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Friday, November 30, 2007

The Top 31 of 2007: An Introduction

Starting tomorrow, we'll begin our annual tradition here at Audio Overflow of counting down the Top 31 Albums and Songs of 2007. Each day we'll reveal a new pick until we get to #1 on December 31st.

This year, due to the acquisition of our new writer, Jill, we're doing something a bit different. Instead of just a single list, there will actually be two separate lists: my list and Jill's list. Now I understand that this isn't really the easiest way to go about things, but it's the best we can do this year so you'll have to deal with it.

It works out well for two reasons. First, I'm really proud of my list (as I'm sure Jill is of hers...we both have a thing for lists) and I really want us each to be able to share our favorites with all of you. Secondly, this is probably the best way for you, the reader, to get to know Jill and her varied tastes in music. By December 31st, you'll probably have a good idea of whether you agree with her music tastes or not.

So look out for a new post every day with both our picks listed. Over on the left side of the screen you'll see a small icon featuring the albums we've selected for that day. If you want to quickly jump to our thoughts on a particular album, just click the icon and go to town. Easy right? Right!

See you tomorrow!

P.S. Isn't that logo the sweetest?

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My 5 Biggest Rating Regrets of 2007

I hope you're sitting down while you're reading this, because I'm about to drop a bomb so huge that it could very well change your perception of reality itself. Are you ready for it? Here it goes...sometimes I make mistakes. Did I just blow your mind? Well it's true. Sometimes my initial reaction to an album is a bit off from what it should be. Maybe the album is really strong the first week or so, but after a while it starts to annoy me. Or it could be the other way around. I'm sure you all know the feeling. With this in mind, today's list (the final Top 5 Friday of 2007) is the top 5 regrets I have when it comes to rating music in 2007. Enjoy!

#5: Dntel: Dumb Luck - Original Rating: 6/10 -- Adjusted Rating: 5/10 - Jimmy Tamborello's long awaited follow-up to his 2001 album Life Is Full of Possibilities was disappointment that I didn't see coming at all. I am absolutely enthralled with all of Tamborello's work under the Dntel moniker; even the seldom heard demos and rarities. It's all great glitch electronic music. But Dumb Luck didn't even try to recreate any of the magic that its predecessors had achieved. Originally, I gave the album a 6 out of 10 Stars rating because I felt there were a few quality songs on the album and Tamborello's work as a producer was stellar. Since then, I can't say I've listened to the album once (I've listened to his older ones more than anything else). The songs are just downright boring despite Tamborello's producing skills. If this was an instrumental album, it would be pushing an 8 out of 10. But because it's a "Hey, look at how many friends I have" album, it winds up earning a 5.

#4: Architecture in Helsinki: Places Like This - Original Rating: 7/10 -- Adjusted Rating: 8/10 - I can't begin to explain to you how much I love this album and how much that surprises me. Architecture in Helsinki was never a band that I could get into, but Places Like This, is absolutely enchanting from start to finish. For me, at least. I've actually read very little from other people that would suggest that my feelings are universal, and the more I read the more I realize I just may be alone in my admiration for it. But the fact remains that this is the most fun I've had listening to music in a long, long time. It's the kind of album that gets me pumped up and puts me in a good mood no matter what. Listen to it at your own risk, and expect something entirely unique (and confusing). It originally got a 7, which is a good score, but I'm giving it an 8 because now I know it's better than that.

#3: The New Pornographers: Challengers - Original Rating: 7/10 -- Adjusted Rating: 8/10 - More than any other album in 2007, Challengers has grown on me. The first time I heard it I quickly hit the stop button because what I was hearing was not what I expected. A few weeks later I listened a bit more and could say that I liked the first 5 songs or so. By the time I reviewed the album I liked all but 3 songs. Right now, I like them all. So much, in fact, that I'm debating whether or not I should just come out and say, "It's better than Twin Cinema" (I'm withholding that statement for the time being). I just listened to Challengers again yesterday, and I'm convinced that it will only continue to get better as I listen to it. I can't wait!

#2: Bjork: Volta - Original Rating: 8/10 -- Adjusted Rating: 6/10 - If anyone reading this actually went and purchased Volta based on my suggestion alone, I'd like to extend my deepest apologies. Volta isn't exactly awful, but it's far from great. Let's call it average. It's average. And for a Bjork album, that's not really what you want to hear. The album has it's moments, like "Earth Intruders" and "The Dull Flame of Desire," but it's far from Vespertine or Medulla. Of all the CDs I bought in 2007 (which is a lot), I regret this purchase the most. I think I've only listened to it once since I bought it (on the day it released). That's not a good sign.

#1: Charlotte Gainsbourg: 5:55 - Original Rating: 9/10 -- Adjusted Rating: 4/10 - If my review of 5:55 has taught me anything, it's to not rush out a review and a rating. Sit on it. Think about it. Then rate it. Honestly, I have no idea what I was thinking when I reviewed this album. I make the comment that Gainsbourg can actually sing, when in reality she spends most of the album whispering into the microphone. The instrumentation is great, and the lyrics are pretty impressive too. The problem is that she's not responsible for a single bit of that. Her contribution to the album is limited to that half whisper that's cool for all of 5 minutes! That puts her lower than M.I.A. in my book. Now there are some decent songs on 5:55, including "AF607105" and "The Operation," but there's also a lot of nonsense going on. It's just mediocre enough for me to call it bad. And like I said, I have no clue why I gave it a 9 out of 10 Star rating. I promise to never be so flippant again. You have my word on that.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rock Band Review (Xbox 360)

The Good: It is the ultimate party game. It's fun to play every instrument (except maybe for bass). Cool visual style.

The Bad: $170 price tag. Guitar peripheral a mixed-bag. Unfulfilling single player mode.

Audio Overflow is a music blog, as the title would suggest. Normally that means that you'll be reading about music, CDs, MP3s, and the like. But occasionally, I'll throw in some "music-related" stuff to keep things interesting. There was that whole Guitar Hero III review I did a month or so ago, and remember my review of those in-ear studio monitors? And let's not forget the two top five lists. Yes, I do my best to mix it up from time to time.

Today's victim is Rock Band, Harmonix's newest beast of a video game. For the uninitiated, let's play a quick round of catch-up. Harmonix, the game developer responsible for the massively popular (and rightly so) music rhythm series, Guitar Hero, has taken that idea to the next level. This time around, instead of just rocking a sweet axe, a drum kit and microphone are included in the package. The idea is to offer up the ultimate multiplayer music experience, that of being in a real live Rock Band! Does it succeed?

In places, yes. Let's start off with the guitar, shall we? Any person familiar with the Guitar Hero series should have no problem jumping into Rock Band on the guitar. It plays identically to it's spiritual predecessor. In the past, however, official guitar peripherals have been designed and manufactured by Red Octane. Now they're developed without the help of of that great name. The result is an aesthetically pleasing design, paired with a concoction of smart moves and missteps. The peripheral (which resembles a Fender Stratocaster) has fret buttons that are flush with the neck of the guitar (both at the end and closer to the body). This makes it more difficult to keep track of where your fingers are located than it would on a Red Octane guitar, but after a few practice songs it hardly matters.

