\ Hip Displeasure: December 2006

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An independent music and pop culture commentary collective.


Sunday, December 31, 2006

Hip-D Top 20 of 2006 » #1 » Belle and Sebastian - "The Life Pursuit"

For years I had purposely avoided Belle & Sebastian as if every last ounce of my testosterone depended on it, scared away by the two terms most commonly used when describing their music: twee and fey. But once I finally heard them, the first time I listened to The Life Pursuit, I was pleased to find their music had enough elements of funk, glam and pub rock to keep my testicles from detaching themselves from my person in search of a manlier owner.

The back-to-back punch of "White Collar Boy" and "The Blues Are Still Blue" are fantastic enough to put on endless loop for hours on end. And there are also several other superb standout tracks, including the irresistably catchy "Sukie in the Graveyard" and the retro-sounding "Funny Little Frog." From start to finish, there's so much to like here it's actually compelled this former hater to start obtaining their back catalog.

-- FT

FT's Favorite Track: "The Blues Are Still Blue"

This album appeared on the following staffers's lists:

  • jasmine (#3)
  • Darrin Frew (#6)
  • FT (#6)
  • Patrick (#6)
  • Yail Bloor (#10)

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Hip-D Top 20 of 2006 » #2 » M. Ward - "Post-War"

M. Ward makes records that sound like he just wandered in off the street with a few friends and hit the record button, but what would feel lazy and unfocused in less confident hands comes off like a tutorial in old-school songwriting. With that said, Post-War is a record full of textures, with M. Ward's grainy and brushed voice cooing, rasping with a clipped echo lending it a nostalgic lightness of touch. Covering themes of madness, doubt, loss and remembering it could be a glum navel-gazing fest, in Ward's hands there's always a sense of optimism in the country-blues flow of chords and the pull and push of organic instrumentation.

I think the album passes almost more quickly than I'd like, but lends itself so well to a repeat or two. Post-War feels familiar and terribly personal, but refreshing and entirely, wonderfully new. On a negative note, there's a bit of Starbucks gloss to this record, a too-easy-to-like quality that may at first put off serious listeners and music heads. That evaporates pretty quickly, though, as you recognize that its lucid simplicity, its artful artlessness is not a trick, but an achievement. M. Ward's Post-War is, easily, my favorite record of the year.

-- Chris

Chris's Favorite Track: "Poison Cup"

This album appeared on the following staffers's lists:

  • Chris (#1)
  • Darrin Frew (#1)
  • stacey (#4)
  • Yail Bloor (#9)
  • Patrick (#18)

Friday, December 29, 2006

Hip-D Top 20 of 2006 » #3 » Drive-By Truckers - "A Blessing and a Curse"

This album is my #5 of the year, based solely on The Truckers' name only. I have been kicking around some riff about The Truckers being "My New OutKast," because they have grown up with me with each release. And, like TEH 'KAST, they have lost me a little on this one. This album is almost Adult Contemporary. I like all the songs, but none of them have the "immediacy'"of all the releases since SRO. And the themes are blunted by the Fleetwood Mac-esque production. I have not seen any of these songs live, so I may be off, but a lot of them sound like filler, or mid-tempo songs that could be a good break between the hard rockin and the slow burners.

If that Isbell song about his friend The Marine were on here, I could justify my ranking of this, but as of now I almost can't, I love several songs ("Gravity's Gone," "Easy on Yourself," "February 14th," "World of Hurt") but where's TEH RAWK?!!? I know this is a strange review for an album rated so high by me and the collective, but after running through it 3-4 times driving around Texas, it's my honest opinion.

-- Loog

Loog's Favorite Track: "Gravity's Gone"

This album appeared on the following staffers's lists:

  • Yail Bloor (#1)
  • Loog (#5)
  • Elvis Fu (#8)
  • stacey (#11)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Hip-D Top 20 of 2006 » #4 » The Strokes - "First Impressions of Earth"

Say what you will about The Strokes, and some Sufjan who breaks out in a rash at the mere mention of straight-ahead rock and roll will tell you that they haven't put out anything worth listening to since 2001's Is This It. The thing is, The Strokes don't have a very intricate formula for making music. Just add two parts rock-solid rhythm section to a dose of half-jangly and half-driving rock guitar, then submerge in a tub of "Too Cool for School."

