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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Video of the Week - Week 4

The Shins - "Phantom Limb" from the album "Wincing the Night Away."

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Top 10 Most Anticipated Albums of 2007

2006 was a phenominal year in music. Though not as strong as 2005 or 2003, it had some amazing releases that will go down as some of my favorite of all time. But that was the past, and now the future awaits. The future is 2007. Though currently anyone's guess, 2007 looks to be another fantastic year for music. What am I turning into a giddy schoolgirl over? The short list looks a little something like this:

10. M.I.A. - No. I still hate her. And why shouldn't I? Her music is everything that sucks about music today, but her back story is cool enough to inspire oohs and aahs from even the most hardened indie music journalists. No sir. I'm not hopping on that train. M.I.A. is a music travesty, and I'm holding out on a flop of epic proportions. I'm hoping that it comes out and people realize, "Hey, this is kind of a gimmick. I can't believe I didn't realize it was dog yelps placed over cool beats before, but now it's totally aparent." That's what I'm hoping for at least.

9. Iron and Wine - I wasn't really an Iron and Wine fan. To me, he was the guy that took an energetic, beautiful, and classic Postal Service song and turned it into a straight up wrist-cutter's wet dream (turned M&M commercial song...WTF?). But after listening to his collaboration with Calexico in 2005, I changed my mind a little. The guy's got a great voice and his lyrics are amazingly vivid. His next album will make or break me as a fan, though I doubt he cares.

8. Ladytron - 2005's "Witching Hour" blew me away. I was already familiar with a few of their other albums, but aside from the song "Seventeen," there wasn't a whole lot to keep my interest. But "Witching Hour" was, song for song, one of the best electronic albums I've ever heard. I specifically remember it keeping me company on a long-night's drive to a far away city. I have high hopes for Ladytron's next album. If it actually releases this year, I'll be very pleased.

7. Bright Eyes: "Cassadega" - Conor Oberst is a fantastic songwriter, an average musician, and a terrible vocalist. That aside, he still manages to make some truly captivating music that often borders genius. I haven't listened to Bright Eyes at all since the last time I seriously considered offing myself, as the two just seem to mesh incredibly well. Of course, if 2007 doesn't really go my way, I know I'll have ol' Bright Eyes there to keep me company and remind me that life is sometimes crappy, but never as crappy as Conor Oberst's voice. It helps.

6. Tegan and Sara - My #1 guilty pleasure. The fact that I am a heterosexual male should really make me a big Tegan and Sara hater, but I love these two to death! Their music is so fun, yet it manages to pay homage to some great rock music of the past. Heart comes to mind. Regardless. I have nothing but love for Tegan and Sara. The sooner they get their album out, the happier I'll be.

5. Stars - I love me some Stars. The cute romantic comedy soundtrack Stars of "Heart," and even the politically inept, "trying to be rock" Stars. So if they manage to put out a new album this year, you better believe I'm going to be there to snatch it up.

4. Metric - Right now, I'm throwing my hands up in the air in celebration over the fact that Metric is working on some new songs. For a while there I thought they'd go the route of No Doubt after Gwen's conquest of all things shite, but they have proven me wrong. Though Emily Haines' solo career is still going strong, she and her bandmates have already started recording. I am extatic. Here's hoping that the cover of the album features a scantily clad Haines. Or better yet...

3. Rilo Kiley - Jenny Lewis needs to redeem herself. Her solo album was a mess, meanwhile The Elected shot all the way to #3 on my Top Albums of 2006. They are supposedly in the early stages of recording a new album as a band, so here's hoping that it's just as magical as their last three albums.

2. The New Pornographers - It's been a year and a half since "Twin Cinema" was released and it's still getting regular spins in my stereo. No joke. I listen to it every week. It's simply one of the best albums ever made. Period. Consider me hyped for this one, if and when it releases.

1. Radiohead - It's been a long time coming, but with several songs supposedly finalized already, it's only a matter of time before Radiohead drops their next album on us. No record label yet, but I highly doubt that Radiohead will have to claw on the doors of the labels to put out an album. With the freedom to make whatever they want, I'm totally pumped for the possibilities. Bring it on! And make it quick too.

