Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Don't Stop the Pop"

I've long had an uneasy relationship with pop music. After years of turning my nose up at it in favor of bands like the Bealtes or the Rolling Stones, it's hard to admit that you've had multiple KeSha songs stuck in your head, or that while Katy Perry shouldn't be allowed to sing live, you'll crank the volume knob when "Teenage Dream" comes on.

My internal musical struggles aside, this video is quickly making its way around the internets, and for good reason. It's a mashup of the top 25 song of 2010 by one DJ Earworm, and it's fantastic.

So, I beseech you– no matter what your inner music snob says, "Don't Stop the Pop."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Drive My Car : The Beatles

The past couple of days have been pretty snowy in Nashvegas so we've been listening to a lot of records around the house, one of which being Rubber Soul, the album that followed Help and preceded Revolver.

While it's not a popular opinion, I think Rubber Soul is a better album than Revolver. It's more of a complete piece, whereas I always thought Revolver was a bunch of really good songs that could more or less stand apart from each other.

In any case, I wanted to post "Drive My Car," the opening track of Rubber Soul. There's not much to say, it's a great song– very peppy, Paul McCartney doesn't use his "pretty" voice and it features cowbell. Sounds like a good deal to me.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Musically Inclined's Top 10 Finds of 2010

Every December TMI likes to take a look back at the year and do a quick round up of what was great during the past twelve months. It's also an opportunity to throw TMI's two cents in the mix with a 'best of' list of our own; Lord knows every other blog/site/publication does it. Honestly, it's too much fun not to.

Anyway, 2010 was a good year. We waded through buzz around Arcade Fire and Daft Punk's Tron soundtrack, then Kanye swooped down and somehow managed to land at the top of, if not close to, multiple 'Best of 2010' lists, and at the last second, no less.

Spoon, Frightened Rabbit, The National, Sufjan Stevens– they all made killer albums ranging from raw and tense to densely layered. I'm still getting to know Sufjan's The Age of Adz. There's a lot to sift through there and a handful of listens won't do the trick.

Alas, they are all well-loved artists at TMI, familiar dwellers of my iTunes library and therefore ineligible for The Musically Inclined's Top 10 Finds of 2010, but that's okay because what follows is a list of new discoveries that aggressively laid claim to the "most played" category on iTunes.

As always, here are the rules for how songs can make the list:

1. It can be any artist or band that was unheard by TMI before January '10.
2. Songs have to be good. Catchy? Bouncy? Quirky? Sure, but mostly they just have to be solid. Doesn't hurt to be fun and mildly screwy, either.

Fairly simple, no? Here's what survived the year at TMI.

1. Dance Floor : The Apples in Stereo

Hands down, this infectious, somewhat cheesy dance number dominated my year from the moment I watched their music video staring Elijah Wood. I was absolutely shameless in the frequency with which I played this song. It was unhealthy. Groove aside, I really took to the feeling of nostalgia for something that no longer exists (said the kid about to graduate form college.) Front man Robert Schnieder sings "the dance floor isn't there no more, but my body's still moving. Tell me, do you know, where are we to go when the world is so confusing." Words and music, baby, straight to the heart. Listen

2. 1901 : Phoenix

Every once in a while you hear a song that's so good that you can hardly believe it exists. This was one of those songs this year. From the sonar blips and buzzed out guitar to enigmatic lyrics, "1901" hit on an unshakable vibe. I resisted Phoenix for a long time but Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix wound up being one of the best albums I bought all year. It had that special something that kept me playing it almost every single morning this summer. "It's not a miracle we needed, and I wouldn't let you think so." Sometimes you've got to believe the hype. Listen

3. The High Road : Broken Bells

Here's another example of a song that turned into a mild obsession for me this year. When it was announced that Danger Mouse was teaming up with James Mercer, the indie community collectively wet its pants. The product, a self-titled album of quirky, retro tunes from outer space, was totally worth the change of knickers. "The High Road" is cool in a way that has everything to do with the most deliberate usage of the word. Of course, after going so long without any new material from The Shins, who wasn't happy to have Mercer and all his musical sensibilities piped in through their speakers once again? Listen.