The largest problem with the guitar is the strum bar which, even though it is entirely silent when strummed (finally), feels too spongy for it's own good. In a fast song like The Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop" where you're required to strum quickly, it can become difficult to lose track of where you are in the song. The old Red Octane guitars had a definite "stop" to it that you could feel (and hear). These do not. Overall, it's a somewhat decent peripheral (even if the failure rate is remarkably high). Still, I won't be throwing out my Red Octane guitars anytime soon.

The microphone peripheral is, well, a microphone. There's no getting around this one. Even if you can't play guitar, you can still shred the stuff at Guitar Hero (I'm proof of that). But if you can't sing, you may want to do your friends and family a favor and pass the mic to someone who can. Accordingly, the gameplay is fairly straightforward. Getting a high rating on your vocal performance will require you to sing the song well. Like the other instruments on the game, "notes" will scroll across the screen and it is your job to not only hit the right notes, but to begin and end the notes at the correct time. An arrow to the right of the screen will tell you if you need to shift your voice to match the correct pitch, just in case you couldn't tell on your own. As you increase the difficulty of the game, you'll have to be more accurate in your notes as well as your hits and releases. Things can get pretty unforgiving at higher difficulties.

But like all songs, there are times when you're not going to be singing, just standing around. Harmonix has smartly added in a nice gimmick to keep you busy. During these times, small dots will appear on the screen and you'll have to tap the microphone in time to simulate shaking a tambourine or clapping your hands. It's not the most enthralling gameplay ever, but it keeps you from getting bored while your buddy is wailing away on the guitar. The worst part about singing is trying to tackle a song that you're unfamiliar with. Fortunately, Harmonix has done it's best to get a wide variety of songs in to make sure that most people know a few songs beforehand.

Ahh, but most people aren't going to be buying Rock Band for the guitar or the microphone. They already own games like that. No, the big draw for Rock Band is the new drum peripheral. And it's great! I had my doubts the first time I hopped behind a demo kit, but now that I've had substantial time with the drum peripheral, it's safe to say that this is what people will be fighting over at the inevitable Rock Band parties. The build quality of this peripheral is phenomenal. It feels solid, and unless you're taking out your aggression on the bass pedal with cement shoes, you should have a hard time breaking it. Real wooden sticks are included in the package, and though the pads don't have as much bounce as a real kit would, the experience of sitting behind the kit and rocking out is awesome!

The gameplay is very similar to the guitars. Notes will scroll vertically from the top of the screen, and you must hit the correct colors in rhythm. When a long orange line appears, you must step on the bass pedal. It's all pretty straightforward and self-explanatory for anyone familiar with Harmonix's other games. In addition to that, there are also "fill sections" where you're free to bang around on the drums at your leisure and hitting the crash cymbal at the end of the section will trigger "overdrive" (Rock Band's "Star Power"). The fill sections can be a curse too, however. While a real-life drummer could knock out a fill without hesitation, someone who absolutely sucks at playing real drums (myself) will find themselves struggling to keep rhythm when they're not spoon-fed scrolling notes. It really breaks-up the gameplay. When you add in the fact that these fill sections will become more prominent until you activate your overdrive, it can get kind of annoying. Also annoying is when you're playing guitar while someone else comes across a fill section and butchers it, screwing you up in the process. It's a cool idea, but poorly implemented.

And now on to the game, itself. Single player is set up almost exactly like the Guitar Hero series. There is a career mode, where you play through the game's entire soundtrack, and there is quickplay. Career mode is the game's biggest failure. It's an absolute chore to complete this mode by yourself when all you want to do is jam with friends. And you have to complete it if you want to unlock all of the game's songs too (a huge, huge misstep). Unlike Guitar Hero, there are no encore songs, and therefore no surprises. It's just a straightforward play-through mode with little to no reward for completing it.

Multiplayer is where it's at. And unlike most Xbox 360 games, local multiplayer severely trumps online play. When you're in a room with 3 other people in your virtual band, it can get pretty fun. You just don't get that same feeling when you're going online against people you don't know and can't interact with. The biggest attraction in multiplayer mode is the Band World Tour mode (no Xbox Live functionality here), where you and your friends can start a virtual band and tour the world. The better you perform, the more fans you attain. Likewise, if you fail a song, you lose fans. You can also unlock vans, buses, and other rock gear to help you on your tour across the globe. The whole idea of this mode is to realistically mimic the real-life journey of a real-life band. For real. Harmonix has also added in some choices to the gameplay that will keep things interesting (i.e. Will you sell out or not? Will you play this large venue and risk losing more fans or stick to the small one?). It all makes for a surprisingly fun, and engrossing multiplayer mode.

The standard multiplayer modes are here as well, including "Tug of War" and "Score Duel" (similar to Guitar Hero's "Face-Off" and "Pro Face-Off," respectively). Unfortunately, these only work if you have two of the same instrument lying around. Unless you're unfathomably wealthy, that means you'll likely be dueling on guitars only for the time being.

The game has a pretty cool visual style, with heavy distortion and filters applied to almost all in-game character animations. It gives it a very raw feel, which fits the game's rock-theme perfectly. There is a pretty deep character customization system too, where you can create a digital version of yourself or your idealized self. Tattoos, piercings, and fauxhawks are all available for you to play around with, and you can even unlock more through the game's career mode. Load times can be a bit grueling (at least on my early-model Xbox 360), and the lack of any wireless peripherals is an absolute joke! Expect plenty of tangles, especially from that 20-foot mic cable. The game also comes with a USB splitter to allow you to connect all peripherals, but unfortunately it requires it's own power supply.

In the end though, there are very few things to complain about when it comes to Rock Band. Harmonix's dream game has finally made it's way onto store shelves, and if you're lucky and rich enough to snag a copy (the game currently retails for $170), you will have an absolutely amazing time rocking out with friends. If you don't have any friends though (or at least any that would be interested in playing Rock Band), you may want to spend your money elsewhere. Rock Band's single player experience is fun for a short time, but you'll find yourself longing to play with real live human beings before too long. And if all you're interested in is the drums, you can always just wait until early 2008 to pick up a copy of the game with the drums only (for much cheaper). Anyways, the point is that Rock Band is one of the finest music rhythm games ever made and quite possibly the greatest party game ever to come into existence. If Guitar Hero was your thing, and you have plenty of friends to play with (and, of course, the money), buy Rock Band! You will not be disappointed.

9 out of 10 Stars

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Oh. Hey. Hi.

Apparently, when I do introductions of myself in text form, I sound like some kind of ad. I don't know how that happens and I don't want to know why that happens, it just does. Trying to avoid that here, I'm going to just jump right in to the matter at hand: music. And me. Music + me = an oddly satisfying experience.

Oh, see, that sounds now, doesn't it?

Here's the things you need to know about me, Jill, the new writer here at Audio Overflow:

1. I like to write in list form.

2. (I like to write those after thought type thoughts in here and sometimes I go off on rambles in here.) (I can't help it.)

3. I love music. I spend a lot of time with music. There's always something playing and I'll listen to anything at least once. Twice if someone asks me to. Multiple times if I like it. I assign lyrics and beats to people I know, things they remind me of, specific events. Music is a very emotional thing for me, at times. Deeply personal could be better words for it.

