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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Top 31 of 2006: #31

Camera Obscura: "Let's Get Out of this Country"
Released: June 6, 2006

Just for a moment, pretend that you're in Scotland in the 1960s. You are bored as hell and deperately searching for something to ease your stimulation-starved mind. Your friend stops by your house and tells you to get in his car. The two of you are going to see this really groovy band! Then you get to the venue and find Camera Obscura, solemnly rocking out in their button-up sweaters with organs and 3-part harmonies. It's a situation that is entirely impossible, but one listen to Camera Obscura's 2006 release, "Let's Get Out of this Country" will have you believing in miracles! Their sound is straight out of the sixties, without a single guitar pluck or cymbal crash giving away the fact that they're actually a bunch of young people from Scotland desperately trying to convince the world that it's not 2006! Their lack of acknowledgement of current rock trends, both mainstream and indie, is overwhelmingly refreshing and every song on this album is enthusiastically crafted to put a smile on your face, even in the solemn moments. It'll make you remember how good music once was. It'll make you realize how far music has come (or rather how far we've regressed). Most importantly, however, it'll make you wish that that simple, imaginary Scottish life was not only real, but eternal. Sure, let's get the out of this country, but let's get the hell out of this century and go back to that time and forget about Angels and Airwaves, My Chemical Romance, and Green Day!

That's the kind of album that Camera Obscura has created. My #31 album of the year!

Top 31 Songs of 2006: #31
Neko Case - "Hold on, Hold on" from the album Fox Confessor Brings the Flood.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Incubus: "Light Grenades"

For the better part of a decade, Incubus has been one of my favorite bands and, by far, my favorite mainstream rock band. Brandon Boyd still remains one of the few vocalists in rock music today who can carry a tune outside of a studio and whose talent relies on actual ability rather than the skill of a producer. Furthermore, Mike Einziger is still a force to be reckoned with on guitar. For the most part, Incubus has constantly evolved since their funk rock roots over a decade ago. Six albums later, and Incubus hardly seems like they are ready to throw in the towel. They are still one of the most beloved bands out there, even if the mainstream media has never really given the kind of attention they shelled out to lesser, now-gone bands. For better or for worse, "Light Grenades" continues Incubus' trend of changing their sound from album to album. The result is a mixed-bag for the hardcore Incubus fan, but shows that Incubus still has what it takes to make it in an industry that is steadily being overrun by the under-talented and over-produced.

"Quicksand" is the lead-off track here, and from the very beginning, you pretty much know that you're in for a different Incubus experience. As far as I can recall, this is the first Incubus album to not start with a loud, rocking song. However, it sets the mood for the album quite well. Boyd is definitely at his most poignant here when he sings, "Some people fall in love and touch the sky. Some people fall in love and find quicksand!" And love is a focal point on the album, as we'll soon find out, so it makes sense to begin the album this way.

The next track, "A Kiss to Send Us off" takes us to familiar Incubus grounds. If the guitar riff sounds a bit familiar at first, it's probably because it bares an small resemblance to "Megalomaniac." But that riff is over soon enough, and the music that replaces it during the verse is entrancing enough to make you forget it even existed, at least momentarily. Boyd doesn't really display his vocal talents all too well when he punk-sings "A kiss to send us off!" It's a bit reminiscent of more terrible vocalists out there today, like Tom DeLong. It's definitely my only real gripe with the song, however, and "A Kiss to Send Us Off" is definitely a high-point on the album.

"Dig" is currently the song I'm most impressed with on "Light Grenades." It's not Incubus' most impressive song, by any means, but it could be their most poignant to date. Here, Brandon belts "If I turn into another, dig me up from under what is covering the better part of me! Sing this song. Remind me that we'll always have each other when everything else is gone." Obviously, the love theme is in full-effect here, and it really is a beautiful song.

