Monday, December 18, 2006

Last Christmas

Covering Wham!'s 'Last Christmas' seems to be a holiday favourite. There have been trance versions, a Disney-Pop one, even an acoustic rendition. How many different ways can that famous chorus be heard in? How about 118?! Amazingly, Last Christmas has a collection of 118 versions (and counting) of the 1984 single. I've gone through about half of them, and before I grow sick of the song, these are my favourites.

MP3: Wham! - Last Christmas

The original. George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley were onto something here, making one of the most covered songs in the history of popular music.

MP3: Le Sport, Montt Mardié & Mr. Suitcase - Last Christmas

A fun house rendition - a good modern interpretation, from the three Swedish collectives. Sadly Le Sport, the only of the three that I'm well-versed in, is now defunct.

MP3: Erlend Øye - Last Christmas

Erlend is an extremely talented and multifaceted artist from Norway. From his pop work in the Kings of Convenience, to electronic solo work, he's extremely versatile, all the while looking like a dapper Napoleon Dynamite. His version is acoustic and extremely sentimental, nicely complementing his soft vocals.

MP3: goto80 - Last Christmas

This sounds even more rudimentary than if I'd played the song on my Casio, probably because it was made with a Commodore 64 video game console! Bleep-blorpy goodness from that 1.02MHz speed demon. Click the artist link to listen to the rest of their album, The 8bits of Christmas.

MP3: Mon)tag - Last Christmas

There's quite a few covers by German bands, but I'd say Mon)tag provides the best output of the lot. Extremely heart-felt and moving, it sounds like Coldplay minus the sleep-inducing boredom of Chris Martin. Catchy synth use and a convincing vocal display rounds off this solid number.

MP3: Ezio - Last Christmas

Very impressive instrumentals and a great display of cynical vocals to perfectly match the lyrics and song content.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I've had just about enough of the typical punk/post-punk/new-wave revival, and I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. How many more Clash-inspired bands must I trudge through? Joy Division were certainly great, so great that legions of kids are now mimicking Ian Curtis' chilling voice 26 years after his death. A few bands bring something unique to the table (Art Brut, for example), but a large majority just re-hash what I could've spun since 1980 (if I was alive in 1980, of course) and instill boredom.

Something I wouldn't mind hearing again is Devo. The post-punk Devo, before they decided to allow broom/mop-substitute corporations to chime their brand name to the 'Whip It' chorus. Devo's debut LP was fantastic - herky jerky paranoid tunes executed to perfection by Mark Mothersbaugh & co. The Talking Heads weren't too dissimilar in their debut either. Undoubtedly, that's what drew me to Shitdisco. I've no idea what the name means (nor do I care), what their story is, not even their favourite food. But I do know that they're from Glasgow, they like the Talking Heads, they make great jerky "stop-starty" dance-punk music, and they were recently featured on my Top 50 Singles of 2006 list.

MP3: Shitdisco - Bolsheviks
MP3: Shitdisco - Disco Blood
MP3: Shitdisco - I Know Kung Fu
MP3: Shitdisco - Reactor's Party
Buy: Shitdisco - Reactor Party

MP3: Devo - Jocko Homo
MP3: Devo - Uncontrollable Urge
Buy: Devo - Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!
MP3: Talking Heads - Psycho Killer
MP3: Talking Heads - Pulled Up
Buy: Talking Heads - Talking Heads: 77

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Study Music

So today, as everyone undoubtedly knows, is the 461st anniversary of the Council of Trent! Yeah, I've got a mod-Europe history exam tonight... Therefore, in lieu of exam-time, and the different music-listening-while-studying habits we all have, I figured this would be a good excuse to share some music that helps me study.

verb delay or postpone action.

Tried, tested, and truly excruciating. Knowing about the exam for 3 weeks means nothing, it's now the night before the test - cram cram cram. Spastic and erratic music fits the enchanting mood of hair-ripping-out-of-skull action, better than anything else. And best of all, it's actually productive. It suits the dire situation.

adjective 1 not showing or feeling nervousness, anger, or other emotions. 2 peaceful and undisturbed.

Sometimes that fragmented clatter progresses your studies so well that you're back on track. You've dug yourself out of that hole. There's no need to cram. Studying can now continue, but now at a comfortable pace. Sadly, the music no longer fits. You think of peaceful valleys and still lakes - panic is no longer possible. But, in an act of delicious irony, procrastination ensues once more, as soothing sounds enter the ears.

Repetition, repetition, repetition, until you're dreary-eyed and passed out. There is no other way. Well, that is unless you actually know what you're studying. Without an ounce of hubris, I'd consider myself a Peter the Great scholar. No cramming - I've got his foreign policies, domestic reforms, and cultural revolution down pat. And if those last few sentences come back to haunt me, well then, truly the gods are against me today...

