventually great work does get recognized, I read in Kweller’s email newsletter recently that the video for “Penny on the Train Track” was added to MTV’s Total Request Live show recently. Apparently they do still show videos on MTV, but you have to be an insomniac or under 15-years old to actually see them. The video is nothing more than low-budget home video footage of Kweller’s grandmother.

Kweller represents the polar opposite case of Britney Spears as far as what could happen when a young kid gets caught up in show biz. During the mass marketing of alternative rock in the mid 90’s, Kweller and the other 2 members of his teenage trio Radish were signed to a major label and released Restraining Bolt in 1997. I think the label thought they had the next Silverchair. It sounded like a tribute to the Nirvana-inspired soft verse/loud chorus format that a gazillion bands were doing in that era. As you would expect with a 15-year old frontman (frontboy?), it was very uneven. Kweller quit school and went on tour and moved from Texas to New York City. Radish was eventually dropped from their label. And then Kweller went back to work doing what he does best – writing great pop rock songs. He spent 2000 and 2001 touring opening for Evan Dando and Jeff Tweedy, and releasing a well-received EP BK Baby. And from there his solo career has been on a slow rise. And he seems pretty well grounded, 3 full-length albums into his solo career. And he’s still only 24 years old.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Year in Music 2006 - Part I

2006 Shows

In 2006, I saw 11 shows at 9 different venues.

Evan Dando at the Tin Angel 1/27
Rhett Miller and the Believers at the TLA 4/7
Alkaline Trio at the Electric Factory 4/14
The Strokes at the Electric Factory 4/23
Pearl Jam at the Tweeter Center 5/27
The Black Crowes (with Drive-By Truckers) at Festival Pier 7/29
Sleater-Kinney at the Starlight 7/31
Foo Fighters (acoustic) at the Tower Theatre 8/16
Rancid at the Trocadero 8/19
The Living End at the TLA 11/20
The Lemonheads at the North Star 12/14

Best Live, Rare, EP, Soundtrack, and Compilation Albums of the Year

The Black Crowes – “Lost Crowes (aka the Tall and Band Sessions)” (Rhino/WEA). This was a much-anticipated release for Black Crowes fans who have long waited for the release of the “lost albums” from the mid 90’s. A few of these rare songs were already known to fans. But these are actually 2 completed albums. Most of the Tall sessions disc contain tracks that would eventually appear on Amorica in 1994 and a few appeared on Three Snakes and One Charm in 1996. It’s a sprawling 16-track album with lots of early version of these familiar songs along with 8 previously unreleased songs. These include some familiar songs from their live sets over the years such as “Feathers”, “Tied Up and Swallowed”, and “Sunday Buttermilk Waltz.”

The Band sessions disc consists of 10 previously unreleased songs. This album was recorded between 1996 and 1998 and was shelved completely in favor of 1999’s By Your Side. “Paint an 8” and “Another Roadside Tragedy” have appeared in their live sets over the years. And “If It Ever Stops Raining” is an early version of what would become the title track of By Your Side. All in all, these are definitely worthwhile additions to the collection to capture a band during their peak output years.

The Black Keys – “Chulahoma” (Fat Possum). This was a decent stopgap EP to fulfill their remaining contract on Fat Possum records. It contains 6 covers of one of their cult favorites, blueman Junior Kimbrough. You can definitely hear his influence on them. They also covered his song “Do the Rump” on their 2002 album The Big Come Up. It’s not a straight-ahead blues set, though. Some of the songs have a 60’s hippie/psychedelic feel to them. “Keep Your Hands Off Her”, “Have Mercy on Me”, and “Meet Me in the City” are welcome additions to the Black Keys catalogue. This is definitely worth picking up if you are a fan of their previous work.

Desoto Jones – “Stay Awake Stay Alive” EP (Negative Progression). I saw this band open for the Living End in November and they were the best of the 3 opening bands that night. They had a very impressive live show, so I picked up their EP for $1. It’s in the Thursday or Saves the Day mold. I get the feeling they might be one of those Christian bands, but they don’t really advertise it as openly as some others. The one band member was wearing a shirt promoting some church group on the EP sleeve. Anyway, it was a pretty good listen. They have a good sense of melody that is lacking sometimes with a lot of the newer emo/screamo bands.

The Foo Fighters – “Skin and Bones“ (RCA). For anyone who saw the acoustic Foos tour last summer (aka AFoostic tour), there are no surprises on here. Instead this live acoustic album is more like a high quality bootleg of the show you saw, minus about 5 or 6 tracks and great Grohl banter for editing purposes, so it would all fit on one disc. . That show at the Tower was one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen – a definite top 10’er. They only played about 10 or 12 dates on this mini-tour last summer and I was fortunate that Philly was one of them. This allowed them to play a lot of the quieter songs on the 2nd disc of 2005’s In Your Honor and then re-work a lot of older songs acoustically. And they also debuted a new b-side, called “Skin and Bones” from whence this album got its title. Besides the newer songs, some of the other highlights were country-ish take on “Big Me”, “Walking After You”, Nirvana b-side “Marigold”, “February Stars”, and of course, “Everlong.”

