Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Top 50 Songs of the 2000s (Top Ten!)

This is it, ladies and gentlemen! The TOP TEN! I know you're all as excited as I am and I'll have more than enough to say about these last ten songs--all of which I would undoubtedly put on a list of top 50 songs of all time--so let's get the ball rolling right away...

10. Funeral Diner - This Truly Is God's Country

Yeah, yeah, more screamo. Hear me out. There was a period a few years ago for a couple of months where I just didn't see any point in listening to any band but Funeral Diner because nothing else measured up. Funeral Diner is one of those bands where no one instrument is the real star of the show because they all mesh together as one so perfectly. However, I will say that Matthew Bajda is one of my top 5 drummers of all time...even now that I don't listen to much Funeral Diner--or screamo in general--anymore. This song, like a lot of the screamo songs on the list, was picked because of the truly special "moments" in the song moreso than the song as a whole--a distinction which is even more apparent in the highest ranked screamo song on the countdown. Don't take that to mean that these screamo songs aren't great all the way through. It's just that screamo songs do tend to rely on dynamics and emotional peaks and valleys and builds and payoffs to carry most of their emotional weight. In the case of this song, these "moments" are not only brilliant musically but lyrically as well. In fact, as hard as it may be to believe, the lyrics may even overshadow the music in some places. When vocalist Seth Babb wails "the holes you dig are always deeper though better informed" I can't help but get goosebumps. And, of course, the song's main climax in which he shrieks "as much as it hurts, they were right when they said: 'change is the only constant'" will always take my breath away no matter how many times I hear this song.

9. The Lawrence Arms - Your Gravest Words

Easily the catchiest, most accessible song in the top 10, The Lawrence Arms get their only nod in my top 50 for a song I've probably listened to more times than almost any song I've ever heard (there might possibly be 2 or 3 that I've listened to more times...if only I'd had a last.fm count my whole life). For a pop punk song, you can't do any better than this. One of the most beautiful chord progressions you'll ever hear begins the song and flows through all the choruses like sheets of rain washing down on your face. Now, for those not familiar with The Lawrence Arms, their music is unique in that guitarist Chris McCullough writes about half of the songs while bassist Brendan Kelly writes the other half. Much like The Beatles did, Chris and Brendan each sing lead vocals on their own respective songs, so their albums are split between "Chris songs"--they tend to be a little on the softer, prettier side--and "Brendan songs"--falling on the harder, more punk rock side of things--which make for an interesting experience. This is probably the perfect embodiment of a "Chris song." Beautiful, powerful, catchy as all hell and dripping with his uniquely low-pitch, smooth, melodic voice (as opposed to Brendan's gritty punk voice). When he croons "I am a satellite, never getting signals right. You are a constellation. I can barely make you out tonight. The city lights are burning too bright." it will melt your heart, I can almost guarantee it.

8. Envy - A Far-Off Reason and Yaphet Kotto/This Machine Kills/Envy - A Collaboration Song

These two songs appear on the greatest split record I've ever heard in my life. For those not "in the know", a split record is a record that features songs by more than one band (usually two bands, three in this case) that is generally a collaborative effort between the two bands, at least to some extent. Some bands cover one or two of each other's songs when they do a split together (as is the case with the Alkaline Trio/Hot Water Music split). I used to own a split 10" by Envy (who are from Japan) and a band called Iscariote who are Italian and they did a cool thing where each did one song in the other band's language with lyrics written by the other band's lyricist. This split is unique in that it features three bands (there are certainly other splits between three or more bands but most features just two) and, moreso, because the three bands collaborated on the final song on the record. This split stands as the best split I've ever heard for several reasons: 1. the three Yaphet Kotto songs on this split are, in my opinion, the best songs they ever wrote, 2. the way this split is organized, with Yaphet Kotto's powerful but more up-tempo songs leading off, This Machine Kills's solid, chaotic, but ultimately least exceptional songs in the middle, with Envy's masterfully powerful contribution and the subsequent brilliance of the collaborative track bookending the record perfectly...the organization reminded me a lot of the way you're taught to write five-paragraph essays in middle school and high school: second best argument first, third best argument second, best argument first, 3. Envy's contribution itself...incredible, and 4. A Collaboration Song. I absolutely, positively had to list both "A Far-Off Reason" as well as "A Collaboration Song" simply because they are two of the greatest songs of this decade respectively. "A Far-Off Reason" is really the song that made me stand up and take notice when listening to the record. I had enjoyed the contributions of Yaphet Kotto and This Machine Kills albeit a bit passively. However, when I first heard the intensely moving chord progression at the heart of this song, my jaw dropped and my eyes started getting misty. Then there's a moment where the music drops out for an extended period of time and all you hear is screaming off in the distance. I don't want to ruin the surprise but pay close attention during this part. When I heard it, I stopped what I was doing and was pretty much frozen in the same position for the rest of the song. "A Collaboration Song?" I can't even describe it. You have to hear it for yourself. It's a religious experience.

7. City of Caterpillar - ...And You're Wondering How a Top Floor Could Replace Heaven

This song is the true embodiment of the statement I made in my Funeral Diner blurb in reference to "moments." This song features some of the best "moments" in any song I've ever heard in my life--and they happen almost one on top of the other. I must warn you not to be deterred by the raucous, somewhat chaotic beginning of the song. The raging tide of the song soon settles some of the most beautiful atmospheric passages ever put to tape. I can sit here and try to describe what these brilliant moments sound like (all the stars falling to earth is one image that comes to mind) but I could never do them justice. All the velvety layers and swirling textures surround your head and immerse you in a warm, starry experience that I highly recommend to everyone. EVERYONE.

6. Radiohead - The National Anthem

I have to say, honestly, if there were to be a national anthem for this decade or even this millenium, you'd have a hard time doing better than this. This isn't really even one of my absolute favorite Radiohead songs--it's way up there but maybe just short of a top ten--but it is a perfect microcosm of not only Radiohead's artistic and musical prowess but of the music industry as a whole: an unsettling, undeniably catchy and yet incomprehensibly chaotic cacophony that snowballs into a most beautifully decimating conclusion. It's sparse and a bit disjointed lyrically but perhaps fittingly for a song so chock full of notes that bite and scratch and clash with each other in a wonderful garbage pile of juxtaposed beauty and ugliness, musicality and amusicality. A perfect way to summarize this song is a quote I used time and time again to describe avant garde black metal band Deathspell Omega's discordant 2007 masterpiece "Fas -- Ite, Maledicti, In Ignem Aeternum": Only truly great musicians could create something this amusical.

5. Converge - Heaven In Her Arms

And you thought "The National Anthem" was chaotic. I should warn you all that this is arguably the most abrasive and least accessible song on the entire list. Enter at your own risk. If you do take the plunge, you'll be holding on for dear life for the entire ride. Set partially in a 7/4 time signature that comes off more like a 7/8 with the scathing pace of the song, it features one of the most devastatingly powerful riffs you'll hear in any metal or hardcore song along with Jacob Bannon's trademark bloodcurdling screams and, of course, Ben Koller's ever-transient, ever-mindblowing drum work. A somber tone and a 4/4 time signature kicks in for an epic bridge that sees Bannon shrieking maddeningly: "forgive me for the sadness and the bringing of you down...I just needed a lover and I needed a friend...and there you were, running from forever like all the rest." However it soon becomes clear that all this was just a prelude for an epic conclusion that's as emotionally powerful as it is crushingly heavy: "three simple words bled me dry: I love you."

