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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Go News Go! - The Weekly News Recap

Introducing...the week of March 26, 2007. What do you have to say to our friends, week? "I was boring." Awesome!

Say goodbye week. "Goodbye."

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Top 5 Butt Nugget and the Silent Cane Songs.

Butt Nugget and the Silent Cane is the internet's most illustrious musical comedy act, and has been so since 2002. In the 4 1/2 years since then, Butt Nugget and the Silent Cane has recorded and released close to 250 songs. Accordingly, the quality of most of these songs remains pretty substandard. Still, there are several diamonds in the artist's discography. The list that follows is a list of my 5 favorite Butt Nugget and the Silent Cane Songs.

5. "Staple Puller" from the album "Comfort Organs" - Originally released in 2004 on the infamous "Do the Charleston!," "Staple Puller" became a fan-favorite almost immediately. Fans often noted it's undeniable charm and unparalleled concept as the reason for their admiration. A re-release on last year's "Comfort Organs" proved that the song was no chance brush with greatness, as the artist completely reworked the song from the ground up. In the process, he completely outdid himself.

4. "The Parks" from the album "These Few" - "These Few" is both adored and despised by fans at the same time. It was once noted as Butt Nugget and the Silent Cane's farewell album (he eventually released 3 more) and contained some of the best and worst Butt Nugget and the Silent Cane songs. Without a doubt, one of the strongest songs on that album was "The Parks," the best in a long line of songs about fat chicks. From start to finish, the song was a throw back to the old Butt Nugget and the Silent Cane sound, while giving listeners a preview of the more musical artist that would later emerge.

3. "Nathan and Agnes vs. Special Examiner Victor L. Dodge" from the album "Brand New Sensation" - Though it is often criticized for being a song about nothing, few could deny the sheer insanity of "Nathan and Agnes," the lead-off track to 2006's "Brand New Sensation." Featuring a vocal performance that is unparalleled, the song is still the best song to mention Bob Hoskins...ever! Now what's not to love about that?

2. "Snatchberry Cocklepuffs" from the album "These Few" - Like "Staple Puller," this fantastic song from Butt Nugget and the Silent Cane's 2004 album was too good for one go around, and was rereleased on "These Few" in 2005. Featuring guest performances from Squeezy and The Olsen Twins, "Snatchberry Cocklepuffs" quickly became a reason to fall in love with Butt Nugget and the Silent Cane all over again. It remains one of his stronger tracks, to this day.

1. "Peanut Butter (and Jelly)" from the album "The Collapse of the Empire" - Could there really be another choice for #1. Technically, it's not a song. But this classic skit by Butt Nugget and the Silent Cane remains, not only his best skit, but his best track. Slowly but surely the tension around the characters in the skit builds. When the payoff finally comes around towards the end of the song, you can't help but laugh out loud! Demented, violent, and hilarious, "Peanut Butter (and Jelly)" will forever be Butt Nugget and the Silent Cane's greatest accomplishment.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Best and Worst of Audio Overflow: A Birthday Overview

So to close out this very special day in the life of Audio Overflow, I'd like to take a look back at all the reviews that I've ever written and, as I do best, list the 5 best reviews and 5 worst reviews. After all, there's no point in being critical at everyone else if you can't lay the hammer down on yourself every now and then. Right? Of course!

Top 5 Reviews

#5. The Decemberists: "The Crane Wife"
#4. The Shins: "Wincing the Night Away"
#3. My Brightest Diamond: "Bring Me the Workhorse"
#2. Loney, Dear: "Loney, Noir"
#1. Cursive: "Happy Hollow"

Bottom 5 Reviews

#5. !!!: "Myth Takes"
#4. James Figurine: "Mistake Mistake Mistake Mistake"
#3. Zero 7: "The Garden"
#2. Grandaddy: "Just Like the Fambly Cat"
#1. Dresden Dolls: "Yes Virginia"

I find it funny (though not all surprising) that my worst review was also my first. at the time I can remember being really proud of it. But all the personal shout outs and lack of anything that would prove my writing talents just makes it a complete mess. If you want to revisit the best and worst of Audio Overflow, those reviews are a good place to start. Thanks again for a great year!


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The Unquestionable 10s

Do you know what today is?

It's this blog's 1-year anniversary! That's right, exactly one year ago today I wrote my first review ever. It was terrible. Anyways, I'd like to think that I've improved a lot in the last year and to celebrate this incredible occasion, I am writing this article. Go me.

I'd like to think that the meat, the text of the review is the most important part of any review, and yet when people read my reviews they often just skim down to the bottom to see what score it received and move on. These people suck! I can often spend over an hour writing a review, but you people don't read it. All you care about is the score.