"Anna Molly" is the next song on the album and it's first single. If you're considering buying this album, you've probably already heard this song. It's got that classic Incubus rock sound, and would be a perfect fit on "A Crow Left of the Murder." Mike really hits his peak on this song as far as this album is concerned, which is actually a bit of a downer for me. He's definitely capable of much more, but even here he's much more impressive than many of his contemporaries. "Anna Molly" was definitely a great choice for the first single. It's fun, it rocks, and it's Incubus, so there's not a whole lot to hate about this one.

"Love Hurts" may be my least favorite song on the album. The song itself seems as if it was ripped right off of bad 1998 alternative rock album (back wen Incubus was tearing it up with "A Certain Shade of Green"). The song is just as corny and cliched as the title would lead you to believe. Boyd even goes as far to say "Without love I won't survive." Even if that's true, it can't really overcome the lyrical travesty that is "Love hurts, but sometimes it's a good hurt." While it's true the Boyd has never really been the best lyricist in the world, even he should have considered re-writing this one. Music-wise, it's not all that impressive either. It's definitely a song I could've done without.

"Light Grenades," the title track, not the album, has a very raw, chaotic feel to it. It barely sounds like Incubus, and pushes more toward The Vines' territory. It's a good thing though, and adds a pretty sizable spark to the fire that "Love Hurts" just got finished extinguishing. Mike pretty much tears his guitar to pieces here, and Jose goes absolutely psychotic on his drum set! This song is going to be a highlight on the next tour for sure!

"Earth to Bella Pt. 1" is another low point on the album, featuring acoustic guitars and the occasional full-electric freak-out. It's a rather dull song, to be honest. In the end, it seems more like filler than anything else, taking away from the album more than it contributes. Likewise, "Oil and Water" does much the same thing. Unlike it's predecessor, however, it is more of a traditional alternative rock song, though it would be better suited for a band like "Mute Math" or even "Keane." The biggest flaw of the song is that it lacks a strong, memorable melody, something that Incubus has never really failed to deliver before. It tries to be effective, but it just winds up sounding a lot like another Incubus song, "Leech," only without passion or conviction.

"Rogues" is a fairly solid track. At times it feels like it has a very southern rock sound (ala Polarboy, an obscure but decent band). Other times it feels like it's straight out of the Incubus textbook of how to securely rock balls off. Without question, it would be a welcomed addition to an album like "Make Yourself," so any Incubus fan who like this song should definitely check out that album if they haven't already (which you really should if you're a "fan").

The next two tracks, "Paper Shoes" and "Pendulous Threads" definitely suffer from "Oil and Water-syndrome" in that they are fairly decent musically, but Brandon ultimately fails in offering a memorable vocal performance. The hooks are forgettable at best, and poorly executed. It's very disheartening, especially since these tracks essentially bring the album to its close. These songs may be more fun live, because you'll feel the energy, but in reality they're not much fun to listen to here, which is a real shame.

The final track on the album is "Earth to Bella Pt. 2" which, you guessed it, sounds pretty much exactly the same as Part 1. The difference here is the coda, or ending, of the song. It's essentially Brandon ooh-ing repeatedly, but eventually more oohs come in and harmonize with the other oohs. Slowly, the oohs drift off into chaotic drums and distorted guitar effects. It's a nice touch to end the album, though I can't help but think that the only reason its there is for that specific purpose. Because, really, it'd be just as ineffectual as Part 1 if it weren't for it's positioning at the end.

Overall, "Light Grenades" is an uncharacteristically light Incubus album. Lighter than "Morning View" even. It has its high points ("Dig," "Anna Molly") but it also suffers from devastating lows ("Oil and Water," "Love Hurts"). If you're a moderate Incubus fan, by all means, give this album a listen. Compared to other CDs that you could buy for the same price, its one of the best albums of all time. Unfortunately, however, when you compare it to other Incubus album, it may very well be their worst. I may just be a purist, or I may be making a judgment too quickly, but in my opinion the low points on "Light Grenades" are far more common than the highs. What starts off as a beautiful and refreshing Incubus album, ultimately winds up being boring, unnecessary, and incredibly disappointing. Considering that Incubus typically releases an album every 3 years or so, I'm fortunate to know that I have 5 other solid albums to keep me company until then.