4. Tool - Rosetta Stoned

This is the one song on the countdown that features an intro that's fairly essential to the experience of the song, especially because the two tracks bleed together. In fact, I really like to start listening to this song with an interlude that sits one track previous to the intro for this song because it serves as a great preface for the "Lost Keys"/"Rosetta Stoned" experience. And "Rosetta Stoned" is certainly a fitting title for this song. It's really only something that obsessive Tool fans--read: most real Tool fans--are consciously aware of but this song has pieces of other Tool songs scattered all over the place. That's not to say they sampled other songs or ripped riffs straight out of old songs and pasted them into this one. However there are certainly very distinct homages to many of Tool's songs hidden within the song. Comparisons can be drawn between parts in "Rosetta Stoned" and parts in songs such as "H." and "Third Eye" that are a frequent topic of discussion on Tool message boards--I would know. In many ways this song really is kind of a "rosetta stone" for Tool's music and a very interesting microcosm of their catalog. Tool has almost become known for these sort of 10+ minute epics that rollercoaster up and down and side to side and upside down countless times and while this is no "Third Eye" it certainly earns its place on the pantheon of Tool epics as well as a spot in the top five of this countdown.

3. Between the Buried and Me - Mordecai

On sheer musicality alone, this song blows every single one on this list away and then some. The opening seconds set the perfect tone for this punishing whirlwind of blinding metal riffing and constantly transitioning tempos. The guitar work here is second to none, all at once technically masterful, totally organic, and melodiously impressive. If all the chaos and noise isn't your cup of tea, I urge you to brave the storm for a little longer because the song closes with a beautifully epic and moving passage that includes a truly great guitar solo that very much serves the song as opposed to the guitarist's ego. I dare you not to get goosebumps during the soaring melody of "from the reciting of the show...from the plip in the shevanel...from the grind that annoys...and the sarcasm they all hate"

2. Converge - Jane Doe

This is the emotional 11+ minute conclusion of the album with the same name...and a fitting conclusion it is. An album as powerful and as challenging as this deserves nothing less than a towering, spiraling, desperate epic. One of the greatest shows I've ever seen was a Converge show where they closed their set with this song and I have to admit that I literally wept seeing them perform this song. Such an overpowering emotional song with Jacob Bannon musing during the choruses "IIIIIIIIII waaaaaaaant ouuuuuuut." The outro is a crushingly beautiful bookend to a magnificent, majestic song. Powerful beyond belief.


1. Thrice - For Miles

I have to admit I feel a little guilty putting this at the top spot because I feel like I probably have an overwhelming bias toward this band but at the same time I just don't fucking care. This song is just achingly, impossibly beautiful. I can't even describe how much this song moves me. The beautiful piano line. Dustin Kensrue's incredibly voice. Ridiculously powerful lyrics. Spacey guitar work in the chorus. A towering bridge with a fantastic guitar riff. And an outro that will make the hairs on your neck stand up. No praise I can give this song is too high. No description I can give can capture its captivating beauty for you. You just have to go buy yourself a copy of "Vheissu" and wait patiently for track 5 so you can experience it for yourself.

Well, that's it...the countdown comes to its dramatic conclusion. I hope it was as fun for you--all two of you reading this--as it was for me.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Top 50 Songs of the 2000s (20-11)

I know, I know, I've been slacking on this...but look on the bright side, we're now into the top 20. I personally am pretty excited because we're starting to get into some songs that I'm really gonna have a hard time not gushing like a fanboy about. Just looking over the top 10 right now, I can't wait to blather on and on and bore everyone to death about these 10 songs...they really are some of my favorite songs of all time...anyway, on with the show...

20. Mono - Halcyon (Beautiful Days)

I'm convinced that this song is the audio incarnation of falling in love. It really does sound like a song from a movie soundtrack that would be played over a romantic, exhilarating new year's eve scene where two anxious, smitten lovers play out an out-of-this-world first kiss as brilliant fireworks explode over their heads. The great thing is that you can pinpoint exactly where the kiss happens and the fireworks explode at the overwhelming climax of the song. Listening to this song after smoking a little herb and hearing that burst-and-bloom climax explode all around you is the closest thing to a fireworks display literally going off inside your head. It's not particularly complex for the 8 minutes it takes to play out but that's really part of the beauty of it...it's simple but breathtakingly majestic.

19. Baroness - A Horse Called Golgotha

I had to go back and amend my list to allow for this song because I am officially 100% sure that this is the best song Baroness has ever written. It features a majestic intro that serves as a perfect preface and then it launches headfirst into the epic guitar harmonies that line the entire song. The verse features a nice transition into some almost Torche-esque hook-driven heavy psychedelic pop which transitions back into an extraordinarily powerful chorus. I absolutely can't get enough of the guitar solo on this song and the scathing tone with which it drips. There's another solo like this in the song "Jake Leg" but it's nowhere near the brilliance of this solo...one of the best solos I've heard in quite a long time to be honest. And then what puts it over the top is the way it comes crashing to a close with a soaring instrumental outro that will send chills down your spine.

18. System of a Down - Question!

By a long margin, this is the most challenging, creative, and perhaps the best-crafted song in System of a Down's catalog. The haunting picked acoustic intro gives way to a sick riff in 5/4 time which then gives way to a highly complex 9/8 time verse that I had to listen to about 10 times before I could really figure out what time signature it was in, especially the way it's phrased. It also features one of the signature epic choruses of the "Mesmerize/Hypnotize" double album with their best soaring harmonies since the closing moments of "Chop Suey!" It's so rare nowadays to see a band that can challenge listeners with truly unique music that features things like odd time signatures or complex song structures and still garner massive popularity along the way. System of a Down is one of those bands. I can really only think of maybe two other examples of such bands--each is featured twice in the top 15 of this countdown.

17. Mare - They Sent You

I'm sure I don't have to tell anyone that this is probably the most esoteric selection on my list. It is certainly my opinion that Mare is by far the best band to ever record only five original songs and go almost completely unnoticed, even in the underground. I was lucky enough to see this band live--ironically we got there late and missed the first song they played, which was this song, a fact that haunts me to this very day--and they played to a room that would have held about 50 people at capacity and probably held about 20 that night. I guess it's not difficult to imagine this band not being for everyone. Their music is extremely challenging and complex, similar in many ways to the music of Baroness in that they are able to so seamlessly combine so many different elements and push genre boundaries. However, their approach is far more avant garde than that of Baroness, opting for towering, unsettling atmospheres and brooding, restrained rhythms, often not staying on a beat for long if there even is a beat. This song is a mindfuck from the very beginning, leading off with some very eerie programming and singing before nosediving into massive stoner rock riffs with beautifully complex guitar chords that are about as far from power chords as you can get and still be ridiculously heavy--this guitar work has actually been a major influence on my playing and my songwriting as a whole. The most compelling moment of this song comes toward the end as the music abruptly pauses for a very ominous guitar chord that almost sounds like an alarm being sounded, a chord which is then coupled with some distortion and some huge, sluggish stoner riffing to create a truly ominous atmosphere--an atmosphere abandoned as abruptly as it is ushered in as it quickly gives way to a beautiful guitar outro that almost speaks to you, saying: "everything is ok now."

16. At the Drive-In - Invalid Litter Dept.

A far cry from the chaotic assault of the rest of the "Relationship of Command" album, this song showcases the lighter side of At the Drive-In with a beautifully unsettling guitar line as its centerpiece. The verses are noticeably relaxed compared to much of this band's work but they're juxtaposed very nicely with rapid-fire incendiary spoken word vocals to create an interesting urgency among the restraint of the instrumentation. The vocal ramblings are also interspliced with the catchy and haunting melody of "dancing on the corpses ashes." The choruses are catchy and a bit more rowdy but ultimately play into the relaxed atmosphere of the song perfectly. What really puts this song over the top is what happens after the music abruptly stops toward the end of the song for vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala to whisper "dancing on the corpses ashes...dancing on the corpses ashes." You'll see...