R.E.M. – “And I Feel Fine: The Best of the IRS Years 1982-1987” (IRS/Capitol). I’m a sucker for getting R.E.M compilations. And this is a good one. It covers their first 5 proper albums on IRS – Murmur, Reckoning, Fables of the Reconstruction, Life’s Rich Pageant, and Document + their first release – the EP Chronic Town. They create a best of on Disc 1 from those releases. I’d still rank Reckoning, Pageant, and Document among the best ever albums, period, let alone R.E.M.’s best. The 2nd disc contains each of the 4 original band member’s favorite few tracks from each album that didn’t make the cut for 1st disc, along with some rare alternative takes and early live cuts from shows in 1983. It’s a must-have for any R.E.M. fan.

The Replacements – “The Best Of: Don’t You Know Who I Think Was?” (Rhino). This is the first Replacements’ collection to include tracks from both their Twin Tone years (1980-1984) and their Sire/Reprise years (1985-1991). So for that alone it was worth adding to the library if you are a fan. And it includes two new tracks recorded with the 3 living original members – Paul Westerberg, Tommy Stinson, and Chris Mars, along with honorary Replacement drummer Josh Freese. “Message to the Boys” and “Pool and Dive” are both pretty good. And if this is a sign of things to come from a new Westerberg-Stinson collaboration, then it has a chance to be pretty good without hurting their legacy.

Various Artists – “Open Season Soundtrack” (Lost Highway). This was basically a Paul Westerberg EP. He scored the movie and wrote and recorded seven new songs for the soundtrack. It also includes an older song “Good Day” from Eventually. And two other songs were written by him but recorded by others – “I Belong” performed by Pete Yorn and “Wild As I Wanna Be” performed by Death Ray Davies. Death Ray Davies also have one of their songs on here and there is also the Talking Heads’ classic “Wild Wild Life.” Westerberg also performed his own version of “I Belong”, which was receving early buzz as a possible nomination for Best Song at the Academy Awards. And the other 6 songs are very good – “Meet Me in the Meadow”, “Love You in the Fall”, “Any Better Than This”, “Right to Arm Bears”, “All About Me”, and “Whisper Me Luck.” “Love You in the Fall” and “Right to Arm Bears” feature collaborations between Westerberg and ex-Replacement Tommy Stinson. The drummer for these sessions was Gersh, who was the drummer in Stinson’s last band – Perfect. “Love You in the Fall” definitely sounds like something that would have fit well on Mono. “Right to Arm Bears” has a classic Westerbergian title and seems like a silly song for a kids’ movie, but lyrically it’s actually a pretty witty and insightful commentary on hunting from the animals’ point of view, as well as a bit of a criticism of the Second Amendment. And “Whisper Me Luck” sounds like something that would have fit well on Stereo. “Any Better Than This” sounds a lot like “Tears Rolling Up Our Sleeves” from Suicaine Gratifaction. It does seem like he leaves a lot of A-side material on the shelf during the recording of every album that he can just pull out when needed for projects like this. All in all, it was a really good record.

The Rest

AFI – “DecemberUnderground” (Interscope). I was looking forward to what AFI would sound like with a more polished sound now that they were working with producer Jerry Finn (Blink-182, Green Day). But I think the results were mixed. They kind of got thrown into the emo genre in the early 00’s, even though they were really more of an old school punk band with some Nine Inch Nails influence. This record is definitely much more poppy than anything they’ve done previously. I thought it was a little disaspointing though, compared to 2003’s Sing the Sorrow. The lead single “Miss Murder” bounces along with a bass line that sounds like something from Green Day’s last few records. Other standout tracks include “Endlessly, She Said”, “Love Like Winter”, “Summer Shudder”, and “The Missing Frame.” Many of the tracks sound very distinct, showing off the different influences, yet it works together fairly well.

Angels and Airwaves – “We Don’t Need to Whisper“ (Geffen). I should have known better. I got this on a whim after a strong recommendation from someone whose musical opinion I used to value at a party last spring. This is Tom DeLonge’s (Blink-182) new project after it appears Blink-182 has broken up, or at least gone on hiatus. It sounds like a “mature Blink-182” which is sort of an oxymoron. If I wanted to listen to Death Cab For Cutie, The Walkmen, or Nada Surf, I would. Blink-182’s charm, when it still had it, was its melodic pop/punk songs and their immaturity. The Ramones never “matured” and thank god for that. Blink-182 never got too deep and that was fine when it was good. Anyway, the lead single “The Adventure” is decent. Not much else on here worth your time. Imagine Blink-182, but with 4-5 minute songs with lots of keyboards and strings and not as many pop/punk hooks. I hear ya….why bother?

The Annuals – “Be He Me” (Ace Fu). This band was getting buzz as “the next R.E.M.” last summer. It’s tough to describe them. They remind me a little of the New Pornographers or early Radiohead, except with a lot more twang since they are from North Carolina. So I guess somewhere in between Camper Van Beethoven and the New Pornographers would best describe them, or maybe just as a more melodic CVB. You hear the fiddles and cellos augmenting the pop/rock melodies. I liked it, but it just didn’t grab me as much as some other records. “Mama”, “Brother”, “Dry Clothes”, and “Bleary-Eyed” are the best tracks.

