Category Archives: Lists

Favorite Albums of 2008

Stella Splice has read umpteen year-end lists via Largehearted Boy, and with only one offbeat exception they have all been found wanting. Big time. So it’s my turn to right the wrongs of the listing industry. Cheers.

2008 First Tier
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds ~ Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!
The Raconteurs ~ Consolers of the Lonely (SS)
King Khan and the Shrines ~ The Supreme Genius of… (SS)
Black Francis ~ Svn Fngrs (SS)
Erykah Badu ~ New Amerykah Part One
The Black Keys ~ Attack & Release (SS)
Howlin’ Rain ~ Magnificent Fiend
Fleet Foxes ~ Fleet Foxes (SS)
Al Green ~ Lay It Down (SS)
Trampled Under Foot ~ May I Be Excused (SS)

2008 Second Tier
Dr. Dog ~ Fate
The Heavy ~ Great Vengence and Furious Fire (SS)
TV on the Radio ~ Dear Science (SS)
Devotchka ~ A Mad and Faithful Telling (SS) (SS)
Bob Mould ~ District Line (SS)
Toadies ~ No Deliverance (SS)
The Breeders ~ Mountain Battles (SS)
Bodies of Water ~ A Certain Feeling
Wolf Parade ~ At Mount Zoomer (SS)
Okkervil River ~ The Stand Ins (SS)

2008 Third Tier
Bon Iver ~ For Emma, Forever Ago (SS)
My Morning Jacket ~ Evil Urges
Grand Ole Party ~ Humanimals (SS)
Tobacco ~ Singles
R.E.M. ~ Accelerate (SS)
No Age ~ Eraser (SS)
Dirt Bombs ~ We Have You Surrounded
The Dodos ~ Visitor
Mates of State ~ Re-Arrange Us
Beck ~ Modern Guilt (SS)
Kings of Leon ~ Only by the Night (SS)
Shearwater ~ Rook
The Hold Steady ~ Stay Positive
The Whigs ~ Mission Control

Bands overlooked by Stella Splice in late 2007
Yeasayer – All Hour Cymbals
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – 100 Days, 100 Nights
[See Stella Splice’s Best-of-2007 list here.]

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Wolf Parade

Stereogum magnanamously posted a downloadable track from Wolf Parade‘s long-awaited album (maybe called Kissing the Beehive) due out this June.

The song is Call it a Ritual, and it bodes well for the forthcoming disc. I have to ask, though, does it make anyone else hum Justin Timberlake‘s Cry Me A River (watch, and wait for the chorus to compare) for the rest of the day? The chords trigger me, and I’m not too happy about it because I don’t even know how I know what any JT song sounds like …

Wolf Parade’s 2005 Apologies to the Queen Mary (buy it right now!) blew my mind and was on constant loop all last summer. I’ll Believe in Anything (incongruous music video here, well-edited live video here) hammers on the tuning fork of my soul. Yeah, that intense. So I’m geared up for another Wolf Parade summer.

To fuel the fire, you can download previously unheard live Wolf Parade songs. These good-sound-quality mp3s from their concerts give us a decent picture of the new album’s awesomeness.

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Twenty Great Music Blogs: A Review

These 20 indie music blogs serve as the arbiters of taste for many, including Stella Splice. When I started looking for mp3s that would turn me on to new bands, I found Technorati, The Hype Machine, and even just a blogroll to be overwhelming. I wish I had discovered a catalog like this right off the bat to help guide me.

The blogs are not ranked because each serves a purpose, each in its own special way. I don’t review blogs I don’t read, so, as before, the disclaimer that such lists are necessarily, perpetually, horrendously incomplete applies. Make things right in the comments section!

A peremptory n.b., however: Soul Sides is an incredible blog. It doesn’t fit on this list, but damn.

HearYa is one of my favorite music blogs in part because of the tasty alt-country lean within its indie-ness. Its recommendations are spot-on, and you can’t ask for more than that. Their live sessions introduce me to bands I wish I’d always known about, and they are a true service to the artists and the music community. (Also, their logo is tremendously cool.)

Muzzle of Bees is a killer site. The writing is personable, and the music always rocks. It loyally serves its region with news, dates, and even show promotion. But I find it relevant to me no matter my state—physical or mental. There’s always an album or concert review that makes me perk up my ears, and the mp3s flesh everything out and send me running to the record store.

