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Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 State of the Blog

Well 2009 is winding down, and that means its time for me to once again reevaluate where I stand with this blog.  Do I continue as I did in 2009, or do I go full-speed like 2008?  Do I quit?  Unfortunately, 2010 has no road map.  I have no goals set, as I have for every other year of Audio Overflow's existence.  But before I get into where this blog is heading, let's look back at 2009.

Back in late 2008 I decided to stop blogging on a daily basis.  This continued into 2009, a year in which I only posted 75 updates to the blog.  Despite this, 2009 was Audio Overflow's most-successful year to date as far as web traffic is concerned.  In fact, over 50% of Audio Overflow's traffic (from 2006 on) came this year.  A big part of that was the 29 in 2009 series, which kept people coming back every time a new update came around.  Then my Best and Worst of '09 lists also helped give the blog the biggest month in its history.  Big reviews like The Decemberists' Hazards of Love didn't hurt either.  Of course, the biggest source of traffic this year was Audio Overflow's archives, which now feature 3 years' worth of articles, lists, and reviews.  Put simply, Google has been good to us (or, um, me).

But enough about 2009.  2010 is just a few hours away, and while I don't have any long-term "goals" for the year, I do have some promises. 
  • More Reviews  |  Honestly, 2009 was a pretty piss-poor year for Audio Overflow's music reviews.  Not counting the 29 in 2009 series, I only reviewed 8 albums this year.  Weak sauce.  So in 2010, I promise to bring more of the in-depth reviews that you've come to expect of me in the past.  The first one is coming up next Tuesday, January 5th, and it's sure to be a fun one (in more ways than one).
  • More News  |  Audio Overflow has never been a big "news" blog.  Other blogs post several news updates a day, but I've always been focused on making Audio Overflow about original content.  While that will continue to be the focus of the blog in 2010, regular news updates about my (and your) favorite artists are to be expected.
  • Twitter Integration  |  I honestly think Twitter is a fad (despite what everyone is saying), but that won't keep me from utilizing it to make this blog better.  My plan for the @audiooverflow Twitter page is to make it a quick source for Audio Overflow updates.  As of right now, all posts on the blog are automatically tweeted with a link back to the blog.  I'll also be using Twitter to give you updates as to what I'm listening to, blog contests, artist updates, etc.  So if you haven't started following @audiooverflow yet, now'd be a good time to start.
  • More Features  |  29 in 2009 was a huge undertaking for me.  I wouldn't plan on seeing anything of that size for a while, but I can guarantee that 2010 will see the return of some of the old Audio Overflow features that you used to expect.  That includes, Top 5 Fridays, Random Rants, Retro Reviews and probably a few new ones as well.
Whatever 2010 brings, I can certainly guarantee that it will be a much better year for Audio Overflow.  Promise :)


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Thursday, December 24, 2009

29 in 2009 - The Rolling Stones: "Exile on Main St."

The Rolling Stones:  Exile on Main St.
Originally Released:  May 12, 1972
Genre:  Rock
Rating:  9 out of 10 Stars

First of all, Merry Christmas to all of you!  Secondly, thanks to me for nominating this album to be included in this series.  I did so due my relative unfamiliarity with The Rolling Stones, and my desire to hear more of their stuff.  Still, you guys voted it in, and I appreciate that as well.

My experience with The Stones is pretty much nonexistent.  I grew up during a time when the band was well past their prime, and so I always associated the band with a bunch of old rockers performing mediocre versions of what were probably great songs 30 years earlier, but more or less non-effective now.  I totally skipped out on that Super Bowl performance, as I did any time "Satisfaction" came on the radio.  I was blissfully unaware of how awesome this band was.

But you have to think, if a band's been around 50 years, they have to be doing something right (or at least to had done something right).  Honestly, if Exile was the only CD the band had ever made, that alone would qualify them as one of the greatest of all time.  It is, in every sense of the word, a perfect rock 'n' roll album.  And the crazy thing about this album, for me, is that I had never heard a single song from this record before this series.  Maybe "Rocks Off," but I can't say for sure.