It's very rare that an album gets a perfect score from anyone other than E.A. Solinas. In my one year of reviewing and rating albums, I've only given out one 10-star rating (a perfect score), and I did so to The Flaming Lips' "At War with the Mystics" which I stand by to this day. In order for something to receive a perfect score it has to be the perfect album. Here's what that means:

You see, an album can have nothing but fantastic songs on it still receive an 8/10. When that flawless album feels like a work of true musical genius it gets a 9/10. When that work of true musical genius has the intangible quality of being an album that will be remembered for years and years, that's when it receives the 10/10 rating from me. It's not enough for an album to have no bad songs on it. It has to memorable and timeless.

So without further ado or explanation, I'd like to list all the albums I've heard that are worthy of a perfect 10/10 Stars from Audio Overflow.

The Flaming Lips: "At War with the Mystics"

Sigur Ros: "( )"

Radiohead: "Kid A"

The Shins: "Chutes Too Narrow"

The Postal Service: "Give Up"

Sufjan Stevens: "Illinois"

The Mars Volta: "De-Loused In the Comatorium"

Live: "Throwing Copper"

Eagles: "Hotel California"

The New Pornographers: "Twin Cinema"

As you can see, there aren't many perfect 10s out there. That's a good thing, really. If there were more I might have to change my criteria.

Thanks to everyone for a great first year. Let's hope the following 365 days are even better!

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Video of the Week - Week 12

Muse - "New Born" from the album "The Origin of Symmetry"

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Monday, March 26, 2007

LCD Soundsystem: "Sound of Silver"

James Murphy's 2005 debut as LCD Soundsystem received acclaim from virtually everyone who was willing to lend it an ear. It's flawless production and Murphy's unparalleled ability to craft smart dance music (which is no longer an oxymoron) was appealing to clubbers and hipsters alike. Still, Murphy is not without blemish, as his vocals often make him sound like he's battling a serious case of nasal congestion. This made it very hard for me, someone who really values a good vocalist, to really get into LCD Soundsystem's debut album. Even though I could see the brilliance of it, it wasn't as good as I felt it could have been. "Sound of Silver," however, is the LCD Soundsystem I've always waited for. Though Murphy's vocals are still less than perfect, there's just no denying that this album is one that should be enjoyed for months and months.

"Get Innocuous" immediately showcases Murphy's talents as a dance producer in ways that no other song of his has really done to date. Here, his vocals are at their absolute best, sounding like something straight out of the 80s. On the contrary, "Time to Get Away" features everything that I dislike about his voice. But this is dance music, so vocals are always going to take a backseat. It's not that they're totally unlistenable either, just not optimal. There are other times, however, when the vocals are completely excusable because the song itself is just so awesome.

Take, for example, "North American Scum," one of the best tracks on the album and one of the most fun songs of 2007 thus far. Murphy's tongue-in-cheek humor is unparalleled here, as he sings, "New York's the greatest if you get someone to pay the rent, and it's the furthest you can live from the government. Some proud American Christians might disagree, here in north America. But New York's the only place we're keepin them off the street." The song travels from a steady dance beat in the verses to an all-out rock guitar heavy chorus almost effortlessly. It truly is a fantastic song.

"Someone Great" is a synth-heavy masterpiece that once again features Murphy's vocals at their best. In fact, they've never been better than when he's repeating "When someone great is gone!" towards the end of the song. Slowly but surely, he's forming me into a true LCD Soundsystem fan, and I'm loving every minute of it. The frantic piano line that begins "All My Friends" continues throughout it's length and eventually builds into an layer-heavy, semi-anthem that rivals The Killers or U2. It is completely unexpected, yet entirely welcomed!

Truly, "Sound of Silver" is fantastic. It's an album that should be remembered as one of the best dance albums in recent memory and, in my opinion, LCD Soundsystem's best yet! Whether it's the cowbells of "Us v Them," the earnestness of "New York I Love You, but You're Bringing Me Down," the brilliant intricacy of "Sound of Silver," or the undeniably fun sing along of "Watch the Tapes" ("Read all the pamphlets and watch the tapes!"), every second of this album is enjoyable! Sure, I may be a little tough on Murphy's vocal abilities every now and then, but I'm honest enough to admit that "Sound of Silver" is an incredible album! Listen to it, soak it up, enjoy it, dance to it, and rest. Then do it all again! You won't regret it!

Recommended for fans of LCD Soundsystem and anyone who want to hear what good, smart dance music sounds like.

Key Tracks:
1. "Get Innocuous"
2. "North American Scum"
3. "Someone Great"
4. "Watch the Tapes"
5. "New York I Love You, but You're Bringing Me Down"

8 out of 10 Stars

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Go News Go! - The Weekly News Recap

The week of March 19th, 2007 was the awesome! Check it out!!!!!1!!1! :p

Wow. A lot of stuff happened this week. Nothing too noteworthy, but all a lot of fun! OMG, I'm like totally gonna go do something rad right now! L8erz!!!

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Top 5 Songs Sung by Ben Gibbard.