NB - What I mean by procrastination music is, the music listened to as a result of procrastination, not the music causing procrastination. Calm music would be the latter.

Procrastination Music:

MP3: Big Black - Bad Penny
MP3: Brainiac - Pussyfootin'
MP3: Bong-Ra - Suicide Speed Machine Girl
MP3: Lightning Bolt - Assassins

Calm Music:

MP3: Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah
MP3: Jens Lekman - Black Cab
MP3: Tortoise - The Suspension Bridge at Iguazú Falls
MP3: Windsor for the Derby - The Melody of a Fallen Tree

More Procrastination Music:

MP3: James Chance & the Contortions - Contort Yourself
MP3: Pere Ubu - Navvy
MP3: Squarepusher - Rustic Raver
MP3: Venetian Snares - Pwntendo

Sunday, December 10, 2006

2006 - 50 Best Singles

2006 is nearly gone, and while I'm compiling my list of favourite albums from the year past, here's a small warm-up. The best singles of 2006 according to me. Please don't read into the ordering - it's merely alphabetical. Lookout for the corresponding list of albums on January 1, 2007. Big thanks to Eric Spano for the art-work.

MP3: The Antennas - Adapt!
MP3: Arctic Monkeys - When the Sun Goes Down
MP3: Art Brut - Modern Art
MP3: Asobi Seksu - Thursday
MP3: Beirut - Postcards from Italy
MP3: Belle & Sebastian - Funny Little Frog
MP3: Camera Obscura - Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken
MP3: Cansei de Ser Sexy - Alala
MP3: Cassius - Toop Toop
MP3: Danielson - Did I Step on Your Trumpet?
MP3: Editors - All Sparks
MP3: The Egg - Walking Away
MP3: El Perro Del Mar - God Knows (You Gotta Give to Get)
MP3: Ellen Allien & Apparat - Turbo Dreams
MP3: Franz Ferdinand - Eleanor Put Your Boots On
MP3: Fujiya & Miyagi - Ankle Injuries
MP3: Gnarls Barkley - Crazy
MP3: Gorillaz - El Mañana
MP3: Hot Chip - Over and Over
MP3: I'm From Barcelona - We’re From Barcelona
MP3: Islands - Rough Gem
MP3: Jim Noir - Eanie Meany
MP3: Klaxons - Atlantis to Interzone
MP3: The Knife - Marble House
MP3: Le Sport - It's Not the End of the World
MP3: Lily Allen - Smile
MP3: Love Is All - Busy Doing Nothing
MP3: Lupe Fiasco (Ft. Jill Scott) - Daydreamin'
MP3: M. Ward - Chinese Translation
MP3: Malajube - Montreal -40 C
MP3: Mew - Why are you Looking Grave?
MP3: The New Pornographers - Use It
MP3: Peter Bjorn & John - Young Folks
MP3: Phoenix - Long Distance Call
MP3: The Pipettes - Your Kisses Are Wasted on Me
MP3: The Presets - Girl and the Sea (Cut Copy Remix)
MP3: The Radio Dept. - The Worst Taste in Music
MP3: The Rapture - W.A.Y.U.H.
MP3: Ratatat - Wildcat
MP3: Serena Maneesh - Drain Cosmetics
MP3: Spank Rock - Rick Rubin
MP3: Shitdisco - Reactor Party
MP3: The Spinto Band - Oh Mandy
MP3: Tapes 'N Tapes - Insistor
MP3: Thom Yorke - Harrowdown Hill
MP3: T.I. - What You Know
MP3: TV on The Radio - Wolf Like Me
MP3: We Are Scientists - It's a Hit
MP3: Wolf Parade - I'll Believe in Anything
MP3: Yo La Tengo - Mr. Tough

Friday, December 08, 2006

In Memorandum

October 9, 1940 - December 8, 1980

John Lennon - Imagine
MP3: John Lennon - Instant Karma
MP3: John Lennon - Stand by Me
MP3: John Lennon - Give Peace A Chance
Buy: John Lennon - Imagine

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


I usually shuffle through many genres in my listening patterns, an eclectic experience. But over the past year I've found my niche, the twee-jangle-shoegaze tangent.