Note: Most of these upcoming releases don't have titles yet. At the moment, only Bright Eyes has a confirmed title and release date (April 10). That being said, I really want all these albums to release this year. And according to many credible sources, they just may.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Video of the Week - Week 3

Of Montreal - "Heimdalgate Like a Promethean Curse" from the album Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

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Monday, January 22, 2007

The Shins: "Wincing the Night Away"

A quick endorsement courtesy of Zach Braff via Natalie Portman was all it took. Or so it seems. In less than a year, The Shins went from a humble indie band to being one of the world's top musical attractions. Now, a few years and world tours later, The Shins are back with a brand new album and a more refined sound. That's all fine and dandy, I suppose, but the real urgent questions remains. How does "Wincing the Night Away" sound? How does it stack up when you compare it to their previous albums? Here's what I think.

The album begins with a hauntingly catchy synth arpeggio, followed shortly by James Mercer's equally as haunting voice. The song is "Sleeping Lessons," and though it begins softly, it soon crescendos into a powerful rock song. This drastic change is mirrored in Mercer's voice as he now triumphantly sings "The old gods still offend. We've got nothing left on which we depend!" It's a great song, and more than anything, it serves as an introduction to the newly refined sound that The Shins are trying to showcase on this album. It works, and is soon followed by another fantastic song, "Australia," which sounds like The Shins collaborated with Rooney, or another great beach rock band. In no time you'll be snapping your fingers or tapping your toes with complete disregard of who's watching. It stands among the greatest Shins songs of all time, which is saying quite a lot.

"Pam Berry" serves as a short lead-in to "Phantom Limb," the first single off the album, and rightly so. Aside from it being a great song, it perfectly blends the older, toned-down Shins sound with their newly-tapped California rock sound. If you're planning on buying this album, you've probably heard it already. It's all over the internet, including the SubPop website. It is arguably the strongest song on the album, and features beautiful backup vocals from Anita, of the band Viva Vocé, The Shins' new tour buddies. "Sea Legs" follows with a thumping near-rap beat and fresh performances from both bass and electric guitar. The amount of detail in the song is awe-inspiring, as it is with many songs on the album. Here, the time that was spent recording "Wincing the Night Away" shows, and it has paid off greatly. The song could very well be The Shins' first true breakout song, as it's seemingly accessible to almost everybody. Whether or not the die hard, seasoned fan will appreciate it is unclear. But I'm not complaining.

"Red Rabbits" holds the honor of being my favorite song on the album. As one of the calmest songs on the album, it serves as a nice break from the up-tempo indie rock songs we've been treated to up until this point. Mercer's lyrical talents are triumphantly displayed here. He sings, "Born on the desert floor, you've the deepest thirst and you came to my sweet shore to indulge it with the wan and and dreaming eyes of an orphan. But there is not enough." It really is a beautiful song, despite it's strangeness and lyrics about "pissing on sprites."

From there, the album gets as mainstream rock as it ever does. Beginning with the undeniably catchy "Turn On Me," the latter half of the album is highlighted with the phenomenal guitars and melodies of "Split Needles." Before you have time to fully grasp the awesome, the album winds down with what I shall call the most beautiful song by The Shins, ever, "A Comet Appears." Mercer weaves the stunning line, "
We can blow on our thumbs and posture, but the lonely is such delicate things. The wind from a wasp could blow them into the sea with stones on their feet, lost to the light and the loving we need." It almost sounds like a lullabye, though it's hard to fall asleep while it's playing.

By the time the last second ticks off the album, most people will be generally pleased with their experience. The Shins' popularity has ballooned in the few years between "Chutes Too Narrow" and now, and they have taken their time to make an album that will further their popularity while pleasing their long-time fans as well. Though not as solid as "Chutes Too Narrow," calling "Wincing the Night Away" anything but great would be a terrible mistake. With the exception of "Pam Berry" and "Black Wave," every song on this album is great in it's own right, and they will undoubtedly warrant multiple repeat-listening sessions. This album has been a long time coming. Now that it's finally here, we can exhale. The Shins have not let us down.