Ben Gibbard is the beautifully gifted vocalist from Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service, but his voice appears pretty much everywhere nowadays. Chances are, if you're listening to an indie record, he's probably lent his vocals somewhere on that album. The following list is one that comprises songs whose lead vocals are sung by Ben Gibbard.
5. "Tiny Vessels" from the Death Cab for Cutie album "Transatlanticism" - On an album as overrated as "Transatlanticism," this song stood out as the most beautiful song on the album and boasts some of the best lyrics that Gibbard has ever written. If you haven't heard it, buy the album. Because even if it isn't as good as "Plans," it still is pretty decent. And this song makes the purchase entirely worth it.

4. "Such Great Heights" from The Postal Service album "Give Up" - There's a reason this song has been covered by Iron and Wine, featured on movie sountracks, and carved into the minds of college hipsters and prepubescent girls around the globe. It's an awesome song. One that you can't forget after you hear it. One that will stay with you forever. And one of the best songs ever written. Gibbard's strong points really shine through here, and you can't help but love every second of it.

3. "(This is) The Dream of Evan and Chan" from the Dntel album "Life Is Full of Possibilities" - Not only is it a beautiful song, but it marks the first time that Jimmy Tamborello and Ben Gibbard (aka The Postal Service) ever collaborated. The magic that began here, would catapult the two artists towards superstardom a few years later as The Postal Service. And the world rejoices. If you consider yourself a fan of The Postal Service and have never heard this song, then I doubt your fan-ness....or whatever. Simply put, listen to it.

2. "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" by The Postal Service from the soundtrack to "Wicker Park" - Wicker Park was a terrible movie, but at least it's producers were smart. Right on the heels of the uber popular Garden State, whose soundtrack remains one of the best-selling movie soundtracks of all time, the makers of Wicker Park thought it would be a good idea to milk the same kind of success from their soundtrack. So while the movie sucked, they managed to fill the soundtrack with all the cool indie music that hipsters could stand. I don't think it worked quite as well, mostly because the movie and it's soundtrack was less cohesive than Garden State's, but it did manage to feature one of my favorite songs by The Postal Service in "Against All Odds," a Phil Collins cover. Gibbard's voice is as frail as it's ever been here, and Tamborello doesn't pull any punches either. It's a truly great song. Listen to it.

1. "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight" from The Postal Service album "Give Up" - Compiling this list was harder than you might think. There are a ton of great songs out there that have been sung by Gibbard, and I feel kinda bad for not putting more Death Cab songs on the list. After all, that's his main gig. But when I search my gut, which according to Stephen Colbert is what really counts, no song stands out as much as "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight," the lead-off track to The Postal Service's unforgettable album. In just a few short seconds, your full attention is captured as Gibbard sings, "Smeared black ink..." You never look back, and you'll never forget the upcoming experience. It's one of the best albums ever made, and this is best song on there. It was the first Ben Gibbard song I ever heard, and it changed my life. That's powerful stuff.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Video of the Week - Week 11

Sufjan Stevens - "For the Widows in Paradise, for the Fatherless in Ypsilant" from the album "Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lakes State"

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Modest Mouse; "We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank"

Human beings are strange creatures. Despite our upbringing, we often end up charting our own path. Sometimes out of rebellion, sometimes out of passion, sometimes it's just because it feels right. Modest Mouse is a band that you listen to because it feels right. Nothing about Modest Mouse would appeal to your parents, who, if you were lucky, raised you on music like The Beatles. So when you hear Isaac Brock barking his way through an album, your gut instinct is to turn a deaf ear, dismissing what you hear as anything but music. But at the same time, when it's packaged with the manic instrumentation and unadulterated musicianship of Modest Mouse, something about it pulls you in and make you forget everything you're supposed to know about music. It just feels right.

Modest Mouse has kept their unique sound going for over a decade, long before MTV started taking notice. Fortunately for fans, the unexpected success of "Good News for People Who Love Bad News" and subsequent "it-band" status did not result in a sacrificing of the band's sound. "We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank" continues what the band started a long time ago, yet at the same time still feels fresh.

"Spitting Venom" is epic in it's length and it's ambition. Beginning with an almost Decemberists-esque guitar riff, Brock tones down his vocals to sing, "You were spitting venom at most everyone you know. If you truly knew the gravity you would know which way to go." 1 1/2 minutes into the track, the song hits full stride as the full band comes in like a pile driver to accompany what was once a subtle song.

"Education" once again finds Brock barking through the song, yet it manages to be one of the best songs on the album, despite the fact that you may need a translator to understand what the lyrics are. But this is one of the great things about Modest Mouse. Confusing as it may be, when Brock is at his "worst," the band is at their best. Brock's energy collides with the band's energy and together they produce an amazing sound, albeit a perplexing one. The song "Fly Trapped in a Jar" is a perfect example of this. The song's energy is through the roof, and the band is doing what they do so well that it's hard not to bang your head or tap your toes in syncopation. Accordingly, when Modest mouse tones down the energy, as they do in "Little Motel," it's often to less-than-optimal results.