With that in mind though, listening to an 18-song record is one hell of an undertaking.  I've listened to it 4 times through now, and I still don't think I'm able to fully-appreciate it yet.  On a superficial level alone, it's one of the best rock albums of all time!  That I can say with absolute assurance.  But anything deeper than that will have to be revealed to me over time.  In the interest of wrapping this year-long 29 in 2009 series up, I'm writing about it now, rather than a month from now. 

But from what I've heard so far...damn.

Verdict:  Classic

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Friday, December 11, 2009

The Top 15 Albums of 2009

#15. Tegan and Sara: Sainthood - Tegan and Sara's best album is still 2007's The Con. I doubt many people in the know would argue this point. Still, Sainthood does have its moments; like the punk rock influenced "Northshore," or the delightfully catchy "Alligator." I'm still not sure what "Alligator Tears" are, but I can manage without. Look, the bottom line - whether you like Tegan and Sara or not - is that Sainthood beat out a lot of great albums to make it to this list. Respect.

#14. Muse: The Resistance - Seems as if Muse peaked way back on 2003's Absolution, because every subsequent album has been worse than the one before it. That's not to say that The Resistance is awful; it's just the band's worst. Somewhere along the line the band fancied themselves a poor-man's U2 and decided to write songs almost exclusively about conspiracy theories and government coercion. Small doses, guys. Small doses. While The Resistance does suffer much from the weight of its own bullshit, it's still the best mainstream rock album of the year. Easily.

#13. Headlights: Wildlife - Headlight's second album was a critical success even though I found it miles behind their debut. On their third album, Wildlife, the Champagne, Illinois trio recaptures the charm of Kill Them With Kindness while staying true to the sound that they established on Some Racing, Some Stopping. Sticking with the lo-fi, indie pop/rock mood, Wildlife is a definite improvement and shows the band maturing into their own unique sound.

#12. Julian Casablancas: Phrazes for the Young - Even though the second half of this album drops off in quality, the first half more than makes up for it. Casablancas has always been a great vocalist and songwriter, and Phrazes for the Young is the perfect outlet for his creative talents. I totally dig the heavy-handed synth stylings of this album, as well as his ability to blend that with his staple rock sound. It's definitely not an album for everybody, but surely every will find at least one song that they can admit to liking.

#11. Monsters of Folk: Monsters of Folk - If there is one piece of criticism that I could level on this album, it would be that there are just too many songs on it. Most of those songs, mind you, are great, but as an album, the whole thing simply falters under the weight of its own aspirations. "Dear God," "Say Please," and "Man Named Truth" are all instant classics in the indie world, and whether or not these guys ever get together again is irrelevant. They did it once, and it worked. For that, they deserve a bunch of credit.

#10. Clues: Clues - Clues' debut is a strange thing. Some songs, like "Remember Severed Head" or "Ledmonton" are instantly catchy, and accessible. And then there are other songs that seem to be purposefully difficult ("In the Dream"). It's not the easiest thing to sit down and listen to, but I'm glad I did; because after I got over the weirdness and difficulty of songs like "Perfect Fit" I discovered that Clues is actually one hell of an album, especially for a debut! No, I'm still not sure why "Remember Severed Head's" lyrics are recycled on "Cave Mouth," but I also don't care. Both songs are awesome! Just like the album, itself.

#9. Passion Pit: Manners - Passion Pit's debut LP is a hit or miss affair, for sure. One good song, one bad, two good, one bad, etc…The great thing about Manners is that the good songs completely negate the few that are a little rough around the edges. By this point, I've already named "Little Secrets" as my favorite song of 2009, but there are other great tracks on here as well. "Let Your Love Grow Tall," "Eyes as Candles," and "The Reeling" stand out as some flat out amazing tunes. If it weren't for the few duds, this would easily be a Top fiver.

#8. The Bird and the Bee: Ray Guns are Not Just the Future - B&B's debut wasn't all my friends made it out to be. With that in mind, I reluctantly checked out Ray Guns and was surprised by how awesome it is. I seriously jammed out to "Love Letter to Japan" for weeks before I decided to move on to something else. I'm a dude, people. That's something! Beyond that though, Ray Guns is stacked full of great tunes that don't get old, and other songs that reveal their greatness over time. If you haven't checked this one out yet, do yourself a favor and snag a copy. You won't regret it!