15. Dredg - Triangle

Another track that is very much enhanced by being preceded by an interlude that makes for a very fitting preface. Much like Baroness's "Wanderlust", however, it stands up spectacularly on its own. What really made me pick this over other Dredg songs--and there are certainly a number of them I could have picked--is the fact that this song is almost like 2-3 songs put together, abruptly but seamlessly changing gears twice in the first two minutes and even a couple times after that to some degree. After those two minutes the song is truly allowed to settle in and even without all the abrupt pacing changes stands as one of Dredg's greatest achievements in songwriting and melody as well as lyrics. Some brilliantly poignant moments in this song include singer Gavin Hayes soaring through one of my favorite lyrics ever--"and it's not impossible for flowers to bloom and grow next to graves when babies are born in the same buildings where people go to pass away"--as the instruments trail out momentarily behind him and a droning chant of "we live like penguins in the desert...why can't we live like tribes?" in the song's bridge.

14. Radiohead - Idioteque

Leave it to Radiohead to write a discoteque song that is all at once the best discoteque song you'll ever hear and a big "fuck you" to discoteque in general. This is probably the most well-known example of Radiohead's trademark knack for marrying aggressive yet organic sounding techno beats with sometimes-eerie, sometimes-serene, always-beautiful melodies. I can still remember seeing this song performed on Saturday Night Live and Thom Yorke flailing his head around screaming "ice age coming! ice age coming!" An interesting aspect of this song is how much it has been connected with 9/11, with one fan even making a very interesting and relevant music video for the song using some interesting footage and photography. In fact, if you want to go even deeper, there's a whole passage in Chuck Klosterman's book "Killing Yourself to Live" about how he Radiohead might have accidentally predicted the events of 9/11 with their "Kid A" album--not literally, of course, but there are definitely some very interesting parallels.

13. Bright Eyes - Nothing Gets Crossed Out

As is often the case in the music of Conor Oberst, this song is carried predominantly by the power of his lyrics. A solemn, self-reflective, nostalgia-inducing merry-go-round ride of achingly powerful lines like "I know I should be brave but I'm just too afraid of all this change", opening lines "well the future's got me worried such awful thoughts, my head's a carousel of pictures, the spinning never stops", and boyhood laments of how he "fell under the weight of a schoolboy crush, started carrying her books and doing lots of drugs." But as is also often the case with Conor's work, the lyrics are nestled on a solid foundation of beautifully crafted music, including a gorgeous, starkly sweet bridge that gives way to a powerful conclusion as Oberst wails: "So when I'm lost in a crowd, I hope that you'll pick me out. Oh, how I long to be found. The grass grew high. I laid down. So now I wait for a hand to lift me up, help me stand. I have been laying so low. Don't wanna lay here no more."

12. Envy - Chain Wondering Deeply

There's really only one word that inevitably comes to mind when one talks about Envy, there's no avoiding it, it's the only one that lives up to what this band is capable of: EPIC. With songs that sprawl over 6, 7, 8, even 9 minutes sometimes and echo with the majesty and ferocity of Vesuvius, it's hard to avoid using the word "epic" when describing any Envy song--and no song they've written better embodies that than this one. It's not hard to imagine what's about to be unleashed upon you when you hear the haunting opening moments of this track but even then it can take you by surprise. I know I keep using this adjective (among others) but this song is truly one where the music (and specifically the guitars) truly tower over you like skyscrapers. That is, until the harrowing bridge of the song which features a twinkly guitar line that will pluck at your very heart strings--and if I'm being overly cheesy, it's purposefully. The only problem listening to this song is that if you don't have the whole album playing then the ending is awkward since it tumbles immediately into the next track on the album. That aside, though, if you truly love powerful, epic, dramatic music, this song just might change your life.

11. Tool - Right in Two

I have to say it's really a damn good thing that Aenima was released in 1996 otherwise I might have put half that album on the list. Tool's output in this millenium has never really lived up to the sheer brilliance of that album but, to be fair, that would be nearly impossible. Their last album, "10,000 Days" came much, much closer than 2001's "Lateralus" did--I often say that "10,000 Days" is the album I expected and the album Tool was capable of when they came out with "Lateralus" even though I still adore "Lateralus." This song is one of the main reasons why. Lyrically it's definitely one of my favorite Tool songs, to the point that if I were to quote every line I love in this song, I would probably end up covering at least 75% of the song. It also features a breathtaking tabla solo by drummer Danny Carey in the interlude that I had the good fortune of witnessing live and is truly something to behold--actually the tabla solo on the record is not even close to being as amazing as the one he played live. Add in the fact that this song is somehow in 11/8 time and still feels pretty much like a straight up 3 and you absolutely have yourself one of the greatest songs of this decade.

Tune in tomorrow for the TOP TEN. I keep staring at the top ten as I write this and drooling all over myself at the prospect of discussing these songs. Since I can barely contain my excitement, I'll give you guys a little teaser: 6 of the top 10 slots are occupied by bands who have already had at least one song on the countdown, one of which appears in the top ten twice...and yet doesn't even hold the top spot. Excited? I AM!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Inside the Spectacularly Marvelously Marvel Smoking Section

Captain America is Reborn or something little late to the party myself but I've been thinking bout the two caps and I remembered the old cap had a vice. Nothing quite says all American hero than a nice corn cob pipe. It's interesting how jovially it makes the captain seem. Not what I'd expect from him. I'd expect the All American New York city boy who served in the second world war to smoke either a cigarette or nothing at all. The corn cob pipe would fit a little better if Steve Rodgers was from Oklahoma or Kentucky. I could never imagine cap puffing this after a skirmish with Baltroc the Leaper.
His arch nemesis the Red Skull however is pitch perfect with a long Cruela DeVille ciggarette. It highlights his European-ness, his villiany, and it looks odd perched on his deformed person. Strangley elegant, yet grotesque its the perfect design compliment for Cap's most well known foe.
Been going through my old posts and found an old gem I'd like to expound upon. Found more character pics I like of great marvel smokers. Captain America's future best pal Tony Stark smokes marlboro's especially when he drinks. High pressure life style, women coming and going sometime's you just got to kick back and unwind with a good smoke.
Few things more befit a position of power like an eye-patch, Ciagr, and grey streaks on the side of the head. The classic Nick Fury has the triple threat.

Super spy's don't only smoke cigars in the USSR they enjoy a nice pack of Kool as the dealy Balck Widow can attest. It makes sense that Russia's baddest agent doesn't give a crap about lung cancer. I'd totally by a pack of smokes called Balck Widow's if this pic was on the carton.
All supevillains should smoke they're bad guys it makes sense. Others look really cool due to their choice in smoke. Others look more petty.

Cigars are not only for the rich and powerful. Alpha Flight's Puck is known to enjoy an occasional cigar. Nothing wrong with a good Montescristo after a long day of fighting the Wendigo.
Grey Hulk agrees.
So does Canada's favorite son, Logan.
Or maybe a pipe is better post Wendigo fight?

Scientist love pipes makes them more scientifical I think .
Coming soon my own Super hero smoking art. Think Dr. Strange, Luke Cage, Iron-Fist, Green Arrow, Green Lantern John Stewart, and taking requests for the final couple smoking art doodles I'm working on. I in no way encourage smoking it's a horrible habit and I don't do it myself. Although I don't mind if fictional people do it.

