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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Top 31 Albums of 2008 (Pt. 3)

Albums 31-21

#10: Conor Oberst: Conor Oberst - Another year passes and another Conor Oberst album makes it into my Top 10. The whole idea is getting quite old, yet Oberst’s music remains just as fresh today as it was back in August. On his self-titled solo album, the Bright Eyes frontman ditched a lot of the self-loathing, depressing songwriting for a more upbeat, exciting record. Even depressing songs like “Danny Callahan” have an uplifting feel to them. Oberst also takes the time to clean up that death rattle of a voice to something much more accessible (or acceptable). In the end, it’s just a great album that you absolutely need to hear.

#9: CSS: Donkey - I, like many, found CSS’s debut to be a bit on the annoying side. Their follow-up has its fair share of annoyances as well. However, for every minor annoyance, there are a handful of cool harmonies, infectious grooves, and inescapable hooks! Donkey is one of the most solid pop albums in recent memory. It will make you feel dirty, it will make you want to dance; but I promise it will not make you want to watch Dirty Dancing.

#8: Jaymay: Autumn Fallin’ - When I first received an email about Jamie Seerman in early 2008, I had no idea how much her music would affect me throughout the year. An mp3 sample of single “Blue Skies” hooked me, and I politely requested a copy of the album for review. Two months later, I gave the album an 8 out of 10 rating, and it remains just as poignant, beautiful, and poetic today! Seerman is an undeniable talent in songwriting, and you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of this album today!

#7: Plants and Animals: Parc Avenue - P&A managed to take the best from 60s psychedelia and indie rock and turn it into one masterful work. I’ve already had the opportunity to introduce this band to 40 and 50-year-olds who have enjoyed every second of Parc Avenue. While the last few songs on the record do wear a bit thin, it is more than bolstered by its miraculous first half. If you haven’t done so already....listen to it.

#6: Vampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend - And the award for best new artist goes too....(sorry, Fleet Foxes). Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut was one of the most focused, enjoyable, and universally acclaimed albums of 2008, and all of that praise was deserved. It’s not every day that an album comes around that will make seasoned music journalists fein knowledge of genres of which they have no background (in this case African music). I guess that's just another reason why we “lesser people” should look down upon the snooty students at Columbia University. You’re not that much better than us!!

#5: Pop Levi: Never Never Love - I’ll go ahead and stop ranting and raving about the greatness of Pop Levi’s second album as soon as I know that some of you have taken my advice and checked it out. However, judging by the album’s ranking on (one of the few places you can actually find it), few of you have taken the leap yet. Don’t be an idiot. Go get a hold of hit soon! An album this good doesn’t come around often, and you don’t want to be that person who hears it 2 years later than everyone else.

#4: Death Cab for Cutie: Narrow Stairs - For such a shitey album title, Death Cab’s latest surprised most of us. True, the band doesn’t take any huge leaps in any direction, but they stayed true to their classic sound and in the process created what many might call their crowning achievement (though Ben Gibbard getting engaged to Zooey Deschanel is giving it a run for its money). I know it’s my favorite Death Cab album, and with such instant classics as “Cath...” and “Grapevine Fires,” it’s bound to be rocking my iPod for many more months to come.

#3: My Brightest Diamond: A Thousand Shark’s Teeth - I’ll be the first to admit that Shara Worden doesn’t have the sort of universal appeal as, say, Vampire Weekend. What she does have, however, is a depth of talent that rivals any of her peers and an album in A Thousand Shark’s Teeth that put most competitors to shame in 2008. For all the grandeur and theatricalities of her 2006 debut, A Thousand Shark’s Teeth far exceeded any expectations and benchmarks that she may have set. It is a wonderful album and an absolute joy to listen to. I recommend you do it at least once.

#2: Of Montreal: Skeletal Lamping - Poor Of Montreal. For as many years as I’ve been making year-end lists, my favorite band on the planet has only gotten to the #1 spot once (for 2004’s Satanic Panic in the Attic). Every other year that they’ve been eligible have resulted with a fantastic, though still disappointing #2 placement. The sad truth is that were it not for last year’s “The Past is a Grotesque Animal” or this year’s “Gallery Piece” they may have nudged their way into first place every time. But for all the excessiveness that Kevin Barnes has nailed perfectly, there’s always one or two tracks that just seem like a bit much. Skeletal Lamping is the picture of excess, and with the exception of that one track, it was the best album of 2008.

#1: M83: Saturdays=Youth - If you were to tell me in January that my #1 album of the year would be an M83 record, I would’ve probably laughed in your face. M83 has been off my radar since 2005, and for good reason. For as brilliant as Anthony Gonzalez’s past works have been, they were never as enthralling a few weeks after their initial play. Saturdays=Youth, a 1980s, John Hughes tribute album in more ways than one, has been my favorite album of 2008 since it was released way back when. It is easily the most impressive album of the year with its ability to uncannily recreate the sounds, harmonies, feelings, and imagery of what all of us envision a teenage life in the 1980s would have been like. From start to finish, it is a layered vision, a masterpiece of production and performance. In fact, the only thing holding it back from a perfect 10 out of 10 rating (a rarity on Audio Overflow) is the fact that it’s lyrics are full of the cheesy poignancy that one would expect of an 80s teen drama. As such, the listener is taken on a ride, but it’s not an emotional one that they themselves can experience. Besides this minor and oft-overlooked blunder, Saturdays=Youth is a marvel of electronic pop music that will be remembered for years and years to come. Giving the #1 spot on my list to anyone else would not have seemed appropriate, and there’s no one who deserves it more.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

The Top 31 Albums of 2008 (Pt. 2)

#20: Ladytron: Velocifiero - For all the praise poured on Ladytron over the years, it wasn’t until Velocifero that I really think I figured out what the band was all about. Does that mean I absolutely adore it and listen to it a few times a week? Hardly. But for once, I can say that Ladytron is enjoyable if you’re in the right mood. That mood doesn’t come around too often, but every now and then you just want some thick, wet....synths. What? What did you think I would say?

#19: Headlights: Some Racing, Some Stopping - Headlights’ debut album was a masterpiece of indie rock with some really catchy and meaningful songs. In 2006, it easily made it into my Top 10. This year, the band tried something different, which is always appreciated. They took off a bit of the polish, focused in more on a particular sound, and took Erin Fein off of lead vocals quite often. The result is a satisfying album that is just barely outdone by its predecessor.

#18: Dieter Schoon: Lablaza - If there’s one album in the Top 20 that absolutely no one has ever heard, it’s probably this one. Do yourself a favor and download “The Harbour’s Cold” or “Jethead” and find out what you’re missing. Lablaza is a inventive vision of electronic music that deserves to be heard outside of the artist’s native Sweden.

#17: Crystal Castles: Crystal Castles - I should make myself absolutely clear when I say that Alice Glass is an absolutely worthless piece of garbage. Well, her vocals at least. For as brilliant as Crystal Castles’ debut is, there are just moments when she comes in and ruins everything with her whiny screams. Fortunately, tracks are more than skippable, and if you do yourself the favor of not loading those songs on your iPod you’ll find that the rest of this album is absolutely amazing. This coming from a guy who up until about a year ago swore off of most types of electronic music.

#16: Sia: Some People Have Real Problems - Sia’s third LP is easily her best, and fortunately, her most commercially successful. Throwing away much of the melancholy from her past albums, Sia returned with a triumphant, exuberant record that displays the full talent of her voice and, in my book, clears her a spot right up towards the top of the greatest vocalists of all time. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, if only on the inside, and you’ll keep listening to it for months. Just an awesome album.

#15: My Morning Jacket: Evil Urges - Note to Jim James: lose the falsetto, it doesn’t work. Honestly, MMJ’s frontman’ s vocals were sketchy enough as it was, but the Prince impression is severely lacking. The best moment’s from Evil Urges were reserved for when the band was doing what they always do; play great, southern-tinged rock music.

#14: The Notwist: The Devil, You + Me - In my review for this album I stated that it doesn’t necessarily succeed expectations as much as it does defy them. I’ll stick to my guns on that one, for as much as The Devil falls short of the band’s 2002 masterpiece Neon Golden, it is still an amazing album that I think most were not expecting. The band’s addition of strings and prominent guitars make for an interesting if not entrancing listen.

