Sunday, December 31, 2006

It's the End of the Year As We Know It

Okay, so I've been less than diligent in keeping the blog going this past/last month. The holidays kept me hopping, and the end of Tower Records (so sad to see you go, Red and Yellow Retail Wonder) had me scarfing up music at a rate that would have been hard to track while maintaining a real life. I estimate I bought nearly 200 CDs in the past month, as prices dropped to ridiculous lows. At the bittersweet end, full-length CDs were less than a buck each, and singles were 10 cents. I found stuff I'd been waiting for, made great discoveries, was free to experiment with bands I'd only heard about, and bought CDs just because I liked the covers. It'll take the next few weeks just to test them out, a lovely way to start the year (though I'd gladly have passed it up if it meant keeping the store open).

The CPF blog will be revamped in the new year. I resolve to obesess less and write more, true to the Blog Spirit. More photos, links, and reports from the music field as things happen. Here's to the Clean Slate, the Fresh Approach.

For the final entry of 2006, here's my ballot for the Village Voice Pazz and Jop Poll, which I sent off today, the final day to submit. (I love deadlines. I like the sound they make as they whoosh by!)

Top Ten Albums of the Year:
Josh Ritter - The Animal Years (V2)
The Decemberists – The Crane Wife (Capitol)
Jose Gonzalez – Veneer (Mute)
Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope (Sire)
Matt Nathanson – At the Point (Acrobat)
The Cat Empire (Velour)
Elbow - Leaders of the Free World (V2)
Teitur – Stay Under the Stars (Equator)
World/Inferno Friendship Society - Red-Eyed Soul (Chunksaah)
The Thermals – The Body the Blood the Machine (SubPop)

The Other Ones That Almost Made It:
Julian Velard – The Movies Without You (Saing)
Arctic Monkeys – Whatever You Say I Am… (Domino)
Scritti Politti – White Bread Black Bear (Nonesuch/Rough Trade)
Silversun Pickups – Carnavas (Dangerbird)
Thom Yorke – The Eraser (XL)

Justin Timberlake – SexyBack (Jive)
Gnarls Barkley – Crazy (Downtown/Atlantic)
Neil Young – Let’s Impeach the President (Reprise)
My Chemical Romance – Welcome to The Black Parade (Reprise)
The Raconteurs – Steady As She Goes (V2)
Editors – Munich (Fader)
Green Day and U2 – The Saints are Coming (Universal/Mercury)
The Rapture – Get Myself Into It (Universal)
Keane – Is It Any Wonder (Island)
OK Go – Here It Goes Again (Capitol)

YTD: >1,000 I lost count, but with the Tower feeding frenzy, I'm sure I topped 1,000 CDs for the year.
Much as I love the jewel box approach, with all the digital downloading I've been doing lately - even labels are sending links to free mp3's rather than hard copies - I'm guessing we won't hit that mark in 2007.
But that's not to say we won't try!

Happy New Year, close personal friends. Peace.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Way to Go, Silversun Pickups!

As I started tap-typing away, the California quartet was tearing it up on Letterman and reminding me that I need to revisit the album. They’ve got a female bass player/support vocalist, and a fiery sound that moves from quiet to raucous in the same song, so the Pixies comparisons hold, but they’ve got their own twist in the mad doctor on the keyboards. Always nice to see a promising young band get a major break – but if they get huge, will I still be able to get into their show next year when they tour with Snow Patrol?