Other highlights on the album include "We've Got Everything," in which Brock croons, "We've got everything down to a science." The Shins' James Mercer lends his vocals here, as he does on "Florida" and "Missed the Boat," the latter of which features the artist singing the chorus so beautifully that one can't help but hold out hope that this album won't mark his last appearance with the band. The album ends with the uber-frenetic pace of "Invisible," a song that should finally put to rest any suspicion of "selling-out." Brock is at his best here, utilizing his half-singing, half-screaming vocals to their fullest extent before being subdued by a steadily-rocking guitar solo courtesy of new guitarist, Johnny Marr.

Overall, "We Were Dead before the Ship Even Sank" is no huge departure for Modest Mouse. It feels very polished and complete. As always, they manage to captivate their audience and hold their attention well after the album wraps up. For long-time Modest mouse fans, there's not a whole lot to dislike about the album, despite a few songs in which the band feels like they're playing it a little too safe. It's all good music, whether your parents would agree or not. And even if the album doesn't meet the same success as it's predecessor, it is still quite an achievement; and one worth revisiting over and over again.

Recommended for fans of Modest Mouse, Franz Ferdinand, and anyone who missed the boat the last time it came around.

Key Tracks:
1. "Invisible"
2. "Spitting Venom"
3. "Education"
4. "Fly Trapped in a Jar"
5. "Missed the Boat"

7 out of 10 Stars

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Go News Go! - The Weekly News Recap

From the depths of the underworld, it comes to devour your children. It's the Week of March 12, 2007!!!

Don't forget, if you're at all interested in the massive amounts of music at this week's SXSW Festival, you can always head over to Pitchfork and check out all the latest nonsense.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Top 5 Artists I Absolutely Have to See Live Before I Die!

I've seen my fair share of shows, no doubt. Your Of Montreals, your Sufjan Stevens, your Rogue Waves, etc. However, there are a lot of artists who I really need to see live. And it's not like I haven't tried either. They're just never around. It's time they get around!

#5: Cursive - I just should have seen them this past November, but I had tests and work and other random sorts of obstruction. Now they're headed off to Europe with Mastodon and my heart is breaking. Why can't I live in Austin? Oh right....I haven't moved. Still, Cursive is incredible and supposedly really awesome live.

#4: The Decemberists - The Decemberists are one of the few bands that put out consistently great albums, which makes me unbearably excited to see one of their live shows. Unfortunately, a bulletin posted by the band via Myspace a few months back was titled "Why We Will Never Play In Houston." What followed was a video of Two Gallants being assaulted by HPD officers at Walter's On Washington, a bottom rung music venue in the area. Fortunately for The Decemberists, they are far too big of an attraction for Walter's. So come to Houston, quict being dicks.

#3: Muse - I loves me some Muse. I had the opportunity to see them once in Houston, but I skipped out to go to Thursday night church. Gay. It was kind of an obligation or what not, but it's one of the few times in my life that I wish I would have been more irresponsible. They haven't been back since, and I've cried a little every day.

#2: Radiohead - I've seen some bootlegs of their live performances, and even some that are professionally shot, and I can't say that I've seen more powerful live performances in my life. Every second of their shows are captivating and awe-inspiring. I am 100% sure that I will never see Thom Yorke and Co. in Houston. 100%. But that's okay. I'm willing to drive up to 6 hours to see them perform. It's that important to me.

#1: The Flaming Lips - These guys are old, so it's understandable that they don't tour hardly ever. It's even more understandable that when they actually do tour, it's usually in a localized region, like the Midwest or California. But that doesn't curve my yearnings for a heaping dose of Flaming Lips psychodelics. Hook me up Wayne! DO me a favor and head to the Lone Star state. Go to El Paso. It's 12 hours away from me, but you better believe I'd make it! I want to experience the madness!

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Ok, so most have you have already noticed the weekly features we have going on here at Audio Overflow this year. For those of you who haven't, let me get you acquainted.

  • Wednesday: Video of the Week - This feature is going strong, and it is currently in it's 10th week. Each week I'll show you a different (cool) music video from one of my favorite artists. This week's video (posted directly below this post) is an exceptionally cool video from Field Music, whose album is my #1 of 07 so far.
  • Friday: Top 5 Friday - This is a feature that will debut this Friday. Every week I'll come up with a random Top 5 List and present it to you, who will then be amazed and wowed by my substantial superiority in musical opinion. Topics will range from random (Top 5 Songs with Cowbells) to meaningful (Top 5 Albums...EVORZ!). This one will be fun!
  • Saturday: Go News Go! - The weekly news recap, is currently a few weeks old. It features all of the news headlines that you should care about, and nothing more! That's right, no news about crappy, overrated bands ever. Unless of course it presents an opportunity to make fun of them, in which case I'll hop on it.
The point of these features is to keep the site going, even when the review desk is looking rather clean (i.e. this week). So never fear! There's always a feature right around the corner!