Friday, September 4, 2009

6 reasons to enjoy Night at the Museum battle OF the Smithsonian

6 reasons to enjoy Night at The Museum Battle of the Smithsonian

6. The production design on this film is superb. Everything looks crisp and old and glorious. I wasn't a fan of the first film and was hesitant to see this film but I'm glad I did because it was just good family fun. The films never really deliver on their full potential. You have the possibility to do some really suspenseful, dramatic, and cinematic things with the magical concept. instead we're played for light hearted simple laughs.
5. Hank Azaria was magnificent. His biceps were glorious and his voice really shines. He is such a tremendous actor who I wished had a bigger resume. Love him on the Simpsons, and in films like the Birdcage, and Run Fatboy Run.
4. His evil cronies were fun. I liked the Vader and Grouch cameos and I'll admit it's one of the reasons I actually went to see this film in theatres. Wish Napolean would've had more screen time.
3. Bill Hader is one of my favorite comedy actors of this new millennium he's splendid on SNL and he plays Custer in a very honest, innocent, and fun way. You feel almost bad fro him when you see him realize his place in history. The film is almost about his redemption in a way.
2. This little Gladiator Cowboy relationship was one of my favorite parts of the first film and I'd lobby for a spin-off with them.
1. Stiller keeps the ensemble cast in check and has a nice bit of chemistry with Amy Adams and the storybook ending worked fro me at the end. I liked the film more than I expected to and I think it's a decent family flick. Not the worst way to spend a couple of hours.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Top 50 Songs of the 2000s (just missed the cut)

I thought it only fair to do a little side feature about the songs that would have been on the list if I only had the energy to do a top 100 instead of a top 50...but uh...fuck that...so here's a look at the tracks that just missed the cut:

Sigur Ros – Untitled Track 1
Converge – You Fail Me
Converge - Plagues
Queens of the Stone Age – First It Giveth
Queens of the Stone Age – No One Knows
Queens of the Stone Age – Feel Good Hit of the Summer
The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (Pt. 1)
dredg – Of the Room
Mastodon – Sleeping Giant
Mastodon – March of the Fire Ants
Streetlight Manifesto – A Better Place, A Better Time
Deftones – Passenger
Deftones – Change (In the House of Flies)
The Mountain Goats – No Children
System of a Down – Toxicity
System of a Down – Lost In Hollywood
System of a Down – Soldierside
The Weakerthans – Reconstruction Site
The Weakerthans – Psalm for the Elks Lodge Last Call
The Weakerthans – Presience of Dawn
Ben Folds – Still Fighting It
Propagandhi - Mate Ka Moris Ukun Rasik An
Propagandhi – Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes
Propagandhi – Purina Hall of Fame
Thrice – Hold Fast Hope
Deathspell Omega – Bread of Bitterness
Funeral Mist – Circle of Eyes
A Perfect Circle - Judith
Circle Takes the Square – Interview at the Ruins
The Hold Steady – First Night
Talib Kweli – Get By
Majority Rule – The Sin in Grey
Aphex Twin – Vordhosbn
The Bouncing Souls – Night Train
The Bouncing Souls – Anchors Aweigh
Bright Eyes – Haligh, Haligh, a Lie, Haligh
Dr. Dre – Forgot About Dre
Dr. Dre – Still D.R.E.
Eminem – Kill You
Green Day – Jesus of Suburbia
Green Day – Wake Me Up When September Ends
John Mayer – Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
John Mayer – The Hurt
Kelly Clarkson – Since U Been Gone
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Stadium Arcadium
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Slow Cheetah
Thursday – Paris In Flames
Thursday – Standing On the Edge of Summer
Thursday – How Long Is the Night?
Thursday – War All the Time

Top 50 Songs of the 2000s (30-21)

Sorry for missing a day or two but now is the time to start getting excited cuz we're starting to get into some songs I really, REALLY like a lot. Once we start getting into the top 20 I'm gonna start really gushing uncontrollably about some of these songs. Well let's get started already...

30. Mono - 16.12

A few years ago a friend of mine told me there was this band from Japan who were kind of in the same style as Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai and that I should check out their (at the time) newest album entitled--brace yourself--"Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined." I'm always up for some good epic ambient post-rock type stuff so I checked out the album. This is the first song on that album. It's a long journey, clocking in at over 10 minutes, but when the 10 minutes are over it will seem all too soon and you'll be anxiously awaiting the rest of the album. It starts with the soothing sound of waves crashing on a shore, soon joined by some solemn violin harmonies, both of which eventually give way to the quiet first of many layers of sound that lay one on top of the other gradually as the song progresses. The driving force of the song soon becomes apparent in a perpetually ascending delay-soaked tremolo-picked guitar line climbing to towering heights before exploding into a beautiful climax which eventually trails off back into the subtle tones of the intro of the song.

29. The Arcade Fire - Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)

Another fantastic opening track of an album that really impressed me when I heard it. The Arcade Fire has a really great sense for making music that is at once memorable, accessible, unique, compelling, dramatic, and interesting, something exceedingly hard to do. This song is such a joyful explosion from the very first note, it's no wonder they made it track 1 on their breakthrough "Funeral" album. At times this band actually tends to remind me a little bit of Jimmy Eat World with their use of sweet, twinkly indie rock moments, however Win Butler's wild wailing vocals lend the music a captivating, almost At-the-Drive-In-esque exuberance and does so much to make their sound truly their own.

28. The Weakerthans - Aside

If you've ever seen the movie Wedding Crashers, chances are you've heard this song without even knowing it--it's the song that plays over the closing credits. I can remember walking out of the theater after seeing the movie and being taken by complete surprise when I heard John K. Sampson's unmistakable voice over the end credits of a "Frat Pack" movie. Sampson is undoubtedly one of the least well-known great songwriters of this generation and you don't have to listen to very many Weakerthans songs to figure out why. His undeniable wit and charm shine through not only in his brilliant lyrics but in the songs themselves. This is probably one of the more simple but also more powerful songs in The Weakerthans' catalog and is, of course, chock full of amazing lines including a fantastic bridge--"Circumnavigate this body of wonder and uncertainty armed with every precious failure; an amateur cartography. I breathe in deep before I spread those maps out on my bedroom floor"--and an unforgettable chorus--"and I'm leaning on this broken fence between past and present tense...and I'm losing all those stupid games that I swore I'd never play...but it almost feels OK."

27. Outkast – B.O.B.

In the Pitchfork Media feature I cited as my inspiration for this little article of mine, this song was given the honor of being the #1 song of the decade. The reasoning is sound enough, specifically when you factor in popularity and social relevance more heavily. As Pitchfork says, "'B.O.B.' is not just the song of the decade--it is the decade" going on to note that with Bombs Over Baghdad, Outkast "effectively craft[ed] a fast-forwarded highlight-reel prophecy of what the next 10 years held in store." It's hard to argue considering that the very title of the song was eerily prophetic but the power of this song goes so far beyond its title and subject matter. It's such a glorious onslaught of danceable but incendiary bombast that its universal appeal should be no surprise and the soulful choir makes this song almost a religious experience.

26. Envy - Color of Fetters

The first (and certainly not the last) Envy song on my countdown. Envy is an epic screamo band from Japan and when I say epic I mean...EPIC. The great thing about this song is that it doesn't waste any time, it grabs you right from the get-go and doesn't let go. Characteristically of Envy, this 7 minute ride is wrought with dynamic contrast and powerful moments from the swirling opening to the desolate middle refrain and so, so much more. I can't do much to describe the roller coaster ride you embark on when listening to an Envy song, you're just going to have to take the ride for yourself.

25. Tool - The Grudge

As much as I love everything Tool has ever done, I've always felt like Tool was capable of much more with the "Lateralus" album. It's still an incredible record but I felt like it was a bit weighted down by its own self-conscious arty-ness and that a few of the tracks were weak by Tool standards ("Schism", "Parabol"/"Parabola", "Ticks and Leeches"). Still it did offer some typically brilliant moments that Tool can always be counted on for, such as "The Patient", the epic prog-driven suite of "Disposition"/"Reflection"/"Triad", and this immensely powerful opening track. Set in the challenging time signature of 5/4 with a sort of 3ish feel to it, this song features some of the best songwriting Tool is capable of such as the fleeting pounding riff with the bass drum doubling in speed under it every measure and then giving way to a beautifully desolate bass line which builds (with the help of the drums) and carries over into the verse. It also features one of the great ending climaxes of any song in Tool's catalog and that's a major compliment because that's really Tool's modus operandi.