4. I'm okay with file sharing as long as you don't abuse it. (I admit it freely.)

5. When people get to listen to what's on my iPod, I get a lot of "Did I just hear ... (insert a song here) and am now hearing ... (insert a song you'd never expect to hear here)? Really?" And they always laugh because, apparently, they aren't expecting it.

6. I get wordy. Sometimes. Sometimes I'm brief, blunt, and to the point. (Which is handy when I leave a voice mail. Apparently, I am the queen of them. Which has nothing to do with music, but once in line at Starbucks, this nosy woman said to me "I thought you were recording a podcast the way you were rambling into your phone.")

7. I like making mixed cd's. (And I'm always up for a trade.)
7a. I keep each individual mix listed on an index card, in an index card box, on my desk. For handy reference. (I'm that nerdy.)

8. I know things. About music. I can tell you all about how Charles Mingus wrote Pithecanthropus Erectus as a 10 minute tone poem. I can tell you about Carole King and the Brill Building writers. I can, if pressed, give you the entire Tupac catalog off the top of my head. I know lyrics, albums, track times. Like I said, I know things.

9. My iPod is one of those metallic Pink Minis. And it's on it's last leg(s). It has been for awhile. There are currently 995 songs on it and 2 Podcasts. And I have a bad habit of skipping through them.

10. I like to sing along. Especially when I'm wearing headphones.

11. I don't listen to the radio except for those times I'm in the car and there's no iPod capabilities. Which is rare. People, though, like listening to the radio with me because I am a Name That Tune genius. I can usually nail it within a few opening notes. It's a gift. I don't question it.

12. I do not, at all, expect anyone to ever agree with my musical opinions. Ever. This is important to know about me. Because they are my opinions. I like it because I like it and if you don't, it's all good. I do ask, though, that you listen to something I suggest at least once simply because I would do exactly that if you said to me "Hey, Jill, listen to this. I love it!"

13. I listen to everything. I'm heavy on the Jazz. Once a month I pick a different Rap artist and listen to their entire catalog. (I to this day, after listening to the Mike Jones album not once, but four times, still don't know who Mike Jones is.) (See, that's only amusing if you've heard at least two Mike Jones songs. Because the man has this habit..."Who? Mike Jones" ... and it's virtually in every one of his songs.) I like Opera. I like Classical. I like Country. (Some of it. Older Country makes me happy.) Techno, Metal, blah blah blah. You get the point. I listen to it all.

14. I don't go to live shows often, but I do listen to them online, which is going to be my monthly feature.

15. And to round it off, because I'm sure I've been wordy enough already...the first five songs on my iPod when I hit "shuffle song" when I started writing this. Well, six, because the first one doesn't exactly count...

The Sons of Westwood/8 Clap -- the 1965 UCLA Marching Band version (Because I'm a Bruin and it's UCLA/USC week and it's a tradition and it's my ring tone and if you're not a college football fan you're not going to get it. But hey, I think it rocks.)

Senorita -- Justin Timberlake (I like that whole falsetto thing at the end.)

I Left My Heart in San Francisco -- Tony Bennett (One of the saddest happy love songs ever.)

Stronger -- Kanye West ("Since OJ had Isotoners" always makes me snicker.)

Headsprung -- Keri Hilson featuring Timbaland/Justin Timberlake (Currently on my songs that make me want to dance list)

Dreams -- Fleetwood Mac (I grew up with Fleetwood Mac as a musical constant but it wasn't until I was an "adult" did I learn to appreciate them)

Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect -- The Decemberists (It is the only Decemberists song I like. ONLY ONE.)

And with that, I conclude my flagship entry with this: Go vote.

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Video of the Week - Week 47

The Honorary Title - "Bridge and Tunnel" from the album, Anything Else but the Truth

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Monday, November 26, 2007

4th Annual Cale Awards Update!

Can I share a secret with you? I hate doing myspace music monday. It's such a chore to weed out all the crappy bands on myspace to find the one or two decent ones. As a result of my hate towards the feature and a really hectic schedule for the rest of 2007, myspace music monday is gone until 2008! We had a good run, babe.

But hey, that's not what this post is about! It's to update you on the happenings of the 4th Annual Cale Awards (going on RIGHT NOW!). So far things are going kind of slow. None of my regular readers from the U.K. and only one Californian (my second-largest audience) have voted thus far. That's quite alright though, because there are some heated battles going on!

Take the Album of the Year category, in which Of Montreal and Radiohead are tied in the polls at the moment of this writing. Even more heated is the epic battle for Best Male Solo Artist in which Jens Lekman, Patrick Wolf, and Loney, Dear are in a three-way tug of war for superiority! Sure, it may sound like I'm being overdramatic for the sole purpose of luring you readers over to the polls, but I assure you this is not my intention.

There are also some upsets brewing. St. Vincent is running away with both the Best Female Solo Artist award and the award for Best New Artist. I think she deserves both, personally. A huge surprise to me was The Besnard Lakes pulling ahead in the Band of the Year category. I've also discovered that I'm alone in my admiration for Architecture in Helsinki's new material, at least so far.
It's all pretty enlightening to me, and if you have 2 or 3 minutes to spare (it may even take less than that), please head over to the polls and cast your votes for the best and worst of 2007! As always, you can write in your own nominations for each category. This is not only a fun way to appreciate our favorite artists, but it helps me to know what kind of music you listen to and what type of music I should cover more of to cater to you. It's kinda the most important thing ever, folks.

I don't know what else to say....

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Go News Go! - The Weekly News Recap

I hope everyone in the United States had a wonderful Thanksgiving. For those of you who don't celebrate the holiday, don't worry. I ate enough to cover you!

If you have yet to vote in the Cale Awards, please do so. I need you. You complete me. Also, next week is the last full week of normal things around here. Starting December 1st, we'll begin counting down the Top 31 Songs and Albums of 2007 every day for the whole month! I say "we" because a new writer will graciously be lending her talents to Audio Overflow soon. Her name is Jill, and hopefully she'll be able to bring some new insights and opinions to the site. I would say "welcome her," but you folks never leave comments anyways.

Look forward to a huge, monumental review next week and your normal features. The Top 31 Countdown begins a week from today!

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Top 5 Albums Under $10 on

It's Black Friday, folks! That means one of two things: 1.) you're an idiot and you're probably standing in long lines freezing your extremities off, or 2.) you're a rational human being and you decided to be more productive with your time (that includes sleeping in). Me? I'm at work. And if I'm at work on a Friday, that can only mean that it's time for another Top 5 Friday! Staying with the spirit of Black Friday, today's list is the Top 5 Albums Under $10 on If you have a hipster on your holiday shopping list, you may want to perk up for a few minutes. These are some albums that I highly recommend!

#5: The Pipettes: We Are the Pipettes ($9.98) - If the hipster on your list is a 16-year old girl, or a horny 14-year old boy, you can't go wrong with The Pipettes. Of course, they could also just be a fan of Motown and classic pop music. Whatever profile your hipster fits, The Pipettes are sure to please. These 3 British beauties will sing their way into that part of your mind where songs go to become annoyingly catchy. You know, the place where you can't get them out of your head even if you try. It's kind of a good thing, unless you're trying to fall asleep. Then you want nothing more than to take the CD and stick it in the microwave...which is also cool!