First Impressions of Earth is another damn good rock record from the boys from NYC. The band seems to have taken the critical beatdown from 2003's Room on Fire, the best Strokes release to date, to heart. With glossier production than the previous efforts, the band shows that while they may act too cool to care, they aren't short on talent and want you to know it. Even lead singer Julian Casablancas has pulled the turtleneck off his mouth and reaches to newer plateaus with his voice, including the oft-noted ode to Manilow in "Razorblade." First Impressions experiments with mood swings and more tempo changes than Room on Fire, but don't be mistaken. It's a Strokes record. A little long, but still a Strokes record.

-- Elvis Fu

Elvis Fu's Favorite Track: "Ize of the World"

This album appeared on the following staffers's lists:

  • Loog (#2)
  • Yail Bloor (#4)
  • Elvis Fu (#7)
  • Darrin Frew (#18)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Hip-D Top 20 of 2006 » #5 » The Long Winters - "Putting the Days to Bed"

So, we all know that The Long Winters are a turgid (thanks, Dad) band fronted by a total prick (thanks, Jasmine). But man, are they intricate. On Putting the Days to Bed, the third full-length from the ever-changing Seattle quartet, John Roderick and Co. return with their quizzical brand of indie rock and one-liners, bathed in a sea of cacaphonous...nay, orchestral string accompaniments...

Oh, never mind. It's guitar, drums, bass and the occasional keyboard. The riffs are short and sweet ("Rich Wife" has maybe the best 12-note guitar part I heard all year) and the lyrics are occasionally perplexing and always amusing. There's nothing even close to monotonous on this disc and they've thrown in enough minor key changes and just the tiniest amount of dissonance in the melody to keep from lulling you to sleep with music that, without the subtle quirks, could easily be perceived as boring or "same as all the rest."

"Teaspoon", the third track on the album, has just the right blend of warm-up, with the soundcheck-style intro that explodes into a mess of horns and high hat at the chorus. You'll find that most of the LW tracks are like that, just a bit off, without being outright weird. You can sing to them, dance to them, even play them at parties. Much like Fountains Of Wayne, they probably are a little more cerebral than they appear, but with songs like "Ultimatum" and the aforementioned "Rich Wife", they dont have to impress us with their intellect. This is easily some of the most fun I've had listening to a record in a while.

-- Patrick

Patrick's Favorite Track: "Teaspoon"

This album appeared on the following staffers's lists:

  • jasmine (#2)
  • FT (#3)
  • Patrick (#12)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Hip-D Top 20 of 2006 » #6 » Lucero - "Rebels, Rogues and Sworn Brothers"

The following is an excerpt republished from Elvis Fu's 7/26/2006 review (because Loog one a them DUMB and missed DAT DEADLINE):

Throw Steve Earle in a blender with Bruce Springsteen, The Band, The Replacements and Social Distortion. Add some whiskey and puree.

Some people felt let down by 2005's Nobody's Darlings, especially as a follow up to That Much Further West. In the band documentary Dreaming in America, songwriter/lead vocalist Ben Nichols explains that he was ready to make a real Rock and Roll record, a departure from the more sprawling, country flavored albums that that preceded Nobody's Darlings.

Rebels, Rogues and Sworn Brothers is a leap further away from Uncle Tupelo-style introspective ruminating in favor of shameless ambition, which has already been compared to early Bruce Springsteen.

Nichols is out to prove himself with this record. Moreso than the prior releases, this album is driven by balls out ego and the results are fantastic. This is a Rock Record, first and foremost. It's driving, it's loud, it's messy in places, and it's a damn fun ride, even though you can picture yourself losing a limb or an eye in spots.

The lead track is "What Else Would You Have Me Be", a heartfelt plea of hard living lovers, half of which have appear to have taken on a less eventful lifestyle. "I'd take you out at night," begs Nichols, "buy you cigarettes and whiskey drinks / always ended up in some fight, isn't that how good love is supposed to be / you used to love me, drunk and running wild in the streets / how else would you have me be". Adding piano as it frantically climaxes, it tapers back down before leaping into the quickly paced, "I Don't Wanna Be the One", adding "I don't wanna be the one who wants you so damn much / I don't wanna be the one, who's running out of luck".

After the pretty straightforward Lucero number, "San Francisco", the doors are blown off with "I Can Get Us Out of Here Tonight", a Born to Run-style anthem that does just damn fine without Big Man cranking out a sax solo. One of the finest pure rock songs I've heard in a long time, period.