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Video of the Week - Week 10

Field Music - "In Context" from the album "Tones of Town"

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Albums of the Years: 1997-2006

Audio Overflow has been around for less than a year, and I've been listening to decent music for a few years longer than that. But I've often wondered, "If I were doing this back in the day, what music would I choose for my annual Album of the Year honors? So what the hell? I've got nothing better to do!

The following is a list of albums that I probably would've chosen for album of the year over the past decade. Enjoy!

Album of the Year - 1997

Radiohead: "OK Computer"
Arguably one of the best albums of all time, and widely considered so, Radiohead surprised everyone with this amazing album. It features such timeless tracks as "Karma Police" and "No Surprises," while also being the home to my favorite song of all time, "Paranoid Android." "OK Computer did more than just legitimize the talents of Thom Yorke and Co., but it also crowned Radiohead as the "saviors of rock music." Their future albums have proven that they were not only uninterested in such titles, but that they passed up rock music a long long time ago.

Album of the Year - 1998

System of a Down: "System of a Down"
All things considered, 1998 was a pretty crappy year for music. It was the birth year of the reinvention of boy bands and pop stars. Britney Spears, *Nsync, Backstreet Boys, Five (remember them?)...they all made it big in 1998. In the midst of it all, however, System of a Down Came out of nowhere and gave everyone who lent an ear a good solid rocking of the balls. Sure, Offspring and Korn were big at the time...but where are they now? System of a Down was born in 1998. Thank goodness!

Album of the Year – 1999

Built to Spill: "Keep It Like A Secret"
If only we had more years like 1999. Blink 182, Creed, Willenium! Sarcasm aside, Built to Spill put out their greatest album that year, and haven’t fully lived up to it since. Despite awesome albums from Of Montreal (“The Gay Parade”) and The Flaming Lips (“The Soft Bulletin”), “Keep It Like a Secret” was by far the most solid album released in 1999…at least that I’ve heard of.

Album of the Year – 2000

Radiohead: “Kid A”
So like I was saying earlier, everyone was expecting Radiohead to save rock music after 1997’s “OK Computer.” And then they throw this curveball into the mix. Rather than be hindered by the limited structure of the alternative rock of the time, Radiohead dove into electronic music, and did so flawlessly. “Kid A” is my personal favorite Radiohead album, and definitely one of my Top 10 Albums of all time!

Album of the Year – 2001

Incubus: “Morning View”
This was the last great album that incubus released. Flawless in almost every way, it showcased Brandon Boyd’s voice and the rest of the band’s respective talents equally in a way that many other Incubus albums failed to do. “Morning View” will rock your balls off before demanding a lighter be thrown into the air and waved around like a loser at a concert. But it’s all in good fun. How I miss the good ol’ days of Incubus.

Album of the Year – 2002

Sigur Ros: “( )”
People often ask me, “What is the best album ever made?” and I always respond with this one. However, I can’t really decide if I mean that literally, or if I’m just speaking figuratively. Here’s my justification for the title. “( )” is an album without a title, without song titles, without actual lyrics…and yet you understand everything. Everything is portrayed beautifully, every emotion, everything. The heartbreak, the mourning, the joyfulness is all conveyed in a made-up language (Hopelandic), and what makes it so awesome is that it’s understandable in any language. A person in Siberia could feel the exact same thing I’m feeling when I’m listening to this album, and that’s beautiful.

Album of the Year - 2003

The Postal Service: “Give Up”
This album will long be remembered as one of the biggest influences in my life. It was the first indie album I can recall listening to and enjoying, and as such, it opened me up to a world of music that is void of Scott Stapp. The album remains just as awesome today as it was back then, and I still listen to it frequently. No joke. It gets crazy mad plays on my iPod. That being said, these guys need to come back and make another album, because The Postal Service is amazing.

Album of the Year – 2004

Of Montreal: “Satanic Panic in the Attic”
In 2004, I started the Cale awards back on my very own Xanga blog (RIP) and “Satanic Panic in the Attic” was the clear choice for winner of album of the year. It marked Of Montreal’s first foray into electronic music while simultaneously boasting one of the most solid tracklisting in recent memory. This album is a gem from start to finish, and “Rapture Rapes the Muses” never gets old.

Album of the Year – 2005

Sufjan Stevens: “Illinois”
People thought that “Michigan” was a fluke, and with good reason. His previous two outings were decent, but nothing near the accomplishment of that album. “Seven Swans” restored some hope in the young man, but it’s minimalist approach was still clouded by the heap of instrumentation on “Michigan.” And then came “Illinois,” Sufjan Stevens’ masterpiece. An album that covers every last second of a standard CD, and fills each second with such grandeur that it’s a little hard to take in. But then again, how could you not love this album? I’ve yet to meet someone to dismiss it as utter crap. But then again, I pride myself on not associating with morons.