#7. Discovery: LP - LP sure has its flaws. But as difficult as it can be, it's also incredibly rewarding. It's a quaint little record filled to the brim with relentlessly catchy songs. The only one that really doesn't do a thing for me is "Carby," but hey, it's not really all that difficult to hit the skip button is it? This one got ripped pretty hard by the critics, and I can see their collective point despite my obvious affection for it. It's a download first, buy later, for sure. Just be sure to give it a fair shot. You may be surprised.

#6. St. Vincent: Actor - Is there any denying that Annie Clark is one of music's most-talented females? Besides the fact that she's making some of the most inventive and awesome songs out there, she's also doing so with a grace and style that is completely unique to her. While I still feel that her debut has more staying power than Actor, her 2009 follow-up still packs one hell of a punch. I've been re-listening to it for the past week now and, whoah, it's just fantastic! St. Vincent is officially my favorite female artist at the moment, and Actor is officially the best female album of 2009!

#5. The Flaming Lips: Embryonic - When Embryonic came out, it quickly made it to the top (#1) spot on my Most Disappointing Albums list. How it made its way up to the #5 album of the year is a long, strange tale. Well, not really. Essentially it boils down to this: I kept listening to it. My first 2 times through I was completely dumfounded and upset that it didn't sound like any of their last 3 records. I was pissed, to be honest. As I kept listening, however, I eventually set aside my preconceived ideas about what a Flaming Lips album should sound like. It was only then that Embryonic revealed itself as an amazingly complex and meaningful album. Wayne Coyne has seemingly let the darkness creep over him, and it shows in both his lyrics and the musical compositions that surround them. I can understand why people would be turned off by this album, really. But I'm glad I decided to tough it out and figure it out. It truly is one of the year's best.

#4. Wallpaper: Doodoo Face - I got my hands on Wallpaper's T-Rex EP in the summer of 2008. I was still listening to it in the summer of 2009, right around the time I found out that Ricky Reed was releasing a full-length album. I was pumped. I spread the word - the Gospel of Wallpaper , if you will - to all my friends, and played for them the songs I had. By the time Doodoo Face came out, I was set up for disappointment. But Wallpaper didn't disappoint; in fact, they exceeded my expectations! I was expecting another synth-heavy, collection of short 'n sweet pop songs. I got the heavy synths alright, but the saxophones, trumpets, female vocals, and funk influences came as a complete surprise. Doodoo Face sounds like a silly album, and at times it can be. But it's also one of the most impressive debuts of recent-memory, and something that I'll be listening to until the next LP drops!

#3. Dirty Projectors: Bitte Orca - Most albums that I listen to take time for me to get into. This is true for pretty much every album on this list, with the exception of a few. One of those exceptions is Bitte Orca. This album was my first run-in with Dirty Projectors after reading about the band for some time. I was instantly captivated by all the things going on at any given moment. Even now, I'm still amazed by some of the harmonies and guitar riffs that seem too complex to be written, but too perfect to be improvised. It is a very impressive album, and probably the one I've listed to with the most consistency since its release. Is it one of the best of 2009? Easily. It can also be considered for one of the best of the decade!

#2. The Decemberists: The Hazards of Love - Forget the mixed reviews and the haters! The Hazards of Love is a beautiful and affecting piece of art. If there's any knock against it, it's that it can't really be listened to one song at a time. It's something that must be digested as a whole. That's important, because in an era when much of the music industry seems to be about the single, Colin Meloy & Co. have created the exact opposite! When it is experienced as it is meant to be, you'd be hard-pressed to find an album more poetic, more astounding, or more poignant in 2009!

#1. Loney, Dear:  Dear John - In 2007, Loney, Dear's Emil released his U.S. debut, Loney, Noir to much acclaim. It was this blog's #4 album of that year, and I was still listening to it when Dear John released early this year. Dear John is one hell of an album! Every song helps to create an atmosphere of doubt, regret, and depression that is both haunting and refreshing. Even the album's more upbeat tracks are tinged with the sentiments that make the rest of the album so dark. Hopefulness, an idea that was prevalent on his last record, has largely been dismissed on Dear John, and while I'm normally a guy who is into pop music (see the rest of this list), there is something about Emil's music that speaks to me as an individual.