#4: The New Pornographers: Challengers ($9.97) - In terms of musicianship, lyricism, and overall likability; no one outdoes The New Pornographers. Their newest album, Challengers, may not be as immediately enthralling as their previous albums, but it is just as amazing! Neko Case and A.C. Newman will pull at your heartstrings with their back-and-forth vocals while Dan Bejar provides more WTF-inducing moments than any other artist in recent memory. The rest of the band ain't too shabby either. While the drumming (or music in general) isn't near as forceful as it was on Twin Cinema, each member of this band plays their part to perfection. The end result is a fantastic assortment of indie rock and power pop that anybody will enjoy!

#3: Of Montreal: Satanic Panic in the Attic ($9.97) - I'm well aware of the fact that most Of Montreal "fans" have yet to listen to any of the band's pre-Sunlandic Twins albums. Idiots! Satanic Panic in the Attic is not only the best album in Of Montreal's expansive catalog (arguably), but it's one of the best indie pop/rock records of the last decade! The band only flirts with electronics here, as opposed to the hot and heavy make-out sessions found on their previous two albums. "Disconnect the Dots" is a clear segue to their new sound, but the rest of the album is a masterpiece of indie rock. Songs range from bizarre sing-alongs ("Rapture Rapes the Muses") to guitar-heavy retro rockers ("Vegan in Furs"). The bottom line is, buy it!

#2: LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver ($7.99) - It's nominated for a few Cale Awards for a reason folks. And while it may be a bit behind the competition at this point, LCD Soundsystem's second album was one of 2007's biggest and best surprises. James Murphy not only refined his sound, but he improved upon it, giving us all something that we can dance to without feeling like a mindless clubber. It's smart, witty, sometimes insightful, but always enjoyable, and something that anybody with a penchant for dancing will enjoy! Plus, it's only $8.

#1: Band of Horses: Cease to Begin ($8.99) - One of 2007's best indie rock albums is also one of the cheapest! People may have given it a hard time for sounding exactly like their last album, but I've never heard that one, so I'm still loving the hell out of Cease to Begin. The great thing about this one is that anyone can enjoy it. It's been out for over a month, and I have yet to talk to someone who outright hates it. Even my dad likes it! Usually he's morally opposed to anything that doesn't have the name "Jesus" in the title. Not so with Band of Horses. If you've got someone on your list that listens to real music (not Britney Spears or Nickelback), you can't go wrong with this one. Guaranteed!

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Video of the Week - Week 46

The Most Serene Republic - "The Men Who Live Upstairs" from the album Population

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Vote Now for the 4th Annual Cale Awards!

In case the giant, obtrusive banner above wasn't enough of a hint; the nominees for the 4th Annual Cale Awards have been announced and you can vote for you favorites RIGHT NOW!

There are a total of 22 Categories in which to vote, and voting will last through December 20th. Among the wide array of nominees are: St. Vincent, Of Montreal, Menomena, The Besnard Lakes, Justice, LCD Soundsystem, El-P, and even our good friends Kanye West and Britney Spears! As always though, you are able to write-in your own candidate simply by leaving a comment below each category.

Voting will only take a few minutes of your time, so head on over to the polls and vote today! Make sure your favorite artists get what they deserve (which is money from you...but you know... also a vote on some random music blog. It's pretty important).

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Monday, November 19, 2007

myspace music monday: The Beams

It's Monday, and that means it's time for another installment of myspace music monday. Each week I'll present to you a different unsigned or indie artist's myspace page in the hopes that you'll enjoy what they have to offer. This week's myspace artist is a band from Cape Town, South Africa. Ladies and gentlemen, I present The Beams.

The Beams

The Beams hail from Cape Town, South Africa, rocking a sound that is seemingly familiar yet fresh. Influenced heavily by 1980s British rock, the band does their best to recreate the magic and intensity of the music period, and even achieve this a few times. If I were to make a comparison to a more notable band, The Colour is the first one that comes to mind, but The Smiths or Joy Division are not far behind. If you've ever found yourself listening to and enjoying any of these artists, keep reading. The Beams may be just the new band you've been looking for.


The first song on the site is as mellow as the band gets (here at least). Paul Maree's lead vocals are, as the page states , "somewhere between Robert Smith and David Byrne." They're not nearly as strong, but they're in the general area. The music is pretty straightforward upbeat rock, and nothing about it is too incredibly whoah-inducing. But it's all very tight, and the band really seems to have their stuff together. Despite the averageness of the song, it still manages to be somewhat enjoyable. Perhaps it's just my own love of the genre, but it's hard to listen to the song and feel like it wasn't worth my time. My only real complaint is that the lyrics are somewhat unspectacular, or even easy, and each line of the verse is followed by a soft, but distracting "yeah." It's completely unnecessary and borderline annoying.

Next up is "Your Majesty," a song that picks the tempo up. Paul's vocals are all over the place here, and I can't say that they work well at all. It sounds as if he's trying to let loose and just have fun with it, but he's doing so at the expense of the song. The song is also lacking a strong hook, which is completely inexcusable for a pop song. Paul singing, "I could've been, I could've been, you know I could've been with you," isn't really doing it at all. But the song isn't entirely lacking. Every second of the song is filled with fun, cool guitar riffs (courtesy of guitarist Boško Popovac), and there is even an awesome synth line that runs throughout most of the song. It really makes it worth listening to.

The last song on the page (yes, there are only 3) is called "Two Degrees," and it is unquestionably the best. Paul's vocals are as great, letting loose as he did in "Your Majesty," but they fit with the song this time. He also adds in some falsetto during the verses, and I'm not complaining. The guitars on the song are just as, if not more, amazing. Boško's infectious composition is an absolute joy to listen to. The lyrics are a bit simplistic again, but the song is so enjoyable that you'll have a hard time caring. When Paul is shouting, "I need something to pick me up, now put me down!" during the chorus, you'll be too busy dancing to even worry about the lyrics. My only complaint about the song is that the last chorus feels tacked on. It's the most fun part of the song, but it just seems unnecessary. Overall though, "Two Degrees" is a fun track, and the reason I decided to write about the band today. Maybe you should listen to this one first.
The band has talent. Anyone who listens to their songs can tell you that. A lot of the songs on the site don't represent that fact as well as they could, but it doesn't change the fact itself. If anything, The Beams show a significant amount of promise that will hopefully be realized as they continue to grow as musicians and as a band. Their sound is unbelievably marketable and fun to listen to, so there's hope that we'll be hearing an improved version of the band in the future. Before that happens though, they'll need to work on their songwriting skills in addition to making their hooks even more infectious than they already are. That's my opinion at least. If you like what you hear, the band recently (like 2 or 3 days ago) released an EP. You'll have to ask them where to find it though, because I don't see it for sale anywhere online. It's probably one of those things you can only get live...darn.

The Beams' myspace Page
Download "Two Degrees"
Video Interview w/ Bass Player Amrik Cooper

Do you have a band in mind for myspace music monday? Send us a tip at or by leaving a comment in this post. See you next week!

All The Beams photos provided via

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Coming Soon to Audio Overflow...