#13: Fleet Foxes: Fleet Foxes - If there were one reason why you should read this list, it’s for this: Fleet Foxes is not #1. Take a deep breath. Get it all in there because you won’t see that often in 2008. Now I loves me some Fleet Foxes, that’s why they beat out some of my favorite bands to make it this far on the list, but their debut is not the perfect album that many are making it out to be. It is focused, moody, it makes you feel like taking a trip to Appalachia, but as far as bringing out emotion, action, thoughts out of the listener, there are others that just did it better this year. They are as follows....

#12: The Streets: Everything is Borrowed - Sometimes music critics just sort of blow my mind. For they most part, they had nothing but praise for Mike Skinner’s first two LPs and nothing but disdain for his last two. I’ll go ahead and advocate the opposite, because to me, the artist has finally come into his own. He’s finally making songs that are more universal, more catchy, could actually be considered hip hop. Everything is Borrowed is far from perfect, and it may not be as emotionally gripping as his past albums, but to call it a dud would just be an injustice.

#11: Portishead: Third - The only album I rated with a 9 this year that fell out of the top 10, Portishead’s comeback album still deserves a hell of a lot of credit. Were I a depressed college kid, this album would have easily been closer to the top of my list. But 2008 was a good year for me, and I found myself happier than I’ve been in quite a few years. As such, it doesn’t seem right for me to move this album higher when I just couldn’t devote myself to the doom and gloom that it bleeds. Still, if you find yourself with black hair, black clothes, and a razor blade fantasy, check it out. At least you won’t be 100% stereotypical.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

The Top 31 Albums of 2008 (Pt. 1)

#31: Chris Walla: Field Manual - When I first wrote my review of Chris Walla’s debut album, I described it as a sort of “socially conscious” Death Cab-lite album that would serve as a nice filler while waiting for the next Death Cab album. I stick with that assessment today. With the exception of one or two songs, this album lost my attention by February. That Death Cab album, however, wound up being one of the most surprisingly satisfying albums of 2008!

#30: Magnetic Fields: Distortion - This too is another album that fell off of my radar rather quickly. The Magnetic Fields was one of the first indie bands that I really got into, and like many, I was disappointed with their previous album. Distortion is a much better effort by far. Though it takes some time to get used to the layer of distortion that plagues each track on the album, the songs that go on top of that are nothing short of the brilliance that we’ve come to expect from this legendary group.

#29: The Dears: Missiles - Of all the bands in 2008 that I thought would disappoint me, I never suspected The Dears, whose previous two albums had been masterpieces of moody, indie rock. Missiles ended up getting mixed reviews from critics, many of whom even put it towards the top of their year-end lists. I, however, found Missiles to be a remarkably drab affair with little of the tension and emotional pull of the band’s earlier work. It still wound up being a somewhat decent record, but several miles off from what I feel needed to be achieved.

#28: Tilly and the Wall: O - Who would have thought that a band who made their name by replacing a drummer with a tap-dancer would be able to make the jump from playground tomfoolery to edgy punk rockers? Answer: nobody, and personally, I wasn’t buying it either. I believe I originally gave this album a 5/10 score. Nowadays, I’d be more inclined to give it a 6/10. Sure that’s not saying much, but when you overcome all the nonsense you start to realize that there are some good tracks on O. Not all of them, clearly, but some of them.

#27: Mates of State: Re-Arrange Us - Mates of State made hints on Bring it Back that they were becoming adults but it wasn’t until the release of Re-Arrange Us that we all found out what that would mean for the group. What it meant was ditching the Casio for a piano, shelving shouting and yelling for soft, subtle harmonies, and taking the energy and trading it in for poignancy. Re-Arrange Us is in no way a bad album. But it is severely lacking in almost everything that I used to love about the band. Parenthood definitely makes a person grow up. I just wish they would have held it off for a few years.

#26: Sun Kil Moon: April - Mark Kozelek is a master of making repetitive, mediocre tunes into mesmerizing snapshots of life. He is a true artist, not someone who relies on gimmicks or “it” sounds to creating memorable songs. One gets the sense that deep down, he is aware of his flaws; his lack of compositional flare or his whiny, nasally voice. The remarkable thing is that he perseveres through these shortcomings and even uses them to his advantage in some cases. In the end, what you get is something that is never special, but more than ordinary. April is one of those albums.

#25: She & Him: Volume One - I’m a bit surprised to see She & Him winding up on so many year-end lists for the simple fact that the music contained on Volume One was in no way inventive, flawless, or even entirely memorable. While Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward have made a respectable album with several catchy songs, one simply cannot ignore the nearly-mediocre vocals or the somewhat juvenile lyricism. Let’s face it, we all have a schoolyard crush on Deschanel, let’s try not to let that cloud our judgement.

#24: The Dodos: Visiter - Sometime in February or March (I can’t really remember when), I was in a musical drought with nothing new or interesting to listen to. Somehow I came across Visiter and, based off of favorable reviews, decided to give it a try. While not entirely perfect, The Dodos have managed to make one of the most inventive albums of the year! Just from listening it’s hard to gauge who their influences are. There’s some definite similarities with Glen Hansard and Animal Collective, but even that is reaching far. The important thing to remember is that what you’re listening to is good. Who it sounds like is secondary. Enjoy it!

#23: The Mars Volta: The Bedlam in Goliath - Redemption is a sweet, sweet thing. Over two years ago, The Mars Volta followed what many would consider to be their best album (Frances the Mute), with one that most would consider their worst (Amputecture). This year, TMV gave us a much more respectable record that, while not achieving the heights of their first two LPs, manages to get things back on the right foot. Here’s hoping that 2009’s TMV album (assuming that they continue to release a record every 18 months or so) blows ‘em all out of the water!

#22: The Little Ones: Morning Tide - This album crossed my desk around the same time that I first got a hold of Of Montreal’s Skeletal Lamping. The result, unsurprisingly, was a severe lack of attention paid to it on my part. As the year wound down, however, I discovered just how charming and delightful The Little Ones can be! Morning Tide is a pretty cookie-cutter indie pop album, and many will be deterred by the sheer averageness of it all. However, despite its lack of creativity, Morning Tide is an extremely well-assembled album that contains more than its fair share of potential singles and sing-alongles. I recommend that you all check it out, whether you really want to or not.

#21: The Wombats: A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation - Call it what you will - punk, indie, a combination of both - but few can deny the sheer energy that this band exudes at every corner nor the infectious nature of that energy. The Wombats are not nearly as popular here in the States as one would expect, what, with such a marketable sound. I suppose that should tell you a lot about the state of music media in the US of A. But hey, good for Lil’ Wayne. Good for auto-tune!

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Top 31 Songs of 2008

In years' past, I have made it a point to post my songs and albums together in one long, tedious, and confusing list.  This year, I've simplified the process just a little bit.  Don't get cocky, I did it mostly for myself - but you can still be grateful.  Below you'll find my Top 31 Songs of 2008 in one glorious list.  I've even sprinkled it with some commentary because, well, this is a blog after all.  Enjoy the list and be sure to tell me what your #1 (or Top 5 or 31) are.


#31: "Got Your Number" by Nadia Oh - It should be known that I fully understand that Nadia Oh is without an ounce of verifiable talent. It should also be known that I'm a sucker for good production and a catchy tune. And my standards have dropped significantly this year. Obviously.

#30: "The Score" by Chris Walla

#29: "Boracay" by The Little Ones

#28: "I'm Amazed" by My Morning Jacket

#27: "White Composition" by Darker My Love

#26: "Dark Leaves From a Thread" by Destroyer

#25: "Crisis 1 & 2" by The Dears

#24: "Walking" by The Dodos

#23: "Valerie Plame" by The Decemberists - Who would've thought that one of the most hilarious, catchy tunes of the year would be from a collection of mediocre songs brought to us by The Decemberists?

#22: "Triphallus, to Punctuate!" by Of Montreal - It's two songs in one, and both songs are equally enchanting, exciting, and lovable.

#21: "Souled Out!!!" by Conor Oberst

#20: "Jager Yoga" by CSS - The title doesn't sound fun at all. The song does.

#19: "Cath..." by Death Cab for Cutie

#18: "Get-Well Cards" by Conor Oberst

#17: "Kill the Director" by The Wombats

#16: "Courtship Date" by Crystal Castles - I've only just recently started listening to Crystal Castles, but I can confidently say that their debut album is one of the coolest things to happen to electronic music in a while. This song is my favorite from the record.

#15: "Txt Me Yr Love" by Wallpaper - If you listen to one song on this list, make it this one. But come on, just listen to 'em all!