It was a quiet Friday night, so I gave myself a trip out to Tower records yet again, since they’ve now entered the 50% off stage (or more) on everything. I got there only about 40 minutes before closing, so it was a quick hit:
1. BRITISH SEA POWER – The Decline Of…(Rough Trade)
I had my eye on this one the last time I was at Tower, but decided to be frugal. A week later, another 10% off – and it was still there! – so I gave in.
2. BLONDIE – Parallel Lines (Capitol/Chrysalis)
Another one I had my eye on. And, for some lovely reason, after ringing it up for what I thought was the price ($6.50), the nice cashier dude goes back and re-enters it – for $2.50! The original breakthrough album, remastered, plus 4 bonus tracks, including a live take on “Bang a Gong.”
3. CHRISTINA AQUILERA – Ain’t No Other Man (RCA)
Singles are 70% off, so this was all of $1.50. It’s for my girl Gracie, who loves the tune. I think it’s catchy, but I can’t stand the fact that she rhymes “class” with “ass.” That was a joke in a song from the original “Chicago,” but such subtleties are not for the likes of Christina who, BTW, did a terrible job of lip-syncing at the Rockefeller Center tree lighting. And why did she get to sing her single when everyone else did a holiday song? Bah, humbug!
4. GORILLAZ – Kids with Guns (EMI)
I can’t imagine spending $8 for this 3-track single, but for $2.oo, I can surprise Grace, who’ll enjoy the new track (“Stop the Dams”) and the fold-out mini-poster of Noodle.
5. BEBEL GILBERTO – eponymous (Six Degrees)
There are some albums that are so horribly overstocked that the store is desparate to get them going. This album was in a bunch offered for a mere $4 each. She’s got that ultra-chill bossa-nova vibe.
6. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Christmas Remixed (Six Degrees)
The second volume of the world music label’s holiday series, which is becoming a new holiday classic. The label does a type of mash-up, mating vintage crooners with electronica rhythm beds. The results have the comfort of familiarity with the right amount of cool, fresh attitude. Soon to appear on this year’s Cool Yule collection – Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

Went to the second-hand store yesterday to drop off a few bags of unwanted clothing, books and other stuff. As per usual, checked out the racks of donated music and found a few nice CDs for $1.50 each. It’s odd and somewhat amusing to recognize some things that I had dropped off last time, and saw that someone had recently given up some nice music in great condition. I took home:
7. LOW MILLIONS – Ex-Girlfriends (Manhattan)
Never actually heard this band before, but when it first came out, I recall listening to a few tracks at the Tower listening station and liking it, so this was a happy find. Listening again on the car ride home, I was taken by the immediately catchy melodies and the singer’s confident voice. Initial lyric scan was cool, too.
8. COWBOY JUNKIES – The Caution Horses (BMG)
I bought this soley for the cover of Neil Young’s “Powderfinger,” a song I’ve always loved. I may actually have it on an old freebie sampler, but I couldn’t remember, so what the hell for this price? I popped it into the car player to hear the Young track and was immediately reminded that Margo Timmins’ voice – and the Junkies’ lethargic tempos – wear very thin very quickly.
9. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Italian Love Songs (K-Tel)
Wow – how long since I’ve heard the name K-Tel?! This 10-song cheapass collection has Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore,” Vic Dana’s “More,” Connie Francis’ “Forget Domani” and a few I don’t quite know. What the ?? is “Non Dimenticar” by Frankie Avalon? Whatever; I thought my Italophile hubby would find it fun.
10. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Happy Valentine’s Day (
Homemade mix CDs don’t have quite the same charm as mix cassettes, but this one caught my eye because someone had gone to the trouble of designing a cover and had the taste to include some old skool funk – “Atomic Dog,” “What is Hip?”- a few K.C. and the Sunshine Band hoot-a-longs, and even some downright silliness (“The Chicken Dance” – seriously). Musical voyeurism is fun.
11. BARRY MANILOW – Swing Street (Arista)
I haven’t forgiven him for getting the EMMY over Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, but if Craig Ferguson can, I guess I should let it go. (Still, it was way more fun to watch Ferguson dancing than listening to Manilow sing when the latter appeared on the former’s show.) I’ll listen to this once to see if there’s anything to crib, but it’s really just a stocking stuffer for Mom.
12. EVANESCENCE – Fallen
I’m not that into it, but it’s for Grace, who is, and saw the band perform some weeks ago with a pal who’s a huge fan. They hung out afterward and Grace got her pocketbook (the only thing she had!) signed by the band.