Recommended for all Incubus fans. It may not be the best, but it could be much, much worse (Angels and Airwaves).

Key Tracks:
1. "Quicksand"
2. "Dig"
3. "Anna Molly"
4. "Light Grenades"

5 out of 10 Stars

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Sufjan Stevens: "Songs for Christmas"

The lofty dreams of Sufjan Stevens have always been one of his most admirable features. Whether it's a double album based on the state of Illinois, or better yet, an entire project based on the 50 states of the United States, Stevens has always captivated his audiences with some of the grandest music today! Like his most recent projects, his latest box-set, titled "Songs for Christmas," is a collection of 5 short Christmas albums that were recorded by Sufjan every year since 2001. Any die hard fan of the artist should have heard most of these songs before (they have been available on the Internet for some time now), but a low-price tag, attractive packaging and additional fold-outs, stickers and a songbook make this package a must-have for any Sufjan fan!

There are far too many songs on this collection to critique individually (42 in all), so I will simply point out that "Songs for Christmas" is one of the best Christmas albums that I've yet to hear in my life. There are traditional Christmas songs on here (both Christian and secular), Christian hymns, and even original songs by Mr. Stevens, himself. Each song is treated with the utmost care and respected for its worth and history, yet they manage to sound distinctly like Sufjan Stevens. With the exception of Volume 5 of the collection, "Peace," you won't find any of the symphonic embellishments that you've come to expect with albums like "Illinois" and "The Avalanche." Instead, what you'll find is a very toned-down Sufjan Stevens, reminiscent of "Seven Swans" or the lighter moments on "Michigan." More often than not, these songs will only feature Sufjan on guitar, banjo, or piano as he humbly sings the songs we've loved since our childhood.

The original songs on this collection are all surprisingly top-notch, though I doubt many of them will translate into pop culture quite as seamlessly as the other songs have. After all, a song titled "Did I Make You Cry On Christmas Day? (Well, You Deserved It!)" probably won't appeal to everyone. Regardless, these songs feature the charming nature that fans have come to expect from Sufjan over the years. They are not genius, by any means, but they are good and they definitely serve their purpose by putting you in the holiday spirit.

"Songs for Christmas" is not Sufjan's greatest album, nor is it meant to be. What it is is a charming collection of old classics and new songs from one of America's most talented musicians. Obviously, this album is not going to be for everyone. Those who don't identify with Christianity or celebrate Christmas probably won't find as much to enjoy here as they would on other Sufjan albums, but those who can identify with the subject matter will absolutely love it! For the price, there's no better Christmas album that you could possibly buy. So stick with "Songs for Christmas." You'll be thankful you did.

Recommended for fans of Sufjan Stevens, and anyone looking to get into the Christmas spirit without spending ludicrous amounts of money!

Key Tracks:
1. "I Saw Three Ships"
2. "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing"
3. "That was the Worst Christmas Ever"
4. "The Incarnation"
5. "Get Behind Me Santa"

6 out of 10 Stars

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Joanna Newsom: "Ys"

Joanna Newsom is like a dragonfly; strange, majestic, and perplexingly beautiful. My first introduction to her was probably not the way most people should be introduced to her; a video of her on YouTube. My initial reaction was lukewarm. “Okay, so she can play harp,” I thought, “Big deal.” However, I’m never one to be deterred entirely by a single listen, so I checked out “Ys” the first chance I got, and I’m in love with this album.

For those unfamiliar with Newsom, know that her voice is a very different animal than most of us music fans are used to. It is best described, and probably has been done so, as “pixie-ish,” though I doubt that anyone could actually accurately describe how a pixie sounds. Suffice to say, her voice is “cutesy,” and it only seems fitting that she would be some character in a fairy tale. Fortunately for us, however, Joanna Newsom has chosen to make music, and it’s one of the best female performances of 2006!