My Old Kentucky Blog offers cutting-edge recommends and writing that reminds you it’s a fellow music fan behind the keyboard. Let Dodge be one of your taste-makers. And don’t miss the fantastic MOKB studio sessions, which, again, are a service to us all, as are the great interviews.

Gorilla vs Bear is Dallas-based, and like some other lovely Dallas projects, the world is better for it. It’s always breaking new ground, but its choices are judicious. It balances shows, new finds, local, and national deftly because the blog’s genuinely just about good music.

Chromewaves is a great mix of check-this-out posts and LHB’s shorties, all in one. You’ll be reading about some new band, downloading a teaser track or two, opening a MySpace page and a YouTube clip, and then–bonus–there’s some cool news-ey links at the bottom of the post, rounding it off like buttercream icing. Each day, like a present in my rss feed, Toronto’s Chromewaves gives me a little bit of everything I want from a music blog.

Largehearted Boy is the great aggregater that doesn’t flood you with miscellany. Rather, he lets you chose from his lists and torrents and mp3s in big posts without a lot of extra flotsam and jetsam. You are the decider. LHB’s Shorties are an invaluable map for my travels of the interwebs.

i guess i’m floating is taking over for Stereogum in importance in my world. It gives me the news I want, without making me feel like I have to shovel through a mound of muck to get to the good stuff. It’s basic and necessary, like your best pair of old Chuck Taylors. Dig it.

You Ain’t No Picasso is the absolute ideal type for indie music blogs. Relevant mp3s, videos, and breaking news make it one of the indispensable cool kids. The posts are to-the-point, yet comprehensive. No rss feed should be without it.

Aquarium Drunkard sports a new site design that is gorgeous and blissfully readable. The writing is high-end and worth close attention. He’s not so indie geeked out that he won’t run a Steely Dan post when he wants to. The weekly podcast is cool, as is the fact that the blog has spun off a label.

Deaf Indie Elephants is a must-read. There are great mp3s to be had here, often rare or bootleg rips. This Venezuelan is always popping up with cool stuff. Not much prose on the blog, so it’s an easy grab-and-go site to frequent.

*Sixeyes offers eclectic posts and some nice mp3 downloads. But it’s the mixes that really keep me hooked: great songs from great bands. That’s why I got into this blog thing in the first place.

Stereogum. Oh, Stereogum. Love ya. But why do I feel after this latest upgrade that you’ve become (Pitchfork-like) passé: oh-so-useful but on your way out? Maybe its the discontent that bubbles up in the comments, by readers who are starting to feel disconnected from your noble yet bloated enterprise. Regardless, your importance is undeniable. The ‘Gum Drop is crucial, you’ve got complete coverage of the scene, your posts are full of both interesting and trivial detail, and enough bands come across your desk you can usually inform without enthusing.

Berkeley Place is a Brooklyn-based, but not Brooklyn-centric blog. The topics and the writing are defiantly independent. The covers unearthed here are priceless, often within the A-to-Z posts, which are a total romp.

Said the Gramophone doesn’t care if you don’t take the time to fall in love with their style, because they know it’s worth it once you do. Take the time if you’ve decided to geek hard on the indie music scene. This blog will lead you around by the hand to songs you never thought you’d chance to meet.

Brooklyn Vegan put up 24 posts on April 10, which is just too much. I don’t need to know everything, I just need to know what’s good. (Of course, to any criticism, BV would probably say this.) But I’m not a hater; I read and dig the site like everybody else. They do great original reporting. And if I lived in their neck of the woods, this site would be all I need for media input in the whole world. Wouldn’t that be lover-ley.

Culturespill: Some of the most luxurious writing in any audioblog. Period.

The World Forgot: Super solid, with major kudos for the Best of the Month posts.

The Modern Music: Crazed-fun writing and broader tastes than your average indie audioblogger.

Motel de Moka: Incredible daily themed mixes of a jaw-dropping array of downloadable mp3s.

Beat Lawrence: Someday this site will break wide open. Be ready.

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The Breeders

How do we love thee, Kim Deal! Let us count the bass lines. The Breeders‘ (Kim and Kelley’s) new album Mountain Battles comes out tomorrow. It’s the best sort of rocker girl jukebox music, and lord knows jukeboxes the world over could use a bit more of that. There are too many girlies and not enough Deals out there. Stream the whole album!

The new disc was produced by Steve Albini using no digital whatnot whatsoever (except on the title track, “which pains me so hard,” says Kim). Read about this recent manifestation of his “All Wave” push here: “This should not be construed as a call to arms, but could become at least as significant as the Ska revival or perhaps the WNBA,” and his 1993 treatise The Problem with Music here.