Album of the Year – 2006

The Flaming Lips: “At War with the Mystics”
I can’t say enough about this album. It is one of the few albums I would ever consider giving a 10 out of 10 Star rating to, and justly so. “Mystics” is so awesome, so complex, so intricate that you can’t help but smile when you’re listening to it. One of the few bands that can be fun, poignant, and talented all at the same time, The Flaming Lips outdid themselves on this album…and they may never be this good again. Here’s hoping the will be.

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Go News Go! - The Weekly News Recap

Week of March 5, 2007, now in 8 collectible packages.

SXSW is upon us! Tune in next week for:

The Attack of the Hippies...


...How I Became Overrated in Austin.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Loney, Dear: "Loney, Noir"

Someone take me to Sweden. It seems like the indie music world is starting to be flooded with Swedes. And they're all fairly awesome. One of the country's most notable exports is Emil Svanängen, or as he's referred to here, Loney, Dear. "Loney, Noir" was my first introduction to the artist, and I must say that I'm fairly impressed. In the relatively short time that the album runs, I found myself captivated, impressed, and wanting to take that trip to Sweden more than ever. By the end of it, however, I was at peace. "Loney, Noir" is one excellent album.

It begins with the solemn, yet hopeful "Sinister In A State of Hope." Svanängen's voice is strong in character, yet utterly fragile; sounding like you could shatter it with the slightest breeze. A breathy tenor, he sings earnestly, "All I want is a state of hope," and your heart breaks. The first single from the album, "I am John" is a much more upbeat affair, but no more uplifting lyrically. Svanängen mutters, "And I told you, I was never gonna let you down, never gonna let you down. But I will always let you down." The song climaxes with the smooth roar of a clarinet, drums, and tenor-goodness. It's a beautiful song, and a wonderful introduction to anyone who hasn't heard the artist yet.

"I am the Odd One" begins with the artist lamenting, "I am sorry, honestly I'm sorry, I ruined your day." The song continues with subtle whistles, the familiar clarinet, and a gentle guitar progression and is both inspiring and depressing when Svanängen sings "You got it wrong, you took a glance at me, said I'm the odd one" in the chorus. It's followed by the standout track on the album, and the incredibly remarkable "No One Can Win." The melody here is gorgeous and slowly builds into an all out heartbreaker. A line like "The sun never reaches here. The shadows have won, " is standard whiny indie rock fare, but when Emil sings it with every last bit of humanity within himself, it comes off as poetry of the utmost grandeur!

The album continues with short reflections like "I Will Call You Lover Again" and "The Meter Marks Okay," while also adding in another captivating song in "And I Won't Cause Anything at All." It possesses a steady electronic beat that complements Svanängen's voice perfectly, each at their most-subtle. The album seems to begin like a breath of fresh air. It ends here like a much-needed exhale. Softly, it is released, and it is gone. The experience of listening to "Loney, Noir" is just as refreshing.

The album bleeds with his frailty, and one can't help but think that that's part of it's appeal. While people could compare him to Bright Eyes in many ways, Conor Oberst seems almost fraudulent when compared to Loney, Dear. Perhaps it's just his more-accessible voice, but Svanängen has surprised me by crafting an album that is not only beautiful, complex, and gut-wrenching, but undeniably charming. 2007 continues to impress with so many stellar albums being consistently released. "Loney, Noir" is one of the best so far. I've still never been to Sweden, but I feel about as close to it as ever.

Recommended for fans of Bright Eyes, Sufjan Stevens, I'm From Barcelona, and anyone who needs a breath of fresh air in music form.

Key Tracks:
1. "Sinister In a State of Hope"
2. "I Am John"
3. "Saturday Waits"
4. "I Am the Odd One"
5. "No One Can Win"

8 out of 10 Stars

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Video of the Week - Week 9

Loney, Dear - "I Am John" from the album "Loney Noir"

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

3/6/2007: The Shins w/ Viva Vocé - Houston, TX

"Hey, y'all. We do not fuck around!"

These are the lyrics chosen by Kevin and Anita Robinson of Viva Vocé to start their performance. In doing so, the band that nobody was there to see started the evening on a light-hearted, if not humorous note. Of course, it's one thing to say "We do not fuck around." It's an entirely different thing to back it up with your music. But Viva Vocé wasn't messing around. With just two members they filled the venue with so much noise that you'd think you were listening to The Polyphonic Spree. While Kevin plays the guitar, harmonica, and drums (sometimes simultaneously), he's also harmonizing with Anita's sweeter-than-sugar vocals. But the sweetness of Anita ends there. When she's not mesmerizing you with her voice, she's scaring the hell out of you with what she's doing with the rest of her body. Flailing away on a guitar so heavily that Jimi Hendrix would wet his the grave! So imagine, if you will, the hairiest man in the world pounding away at the drums while his beautiful wife totally out-mans him on the guitar for six entire minutes! Viva Vocé keeps their word. And just to remind you, they end the show the same way they started it. "Hey, y'all. We do not fuck around!" No. You sure don't.