“Ys” is instantly captivating. After all, a 5-song album whose shortest track still clocks in at over 7 minutes has to be. What Newsom accomplishes on this album is something awe-inspiring in itself. Not only does she weave intricate stories together with brilliant lyricism and unparalleled musical composition, but she does so with such passion that it’s hard not to be caught off guard by its sheer beauty. The music itself could best be described as a brilliant collaboration between classical music and pop music, on such levels that not even Sufjan Stevens could pull off something of this magnitude.

Indeed, “Ys” is truly something to behold. It’s not an album to play at a party, or to sing along to as you drive around town. On the contrary, “Ys” is an album that you play to relax, to unwind, to experience beauty, to fall asleep to only to be enchanted in your dreams. And while critics of Newsom will obviously cite her voice as the source of their discontent, I can’t possibly imagine another artist taking her place on this effort. It would be tough to put the vocals of Jenny Lewis, Tori Amos, or even Shara Worden behind these excellent composition and lyrics. In that, Joanna Newsom has undoubtedly succeeded in creating an album that is uniquely her, and surprisingly unparalleled.

By all means, buy this album and give it a chance. It’s definitely not for everybody, but “Ys” is one album that no one should pass up, if only to hear one of the most unique and talented females in music today.

Recommended for fans of Sufjan Stevens, My Brightest Diamond, and anyone who wants to dream of worlds unseen.

Key Tracks:
1. "Emily"
2. "Monkey and Bear"
3. "Sawdust and Diamonds"

9 out of 10 Stars

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Top 10 Of Montreal Songs!

Ever heard of Of Montreal? They're a band, from Athens, Georgia. And they just so happen to be my favorite band, probably ever. Anywho....I'm pretty bored right now, so I'm gonna go ahead and list off my favorite songs by Of Montreal. Enjoy!

10. "Tim, I Wish You Were Born A Girl" from the album Cherry Peel. - The perfect blend of humor, charm, and that good ol' fashioned Of Montreal sound! It's one of the best songs from their debut album, way back in 1997.

9. "Isn't It Nice?" from the album Aldhils Arboretum. - Aldhils Arboretum isn't really the best album of Of Montreal's, but it's got a couple of great songs on it. This is one of them.

8. "Oslo In the Summertime" from the album The Sunlandic Twins. - "Cool" is a word that has been lost in the American pop culture. But trust me, once you hear this song, you'll know what cool really is.

7. "Chrissy Kiss the Corpse" from the album Satanic Panic in the Attic. - This is probably the last Of Montreal song to tell a zany story, something that made them famous. Besides that, it's still an amazing song.

6. "Good Morning, Mr. Edmonton" from the album Coquelicot Asleep In the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse. - The last Of Montreal concept album started off this this amazingly fun track. How could you not fall in love with this song?

5. "Fun Loving Nun" from the album The Gay Parade. - What do you get when you have the mice from the movie Babe to sing the chorus to the song? Probably the most happy song you've ever heard in your life!

4. "Nicki Coco and the Invisible Tree" from the album The Gay Parade. - This is without a doubt the most ambitious Of Montreal song to date, and I can't help but think that it was an inspiration to their next album, Coquelicot... That's enough reason for me to love it. So is the fact that it's probably the funniest song ever made!

3. "The Party's Crashing Us" from the album The Sunlandic Twins. - This one song has defined the new Of Montreal sound, a mix of electro dance pop and German disco. Of course, I don't really care about all that nonsense, because this is one of my favorite songs ever....really.

2. "Jennifer Louise" from the album Aldhils Arboretum. - This is a song about Kevin Barnes' cousin, whom he met once. What's not to love?

1. "Rapture Rapes the Muses" from the album Satanic Panic in the Attic. - What could ruin a seemingly perfect situation, having Of Montreal open a live show with my favorite song of theirs? Them totally screwing it up and playing about 30 bpm slow! Oh well, there's no denying that this song is one of the greatest indie pop songs of all time! So don't try to....