Art Brut – “Bang Bang Rock & Roll” (Banana/Fierce Panda). I heard a lot of hype about Art Brut in the fall, so I finally picked up this album. It has its moments, but I didn’t think it was worthy of all of the year-end top-10-album hype it was generating. I just have a hard time getting past the lead singer Eddie Argos’ cockney British accent. John Lennon talked with an accent like that, but he sung much better. Billy Bragg kind of has the same thing going on, so his voice was always an acquired taste and now I enjoy it. But it took awhile. With Argos it hasn’t clicked yet with me. Too often it sounds like Benny Hill singing. And many of the lyrics are really spoken more than sung. They are comparable to Franz Ferdinand or the Arctic Monkeys, but I just don’t think their songs are as good. And at times they reminded me of Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. I guess it was a pretty good debut, but you wonder how far they can take this. Their songs all tend to run together and sound the same. I wouldn’t turn them off if I heard them on the radio, but I also wouldn’t pay close attention to the song either. My favorite tracks of this similar bunch are “Formed a Band”, “Emily Kane”, “Rusted Guns of Milan”, the title track, “Good Weekend”, “Moving to L.A.”, and “Bad Weekend.” And that is mainly because they have some standout lyrical phrases. One plus is that 15 tracks are packed into about 40 minutes. They don’t mess around. Overall it wasn’t a bad album, but I was just disappointed in it after all the hype it received.

Beck – “The Information” (Interscope). I just had a really difficult time getting into this album this year. I’ll probably end up giving it more of a chance to grow on me in 2007. I just liked his last 2 releases so much – Sea Change and Guero. And this was kind of like a mix of those releases with some influence from his dance album Midnight Vultures. Beck is back with producer Nigel Godrich (Radiohead). And from what I’ve read, most of these tracks were actually written and recorded right after Sea Change, but were shelved when he started working on what became Guero with the Dust Brothers. And I thought it sorely lacked guitar, focusing more on rhythm than melody. On subsequent listens I found myself getting into it more, as the dance and hip-hop tracks aren’t as prominent as they seemed on early listens. And you can appreciate the meticulous production on many of the tracks after many listens. But there does seem to be too much filler. “Think I’m in Love”, “Strange Apparition”, “Nausea”, and even “Cellphone’s Dead’ are pretty good. Overall, I still found it disappointing though.

Jay Bennett – “The Magnificent Defeat” (Rykodisc). This album received a lot of word-of-mouth among like-minded fans. And many reviewers called it Bennett’s best so far, since he was fired from Wilco in 2001. I think the songs fit together really well here, but I don’t think the Elvis Costello-esque high points are as high on here as on some of his other records. Bennett was an essential part of Wilco as a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, keyboards, piano, etc) and producer – so much so that it has taken more than one person to replace him since he was dismissed from the band. And fans of melodic pop/rock will find lots to like here, just as on his previous work. This is definitely a good record to listen to with headphones on so you hear all of Bennett’s production talents as well. Don’t be scared away by the opening track “Slow Beautifully Seconds Faster” – perhaps the least catchy track on the record. It’s just a noisy pop explosion. But from there on out, it gets really good. Fans of Costello, Tom Petty, the Lemonheads, the Kinks, Let it Bleed-era Rolling Stones, and of course Summerteeth-era Wilco will enjoy this. As with every release so far, a few of the tracks will be familiar to Wilco completists, as some older outtakes that never made the cut on Wilco albums show up, along with some tracks that Bennett played live in a band called the K-Sets (consisting of then current and future Wilco members) during his time in Wilco. “5th Grade”, “Wide Open”, “The Palace at 4 AM”, “Replace You”, “Out All Night”, “Survey the Damage”, and “Overexcusers” are the best tracks.

Blood Feathers – “Curse and Praise” (Box Theory). I picked up this CD on a whim after reading a good review in the Inquirer during the summer. It’s a pretty good record. Blood Feathers are based in Philly and consists of 2 guys: Ben Dickey and Drew Mills who both play mostly guitars with lots of harmony vocals. On the first few listens some of it reminded me of Tom Petty meets the Strokes. On further listens it actually kind of reminded me of a twangy Capitol Years. Overall, it was a pretty good find. It gets better with every listen.

Brand New – “The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Of Me” (Interscope). This didn’t come out until mid-November and I didn’t get it until very late in 2006. I really loved Brand New’s last record Deja Entendu. This one just hasn’t done much for me as of yet. It’s in the same style as their previous stuff, with a little bit more of a darker side. But I just don’t think the songs are as good, at least on the first several listens. This is also their first album on Interscope, as they moved to a major label. In some cases the lyrics are almost whispered. “The Archers Bows Have Broken”, “Not the Sun”, “Degausser”, and “Sowing Season” are pretty good. I’m sure this will grow on me more in 2007, but so far it hasn’t clicked. With so much soft/loud changes in the music, this album is best enjoyed on headphones.