You can catch your breath a bit with the next two tracks, but then "The Mountain" mixes a little twang, organ and big drums to pull a page out of the Drive By Truckers' playbook: "My daddy lost most everything / on horses, whiskey and weddin' rings". "The Mountain" also introduces a shift in sound for the record. It sounds modern, yet slightly dated, in the way that I expected the last Sleater-Kinney to sound after reading all the reviews proclaiming a big 1970s rock sound. I didn't buy it with Sleater-Kinney, but this is very real. "The Mountain" has a break with a soaring guitar/organ break that would make Robbie Robertson & Garth Hudson proud.

Next up is "Sing Me No Hymns", the king hell monster that's a stubborn wall shaker with huge guitars that immediately make me think of Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla", albeit a Godzilla frustrated by failure, half cranked on plastic jug whiskey swatting away the good samaritans with "of all the things that I feel that need be done / to pay back what I owe, for all the blood and lost ones / till I feel the proper time has come, leave me be and let me drink / I need no more of your good intentions."

"She's Just That Kind of Girl" adds the organ to a Replacements-style rocker before Nichols settles the album to a close with "On the Way Back Home" and "She Wakes When She Dreams".

Though he gets overly raspy in places, even to the point of sounding like Shane MacGowan in spots, Ben Nichols continues to grow as a songwriter, and he seems to be composing with more confidence and expectations than before. If only parents would stop pussying up our children with shit like Death Cab for Cutie, we could make Lucero some obscene amounts of money in exchange for their hard work.

-- Elvis Fu

Elvis Fu's Favorite Track: "Sing Me No Hymns"

This album appeared on the following staffers's lists:

  • Elvis Fu (#1)
  • Loog (#3)
  • Yail Bloor (#14)

Monday, December 25, 2006

Hip-D Top 20 of 2006 » #7 » Mogwai - "Mr. Beast"

Mogwai have been undergoing something of a creative resurgence in recent years after several disappointing follow-ups to that post-rock touchstone of their own creation, Young Team. But while it may have been something of an albatross around their necks initially, several devastating EPs, one of the top albums of 2004 (Happy Music For Happy People) and a mind-blowing collection of live Peel sessions issued last year, have since proved that Mogwai have much more to offer than a cracking debut. Mr Beast, this year’s release, continued that heartening trend, if in a noticeably subtler manner.

Not that you'd know from listening to "Glasgow Mega Snake," as it crushes the listener beneath heavy coils before finally polishing them off with terrifying bursts of power from its reptilian muscle; it was the musical equivalent of a life or death struggle with a boa constrictor. And "We're No Here," as well as showcasing the best of Scottish grammar, was genuinely apocalyptic, a portent of the final five minutes of sound on Earth as fire and feedback rains from the sky.

But while these typically Mogwai-esque noise bombs book ended the album, most of the content was far less cochlea threatening. "Travel is Dangerous" owed more than a little to the distinctly not scary (and criminally underrated) Zephyrs, albeit a Zephyrs "volume-ated." "Team Handed" sounded like easy listening for people with nicotine stained artex ceilings, burn holes in the carpet and several serious assaults on their record -- essentially chill out music for exhausted Begbies. "I Chose Horses" was a gentle thank you to the Japanese post-rock contingent they have most influenced, and "Acid Food" actually sounded, well, nice.

For Mr Beast, Mogwai have taken their quiet/loud template and halved it down the middle for intelligent effect.

-- Darrin Frew

Darrin Frew's Favorite Track: "We're No Here"

This album appeared on the following staffers's lists:

  • stacey (#2)
  • jasmine (#5)
  • Darrin Frew (#12)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Hip-D Top 20 of 2006 » #8 » Josh Ritter - "The Animal Years"

I admit it, I am a folkie whore. Even worse than that, I am a male singer/songwriter whore. Yes, if there's a penis and guitar involved, I will most likely dig it. Furthermore, if I'm at a show featuring a penis and guitar, I will most likely rush the stage and dry hump them. It's an endearing quirk of mine. So, when I heard Josh Ritter was putting out a new disc in 2006, I knew I would buy it without hearing a single note. I also knew I would once again become a sucker. See, while I've always liked Josh Ritter, he has previously been rather standard guy and guitar material for me. I ate it up while it was playing, but often forgot it was there if it wasn't in front of me begging for my panties.