#14: "Couleurs" by M83 - I don't care which country you're from, that's an incorrect way to spell "colors."

#13: "Id Engager" by Of Montreal

#12: "Grapevine Fires" by Death Cab for Cutie

#11: "Bye Bye Bye" by Plants and Animals
- The best "Bye Bye Bye" since JT had Jheri Curls.

#10: "The Devil, You & Me" by The Notwist - One could make the argument that this is the greatest song The Notwist has ever written. I might be inclined to agree.

#9: "Oxford Comma" by Vampire Weekend - The first several times I listened to VW's debut, this one just didn't stand out among the afro-pop stylings of "Mansard Roof" or "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa." After a year or so of letting it sit, this one is the stand-out for sure!!

#8: "The Escapist" by The Streets - Mike Skinner's latest is a fun romp through the ususal, though it lacks a bit of the emotion that I enjoyed from his previous record. "The Escapist," however, is more than enough reason to pick up this album. The rest of the songs ain't bad either.

#7: "The Re-Arranger" by Mates of State - The "Biggest Disappointment of the Year" award may go to the Mates' newest record, but you simply can't deny the heart put into the title track.

#6: "Market Girl" by Headlights - It started the year as one of my favorite tracks and showed more resiliency than any other song on this list. Do yourself a favor and check out this catchy tune.

#5: "To Pluto's Moon" by My Brightest Diamond - Shara Worden is a genius - we all knew that. But "To Pluto's Moon" is not only her crowning achievement of 2008, but perhaps her entire (brief) career. It's hard to imagine her being able to being able to top such an honestly heartbreaking song.

#4: "Dita Dimone" by Pop Levi - If 2008 has done anything for me, it has reaffirmed my love for pop music. This list, and others to come, are filled with great pop music. This just happens to be one of the best songs of the year, not to mention one of the best pop tracks.

#3: "Ill Willed Person" by Jaymay - Early on, "Sea Green, See Blue" was my favorite. Nowadays, I simply can't get enough of Jamie Seerman's "other" track. "Ill Willed Person" is such an emotional and truthful song that you simply can't hate it.

#2: "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" by Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes has been this year's IT band, and I feel that a lot of that hype is undeserved. While putting together a solid album, the band has also revealed a lot of flaws and gaps in creativity. This song, however, is one thing that they did right; very, very right.

#1: "Kim & Jessie" by M83 - It was my favorite song of 2008 when it released. It is my favorite song of 2008 now. It will probably be my favorite song of 2008 in 2009, 2010, and pretty much every moment until the world ends in 2012 (the ancient Mayans' call - not mine). The simple truth is that Anthony Gonzalez has a masterpiece on his hands. I simply could not get enough this year.
Now the big question is "When will that albums list be up?"  The good news is that it's compiled and ready to be go.  That bad news is that I'm not telling.  :)

Go ahead and enjoy that tense anticipation.  

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Friday, December 05, 2008

The 5th Annual Cale Awards: Winners!!

After a month of voting, the results are in!  This year's Cale Awards were trimmed down, and as a result, we ended up getting more votes than we had last year.  Of course, that could also have more to do with the increased readership over 2008.  I'll let you, dear reader, decide that one.  For now, enjoy the results of the awards that don't really matter, but make us feel important anyhow.

Best Myspace Artist:
50% of the vote
Cale's Pick:  Hanne Kolsto - In a way, I'm very pleased to see The Cyanide Valentine pull this one out.  Though they weren't my personal choice, they are a very talented band with a very unique sound.  Don't forget to visit their website to download their 2008 album for FREE!!

The Staying Power Award
Of Montreal:  Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
40% of the vote
Cale's Pick:  Spoon:  Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga - Last year, Spoon's album barely even made it to my year-end list.  It wasn't until 2008 that I really started to appreciate this album in its entirety.  "Finer Feelings" has made it on my iTunes "Top Played" list and I can't say I even placed it in my Key Tracks in my review of the album last year.  

Best Submitted Album
The Eastern Sea:  The Eastern Sea EP
83.3% of the vote
Cale's Pick:  The Eastern Sea:  The Eastern Sea EP - At the height of Audio Overflow's popularity (I do believe we've peaked at this point), I was receiving 2-3 CDs a week.  Unless I had spoken with the artist or label personally, most of them got brushed aside.  The Eastern Sea's debut as a full band was one that I could not ignore, and I'm pleased to see that the rest of you think so as well.

Best Album Artwork/Packaging
Radiohead:  In Rainbows
62.5% of the vote
Cale's Pick:  Sia:  Some People Have Real Problems - In general, I thought that this year was a step backward in album design.  Radiohead had a cool idea; give people stickers to make their own jewel case.  But how many of you have actually done that?  Exactly.  To me, Sia's packaging contained all the charm and playfulness of her best album yet!  Album art needs to convey the experience of the album in a tangible form, and this one did just that. 

Best EP
The Decemberists:  Always the Bridesmaid
50% of the vote

Cale's Pick:  Wallpaper: T-Rex - This is an experience that I probably could've only enjoyed in an EP form.  I'm not entirely sold on the idea that Wallpaper's pitch-corrected/vocoderized pop music wouldn't wear thin on me after more than 20 minutes.  But here, it's just enough to keep me smiling, singing, and trying to dance all cool-like. 

Best New Artist
Fleet Foxes
45% of the vote
Cale's Pick:  Jaymay - You'd think a label like Blue Note would put more money behind an artist's of Jaymay's calendar.  Still, nearly a year after her debut album released, find someone who know who Jaymay is and I'll give you a dollar.  For me, her debut was close to perfect and full of songs that still haven't gotten old.  Check it out if you haven't done so yet.

Band of the Year
Vampire Weekend
25% of the vote
Cale's Pick:  Vampire Weekend - There wasn't a band nominated that didn't deserve this one, but I think most of us can agree that Vampire Weekend has had the biggest impact on the music world this year.  Making indie kids smile and the MTVers curious, the band has taken their unique sound to the heights of music in a short amount of time.  That's good enough for me.

Female Artist of the Year
Jenny Lewis
40% of the vote
Cale's Pick:  Shara Worden - I'm now completely annoyed with Jenny Lewis.  She used to be one of my favorite artists, but her past 3 outings (two solos and a Rilo Kiley album) have all been relatively shitey.  Acid Tongue was a step in the right direction but still short of her earlier years.  No, for me, Shara Worden is the most-deserving of this award.  Her second MBD album was a wonder of dark, orchestral pop, and was a shoe-in for my Top 10 Albums of 2008.

Male Artist of the Year
Kevin Barnes
50% of the vote
Cale's Pick:  Pop Levi - Let's be honest, Kevin Barnes' transformation into Georgie Fruit has been one hell of a ride.  Any other year, and he would've gotten my vote easily.  But I've come to expect greatness from Barnes.  Pop Levi, on the other hand, was an artist I completely wrote off in 2007, only to fall in love with in 2008.  His second LP is an absolutely brilliant piece of pop rock and you owe it to yourself to check it out!  For coming out of nowhere to bring us something so awesome, this one's just easy.

Song of the Year
"Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" by Fleet Foxes
28.6% of the vote
Cale's Pick:  Coming Soon!

Album of the Year
Narrow Stairs by Death Cab for Cutie
41.2% of the vote
Cale's Pick:  Coming Soon!

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pop Levi: "Never Never Love" Album Review

Last year saw Pop Levi release his solo debut album, The Return to Form Black Magick Party; a mediocre album with a few bright spots.  In my review of that release, I concluded, "It's high points are good enough to get even the most skeptical listener excited for what this artist has yet to do."  At the time, I was mostly just putting on my optimistic face and hoping that that statement would in fact prove true.  With the release of Levi's second record, Never Never Love, the artist has not just met expectations, but exceeded them wildly!  Never Never Love is a trip through pop rock and 80s synth pop that will excite and energize even the most skeptical listener.