Hey everyone! The end of the year is fast-approaching and that means more year-end content for you and more work for me. Here's a brief overview of what will be going on through the end of 2007.

4th Annual Cale Awards - My annual music awards where you can help decide who wins. Nominations will be announced within the next week or so, and voting will take place through Friday, December 21st. Winners will be announced on Monday, December 24th. As always, you'll be able to write-in any nominations that you felt I may have overlooked. This year, expect more categories than ever!

The Top 31 of 2007 - This one is my annual year-end list, counting down the Top 31 albums and songs of 2008! Each day in December I'll reveal a new spot on the list, so you'll want to check back every day for that! Because of this though, time-consuming features like myspace music monday and Top 5 Friday will be postponed until 2008. There are also no reviews planned at the moment, but if something groundbreaking comes my way I'll be sure to let you know! Video of the Week and Go News Go! will stick around for the duration of the month.

Looking for a writer - I have some pretty big plans for 2008 (that I'll announce later), and I could really use an extra hand or two with the blog. Whether you're an aspiring music journalist looking for a way to gain experience, or just a music fan who likes to blog, I'd really appreciate any help I could get with the site. If you're interested, just shoot me an email at

Other than that, it's the same ol' same ol' around here. Keep an eye out for the Cale Award nominations, which should be up soon. Later.

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Go News Go! - The Weekly News Recap

Honestly, who doesn't love last week's news?


Tour Dates


Sweet! See you tomorrow!

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Friday, November 16, 2007

2007's Top 5 Songs From Bad Albums

It's always unfortunate when you hear a really great song and then run out to buy the album based on that one song, only to find that the rest of the album sucks! This is particularly why I'm an advocate of free online music (be it streaming or P2P). Sometimes you just need to hear the whole album before a purchase can be justified. Case in point, the following five songs. They're great songs, some of 2007's best! But they make you greatful for online music stores like iTunes where you're able to buy by the song. The following are the Top 5 songs of 2007 that were on crappy albums!

#5: "Icky Thump" - The White Stripes, from the album Icky Thump - While all the major media outlets were raving about the return-to-form that was Icky Thump, us levelheaded folks were busy wondering what the fuss was all about. Aside from about 2 to 3 decent tracks, Icky Thump sucked. Not only that, it was the same crap we've been hearing from The White Stripes for over a decade! The band showed no progression, and hardly any justification for positive feedback. "Icky Thump" was the biggest exception to this. An upbeat, infectious, and unapologetic rock song, "Icky Thump" really proved how bad the album was. It kicked things off with a bang, and everything else just whimpered.

#4: "Don't Make Me a Target" - Spoon, from the album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga - Spoon has this habit of making 4 or 5 really great songs and lumping them on an album with 6 or 7 really forgettable songs. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga was a really good example of this. Tracks like "Don't you Evah" and "The Underdog" were fantastic tracks, while a song like "Japanese Cigarette Case" is just begging for you to skip it. My favorite track on the album is the powerful, toe-tapping opener, "Don't Make Me a Target." Brit Daniel's vocals are spot-on as usual, and the infectious groove created by the guitar is just unstoppable. I love every minute of it; both on the CD and live!

#3: "Sugar Assault Me Now" by Pop Levi, from the album The Return to Form Black Magick Party - Wow, what a mediocre album. With only two songs that I listen to occasionally, The Return to Form Black Magick Party is an album that doesn't need to exist. Not good enough to enjoy and not bad enough to make fun of, Pop Levi's debut album was just mediocre enough to forget. "Sugar Assault Me Now" is yet another lead-off track that showed promise, only to find that promise squandered on annoyingly repetitive guitar riffs and vocals. It's as if Pop Levi thought to himself, "What's the best way I could ruin this?" and then did exactly that. This song is still one of my favorite on my running playlist, and if it weren't for that, Pop Levi would've been forgotten about a long long time ago.

#2: "Lake Michigan" by Rogue Wave, from the album Asleep at Heaven's Gate - Oh man, what a disappointment! Rogue Wave is one of my favorite bands, so I was so hyped about their newest album. When I found out that it's only about half an album with a bunch of filler, I was as close to heartbroken as you can be over music. Their first two albums were flawless. This one, not so much. There are some fantastic song on here though, "Lake Michigan" being the stand out by far! And people are taking notice too, thanks to Microsoft. While I'm not the biggest fan of the album, I'm finally happy that the band is getting the attention that they deserve. If only it were for Descended Like Vultures.

#1: "One Two Three Four" by Feist, from the album The Reminder - To say The Reminder was a disappointment is an understatement. The album has one great song in "One Two Three Four" and then a bunch of mediocre to terrible songs filling in the rest of the space on the CD. It's a shame when you consider how great Let It Die was. Like Rogue Wave, Feist has gotten a lot of attention recently thanks to Microsoft Apple, which is good. She's too talented of an artist to not be heard, and the video to this song is much too magical to be ignored. If anything, I'm happy for Feist. But my feelings remain the same about The Reminder. It's bad!

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Video of the Week - Week 45

St. Vincent - "Jesus Saves, I Spend" from the album Marry Me

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dillinger Escape Plan: "Ire Works"

If you were to take a look at my past reviews and judge what music I generally like based on them, you'd be incredibly surprised that I really enjoy Dillinger Escape Plan. Whether it's their undeniable ability to craft the most intricate music on the planet, or the fact that they tap into the most primal urge to throw restraint to the wind and rock out; Dillinger has had me since I first listened to their stuff several years ago. Miss Machine, was my introduction to the band. The album's more accessible moments ("Unretrofied" or "Phone Home") are originally what drew me in. Before I knew it, I was a full blown fan, picking up Calculating Infinity and scouring their numerous EPs for other great material. I am pleased to say Ire Works continues the bands tradition of making great music.

For those worried that the departure of drummer Chris Pennie would spell the end for the band's complex percussion, shame on you. You should know better. Despite this unfortunate event, the addition of Gil Sharone to the band changed absolutely nothing about the Dillinger's sound. Never is this more apparent than on "Fix Your Face" the album's strong, in-your-face opener. Greg's vocals are intimidating as ever, growling out "You were young and now you pay the price for her, price for her," with unparalleled force. "Lurch" seems to follow the same theme, lyrically, as the first song. Greg's ranting about a "little starlet" is haunting, and the guitars are all over the place as usual. It's amazing!

"Black Bubblegum" is the first "singing" song on the album, in the vein of "Unretrofied." It took a few listens before I started to like it. Greg enters a high falsetto several times throughout the course of the song, and hearing him sing "I had gotten frozen by the way you walked, by the love you gave, by the look on the face," is jarring simply because it seems completely uncharacteristic. The chorus completely washes away any doubt though, and should hopefully have the same effect on other skeptical listeners. The song is followed by "Sick on Sunday," a 2 minute song whose first 1:20 is mostly just filler. It doesn't really satisfy on any level.