Recommended for fans of The Shins, new and old, and for anyone who wants to hear what good music actually sounds like.

Key Tracks:
1. "Sleeping Lessons"
2. "Australia"
3. "Sea Legs"
4. "Red Rabbits"
5. "A Comet Appears"

7 out of 10 Stars

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Friday, January 19, 2007

News Feed Courtesy of Pitchfork

Say what you want about Pitchfork. "Their reviews are pretentious pieces of garbage," "Their editors are all assholes!" You know. Whatever. I agree with you. But one thing is for sure. If you want the latest news regarding Indie music, they're the only place to turn to.

So with that in mind, I've added a little RSS Feed to the right of this entry right at the top of Audio Overflow. Now Audio Overflow can be your source for breaking news and everything else! Finally, the best of both worlds!

Also, I've added a list of Upcoming Album Releases too! Not everything. Just the ones I care about. Expect Reviews!

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Of Montreal: "Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?"

In January of 2006, I had the privilege of being able to see Of Montreal, my absolute favorite band, live. But something was wrong. The band was great, the music was fantastic, but something was terribly, inexplicably wrong. While the band was playing one of their songs from 2005's "The Sunlandic Twins," two teenage girls who looked like they were more suited for a Britney Spears concert jumped on stage and started "skank-dancing" and kept it up for the duration of the song. I thought to myself, "apparently you can dance like that to anything now." But then I realized that perhaps Of Montreal, a band who has long relied on Kevin Barnes' ability to craft intricate, delusional stories and turn them in to equally difficult songs, had become way too accessible for its own good. Don't get me wrong, "The Sunlandic Twins" was a fantastic album, and a huge achievement for Of Montreal, but maybe they took it a bit too far. I can see a promiscuous 16-year-old dancing to "Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games," but not to "Niki Coco and the Invisible Tree." Something was wrong. The Of Montreal I've loved for years was finally tainted by the irrepressible image of two underage girls dancing like a couple of strippers. To redeem themselves, Of Montreal had to do something drastic. They had to make an album that combined the best of their new sound, with the best of their old sound. Fortunately, "Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?" does just that! Once again, Of Montreal is back on top!

The lead-off track on the album is "Suffer for Fashion," a song I had the opportunity of hearing live the last time the band came through my town. The song gets the energy going, and it never really dies down after that. It sounds like it could've been ripped right off of "The Sunlandic Twins," yet it's more frantic and crazy than anything that album ever presented. This song runs head-on with the next, "Sink the Seine," the shortest song on the album, and one I wish could have been much longer. The song begins with Barnes singing "La, la, la" in a way that is reminiscent of the band's more carefree albums like "The Gay Parade." Though it's only a minute long, it's one of my favorite tracks on the album, if only for the nostalgia factor alone.

This carefree song is followed up by one of the most depressing songs Of Montreal has ever made. In "Cato as a Pun" Barnes laments, "I can't even pretend that you are my friend" and "Are you far too depressed now even to answer the phone?" On that note, "Hissing Fauna" is by far the most personally introspective album that Kevin Barnes has ever made. There's hardly a song on the album that isn't about the artist. This is a big step for a band that has become famous for their whimsical songs about necrophilia ("Chrissy Kiss the Corpse"), fun-loving nuns, and the aforementioned invisible tree. But Barnes and Co. manage to pull this leap off quite flawlessly. Despite the album's insistence on serious subject matter, the music itself is often light-hearted and fun! If any band could pull this off, it's Of Montreal.
The next two songs on the album take this theme and run with it. "Heimsdalgate Like a Promethean Curse" is a song that is about the unfortunate repercussions of drug abuse and "Gronlandic Edit" is about being depressed. Barnes ponders, "I guess it would be nice to give my heart to a god. But which one do I choose?" The song features a great bassline and is a song that will get your toes tapping in no time. Getting down to a song about depression? You gotta love this band! "A Sentence of Sort In Kongsvinger" is largely about the same subject matter, but is one of the most accessible Of Montreal songs ever!