Dear John is more than just the best album of 2009, it is one of the best male solo albums of the last decade; easily comparable up against Sufjan Sevens' or Conor Oberst's best work. Loney, Dear doesn't get the same kind of press coverage as those two dudes, and it's a shame, because when it comes to writing powerful, deep, meaningful songs, he blows Sufjan out of the water and gives Oberst a run for his money. Without question, Dear John is the #1 album of 2009. It is a perfect record, and one that I will never take for granted.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Best of 2009: Top 5 Pop Albums

There was a time in my life where I was consumed by the darker side of life. Now, when I did make an effort to stay away from razor blades and hair dye, I was really into music that spoke about the human condition and did so in a somewhat depressing manner. Bright Eyes…the older stuff….was like a gift from god to me. Recently though, I've been really into the brighter, more upbeat side of life. If it's fun and I can sing along to it with a smile, I love it! 2009 was an okay pop music year. Not the best, but solid. With that in mind, I give you the list of the Top 5 Pop Albums of 2009.

#5. Tegan and Sara: Sainthood - The Quin sisters have been at it for years now, and despite approaching each of their new albums with a slight sense of trepidation, I always walk away pleased. It's crazy really, because the last thing I would think I'd be into is really poppy girl rock, despite the fact that I always did have a soft spot for The Bangles. Sainthood is the Canadian duo's latest record and it continues where their last left off - with infectious indie jams delicately paired with lighter, introspective gems. Sainthood may not be as instantly captivating as 2007's The Con, but it surely pays off over time.

#4. Passion Pit: Manners - Why thank you iPhone. Back when I purchased my shiny new toy in July, I had never heard of Passion Pit. And then one day while coming home from work, listening to my app, Passion Pit came on. The song was "Cuddle Fuddle" from last year's Chunk of Change EP. I loved it. The rest is history. Manners is a surprisingly solid and unique album from such a young group of musicians; kind of like this year's Vampire Weekend, though I don't encourage you to make any further connections. The album has a few rough spots that are to be expected, but the good songs are wonderful. "Little Secrets" is the best song of 2009, "Sleepyhead" is bizarrely catchy, while "Let Your Love Grow Tall" is truly inspiring. This is one hell of a pop CD, and you're stupid if you don't at least give it a chance.

#3. The Bird and the Bee: Ray Guns are Not Just the Future - I feel bad. I had compiled this list several days ago and left this album out entirely. Then I had my iPod on random and on comes "Love Letter to Japan" and I came to the realization that I had not given this album the props it deserves. The Bird and the Bee is a very talented duo, and the music on this album is some of the finest they've done yet. It ranges from stadium pop anthems ("My Love") to jazz pop ("Ray Guns"), humorous dance tracks ("Polite Dance Song") to love confessions to 80s rock gods ("Diamond Dave"). It's a very well-rounded, and well executed record. I wasn't really a fan of much of their earlier stuff, but this one is very solid.

#2. Discovery: LP - What the hell is this album? A bedroom R&B, reggae, new wave pop album with members of Vampire Weekend, Ra Ra Riot and Dirty Projectors? So it's a joke album, right? Wrong. Well, I guess that depends on who you ask. LP wasn't exactly the strongest-received album of the year, and I can see why it would turn some off. There are times all across the album where it sounds like synth lines are improvised and vocal effects are thrown in to hide an apparent lack of direction. But for what it's worth, I find LP to be a truly captivating pop record with strong hooks and rather inventive compositions. I can't get enough out of it.

#1. Wallpaper.: Doodoo Face - On any other year, it would be hard for me to imagine an album called "Doodoo Face" to make it on my, let alone anyone's, top ten list. But Wallpaper's debut album is more than just the best pop album of the year, it's one of the decade's finest as well! Pop music too often gets bogged down in the songwriting process - oh, let's put a ballad here, or make this song instantly relatable to the heartbroken. Wallpaper ignored all that mess and made Doodoo Face an incredibly fun album in the process. You won't hear music this light-hearted, this funny, any other place in 2009! No, not even with The Boy Least Likely To (surprising, I know). The fact that it can be those things and still be one of the best records of the year is a testament to how awesome Doodoo Face really is. It's a difficult acquisition, sure. You won't find it at Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and hell, even Amazon is low on copies. But it's worth it! Trust me.