Also yesterday:
13. RAY CHARLES – A Ray Charles Christmas (Rhino)
Was in Kohl’s, filling up some packages for one of my Christmas Angels, and found this for a mere $5. Who else but Ray could make “The Little Drummer Boy” not merely tolerable but downright righteously good?

My Husband Went to England and All I Got Was This Lousy CD:
14. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Now Hear This, Word magazine, Dec. 2006
It’s not lousy at all, but I liked the headline. Here’s a band called Joan as Police Woman? Lloyd Cole is looking rather scrubby on the cover.

Trade-In Store missing from last time:
15. The DIVINE COMEDY – Absent Friends (Parlaphone)
Studio and live version, plus video, of the title track, plus a live version of “Something for the Weekend.” Bought out of curiosity, but he’s too grand by half for me.
16. JUDY GARLAND – A Star is Born (Columbia)
$2.oo clearance bin stocking stuffer for my olde-time-musicals- lovin’ college girl.

Coming to Town:
17. SISTER HAZEL – Absolutely (Croakin’ Poets Records)
13 songs of roots rock. The first single, “Mandolin Moon,” features guest vocals from band pal Shawn Mullins.
18. TEITUR – Stay Under the Stars (Equator Music)
The una-nominal Scandinavian singer/songwriter will be appearing at Jammin java next Thursday (December 7th) and I am really looking forward to hearing him. Hope he does “I Run the Carousel” – it’s like a bittersweet short story in a song – and his stripped-down, slowed-down version of “Great Balls of Fire.”

More acquisitions from Tower, scattered over a few visits:
More Tower Music, Trip 3:
19. KRAAK & SMAAK – Boogie Angst (Quango)
The double-disc American version was cheaper than the single disc import and, since the former had all the tracks of the latter plus a whole ‘nother side of remixes, that’s a no-brainer. Another discovery I owe to KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic” radio show, since I doubt I would have encountered them otherwise, and the name would never have probably made me think they were something totally other. The group, BTW, takes its name from an old Dutch phrase meaning ‘crunchy & tasty.’
20, FEIST – Open Season: Remixes and Collabs (Cherrytree/Interscope)
Just under $7.50.
21. BEACH BOYS – Pet Sounds (Capitol)
Deluxe 2-CD edition in the green fake suede package. A joy to rediscover.
22. BEN FOLDS – Live at Tower Records
Three tracks recorded at the Lincoln Center store in NYC on 4/26/05. “Jesusland” and “Trusted” and “Bastard” and no frills; not even a decent picture of Ben. But it was $2.00 with the 50% off singles pricing. Ripped to iTunes and right into the trade-in bag.
23. CESARIA EVORA – Club Sodade (RCA)
Remixes by the likes of Carl Craig and Senor Coconut.
24. BJORK – Minuscule (One Little Indian DVD)
I thought I was a hardcore Bjork fan when I got the Gling Glo CD as an import, but I gave up being a completist around the time she began releasing multiple versions of singles from the Vespertine CD and I couldn’t keep up with all the variations. She’s the same with DVDs now, with so many promo video compilations and concert videos, I don’t have the time or patience. But this DVD, a backstage look at the 2001 Vespertine world tour, was only about $7.oo after discount, and I thought it would be a good companion to the one music video set I do have.
Nifty packaging, with prismatic glasses that make my head hurt.
26. The MINUS 5 – Down with Wilco (Yep Roc)
Slowly replacing the favorite CDs that some bastard stole out of Terry’s luggage on his (halfway)cross-country trip.
27. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Music Ahead sampler (Verve)
Freebie sampler with Costello & Toussaint, Jamie Cullum, (skinny boy) Rhett Miller and others.
28. The LIBERTINES – Can’t Stand Me Now (Rough Trade)
3-track single for $1.25.

YTD Total: 714