Archive for January, 2009


Octopus Pie nails z=z

January 6, 2009

musical tastes

The music of z=z in a nutshell. Go check out Octopus Pie, a narrative-style webcomic following the adventures of a crew of Brooklynites, created by Meredith Gran. She’s a resident of Northampton, MA, which seems to be the epicentre of a webcomics cabal.

(whiny indie pop trash) MP3: The Airborne Toxic Event – Sometime Around Midnight [buy]

(obnoxious ADD noise) MP3: Dominik Eulberg – Potzblitz und Donnerwetter [buy]


Threesome: Alt-rock continuity

January 5, 2009

[embedded YouTube video; if you can’t watch it, click here]

I was at the Ted Leo concert with someone who was much younger than me, and she didn’t really know who The Waterboys were. With the Clear Channel-ization of commercial radio, the dearth of good independent and alternative stations, and the general decline of radio listening, it occurs to me that we are losing a certain musical continuity. I grew up with Toronto’s The Edge, and it exposed me to a lot of music that came out before I was too young to hear or appreciate it, but was still in occasional rotation. It meant that everything new that I listened to fit into a context of decades of college and indie radio. If you’re mostly listening to bands from their Myspace pages, you might not be getting exposed to these bands or sounds of yesteryear.

So here are  three songs that are all lost classics from the 1980s – brilliant, emotionally-moving songs. As well as the Waterboys, here’s Australia’s Hunters and Collectors (a live track is below; you can hear the canonical version in the video above). I heard Squeeze‘s “Tempted” coming out of a car parked on my street a few days ago and it reminded me how much I loved it (thank you, whoever you are!).

MP3: The Waterboys – The Whole of the Moon (1985)

MP3: Hunters and Collectors – Throw Your Arms Around Me (live) (1986)

MP3: Squeeze – Tempted (1981)


2008: Best and worst songs in ads

January 2, 2009

[embedded YouTube video; if you can’t watch it, click here]

Following up on some previous posts about music and advertising, and doing one last wrap-up for the year that’s just ended…

Ad Age magazine did a nice little roundup of the ten best songs in advertisements in 2008, together with the ten worst (which makes for much more entertaining reading, as you might imagine). Some interesting artists in there, ranging from Ennio Morricone through the Kinks through Liars. The article includes links  to video of all the ads.

(above, a mashup of Esurance ad and a video for Cloud Cult’s “Lucky Today”)

Book of Tens: Ad Songs of the Year

MP3: Liars – Clear Island [buy]


2008 roundup

January 1, 2009

river burst

Now that 2008 is actually over, time for a quick round-up of some music highlights. This is a highly idiosyncratic list: it’s not comprehensive, it’s not definitive, and it’s not scientific. It’s really just about what I liked enough to spend a lot of time listening to this year. I hope that there’s some stuff in the list that you missed, and that it encourages you to check out something new.

If the artist had a 2008 release, it’s given in parentheses. Links are to z=z posts, most with MP3s. List is in no particular order.

Head Like A Kite (There is Loud Laughter Everywhere) This album is one of my favourite of the year, up there with Massive Attack’s Mezzanine as the perfect music for three am listening.

The Mountain Goats (Heretic Pride): An excellent album, with several standout songs (“Autoclave,” “Heretic Pride”). But my 2008 Mountain Goats experience was mostly about their fantastic live shows.

Destroyer (Trouble in Dreams): I love Dan Bejar, among other reasons, because he strays enough from traditional pop structures that his songs have added interest, but not enough that they become unmemorable or unlistenable.

The Faint (Fasciination): Omaha’s most unlikely musical export. They were really fun live, except for the few minutes where their setup died and the lead singer told terrible jokes.

Billy Bragg (Mr. Love & Justice): While this was his 2008 album, its most important quality was that it gave Billy Bragg a reason to tour. He’s perfected the art of the one-man-with-a-guitar live show.

Freezepop (Futurefuturefutureperfect, 2007): Voted Boston’s Best Live Act, with justification – their March show was one of my peak concert experiences in 2008.

Passion Pit (Chunk of Change): Local band ‘most likely to succeed’ in the brave new world of indie-electro.

Hot Chip (Made in the Dark): The year’s electrorock album, and the raw material for a slew of great remixes, including one of “One Pure Thought” by Dominik Eulberg and most recently (about 24 hours ago) of “Ready for the Floor” by Jesse Rose (a bit of a cruel joke at 1:45 am, a few minutes before last call).

British Sea Power (Do You Like Rock Music?): This album renders its title rhetorical.

Electric Laser People (Straight Talk on Raising Kids, 2007): This is the album that I was listening to when I reached the Lake Washington bridge; I suspect that it’ll always be emotionally time-stamped with my elation at completing the four-and-a-half day drive, solo, from Cambridge to Seattle.

Mother Mother (O My Heart): Missed two opportunities to see them live, once in Seattle and once in Vancouver, and I hope I get to remedy that in 2009.

New Faces (Two Years): My first intro to local Seattle music – I heard about them from a friend before I even arrived.

The Gaslight Anthem (The ’59 Sound): I came to this band late in 2008, but it’s in heavy rotation on my personal playlists.

The Hold Steady (Stay Positive): This album grew on me; I liked it much more by the end of the year than when I first heard it, in June. Two live shows (at the Pitchfork Music Festival and here in Seattle) probably helped with the process.

I Am Kloot (I Am Kloot Play Moolah  Rouge): I am a sucker for Johnny Bramwell’s voice; if The Gaslight Anthem are a homage and throwback to an earlier time in American music, I Am Kloot plays the same role for British music.

Bishop Allen (The Broken String, 2007):  Quirky, charming and infectious.

Good Night, States (Short Films on Self-Control, 2007): They also get bonus points for having my favourite artist website this year.

Now it’s your turn! What are some of the songs and bands that you spent a lot of time listening to in 2008? We’d especially love to hear about lesser-known music, not bands that everyone seems to love (Fleet Foxes, I’m looking at you). Share your suggestions in the comments.

Image: river burst by Flickr user mudpig, posted here under its Creative Commons license.

MP3: Electric Laser People – Yer So Confident [buy]