24. Baroness - Rays On Pinion

I vividly remember the first time I heard Baroness's "Red Album"--of which this is the opening track. I smoked a huge bowl and put on this record as I packed another one. When those opening guitar tones hit my stoned ears it was like biting into a filet mignon you can cut with a butter knife...and it was only going to get better. The lead-off track of "Red Album" is a much more raucous one than "Wailing Wintry Wind", much heavier on the heavy stoner riffage and classic rock guitar noodling with the exception of the intro, however there is no shortage of Baroness's impeccable sense of melody.

23. Converge - Thaw

This may be one of the hardest songs for most people reading this to get into for many of the same reasons I named it one of my top 50. This song is just one serious mindfuck--sonically it just sounds to me like a person in the depths of a serious mental breakdown. And you'll know when they snap as this is one of the most powerful moments on the entire "Jane Doe" album--very lofty praise, well deserved. If you're one of the few who is actually interested in checking out the songs I'm talking about on this list, definitely keep a very open mind when going into this one (and also make sure to listen to it all the way to the end or you might miss the best part).

22. Bright Eyes - From a Balance Beam

Another one of the Bright Eyes catalog that is overflowing with potent imagery and powerful lyrical lines. This song became something of a rallying cry for me personally in the months leading up to last year's election and with lines like "so I wait for the day when I hear the key as it turns in the lock and the guard will say to me 'oh, my patient prisoner you've waited for this day and finally you are free...you are free...you are freezing." One of the more powerful Bright Eyes songs in Oberst's catalog with some scathing but beautiful songwriting and absolutely incredible lyrics.

21. Thrice - Daedalus

On Thrice's "The Artist in the Ambulance" album they had a song called "The Melting Point of Wax" that was written from the point of view of Icarus. Icarus was the son of Daedalus and they were both imprisoned by the Minotaur in the Labyrinth so Daedalus constructed wings for the two of them to escape using wax, string, and feathers from nearby birds. Where "The Melting Point of Wax" is full of the youthful exuberance of Icarus wanting to "touch the sun" flying on "secondhand wings", "Daedalus" has a mournful tone of a loving father worrying for his son, a very potent metaphor for fatherhood. Singer Dustin Kensrue soars on a desperate bridge: "Oh Gods, why is this happening to me? All I wanted was a new life, for my son to grow up free. Now you took the only thing that meant anything to me. I will never fly again. I'll hang up my wings." When I say this is one of the most powerful and one of the best songs Thrice has ever written, you should know I'm not fucking around here.

Week 1

Welcome to the TRIUMPHANT REBIRTH of Hobbitcore's College Football Corner. Those of you familiar with "the corner" (VLV) know how this works but for those who don't, I will be picking 10 of what I deem to be the most relevant games played each week and providing a little insight and a prediction for each game. "Game of the Week" is pretty self-explanatory: the biggest game of the week...this section will also include a "Keys to the Game" feature (presented by GM--making cars you want to buy since 20??) and will carry the distinction of being the only game I pick the score for. There will also be "Upset of the Week"...also fairly self explanatory. I'll also be including a collection of teams that should be on "Upset Alert" for a given week and possibly an "Out of Whack Spreads" or a "Betters' Corner" at some point (it's week one so there aren't many spreads that are too out of whack). Also at an indefinite point in time I'll start listing my top 3 Heisman candidates each week and then once the BCS standings come out I'll start doing weekly predictions for who will be playing in each of the BCS bowls. I dunno about you but I can hardly contain my excitement about the season finally starting so let's get right to it...


South Carolina @ North Carolina State

Two teams with a high sleeper potential in their respective divisions of their conferences. Russell Wilson should be the star of the show and unless Steve Spurrier’s defense can do something to contain him or Stephen Garcia can emerge to go toe-to-toe with him in a shootout, I just don’t see this one going the Gamecocks’ way.
Hobbitcore Sez: North Carolina State

#16 Oregon @ #14 Boise State

Lots of credit to Boise State for scheduling a marquee BCS team and to Oregon for stepping up and playing the Broncos when so many other teams have backed out of deals with Boise State University. With Jeremiah Masoli running the spread and senior RB LeGarrette Blount behind him I could see Oregon tacking a ton of points on the board. If it turns into a shootout, don’t bet on the Broncos.
Hobbitcore Sez: Oregon


#13 Georgia @ #9 Oklahoma State

Big props to Georgia for playing a top 10 team (whether they knew they would be when they scheduled them or not) as part of an already grueling SEC schedule. SOME teams aren’t so bold. But I digress. This game is all about Georgia’s defense matching up with the potent Cowboy offense lead by returning starting QB Zac Robinson and explosive RB Kendall Hunter. I like the Cowboys offense to find the weaknesses of the Bulldogs defense just enough times to win. It’ll be close and it won’t be a shootout but Robinson will make some crucial plays late to secure a win.
Hobbitcore Sez: Oklahoma State

Missouri v. Illinois

I really like Illinois as a sleeper pick in the Big Ten with QB Juice Williams back for his senior season. Missouri will have a hard time replacing Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin but should be able to score their share of points working out of that offensive scheme. Still, Juice Williams is the X-factor that pushes it over the top for Illinois.
Hobbitcore Sez: Illinois

Nevada @ #23 Notre Dame

I’m not sure exactly what reason Notre Dame has to be ranked but they better not let it go to their heads because the Wolfpack are not to be taken lightly. I like Notre Dame in this one but it’s up to them whether they can make a statement that they’re back or barely escape with a victory and send a very different message.
Hobbitcore Sez: Notre Dame

#20 BYU v. #3 Oklahoma

Oklahoma is another team who deserves a lot of credit for playing one of the toughest schedules in the country, one that includes a trip to Miami to play the Hurricanes and this neutral site game against Brigham Young. It should be very interesting to see reigning Heisman Tropy winner Sam Bradford back on the field without a lot of his offensive weapons and a lot of his big men up front, especially against a very good BYU defense. Still, on a neutral field, Oklahoma is better than just about anyone you can put in front of them.
Hobbitcore Sez: Oklahoma

Maryland @ #12 California

You can bet the Terps won’t catch the Golden Bears napping again this year. Last year Maryland dealt California a crucial loss and don’t think Cal has forgotten that. Maryland is entirely capable of beating Cal, even in Cal, but they’re going to have to come up with an answer to potential Heisman candidate Jahvid Best, probably the best RB in the nation. If they can contain him, this could be anyone’s game. Chances are, they won’t.
Hobbitcore Sez: California



Cincinnati @ Rutgers

The defending Big East champions certainly don’t ease their way into their schedule, starting with a tough road test at Rutgers. Rutgers has a relatively easy schedule and a lot of talent on defense to be a sleeper pick in the fairly wide open Big East race. I like them to win a defensive nailbiter behind the energy of their tremendous fans and use that win as a catapult to a run at the Big East title.
Hobbitcore Sez: Rutgers

Miami (FL) @ #18 Florida State

I know, I know, I ALWAYS say this…but Miami is going to be a hell of a lot better than many people realize. Most are picking them to finish 3rd or 4th in the Coastal Division and although it is a division that includes three other ranked teams, behind the leadership of sophomore QB Jacory Harris on offense and sophomore LB Sean Spence on defense (already on the Belitnikoff Award watch list as a true sophomore) and Mark Whipple’s newly installed offense, this team is really going to impress people. It’s a testament to the ridiculously tough schedule the Canes have to play to say that if they start the season 4-0, you will undoubtedly be hearing the ESPN talking heads talking about this team making a national championship run (and likely see them rocket into the top 10, possibly top 5). As much trouble as the Canes had stopping Christian Ponder and Antone Smith on the ground last year, I think you’ll see a different team on defense than you saw last year, especially with LB Colin McCarthy back from injury. Of course it’s UM/FSU so it’ll come down to the final minutes, big shock. I see the Miami defense grabbing a big turnover on a crucial late Seminole drive to seal a win.
Hobbitcore Sez: Miami