With The Animal Years, Josh Ritter has risen from the (very full) grave of listened-to-once singer/songwriters my CD collection houses, to beyond the pearly gates where my most beloved penises and guitars happily frolic every tear-stained day. Lyrically, Ritter has become much more of a storyteller. Statements are made, but in the same, unassuming, simple voice Ritter fans are used to. Each song has subtle undertones of musical growth and arrangements, broadening his folk/Americana background, but never abandoning it; something not heard in his previous discs. Even the nearly ten-minute song "Thin Blue Flame," which builds and falls and builds, is beautifully understated. It is his centerpiece, yet doesn't feel as though it's 9+ minutes at all. If this is the beginning of a new, more ambitious Josh Ritter, he may just become King of the Penises and Guitars.

-- stacey

stacey's Favorite Track: "Girl in the War"

This album appeared on the following staffers's lists:

  • stacey (#1)
  • Patrick (#1)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Hip-D Top 20 of 2006 » #9 » Destroyer - "Rubies"

With his latest album, Destroyer's Rubies, Canada's most musically prolific Spanish expatriate delivered what very well may go down as his masterwork. Fortified by his uniquely identifiable lyrical architecture, which somehow manages to be simultaneously cryptic and accessible, Dan Bejar also delivers the musical wallop that was missing from his previous release as Destroyer, the jarringly synthetic Your Blues.

Equal parts literate and decadent, Rubies rides a maelstrom of piano and guitar across ten standout tracks, including the strongest trifecta of songs on a single album in recent memory: "Your Blood," with its jaunty singalong chorus; "European Oils," which also seemingly begs the listener to raise a stein and join the refrain; and "Painter in Your Pocket," which is propelled by some of the most hypnotically primal drumming since Van Halen's "Everybody Wants Some." This fantastic sonic journey continues all the way through the album closer, "Sick Priest Learns to Last Forever," which gives the listener an idea of what it might have sounded like if Bob Dylan joined The Rolling Stones back in the '70s before becoming "born again."

Miles better than anything he's previously done over a career already containing several noteworthy high points, Destroyer's Rubies truly is a treasure chest full of Dan Bejar's most valuable musical gems.

-- FT

FT's Favorite Track: "Sick Priest Learns to Last Forever"

This album appeared on the following staffers's lists:

  • FT (#1)
  • Patrick (#2)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Hip-D Top 20 of 2006 » #10 » Calexico - "Garden Ruin"

Garden Ruin opens with "Cruel," a mid-tempo country rock number that sails along like a warm spring drive where maybe you've got a little something clouding your brain and your mind is starting to drift, right up until the 2:21 mark when "BAM" the mariachi horns kick in, and all of a sudden you press the accelerator a little harder, crank the volume a little louder, and move your seat up so you dont lose your concentration. It's like a call to worship at the church of Calexico, where style often battles substance, atmospherics often battle hooks, and frustratingly so, fragments and instrumentals often battle actual songs.

But less so, this time out.

The beauty of Garden Ruin is that Calexico seems dedicated this time out to making an entire album of pop-y songs that retain their trademark Southwest-flavored sound, yet avoid some of the more indulgent pitfalls that caused earlier records to meander and feel less than cohesive. The result is a brilliant collection of songs -- distinct, refreshing and (as always) well played -- from one of America's great musical treasures.

-- Yail Bloor

Yail Bloor's Favorite Track: "Bisbee Blue"

This album appeared on the following staffers's lists:

  • Yail Bloor (#3)
  • jasmine (#7)
  • Elvis Fu (#18)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Hip-D Top 20 of 2006 » #11 » Built To Spill - "You In Reverse"

Any year that releases a Built To Spill album is a good year. A band that shapes such wonderful, sometimes indescribable, auras of sonic goodness is few and far between. Doug Martsch’s brilliant guitar work and unique voice create a distinct sound that is unmistakably Indie Rock ™. That being said, though, the band really has covered a lot of ground over the years: fast-paced fuzz pop, prog-ish endurance-testing jams, mellow ballads, and everything in between. However, these sounds tended to come at us one album at a time. You In Reverse has changed that.

“Goin’ Against Your Mind” avalanches right out of the gate, while “Traces” shifts gears back to softer pace. “Conventional Wisdom” is an epic jam, and “Mess With Time” awakens your insides electro-shock style. I don’t want to say that Built To Spill has taken everything that was good about their old albums and rolled them into one – that would be just too good – my head would implode or something. This is something else. This is a veteran band proving that they still got it, while at the same time, showing you that it was never something singular – a man and his guitar can make you see all the sides of sound, You In Reverse is the passport to that exhibition.

-- Mark H.