Neko Case – “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood” (Anti). I don’t even know how to categorize Neko Case. She’s had 4 solo records now and also has done 3 records with the New Pornographers. Usually, she’s labeled as “country”, but I find her to be rootsy pop, if that is even a genre. She has one of the best, most versatile powerful voices around and it’s perfect for this style. She blends country, soul, folk, and pop into something that seems like basic roots/Americana music. I could picture her singing just about anything well. I was listening to my iPod on shuffle a few months ago and a track from the Sundays came on. And it struck me just how much Case’s music reminds me of them. Yet, the Sundays were considered altenative back in the early 90’s. “Star Witness” and “Maybe Sparrow” are the essentials here. The rest flows well, but without the memorable high points.

Johnny Cash – “American V: A Hundred Highways“ (American). This album debuted at #1 on the charts in the spring, giving the deceased Cash his first #1 album in about 40 years. This was another batch of songs from his American Recordings with Rick Rubin. It’s his 5th proper album with Rubin since the middle 1990’s and they also released that 5-CD boxed set of material from this era in late 2003. The rumors are there are lots more material from this era as well, so we could conceivably be seeing a half a dozen more releases by Cash in the next 10 years. During the final years of his life he spent most of his time in the studio. Rick Rubin wrote in the album notes that this album was completed shortly before his death. And they were just about to begin mixing it when he died. His condition worsened during this recording and you can really hear the differences in the strength of his voice, based on how he was feeling that particular day. As Rubin noted, “sometimes it booms and sometimes it’s weak and vulnerable.” But it’s always a true, honest sounding voice, which is perfect for storytelling. “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” is a great song and very poignant considering Cash’s health at the time. And the album closer “I’m Free from the Chain Gang Now” has a similar theme. Those tracks along with “Help Me”, “Like the 309”, “Love’s Been Good to Me”, and “I Came to Believe” are the best Cash songs or Cash-reworked traditional songs. The rest of the album features some interesting covers “Further On Up the Road” (Springsteen), “On the Evening Train” (Hank Williams), and “If You Could Read My Mind” (Gordon Lightfoot).

Craig Craigstofferson – “A Final Blaze of Glory” (ItsAboutMusic). For the 5 people besides me who have been wondering what former Huffamoose lead singer Craig Elkins has been up to lately. Here it is. He moved from Fairmount to L.A., took the last Huffamoose drummer Tom Walling and a new bass player with him, got divorced, had another kid with another woman, and wrote the songs for this album. That feels like about 4 midlife crises occurring at the same time. These tracks are a little quirkier and eclectic than the typical Huffamoose album. And I thought the strength of Huffamoose was that the rest of the band provided the punch to go with Elkins’ quirky pop/folk/jazz songs. Still it was a fun album and a nice surprise comeback by Elkins.

The Drams – “Jubilee Dive” (New West). This is the band that formed from 60% of the members of Slobberbone, after they played their last show in 2004. It consists of singer/guitarist Brent Best, guitarist Jess Barr, and drummer Tony Harper from Slobberbone with a new bassist and keyboardist. Best had invited a cast of Dallas musicians to his home to try out some new ideas and the Drams formed out of this collection of players. This band seems more like an alt/pop band, moving away from Slobberbone’s alt/country/rock sound. So at various moments they sound like early Wilco or Bob Dylan or even the Black Crowes on a blues ballad called “Holy Moses”, and much less like, well, Slobberbone. “Truth Lies Low”, “Hummalong”, “Fireflies”, “You Won’t Forget”, “You Won’t Forget” (which sounds very close to Wilco’s “When You Wake Up Feelin’ Old”), “Shortsighted”, and “Make a Book.” Overall, this was a pretty good debut album. It seems that Brent Best may be trying to take the same path as Jeff Tweedy – with Slobberbone his Uncle Tupelo and the Drams potentially his Wilco.

Tim Easton – “Illumination” (New West). This was another record that I had high hopes for that let me down. It’s definitely the weakest of Easton’s last 3 releases. 2001’s The Truth About Us was good and 2003’s Break Your Mother’s Heart was even better. His 2001 release was a joint venture with 75% of Wilco. And his 2003 release was a collaboration with Heartbreaker Mike Campbell. On the current album, he actually gets help from members of the Jayhawks and Lucinda Williams. But this album seems much more folky than poppy, so that will turn off some of the fans who appreciated his pop/rock sensibilities on the previous two albums. Think more of the Bruce Springsteen of Devils and Dust, rather than Bruce Springsteen of Darkness on the Edge of Town.

There is hardly anything on here that’s as catchy as most of those other two albums. “Oh People”, “Not Today”, “Dear Old Song and Dance”, and “Back to the Pain” (with great backing vocals by Lucinda) are the best tracks. “News Blackout” is a fair to middling social commentary on media coverage of the war. And sonically it sounds like something from late 60’s era Bob Dylan in his folk-blues period. “C-Dub” sounds similar. And “J.P.M.F.Y.F.” scores some bonus points for creativity. It stands for Jesus Protect Me From Your Followers – a snide, sarcastic take on the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) crowd. It’s very sparse and somber though with just Easton and an acoustic guitar. This album has grown on me in recent months, but I’d still call it a disappointment.

