Sunday, June 21, 2009

My list for the Hottest 100 of All Time

After copious coffee, hang-wringing and pulling out what little hair I have left, I've finalised my submission to Triple J's Hottest 100 of All Time. The songs below are not my ten favourite songs of all time, because I literally cannot compile such a list; instead, I used some self-imposed rules in order to arrive at a list that strikes a balance between obscurity and populism, isn't skewed towards any particular genre or aesthetic and represents my personal taste while being universal enough to have an impact on the poll. Inevitably, some biases had to prevail; it's the White Boys club, and mostly rockers at that, and Kenny Rogers is conspicuously absent. But then that's why it isn't called Triple J's Encyclopedia of Music.

Rulez:

* Each decade from the 1960s onwards must be represented by at least one song.
* No artist may appear more than once on the list.
* Miley Cyrus and Hannah Montana don't count as two separate artists.
* I may include two dark horse candidates. These songs can be as obscure as I damn well want, but must appear on official studio albums that are currently commercially available.
* It puts the lotion on its skin.

Songz:

Bob Dylan - Mr. Tambourine Man from Bringing It All Back Home (1965)

The Velvet Underground - Venus in Furs from The
Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)

Black Sabbath - War Pigs from Paranoid (1970)

Television - Marquee Moon from Marquee Moon (1977)

The Clash - London Calling from London Calling (1979)

Neil Young - Rockin' in the Free World from Freedom (1989)

REM - Drive from Automatic for the People (1992)

Weezer - Say It Ain't So from Weezer (Blue) (1994)

Radiohead - Paranoid Android from OK Computer (1997)

Smog - Let Me See the Colts from A River Ain't Too Much to Love (2005)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Nathan Oliver - Cloud Animals

Nathan Oliver's self-titled release of 2007 was one of the year's most telling debut releases. Part pop classicist and part folkie, Oliver and his collaborators demonstrated a remarkably assured sense of arrangement over a 10 song set of restrained pop in the Jeff Mangum/Elliott Smith vein.

Their arrangement skills have only improved on Cloud Animals. Oliver downstrums Sebadoh style on the first two tracks "Icicles for Fingers" and "Under Lock and Key" while the rhythm section adopts a Tennessee Two gallop, both songs indicating what you're in for; to borrow a metaphor from Oliver's day job (which he must be sick of people doing by now), a balance of intrusive drilling and pleasant, numbing novocaine. Oliver's rock side surfaces a bit more here; "Icicles for Fingers" and "Red Panda" are full-blooded rockers, while even the sugar rush of "Playground Lies" is visited by some fucked up guitar that reminds you that its lyrics aren't really all that sweet. Conversely, "Red Panda" is tempered by a repeated organ interlude that temporarily transports it from its contemporary space into quaint, Shocking Blue territory.

There are missteps here and there. "A Dark History" is a strange marriage of unrealised love and accidental death. Oliver evoked a similar mood on his debut with his brilliant cover of Ace of Bases's "All That She Wants", but here it doesn't ring true. "How Small We Have Become" is based on a demo from Oliver's pre-debut days, and is a bit thin musically.

Missteps aside, Cloud Animals is an excellent release by a songwriter with a surprising early mastery of his craft.

Nathan Oliver performing State Lines Part 3 in his native North Carolina:


Cloud Animals

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Alela Diane - To Be Still

Alela Diane knows her limits and knows how to expand them. Her songwriting hasn't changed at a basic level, but knowing a third album of stripped down folk music just wouldn't cut it, she's hired some musical muscle to deliver some more elaborate arrangements. She now has the voice to carry such tunes, too; perhaps last year's Headless Heroes covers project forced her to approach her vocals in different ways, but in any case, a song such as "White As Diamonds" just wouldn't have worked two years ago.

Here's Alela in the "White As Diamonds" video. Purdy, ain't she?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Lonely Island - I'm On a Boat/Jizz In My Pants

Jerry Portwood of the New York press derided "Jizz In My Pants" while praising the work of "Weird Al" Yankovic, but he's missing the point. Yankovic is hardly the contemporary satirist Portwood would have you believe he is; more often than not, he either uses the song he's supposedly parodying to parody something else entirely (I love "Fat" as much as the next guy, but I must have missed Michael Jackson's obese period) or as a launching pad into the kind of absudist humour that he does better in originals such as "You Make Me" ("I Got the Wrong Foot Amputated", for example, is his "parody" of The Offspring's "Come Out and Play", having been told by the band that "Laundry Day" simply didn't cut it).

The Lonely Island's parodies, however, are focused and alarmingly accurate. "I'm On a Boat" is a hip hop tune that is inextricably tied to its accompanying video, set on that most hackneyed of locations. Throughout the song's entire length, two thirds of the group assure us boastfully that they are, in fact, on a boat, whilst simultaneously lampooning present day rappers' reliance on autotune by having guest T-Pain sing backing vocals so drenched in the effect as to make Kanye West's latest album sound like a Leadbelly a capella tune.

"Jizz in My Pants" targets metrosexual Eurotrash and renders them inert by removing their sexual prowess and leaving them as nothing but Zoolanderesque caricatures. By the end of the song, these guys can't even feel a cool breeze - or finish a lyric - without spontaneously ejaculating.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

an oldie, but a goodie

The effervescent and highly personable Bjork extends a friendly greeting to a Thai reporter.

Sex, War & Robots