4. Other Hearts : Michael Huff

It's really hard to pick one song off this dude's EP, so I figured I'd go with the title track. Last January I interviewed Huff for the Belmont Vision. Much in the way Andrew Bird snagged an early spot on the list in January '09, Huff and his wise, warm songs were a no-brainer. Melancholic and comforting all at the same time, it's difficult not to return to this album for a periodic pick-me-up. "Other Hearts" is one of the more up tempo tunes. It's really a sweet song. The challenge in writing the piece for the Vision was staying objective when all I really wanted to say was "I'm madly in love with this EP and I think it'll get you too." There's not a video for "Other Hearts" so I'm linking to "Too Far Off" instead. Listen

5. Sleepyhead : Passion Pit

This song officially whetted my appetite for electro/pop. The first time I heard "Sleepyhead" I really did not dig it at all, but somehow it grew on me and represented the greatest musical catharsis I heard all year. It sounded reckless and young. I made it my ringtone. But in all seriousness, this song is a flat out contagious good time. "Everything's going to the beat." Some days that's exactly how it feels. Listen

6. Say La La : Keegan DeWitt

Moving on to a more recent discovery, I heard "Say La La" at The Basement in Nashville during the Next Big Nashville music festival this fall. Initially, I was outside but there was such energy and effervescence pouring out the doors, I wasn't out there long. DeWitt has a great voice. The song itself is really lively– sounds like a whole bunch of people are having a blast. I think we need to keep an eye on this fellow. That way, we can remind people he's from Nashville. Listen

7. Shadow People : Dr. Dog

While I'm typically critical when folks try to channel Bob Dylan with raspy vocals and a mild disregard for melody, Dr. Dog manages to pull it off with "Shadow People," a song with roots running deep into some other decade. The best part of the song is definitely the lyrics. There's something wistful about it all without being glum in any way. Favorite line? "In some backyard, in some plastic chair, hoping these cigarettes will save us." That's a very real and familiar visual. Listen

8. Home : Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Speaking of roots running into a different decade, my immediate attraction to "Home" was how much it sounded like something about forty years older than it actually was. And wow, singer Jade Castrinos has some pipes on her. This song came at a good time in January/February when I was shunning anything electronic. "Home" only served to reinforce my love of raw, rootsy, Americana. Listen

9. Go Do : Jónsi

Icelandic music (read: Bjork) has never really caught my fancy. I've had plenty of friends sing the praises of Sigur Ros, but again, I never got into them. Fast forward to this summer when Sigur Ros front man Jónsi released his first solo album and I found "Go Do" on a commercial for paint. Oh man. The juxtaposition of his delicate vocals and that pounding drum is really intriguing. Of course, I really like the sentiment of "Go Do." It comes off like an awkward verb translation but there's a certain purity of meaning. This gets the prize for most gorgeous song on the list. Listen

10. King of Spain : Tallest Man on Earth

Picking #10 was a doozey. In truth, I could have created a list of about 20 songs including Mayer Hawthorne, Jason Collett, Samantha Crain and the Spinto Band, but I finally decided to settle on a song that is definitely the most recent discovery for me, and one that I think I will pursue into 2011. With that, I give you "King of Spain" by the quirky little fellow who calls himself The Tallest Man on Earth, Kristian Matsson from Sweden. His voice sounds absolutely shot, but his guitar playing is as lovely as the poetry he spins. For that, he gets the final spot.

Here's to 2011.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Stretch Your Face : Tobacco

Hip hop. Minimalist. Thrash. Labels cease to accurately describe anymore. Though if pressed, I'd classify "Stretch Your Face" by Tom Fec's (Black Moth Super Rainbow frontman) solo project Tobacco, just wicked, regardless of what their MySpace says.