Golden Smog – “Another Fine Day” (Lost Highway). This was a mild disappointment. I was expecting bigger things from the first Golden Smog album in 8 years. Christ, has it been that long? This alt/country supergroup consists of Gary Louris and Marc Perleman from the Jayhawks, Dan Murphy from Soul Asylum, Jody Stephens from Big Star, Jeff Tweedy from Wilco, and Kraig Johnson from Run Westy Run and the last few Jayhawks albums. Tweedy contributes much less on this album, since now he’s kind of a busier guy than he was 8 years ago. He still has that Wilco thing, you may have heard of. And he also has other side projects like Loose Fur and the Minus 5 (see other items on the list). Tweedy only wrote 2 of the songs (both co-written with Louris) and sang lead vocals on only 3 songs. The result is an album that sounds more like a more cohesive album with a true band with less guest appearances and fewer songwriter combinations, which made their previous albums sound like soundtrack albums. It was pretty good in a twangy 60’s pop/rock kind of way. The album itself flows better than the previous ones, but there are less standout songs on this one. In one review I read, it was correctly pointed out that this album doesn’t sound as much like the previous Golden Smog album in large part because hardly any of the artists’ other bands still sound much like they did 8+ years ago. Down by the Old Mainstream and Weird Tales are still better though. “Long Time Ago”, “Another Fine Day”, and “Never Felt Before” are very good. “Corvette”, “Cure For This”, and the cover of the Kinks’ “Strangers” are pretty solid too. The rest is only so so.

JET – “Shine On” (Atlantic/WEA). I was a huge JET fan early on. Months before their last CD came out, I was all over them. I loved their rocking songs and their Zeppelin and Floyd influenced ballads, which all tend to sound like Oasis when they do them. But I really had no interest in this CD at all. The main reason I picked it up is because I was thinking about going to the show at the TLA in late November. But there’s nothing on this CD that really grabs me. It’s probably an OK album, but I just haven’t had much interest in it. The songs just seem to fall flat here. “Rip It Up” is a pretty good rocker. “Hey Kids” and “Skin and Bones are good mid-tempo tracks. And “Come on Come On”, “Shiny Magazine”, and “Shine On” were pretty good ballads too. But so many of the other songs on here are almost cringe-inducing rock cliches or they seem so familiar that they it feels like a bar band doing AC/DC or Oasis covers. And Nic Cester’s voice at times reminds me of that guy from Jellyfish who sang on the first Slash’s Snakepit album. It was fair, but it’s not something I’m dying to hear regularly.

Tommy Keene – “Crashing the Ether” (Eleven Thirty). I first discovered Keene a few years back when a lot of Westerberg fans kept recommending his solo work. I knew he had played guitar in Westerberg’s touring band in 1996, but that was about it. Then I went back and discovered Songs From the Film, probably his best album from the mid 80’s. And it is also one of the most aptly named albums to sum up an artist’s music. In my view, Keene’s great guitar-driven power pop songs always felt like music on soundtracks to the “feel good hit of the summer” kind of movies. 1998’s Isolation Party had just come out around then, so I took a liking to that as well. He returned in 2002 with The Merry Go-Round Broke Down. It was solid, but a little too long with some filler, including one monstrous 16+ minute track in the middle of the album. Crashing the Ether is leaner and meaner. He still crafts some great Big Star-esque pop/rock songs, but ultimately there’s not much new here and he seems to be repeating himself a little bit. Starting on the last album it seems like Keene’s guitar work stands out more than it did previously. There are a lot more solos and the music seems to involve heavier guitars. The best tracks are “Black & White New York”, “Warren in the 60’s”, “Wishing”, “Eyes of Youth”, “Alta Loma”, and “Texas Tower #4.” Overall, it was decent, but it can’t touch his older stuff.

The Killers – “Sam’s Town“ (Island). I was just starting to sour on the Killers when this album came out, so I really didn’t give it that much of a chance. I thought their debut album Hot Fuss was really good, but figured there’d be nowhere to go but down on this one. The title comes from a name of a small, sleazy casino in Las Vegas, miles away from the strip.

Their sound was always close to what other similar bands were doing (Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, The Bravery) with the same influences (The Cure, The Smiths, The New Order, Duran Duran). The difference was that the Killers were fortunate to have some bigger hit singles that helped them sell over 5 million copies of their debut album. They sounded much more like the New Order, Cure, and Smiths on their debut album, but on the latter they sounded much more like they were aiming for a U2 sound, with synthesizers and keyboards playing the role of the Edge’s guitar. And you can hear the Oasis and Duran Duran influences also. And I heard one reviewer even mention Queen and Bowie as influences and I can hear that on here – especially Queen on “Why Do I Keep Counting?” But as the same reviewer noted it may be shallow and silly and unoriginal, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. I can see his point, but I disagree. I also read about some supposed Springsteen influences on this album (as it appears the young singer/songwriter Brandon Flowers has inexplicably just discovered the Boss’s 1970’s work), but I don’t hear much of it. The album is not without some high points. The first 2 singles – “When You Were Young” and “Bones” are catchy. And the title track, “Bling (Confessions of a King)”, and “The River Is Wild” are decent. But overall, it was a major disappointment though.