"When Acting as a Particle" is just over a minute long, and while it could be labeled as filler as well, I've found it much more interesting and worthwhile. This instrumental song creeps up with chimes and violins before implementing the drums, all the while changing what is going on behind them. It's short, but interesting. "Nong Eye Gong" picks things back up again, if only for a brief moment. Despite it's brevity, I've found it to be one of my favorite tracks on the album. It's bookended by yet another instrumental, "When Acting as a Wave," which is also incredibly impressive. This time the band ditches the creepy vibe in favor of what feels like a jam session with a little production flare, including some electronic stutters. It all sounds great.

The album continues to impress from here. "82588" finds Greg reflecting on a fallen angel, crying "You were never a saint but now you're a sin, spoiled rotten from within. Who clipped your wings? Cut them yourself?" "Milk Lizard" brilliantly makes use of subtle brass instrumentation during the verses. The chorus leaves a lot to be desired, however, and at times I thought I was listening to Finger Eleven because the music was so easy and Greg's vocals sounded surprisingly similar to Scott Anderson's. Fortunately, "Party Smasher" does a fairly decent job of reminding me who I'm listening to again, sounding more like old-school Dillinger than any other song on the album.

"Dead as History" marks the first time that the band crosses the 5-minute mark, but the first 2 minutes serve only as a cool, but largely unnecessary introduction. Another accessible song, this one is breathtaking from start to finish. The production of the song is incredible, with little blips and beeps scattered throughout and an enchanting synth line following the second chorus. The song ends with Greg harmonizing with himself in a choir-like manner over a soft, complementing piano. It's the most different song Dillinger has ever made, and I love every minute of it. "Horse Hunter" is another fabulous song. Though more traditional, hearing Greg scream "Commerce is your god, cannibalistic flies, monarch of your womb, messiah of your thighs" at the top of his vocal register is just as amazing as anything in the song it follows.

Long-time fans may be turned off by the album's closer, "Mouth of Ghosts." You wouldn't think of Dillinger being able to pull of a Latin-jazz infused rock song, but that's exactly what they do here. The first 4 1/2 minutes lead you to believe that this song is the traditional comedown track, but it soon evolves into another brilliant example of how Dillinger can take one song and turn it into something completely different. He may begin the song singing, "Our trust runs out tonight," but by the end he's screaming "You were a mouth without a heart" with everything he has. It is a fantastic song and the end to a very strange journey of an album.

By the time your CD resets and you're hearing "Fix Your Face" again, you'll be utterly amazed that you're listening to the same band. I was! Long-time fans of Dillinger Escape Plan, and fans of grind and hardcore music in general may be turned off by the lighter moments of Ire Works, but hopefully the moments where the band turns everything up to 11 and rocks out will make up for that. Personally, I love almost every second of this album and I'm thrilled to add it to my collection of Dillinger records. I highly recommend it to fans and non-fans alike. Prepare to be blown away!

Key Tracks:
1. "Fix Your Face"
2. "Nong Eye Gong"
3. "Party Smasher"
4. "Dead as History"
5. "Horse Hunter"

7 out of 10 Stars

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Monday, November 12, 2007

myspace music monday: Teacups

I've changed the name from myspace band monday to myspace music monday. Why? Because after three weeks of this pointless endeavor, I have yet to post a band. And wouldn't you know it, on the first day with the new name I finally get around to doing just that. Today's band hails from Auckland, New Zealand and goes by the name of Teacups.


When you think of Teacups, it's best to think of them as a folksy Eisley. Though they sound nothing like the band from Texas, they're clearly ganking some of their quirks. Their myspace page reads, "elizabeth and chelsea are hermits that rarely emerge from the depths of the forest. we indulge in sunday craft on any day of the week and most of our time is spent watching star wars in deck chairs. talita has a car." Hermits? Forests? Star Wars? That has Eisley written all over it. Still, this trio of femininity isn't near as bad as they could be. Their songs are inventive, and their harmonies are spot on. Who couldn't like that?

The first song on Teacups' myspace page is called "Lily's Eyes," and it suffers from the same ailment that the rest of the tracks on the page do; bad recording. The bass drum hits with a lowly thud and the harmonizing voices are competing with one another, fighting to the death over who will be the loudest. But the song ain't bad, and if you can get past all these little problems, you may be surprised to find that what you end up hearing is quite enjoyable. "Lily's Eyes" really shows the creativity of the band, as they throw in shout and handclaps that rival Tilly and the Wall (one of my favorites). The whole song is about Harry Potter, so if you're into that, you may love this. They definitely get props from me for that.

Next we have "Ducks in the Park," which is a live studio performance on what I'm assuming is a local radio station. Chelsea, who is responsible for the lead vocals on this song, sounds amazing! If it were recorded in a more professional way, this would probably be my favorite song on the page. But as it stands, the harmonica that comes in during the chorus is waaaaaaay too loud, and the girl shouting "The ducks in the park! Yeah, the ducks in the park!" just sounds ridiculous. The girls cite Jenny Lewis as a huge influence after the song is over, though I can't hear the resemblance (Teacups blows Rabbit Fur Coat out of the water). I suppose that's good though, because I probably wouldn't be writing this if they sounded like a Jenny Lewis rip-off.

I don't think I should have to say that "Mon Petit Poisson" is a song written in French, but in case I's French. Again, I'm impressed with the uniqueness of the song. Everything here, from the harmonies to the ukulele, is so subtle and beautiful that it really shows that the group can do great things when they're not trying to blow us away with loud vocals and harmonicas. It's my absolute favorite song on the site, and what really compelled me to have them as this week's artist. It proves that they are capable of greatness.

The final song on the group's page is called "Birds Hysterical Edit" (or just "Birds"...who knows?). It features some irresistible guitaring, and probably the best vocal performance of any song on the page. Harmonies are absolutely perfect even if the recording isn't as good as it could be. The loud cackles and "Am I supposed to be singing?" remarks add to the whole bedroom feel of the song, but ultimately distract from it's greatness. One day, I'd like to hear the non-hysterical edit of "Birds." That would make me happy.

If I sounded a bit harsh, I'd like to apologize for any confusion. I really like Teacups' sound, and off the top of my head, I can't think of anyone that they sound like. My only real complaint about the group is just that they need to give us some more quality recordings instead of all these halfway-there jobs. Still, there is some definite magic contained in these four tracks, and I would highly recommend them to everyone reading this. I have a pretty good feeling about Teacups, and I think that if they stick with it we'll be hearing a lot more about them in the future. Wouldn't that be sweet?

Teacups' myspace Page
Teacups Covering Rihanna? Okay!
And Kanye too? Really?

Do you have a band in mind for myspace music monday? Send us a tip at or by leaving a comment in this post. See you next week!

All Teacups photos provided via

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Go News Go! - The Weekly News Recap

This week, I've decided to group news by category. Maybe I'll do it this way from now on. Who knows?



Tour Dates


Meh, I don't like it.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

The 5 Worst Songs of 2007

Generally speaking, 2007 has been a really great year for music. We've seen great albums from Of Montreal, The New Pornographers and other established bands, as well as some surprises from newcomers like St. Vincent. Amidst this lineup of great albums though lies a small, but terrible collection of songs that never should have existed. Now I'm just one guy, so I can guarantee you that I haven't heard all the worst songs that 2007 has to offer, especially since I try to avoid bad music at all costs. But from the albums I've listened to and reviewed this year, the following songs stand out as the 5 Worst Songs of 2007.