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Worst of 2009: The 5 Biggest Disappointments

Every year has its ups and downs, musically. For me, the worst downs are not when a bad album drops, but rather when a bad album that should have been great releases. These are albums from artists who have proven themselves to be capable of something amazing, but have instead opted to phone-in an album or make something so uninspired or bad that listening to it is more of a chore than a joy. 2009 certainly had its share of disappointments. Here are the 5 that really stood out to me.

#5. Our Lady Peace: Burn Burn - Of all the albums on this list, this is the worst. Of course, that doesn't make it the biggest disappointment of the year, especially considering how bad Our Lady Peace has been over the last decade. But when I heard the band was coming out with a new album, my thoughts immediately went to their work in the 1990s. Heck, Happiness was this blog's #5 Alternative Album of all freaking time. But alas, what Burn Burn is is a continuation of the band's post-millennial work, with sappy lyrics and big me sensibilities. Hey, they're back though. And they're still better than most modern rock bands. So that's something I suppose.

#4. Metric: Fantasies - If I seem conflicted on this one, it's because I am. I mean, there are some fantastic songs on Fantasies, don't get me wrong. But there are some downright bad ones too. If there's one thing Metric had never given us in their 10-years of music making it's a "hit or miss" album. But Fantasies has that locked down!

#3. Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band: Outer South - Wow. Less than a year after they got together to make Oberst's brilliant self-titled, the Mystic Valley Band released this dud of an album to audiences. Thanks for that, guys. Outer South lacks all the charm, talent, and songwriting skills of its semi-quasi predecessor. That makes it quite the disappoint for yours truly, not to mention all of those other critics out there. With that said, I still must admit to liking "Air Matress." I mean, that's just a fun time.

#2. Cursive: Mama, I'm Swollen - I should've known something was up when Saddle Creek decided to sell this one for pennies in its opening days. I got mine for $1, which granted, isn't a bad deal, but still. After 2 amazing albums that really helped define my early adulthood, Cursive dropped this big lo' pile of mediocrity on us. The first 4 or 5 songs? Solid. The rest? No thanks. It was lacking all the bite, focus, and passion of past Cursive albums, so I stopped listening after 2 weeks or so.

#1. Zero 7: Yeah Ghost - Ugh, guys really? How do you follow up The Garden with this collection of abrasive, ugly pop music sung by the most mediocre of vocalists? Whereas every other album from this duo has been pretty much mellow, electronic pop, Yeah Ghost is just plain annoying. Whether they decided to go in an entirely different direction or just phoned this one in, there's no denying how awful this album is.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Best of 2009: Top 5 Guest Vocalists

Ahh, the guest vocalist. Usually you're forced to find work on crappy R&B records or Ja Rule songs, but 2009 was a good year for you! You got around and made yourself more known, more respectable. That's great for you. I hope 2010 is just as fruitful, though I must admit I have my doubts. For now though, let's recap your banner year with a list of your Top 5 Guest Vocal Performances. I think that would make everybody happy.

#5. Discovery featuring Angel Deradoorian - "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend," from the album, LP - Chances are that "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" would have been a decent track without the inclusion of Angel's voice. Truth be told, she does very little on the track. But as it stands, her voice is the focal point of this song, and it's all the better because of it! I mean, she did a lot better than Ezra Koenig's guest spot, so that's gotta count for something right?

#4. Buck 65 featuring Sufjan Stevens - "Blood Pt. 2," from the album, Dark Was the Night - This one's kind of weird because Pt. 1 is a Sufjan Stevens song entirely. Pt. 2, however, finds the prolific rapper taking the reigns and Sufjan merely lending his vocals for the chorus. His performance, in a word, is creepy. His voice hovers eerily above the drumbeat and instrumentation, wavering and hinting at something sinister. It's quite a cool effect. And sure, while I'm still totally pissed that it's been 5 years (5 YEARS!!!) since I've heard anything really new from Mr. Stevens, I'm willing to give him the credit that is due to him for his job on this song. Congratulations, sir.