They were already starting to morph into what seemed like a record exec’s idea of what a hip alt/rock band should be like in 2006. I guess it’s just hard to shake the idea that they hail from Las Vegas – a place not exactly known for its art. They recorded this album in the Palm’s Hotel and Casino, for chrissakes. Vegas is a lot of things to a lot of people, but being authentic isn’t one of them. It’s a fake city built in the middle of nowhere, with nothing really original about it except the idea of itself. (when people refer to Dubai as the emerging Vegas of the Arab world, that’s not a compliment). But there’s nothing really below the surface and unfortunately it seems like that is exactly the kind of band that has emerged from these surroundings.

Monsters Are Waiting – “Fascination” (Retone). I stumbled onto this album after reading a good review somewhere….I can’t remember where. They kind of remind me more of the hopes I had projected onto the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They are sort of a more melodic version of the YYY’s with some obvious Cure and New Order influences, but more straight up rock overall. It’s sort of like 80’s New Wave meets 60’s rock. There also a lot of riffs that wouldn’t feel out of place on a U2 record. The voice of lead singer, Annalee Fery, actually reminds me a lot more of Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles, though. It’s a good listen all the way through. “Last Goodbye”, “Fascination”, “Nobody”, “Ha Ha”, and “Monsters” are the best tracks.

Tim O’Reagan – “Tim O’Reagan” (Lost Highway). Tim O’Reagan was the drummer for the Jayhawks. And in recent years, he also played some guitar and wrote many songs for the band. So he already seemed to possess the skills to make a good solo record. Unfortunately, this CD doesn’t really break any new ground. And with guest appearances by former Jayhawks Gary Louris, Marc Perleman, and Mark Olson, along with Jim Boquist, the former Son Volt bassist (and touring bass player for Paul Westerberg in recent years), it’s not hard to see why. Not surprisingly, it sounds like a slower, softer Jayhawks album. O’Reagan’s released another album before called Topeka Oratorio in a band called the Leatherwoods. And that was always an obscure favorite of mine. This came out in 1992, 4 years before he joined the Jayhawks. That album was notable because 3 of the tracks were written by fellow Minneapolitan Paul Westerberg under the nom de plume Pablo Louserama. This first solo effort was a pretty good album. Inspite of the alt/country reputation, this album leans a bit more on his pop/rock influences. “These Things”, “Highway Flowers”, and “River Bends”, and “That’s the Game” are as strong as anything the Jayhawks have released in recent years.

Bruce Springsteen – “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions” (Columbia). It’s tough to evaluate a covers album, especially when you don’t really know the original songs that well, as they are mostly traditional folk songs. And it’s even tougher to evaluate it when it’s someone like Springsteen, when you know that over the years he has shelved albums worth of quality material. The natural urge is to want to hear some Bruce originals instead of a covers album. I haven’t listened to this album too often, but it flowed well together and was actually a pretty fun listen. Reportedly, these songs were recorded live with no rehearsals with a group of musicians Bruce threw together at the last minute. And that adds to the looser feeling and flow of the album. In that way there is sense of danger and excitement there on this record that is usually absent on most meticulously-recorded Springsteen albums. Some mistakes were left in and you can hear the count-offs and chord changes announced on some songs. The standout tracks are “Pay Me My Money Down”, “O Mary Don’t You Weep”, “John Henry”, “My Oklahoma Home”, and “Old Dan Tucker.”

Paul Stanley – “Live To Win“ (Universal/New Door). Whenever someone like Paul Stanley decides to release a solo album at this point in their career, the biggest question on my mind is: why? I kind of wonder the same thing about an artist like Rhett Miller too, especially considering live shows with Rhett Miller and his band vs the Old 97’s are nearly identical, except for the handful more Miller solo songs in the set replacing those songs that would normally be sung by Murray Hammond. But anyway, Stanley has been one of the two main contributing songwriters to the entity known as Kiss for the last 30+ years. He surely doesn’t need to go solo to scratch any creative itches. The only thing I can think of is the corporation of Kiss Inc. wasn’t ready to tour behind a new album at this time. So any new material that the members wanted to release would have to go in a solo or side project. So he got together and with Desmond Child and wrote some songs and recorded them with a bunch of different studio players, including ex-Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick, who actually played as an unknown session player on Stanley’s previous solo album way back in 1978. The results aren’t much different than Stanley’s ballad-y material from the last handful of Kiss albums. “Lift” and “Wake Up Screaming” are pretty good and definitely would be solid contributions to a good Kiss album. The rest is kind of run of the mill and some of it is painful. Think more “Bang Bang You” and “Shandi” rather than “Strutter” and “Love Gun.” I only recommend this for Kiss completists.

Thursday – “City By the Light Divided“ (Island). I thought Thursday’s last release, 2003’s War All the Time, was quietly one of the best of this decade so far. It was a great melodic mix of emo, screamo and hardcore full of political flavor. For me they, along with System of a Down, became the Rage Against the Machine of this generation. So I had high hopes for this follow-up. It was solid, but it just didn’t live up to my expecations. It doesn’t change much from that formula, but the songs just aren’t as good. “Counting 5-4-3-2-1”, “Running From the Rain”, “We Will Overcome”, and “Into the Blinding Light” are the best tracks on here. I think Thursday has an even better album in them than War All the Time. I just hope they get around to writing and recording it before too long.