Levi begins the album in a manner similar to his last, with the guitar-driven rock jam, "Wannamama."  With a similar style to last year's "Sugar Assault Me Now," fans of the artist should be able to ease into what he has in store for them.  The perplexing title track blends electronic afro-drums and brief guitar skitterings with Levi's trademark vocals; a high-pitched, feminine wail that is both endearing and off-putting.  The album doesn't hit its full stride until the third track, the synth-driven joy ride, "Dita Dimoné."  In it, Levi channels his girl problems into one of 2008's most infectious, danceable hits!  He sings, "Even though we're fighting every day/ so hard to take the girl away" over a chorus of funk guitars, bass synths, and hand claps; practically forcing the listener to move along to the beat.
"Semi Babe"  is a relatable piece of acoustic guitar pop about pining for a girl who may just be a little out of reach ("Not wholly mine/not over time").  The album's lightest track, it's a nice summer tune that somehow feels much more genuine than its other tracks.  "Fire on Your Feet" is another throwback to Levi's previous album, owing more to classic rock than 80s pop, and it just barely manages to escape from the repetition that caused that album to be such a forgettable effort.  "Mai's Space" is catchy as hell despite the fact that your gut reaction to Levi's pitch corrected vocals is to laugh or skip ahead.  Once you get over that urge (and the urge to say, "To the left, to the left..."), you'll find it to be one of Never Never Love's most memorable tracks.
In reality, most of Never Never Love is just as infectious.  Whether it's the soft rock of "You Don't Gotta Run," the brilliant use of telephone dialing on "Call the Operator," or the tear-jerking comedown track, "Fountain of Lies," this is an album that deserves to be poured over for weeks - months even!  Never Never Love is a masterpiece of pop rock in nearly every aspect; vocals, production, and songwriting included.  It is able to overcome its few, minor missteps (most of which are contained within "Everything & Finally") and succeed as one of 2008's most masterful works.  After his first album, Pop Levi left me skeptical, but hopeful.  This time around, he's more than proven himself.  Fans of all things pop will be thrilled to have a new juggernaut in the genre, and even those dedicated to Pop Levi should find this to be an exciting addition to his short, but thorough musical catalog.  For myself, Never Never Love easily ranks as one of the best pop albums of the last few years and one of the most satisfying albums of the 2008! 

Key Tracks:
1. "Dita Dimoné"
2. "Mai's Space"
3. "Oh God"
4. "Calling Me Down"
5. "Fountain of Lies"

8 out of 10 Stars

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Of Montreal - Houston, TX (11/12/2008)

This was my third time seeing Of Montreal in Houston, and fortunately the band opted to leave Numbers Night Club behind them and move on to far superior (in every way) venue, Warehouse Live.  The move seems to be one of necessity rather than preference, however, as there is no way a venue like Numbers could have handled a show of this magnitude.  

To describe the set, you need to know that the stage setup is massive.  Two giant platforms topped with drum-kits (yes, two drummers included), one platform with a smaller platform attached for Dottie to do her thing on, and a stage and screen in the center of the stage that rotates and moves at will.  The set practically swallowed the opening act, Icy Demons, whole as they played away in the shadow of this massive structure.

The band, themselves, were hit or miss - often blending pretty straightforward indie rock with what could only be described as an evil organ grinder's best musical moments.  The drummer was absolutely insane, and the backing trio that switched off on a variety of instruments and vocal duties were also entertaining to watch.  The lead singer had a rather unimpressive voice, but he used it well enough to where it didn't distract.  

Of course, the reason every single person was at the show was for Of Montreal.  Honestly, seeing pictures of this tour doesn't do the thing justice at all.  I, myself, had seen them and I had no clue what an incredible production the band was able to pull off.  Much of the credit goes to the absolutely wonderful troupe of talented actors that play multiple roles during the show's 1 1/2 hour runtime.  Buddha-like people, ninjas, old western saloon-dwellers, eagles, tigers, pigs (sexy bikini pig and naked fat-cat pig, mind you), assassins in camouflage, and probably a dozen other roles are assumed by this handful of people who add to the charm of the band without distracting from the music.

The band was awesome as usual, and seeing them in a larger venue really allowed them to perform to their heart's content without any restrictions.  Kevin Barnes was his normal diva-self, engaging in countless costume changes, one which included a suit made entirely of shaving cream, another which was mostly just him in "hoochie shorts" and covered in red paint.  The show had him engaging in all sorts of activities, including being dressed in women's clothes by a member of the acting troupe, trying to commit suicide in a variety of ways (ultimately achieving success by way of noose), and arising from a coffin in the aforementioned shaving cream suit.

For me, there was only one complaint for the night, and that was on the band's insistence on using a variety of vocal effects that often made Barnes' voice sound digitalized.  It simply detracts from the greatness of the songs in their original forms.  I can't remember if I had the same complaint the last time I saw them, but for some reason I think that I might have.  Song of the night is a toss-up between the live juggernaut "She's a Rejector" or the surprisingly awesome "Women's Studies Victims."  I would have to give it to the latter, I guess as it completely changed my view of the song.  "Gallery Piece" which I stated in my review of Skeletal Lamping, would probably fare better in a live setting, didn't.  I still don't enjoy it very much.

Friends and readers, I have been known from time to time to spout off about the sheer awesomeness of a Flaming Lips show, and I cannot begin to explain to you how much this new Of Montreal show compares in the size of production.  Certainly the Lips have much more capital at their disposal, and are able to accomplish things that Of Montreal simply can't.  But for ambition, complexity, bizarreness, and entertainment value, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better show in 2008 or the coming year.  If you like the band or not, you owe it to yourself to see what a creative group of individuals like Of Montreal and their friends can accomplish.  This is a rock show like none other! 

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

100 Words or Less

My life is much too hectic to devote large amounts of time to all of the albums that are simply begging to be reviewed.  Therefore, it does me good to clean out the closet every now and then with 100-word reviews.  Plus it's a good exercise in being to the point, which I tend to have a problem with as evidenced by this introductory paragraph and, more specifically, this run-on sentence which may or may not have been constructed simply to prove my point.  Let's just get on with it, shall we?


The Western States Motel: Painted Birds Flying in the Orange Mirror Sun

Carl Jordan, the sole member of The Western States Motel, has put together a small collection of charming songs for this EP. His songs are acoustic guitar-driven pieces of indie pop in the vein of Rogue Wave’s Out of the Shadow - only happier. “Trans Am” has all the makings of an instant classic with Jordan thinking out loud, “I think we were in love but I don’t think we ever figured it out.” The bouncy “Bring Me Down Tomorrow” and beautiful “A Moment in the Sun” are j
ust begging to be added to any hipster’s collection. Check it out.

Key Tracks:
1. "Oh World" 
2. "Trans Am"
3. "A Moment in the Sun"

8 out of 10 Stars

The Streets:  Everything is Borrowed

The general consensus among music critics is that Mike Skinner’s best work existed on his first two albums. However, I’ve found his last album and this, his newest, to be equally as impressive if not more so. There are funny moments, truthful songs about nothing in particular, and songs like “The Escapist” which could easily be considered among The Street’s best. “On the Edge of a Cliff” is a nice little anti-suicide song that puts things into perspective, while “The Strongest Person I know” is just a flat-out bedtime story. It’s not bad at all. I recommend it.

Key Tracks:
1. "Heaven for the Weather"
2. "The Way of the Dodo"
3. "On the Flip of a Coin"
4. "On the Edge of a Cliff"
5. "The Escapist"

8 out of 10 Stars

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The Dears: "Missiles" Album Review

Since The Dears first released No Cities Left in 2003, I've consistently had the band filed under "Favorite Bands" in my mind.  Murray Lightburn and the musicians that surround him have been a reliable source of quality music for as long as I can remember.  Whether it was "22: Death of All the Romance" or "Ballad of Humankindness" (my #1 song of 2006),  The Dears have always managed to strike a chord with me (no pun intended), tugging on my emotions and forcing me to ask myself difficult questions about life, society, and the nature of people.  

Missiles - an album marked by tensions within the group that ultimately found all but two of their members departing - continues to examine these deep themes rarely poked at in today's music.  However, while the music continues to traverse this path, it rarely packs the punch of the band's earlier work.  The band's previous two album have been marked by slow-building movements that eventually erupt with emotion.  On Missiles, songs die with a whimper, often ending unemphatically or even worse, fading out entirely.

Missiles is also plagued with songs that go on for entirely too long.  Album-opener, "Disclaimer," takes nearly 7 minutes off of the clock before finally deciding to call it quits.  During that time, the listener is forced to listen to a completely uninteresting and possibly juvenile vocal melody and harmonies that sound just a little bit off.  By the time it's all over, most will find themselves asking what the point of it all was.  The album doesn't end any better either, with the 11-minute "Saviour" being more of a lesson in tedium rather than an actual attempt at making emotionally gratifying art.  It seems to me that Lightburn is too focused on tearing apart the structure and style of The Dears' previous work that he forgot about what made it such a joy to listen to.  The lyrics were always the band's crowning achievement, but if that's all that's required, I would have taken up poetry-reading a long time ago.  Great music couples brilliant lyricism with musical compositions that elicit excitement and emotion.  That, for the most part, goes entirely forgotten on Missiles.