The latest "new-gaze" band to reach my ears are the Michigan-based Mahogany. Now signed to Darla Records (also home to The Radio Dept. and My Morning Jacket), they've recently released their second full-length, Connectivity, ending a lengthy hiatus since their debut, The Dream of a Modern Day. Filled with bright and celestial instrumentals as well as soaring vocals, Mahogany stray far away from the drone and fuzz that often encapsulates shoegaze, instead drenching themselves in poppier rhythms fueled by promising, upbeat endeavours. The pop elements seem to owe themselves to Stereolab and shoegaze to the Cocteau Twins. Interestingly, there's a more concrete relationship with the 'Twins than on a sonic level. Robin Guthrie, co-founder of the 'Twins, has produced 3 mixes for the album, while his daughter Lucy Belle (Liz Fraser, the other founder of the Cocteau Twins, is her mother) makes her vocal debut in the song 'My Bed is My Castle'. With genes like that she's destined for greatness....

Click on the artist link to buy an album.

Mahogany - Supervitesse [mp3]
Mahogany - Tesselation, Formerly Plateau One [mp3]
Mahogany - My Bed Is My Castle (ft. Lucy Belle Guthrie) [mp3]
Stereolab - Cybele's Reverie [mp3]
Cocteau Twins - Lorelei [mp3]

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Twee-Pop Mix [DAN 002]

I've had a soft spot for twee for years, even when I didn't really know what it was. Belle & Sebastian, Camera Obscura - both have been long-time favourites, especially B&S. But a whole genre of sensitive, introspective, and beautiful guitar-pop? Yes, indeed!

So I liked (no, loved) Belle & Sebastian, what next? Following the somewhat eccentric path of musical exploration (allmusic, acclaimed music, pitchfork, and a bazillion other sites), I was eventually lead to find the Twee As Fuck: The Joy of Kittenhood compilation. Having listened to the tracks ad nauseum, I started taking to a few artists, the Field Mice (pictured above) in particular. Next, I hunted down as many entries in the Sarah Records catalogue as possible, a search which is still ongoing.

Here's a selection of my favourites from the compilation, Sarah, and other sources. Clicking on the artist link will re-direct you to Amazon and allow you to purchase an album by said artist.

Another Sunny Day - Anorak City [mp3]
Another Sunny Day - You Should All Be Murdered [mp3]
Beat Happening - Our Secret [mp3]
Belle & Sebastian - Jonathan David [mp3]
Belle & Sebastian - This is Just a Modern Rock Song [mp3]
Black Tambourine - Throw Aggi Off the Bridge [mp3]
Even As We Speak - Drown [mp3]
The Field Mice - Emma's House [mp3]
The Field Mice - Sensitive [mp3]
The Hit Parade - Hitomi [mp3]
Honeybunch - My Contribution to the Greenhouse Effect [mp3]
The Magnetic Fields - 100,000 Fireflies [mp3]
The Orchids - Peahces [mp3]
The Pastels - Mandarin [mp3]
The Sugargliders - Ahprahran [mp3]
The Sweetest Ache - Tell Me How it Feels [mp3]
Talulah Gosh - My Boy Says [mp3]

Friday, December 01, 2006

Domino Records - Scottish Re-Issues

Good for Josef K (pictured above), they're the belle of the ball (the Scottish post-punk ball, that is). Domino Records just released Entomology, a collection of Josef K's work. I love them, have for a while, and they're suddenly getting praise and hype (justifiably) in the blogosphere. Well-read, introspective, and Scottish, what's not to like?

But Scotland played a major role in post-punk, so where's the love for the others? Thankfully Domino re-issued both Orange Juice and the Fire Engines last year.

Josef K had some great rhythm going, flirting with pop, but were never as dance-able and truly funky as Orange Juice. Josef K's label-mates, Orange Juice were plenty of fun. OJ proved that Post-Punk didn't have to be about the gloomy wasteland of life or unfulfilled desires. Just listen to that sax 'n synth combo in 'Rip it Up'. Also of note, Uncut Magazine declared The Glasgow School, as the top re-issue album in 2005.

Josef K were a sort of middle-ground in Scotland. They had rhythm, but also an edge. On the other end of the spectrum were The Fire Engines from Edinburgh. Their sound was brittle and cold. Sharp, piercing guitar and thin vocals. Forget funk and pop, this was edgy and angular. 'Get Up and Use Me' is all about twisted and shrieking vocals with alarmingly distorted strings to match. It's very similar to music found in the No-Wave movement (James Chance & the Contortions, Bush Tetras, etc.) in NYC. As a tribute to one of their greatest sonic influences, Franz Ferdinand have been doing some work with them lately, swapping covers.

Here are six (6!) tracks from the three Scottish collectives, highly recommended.

Orange Juice - Falling and Laughing [mp3] [buy]
Orange Juice - Rip it Up [mp3]
Josef K - Sorry for Laughing [mp3] [buy]
Josef K - Romance [mp3]
The Fire Engines - Get Up and Use Me [mp3] [buy]
The Fire Engines - Everything's Roses [mp3]