Thirty minutes later and my hind quarters were sore from sitting on the floor. I needed a reason to stand up and the guy tuning guitars on stage just wasn't doing it for me. But wait, I recognize something. The lights go off suddenly as I realize that what I'm hearing is nothing but the fluttering synth arpeggio of "Sleeping Lessons." The Shins take the stage in all their nerdy, awkward glory and rock the hell out of the song, adding in an extra verse just for the hell of it. James Mercer stretches his vocal range to the snapping point even though the song doesn't call for it, but it's appreciated. They continue on with the bouncy "Australia" and then straight onto "Pam Berry/Phantom Limb." Surprisingly, the majority of the fans in the crowd were true Shins fans, knowing more than just the highlights of "Wincing the Night Away." The guy behind me is yelling "Young Pilgrims!" at the top of his lungs in 5 minute intervals. They never play it.
Fortunately, a large portion, if not majority, of their show consisted of older songs. "Saint Simon," "Turn A Square," and one of the greatest songs ever, "Pink Bullets" were all flawlessly recreated in the live setting. Mercer's father was in the audience apparently, it was his birthday. So being the good son that he is, he dedicates "A Comet Appears" to the man who gave him life. Beautiful. They pull a page out of the full blown rockstar book and leave the stage with a good 15 minutes still left on their set. Nobody's buying it. A few minutes later they return to the stage and play some classic goodness from their first album before ending the show with, arguably, their strongest song of the night in "So Says I." I dart for the exit on the last chord, knowing full well that parking would be hell. Fortunately for me, I just spent a good 3 hours in heaven, except for that damn girl next to me who just danced funny the whole night. They dance better than that in heaven.

Viva Vocé image by Alicia J. Rose.
The Shins image by Brian Tamborello.

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My Brightest Diamond: "Tear It Down"

Ahh, the remix album. Clearly it's one of the most overdone, yet disappointing classifications an album can receive. Still, dozens of these albums are released every year, most of which serve as throwaway club bangers as opposed to actual music. Even fewer show respect for the artist's original work, opting rather to make the song something that is entirely their own, and entirely unlistenable in the process. So you can image my surprise when it was first revealed that My Brightest Diamond's stellar 2006 debut "Bring Me the Workhorse" was being reworked and remixed as 2007's "Tear It Down." You can also imagine my skepticism. However, the final result is far from what I'd expected.

"Tear It Down" is a really good remix album. The reason for this is simple. The artists who have participated in this project respected Shara Worden's original work. These songs are far different from what Worden originally presented to us several months ago, but the overall feel and themes of the album are not torn apart by someone else's careless remixing. Take, for example, Lusine's remix of "Workhorse." In many ways, it is very similar to the original version of the song. It feels like the same song, and keeps much of the original instrumentation. What it adds are really subtle drums, vocal effects, and minimal instrumentation. It really is a fantastic reinvention of what was already an awesome song.

Much less subtle is the Stakka remix of "Disappear," which features both commanding percussion and gentle strings. When the music drops out and Shara is left singing "I don't think we're meant to stay here" a capella in her upper registry, it is a beauty that we never got to experience in the song's original version. "Dragonfly" features an almost Dntel-ish feel, but remains just as haunting as ever, as is the now more-terrifying "Magic Rabbit." Both songs are prime examples of what a remix should be.

In actuality, most of the album follows this same idea. Much care and respect is given to the original music, and the experience is greater because of it. Even some of "Bring Me the Workhorse's" less appealing songs ("We Were Sparkling" or "The Good and the Bad Guy") have new life breathed into them here. With the exception of the two remixes of "Freak Out," both of which are club remixes, there's not a song on "Tear It Down" that would be incredibly difficult for any fan of My Brightest Diamond to find enjoyment in. Anyone who found "Bring Me the Workhorse" great, but short on lasting appeal should definitely look into purchasing this terrific reinvention of Shara Worden's 2006 masterpiece. If you're just not sure, however, I highly recommend you going over to Astmatic Kitty's website and streaming the album before you purchase it. (

Recommended for fans of My Brightest Diamond and anyone who wants to hear what a remix album should sound like!

Key Tracks:
1. "Workhorse (Lusine)"
2. "Disappear (Stakka)"
3. "Dragonfly (Murcof)"
4. "Magic Rabbit (Alfred Brown)"
5. "We Were Sparkling (Haruki)"

7 out of 10 Stars

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Monday, March 05, 2007

!!!: "Myth Takes"

Grab your favorite partner and saddle up. !!! is back with their latest dance party, and this time they're all about having fun. The political themes of "Louden Up Now" have been brushed aside to make way for what could very well be the group's most energetic album to date. As one would expect, "Myth Takes" is one hell of an album, featuring thumping bass lines, driving guitars, and music that is absolutely guaranteed to get you moving no matter who you are.