Still, there are a few tracks that manage to satisfy, if only on a minimal level.  On any other album, "Dream Job" wouldn't have even been noteworthy.  On Missiles, it's the album's best track.  Lightburn's declaration of "You got dreams of taking someone else's dreams away," is sort of brilliant.  And the song, while never really reaching the heights that it could, manages to get be somewhat catchy especially when they add in a synthesizer towards the end.  Unfortunately, the song fades out far too early and you're left wanting more than you actually receive.  In reality, the only song that could possibly be considered a contender when put up against any older Dears song is "Crisis 1 & 2" which finds Natalia Yanchak taking over the majority of the vocal work and doing an absolutely fantastic job at it as well.  It's always good to hear her and Murray harmonizing together, and this song is no different.  Murray eventually adds in his own vocals to great effect.  It's the kind of song that makes me remember why I love this band.  However, rather than finding some sort of satisfying conclusion, the song simply fades out - leaving the listener hanging.

Missiles may not be the album that I was expecting or wanting when I first heard that The Dears were recording a follow-up to one of 2006's best records, but even at its worst it is far from bottom-rung.  Though it fails to satisfy on an emotional level, many of Lightburn's arrangements contain the same grace and consistency that we've come to expect from the band.  What the album lacks is the emotional tension, discipline, and enthusiasm of their past records.  Missiles is a record that can be quite enchanting at times, but more often just downright disappointing.  Most bands have at least one sub-solid, however, and if there was ever a band who could overcome such a downfall it would be The Dears.  Even if it's not the same band it was 2 years ago.

Key Tracks:
1. "Dream Job"
2. "Crisis 1 & 2"
3. "Demons"
4. "Missiles"

6 out of 10 Stars

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OMFGG: "Original Music Featured on Gossip Girl" Album Review

Before you ask, no, I've never seen an episode of Gossip Girl.  I hear that it's a halfway decent show, but the title itself just sort of throws me off and makes me think of a post-millennium Beverly Hills 90210.  Oh wait.  Nevermind.  The bottom line is that I'm currently inundated with far too many quality shows to watch, be it LOST, Heroes, How I Met Your Mother, or Pushing Daisies.  But with a soundtrack this varied, this enthusiastically different, Gossip Girl may be the next show that I add to my DVR.

In 49 minutes, OMFGG takes the listener on a musical roller coaster that features such varied genres as indie pop, rock, dance, and straight-up techno.  The Kills' "Sour Cherry" starts things off on a high note, with a percussion-driven dance rock groove that gets you makes you feel like you should be busting out of the doors of your high school in slow-motion with your trendy clothes and aviators on.  Phantom Planet's "Do the Panic" is equally as awesome, with a chorus that will have even the most hardened hip-hop fan singing emphatically by the last time it comes around.

Other highlights include "Got Your Number" by Nadia Oh, which starts off slightly annoying and ends up slightly endearing, or Crystal Castles' entrancing "Crimewave."  There are appearances from this year's almost-"it" band, The Ting Tings and The Strokes' Albert Hammond Jr. as well.  In all honesty, there's something for everyone - as cliche as that may seem.  It won't exactly elicit the same reaction as a party as, say The Jackson 5 would, but you could certainly do much worse.  Aside from a few tracks that most will feel compelled to skip (The Teenagers and The Virgins, specifically) OMFGG is a fairly solid soundtrack in a world where most soundtracks aren't worth anyone's time.  As far as watching the show goes, I'll probably continue to avoid it.  For now, I can get my hipster music from Chuck, which is more my style anyway.

Key Tracks:
1. "Sour Cherry" - The Kills
2. "Do You Wanna" - The Kooks
3. "Do the Panic" - Phantom Planet
4. "Crimewave" - Crystal Castles
5. "We Started Nothing" - The Ting Tings

7 out of 10 Stars

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Of Montreal: "Skeletal Lamping" Album Review

On Of Montreal’s 2007 album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, Kevin Barnes channelled his inner Bowie and introduced us all to a bizarre cross-dressing persona named Georgie Fruit. For a few amazing tracks, we got a taste of what Barnes’ “black shemale “ had to offer. On Skeletal Lamping, Georgie Fruit breaks free and largely runs the show. The result is a complex, difficult listen, that is equally confusing and amazing.

Skeletal Lamping opens with a skittery string synth that masks the darkness and diversity of the album (and song) with a more carefree, breezy feel. The song, “Nonpareil of Favor,” is one of the album’s weaker tracks, but it does an appropriate job of opening the album on a high note and then transforming it into something completely different than what most would expect. The majority of the song’s 6 minutes is filled with loud, distorted eighth notes that capture Kevin Barnes’ mental collapse into Georgie Fruit rather appropriately. It is not the most enjoyable of songs, but it serves its purpose.

By the time the second track rolls around, Barnes’ transformation is complete. The declaration of “I’m a motherf**kin’ headline/ oh, b**ch you don’t even know it!” doesn’t sound like Kevin at all, and that’s because it isn’t. “Wicked Wisdom” is Skeletal Lamping in a nutshell; a song filled with multiple movements, most of which don’t flow naturally from one to the next. The very fact that nearly every track on the album is filled with multiple songs and snippets makes it a difficult album to review or explain. Just know that what a song sounds like at its inception is usually completely different from what it will sound like by its end.

There are a few songs on the album which don’t follow this pattern, like “For Our Elegant Caste” or “Gallery Piece” which largely keep the same basic feel throughout their lengths. The former is almost a guaranteed single, and will likely be the first track that jumps out at most listeners. It’s a captivating track with an inescapably singable chorus, even if it is a bit discomforting (“We can do it softcore if you want/ but you should know I take it both ways”). “Gallery Piece” is a less-enchanting, bass-driven dance track that should fare better at a live show than it does here. As it stands, it can be a bit repetitive and is only worth listening to for its bridge.

“An Elaurdian Instance” brings back “I Was Never Young’s” trumpets with a triumphant entry of a first movement. The song (also known as “Our Last Summer as Independents”) is one of the album’s sunnier moments and describes what sounds like Barnes meeting his wife. But determining where Barnes ends and Georgie Fruit begins on Skeletal Lamping is quite an overwhelming task. Quite simply, it’s difficult to tell what persona Barnes is adopting on any song on the album, which only adds to the confusion of it all. There are moments where Barnes is clearly being himself, like on “Death is Not a Parallel Move” where he addresses Fruit, saying “The identity I composed out of terror has become oppressive now/ I must defy this dark assignment/ I’m over it now.” But for the most part, the lines are much less defined.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Skeletal Lamping is Barnes’ ability to tackle a large array of genres and styles without making the album seem disjointed. Funk, rock, disco, experimental rock, and 60s pop are all utilized in equally important roles, and it becomes clear after several listens that such a strange mixture of styles really only makes sense when given the complex nature of Georgie Fruit. As himself, Barnes may be pigeonholed into exploring the far reaches of indie pop, but as a black transexual with a history involving 70s funk bands and prostitution, he can indulge in every bizarre sound he’s ever considered.

There is much here that has reopened the doors to Kevin Barnes’ vivid imagination, doors that have seemingly been shut for the last few years. Fans of the band’s more inventive work (Coquelicot or The Gay Parade, for instance) will find Skeletal Lamping to be a welcomed addition to the Of Montreal catalogue. Broken down to its most basic forms, it combines the randomness of Coquelicot with the darkness and variety of Hissing Fauna, without sounding like anything the band has accomplished before. I must admit that my first several listens to Skeletal Lamping were accompanied by feelings of anger, doubt, and befuddlement. To put it bluntly, this is an album that is far too complex to be fully appreciated by a quick uninvolved listen. Navigating through the genres, 15-second songs, and schizophrenic storytelling can be quite challenging for someone expecting something as accessible and catchy as The Sunlandic Twins. But the challenge is well worth it when the album finally clicks, when you start to learn that each song has a purpose, that they all have a story to tell. Skeletal Lamping seems destined to become an album that will divide fans and critics alike. But for what it’s worth, I know what side I stand on, and I can’t help but dish out the praise for Of Montreal yet again. Skeletal Lamping is the real deal!