Mark H.'s Favorite Track: "Goin' Against Your Mind"

This album appeared on the following staffers's lists:

  • Yail Bloor (#2)
  • stacey (#10)
  • Mark H. (#17)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Hip D Podblast » The BlooGAR Show » Vol. 7

Fresh off his recent wedding and just in time for the holidays, the Senator popped into the Redlands studios for a brand new show. Musical selections:

Young Jeezy - "I Luv It"
Cold War Kids - "We Used To Vacation"
Girl Talk - "Too Deep"
Babyshambles - "Fuck Forever"
Warren Zevon - "Dirty Life And Times"

We'll try and squeeze one more out before 2007; in the meantime we hope everybody has a happy and safe Christmas or whatever.

Hip-D Top 20 of 2006 » #12 » Dirty on Purpose - "Hallelujah Sirens"

So, I'm pretty sure this album is going to bore me or haunt me, and either way I wont be pleased. I wasn't crazy about this NYC quartet's first EP, Sleep Late For A Better Tomorrow, but I thought I'd at least give this one a try.

What a good choice that was.

Hallelujah Sirens is by no means groundbreaking or inventive. In fact, it downright plagiarizes Yo La Tengo, Of Montreal and Smashing Pumpkins, to name a few. This album seems as much a tribute to the Shoegazers of yore as something new. But, it is fresh. Guitars jangle, but they aren't in your face. Harmonies resonate, but often just out of tune. "No Radio" opens the disc, and it provides an upbeat narrative, complete with horns. "The sun came up, and we left home," sings one of the vocalists (all share lead vocal duties) and you just feel the song build on itself, as layer after layer is added. "Lake Effect" hushes the vocals nearly to a painful whisper, practically, but hits home. "Better to go far away. Better to back up your threats than stay. Better to go while the goin's OK."

The best song on the disc (definition: my favorite) is actually the one that sounds the least like the rest of them. "Marfa Lights" spends about a minute as a nice piano piece with some tinkling chimes and whatnot, before breaking into a Mountain Goats-meets-Ride explosion (relatively so) of fuzzy guitar and machine-gun drums. These guys (and the occasional girl) pride themselves on their collaborative craftsmanship and DIY production, and that effort really comes through. If you like songs that are meticulously produced to sound as though they were thrown together, this album is for you.

An interview in The Deli described the album better than I could: "Dirty on Purpose build songs, yes, but first they build moments. Nearly every track on Hallelujah Sirens has some kind of clarifying moment where all the pieces snap into place and the song elevates to a place beyond. Some of them lasting only a few seconds, these moments are what come to define the album."

This is a good start to what I hope is a long career.

-- Patrick

Patrick's Favorite Track: "Marfa Lights"

This album appeared on the following staffers's lists:

  • stacey (#3)
  • Patrick (#5)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Hip-D Top 20 of 2006 » #13 » Jarvis Cocker - "Jarvis"

Even though Jarvis Cocker hasn't shut the door on a Pulp reunion, Jarvis certainly seems to be his way of separating himself from the band that he fronted for nearly 25 years. From the arrow pointing to him looking back at something on the album's cover, to the plentiful orchestral arrangements, there are several signs that this isn't meant to be We Love Life's successor. (Although, its sound is quite reminiscent of We Love Life.) Now, that isn't to say Jarvis is suddenly anything less than a great songwriter. It's just that he's writing a different type of song.

On the first real track (not counting the 30-second piano bookends), "Don't Let Him Waste Your Time" (originally written for Nancy Sinatra), Jarvis sings of a girl looking for love perhaps with the wrong man. In a Pulp song, this might come off as being sung scornfully by a former lover. On Jarvis, it's completely objective. Instead of essentially saying "You could've been happy with me," the message is to be happy with yourself. It's maturation for Jarvis Cocker. Even the music is rather sedate. The sparse yet stately soundscapes fill the space once occupied by heavy hooks. Only "Fat Children" really rocks out.

As a husband and father, he's no longer writing about touching girls in closets or watching them undress through windows. Themes of domestication ("Keep your family safe from harm / Get into classical music / Raise rabbits on a farm / Log on in the nighttime / Drink a half-bottle of wine") and happiness ("Outside there’s children laughing / The radio plays my favourite song / The sun is shining") make rare sincere appearances in Cocker-penned tunes, along with the usual clever jabs at society ("I had a little altercation... They wanted my brand new phone with all the pictures of the kids and the wife"). Thankfully, though, he still knows how to write dirty. Whether it's starting a song named "Disney Time" with an observation about pornography's etymology or describing the creepy men who lust after the title character on "Big Julie," Jarvis returns to his roots sporadically throughout the album.

