Monday, December 31, 2012

Best albums and Tracks of 2012


1. Frank Ocean – “Bad Religion”
2. Bob Dylan – “Scarlet Town”
3. The Fixx – “Anyone Else”
4. Pet Shop Boys – “Leaving”
5. Gaslight Anthem – “45”
6. The Presets – “Ghosts”
7. Kylie Minogue – “Timebomb”
8. Marina & The Diamonds – “How To Be a Heartbreaker”
9. Bruno Mars – “Locked Out of Heaven”
10. Metric – “Breathing Underwater”
11. Santigold – “Disparate Youth”
12. Hot Chip – “Flutes”
13. Neil Young & Crazy Horse – “Walk Like a Giant”
14. Yeasayer – “Longevity”
15. Of Monsters and Men – “Little Talks”
16. Die Antwoord – “U Make a Ninja Wanna Fuck”
17. Gossip – “Move in the Right Direction”
18. Ne-Yo – “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself”)
19. Scissor Sisters – “Somewhere”
20. Madonna – “Gang Bang”
21. Calvin Harris feat. Example – “We’ll Be Coming Back”
22. George Michael – “White Light”
23. Sleigh Bells – “Comeback Kid”
24. The Rolling Stones – “Doom and Gloom”
25. Mumford & Sons – “Broken Crown”
26. Green Day – “Kill the DJ”
27. M.I.A. feat. Missy Elliott – “Bad Girls (N.A.R.S. Mix)”
28. MNDR – “#1 in Heaven”
29. Savages – “Husbands”
30. Kanye West, Jay-Z & Big Sean – “Clique”
31. Passion Pit – “Take a Walk”
32. Japandroids – “The House that Heaven Built”
33. Bruce Springsteen – “We Take Care of Our Own”
34. Saint Etienne – “I’ve Got Your Music”
35. The Raveonettes – “Into the Night”
36. School of Seven Bells – “Scavenger”
37. Sharon Van Etten – “Serpents”
38. The Pierces – “We Are Stars”
39. Smashing Pumpkins – “Violet Rays”
40. Maroon 5 – “Payphone”


1. Bob Dylan – Tempest
2. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
3. The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten
4. Beach House – Bloom
5. Green Day – Uno!
6. The Presets – Pacifica
7. Gossip – A Joyful Noise
8. Hot Chip – In Our Heads
9. Marina and the Diamonds – Electric Heart
10. Metric – Synthetica
11. The Fixx – Beautiful Friction
12. Of Monsters and Men – My Head is an Animal
13. Pet Shop Boys – Elysium
14. Dave Stewart – The Ringmaster General
15. Scissor Sisters – Magic Hour
16. Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror
17. Yeasayer – Fragrant World
18. Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill
19. Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania
20. Santigold – Master of my Make-Believe

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Cure dream setlist

The Cure is currently playing festivals in Europe and the set-lists have been pretty terrific.   A deft mix of hits, album tracks, fan favorites, and a few surprises thrown in.   And, of course - - long. 

So if I were to design a set for their current tour, or go to a show, this is what I'd love to see:

(and even if it's never a set, it makes a killer Cure playlist)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Paul McCartney: "Ram" reissue LP

I already talked about Paul McCartney's "Ram" album here, so I won't go back over it again - but I just received the new reissue 2-LP vinyl via, and it sounds amazing.  Listening to it now and thoroughly enjoying it.  The album isn't the most profound in the world, but it doesn't need to be.  Looking forward to checking out the bonus material - and I love the fact that they included the 2nd disc with the bonus material in the vinyl reissue.

I'm a sucker for these reissues.  They are expensive, but worth it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Cure: "The Top"

"As stale and selfish as a sick dog, spurning sex like an animal of god. I'll tear your red hair by the roots and hold you blazing, hold you cherished in the dead electric light," Robert Smith sneers on "Shake Dog Shake," the opening track from "The Top," which was released around this time in 1984.   Launching with a sudden drum barrage and mad cackling laughter, "Shake Dog Shake" is an apt introduction to this schizophrenic collection.  "The Top", as an album, is dreamy, loopy, psychedelic, and a bit cracked...  the first time Robert Smith merged the sullen musings and manic aggression of albums like "Faith" and "Pornography" with the kaleidoscopic pop of singles like "Let's Go to Bed" and "The Lovecats."  For the first time we have the template of The Cure's greatest successes; a bipolar mix of kinetic and iridescent pop, anguished confessionals and venomous freakouts.  "Shake Dog Shake" is tormented decadence:  "we slept all night in the virgin's bed, and dreamed of death and breathed like sick dogs."   What the hell?   It's a powerful opening and propels the listener head-first into a sickly sweet and brilliantly mad world that's equal part nightmare and daydream fantasy.

Somehow, "The Top" has gone down in history as one of The Cure's minor works, but that is unfair.  Perhaps because there was only one hit single - the dreamy folk pop of "The Caterpillar", a trip down the rabbit-hole that's both irresistibly catchy and laden with opium smoke.   It's pure imagination on a grand scale for a pop song, with bits of textures and sound that ornament a campfire singalong on acid.   It's impossible to credit that only a couple years earlier, Robert Smith's band was churning out a soul-searingly bleak album like "Pornography", a collection of songs as unforgiving and harsh as any released in the rock era.   A wailing wall of towering rage and hopelessness.   "The Caterpillar" is another universe entirely, but just as manic and disturbed in its way.  