Key Tracks:
1. “Wicked Wisdom”
2. “An Elaurdian Instance”
3. “Triphallus, to Punctuate!”
4. “Beware Our Nubile Miscreants”
5. “Id Engager”

9 out of 10 Stars

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Weathering the Storm.

As many of the regular readers of Audio Overflow are aware, I'm based out of the Houston, TX area.  Any other time of the year, that's not so bad, but when a hurricane sweeps through and knocks out the majority of your infrastructure, things can get pretty rough.  But this is life in a post-Ike world and thankfully, things are not as bad as they could have been.  The majority of the 5 million people in the Houston area have been without power since late Friday night, myself included, but a cool front has moved in, keeping it in the low 80s during the day.  I've been able to sleep in air conditioning for the last two nights thanks to a generator that we have running here, but there are many others who have been less fortunate.

But not having much to do in the way of work, play, or leisure has had quite the effect on my music-listening habits.  I've been doing a lot of it.  For the most part, that means I've been listening to Of Montreal's upcoming Skeletal Lamping on repeat for a month (I absolutely adore it), but I've had the opportunity to check out other things that have been sent my way.

The first thing I'd like to mention is an album by Bella Koshka, called Slow Dancing on the Ocean Floor.  This is a very stylish group from the Minneapolis area, and this album was sent to me way back in July.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get to it before I shut down day to day operations of Audio Overflow.  I've been listening to it off an on for about a month, and it's just not doing it for me.  The music is very slow and meandering, sometimes dreamy, but mostly unmoving.  There are moments of greatness occasionally, but they're all but squandered by the mediocre vocals.  But it's not all bad, of course, and if you have some spare time you might as well go by their Myspace page and check things out.

I got sent another album about a month ago from some really cool guys from Austin.  They go by the name of Black Bone Child.  Their debut album is a unique mix of blues, rock, and modern rock.  It's not bad by any means, though lyrics can tend to be a bit off at times.  It's got a very classic feel to it for most of the album, though some songs venture into modern rock territory - which isn't my favorite genre at all.  Still, if you're into the greats like ZZ Top or Stevie Ray Vaughn, I highly recommend that you check them out.  They're nowhere near the caliber of those great artists, but for a modern twist on a timeless sound, you could definitely do worse.

That's all I've got to report on for now.  I'm working on something special for Skeletal Lamping's release on October 7th, and you can definitely expect a review of that album in the next few weeks.  I'm also working on getting some advance copies of The Dears' and The Streets' new albums.  I can't wait for those.

To my readers in the Houston and Galveston area, hang in there.  Things are looking up...

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

For Audio Overflow, This is Cale. Signing Off.

Bloggers are a strange, egocentric bunch. We write with a spirit of self-importance, with the belief that what we pen is somehow important or meaningful. We often forget that we are one of millions doing the exact same thing, rarely contributing unique ideas or perspectives, usually not writing anything of note. But it is this egocentricity that keeps us going; because even as we know deep down that our musings are generally of no concern to the general public, we persevere in the hopes that it may affect someone, somewhere. It is this hope that sits you down in front of a computer screen every day, that forces you to write, even when you don't want to, when no discernible reward can be derived from your actions, your writing. At best, you can hope for a couple Diggs or an increased number of Google searches. But for the most part, the life of a blogger is one of little to no importance.

As the founder and main contributor to Audio Overflow for the past 2 1/2 years, I've learned this lesson well. Though the monthly site visits have increased steadily over the last year and a half (as long as I've been tracking them), the majority of these visitors are first-timers who stumble upon Audio Overflow via a random search query, read for a minute and never return. A few stick around, but most don't. Just a regular guy with no experience in running a website, I never knew why this was, and still don't. I certainly never advertised the blog on other sites, because I'm poor and unwilling to take that risk, but I would've thought that somewhere along the line the site would start to gain a significant amount of readers. It never did.

This post will in no way be the final post on Audio Overflow, though it is the beginning of the end, more or less. As most of you know, I have a few loose ends to tie up, though the schedule on which I will do this is completely up in the air at this point. I have given much thought about the future of Audio Overflow over the last few weeks, and several ideas have come into my head. In the end though, I'm more content to just let it die peacefully than milk it for all it's worth. As stated a few weeks back, I would like to do my yearly Top 31 countdown, but that has always been a draining process for me. I am not sure I will have the energy or desire to do that in December. I am almost sure that I will post the occasional review, and I plan on keeping at least a few contacts open to allow me to do this.

Essentially what I'm saying is that today is the last day of Audio Overflow. Anything that happens past this date is an extended death rattle. I would hope that those of you who have read the blog regularly would check back periodically for the occasional update, but I won't blame you if you don't. Should you feel the need to contact me, you can leave a comment (all comments are forwarded to my inbox) or simply shoot me an e-mail at

Thank you very much for your support over the years.


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Monday, September 01, 2008

The Top 40 Songs By Of Montreal

After eight weeks of counting down, it's time to bring this list to a close.  Here is the Top 40 in its entirety.
#40: "Nicki Lighthouse" from the album, Horse and Elephant Eatery (No Elephants Allowed) (2000) - This was one of the first songs by Of Montreal that I ever heard. It drew me in with its nonsensical lyrics about "the strangest girl that's ever been" who has a bad habit of eating her dinner on her ceiling and wallpapering the floor. But what really did it for me is the song's sing-along coda of "I'm a big fan/ Nicki Lighthouse/ You know that I am!" It's a fun song to pull you out of whatever sort of funk you may be in, as most good Of Montreal songs do.

#39: "Tim, I Wish You Were Born a Girl" from the album, Cherry Peel (1997) - Of Montreal's first album is kind of a mixed bag. There are some true gems, and others that just don't do it for me at all. This song is one of the better tracks from that album. It really help set the whimsical, carefree tone that many of their later albums would take and was one of the first times that listeners had reason to question Kevin Barnes' sexuality.

#38: "Let's Go For a Walk" from the album, Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse (2001) - "Let's Go For a Walk" is not nearly as wonderful by itself as it is in the context of the album that it is on. Coquelicot tells the story of a fairy-like creature of the same name who falls asleep and goes on many adventures with imaginary characters. This song wraps up the album beautifully as a heartbreaking goodbye to all of her friends that she has made. It is one of the most beautiful songs that Kevin Barnes has ever written. The instrumentation is simply gorgeous, and the minimal lyrics are welcomed over his usual SAT word-filled verses.

#37: "Rose Robert" from the album, Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse (2001) - Another one from Of Montreal's 2001 concept album, this song tells the story of Rose Robert, a strange character with whom the narrator loves to cross-dress and "gurgle and squeak" rather than speak. It's a zany song, even for this album (which mostly sounds like drug-induced circus music). Despite the claims of some that it's far too silly, there's actually a lot of cool guitar stuff going on in the right speaker, not to mention a beautiful piano solo and attractive vocal melody. This is one to sing along to when you're taking a long trip home in the middle of the night. It keeps you awake. Trust me, I know.

#36: "Go Call You Mine" - from the album, Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse (2001) - This one only clocks in at 1:30, and yet it features probably more instruments than any other Of Montreal song. Kevin only sings for the last 30 seconds, leaving the first minute to be filled with one of the best instrumental performances on any Of Montreal album ever. It's a difficult song to describe, so I'll just let you listen to it. I hope you'll agree that it deserves a spot on this list.

#35: "Disconnect the Dots" from the album, Satanic Panic in the Attic (2004) - So the scene goes something like this. I hear a few Of Montreal songs on the internet (from The Gay Parade, specifically) and decide, "Wow, that's really cool sounding. I think I'll go buy that album!" So I head out to my local record store, only to find that The Gay Parade is out of print. Boo! I pick up Satanic Panic in the Attic instead, never having heard a song. I pop it into my vehicle on the ride home and "BLAM!" I am an instant Of Montreal fan. This lead-off track to that album hooked me right in with its catchy lyrics and sweet harmonies. It came completely unexpected to me as I was expecting a whole lot more folksy, circus music. What I got was an electronic pop masterpiece and one of my favorite albums of the last decade or so.

#34: "Doing Nothing" from the album, Aldhils Arboretum (2002) - Though I'm no expert on popular opinion, I believe that their 2002 album, Aldhils Arboretum, is generally considered to be the worst of the bunch. I heartily disagree, however, and find that even though it is not quite as solid as their best, it is far from their worst. Another lead-off track, "Doing Nothing" sounds a bit like the Friends theme song before cascading into a wonderful indie pop treat. Kevin's lyrics are sing-along quality, as they usually are, but even more here than usual. Sure, the album is hit or miss, but this one will always give you a reason to pop in the ol' CD player.