#5 Alabama v. #7 Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech took a huge blow to their national title aspirations recently when star RB Darrell Evans was declared out for the season. That means Tyrod Taylor is going to have to grow up way ahead of schedule if the Hokies want to have the kind of year they had been expecting. This is a mega huge game for both teams and their respective conferences. The ACC can’t afford another preseason top 10 team being embarrassed on national TV in week one after what happened to Clemson against Alabama last year and Virginia Tech v. LSU the year before. Expect the Hokies to compete hard for respect in this one and for their defense to keep them close but Alabama’s defense will keep Tech at arm’s length most of the game.
Hobbitpick: Alabama 27, Virginia Tech 21

Keys to the Game
-pressure Tyrod Taylor, dare him to throw
-establish running game
Virginia Tech
-fill Darrell Evans's shoes
-give Tyrod Taylor a chance to make plays


#23 Notre Dame (v. Nevada)
Wake Forest (v. Baylor)
#24 Nebraska (v. Florida Atlantic)
#12 California (v. Maryland)
#18 Florida State (v. Miami)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

And the Nominees Are...

I thought it would be fun if I made a list here of all the albums I'm currently considering for my customary list of the top 10 records of the year...here are (some of) the nominees for 2009 (there could certainly be new contenders arising between now and December 31st):

Thrice - Beggars (likely will be #1 barring some sort of miracle)
Converge - Axe to Fall
Baroness - Blue Album
Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion
Mastodon - Crack the Skye
Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
Amorphis - Skyforger
Kylesa - Static Tensions
Isis - Wavering Radiant
Dredg - The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion
Mono - Hymn to the Immortal Wind
Buried Inside - Spoils of Failure
Propagandhi - Supporting Caste
Wilco - Wilco (The Album)
Coalesce - OX
Thursday - Common Existence
The Mars Volta - Octahedron
Minsk - With Echoes in the Movement of Stone
...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of the Dead - The Century of Self
Poison the Well - The Tropic Rot
Wu Tang Clan - Chamber Music
Lucero - 1372 Overton Park
Between the Buried and Me - The Great Misdirect
Russian Circles - Geneva
Flight of the Conchords - I Told You I Was Freaky

Monday, August 31, 2009

Top 50 Songs of the 2000s (40-31)

40. Deftones - Knife Prty

I have to admit that I have a pretty heavy bias when it comes to this album--as the old cliche goes, "this album got me through some tough times." I have a lot of very emotional memories attached to this disc but I promise that didn't influence me in picking this song (too much). This song is just such an emotional ride and features some impressive drum work by Abe Cunningham. The epic, swirling ending featuring the chilling vocal performance of Rodleen Getsick gives me goosebumps every time. Just such a powerful, epic, haunting, borderline disturbing song by one of my favorite bands since high school, I had to give it a spot on the countdown.

39. Dredg – The Canyon Behind Her

To say this is the most epic song in the diverse Dredg catalog is a far bigger compliment than you might even realize. I've always thought Dredg was one of the most underrated bands I had ever heard. Every time I show this band to someone they're always blown away by how beautiful, unique, and moving their music is and yet they never really seem to garner the audience they deserve, never really fitting into a particular niche or scene. The title of this song is very fitting because as soon as it kicks in you can feel the sensation of standing at the edge of a great canyon looking over the scenery. The epic, flowing melodies of the guitars blanket you like a massive waterfall and then drop you into outer space with a characteristically (for this album, anyway) quicker-paced spacey verse before letting you fall back to earth into the waterfall. The towering final moments of the song are accentuated by an ethereal choral arrangement that ends up being the last thing you hear before cutting off abruptly, completing the journey.

38. The Mars Volta - Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of)

I often have a hard time deciding whether I prefer At the Drive-In's swan song "Relationship of Command" or The Mars Volta's full-length debut "De-Loused in the Comatorium." Generally it depends on whether I'm in the mood for raw, irrepressible emotion or well-developed melodies and epic prog-rock atmospheres. The Mars Volta also tends to be a band that tries a little too hard sometimes and gets lost in their own sprawling prog sensibilities, especially on the albums that followed their debut full length. This song is The Mars Volta at their best with flowing, dynamic songwriting marked by a towering chorus and some brilliant musicianship in the bridge, especially by drummer Jon Theodore.

37. Baroness - Wailing Wintry Wind

Baroness is a band unlike any other you'll ever hear and, as a result, possibly one of the most accessible and without question one of the most unique metal bands currently in existence. I know some of you might find it hard to believe you would ever like a band that could be referred to as "metal" but Baroness is the furthest thing from your typical metal band. They manage to pack everything from massive stoner rock riffs to beautifully serene melodic guitar harmonies to classic rock noodling and rhythms and more into each song they craft--and I do mean craft. "Wailing Wintry Wind" is compelling for its snowballing progression from the hushed atmospheric tones of the intro to the snare-driven build-up that teases you by dropping into an uneasy sounding plucked guitar line before really going into high gear. Baroness's unique talent for dynamics is especially prevalent throughout this song, which is almost bereft of any scathing metal riffs or guttural growls, opting instead for deep, gravelly, bombastic vocal melodies and atmospheric tones that are as mesmerizing as they are moving.

36. The Hold Steady - Southtown Girls

And so we come to our first repeat offender on the list, The Hold Steady. I saw The Hold Steady live in Orlando in December of 2006 and was kind of blown away by how phenomenal they were live. Full of the energy and exuberance that flows forth from many of the tracks on "Boys and Girls in America"--and it was only fitting that they played almost every song from that album which is so chock full of joyous, anthemic choruses. This was the last song they played before the encore and couldn't have been a more fitting close for their initial set--it also closes out the "Boys and Girls in America album--and when you hear it, you'll understand why. Craig Finn's poignant crooning of "southtown girls won't blow you away...but you know that they'll stay" is impossible to resist singing along to--even if you don't know the words...which you do now. That impeccably catchy line is followed by an equally catchy guitar riff ushering in the verse of the song, however it pales in comparison to the catchy-ness of the chorus which will be stuck in your head for days to come: "southtown girls won't blow you away...but you know that they'll stay"

35. The Bouncing Souls - Gone

The first (and by FAR the best) time I saw The Bouncing Souls live, singer Greg Attonito prefaced this song by saying "this is for anyone who's ever gone through a hard time in life...just remember it gets better and tomorrow the sun will rise...this song is about that, it's called Gone." That's this song in a nutshell; the triumphant closing song of "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" is one of the most uplifting, most powerful, and easily one of the best pop punk songs I've ever heard (there are only two pop punk songs ahead of this one on the list. Attonito's ultra powerful pipes carry the soaring melody of "It was a darkness all my own...a song played on the radio...it went straight to my heart...I carried it with me until the darkness was...GOOOOOOOOONE"--that elongated "gone" signifying one of the most powerful, infectious hooks I've ever heard. If you didn't think pop punk could be beautiful, you need to hear this song.

34. Outkast - Ms. Jackson

Repeat artist #2. Another in a long line of infectious Outkast hits with a ridiculously catchy beat, an even more ridiculously catchy chorus (sang in a weirdly endearing out-of-tune wail) complete with Andre and Big Boi's brilliant, passionate lyrics. This song has a unique soulfulness to it that almost reminds me of Bone Thugs's "Tha Crossroads" and gives the track a timeless quality. When all these elements combine they make for an absolutely unforgettable song.