It’s been six years since the twin sisters’ last album, and can you believe Last Splash was 1993?! For old times’ sake … Check, check; ahh-oooooooo-ah, ahh-oooooooo-ah … watch them play Cannonball on The Jon Stewart Show back when they were touring with Nirvana on its tour for (Albini-produced) In Utero. That performance, that song, those voices … if I would have seen that I would have made some sweeping statement about these being rockers, not women doing rock music, which would necessarily relegate them to the margins … well, read what Kurt Cobain said about The Breeders (and The Pixies, for whom Kim was the bassist).

Back to the new disc. You can watch them screw around on a YouTube video while you listen to the very agreeable song Overglazed and the crystal-clear We’re Gonna Rise. Or download the mp3s of the infectious Bang On and Night of Joy.

Now buy the thing and go see ’em live.

Apr 25 – Coachella – Indio, CA
Apr 28 – Canes – San Diego, CA
Apr 29 – El Rey Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
Apr 30 – Slims – San Francisco, CA
May 2 – House of Blues – Las Vegas, NV
May 3 – Clubhouse – Tempe, AZ
May 5 – Emos – Austin, TX
May 6 – House of Blues – Dallas, TX
May 7 – Meridian – Houston, TX
May 9 – Bottleneck – Laurence, KS
May 10 – Pops – St. Louis, MO
May 23 – Richards – Vancouver, BC
May 24 – The Gorge – George, WA
May 25 – Berbattis Pan – Portland, OR
May 27 – The Depot – Salt Lake City, UT
May 28 – Ogden – Denver, CO
May 30 – First Avenue – Minneapolis, MN
May 31 – Metropolitan University – Chicago, IL
Jun 1 – Magic Stick – Detroit, MI
Jun 3 – House of Blues – Cleveland, OH
Jun 4 – Pearl Street – Northampton, MA
Jun 5 – Paradise – Boston, MA
Jun 7 – Toads Place – New Haven, CT
Jun 8 – Theatre of Living Arts – Philadelphia, PA
Jun 10 – Webster Hall – New York, NY
Jun 11 – 9:30 Club – Washington, DC
Jun 13 – The Loft – Atlanta, GA

I’m interested to hear what the set list is like, especially since Kelley said, “I’ve never felt excited about bands on tour. I never want to hear more than three new songs, just the old stuff. But this time, I’ve told Kim we should just start off with [1993 hit] ‘Cannonball’ and only play the new album from there.”

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Inappropriate Funeral Songs

Recently a friend told me a funny story about a death in the family. The laughter felt just a tiny bit wrong, but it was exactly right.

AV Club wrote an interesting but silly piece about the top 26 inappropriate songs to play at a funeral, called Don’t Taunt the Reaper. In the spirit of the funny funeral story, I have given this topic some amount of thought. But before we get to my nominees, here’s the best of theirs:

I love #2, Ween‘s Push Th’ Little Daisies. That infectious glue-sniffin’ song gets in your head so bad it makes you want to die. And Queen‘s Another One Bites the Dust is freakin’ classic, of course, as is the Blue Oyster Cult tune to which the article’s title refers. I’m also on board with I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight, if we’re attempting the truly tasteless. From the comments section, I like the option of Dress Sexy at My Funeral by Smog.

AV Club also listed a Pixies song, Cactus, and an Eels song, Last Stop: This Town, but I decree they’re the wrong songs from those bands.

My top choice is the Eels‘ It’s a Motherfucker (Being Here Without You). The rest of the lyrics aren’t particularly compelling, but that line and the sound of the song (listen to part of it here) make perfect wake music. Maybe too perfect for the AV Club’s list of inappropriate songs, actually. [To be filed under random awesome quote, E says, “I’m not trying to fuck anyone’s mother here. Let’s just establish that right now.”]

I also nominate Nerf Herder‘s warning to all who consider suicide, 5000 Ways to Die. Lyrics:

“And the bastard you hated the most / Will stand up and give you a toast / He’ll say We were such good friends especially near the end / Then he’ll feel up your girlfriend in front of your ghost.”

The Pixies are an obvious choice. Dead, In Heaven, Wave of Mutilation, Into the White, Monkey Gone to Heaven, Ed is Dead … and there are many that don’t quite make the list like I Bleed or There Goes My Gun … but I have to go with Ed is Dead for the lyrics and mood, combining to be an inappropriate yet apt funeral song. The problem is that any Pixies song (see Dead) that’s about death could just as much be about sex. Or maybe that’s not a problem at all. The Pixies are good like that.