In many ways, the album is divided into two parts around the next song, "The Past is a Grotesque Animal," a 12-minute long song that sounds like it was ripped right out of Kevin Barnes' diary (assuming he has one). The album before this song is very introspective, but at the same time very accessible to pubescent girls. After this song, however, the album takes a much more bizarre turn. After the song comes to a close, listeners are greeted by some of the most peculiar music to ever be heard on an Of Montreal album. In many ways, it seems as if Kevin Barnes leaves the "grotesque animal" behind with this song, and starts anew with less-serious subject matter and a fresh new sound.

The first song listeners are greeted with after the draining 12-minute song is "Bunny Ain't No Kind of Rider" a song in which Barnes says, "Eva, I'm sorry, but you will never have me...I need a lover with soul power, and you ain't got no soul power!" It's an entirely different feel than what we've been treated to up until this point. But it's very refreshing. The next track is my absolute favorite song on the album. "Faberge Falls for Shuggie" is the strangest Of Montreal I've heard. To be quite honest, I have no idea what Kevin is talking about in this song, though I can only assume it's about ecstasy. Suffice to say, the song is crazy. It features a thumping bass line, ridiculous vocals, and so many small strokes of genius that you can't help but smile.

"Labyrinthian Pomp" has Barnes asking, "How you wanna take my style when I am so superior?" over a ridiculously funky guitar riff, while "She's A Rejector" finds the artist saying "There's the girl that left me bitter, won't you pay some other girl to just walk up to her and hit her?" Both songs are terrific and walk the line between accessibility and inaccessibility. Although, whether the average person on the street would find something to like in a song where the singer thinks about hitting a girl (even though he says "He can't") is really anyone's guess. From there, the album wraps up nicely with "We Were Born the Mutants Again with Leafling." A song that really wraps a chaotic album up in the most peaceful way possible. It's beautiful.
Overall, "Hissing Fauna, Are you the Destroyer?" can be a lot to handle at times. It's one of the most confusing albums that Of Montreal has ever put out. That's saying a lot considering that they also released "Coquelicot Asleep In the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse." At the same time, however, listening to the album in its entirety is one of the most rewarding experiences that an Of Montreal fan could ever ask for. Sure, some of its more difficult moments like "The Past is a Grotesque Animal" may throw off some of the many many fickle fans that they gained since "The Sunlandic Twins." But for those of us who are willing to stick it out and squeeze every last ounce of magic from this album, the experience is indescribable, and entirely gratifying. I'll go ahead and say it. "Hissing Fauna, Are you the Destroyer?" is the best, most complete, most satisfying album that Of Montreal has ever made. Thanks.

Recommended for real Of Montreal fans, and for those two girls who were dancing on stage. Hopefully it will deter them from coming to the next Of Montreal show. Hopefully.

Key Tracks:
1. "Sink the Seine"
2. "Heimsdalgate Like a Promethean Curse"
3. "Bunny Ain't No Kind of Rider"
4. "Faberge Falls for Shuggie"
5. "We Were Born the Mutants Again With Leafling"

9 out of 10 Stars

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Video of the Week - Week 2

The Dears - "Ticket to Immortality" from the album Gang of Losers.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Shins on SNL: Thoughts

I've been a fan of The Shins for a good four years now, and in those four years they have never stepped foot in the state of Texas. As least I don't think so. Seeing the band live has been a desire fo mine for some time and it still looks like I'm far off, with the band once again snubbing Texas on their upcoming tour. So when I heard that the band would be the musical guest on SNL, I tore myself away from the Rockets game and watched. As per usual with SNL, the musical guest performs two songs.

The first song performed by The Shins was "Phantom Limb" their first single off Wincing the Night Away, their upcoming album. The song itself is pretty good, and was a great pick for the opening song on SNL. It's probably their most accessible song to date. However, maybe it was just the shock of seeing The Shins live, but it felt like the band wasn't really the type of group that SNL fans would typically enjoy. Playing on the same stage as Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and Nickelback just doesn't feel right. At least to me. But the song was great. Anita from Viva Vocé lent her vocals she made a huge difference in the performance. The song felt a little less full than it does on the album, which is more of a minor annoyance than a complaint. Regardless, it's The Shins, so I didn't really find anything to hate.