#33: "So Begins Our Alabee" from the album, The Sunlandic Twins (2005) - Whereas Satanic Panic merely hinted at the electronic pop direction that Kevin Barnes would take Of Montreal in the future, it wasn't until 2005 that fans actually found out what that would sound like: awesome. "So Begins Our Alabee" was the first track on The Sunlandic Twins that seemed to rely wholly on electronic instrumentation. Though there is some slight bass and electric guitar, the majority of this one is synth-based, with enough electronic drums and flutters to get anyone excited. A smart move by Kevin Barnes, as it made his then mostly-unknown band into one of the most-popular indie acts of the past few years. A T-Mobile commercial? Come on!

#32: "Sink the Seine" from the album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007) - Leave it to me to place this overlooked "filler" track from last year's masterpiece on this list. The fact of the matter is that "Sink the Seine" remains one of the catchiest, most memorable tracks from Hissing Fauna. Not much else to say. I mean, it's only a minute long.

#31: "Du Og Meg" from the album, Icons, Abstract Thee EP (2007) - Ahh yes. What would an Of Montreal list be without mention of at least some of there EP-only tracks? The simple truth is that if you're only listening to the LPs, you're missing out on a lot of great songs. Where most artist will place throwaways on an EP, Kevin Barnes focuses more on the good songs that just didn't fit with the flow of his LPs. "Du Og Meg" is an absolutely fabulous track that takes Of Montreal back to its roots in that it tells a story of a couple characters. Of course, it's no "Jaques Lamure," but it's still one of the band's most infectious tracks. Worth mentioning, worth listing, worth listening to again and again.

#30: "I Was Never Young" from the album, The Sunlandic Twins (2005) - When I first got my hands on The Sunlandic Twins back in 2005, I was excited to hear that the lead-off track "Requiem for O.M.M.2" showed a nice evolution of Of Montreal's sound. It wasn't until this song (track 2) that I realized that this was much more than an evolution, it was a revolution (oh yeah, I just went there). Caveman chants, mariachi trumpets, electronic drums...hell, this song has it all!

#29: "My Favorite Boxer" from the album, The Gay Parade (1999) - One of the many reasons why everyone should listen to The Gay Parade before calling themselves an Of Montreal fan, "My Favorite Boxer" is a charming, humorous story about a poor lad who idolizes a boxer named Hector Ormano. Feeling bad for someone has never been so joyous!

#28: "Eros' Entropic Tundra" from the album, Satanic Panic in the Attic (2004) - Leave it to Kevin Barnes to name a song "Eros' Entropic Tundra" when the obvious and easy title would be "Sad Love" (yes, kiddies, that's this song). This was one of the first times that I ever heard an Of Montreal be kind of sad, and I loved it. It's heartfelt, earnest, and real which served as a nice break from all the necromancing and British tour diaries that overran the album. Of course, we would later get a whole heap of sad songs on Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? But in many ways, you never forget your first.

#27: "Penelope" from the album, Coquelecot Asleep In the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse (2001) - Honestly, this is a really great song, thus explaining its spot on this list. But I fear that I might actually like Casper and the Cookies' cover version better. I'm sure if Kevin Barnes had dreamt up the song in 2007 that he would have come up with something eerily similar to what those guys did. Still, the original flows much better and feels a whole lot less gimmicky.

#26: "She's A Rejector" from the album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007) - As great as this song is, I never realized the full extent of its awesomeness until I saw the band perform it live in January of 2007. This is one of the few songs that I've ever heard sound better live than it does on the album. That's not to detract from its greatness though, it's a blast to listen to, sing along to, and freak out to at the right moments ("I CAN'T, I CAN'T, I CAN'T, I CAN'T!!").

#25 - "Vegan in Furs" from the album, Satanic Panic in the Attic (2004) - "Vegan in Furs" is probably the best album-ender in Of Montreal history. With a catchy melody, crazy guitars, and a sing-along quality coda (I think that's the second time I've used that phrase in the last 48 hours), this song is undeniably awesome. It drips with Of Montreal's trademark indie pop sound and Kevin Barnes' usually strange lyricism. It reminds me of the good times before Of Montreal turned into a group that 15-year old girls can dance like skanks to. For that, this song makes it to #25.

#24 - "Butterscotching Mr. Lynn" from the album, Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse (2001) - At under 2 minutes long, it would be easy for many to overlook this great song. It perfectly captures Coquelicot's whimsical feel while remaining sane enough (for the most part) for even the most casual of listeners to dig it entirely. Again, I do tend to get a little sentimental when I listen to old classics like this one. It's so perfectly constructed, deep, and exciting, that it makes a fly beat and cool bass line seem like child's play. Not to completely trash Of Montreal's newer work, I love that stuff too. But there's just something about songs like "Butterscotching Mr. Lynn" that absolutely does it for me!

#23 - "An Epistle to a Pathological Creep" from the album, Satanic Panic in the Attic (Japanese Bonus Tracks) (2004) - It's a little known song, sure, but it's an absolute blast to hear. When I first got wind of it, I was in college, so Barnes' rant about a guy who "speaks as if you should be taking notes" rang true with me. So many arrogant d-bags in college, and Kevin manages to nail every single one with his characterization of this pathological creep. Lovely! And because it's so rare, I've uploaded it for your listening enjoyment.

#22 - "Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games" from the album, The Sunlandic Twins (2005) - Ahh, the song that made Of Montreal into a household name. While it's true that the Outback Steakhouse commercials really ruined hope of me every liking this song to the same degree that I did when I first heard it, nothing can erase the first time I popped The Sunlandic Twins into my CD player and jammed to this song on repeat. Hell, it was even on Cloverfield! Yes, my favorite little band has grown up and starred in T-Mobile commercials, mostly due to this song. Make no mistakes, it is a brilliant piece of pop music, and one that is oddly relatable.

#21 - "The Problem With April" from the album, Horse and Elephant Eatery (No Elephants Allowed) (2000) - This may or may not have been the first Of Montreal song that I ever heard, I can't remember. But what is important is that it's an amazing song that captures the heartbreak and hopelessness of being dumped, but does so with an amazingly upbeat, parade-march song. The lyrics are easily rememberable (Actual word? Spell check thinks so.) and easily some of Barnes' catchiest to date. And hey, who doesn't love New York in June? Besides radical Muslims...

#20: "The Actor's Opprobrium" from the album, The Sunlandic Twins Bonus EP (2005) - If there was ever a reason to reach deep into that Sunlandic Twins case of yours and pull out the bonus EP that's tucked away nicely, this song would be it. The story of a poor chap who is honored to star in the great master's snuff film, only to find out that all blessings come with a consequence. The line of, "I want to be a star, but that's going to far," could probably be slapped on the t-shirt of every young hopeful out in Hollywood who wants to be taken seriously as an actor, but is probably more suited for pornography, or snuff as the case would be. Semantics, really.

#19: "Suffer for Fashion" from the album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007) - Of all the danceable songs that Of Montreal has made over the past 5 years, none fit the mold better than "Suffer for Fashion," the lead-off track to their most recent album. The first time I heard it was at a show about a year before the album came out and - whoah - totally blown away. Keep that click clicking at 130 bpm, guys. I wouldn't have it any other way!

#18: "Oslo in the Summertime" from the album, The Sunlandic Twins (2005) - Containing what is arguably one of the catchiest, most endearing basslines of the last decade (at the very least), "Oslo in the Summertime" is the audible embodiment of "cool." Linguistically, that may not make a lick of sense, but I think long time readers ought to be able to follow. The simple truth is that this song just makes you want to slick your hair back, throw on your shades and leather jacket, shove that comb in your back pocket and point at random people in tempo. Or maybe that's just me. Either way...great song!

#17: "Lysergic Bliss" from the album, Satanic Panic in the Attic (2004) - Let's go back, once again, to right around the time that I first heard Of Montreal. Satanic Panic in the Attic was my very first album of theirs to own, and I bought it without ever hearing one of its songs (I was more familiar with The Gay Parade). So at the time, I still wasn't completely sold on the band. But by the time this song came around (Track 2, I believe) I was completely sold! More specifically, it Kevin Barnes playing the role of dozens of schoolchildren and harmonizing with himself that sold me on the band. The rest is history. Boring, boring history.

