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

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008 in Less Than 80 Minutes 

2008 was a really good year, musically speaking, for me. One album really kicked my ass all year - when "Made in the Dark" came out in February, I knew immediately that it was gonna be my annual favorite. So that competition was over pretty much before it started, even if the likes of Ladytron, Vampire Weekend, and Los Campesinos! gave Hot Chip a good run. Picking top ten albums of the year is fun, and I may do that yet, but more fun (and useful!) is to make a 'best of' CD: I put together a compilation, not exceeding 80 minutes so it'll fit on one CDR, of my favorite tracks from 2008. Here we go:

The Kid - Transient Dance. Swedish dance-pop at its best - heavy catchy bass and fun riffs, plus wispy vocals and vaguely wide-eyed lyrics. A great offering and my favorite off the generally excellent "Transient Blood."

MGMT - Electric Feel. 'Oracular Spectacular' is a solid effort, but I do have a few favorites. This one happens to fit on my CD. It also has solid hooks, a nice chill groove, and enough weirdness to be worth my while.

Bitter:Sweet - The Bomb. Usually it's hard to forgive a band for singing a cheap-sparkling-white-wine commercial. But when the vocals are as spot-on as Shana Halligan's and the grooves as tight as Kiran Sahani's, it's impossible not to. This track, like most of 'Drama,' is cheeky and fun but also dark and sexy.

Islands - Creeper. Somebody emailed me a link to this track at some point, and I bought it about nine seconds into the free sample. It's catchy as hell, and hey, who doesn't love a lo-fi ode to home robbery and murder?

Vampire Weekend - A-Punk. Yes, I know I'll catch hell for picking this, of all tracks on Vampire Weekend's shockingly superb debut. It's got all the funny fragile bounciness and sarcastic white-kids-burden subject matter, not to mention the awesome African-inspired sounds and rhythms. Plus, it fits in my time allotment.

Does It Offend You, Yeah? - Let's Make Out. Well, let's. All noisy violence and bluster, this track may not be sexy itself, but the energy and giddiness it induces sure are. Plus, that's a damn fine make-out groove, especially for choreophiliacs. And really, who isn't a choreophiliac? No one I know!

The Magnetic Fields - The Nun's Litany. If Stephin Merrit fails to make my best-of list, he probably didn't put out an album that year. Even if 'Distortion' is no '69 Love Songs,' it puts forth any number of austere, viciously sarcastic, and unwaveringly witty tracks, of which this track is, I think, the funniest. Seriously: it's a jumbling list of all the things a nun wishes she'd done (but maybe not till mother's dead).

Lisa Miskovsky - Still Alive - Teddybears Mix. Another pretty Swedish dance floor track, Miskovsky's sweet vocals and lilting melody hover over and pull along the driving backbeat for a wonderful effect. Possibly the best driving-into-the-sunrise track of the year.

Cut Copy - Lights and Music. Yeah, it's the Big Single, but it's also damn good. This one gets me grinning and bouncing every time.

The Dresden Dolls - Night Reconnaissance. Nobody does crazy quite like this pair - and this leader from 2008's "No Virginia..." is a perfect example. The frankly depressing lyrics bounce along to a catchy beat, and that always makes me smile.

April March and Steve Hanft - Attention Chérie. On the whole I was a bit disappointed by Ms Blake's 2008 antics (or, actually, lack thereof), but this track and its totally bonkers video have been rocking my socks since the first moment. Bouncing along over happy pizzicatos and synthy bass, Blake's voice is coquettish and twee, but never lets go of ironic distance from her lyrical topics.

Sébastien Tellier - Devine. M. Tellier put out pretty much the sexiest album this year, a 70's porn mélange of electro beats and sappy croons that I simply can't resist. At all. If this track doesn't make you giggle a bit, you should probably have your ears cleaned.

Hercules and Love Affair - Hercules Theme. Another rock-solid album by a total newcomer this year, but this track is just so utterly flawless and fun I had no trouble picking. What is it about? Who cares, it makes me grin and bounce!

