"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Pig in a Bonnet 

Just because you call it so, or give it a 26% boost in gas mileage, it is not a "green" vehicle. It is an SUV. An SUV with better mileage, yes, but still a gas (or in this case diesel)-guzzling monstrosity of arrogant and conspicuous consumption. And yes, it probably also supports terrorism.

Am I the only one who thinks this whole green-spun 'nouveau-diesel' business is more than a little disingenuous? We need to develop actual non-fossil-fuel options, not waste time and money on marginal gains like diesel which just make things seem less dire than they are.

Side note: it turns out that the JDSOB is on a similar topic today.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007


I went to a really ridiculously cool show last night. The Happenstance, as it was called, is an annual charity event where members of various local bands sign up to be randomly reassigned to a new band of strangers - a singer/frontman, guitarist, bassist, drummer, and a 'wildcard' in each - and have the rest of the day to write songs and practice. They each then play a 20 minute set at the Earl, only one cover allowed.

The results were ... fascinating. Some of the groups really got it together, and played some cool music that even sounded more polished than it was. Based on the first group's third song, I'd buy the album. Ditto for the third band's entire set. Others weren't my thing, or didn't mesh as well, but nothing was outright atrocious, so all in all, a good show.

On the downside, I was disappointed that the bands were each allocated all the traditional roles. Why not leave chance to stick some poor sods with four drummers and a klezmerist? That would test everybody's chops, and leave the world open to really bizarre and possibly hilarious results. I also would've liked to see musicians from a wider cast of backgrounds represented - those involved seemed to all come from the indie/rock mold. Throwing a rapper or sad-girl-with-guitar in the mix might've been fun.

Still, a great event. Can we bring this to DC?

Now playing: DJ Amy Moon - Bass-ic Bi-ology
via FoxyTunes

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Semi-Finals During Finals 

I have finals right now - having written three papers and taken one in-class test and nearly completed a take-home, I'm about 3/4 done - so obviously this is the time to be thinking about my Best of 2007 lists. If I fail out of school due to unpreparedness, I'm totally blaming Wendy, whose list inspired actually doing this. Or possibly Adam and Jed, who don't have blogs but started asking about this list two months ago.

The preliminary list I've done on the concept of a mix CD I might make, limiting me to less than 80 minutes. These tracks represent ones that've been bouncing around my playlists as long as they've been available this year. They're not in any particular order, because I certainly don't have time to go on beat matching and such right now. What do you think? Who have I forgotten or just failed to get well enough to include?

(all links are to the tracks' Last.fm pages, because I am too lazy to host samples)

Uffie - Body Bass (Curtis Vodka Blend Mix) (3:39) Admit it: Uffie's a blast: silly, dirty, and eminently dance-able. If you're a little embarrassed for loving this track, just smile and sing along and know that everyone else does too.

Pleasure - Uptown (4:24) Speaking of pure fun, this track is the the astoundingly catchy and disco-worthy best from 25-year-old Norwegian Fred Ball's second album. It's kinda like the bastard child of ABBA and ... a justifiably overzealous synthesizer?

M.I.A. - Paper Planes (3:24) M.I.A. managed to follow up 2005's Arular with an album almost as sweeping in its insane sounds and political aspirations, but with fewer spot-on tracks. "Paper Planes," however, is as good as anything on the first album, and has kept me bouncing along and dreaming of revolution since it leaked this spring/summer.

Siobhán Donaghy - 12 Bar Acid Blues (3:55) This track veers dangerously close to twangy bluegrass rather than blues, but former Sugababe Donaghy's throaty voice and playful delivery really shine through. Of the songs on her 2007 release Ghosts, this is the one that shines. Others are pretty, sometimes really hinting at a powerful pop potential, this track blows all of her pop-electronic pretensions away. A joy to listen.

Mika - Grace Kelly (3:07) When I first heard this track, I immediately tracked it down on the internet not only because I love it - silly voice-overs, cheesy riffs and all - but because I was convinced that it was some mysterious Queen song I'd never heard before. This kid has a Serious Voice, and I hope he finds a way to use it even more in the future. Isn't Brian May forever looking for a new singer?

Georgie James - Cake Parade (3:23) Speaking of fun, this track is and has the advantage of being a little less embarrassing to have. Sweet and goofy and pretty, but with some edginess underneath. Not that I could really say no to Q and Not U's former drummer, anyways.

Justice - B.E.A.T (Extended) (4:52) Another powerhouse of French electronica arrived this year, mixing samples and awesomely strange rhythms into a ridiculously fun groove that sounds more stitched together than slickly produced and smoothly mastered. If ever a track has inspired unabashed getting down, this is it.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor - If I Can't Dance (3:26) Dancing is what it's all about, of course, and who'd want to live in a place where it wasn't allowed? This track shines over even the rest of chanteuse Baxtor's soaring Trip The Light Fantastic, which is full of cheeky, playful, at times actually very interesting dace pop, all supporting her powerful voice.

Jens Lekman - Shirin (3:56) If you're not already a bit in love with this guy, I strongly encourage you to go buy his latest effort, Night Falls Over Kortedala, particularly this aching and gorgeous song about an Iraqi refugee who cuts his hair. Warning: "Shirin" doesn't move you, you might need to seek medical attention on account of being dead.

Future Of The Left - Manchasm (3:54) Fun and loud and a mean and clever, Cardiff's Future of the Left deliver where predecessors Mclusky may have had they not, uhm, mostly become Future of the Left. This is an awesome track for driving in traffic, or performing logistic regressions on shitty data.