#16: "Chrissy Kiss the Corpse" from the album, Satanic Panic in the Attic (2004) - In 2004 I was driving back from the ghetto, where I had just received my first tattoo, and a friend was in the back seat - completely high if I recall correctly. Suddenly, this song starts playing on my stereo and I hear a faint voice from the back seat, "There's soooooo much going on." I turn around to see my tranquil friend wide-eyed in amazement. That's what I think about every time I hear this song. Strange sure, but I always love how we can connect certain songs to different moments or times in our lives. That's the magic of music, I suppose.

#15: "Old Familiar Way" from the album, The Gay Parade (1999) - Once again, I'm having fond memories of some of the first Of Montreal songs that I ever heard. This lead-off track to The Gay Parade deals with being bored with everyday life. Stuff that used to amaze you now leaves you wanting more, the life you live leave you unfulfilled. It's the perfect setup to the zany world of The Gay Parade, with a cast of characters so expansive that you loose yourself in it and forget about your world entirely.

#14: "Nickee Coco and the Invisible Tree" from the album, The Gay Parade (1999) - There's something so intensely magical and unforgettable about this song. No matter how many times I listen to it, I'm completely captivated by the story of a young girl who climbs up an invisible tree, falls asleep, and disappears. As the townspeople rally together to locate her whereabouts an owl flies by and spots young Nickee Coco, eventually leading to her discovery by friends and family. The final chorus is emphatic and celebratory, and it gets me every time. "We love you Nickee Coco/ We were so sad when we thought we lost you!" I still get goosebumps.

#13: "The Miniature Philosopher" from the album, The Gay Parade (1999) - I'm really on quite the Gay Parade kick here aren't I? Hey, it's an awesome record! Can you blame me? This song is one of the more charming tracks from that album, about a tiny philosopher whom nobody takes seriously due to his short stature. It's a bit sad to hear about his continual failures in philosophy and how he continues his quest to become famous, but then again, who doesn't enjoy hearing about the woes of pompous, precocious philosophers?

#12: "Voltaic Crusher/Undrum to Muted Da" from the album, Icons, Abstract Thee EP (2007) - While not the longest or most inventive song in the Of Montreal catalogue, Kevin Barnes' depressing and self-depreciating break-up song is definitely one of the catchiest. The simple line of "You gave me a hand/I gave you a fist/Please don't lose any sleep over me, baby/I hardly exist" has been stuck in my head so many times over the last year, that it's getting to be quite ridiculous.

#11: "Good Morning, Mr. Edminton" from the album, Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse (2001) - The lead-off track to Of Montreal's weirdest album to date also happens to be the most enjoyable song to sing along with - definitely in their collection, but maybe ever! Countless hours I have wasted singing "Tip toe down the spiral stairs and just before the cellar door you'll see a picture of a juggler. Touch his nose and that will open up the secret corridor. Take the ladder at the end up to the street and run as fast as you can!" Grab a friend and make them sing harmony. Trust me. It doesn't get any better than this.

#10: "Fun Loving Nun" from the album, The Gay Parade (1999) - It's a sad day in the world when people no longer listen to music and smile.  So much of the music that infiltrates the lives of young people today is "hard" and "edgy," and kids try to relate to that without realizing that the purpose of music has always been to entertain.  But I shudder to think of someone hearing "Fun Loving Nun" and not smiling.  1.)  I doubt it's possible, and 2.) if it is possible, the person in question might be getting brutally murdered.  That's the only thing I can think of that would keep me from not smiling when hearing this one.

#9:  "Requiem for O.M.M.2" from the album, The Sunlandic Twins (2005) - The lead-off track to Of Montreal's breakthrough album has everything that I love about the band:  a catchy melody, an infectious groove, and roots in 60s pop music.  Those two chords before Kevin sings, "I never ever stopped wondering," just make me want to air guitar so hard.  Only thing is, it would be a pretty lame air guitar session, what with just two mediocre arm movements.  So I refrain.  But you have to admit, that's a pretty catchy guitar part.

#8:  "Don't Ask Me to Explain" from the album, Cherry Peel (1997) - There's a line in this song that has had me since the very first time I heard it.  It goes, "I'd like to marry all of my close friends/ Live in a big house together by an angry sea," and I always thought that was a perfect image.  Life is so complicated, so complex, but this line makes you imagine a much simpler existence.  Back in the day when I first heard it, it seemed like a pretty good idea.  These days I'm more content to live on some private compound where we each have houses and families.  A little strange, sure, but things could definitely be worse.

#7:  "Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse" from the album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007) - "Heimdalsgate" is the perfect example of what Kevin Barnes is absolutely brilliant at, namely taking a serious subject matter and turning into an infectious pop song that you simply can't shake.  Who would've ever thought they'd be jumping up and down at a rock show yelling "Come on chemica-uh-uh-uh-uh-als?"  That's what made Hissing Fauna such an amazing record, the fact that it could tackle such downer material but still be one of the year's best pop records.  Who else could do that?

#6:  "My British Tour Diary" from the album, Satanic Panic in the Attic (2004) - This is an amazingly fun song to sing to, especially when those "eee" harmonies kick in.  It's got everything you could want in a song; British jokes, a catchy melody, bitchin' guitars, amazing harmonies, a Gary Glitter reference, and about 5 seconds of "the most truly repelling techno music ever made."  Classic Of Montreal - funny, catchy, and musically impressive.

#5:  "Faberge Falls for Shuggie" from the album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007) - Take note, those of you haven't heard Skeletal Lamping yet.  If you didn't like this song from Of Montreal's 2007 masterpiece, you will probably have a tough time adjusting to the new stuff.  Barnes' transformation into Georgie Fruit on Hissing Fauna was shocking and a great change of pace, on Skeletal Lamping it's a force to be reckoned with.  The thing I love about this song is all the different things going on, all the different movements that it contains, the wide array of things that Barnes does with his voice, with the instrumentation, with the programming.  It's simply a stunning example of the heights that Barnes is capable of attaining.

#4:  "Jacques Lamure" from the album, The Gay Parade (1999) - Barnes' story of a volunteer firefighter with rotten luck is easily the most charming song he's ever written.  In just a few minutes, you're introduced to a character, sympathize with him, fall in love with him, and celebrate with him as he breaks free from the shackles of his small town.  It's storytelling at its absolute best, and the fact that its a pop song makes it all the more impressive.  

#3:  "The Party's Crashing Us Now" from the album, The Sunlandic Twins (2005) - Admit it, you memorized the claps to "The Party's Crashing Us Now" and you clap along with it almost every time you hear it.  You sing along with the melodies and the harmonies.  You question what the "elevator trick" is, and you have no idea what two black wizards would look like when making love, but you'd love to find out.  I'm right there with you, friend.

#2:  "Jennifer Louise" from the album, Aldhils Arboretum (2002) - It never fails.  Each time I go to an Of Montreal show, I desperately wait for the band to start playing this quaint little song from possibly their least-admired album and they always disappoint me.  It has yet to happen, and I totally get it.  Why play a song to an album that no one bought, that none of your new-found fans want to hear?  It makes sense.  I just wish it didn't.  "Jennifer Louise" easily made it into the Top 5 for a very good reason, and that's because it's simply too wonderful to not honor in such a way.  Now if only the band would do it the honor of playing it the next time they stroll through town. (Note to the band:  If you happen to google yourself and stumble upon this post, know that the town I'd like you to play it in is Houston, TX.  You're scheduled to stroll through on November 12, 2008 and it'd be a treat if you played this song.  Also, "Fun Loving Nun" would probably be pretty bitchin' as well.)

#1:  "Rapture Rapes the Muses" from the album, Satanic Panic in the Attic (2004) - I've yet to show this song to a person who has not fallen under its spell of awesomeness.  My sister who despises most of the music that I listen to became an Of Montreal fan by hearing this song, my friend who swears off of indie music entirely has made an exception for Of Montreal - you guessed it - because of this song.  Personally, I was already hooked on Of Montreal before I ever came across this gem of a song.  However, it was this one song that sealed the deal, that made them my favorite band.  Who would've thought singing "La la la" could be so much fun?  And to me, that's what Of Montreal has always been about; finding fun in unsuspecting places.  
That concludes this very long, and according to some, tedious list.  Thank you for taking the time to read it, and don't forget to buy a copy of Skeletal Lamping when it releases on October 7, 2008.

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