33. Bright Eyes - Something Vague

Lyrically, it would be tough to find a better song in the Bright Eyes catalog than this, which is really saying something. The vividness of Conor Oberst's storytelling is never so brilliantly accentuated as it is here as the song almost plays out like a miniature film in your head. When he wails "and then the bridge disappears and i'm standing on air with nothing holding me" I can really visualize myself standing, in that moment, on an old medieval bridge that has suddenly disappeared--as a matter of fact, I can't not imagine that. And those flutes. Oh, those flutes. Conor Oberst never fails to disappoint when he decides to take you on a journey through his whimsical mind.

32. Radiohead - Knives Out

Sadly nestled in one of Radiohead's most overlooked albums (and although some consider it a collection of b-sides from Kid A, the band has said the two albums should be considered "twins separated at birth"...and honestly it is a phenomenal album that has some brilliant tracks like "You and Whose Army?", "Pyramid Song", "I Might Be Wrong", and others), "Knives Out" is a song about cannibalism. It's not hard to imagine, with lines such as "So knives out...Cook him up...Squash his head...Put him in the pot." Radiohead's unique talent for unsettling atmospheric chord progressions is very apparent in this song, and perhaps fittingly, considering the subject matter. If Amnesiac really were to be consider a b-sides collection from the Kid A sessions then I would think this would be a song that Radiohead would be kicking themselves for not including on Kid A.

31. Eminem - Stan

I had never even heard the Dido song that this beat was sampled from before I heard this song. When I checked out the Dido song after learning of what song it was, I was pretty disappointed that it didn't live up to the dark, sweet melancholy of that clip from the verse and certainly of this entire song. A very compelling and poignant (if a tad egotistical) concept for this song really accentuated that darkness in the melodies of Dido and made for an extremely powerful song. What really put it over the top was a pretty intense music video featuring a pretty decent performance from Devon Sawa as the crazed fan.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Top 50 Songs of the 2000s (50-41)

The other day I saw that Pitchfork Media did a staff list of their top 500 songs of the last decade so I decided it would be fun to make my own (much more esoteric) list. As with most lists like this I make, while it is not merely a list of my favorite songs and I do make these lists with a degree of objectivity, it is also very much a biased list. I also put far more emphasis on sheer musicality and songwriting than I do on popularity or "social significance" and therefore don't expect many people to agree with my choices...but that's why it's fun, right? Anyway I'll be posting a series of five entries in the next five days counting down my own person top 50 songs of the last decade in increments of 10...starting with 50-41:

50. System of a Down - Tentative

When I started getting into more underground/DIY (and, thus, better) music, I sort of wrote this band off. Even though they were still one of the few "nu metal" bands I thought had some merit, I didn't much care for them anymore. One day not too long ago I decided that a lot of the music I'd written off as I became more immersed in the DIY scene was music that I had been convinced didn't matter as opposed to deciding it didn't. Shameful indeed. So I decided to...you know...write it back on, I guess? Whatever. The point is that during that time I discovered that System of a Down's Mesmerize/Hypnotize double album--an album I never really bothered to check out since it came out when I was all DIY holier than thou--was actually the best thing they had ever done...and it wasn't even close. Well, actually maybe it was kinda close but only because the two albums had a lot of...I don't want to say "filler" because they're good, listenable songs; but songs that don't measure up at all when compared to brilliant tracks like "Revenga", "Violent Pornography", "Question!", "Sad Statue", "Lost In Hollywood", "Attack", "Dreaming", "Hypnotize", "Lonely Day", "Soldierside"...or this song. The first time I heard the haunting bridge of this song my jaw literally dropped and I had to listen to it like 10 more times in a row. The chilling relevance of Serj Tankian crooning "where do you expect us to go when the bombs fall?" fell on my chest like a cinder block and left me gasping for air under its emotional weight. Accompanied by a raucous, vintage SOAD verse and a characteristically (for this double album) epic chorus, this is perhaps the most shining example on either disc of guitarist Daron Malakian's growth as a songwriter...and that's saying a lot.

49. Ben Folds - Zak and Sara

No one does quirky piano pop like Mr. Folds himself and you'd be hard pressed to find as exhilarating a romp in his catalog as this. From the second that exhuberant piano line kicks off the song, you can't help but wear a big, shit-eating grin. As he muses about "Sara-spelled-without-an-H...getting bored on a Peavey amp in 1984" and how "Zak-without-a-C tried out some new guitars, playing Sara-with-no-H's favorite songs" you feel yourself start to wish that you were there in this mythical guitar shop with Zak and Sara. The whole song just feels like a "becoming good friends/falling in love" montage from a romantic comedy and drips with heartfelt nostalgia--complete with la-la-la's and ooo-ooo-ooo's. Ben Folds is a pop music messiah.

48. The Hold Steady - Chips Ahoy!

Much the same as Against Me!'s "As the Eternal Cowboy" album, there's a part of me that feels like The Hold Steady's "Boys and Girls In America" could have been better served to have this song open the album. As great as "Stuck Between Stations" is as an opener, this song really has a lot more of a "kick things off" feel to it, especially as the keyboard swings the track from warm-up mode to first gear. One fantastic opening line ("She put $900 on the fifth horse in the sixth race...I think his name was Chips Ahoy") kicks it into second gear just as fast. Before you know it the song is at full speed ahead with a joyous, anthemic chorus that becomes somewhat of a theme with this album. Craig Finn croons "how am I supposed to know that you're high if you won't let me touch you...how am I supposed to know you're high if you won't even dance" over an exuberant chorus of whoa-oh-oh's that you just can't help singing along to. Bar rock has never been this much fun.

47. Neil Perry - Fading Away Like the Rest of Them

Ah, so we come to the first of many very esoteric selections on my little countdown. HEY, STOP SKIPPING AHEAD. Neil Perry is a very unheralded, largely unknown screamo band (that's REAL screamo...as in Funeral Diner, Circle Takes the Square, City of Caterpillar...bands you've probably never heard of...NOT My Chemical Romance or Hawthorne Heights or whatever new shit band is doing that style on MTV6 now) whose lifespan was a mere five years (1998-2002) and who produced a great number of songs during that time--40 in total, all of which fit on one disc of their discography entitled "Lineage Situation", about seven of which are actually really good...at least in my opinion. This is the best of those seven without question. Definitely the least disjointed and complex of the first seven songs on "Lineage Situation", "Fading Away Like the Rest of Them" relies less on piercing screams than any of the others and more on haunting melodies and a straight-forward time signature. It also has some of the most breathtaking drum work you'll ever hear and one of the most epic breakdowns as well. Seriously, go download this song and tell me you don't get goosebumps when that spellbinding drum solo comes crashing into the soaring vocal harmonies of "the same wayyyyy."

46. The Assistant - Training Wheels or No Hands

Another highly esoteric track out of the screamo genre by a band with an equally short lifespan (1999-2003). This one, however, is far less accessible than the Neil Perry entry. It relies a lot more on disjointed, complex timing but don't let that fool you because there is a healthy dose of melody here as well, including a beautiful recurring keyboard melody (played in piano mode, so it's not cheesy or anything). But really the star of the show any time you're listening to The Assistant is drummer Ross Olchvary, one of the great technical drummers that no one has ever heard of. What makes him such a great technical drummer (and a great drummer in general) is his tremendous feel for tempo, his impeccable, innate, subconscious internal metronome...a crucial and rare trait in a drummer, especially nowadays. You'll see what I mean when the pretty, melodic opening minutes of the song run head-first into...well...you'll see...

45. A Perfect Circle - 3 Libras

Now we jump from two largely unknown bands back into the mainstream full force with a hit single from A Perfect Circle. OK, maybe it's not a hit single but it's certainly one of the most beautiful songs that's ever made its way onto the radio waves. To me this song sounds like a sailboat sailing off into the sunset. I can recall listening to this song in my headphones on the metrorail ride home from high school on friday afternoons and how perfectly it captured the peaceful joy I felt looking forward to the weekend--especially long weekends. I also feel a special affection for this song because it's about unrequited love--"difficult not to feel a little bit disappointed and passed over when I've looked right through to see you naked but oblivious and you don't see me" Maynard James Keenan sings in his flawless trademark croon--which is a subject very close to my heart.