#3. Amadou & Mariam featuring K'Naan - "Africa," from the album, Welcome to Mali - So apparently this couple has been making music for years. News to me. I first heard the duo from Mali early in 2009 and I've been jamming to it off and on ever since. One of Welcome to Mali's best tracks without question is "Africa." A big reason for this is K'Naan whose vocals absolutely make the song. Maybe it's just because it's in english, that's a possibly, but he's also a very talented singer. Yay for him!

#2. MSTRKRFT featuring John Legend - "Heartbreaker," from the album, Fist of God - I've never been a giant John Legend fan (go figure, right?), but his vocals on this MSTRKRFT kinda make me want to go back and listen to some of his stuff with a more open ear. This song is easily the best track on Fist of God, thanks to Legend. He's the only vocalist on the album that doesn't sound like he's trying to compete with all the insane electronic music surrounding him. Granted, he's also got one of the album's more mellow compositions to work with, but the end result is still a beautiful track.

#1. Dirty Projectors featuring David Byrne - "Knotty Pine," from the album, Dark Was the Night - David Byrne is crazy. Dave Longstreth is crazy. Put the two of them together for a song and you get a crazy good song. "Knotty Pine" has been getting regular plays from me for months (really the only song from Dark Was the Night that I can say that about). Byrne's role isn't huge. He sings a little bit in the second verse and he may play some guitars (don't have the liner notes), but he does it all in a manner entirely his own. I love this song! It's one of the best of 2009!

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Best of 2009: An Open Letter to Annie Clark

Dear Annie,

Hey, it's me. It's Cale. How have you been? It's been a crazy year for you, I bet. There was the touring, the totally badass music video shoots, the critically well-received (and more importantly, just flat-out awesome) album, and…umm…am I missing anything?

Anyway…funny story. I was going through all the albums I had heard this year by female solo artists in order to compile a list of what I felt were the Top 5 Female Albums of 2009, when I was struck by the realization that I couldn't assemble a list of 5 albums. This certainly was not because of lack of trying on my part. I listened to a number of female records in 2009; Lily Allen, Bat for Lashes, Neko Case, Peaches, and I even checked out a few Britney Spears tracks (though I'm not sure that one actually released this year…it's hard to say, and I don't follow her stuff much).

You see, when I laid out all the female solo records in front of me, there was one clear winner. Actor.

All of those other albums, yeah, I remember listening to them but they barely left an impression on me. Natasha Kahn is an extremely talented young lady and her style is miraculous, but I was done with Two Suns after, well, two suns (har har!). Lily Allen wasn't bad honestly, and there were some catchy tunes contained on It's Not Me, It's You, but I grew tired of that after two weeks or so. Regina Spektor? Yeah she's cool, but not really my style.

So right now, at the time of this writing, you're the only female solo artist I can think of who deserves to even be mentioned as having one of the best albums of 2009. I may be wrong. You know as well as I do that you are surrounded by very talented artists of the same gender, and if you can think of any albums that I should listen to, please let me know. I would love to check them out.

That's all really. I just wanted to congratulate you on your success in 2009, but also to thank you for providing these ears with some of the greatest tunes they've heard all year! Next time you're in Houston, I'll be sure to catch your show. I'll be the giant red-head in the front row, just in my own world, rocking out to "Marrow" and "Your Lips Are Red." Probably pretty hard to miss…


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Monday, December 07, 2009

29 in 2009 - Janis Joplin: "Pearl"

Janis Joplin:  Pearl
Originally Released:  February 1, 1971
Genres:  Rock, Blues
Rating:  7 out of 10

I have a few spare moments on my hand right now.  What better way to spend them than by trying to wrap up this 29 in 2009 series?

First off, I'd like to thank whoever recommended this album.  It's the first album by an artist that died in their prime that hasn't been a complete disappointment.  Believe it or not, I had never heard a Janis Joplin song in my life, with the possible exception of seeing her perform in a Woodstock documentary or two.  She is awesome!

"Move Over" is an awesome opening track, and maybe the perfect introduction to her sound (that's what I'm assuming at least, based off of my brief interaction with her tuneage).  The best track comes next though, "Cry Baby" is just one of the most powerfully sung songs I've ever heard.  Janis' voice is like a gift from god, here; fully displaying the passion and emotion of the lyrics.