Ladytron - They Gave You A Heart, They Gave You A Name. Ladytron routinely kicks my ass all over the place, and 'Velocifero' is no exception. I had to pick one track for this compilation, and this one makes me happy right now. How could it not? Driving synth, hot bass, and dark vocals...gorgeous!

Hot Chip - Bendable Poseable. There was really no way to pick a favorite off this album...every singe one was a contender. This one edged out the others by rights of its completely ridiculously goofy refrain, absolute dancability, and shorter time stamp.

Lissi Dance floor Disaster - I'm gonna keep on riding my bike. What could improve on massive dance floor beats, semi-political but still fun lyrics, and weird sound effects? Only one thing: free download! This Uppsala band kicked my ass with their 'Counterpoint' EP, and this song got picked just because it's in my head today. The whole damn thing is awesome.

Zoot Woman - Live in My Head. Another random find from somewhere on the internets, this track wound its way into my brain, and hasn't left. It's pretty, with some strange twists and flourishes I just really like.

Miss Kitten - Barefoot Tonight. Picking a favorite off BatBox was tough, as the album is all pretty hot. Yeah, it's probably better suited to glowering from a posh bar stool than really dancing, but still, Mme. Herve makes her point, and makes me want to be sure I'm on her side.

Cof Cof - Forbidden Cocktail. We all know I love a good party anthem, and this duo of Spanish goofballs' 2008 "Who Said Party?" is full of them. This one just happens to be my favorite, with its random sound effects and so what if I will, in David's words, "drink anything." Admittedly, I drank whatever god-awful fruit-laden concoction it was he poured me that night.

Los Campesinos! - Death To Los Campesinos!
They're Welsh, and all the members adopted a made-up name, which is a good start to any endeavor. And anyhow, two albums in one year is impressive for anyone...this track just happens to be one of my favorites and fit in my time constraint.

James Pants - We're Through. I have no idea who this guy is, but this track's slightly hilarious lyrics and slick groove have been a fixture on my playlists this year. Sr. Pantalones, I expect we're not finished just yet.

Frankmusik - Done Done. This gorgeous confection is, well, gorgeous. It's a bit sad, but not downbeat at all, and is, I think, perfect for a cold night by the fire, curled up with a drink and a coy smile.

Other Contenders (besides alternate tracks from albums already represented):

The Teenagers - Homecoming
Mrandmsmays - B-'05
The Ting Tings - That's Not My Name
Fredrik - 1986
Hello Saferide - Anna
Eleanoora Rosenholm - Tammen Varjossa
Computer Club - Load Rocket

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

RNA Sugar Found on Exoplanet 

It's cool that scientists have found this molecule *out there.* However, it just serves to yet again emphasize what I view as the biggest stupidity in our 'search' for extraterrestrial life: that it has to look exactly like terrestrial life (in this case molecularly, if not outwardly). RNA is necessary for life here (and life that works how we work, however little we understand that at all), but why shouldn't life elsewhere have some other chemical unit of replication? It is, in my view, no different than the deists who say that life on Earth must be unique because G-d said so.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fuel for the Fire 

I'm a bad blogger, this I know. But without coffee, I'd be probably even worse. Unless of course said lack also led to unemployment (it might), in which case I'd have time to blog again.

So, coffee fuels my brain - why not also my car? Researchers at the University of Nevada have found that they can extract 100 percent of the oil from spent coffee grounds and turn it into biodiesel. The resulting fuel even smells like coffee, they say, and the remainders are compost. With a home extractor, I would never have to see a gas station again!

A more intensive way to ween ourselves off the grid may be to follow JR East's example: the Tokyo metro company has installed piezoelectric floors to capture the energy of passengers walking by to power ticket consoles and gates. I could install some of these in my upstairs neighbor's bedroom and never pay Georgia Power again!

Speaking of sluts...French researchers have found that women in their peak fertility periods are more likely to give their phone numbers to guys spouting cheesy lines. Yet another reason I'm glad I don't have to deal with this aspect of women!

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