Viva Vocé - Photo by Alicia J. Rose

Their second song was far superior to their first in almost every way. "New Slang," arguably their most popular song since Natalie Portman's classic endorsement of it in Garden State, was flawless. Anita once again hit the back up vocals on this song and it really gave the song more beauty than it would have had otherwise. The Shins looked and played more confidently during this song than they did on the previous song, no doubt due to the fact that it's several years old. it felt full and complete, whereas "Phantom Limb" felt more like a crowd-pleaser gone awry than anything else. It definitely gave me new respect for the song, as it was never really a favorite before.

Overall, The Shins did a fairly decent job of playing to an audience that, let's face it, would rather hear Top 40 bands than an obscure indie band with a chance gig on Saturday Night Live. They held their own and did what they do. No more, no less. Anita's voice was flawless and I would be disappointed to not see her involved in future projects with the band. For my first time seeing The Shins live, it was not a letdown at all. I just hope they come to Texas soon. I may cry if they don't.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Dntel's Next Album Due In April

Hey Dntel fans (me)! Jimmy T's next Dntel album, Dumb Luck, will be released by SubPop in the Spring. Here's a tracklisting!

01 Dumb Luck
02 To a Fault [ft. Grizzly Bear]
03 I'd Like to Know [ft. Lali Puna]
04 Roll On [ft. Jenny Lewis]
05 The Distance [ft. Arthur & Yu]
06 Rock My Boat [ft. Mia Doi Todd]
07 Natural Resources [ft. Fog]
08 Breakfast in Bed [ft. Conor Oberst]
09 Dreams [ft. Mystic Chords of Memory]
You can expect a review in April or whenever it comes out. Word up!

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Shins to Perform on SNL!

Hey all you fans of The Shins! You read that title right. The Shins will be the musical guest on Saturday Night Live this Saturday January 13. Jake Gyllenhall will be hosting. That, friends, is what we in the business call a double whammy!

Of course, if you can't catch that performance, there's always The Late Show w/ David Letterman on January 23. FYI, that's the same day their album Wincing the Night Away releases! You don't want to miss these performances, especially since they never ever tour near you!

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Video of the Week

Emily Haines - "Doctor Blind" from the album The Soft Skeleton.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

I Need a Break

Needless to say, the task of writing a 300-500 word entry every day for 31 days can be pretty tough. Especially when it's left up to one person. I got through it though, and I hope all of you who kept up with it got some sort of enjoyment out of it. There were a few surprises there towards the end, like Camera Obscura being the #31 album but having the #2 song, but overall it was pretty straightforward.

So as a result of all this "work," and because there's noting really good to write about yet, I'm going to take a week or so off to regather my thoughts and prepare for a new year of Audio Overflow. Expect me back on January 23rd, when both The Shins and Of Montreal release their new albums! Both reviews will be up that day. I promise.

Until then, be safe and peace out!


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Monday, January 01, 2007

3rd Annual Cale Awards - Reader's Choice

Best Album
The Decemberists: "The Crane Wife"

Best New Artist
My Brightest Diamond

Best Male Performance
Sufjan Stevens: "The Avalanche"

Best Female Performance
My Brightest Diamond: "Bring Me the Workhorse"

Best Band of '06
The Flaming Lips

Best Hip Hop Album
The Streets: "The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living"

Best Rock Album
Mastodon: "Blood Mountain"
The Killers: "Sam's Town"

Best Indie Album
Mates of State: "Bring It Back"

Best Pop Album
Mates of State: "Bring It Back"

Most Surprising Album
The Flaming Lips: "At War with the Mystics"

Most Disappointing Album
Tool: "10,000 Days"

Most Overrated Album
Evanescence: "The Open Door"
Pearl Jam: "Pearl Jam"

Most Overrated Artist
Red Hot Chili Peppers

Best Song
"Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" by The Flaming Lips from the album At War with the Mystics

Worst Album
Paris Hilton: "Paris"

Worst Song
"Turn it Up" by Paris Hilton from the album Paris

Worst New Artist
Paris Hilton

Best Live Show

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