#5: Rilo Kiley - "15" - Musically, "15" is a fairly decent song. It's in no way impressive, or even memorable, but it's not downright bad. What is bad about "15" is the lyrics. Who would've thought that a love story about a male twenty-something falling in love and having a physical relationship with a 15-year old girl would be the year's pop anthem? Only Jenny Lewis apparently, who when performing the song live feels the need to get the crowd into it by waving her hand in the hopes of reciprocation. It's just that Jenny forgot one thing. It's not sexy, it's creepy (and pretty much illegal). No one wants to hear about a 15-year old child who is "ripe like a peach" and "down for almost anything." No one except sex offenders and 13-year old boys, that is. That's not exactly the audience I'd be targeting if I were Rilo Kiley.

#4: M.I.A. - "Jimmy" - M.I.A.'s abysmal cover of "Jimmy Jimmy Aaja" (from the 1980's Bollywood flick, Disco Dancer) was so bad that it stood out as the worst track on Kala, an album that I wasn't too fond of to begin with. I have to give her credit for trying to branch out from the straight-up grime/hip hop style that she's known for, but the pseudo-disco production and over-sexed "Jimmy" moans pretty much guaranteed the song a spot on this list. The story behind Maya's connection to the song is pretty cool and all, but someone along the way should have had the foresight to axe this one before it made it to the record (much less a single). I don't know. Maybe it's just me. I'm definitely one of the few music bloggers/critics out there who isn't completely in love with M.I.A., so that's a possibility.

#3: Britney Spears - "Toy Soldier" - Ugh. I'm already pissed about the fact that my review of Britney's new album was overrun by the moronic-majority over at, and then the other night I go jogging with my sister only to find that she has Britney on her iPod. Am I the only one left in the world who has the good sense to not buy into this garbage? Anyways, of all the songs on Blackout, none was more cringe-inducing than "Toy Soldier," a song in which Britney resorts to the tried and true "I need a soldier" song (and by tried and true I mean entirely overused). It's bad enough when she's rapping "peek-a-boo he good" like an illiterate human being, but by the time she's singing "I need a really bad ass soldier" you just kinda have to gouge your ears out and cry yourself to sleep. It's just one of many examples of songs on Blackout that shouldn't have ever been penned. But hey! You can dance to it!

#2: Maroon 5 - "Kiwi" - In case you haven't noticed yet, I'm a pretty big fan of lyrics. It's my policy that if the lyrics are a joke, 95% of the time the song will be also. Never was that more apparent this year than on Maroon 5's "Kiwi" in which Adam Levine tells you everything you didn't want to know, and probably a little bit more. So when he says he wants to be a "stronger and faster lover," I'm pretty sure he's talking about getting his pelvis up to about 100 TPM (Thrusts Per Minute). Ok. Fine. But then he takes it one step backwards in the chorus and says "Sweet Kiwi, your juices dripping down my chin." That's just gross! No one wants to hear about that Adam! Not a single solitary person other than yourself. Keep it where it belongs. In the bedroom, in your mind, and out of our thoughts. Thanks!

#1: Boddicker - "Bon Vivant" - Being a pretty big fan of indie music, you wouldn't think that the one song on my list that was actually put out by an indie artist would be the worst song of the year. But you'd be wrong, because a lot of indie music sucks. Case in point, Caleb Boddicker. I've never reviewed an album as low as Boddicker's 2007 debut, Big Lionhearted and the Gallant Man (1 out of 10 Stars), as I usually find enough about an album to enjoy to at least give it a few stars (Britney got 3). But Boddicker just upped the suck so much that I couldn't find one single song that I enjoyed for even a few seconds. Of all of the atrocious songs on the album, "Bon Vivant" is the worst and one of the worst I've ever heard in my life. Boddicker doesn't sing his lyrics, he howls them. He barks them. On "Bon Vivant" he howls, "The fooooooooooooooood tastes so gooooooooooooooood," sending fingers flying towards the skip forward button. When showing it to family and friends, they begged me to turn it off before I finally did. What other song garners that sort of knee-jerk response? Maybe the "Nails on the Chalkboard" song that I just made up in my head, but other than that, nothing.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Video of the Week - Week 44

The New Pornographers - "Challengers" from the album Challengers.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Various Artists: "Aluminum Plums: A 10th Anniversary Tribute to Of Montreal"

It was pretty much destined for mediocrity to begin with. A post on June 18th, 2008 on the Of Montreal Fan Site, The Booty Patrol, invited any and everyone to cover an Of Montreal song to celebrate the band's 10th Anniversary. This isn't exactly stereogum's O.K. Computer tribute we're talking about here. No, what Aluminum Plums is is just a fun way for fans of the band to pay tribute to Of Montreal by trying their best to recreate songs from the band's expansive collection. The end result is expectedly amateur (with sparks of genius and talent here and there) and will probably only appeal to those who were involved in the process. Huge Of Montreal fans, like myself will most likely find very little to enjoy about Aluminum Plums.

I suppose that the largest problem with Aluminum Plums is the fact that it's not to be taken as a serious recreation or reimagination of Of Montreal's music, but just a casual love note to the band from their fans. Any expectations of greatness should be immediately thrown out of the window, because the album features only a few artists that I've actually heard of before and a large part of Aluminum Plums is performed by people who have no business making music. Jeff Maksym's abysmal cover of "Dustin Hoffman Offers Lame Explanation for Missing Bathtub" turns the already somewhat unimpressive song into an unimaginable mess of distorted guitars, vocals, and drums. I would be lying if I said that any moment of this song was worth listening to, and I can't even tell that I'm listening to an Of Montreal song, even when I have the title right in front of me. A Candlelight Vigil's version of "She's A Rejector" is a little better, as it actually sounds, but the vocalist sounds like he's trying too hard to sound like Kevin Barnes. The music itself is a straight-up cover of the Hissing Fauna... song too, with barely anything to suggest that the band actually tried to put their own mark on the song aside from some frantic guitar soloing towards the end. It just ends up sounding like a bad Of Montreal cover, which it is.

But the badness doesn't really stop there. Aisle Six's cover of "Vegan in Furs" is "sung" by a person who really doesn't need to even own a microphone, much less sing into it. "Alvin and the Chipmunks" make an appearance on the song's coda, which is to say that his terrible vocals are pitch-shifted to sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks when in fact it's just a really awful vocalist trying to disguise the fact that he's terrible. Even Elekibass, who I adore, can't really pick things up, as their cover of "Springtime is the Season" is less than charming. I do, however, give them props for trying to put their own unique Elekibass-stylings on the simple, synth-driven sing-a-long.

Finally, we get a decent cover eight songs in with Sorry Stories' cover of "Autobiographical Grandpa," which is not only faithfully covered but well-recorded. The vocalist isn't the greatest, but he sings better than anyone else on the album thus far. And what the hell is up with Lesbian Afternoon's "Disconnect the Dots," which is in no way a cover of the opener to Satanic Panic in the Attic? I'm pretty sure renaming your original music to "Disconnect the Dots" and replacing your chorus with the song's lyrics doesn't count as a tribute, but as exploitation. Let's hope no one notices. The next song is Alex Madore's cover of one of my favorite Of Montreal songs, "Jennifer Louise." And while he may totally kill the energy and happiness of the original, his slow, mildly depressing version is still pretty decent. It's well sung and well performed, so even though he changed the feel of the song, you can't complain too much, especially when it's surrounded by such nonsense.