Dragonette - Marvellous (2:48) There's not really any way for me to pick a favorite track from Dragonette's 2007 catalog (Galore and its preceding Promo CD, plus assorted others), but this one's a strong contender, with it cleverly mischievous lyrics, infectious grooves, and a funny, attention-grabbing arabesque riff over top.

Soho Dolls - Prince Harry (2:42) A ridiculous song from a shamelessly ridiculous album, the Soho Dolls are the only band on this list to challenge Dragonette for the Dirtiest Girls on the Block. And yes, that includes the male members. And hell, even though I've missed the whole Prince Harry infatuation, but if he's as much fun in bed as this track, I'd hit it.

Yelle - 85A (2:28) Picking a track from Yelle's Pop-Up to include here was tough. There's so much good stuff, mostly vaguely cheesy pop/hip-hop silliness but great fun and being in French validates it anyway, right? This one happens to be on my good side today.

Pelle Carlberg - I Love You, You Imbecile (2:55) Carlberg's duet with Ida Maria probably isn't the best off his 2007 In a Nutshell, but I do love it and it's the one that fits in my 80 minute time limit. It's sweet and pretty and full of all the stuff I love about the whole album.

Chromeo - Fancy Footwork (3:18) This title track off the North American duo's second album shines like crazy. A fantastic groove, fun retro vibe, and silly samples add to the basic awesomeness of this track, which I can happily put on 'repeat' for hours.

Róisín Murphy - Footprints (3:37) This track off of the former Moloko diva's second solo album keeps the footwork going, layering Murphy's delicious voice over a groove that, however mellow, makes me want to dance. Dirty dance, perhaps, but still.

Santogold - Shove It (Switch remix) (3:36) I'll admit to having been a bit late to the Santogold party, but now I've made it thru the door I'm happy to stay a while. Comparisons to M.I.A aren't totally inappropriate, but this track reminds me more of something Blondie might have come up with after too many nights in Buju Banton's opium den. Love it!

Björk - Innocence (Mark Stent Mix) (4:21) Björk released an album this year, and obviously she gets a spot on my Best Of list because, aside from releasing a bloody awesome album, she's Björk. This track is dirty, funky, weird and challenging - it's Björk through and through.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Isis (4:02) Dark and bratty, sexy and brooding, this track kinda rocks my socks. I can't even say why, it just sticks with me, and keeps growing on me.

Robyn - Konichiwa Bitches (2:36) Robyn is a blast, and this track is chock-full of goofy rhymes, strange sound effects and attitude. Plus, she says the words "Konichiwa bitches," which just makes me happy.

The LK - Tamagotchi Freestyle (3:29) Vs the Snow isn't technically out in the US until 2008, but it's out elsewhere and this and other tracks can be found on Last.fm, so here it is. Plus it's gorgeous and sweet, with silly sounds and clever lyrics and all.

Muscles - Chocolate Lemon And Lime (2:03) Again I find that my indecision on a favorite track is corralled by the length requirements of an 80 minute CD. Australian Muscles' entire 2007 album, Guns Babes Lemonade not only has a totally brilliant title, but it filled with delicious fun pop electronica, facetious enough to not be totally embarrassing to love, but unabashed enough to be worth loving. This track's just the shortest track on an album that's almost all in permanent rotation in my playlists.

Mark Ronson - Toxic (Feat. Ol' Dirty Bastard and Tiggers) (4:05) British producer Ronson had famous folks remake other famous folks' songs on this year's Version, and most of them are clever and wonderful re-imaginings. However, this mash-up of what is apparently a lounge-singer covering an atrocious Britney Spears song achieves a level of awesome horribleness that I haven't stopped playing it for ALL of my friends and car-pool mates since I got hold of it.


More than a few tracks didn't make the cut this round, some because they were second to others and some because they were just longer tracks off a generally great album. A selection:

Andrew Bird - Heretics (3:33) Even I can't resist Bird's luscious arrangements and odd compositions, and "Heretics" just happens to be a favorite. It's not on as constant rotation, mostly due to the fact that such interesting music is bloody distracting: this is one of those albums that demands total attention at all moments.

Björk - The Dull Flame of Desire (7:30) This is probably my favorite track from Volta - it's aching, subtle, and totally gorgeous. It's also seven and a half minutes long, which is too much for most mixes I make, and it's not one I listen to very often, because it's so powerful.

Simian Mobile Disco - Hotdog (3:16) It's silly electronic funness, and I like it. Not all the time, but quite a bit, though I do wonder what is the rhythm of the hotdog?

Underworld - Boy, Boy, Boy (6:03) Dark, plaintive and lovely, this is my favorite track off Oblivion with Bells. It's too long and too sad for most mixes I'd make, but you gotta love a band who can make misery this sexy.

Maia Hirasawa - And I Found This Boy (3:22) This exuberant track was a close runner for my mix, with its pretty singing-speaking and darling story and bouncy beat.

Architecture In Helsinki - Heart It Races (2:53) I really wanted to include something off Places Like This in the main mix, but ultimately nothing really worked. Again it's the strange sounds and instrumentations that get me on this one.

Boys Noize - Frau (feat. I Robots) (5:08) Another bit of raucus electronic fun, a bit harder this time. I really do love this track, but it's long, and I feel like Chromeo and Justice cover the really important stuff happening in 2007 techno.

There you are. I'll refine this list and adjust properly for a Best Albums list early in the new year.

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