"Birdmad Girl" is the 2nd single that should have been.  There aren't many obvious commercial moments on this album, but this tune is just catchy enough that, with a colorful video, it might have followed "The Caterpillar" up the charts.  But alas, whether through record company unease or Robert Smith's disinterest, only one single would be released from "The Top" (and it was adorned with two stellar b-sides that, frankly, should have been on the album.  "Happy the Man" and "Throw Your Foot" fit perfectly into the delirious odyssey of ideas and sounds that make "The Top" such an exhilarating ride).    

"Give Me It" is a nonstop crescendo of madness;  it most closely harkens the album back to the "Pornography" days but with a decidedly different flavor.   It's maddening and epic, and Smith spits the lyrics with pure malevolence.  It's an almost certifiable fit of self-loathing.   "Leave me alone like the pig on the stairs in the groovy purple shirt."   Um, yeah.  Or this nugget:  "My heart is cold, my heart is black, and stops every fucking night, every night I wait until it stops" - - all wailed over top a rattling maelstrom of pounding drums, clanging guitars and horns.  "Give Me It" is the type of desperate fit that might end up being observed through thick glass windows, surrounded by well-padded walls.

"Piggy in the Mirror" is a sinister little concoction, with powerfully evocative imagery and a deliberately offkilter vocal.  "Shapes in the drink like Christ; cracks in the pale blue wall".   It's a drug-fueled daydream, twirling around a room and dancing along with (or flinching way from) the flitting images conjured by a mind layered with neuroses.  Not your typical pop music.

Smith is clearly stretching his vocal and creative wings on this album, continuing and expanding upon the direction he started with his fantasy trilogy of singles that followed the post-"Pornography" crackup.  For example, "Dressing Up".  Another trip gone awry.  It's a twisted carnival ride of beauty and weirdness with Smith's odd vocal drawl sliding across the cascading keyboards like a howling ghost haunting a carousel.    The manic, Tom Waits-inspired "Bananafishbones" is another cunningly berserk pop experiment that sounds like The Lovecats' sorta demented cousin - the one ya kinda just nod your head to and wonder what the fuck he is doing.

"The Empty World," with its stately martial beat and desolate imagery, is another tie to the past - revisiting "Charlotte Sometimes" but older, more aware.  The record concludes with the title track, long, intense, moody - it ties the album together but brings no resolution.  "This top is the place where nobody goes... you just imagine it all.."   The entire album is a demented thrill ride through that imaginary place.  It ends with the despondent, almost pitiable cries, "please come back!  please come back!  All of you..."  Whether he is pleading to the ghosts in his head, or maybe he's searching for a lifeline back to reality, hard to say... 

The album overall, it should be noted, still sounds remarkably fresh and current.  It doesn't have that dated 80s sound that so many records of the era are stuck with.  Essentially a solo project - The Cure had functionally ceased to exist as a band at this point - "The Top" is a feverish album;  it's loaded with fancies and bad dreams and obsessions.  But it's beautifully executed in its obscurity.  The fact that there is a lack of obvious pop hits is a strength here, not a weakness.  It's like a spinning Top, in fact, careening madly around the big tent in Robert Smith's head.   It's "Sgt. Peppers" played by a cast of evil clowns lurking in dark hallways;  they'll either butcher everyone in the house or throw the world's most demented sex-balloon party, or maybe both.  So yeah...  it's a bit scary to peek into this colorful psyche but it's well-worth the twists and turns.   An album that rewards repeated listens and some willingness to appreciate the pure genius of the creativity Robert Smith expresses.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Robin Gibb: "Boys do fall in love"

R.I.P. to Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, who died today after a long struggle with cancer. I always quite liked his new wave-influenced solo single "Boys Do Fall in Love", which was a minor Top 40 hit in 1984.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Cure: "Concert"

Listening to one of my favorite live albums tonight, The Cure's "Concert". Wish I had the whole show. Recorded during the 1984 tour in support of "The Top". Raw and dirty, rockin' sound to this record. They played like they have a chip on their shoulder. Love the aggressive take on "Killing an Arab". Listented to this all the time back in the day, especially on cassette. The cassette version included a collection of rarities and live tracks called "Anomolies". Very cool stuff. Takes me back.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Madonna: "MDNA"

Madonna can never be accused of playing it safe or easy. Her new album "MDNA" manages to be current without sounding desperate, genuinely edgy and unique while still borrowing liberally from recent european-influenced electronic pop that's been popular in recent years. "Hard Candy" was a more R&B/pop sheen, and it was underrated. "MDNA" is like a mix of "Confessions" and "American Life" but amped into the present. Her albums can be hit or miss but she can never be accused of laziness. It would be easy for her at this stage of her career to just hire some ace producers and songwriters to create a radio-friendly collection of 12 singles. Madonna has never done that in her career - she is always intimately involved in every aspect of the music, and each album has a particular sound and vision. "MDNA" has a great vibe - I can groove to it more than any Madonna album probably since "Erotica". She just keeps working and over and over again she's shown her impulses are usually correct. Nobody else has navigated the pop music world over the last 30 years like Madonna, and there's a reason for that. She just rocks it. She's Madonna... really that simple. ;)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Tina Turner: "Rock 'n Roll Widow" & "Steel Claw"

The amazing Tina Turner from the Johnny Carson show in 1982. This was not long before she'd be back on the charts again with "Let's Stay Together" and then the sensation "Private Dancer" album. She performs 2 tracks here: "Rock 'n' Roll Widow", which would end up as the b-side to "What's Love Got To Do With It", and "Steel Claw", which would later appear as an album track on "Private Dancer". Interesting that she performs these 2 songs - I wonder if "Rock 'n Roll Widow" was at one time considered for a single? Strange that it eventually didn't even make the album.

Great performance of both songs, and a very cool snapshot of a time when Tina Turner was just about to re-emerge in one of the great career rebirths in rock and roll history.