Are you growing up? Are you finding music doesn't resonate with you the same way it once did? It's OK. As long as you aren't growing old, Jarvis is here for you.

-- Z (special correspondent pinch-hitting for jasmine*)

*jasmine is on the DL, due to emergency dental surgery. All of us here at Hip-D wish her a speedy recovery from the aforementioned procedure to repair her British teeth.

Z's Favorite Track: "Tonite"

This album appeared on the following staffers's lists:

  • jasmine (#4)
  • Darrin Frew (#4)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Hip-D Top 20 of 2006 » #14 » The Format - "Dog Problems"

“The guy from The Decemberists wishes he could be the guy from The Format,” is the note I wrote myself on my desk calendar when I started to think about how to review Dog Problems, the wonderfully engaging album from this Phoenix, Arizona band. What does that mean? I guess it means that both bands seem to try and roll a lot of different stylistic things into their music, both often feeling a little on the carnival-esque side, even -– the main difference for me, though (and the certain reason for the envy), is that Nate Reuss can actually sing and sing pretty damn well.

Most people seem to immediately cite Queen as a singular influence on Dog Problems, and while they do emulate the layered vocal harmonies, weird tempo shifts, incredibly tight playing and sparkling production, Reuss also brings a softer, personal touch to his songs (largely about a breakup) that keep them from being either robotic or schmaltzy, even as the music is going off into schizophrenic territory. And they bring the rock. And the weird keyboard hooks.

-- Yail Bloor

Yail Bloor's Favorite Track: "Time Bomb"

This album appeared on the following staffers's lists:

  • Patrick (#4)
  • Loog (#11)
  • Yail Bloor (#16)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Hip-D Top 20 of 2006 » #15 » Frank Black - "Fast Man Raider Man"

I wasn't really into the hip indie scene back when The Pixies ruled collegiate airwaves, so I've definitely been a Frankie-come-lately regarding the erstwhile Charles Michael Kittredge IV. But it's absolutely been a case of better late than never, as many of the former Black Francis's albums from the past several years (Black Letter Days, Show Me Your Tears) rank among my favorites from that timeframe. In fact, it wasn't until hearing last year's Honeycomb, his greatly-anticipated collaboration with some of the most legendary session players of all time, that I was finally left feeling less than enthusiastic about one of his albums.

Well, not only did he come right back this year with many of those very same musicians, but he went a step further and released a DOUBLE album. Needless to say, I was more than a little concerned I was going to have to choke down a flat double dose of Honeycomb II, but I was thrilled to learn that Fast Man Raider Man possesses all of the crackling spontaniety the by-numbers Honeycomb was so sorely lacking. As for the length, even though I've had friends tell me they'd like this much better if it were distilled down to a single album, I actually truly enjoy every last track throughout. Songs like "Johnny Barleycorn," "In the Time of My Ruin," "Kiss My Ring," "Elijah" and "It's Just Not Your Moment" are among the finest he's ever done. And in the Frank Black solo canon, including albums recorded with The Catholics, Fast Man Raider Man ranks right up among his very best. This is certainly NOT the time of Frank Black's ruin.

-- FT

FT's Favorite Track: "Kiss My Ring"

This album appeared on the following staffers's lists:

  • FT (#4)
  • Yail Bloor (#6)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Hip-D Top 20 of 2006 » #16 » Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins - "Rabbit Fur Coat"

With the release of Rabbit Fur Coat, Rilo Kiley vocalist Jenny Lewis issued an often highly personal solo debut, which tackled her confused and frequently conflicted views on, among other things, religion and parenthood.

Opening acapella "Run Devil Run" segues nicely into "The Big Guns," perhaps the most immediately ear-catching track on the album, and one which would sit happily on a Neko Case LP. "Rise Up With Fists!!" exudes more of a languid swagger than one might expect from its angry sounding title, before the hushed ballad "Happy," that, while hardly spectacular, drifts by with a delicate charm. "The Charging Sky" is a loping country tune full of befuddled religious indecision, while washed-out glissandos of synth add an ephemeral, floaty air to "Melt Your Heart."