44. At the Drive-In - One Armed Scissor

I have to admit that when I first heard this band they weren't really my cup of tea. The guitars were kind of weird and not that heavy (this is when I was all into Korn and Limp Bizkit and all that bullshit). But the more chances I gave it, the more I loved the intricate guitar work and the irrepressible urgency of this band, no better packaged in any song than this one, complete with an ultra-catchy chorus. I can recall seeing a video of the band performing this song on the Conan O'Brien Show some time after they had broken up and wanting to kill myself for never having seen them live. I guess I still have a chance to see The Mars Volta but that could never possibly be the same.

43. Thrice - The Earth Will Shake

In the liner notes of Thrice's 2005 magnum opus "Vheissu", singer Dustin Kensrue cites a CD of old chain gang songs as the main influence for this song (although I think Isis might have had something to do with it as well...specifically the chorus). You can really hear that bluesy influence shine through in this song, especially vocally. Obviously it's most evident in the "call-and-response" style passages in the intro and bridge of the song but you can hear it in Dustin's voice through the whole song. The roaring Isis-esque 7/4 time chorus is so achingly powerful you almost forget that Kensrue is screaming in your ears: "heartbroken we found (a gleam of hope) harken to the sound (a whistle blows) heaven sent reply (however small) evidence of life (beyond these walls) born and bred (in this machine) wardens dread (to see us dream) we hold tight (to legends of) real life (the way it was before)."

42. Eminem - Guilty Conscience

No, it's not "My Name Is." No it's not the song that put Eminem on the map. It is, however, a much better song, conceptually as well as lyrically. It's also, in my opinion, the song that put Eminem over the top. "My Name Is" is, in spite of its lyrics, a very poppy song, much like "The Real Slim Shady"...and it's songs like this that kept Eminem on MTV and radio waves. However this song better established his credibility as a real MC with some scathing lyrics and a guest appearance by Dr. Dre. The proverbial "angel and devil on the shoulders" storyline of this song is compelling and creative...and who doesn't love the surprise ending that MTV had to censor due to its obvious negative moral turpitude.

41. Andre 3000 - Hey Ya!

This song was a phenomenon unlike anything we've seen this decade, even if it wore out its welcome before long. No one song of the 2000s became such a sensation so immediately. For what seems, in retrospect, like a week tops, this song was absolutely EVERYWHERE. And why shouldn't it be? It's also probably one of the 10 catchiest songs of this decade as well...and certainly one of the most quotable (go ahead and try to find someone who actually goes out of their house and can't correctly answer the question "What's cooler than being cool?"). Not only is it catchy but it's brilliantly written and overwhelmingly fun and accessible...a combination Outkast have shown time and again they have a very unique talent for.

tune in tomorrow for 40-31

Friday, August 28, 2009


X-Men Origins: Wolverine = waste of time
You'd think a Wolverine movie would be easy. Set up a bunch of cool action sequences put Weapon-x in them and watch bad guys get sliced and diced. Instead they adapted the weaker part of Wolverine's origin.
I didn't like the focus on Victor and James/Logan as brothers the dynamic doesn't work for me. It doesn't feel natural and the movie never really sells it. We never get to see brothers being brothers, instead we get guys fighting and killing stuff in lame pg-13 fashion. The new Sabretooth Liev Schrieber is pure genius. I wish we could go back and put him in over tyler mane's lumbering grunting Sabretooth from the original fox x-men film.

Ryan Reynolds is used far to little. Blob was better than I thought he would be but he didn't fit in the film and should've been in Last Stand instead. WillIam was atrocious and should please stick to singing.
Stryker was fantastic and he was a great heavy which is difficult to pull off in a film with two great badasses like Jackman and Schrieber. The special effects were atrocious for the budget of the film and I hated the wire jumping with Sabretooth and the lame long finger nails. The effects were problematic and I think all of the X-men films were better fx wise even horribly rushed x3 looks better than Origins. This film would have been better as an R with less mutants and focusing more on him fighting in the wars and losing friends and finding pathos and trauma that will later fuel his animal berserker rages.

I loved the casting of Taylor Kitsch as Gambit and I think he worked but it just didn't feel like it fit for the movie. Logan and Gambit's friendship seemed unnecessary and forced. I'd love to see a Gambit Wolverine buddy mutant action film or grindhouse style double feature. Gambit in an ocean style thieve-thriller, and Wolverine as a revenge gore-story.
I kind of like the way they teased at X-men First class would have liked better if they would have played Prof. X straight and explain that he got botox later in life or something. I loved Logan as a lumberjack most of all in the film.
The opening acting and plot-line in the 1800's is horrible. The climax of the film was craptastic and it's ironic that the first film of the summer was the worst of the summer.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

HaRRY PoTTER and the HaLF-BLooD PRiNCe

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Ugggh! What wasted opportunity. The Harry Potter series in my opinion has been grossly mishandled. The books should have been adapted as hour long tv shows or mini-series. maybe turning every chapter into an episode or or every half book into a movie or something to that effect.

I think that the film series started off well enough Sorcerer's Stone was faithful enough as was Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban added more style to the series which the following films carried brilliantly. I as very upset with the massive changes in Goblet of Fire and the Order of the Phoenix run time. This film also similarly flabbergasting story choices that I felt unnecessarily deviated from the awesome things that actually happen in the book.

The Half-Blood Prince is very much a companion piece for death;y Hallows and in that way it works well in book form i fail to see how the films will blend and tell the upcoming story. I was
disappointed in the film and the fact that the line I'm not a coward didn't make it into the film is a travesty. The special effects were the best they've ever been in the series and Horcruxes really seem less fascinating in the film than they seem in the book. The casting of Slughorn was fantastic and I look forward to the Deathly Hallows films an how they will be treated maybe they will justify this film.

Oh and you can't tell me Eric Bana wouldn't have made a better Fenrir Greyback.

Oh yeah!!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

drag me to hell

Sam Raimi is back at his best. I hated Spiderman-3 loved Spider-man 2 and absolutely love Drag Me to Hell it's a rare experience when you realize you are going to love a film after only 15 minutes. Some movies that can elicit this are Easy Rider, Th Dark Knight,

Star Wars A New Hope, Hellboy, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Desperado, Kill Bill, Ghostbusters,
True Romance, The Running Man, the Goonies, Total Recall,
and Star Trek 11 to name a few. This film is one of those few simply for the way and style in which the DRAG ME TO HELL title card is shown. It feels so Grindhouse and cool. This film would fit in perfectly as a modern day Grindhouse it's strange how this film feels like a modern day period piece.
I am flabbergasted at the skill Raimi shows in turning mundane items like a handkerchief and an old ladies teeth and turning them into iconic horror props, pop-out scares, to gross, frightening, disturbing, and hilarious effects.
I would have loved to see the film with Ellen Page in th lead but I'm pleased with the product we recieved the acting on all fronts is superb.
The seance scene is great as is the graveyard sequence and opening teaser.
The film moves along pretty brickly and despite the satanic elements is actually a pretty okay family film for a liberal family. Justin Long for some reason is so loved by the audience that when his characters immortal soul is put in jeopardy the audience actively roots for the protagonists well deserved demise. Raimi should stick to these horror films for college k,ids and thriteen year olds and pass on the Spider-man job to someone with less skill in the horror field. Raimi is still a god of horror. Evil Dead 4 better be in the works.
I look forward to a series of these Drag me to Hell films and I can't wait for "Drag me 2 Hell" or "Drag me From Hell" or "Drag 3 to Hell" OHHH! TRADEMARK that quick.