Not instantaneously though. The album starts off subtly with the title track, "Myth Takes," which really serves as an introduction to the album if anything. It's spaghetti western guitars and dance punk doo-wop ("Sha-sha-sha-sha-sha doobie") trick you into believing that the album is going to be a low-key affair, but as it fades out you're soon treated to the pounding drums and all-around intensity of "All My Heroes are Weirdos." Go ahead and shut yourself in your bedroom. Freak out. No one's watching, and you know you want to.

"Must Be the Moon" utilizes a funky bass line and a steady rhythm to create what is arguably the strongest song on the album in overall danceability, while "A New Name" shows off the guitar and has an almost old-school disco feel to it. Both of the songs are incredible and clearly demonstrate the group's vast talents. "Heart of Hearts," the album's first single is a fairly strong track that should be incredible live, but is really plagued by !!!'s biggest flaw; poor lyricism. Of course, when you're playing music that is meant to be danced to, lyrics are always going to take a back seat. Anyone expecting to be moved by deep lyrics should probably look elsewhere.

The album slows down a little bit on "Sweet Life" but eventually explodes into 100% U2-ish anthem grandeur before the track comes to a close. The band is at their most experimental here, shying away from the thumps and grooves and substituting knob tweaks and static. It's a cool song, to be sure. Not as cool, however, as "Yadnus," my personal favorite on the album. The song's strong bass line and groove is complemented perfectly by flutters of string orchestration and cackling "Ah ah ah ah ah ahs" to form an awesome, almost eerie sound. Here, lead singer, Nic Offer, sings, "I'll take anyone. New York to London. They say brave men run to the sound fun," and you can't help but sing along by the time the verse rolls around the second time. It is by far the standout track on "Myth Takes."

The cleverly named "Bend Over Beethoven" and "Break In Case of Anything" keep the energy moving, the latter of which features some stellar brass-instrumentation. At one point near the middle of the song, the instruments hit some triple-forte staccato attacks that are impossible to not enjoy! "Infinifold" closes the album off on a mellow tone. Unlike the rest of the album, it is really the only song with lyrics that aren't repetitive or lighthearted. The serious tone is definitely welcomed on the album, but "Infinifold" just catches you off guard by it's utter lack of energy. It's only endearing moments are towards the end, as the music swells and the "la la las" are slowly swept away into the silence that caps off the album.

Overall, "Myth Takes" is a pretty rowdy affair by anyone's standards. !!! definitely knows how to blend genres and make it fun. The album can be incredibly fun, and it's pretty easy to get lost in the madness sometimes. Of course, listeners expecting some sort of deep experience are going to be disappointed. The lyrics on "Myth Takes" are unquestionably shallow (and often a bit silly), even by !!!'s standards. All of that is a side note, however, to what is otherwise a fairly strong album, and one that should definitely be checked out.

Recommended for fans of !!!, anyone hosting a dance party, or anyone who just wants to make an idiot out of themselves while alone in their bedroom (or on a dance floor, who knows?).

Key Tracks:
1. "All of My Heroes are Weirdos"
2. "Must Be the Moon"
3. "Sweet Life"
4. "Yadnus"

6 out of 10 Stars

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Go News Go! - The Weekly News Recap

Form of...Week of February 26th!

That's all. Enjoy your weekend.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Album of the Month: February

In any given year, there are always months that have their share of great music and other months that are dull and boring. February is typically one of the latter. While January sets the tone for the year, February is usually categorized by a drought of decent music in anticipation of notable springtime releases. Surprisingly, February wasn't all that bad. We got a few decent albums this month, and even though choosing the winner was easy, picking a runner-up was extremely difficult. That being said, however, I'm really excited for the month of March, which has several big releases. Most of these will hit stores next week, so keep an eye out.

The Winner
Field Music: "Tones of Town"
There's something to say about surprises. Some people like 'em, some people don't. Personally, I only like them if the end result is pleasant. Field Music was a very pleasant surprise to me. I didn't really know what to expect when I first checked out the album. I listened to it once, but then set it aside, not really knowing what sort of a travesty I was commiting. A few days later, I was making a long trip in my vehicle and I needed something to listen to. I figured I'd give Field Music another shot, so I popped it into my stereo and listened again. Still, nothing really caught my ear. Then "Working to Work" began to play, and I was instantly captivated. This song was amazing! I kept listening, and finally it clicked! "Tones of Town" is a really great album and one of the better ones to release in the last few years. In such a cluttered genre as indie pop/rock, Field Music has set themselves apart as a force to be reckoned with. Don't expect this to be my last rant about how good this album won't be. And 2007 has a long way to go.
The Apples In Stereo: "New Magnetic Wonder"

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