Twilight Singers – “Powder Burns” (One Little Indian). Fans of the Afghan Whigs and their alterna-soul sound keep waiting for Greg Dulli to make another album which measures up to his work in that band. This is the closest he’s come yet in his 7-year post-Whigs career. I thought the Whigs’ sound could be boiled down to two songs they did early on – their rock cover of Freda Payne’s old Motown hit “Band of Gold” and an original called “The Rebirth of Cool.” Everything they did after that felt like it was built on what they did on those two songs. The only criticism I have with this album is it sounds too much like early Whigs stuff. The first 3 tracks “I’m Ready”, “There’s Been an Accident”, and “Bonnie Brae” would all fit well on early Whigs albums like Congregation or Gentlemen. “Forty Dollars” and “My Time (Has Come)” are also good and are a little rougher and rawer. Overall, it was a good record and probably Dulli’s best post-Whigs release to date. I heard a rumor that the Whigs may be reuniting and possibly touring in 2007 or 2008, as they recently collaborated on a few new songs for a Whigs’ compilation album due out this year. So in that context, this album seems appropriate.

Viva Death – “One Percent Panic” (Functional Equivalent Records). This is the 2nd release from the punk rock super group consisting of former guitarist/vocalist of Face to Face Trever Keith, former Face to Face bassist Scott Shifflet, current Foo Fighters guitarist and brother Chris Shifflet, drummer Josh Freese (# of bands and projects too numerous to mention), and guitarist Chad Blinman. Keith is more in the background on this one. He wrote and sung on about half of the songs on their first self-titled release in 2002. But on this record, he’s basically just the guitar player who sings on few songs, so it sounds much less like a typical Face to Face album than the previous release. Scott Shifflet wrote almost every song by himself on this outing. And he co-wrote 1 or 2 others with Keith. Most of the songs on here are just lacking everything compared to past efforts. “United By the Threat of a Common Enemy”, “Rise and Shine”, “Damage Control”, “Be Excited”, “Behind You, Soldier”, and “Into the Void” are all decent. But there are just too few good songs on here. Overall, it was an extremely disappointing album.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Show Your Bones” (Interscope). I really liked the YYY’s debut Fever to Tell. But this record seemed to fall flat. I’m not sure if they know exactly what they want to do here. On their first EP and debut album, they seemed like something in between the Breeders and the Pretenders - pop/punk with good melodies and catchy choruses. Very litte of that is found on Show Your Bones. “Way Out”, the lead single, comes about as close to that sound as anything on the record. “Honeybear” and “Cheated Hearts” are close approximations too. Overall, there were just too few of these moments.

Neil Young – “Living With War” (Reprise). Neil Young rushed to release this album so it would be relevant, since it was a topical subject (even though we’ve been “living with war” for 4 years now). And I think it suffered from that. Reportedly, he recorded these tracks in only a few days. I actually preferred Young’s ’05 release Prairie Wind to this one, at least as far as the music and melodies go. It still takes some cojones to release an album with this title with a track titled “Impeach the President” in 2006. But it might have been more useful politically had he released this in ’03 or ’04. It has its moments like with the title track, “Impeach the President”, “After the Garden”, and “Shock and Awe.” But this is one of those records that I guarantee won’t age well. It’s tough to imagine Young ever playing anything off this album live ever again. It kind of feels like a few blog entries put to music.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Best song of 2007 so far.....

"Phantom Limb" by the Shins. I's only March and I've only bought 4 new CDs this year. But so far this is it.

Did Gen X kill the rock star?

From Audiofile on Salon:

Did Gen X kill the rock star?

Seeing Nirvana's music repurposed to sell video games reminds us of Generation X's failure to produce a rock star of lasting worth.

For the first time this past weekend, I saw the new commercial for the "Major League Baseball 2K7" PlayStation 3 game that features Nirvana's "Breed" as its primary music. The ad is the first fruit of Courtney Love's recent sale of 25 percent of her stake in Nirvana's catalog to record industry mover and shaker Larry Mestel. I'm not one of those people who think using rock songs in ads diminishes the music in any real way, but it was still a startling experience to hear Kurt Cobain singing while a digital Derek Jeter took his cuts.

But listening to Cobain again -- and considering all that's come after -- raises another, more curious question: Did Generation X, the one that launched indie rock and a world of grunge, ultimately kill the rock star? Everyone remembers that "Nevermind" knocked Michael Jackson's "Dangerous" from the top of the Billboard charts back in 1992, but instead of heralding the rise of the indie, it seems more and more like Nirvana's ascent was really marking the death knell for a kind of larger-than-life rock stardom. For all their musical merits -- which to my mind are small in number -- the bands that came out of Generation X have wholesale failed to produce a genuine rock star.