"Mercedes Benz" is really the only song on Pearl that needs to be retired.  Sure Joplin's got a great voice, I'm just not sure its suited for acapella performances.  Here it sounds grating and disastrous.  This song is definitely worth skipping.

Overall though, a really good album.  Released posthumously, it really doesn't seem like a quick cash-in by the label.  Janis Joplin really seems like, if she had made some better choices, would still be around today, rocking just as hard as ever. 

Sorry for the short analysis, but as you may have noticed.  Things have been quite busy as of late.

Verdict:  Classic

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Best of 2009: Top 5 Male Albums

While 2009 was a rather subpar year for female solo artists, in my opinion at least, things were a little better on the dude side of things. This years saw great releases from a wide array of male artists, the Top 5 are below.

#5. Del the Funky Homosapien: Funk Man (The Stimulus Package) - Back towards the beginning of the year, D.E.L. released an album via his webpage for the fair price of…nothing. I'll be real. I expected it to blow. I mean, Del hasn't really been a reliable source for good music for the last decade; so excuse me for the skepticism when he drops one for free. Surprisingly, however, Funk Man is probably Del's best album since Both Sides of Da Brain. There's still some moments on there where you just have to question what the guy's thinking, but for the most part, the craziness is an acceptable attribute.

#4. Allen Toussaint: The Bright Mississippi - Legendary jazz musician, eh? Well, forgive me but I'm just not that familiar with the genre. I am well-versed in the art of great music, however, and Toussaint has created a brilliant collection of it with The Bright Mississippi. The guy's over 70 years old at this point and he just won over a 25 year old. That's rather impressive.

#3. Julian Casablancas: Phrazes for the Young - Initially, I had Patrick Wolf's The Bachelor in the bottom spot on this list. However, once I got a chance to listen to The Strokes' singer's debut as a solo artist, it was clear to me that Casablancas was more deserving of a spot here. While his electronic compositions can get grating from time to time, I have to give the dude credit for doing something that, to me, comes as a complete surprise. It's a fun listen, and one of the year's better debuts.

#2. Wallpaper.: Doodoo Face - Gasp! Wallpaper. appears on an Audio Overflow list but isn't at number one? Crazy right? Well hey, if you really want to hear about my thoughts on Wallpaper's bitchin' debut, you can read about that here, here, here, and here. For now, I'll just acknowledge that someone did it better in '09 and then get on to talking about that guy.

#1. Loney, Dear: Dear John - That guy is Emil Svanangen, the dude behind Loney, Dear. Emil totally deserves this award because he created what is arguably the most impressive male solo album of the decade. Dear John has it all. It's got absolutely brilliant compositions layered with guitars, high-pitched vocals, and synths; upbeat songs and complete tearjerkers; and touching lyrics that also happen to be some of the most-honest of recent memory. Let's be real here. All of Emil's albums are fantastic. But Dear John outdoes them all. When I reviewed it at the beginning of 2009 I referred to it as his Magnum Opus. I swear, if he's able to top this one I'll have no choice but to kneel in his presence. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective), that's probably not possible.

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Saturday, December 05, 2009

The New Look

We are at the dawn of 2010, people.  10 years ago I was a sophomore in high school, digging on the new Limp Bizkit album, and rocking the trombone in the marching band.  A lot can happen in 10 years.  As I grew up, stopped watching MTV, and started getting exposed to other types of music, my tastes changed.

To celebrate the start of the new decade, I have changed the look of Audio Overflow slightly to pay tribute to some of the artists that helped shape the way I think about and consume music.  The design of the blog will continue to get tweaked until January, but I wanted to go ahead and give you all a sneak peek at the new look so that I can collect some feedback before finalizing things.

Audio Overflow version 2.0 (aka. The Big Brown) had just turned 2 years old.  It was time for a change.

Please leave a comment, letting me know what you think of the new look.  And don't forget to throw suggestions my way too!