And this leads me to the most gut-wrenching cover of them all, Emily Pike's "City Bird." It's not that she can't sing, or that the music is bad. Neither of those statements are true. The problem with the song is that Emily takes Kevin's soft, reflective ballad and turns into a Kelly Clarkson power ballad without changing the backing music. So what we end up with is a copy of the original song, but instead of Kevin crooning softly, we get a wannabe American Idol belting out "City bird, haven't you heard? Hasn't anybody told you?" at the top of her lungs. Way to miss the point.

The Terrified Terrifics' "Du Og Meg" does a pretty decent job of capturing the charm of the original without resorting to a flat out copy of the song. I suppose the best way to describe it is "cute," which is something the original was far from. The next song, "Kevin, I Wish You Were Born In Brazil" is a hilarious reimagining of "Tim, I Wish You Were Born a Girl" with the singer wishing that he and Kevin could play Sega Genesis and other far-fetched, yet humorous activities. Indie Blockedappella do an amazing job of recreating "Will You Come and Fetch Me" in full-on a capella. If you needed a reason to download Aluminum Plums, this is probably the best reason to do so.

J&H's bedroom rendition of "Requiem for O.M.M. 2" is enjoyable in that it's just so lame that it's good. The only thing I can think of when listening to it is a bunch of kids gathered around an acoustic guitar and recording the whole thing in one take. It's not good, but it is amusing. Dena Zilber's cover of "Good Morning, Mr. Edmonton" goes for the same effect, but fails miserably. Skip it. In fact, just go ahead and skip the next 4 tracks too, right to Low Digital's cover of "Suffer for Fashion." It's far from the best track on the album, but considering the garbage that it follows, it stands out as something at leas halfway decent. There is good synth work here, which almost makes up for the horrible vocals that flood the song. "Suffer for Fashion" is such a vocally-driven song, but the band seemed to forget that when recording this version. Prash's "Chrissy Kiss the Corpse" is another one of those "so bad it's amusing" songs, sounding a lot like Atom and his Package, but without talent.

And finally, at song 25, Aluminum Plums comes to a close with Casper & The Cookies' version of "Penelope," which is undoubtedly the best cover on the album, and one of just a few that deserve to exist. Of course, this isn't such a surprise, as Casper & The Cookies are actually an established band. They do an amazing job with this song, utilizing every trick at their disposal to make the song sound great! The traverse a bunch of music genres in the process, including electro funk, marching band arrangements, a capella, punk, and even a crazy, but awesome bluegrass hoe-down. Musically, it's a much better song than the original, though I still have a soft spot for Of Montreal's version.

Aluminum Plums is free, so you should download it if you're a fan of Of Montreal. Just be prepared to delete 20 of the 25 songs found on this collection. The biggest problem with Aluminum Plums is the lack of decent quality control. If these are the ones that made it, I can't even imagine what the rejects sounded like (assuming there were any). But then again, the point of the album is not to wow us (and I'm sure it was never meant for a serious review), but to be a fun project for fans. I sure hope they had a better time making it than I had listening to it, because Aluminum Plums is about as enjoyable as eating an aluminum plum would be. See what I did there? Oh, I'm such a clever guy!

Key Tracks:
1. Sorry Stories - "Autobiographical Grandpa"
2. Alex Madore - "Jennifer Louise"
3. Terrified Terrifics - "Du Og Meg"
4. Indie Blockedapella - "Will You Come and Fetch Me"
5. Casper & the Cookies - "Penelope"

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Monday, November 05, 2007

myspace band monday: Thomas Dybdahl

I guess I'll have to take the advice of a friend and go ahead and start calling this feature myspace music monday. I have yet to feature an actual "band" yet, and this week is no difference. Say hello to Thomas Dybdahl!

Thomas Dybdahl

Looks can be deceiving. Despite the fact that Thomas Dybdahl's myspace page only has about 2,600 hits, and even though he only has 24 friends....wait, I thought it was weird that an established artist would have so little friends, songs, and a crappy myspace profile that was decorated by one of those myspace profile editors. Crap!

What just happened is that while typing that sentence, I did a myspace search for Thomas Dybdahl and found that he has a real myspace page with 124,000 hits. That makes more sense. And while this is usually too high-profile for myspace band monday, I've already dedicated this post to Thomas Dybdahl, and I think you may actually like him. So here it goes...

If Bonnie "Prince" Billy were on a major record label, he may sound a lot like this. Despite being from Norway, Thomas' music has a pretty distinct country flare to it at times. This is never more notable than it is on "Be A Part," the first song featured on his myspace page. Thomas's voice is pretty decent here, often singing barely above a whisper over female backup vocals and lap steels. He goes in and out of a soulful croon throughout the song, while still barely being heard and it sounds fairly cool. It makes the song that much more chill and relaxing. It's a good listen, and I can't help but think that fans of John Mayer would find something to enjoy here.

On "Always" Thomas' voice is so low it sounds almost inhuman, like it's pitch-shifted down an octave or two. Hell, I'm not entirely convinced that it isn't. He softly sings, "I had to fend for myself cause no one else was gonna help," under sweeping strings and unobtrusive drums and guitars. In fact, I think one of the best ways to describe Thomas' music is "unobtrusive." It's all very soothing and faint, like it barely exists. I really do dig it. This song and the one that precedes it are both featured on Dybdahl's first major record release, Science.

"A Love Story" comes from another Dybdahl album, One Day You'll Dance for Me, New York City (Maybe that day is today, as he's playing in NYC tonight). Again, this song is very relaxing, and Thomas' vocals are still kind of mesmerizing. His lyrics here are pretty awesome too. He sings, "when life was once too short for all the things we`d do and the shots we`d call / and endless summer without a fall / when promises were meant to keep and nighttime wasn`t meant for sleep / a love story at it`s peak" and I get a pretty clear picture of what he's talking about. It's my second favorite song on his myspace page.

My first favorite is "From Grace," the first song I heard from his fake myspace page. If you can, listen to this song first, and maybe you'll understand why I decided to do this week's mbm on him. This is Thomas pre-major record label, and it has a much more indie sound to it. He finally comes out of his shell too, often singing falsetto over his own backup harmonies and never regressing into the low, barely audible whispers that has categorized his music up to this point. I really do like this song, and I think that you should stop reading right now and go check it out. It is beautiful.
I dig it. It's clear to me that his older stuff might appeal to me more, so I can't fully recommend going out and buying Science. Just from what I've heard. I can say, however, that Thomas Dybdahl is a really talented guy who fully deserves to be signed to a major record label like Universal (unlike so many other artists). If you're a fan of Bonnie "Prince" Billy, John Mayer, or Jose Gonzalez, then I recommend that you check this guy out. I've provided some links and a video below that should help you on your journey. Enjoy!

Thomas Dybdahl's myspace Page
The Official Site
Buy Science on

"Dice" by Thomas Dybdahl, from the album Science.

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All Thomas Dybdahl photos provided via

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