Cobain, with only three studio records behind him, will always be defined more by his tragically lost potential than by his achievements. It's easy to forget, but the raw, harsh tone of "In Utero" was the sound of Cobain trying to reject stardom. If he hadn't died, it's reasonable to think his star would have faded. His contemporaries hardly shone half as bright. Think about it: Has there been a single rock act since Nirvana that reached the dizzying musical heights -- and unquestioned, mass success -- of such immediate forebears as U2, Springsteen or Guns 'N Roses? Simply put, Gen X, and its army of grubby, sensitive axmen, never produced a rocker of the stature of the aforementioned heroes. Maybe it was some collective failure of nerve on the part of that generation's leading lights to assume the mantle of rock stardom. Pearl Jam eschewed mass appeal for a kind of Grateful Dead-ish cult following; Beck opted for an eclecticism that minimized his chances of across-the-board success; Soundgarden broke up. The Smashing Pumpkins broke up. The Stone Temple Pilots broke up. Radiohead disappeared into the world of bleeps and bloops. If they all put their songs in an ad for Levitra tomorrow, would you care?

Yes, the ascent of rap is a major factor. Jay-Z, Tupac, Biggie, Snoop Dogg, R. Kelly -- they all rose to popularity during the grunge and immediate post-grunge years. But as a new generation of rock bands emerges, you can't help wondering if any of them -- Arcade Fire, Fall Out Boy, the Hold Steady -- can break out and become the unquestioned rock giants of two generations past. Or did Gen X bury the genre for good? Post or send your thoughts, and we'll feature the best ones throughout the week.

-- David Marchese

"The Big Game"

From King Kaufman's column on Salon....more corporate bullying by the NFL:

King Kaufman's Sports DailyNFL wants to trademark "Big Game." Good luck getting advertisers to stop piggybacking on the Super Bowl.

Mar. 05, 2007 The National Football League, in an effort to protect its valuable commercial rights as well as its reputation as the biggest corporate bully in sports, is attempting to trademark the phrase "the Big Game."

This just in: The NFL plans to try to trademark the phrase "corporate bully."

The league filed a trademark application for "the Big Game" in February 2006, and that action was posted for public comment last month. A number of companies, including Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, have asked for time to file a formal objection.

The NFL wants to stop the practice of marketers piggybacking on the popularity of the Super Bowl without paying for the privilege, a gambit accomplished by referring to the big game as "the Big Game." Super Bowl week advertising is routinely filled with exhortations for fans to buy everything from chips and salsa to flat-screen TVs "for the Big Game."

The NFL is famously not shy about protecting its rights. This is a league that this year sent a cease-and-desist letter to a church that had planned a Super Bowl-watching party. Have to pony up for the rights if you want to get a big group together to watch the Super Bowl. Er, the Big Game. I mean, uh, the championship contest.

Stanford and California, the two Bay Area universities whose annual rivalry football game has been known as "the Big Game" for more than 100 years, are among those who are considering a formal objection, though the NFL has said it has no interest in messing with college traditions, only in keeping advertisers from associating themselves with the Super Bowl without paying rights fees.

Full disclosure: This column graduated from Cal, twice. It has no particular interest in the university's trademark battles but just wants to mention at this point that Stanford is a nasty little place.

This column, already a vigorous defender of its trademark on the phrase "What the Heck™," plans to apply for a trademark on the phrase "this column." And maybe "full disclosure."
More full disclosure™: This column™ is not a lawyer. This column isn't even a smart nonlawyer. It's just sort of a boob, to be honest. (Note to self: Initiate trademark search on the phrase "sort of a boob.")

But doesn't it also seem to you that the NFL is pushing a really dumb rock up a really big hill here, with little payoff at the really silly top?

Let's say the league is able to get a trademark on the Big Game. It doesn't take a lot of imagination for marketers to get around that obstacle, and if there's one thing in this world we can all count on, it's an industry with something to sell using its imagination to get around an obstacle to selling it.

So you'll be told to get that flat-screen in time for the game. And when the NFL trademarks "the Game" -- assuring Harvard and Yale that it has no problem with their annual football contest -- you'll be told to stock up on chips and salsa for football. Or for your big football party.

Shoot, if the Super Bowl were scheduled for Feb. 6 one year, your local supermarket could start saying, "Stock up on snacks for Feb. 6" around New Year's and you'd know what it meant.

The NFL appears to be made of Teflon™, from a public-relations standpoint. No amount of No Fun League bullying of fans, advertisers, sponsors or players, no amount of publicity about the league's indifferent response to the destroyed lives and bodies of former players, seems capable of turning the customers off.

That's because the product is so good. It's so good, in fact, that the NFL has succeeded in turning its championship game into a national holiday. But national holidays belong to the nation, not to one company. The NFL wants it both ways. Thanks to the ingenuity, or just the sneakiness, of American marketers, it's not going to succeed, even if it wins the trademark fight over "the Big Game."

Even a guy like me, who's sort of a boob™, can understand the principle that companies must vigorously defend their trademarks or risk losing them. We also know it's a waste of time to fight battles that can never be won, which is what the NFL is doing here.

If I had a business I'd make a big production right now over a pledge never to use the words "big game" in regard to the Super Bowl. I'd invite other businesses nationwide to use the name of my business -- King's Bait & Tackle, let's say -- as a synonym for any big sporting event.

They could all say, "Get your flat-screen TV in time for the big King's Bait & Tackle Sunday, if you know what we mean."

Hey, free publicity. On the NFL's dime. Probably wouldn't work, but it might be Super™.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Slight change in address

Here's the new typed it to get here. I also changed the comments settings, so you don't have to register to post comments any more.