The title track, composed simply of a plucked acoustic guitar and vocals, tells the slightly surreal, yet poignant, tale of an estranged mother, one of a number of mentions of the artist's parents. A strong last quarter of the album includes "It Wasn’t Me," a soft, twinkling ballad, simultaneously wearied and uplifting, which perhaps produces some sort of conclusion to Lewis’ thematic, album-wide dilemma (“I’ve gone and quit my worshipping of the false Gods and golden sins.”) and a distant sounding reprise of "Happy."

Released only a few weeks into 2006, Rabbit Fur Coat set the bar high for those following her.

-- Darrin Frew

Darrin Frew's Favorite Track: "The Big Guns"

This album appeared on the following staffers's lists:

  • Darrin Frew (#8)
  • Patrick (#9)
  • stacey (#15)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Hip-D Top 20 of 2006 » #17 » T.I. - "King"

"Make us mad, get yer ass wiped out, Thailand!"

King, the fourth release from Atlanta drawlsmith T.I., kicks off with "King Back," a not-so-surprising boast track reasserting T.I.'s self-aggrandizing royal resume. What brings the album opener to the forefront is T.I.'s laid back vocal style, unaffected by the urgency of the smoothed-out '70s porn groove -— complete with horns and Justice League action sound effects. The driving force behind King is the swagger that the diminutive T.I. is more than comfortable delivering. "What You Know" brings it big, with fat synthesizers; "I'm Talking To You" is a bruising, shit-talking tirade escorted by blaring horns under a more frantic vocal style; and street anthems "Ride Wit Me," "Top Back" and "I'm Straight" (featuring BG and Young Jeezy) that are as much fun as the tracks from The Chronic we were playing entirely too loud back in high school. To shake up the tempo and encourage some ass-shakin, "Why You Wanna" lifts and repackages a cheeseball loop from Crystal Waters' minor 1991 hit about a homeless lady, "Gypsy Woman."

The main drawback to King is its length: 18 tracks over 75 minutes is a bit much. If would have been even better had T.I. cut a few of the slower duds, especially "Live in the Sky" featuring Jamie Foxx (*groan*), which is little more than the obligatory "Tha Crossroads" send-up about gettin' your coke=slingin' ass past St. Peter when you get got like Bodie Broadus. On the other hand, as prevalent and painfully unfunny skits have become on hip-hop albums, "The Breakup" with Mike Epps and Malieka is actually funny.

-- Elvis Fu

Elvis Fu's Favorite Track: "King Back"

This album appeared on the following staffers's lists:

  • Loog (#1)
  • elvis Fu (#10)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hip-D Top 20 of 2006 » #18 » Jerry Lee Lewis - "Last Man Standing"

First and foremost, let me get this out of the way: The fact that Elvis, Roy, Carl, and Johnny are dead, Lewis' nickname is "The Killer," and his latest release is entitled Last Man Standing is purely coincidence! Even more fascinating though, is that this new album features Jimmy Page, Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, and a whole slew of über-stars, and Lewis makes their contributions seem inconsequential. Ponder that for a moment. This album contains 13, (THIRTEEN!) other members of the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame, and Jerry Lee Lewis snuffs 'em all out as if they were Galactus to his Beyonder.

A handful of tunes are rockabilly standards (you can't keep a hit like "Sweet Little Sixteen" down), but the rest of the 21-song tracklist -- culled from the vaults of classic rock, country, boogie woogie, and blues -- are reinvented and reinvigorated through Lewis' pumpin' piano and miraculously tireless rock'n'roll howl. Songs that used to have a signature sound (Led Zep’s “Rock And Roll,” The Beatles’s “I Saw Her Standing There”) are given a fiery breath of fresh air. An unfortunate, but true, fact of the music world is that comeback albums rarely succeed. I'm pleased to present the "Exception to the Rule Award" for 2006.

-- Mark H.

Mark H.'s Favorite Track: "Rock and Roll (with Jimmy Page)"

This album appeared on the following staffers's lists:

  • Loog (#7)
  • Yail Bloor (#8)
  • Mark H. (#18)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hip-D Top 20 of 2006 » #19 » La Rocca - "The Truth"

I rarely trust the opinions of others when it comes to music. I doubt that most people have the awesome taste in music that I have. So, when some guys in a message board chat room were talking about La Rocca’s The Truth, I put off listening to it. “It’s probably guy music and it probably sucks,” is what played over and over in my head. Eventually, I gave in and downloaded the bastard. And you know what? It’s a fantastic straight ahead, no frills pop/rock album. Sometimes compared to Keane, no doubt because of their piano-driven songs, I hear sounds of The Rolling Stones, Jayhawks and Supergrass.