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Reader Ballot for the 3rd Annual Cale Awards

Reader Ballot for the 3rd Annual Cale Awards


1. Place an "x" next to the candidate of your choice for each category.

2. If a candidate does not suit your taste, feel free to place an "x" in the blank space, and write in your nomination for that category.

3. When you are finished, send this back to Cale via Myspace, or copy the whole thing into your email and mail it to

4. The results will be posted at on December 31, 2006. So keep an eye out for them!

UPDATE: Keep in mind, that the nominations that are listed are MY nominations as of November 10, 2006. Your nominations may be different, that is why there is a write-in for each category. Please write-in a nomination if none of the available choices suit your tastes. Additionally, if you'd like to make comments regarding your nomination, please do so on the side.

There's no need to rush. If you're waiting for an album to come out, so you can give it a listen, by all means wait! Personally, I'm waiting on the new Incubus album, "Light Grenades."

Your Name:

Best Album – Beyond all else, this album is your absolute favorite of 2006!
[ ] The Streets: “The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living”
[ ] The Decemberists: “The Crane Wife”
[ ] Cursive: “Happy Hollow”
[ ] The Flaming Lips: “At War with the Mystics”
[ ] Zero 7: “The Garden”
[ ]

Best New Artist – They released their first full-length album this year, and were the best new artist around!
[ ] Headlights
[ ] My Brightest Diamond
[ ] Thom Yorke
[ ] I’m From Barcelona
[ ] The Pipettes
[ ]

Best Male Performance – This was, by far, the best album released by a male solo-artist.
[ ] Thom Yorke: “The Eraser”
[ ] Bonnie “Prince” Billy: “The Letting Go”
[ ] The Divine Comedy: “Victory for the Comic Muse”
[ ] Destroyer: “Destroyer’s Rubies”
[ ] Sufjan Stevens: “The Avalanche”
[ ]

Best Female PerformanceThis was, by far, the best album released by a female solo-artist.
[ ] Emily Haines: “Knives Don’t Have Your Back”
[ ] Neko Case: “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood”
[ ] Sia: “Colour the Small One”
[ ] My Brightest Diamond: “Bring Me the Workhorse”
[ ] Joanna Newsom: “Ys”
[ ]

Best Band of 2006This band defined the year of 2006 in their music. Years from now, you will look back on 2006 and think of this one band.
[ ] The Hold Steady
[ ] Gnarls Barkley
[ ] Cursive
[ ] The Flaming Lips
[ ] Incubus
[ ]

Best Hip Hop Album – Hip hop may not be your thing, but you have to give it up for this album!
[ ] Outkast: “Idlewild”
[ ] K-Os: “Atlantis: Hymns for Disco”
[ ] The Streets: “The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living”
[ ] Jedi Mind Tricks: “Servants in Heaven, Kings in Hell”
[ ] Lupe Fiasco: “Food and Liquor”
[ ]

Best Rock Album – Indie, Mainstream, or Metal, it doesn’t matter. This album rocked your balls off like no other album this year!
[ ] Cursive: “Happy Hollow”
[ ] Mastodon: “Blood Mountain”
[ ] The Killers: “Sam’s Town”
[ ] Muse: “Black Holes and Revelations”
[ ] The Mars Volta: “Amputechture”
[ ]

Best Indie Album – This was the best album, not released on a major record label.
[ ] The Elected: “Sun, Sun, Sun”
[ ] My Brightest Diamond: “Bring Me the Workhorse”
[ ] Cursive: “Happy Hollow”
[ ] Mates of State: “Bring it Back”
[ ] The Dears: “Gang of Losers”
[ ]

Best Pop Album – It was fun, catchy, and instantly enjoyable….and it still is!
[ ] Zero 7: “The Garden”
[ ] Mates of State: “Bring it Back”
[ ] Tilly and the Wall: “Bottoms of Barrels”
[ ] I’m From Barcelona: “Let Me Introduce you to my Friends”
[ ] The Pipettes: “We Are the Pipettes”
[ ]