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Friday, December 04, 2009

Best of 2009: Top 10 Party Jams

Let's say you're at this party, right? Dude who's rocking the music has to jet to pick up another case and he takes his iPod with him. This is your moment, your chance to impress every fine lady at that get-together. You take your iPod over to the stereo pick the flyest jam you have and then watch in anticipation as everyone at the party reacts to your choice of….Tone Loc?!?! Don't worry folks. If you ever get invited to another party, I've got you covered with the hottest party jams of '09! Throw some of these on, and I pretty much guarantee that it'll go over well. At the very least, they'll do better than "Funky Cold Medina."

#10. "Get Yo Shit" by Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, from the album, Tell 'Em What Your Name Is! - A little bit of humor goes a long way, and this song has quite a bit of it. That's the good news. The bad news is that there's a lot of talking that people will have to hush up to understand. Still, if you're at a party in Austin where everybody pretty much already knows the song, you'll be fine.

#9. "Swing Tree" by Discovery, from the album, LP - "Swing Tree" has the uncanny ability to appeal to a variety of music fans; hip hop, pop, r&b, heck…maybe even reggae. I threw this on one night much to the admiration of one young lady in particular. Hey, that's one better than I was doing up until that point.

#8. "Get it Right Now" by Del the Funky Homosapien, from the album, Funk Man - Ahh the ultimate party conundrum! People are demanding that someone put on some rap songs - because, well, they've been drinking and are therefore more easily susceptible to bad things - but you don't want to insult your own intelligence by playing a selection from the 99% of rap music that blows. What to do? Throw on some D.E.L. It always goes down smooth.

#7. "A.T.C." by Lesbian Fist, from the Lesbian Fist EP - Remember that bit about humor going a long way? Well, let's hope your party has an open sense of humor because Lesbian Fist is going to bring the goods, wrapped up in a nice little pop package. Keep an eye on peoples' faces as they ask themselves, "Did I really just hear that?" while simultaneously bouncing to one of the catchiest songs of 2009.

#6. "Little Secrets" by Passion Pit, from the album, Manners - Nobody had heard this song the first time I had played it for my friends at a social gathering. Since then, at least a few of them have picked up the CD because of this one. "Little Secrets" may not not pack the universal appeal of other songs on this list, but I'll be damned if it ain't a whole lot of fun singing to when you're a tiny bit inebriated.

#5. "1901" by Phoenix, from the album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix - Okay, the car commercial pretty much ruined it for me too, but I'll be damned if this still isn't one of the best songs of 2009. That applies to whether you're listening at a party or at a party of one :(. Honestly, who doesn't love this song?

#4. "Daylight" by Matt & Kim, from the album, Grand - You would think that this song would be more off-putting to some than it actually is. Come to think of it, I don't recall ever having to change the song due to someone disliking it. It's a fun, poppy, piano-driven song that I have yet to tire of despite having listened to it several dozen times over the course of 2009.

#3. "ddd" by Wallpaper., from the album, Doodoo Face - Humor, again, does wonders, and "ddd" certainly packs in its share of one-liners. Sure, there may be one cowardly anonymous commenter on this blog who referred to Wallpaper. as "drivel" (most likely without ever listening to it seriously), but I have yet to introduce this song to anyone who has disliked it. Considering I tend to chill with a bunch of Ryan Adams and Regina Spektor fans, I'd say that's quite the achievement.

#2. "I'm On a Boat" by The Lonely Island (featuring T-Pain), from the album, Incredibad - Experience, just once, a whole room of people simultaneously singing "I Fucked a Mermaid" and you'll know why this one is awesome. 'Nuff said.

#1. "I Got Soul, I'm So Wasted" by Wallpaper., from the album, Doodoo Face - There are few songs in the world that have complete universal appeal. Wallpaper's first single from Doodoo Face has to come pretty close. Besides the fact that everybody (EVERYBODY) I know personally loves it, I still have yet to read a review of the album or the song that dismisses it as less than it is. Wallpaper's music is all about letting loose and having a good time and it goes about it in a satirical manner. So even those of us who hate most mainstream pop music can enjoy it. Nobody seriously sings about "throwing up in the bathroom stall" as an achievement, but Ricky Reed does. And if you've ever been in that sort of situation (guilty), then you'll be singing right along (also guilty). For me, this the unquestionable party jam of '09.

What's yours?

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