The Truth opens with “Sketches (20 Something Life).” The song starts off with a little bass, then a little drum, then the piano kicks in, and with a big old rock star, “YEAH!,” the song kicks into full gear. Before you know it, you’re balls deep in a perfect pop song. Plenty of other songs evoke the same excitement, such as “This Life” and “Eyes While Open.” On the other end of the spectrum are some great tunes which make you want to sit back with a few beers and some good friends. The title track sounds like their tribute to Mick Jagger, but also might be an apology from the singer for lying to his lady friends. And closing the album is “Capitol Pill,” a beautiful song which is quite reminiscent of Whiskeytown.

-- jasmine

jasmine's Favorite Track: "Sing Song Sung"

This album appeared on the following staffers's lists:

  • jasmine (#6)
  • Loog (#9)
  • Yail Bloor (#19)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hip-D Top 20 of 2006 » #20 » The Black Keys - "Magic Potion"

"Dirty", "crunchy", "gritty", "rock and roll!" [\m/]. The Black Keys have quickly become one of those bands I will buy a new release from sound unheard. When I listen to them, I get the urge to turn the lights off and dance in some sort of erratic manner...possibly in my underwear. They don't generally veer from their niche (groaning, sneering vocals, fuzzy guitars, menacing drums), but why would they when it all works so well?

On Magic Potion, The Black Keys keep on keepin' on, but even more smoothly than before. As my brother put it, "it's like the drums and the guitar are one instrument." There's everything from the occasional ballad ("You're the One") to the downright catchy ("Modern Times"), but it's all unmistakably simple and oh-so Black Keys. They may not be groundbreaking, but they know their strengths, work with what they have, and manage to entertain this scantily-clad bedroom dancer with each release.

-- stacey

stacey's Favorite Track: "Modern Times"

This album appeared on the following staffers's lists:

  • stacey (#8)
  • FT (#10)
  • Elvis Fu (#16)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

FT » Music » The 2006 Top 20 Is Coming!

Starting on Tuesday, December 12, we will unveil Hip-D's Top 20 Albums of 2006. To maximize suspense, we will post one album per day, beginning with #20 on 12/12 all the way up to #1 on New Year's Eve.

And as a bonus, each Hip-D staffer will spotlight their own personally highest-ranked album that did not make the Hip-D Top 20.
Giving everyone their own axe to grind is truly in the spirit of the Festivus season, don't you think? Frank Costanza would be proud of our "Airing of Grievances."

Here's the upcoming schedule of events:

Tuesday, December 12: #20
Wednesday, December 13: #19
Thursday, December 14: #18
Friday, December 15: #17
Saturday, December 16: #16
Sunday, December 17: #15
Monday, December 18: #14
Tuesday, December 19: #13
Wednesday, December 20: #12
Thursday, December 21: #11
Friday, December 22: #10
Saturday, December 23: #9
Sunday, December 24: #8
Monday, December 25: #7
Tuesday, December 26: #6
Wednesday, December 27: #5
Thursday, December 28: #4
Friday, December 29: #3
Saturday, December 30: #2
Sunday, December 31: #1
Monday, January 1: "Airing of Grievances"

Friday, December 08, 2006

Elvis Fu » Music » DownloadPunk.com

DownloadPunk.com is a new player on the legal music downloading scene, but the real highlight here is that the MP3 or WMA files you buy are free of DRM restrictions. From the FAQ: "By purchasing, you are authorized to use your files as you would buying a CD. Similarly, you are not authorized to duplicate and distribute the files to others." Sounds fair to me.

Now I'm well behind the curve, because I've never purchased a digital file from any online service thanks to DRM restrictions. Rites of Spring's self-titled may break my cherry, however. Pricing is par for the course. Single tracks are 79-99 cents, and full albums are $7.99-$9.99. They also plan on throwing out some specially priced comps in the future as well.

I don't listen to as much punk today as years past, so I feel pretty unqualified when trying to gauge the quality of the artist roster on DownloadPunk. The #1 Most Downloaded Artist is the Dead Kennedys, and it's obvious that Alternative Tentacles and Dischord are on board without even looking very hard. Some surprises in here, however. I'm not sure I would call The Wrens or Mark Kozelek punk, but it's nice to see that they have a wider range of offerings that it appears at first glance.

The interface is a bit clunky, but I do like that you can browse the Artists and Labels. Maybe if I actually buy something I'll report back on that process as well.