Saturday, December 29, 2007

Best of 2007

10) Scene of the Crime—Bettye Levette
Bettye LeVette is not another pretty voice. She sings in a cracked Bourbon-aged voice that can distill a world of heartbreak and disappointment into a couple of syllables. Backed by the Drive-by Truckers, LeVette crafts another fine album in the Stax/Muscle Shoals tradition.

9) We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank–Modest Mouse
Isaac Brock keeps some of his annoying vocal gimmicks to a minimum and ups the quality of his songwriting.

8) Chalk—PJ Harvey
The story of failed relationship and an abortion are told as a whispery Gothic horror story. Polly Jean shelved her guitar and learned to play the piano for this album, a spooky and atmospheric masterwork.

7) Sky Blue Sky—Wilco
No, it's not Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but it's got some great stuff here. The intertwining guitars on the coda to "Impossible Germany" is a certified Grab-the-wheel-honey-I gotta-play-air-guitar moment

6) Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga—Spoon
After years of wondering what the fuss about Spoon was all about, this album won me over. Thirty-seven minutes of tight toothsome rock.

5) Sound of Silver—LCD Soundsystem
James Murphy and company pull off the hat trick: an album that makes you laugh, makes you think about life's goals and life's fleetingness, and gets you to shake your booty at the same time. "All My Friends" is my song of the year.

4) In Rainbows--Radiohead
Gorgeous and otherwordly. My favorite to listen on late drives with the moon roof open. It feels like you could drift off into the stars with the music.

3) Neon Bible—Arcade Fire
After being anointed the great indie hope, Arcade could be forgiven for folding under the pressure. While "Bible" doesn't have the quirkiness and surprises of "Funeral," the scope is wider.

2) Challengers—The New Pornographers
People who never got past that "Challenger" didn't rock like "Twin Cinema" missed an album with some of the most inventive arrangements, gorgeous harmonies and stellar melodies of the year.

1) Boxer—The National
Every time I slid this album into the CD player, I felt like I wasn't listening as much as eavesdropping. How can these songs be so revealing and enigmatic at the same time? A brilliant and brilliantly original album.

Honorable mentions:
Cold & Kind—The 1900s
Everybody—The Sea & Cake
Chrome Dreams II—Neil Young
I'm Not There—Soundtrack, various artists

Monday, November 12, 2007

Women and Vodka--The Old Bait and Switch

How to sell classic Russian literature to American males during the Cold War:

It even has a selection from Crime and Punishment, featuring that swinging lady-killer Raskolnikov.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Friday at Lollapalooza

Irony does not seem to function in an outdoor concert setting. I'm pretty sure that when Kurt Cobain wrote Lithium, the opening lyrics of "I'm so happy…" is not to be taken at face value. But when the Polyphonic Spree gets the crowd in a huge sing-along, Lithium becomes a feel-good anthem. The camera focuses on Tim Delaughter moving among the audience and singing, "I'm so ugly, but that's okay, so are you," then zooms in on a guy getting a pat on the head while the lyrics are sung to him and it's a big crowd pleaser with this guy truly ecstatic that the joke was on him.

I noted this last year when Sleater/Kinney sang Modern Girl and everyone sang the "My whole life is a like a picture of a sunny day" line. So a song about limits of materialism becomes a festival feel-good song. Not that I minded it either time.

After a hot and muggy day, the sun slips behind the skyscrapers in the west just in time for the 7:30 show of LCD Soundsystem. The area around stage fills up quickly with people who just got off of work and are ready to dance off any traces of the workweek. James Murphy (who has serious bed hair) and the band play an intense set. In between songs, Murphy has droll monologues: “I never know what to say in between songs. What can I say? ‘Are You Ready?’ Never could understand why performers ask that. You are all obviously ready, waiting for the next song. What do you have to be ready for? It’s the band that needs to be ready. And we’re not, so I have to say stuff like this.”

The set reaches its peak during a red hot version of "All My Friends." The song's ending refrain of "Where are your friends tonight?" which has always seemed a twist of a knife now becomes a joyous shout. Our friends are here tonight and we're all dancing our asses off.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Magic Beans

Research shows that coffee can protect the liver against too much partying. It doesn't appear to be the caffeine in coffee, but some other ingredient in java.

This is nature in its truest most beneficial form. A big night out and you naturally need a little more coffee than usual and all that java is making everything all right. It's beautiful in a kind PBS nature special kind of way—except that since the ecological system portrayed is your inner organs, it's even more moving.

And proof positive that those folks juicing on diet Pepsi or Red Bull in the mornings aren't just corroding their taste buds, but are fucking with the natural order of things.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Man, Whatever Happened to "What happens in El Salvador, Stays in El Salvador"

From the Chicago Trib 3/13/2007

Israel has recalled its ambassador to El Salvador after he was found naked, bound and drunk, according to Israeli media reports confirmed Monday by a government spokeswoman.

Tsuriel Raphael has been removed from his post and the Foreign Ministry has begun searching for a replacement, ministry spokeswoman Zehavit Ben-Hillel said.

Two weeks ago, El Salvador police found Raphael in the yard of his residence, tied up, gagged with a ball and drunk, Israeli media reported. He was wearing bondage equipment, the media said. After he was untied, Raphael told police he was the ambassador of Israel, the reports said.

Ben-Hillel said the reports were accurate and that Raphael has been recalled, although he did not break any laws.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Republican Fiscal Responsibility

Remember when Republicans, although still not exactly progressive when it came to social issues, were fiscally responsible and generally tight with a buck.

Neither do I.

Still there must have been a time when this was true. All that stuff about tax-and spend Democrats and good steward Republicans.

But check out this table, run in the Chicago Tribune a while back.

The biggest increase occurs because of WW II debt, then a gradual pay down until Reagan takes office and the debt takes off like a shot. Clinton balances the books briefly, then comes Shrub. In all the Republican years of Reagan and the Bushes push the national debt $8,000 higher than it was after WWII.

Yesterday David Walker, the US comptroller general, was on 60 Minutes where he pointed out that this level of debt is unsustainable and added: "We are mortgaging the future of our children and grandchildren at record rates, and that is not only an issue of fiscal irresponsibility, it's an issue of immorality."

Maybe tax and spend is better than spend, cut taxes for the mega wealthy and spend.