Most Surprising Album – Wow, this album was complete different than I expected…in a good way!
[ ] The Flaming Lips: “At War with the Mystics”
[ ] My Brightest Diamond: “Bring Me the Workhorse”
[ ] The Elected: “Sun, Sun, Sun”
[ ] The Streets: “The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living”
[ ] Joanna Newsom: “Ys”
[ ]

Most Disappointing Album – Wow, this album was completely different than I expected…in a bad way!
[ ] Jenny Lewis: “Rabbit Fur Coat”
[ ] Muse: “Black Holes and Revelations”
[ ] The Mars Volta: “Amputechture”
[ ] Keane: “Under the Iron Sea”
[ ] Tool: “10,000 Days”
[ ]

Most Overrated Album – The reviews said it was great, but you disagree wholeheartedly!
[ ] Pearl Jam: “Pearl Jam”
[ ] TV on the Radio: “Return From Cookie Mountain”
[ ] Camera Obscura: “Let’s Get Out of this Country”
[ ] Cat Power: “The Greatest”
[ ] Jenny Lewis: “Rabbit Fur Coat”
[ ]

Most Overrated Artist – You can’t believe all the positive hype regarding this artist. They’re not the worst, but there’s soooo much better out there.
[ ] Xiu Xiu
[ ] TV on the Radio
[ ] The Raconteurs
[ ] Red Hot Chili Peppers
[ ] The Dresden Dolls
[ ]

Best Song – This was, by far, your favorite song of 2006!
[ ] “Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” by The Flaming Lips, from the album “At War With the Mystics”
[ ] “Punchlines” by Mates of State, from the album “Bring It Back”
[ ] “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken” by Camera Obscura, from the album ‘Let’s Get Out of this Country”
[ ] “Fireflies In a Steel Mill” by The Elected, from the album “Sun, Sun, Sun”
[ ] “Ballad of Humankindness” by The Dears, from the album “Gang of Losers”
[ ]

Worst Album – Hands down, the worst album I heard this year!
[ ] TV on the Radio: “Return to Cookie Mountain”
[ ] Paris Hilton: “Paris”
[ ] John Mayer: “Continuum”
[ ] Amy Milan: “Honey From the Tombs”
[ ] Justin Timberlake: “Futuresex/Lovesounds”
[ ]

Worst Song – You heard this song, and it made you cringe. The worst song of 2006!
[ ] “Turn It Up” by Paris Hilton, from the album “Paris”
[ ] “Is It any Wonder?” by Keane, from the album “Under the Iron Sea”
[ ] “Rabbit Fur Coat” by Jenny Lewis, from the album “Rabbit Fur Coat”
[ ] “Tetragrammaton” by The Mars Volta, from the album “Amputechture”
[ ] “Waiting on the World to Change” by John Mayer, from the album “Continuum”
[ ]

Worst New Artist – The world would be a better place had they not decided to make music.
[ ] Hellogoodbye
[ ] Paris Hilton
[ ] Hinder
[ ] Jenny Lewis
[ ] Fergie
[ ]

Best Live Act – You saw this artist live, and it blew you away!
[ ] Of Montreal
[ ] Soft Light Masquerade
[ ] Cursive
[ ] Sufjan Stevens
[ ] The Flaming Lips
[ ]

That's it! Please send in your votes, so that I can tabulate them. And pass this one along to your friends. Peace out!


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Friday, November 03, 2006

Coming Soon....Audio Overflow!

Hello party people. Thanks for keeping up with my little blog here for the past year, it's been a passion of mine, not to mention good ol' fashioned fun. As fate would have it, I am graduating college in December and I want nothing more than to devote the remainder of my semester to making the best grades possible so that I can graduate with honors. As a result, I am officially retiring Cale Is The Balls!!!

On December 1st, the blog will reopen as Audio Overflow and will kick off with a 31-part series on the top albums of 2006! It all culminates on December 31st, where the number one album of the year is revealed and the 3rd Annual Cale Awards take place. This year, you get a say in the voting process, so add me on Myspace and look out for details in your bulletin board!

So until December 1st, take care and I'll see you around.


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