And last but not least, Modest Mouse. They sing about death quite often, with a proper fierceness, insisting that we remember “we are our own damn coffins.” That line is from Satin in a Coffin. Great titles, but not really great lyrics for a funeral, include Bury Me With It or Black Cadillacs. But perhaps the greatest MM song for this project is Parting of the Sensory. Check the lyrics: “Dehydrate back into minerals” and “Some day you will die and Somehow something’s gonna steal your carbon.” And when you listen to the song, wait for the end when it’s swirling you down the drain in manic round after round of intensity.

What are your suggestions? I’m excited to improve this list!

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Top-Shelf Jukebox Songs

So I’m chalking my pool cue at the pub this loverly St. Patrick’s Day, and I says to my friend, I says, “List of the best jukebox tunes? …”

Billie Jean
– Michael Jackson
Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl) – Looking Glass
Roxanne – The Police
Superstition – Stevie Wonder
Fishing in the Dark – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Cecilia – Simon and Garfunkel
Fire and Rain – James Taylor
Gloria – Van Morrison
Black Betty – Ram Jam
Amie – Pure Prairie League
Me and Bobby McGee – Janis Joplin
Melissa – The Allman Brothers Band
The Weight – The Band
Can’t You See – The Marshall Tucker Band
Proud Mary – Creedence Clearwater Revival (sorry Tina)
Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers
Chain of Fools – Aretha Franklin
Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who
Son of a Preacher Man – Dusty Springfield
War – Edwin Starr
After Midnight – Eric Clapton
Come Together – The Beatles
Sympathy for the Devil – The Rolling Stones
All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix
Somebody to Love – Jefferson Airplane
Black Water – The Doobie Brothers
American Pie – Don McLean
Sunday Bloody Sunday – U2
Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ – The Velvet Underground

1990s:
No Rain – Blind Melon
Self Esteem – The Offspring
Are You Gonna Be My Girl – Jet
Say It Isn’t So – Weezer
Black Hole Sun – Soundgarden
Heaven Beside You – Alice in Chains
Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
Bound for the Floor – Local H
In the Meantime – Spacehog
Hunger Strike – Temple of the Dog
Santa Monica – Everclear
Creep – Radiohead
Mary Jane’s Last Dance – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Lightning Crashes – Live
Super Bon Bon – Soul Coughing
Possum Kingdom – The Toadies
Killing Me Softly – The Fugees
Time Bomb – Rancid
What I Got – Sublime
If You Could Only See – Tonic
Closing Time – Semisonic
Hey Man, Nice Shot – Filter
Mr. Jones – Counting Crows
1979 – Smashing Pumpkins
Yellow Ledbetter – Pearl Jam
Pepper – Butthole Surfers
Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart – Stone Temple Pilots
Machinehead – Bush
Devil’s Haircut – Beck
When I Come Around – Greenday

Bonus:
Hurt – Johnny Cash

Such lists are necessarily, perpetually, horrendously incomplete. Make things right in the comments section!

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Finger Eleven

I’m no expert on most bands on Billboard’s Top Modern Rock Singles Chart, but seeing Finger Eleven on there sets me on a rant every time. Their newest disc came out last year, and the single Paralyzer has been in the top ten from November through the present. That’s fine; I wish them success. But I also wish that all the kids keeping them in the top ten would buy Tip, Finger Eleven’s first album. Now there’s something worth ranking.

Here’s the title track and more videos of live songs from Tip. I never skip a single track on this cd.

Finger Eleven started with the sweet band name the Rainbow Butt Monkeys. Then they changed their name and made Tip. Their next album The Greyest of Blue Skies was even harder (and quite good). Then an album with a GIANT single, One Thing. Bleh. Reminds me of the angsty-yet-acoustic superhit that Staind proved could be so popular if done while sitting on a futon in a room choked with candles wearing a standard black t-shirt. Songs like that are why we get our music fix online instead of listening to Clear Channel radio.

Finger Eleven’s turn from great to mediocre was very simple: they changed producers. The first two albums were produced by a guy also working with Our Lady Peace, Arnold Lanni, and the last two have been produced by the same guy who worked with Disturbed. ‘Nuf said. Our Lady Peace traced about the same arc, tanking after Lanni left. But when OLP was good, boy they were good.

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