Dirty electronic music is hard to describe. It can be difficult to pull apart what is an actual say, guitar, and what is some laptop-bred Caliban of an "instrument." Pitchfork reviewed Tobacco's sophomore album Maniac Meat, "Stretch Your Face" 's home if you will, and slung around phrases like "digital decay" and "rusty-hinged drum machines." The writer talked about lots of corrosion and fuzz, and was dead on.

It's odd that something described in such a way could be so absolutely infectious. "Stretch Your Face" has a machine-like quality that's weirdly groove-y. Bring in that random cool, female vocal and this song begs to played on loop.

Above I posted a link to a fan-made video. Can't say it does a whole lot to enhance the listening experience, but at least you get to hear it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas with Kanye

I have to admit, Kanye would have earned my vote for most unlikely to put out a Christmas song. And yet, he did. If you want to hear "Christmas in Harlem," Nah has a player on their page.

It's sure join the cannon of classic Christmas songs alongside Perry Como's "I'll be Home for Christmas" and Sinatra's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

Money line: "I'm like bad santa, try to sit on my lap."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Broken Bells on Conan

Saw this post from Rolling Stone via Google Reader. Broken Bells (Danger Mouse and Shins' James Mercer) performed "The Ghost Inside" on Conan's new TBS show the other night.

For background, their self-titled album came out in the spring and I immediately got hooked on their song "The High Road."

Around that time they did a show with NPR's All Songs Considered and talked a lot about the strange instrumentation they used, like a bizzaro old mellotron, to create their ethereal, vaguely retro sound.

Not long after the release when they played South by Southwest, the All Songs crew was discussing how Broken Bells were going to tour and produce those sounds live– it sounded like that mellotron was on its last leg and they squeezed the remaining bit of life out of it.

I listened to the audio stream of the Broken Bells SxSW set and it sounded solid. Now several months later, we bring you video! Watch them pull it off.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Vladimir Putin Sings

I figured I already made a "Vladimir Putin" tag a few years ago, and this was just too weird not to post. In this video, the former Russian Prime Minister takes the mic with his very own rendition of "Blueberry Hill." Dude's not exactly Fats Domino. We'll leave it at that, although TMI is happy to hear after all those years in the KGB, Putin has finally found his "threeel."

Heading Down The Beat 'n' Track

Cool logo, no? This is from the Nov./Dec edition with a fellow by the name of Brinley Addington

Writing the last post title reminded me that I'd meant to post about a project I started in August at the Belmont Vision. It's a monthly Q&A series called The Beat 'n' Track (I know, it's cute) that features Belmont artists.

A word about my university– everyone and their mother is in a band/plays guitar/writes songs– so why highlight a subject that everyone is undoubtedly sick of? Well, it occurred to me this summer that these artsy musician types can have some pretty interesting things to say when they're not directly talking about themselves. Hence, The Beat 'n' Track– my effort to showcase the fact that we've got some musical badasses at Belmont, but also get them off on tangents or less self-reflective ramblings. At least, that was my hidden angle. I didn't tell this to the folks I interviewed. Mostly I try to provide a set up and then let the conversation go where it may.

Given that we're a monthly publication, so far I've done four, but I plan on continuing through next semester. Also, I hope someone picks it up next year. That would be sweet. Check out what I've done so far.

August: The Beat 'n' Track with Miss B.
September: The Beat 'n' Track with Cody Fry
October: The Beat 'n' Track with Chase Foster
November/December: The Beat 'n' Track with Brinley Addington

Getting Back on Track

Alright kids, TMI's getting back on track after a few weeks of breaking news, exams and general busyness. We've got a few things in the works this season, including the annual The Musically Inclined's Top 10 Finds to 2010. Look for that in the next week or so.

For now, I wanted to bring your attention to the fact that Amazon is giving away one holiday song everyday until Christmas. The great thing is that if you miss a day, you can go back and download the tracks anyway. So far, Fleet Foxes and Mannheim Steamroller are two of the more notable giveaways, but hey, check out the twelve others and decide for yourself. Personally, I've been keeping up with them via Twitter.