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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Christmas Bargain-Bin Music Hangover

Regular #1 Hits posts will be back on Monday, just in time for the new year… but for now I have some things to finish up in 2006.

In addition to being one of the best days of the year, Christmas is also my annual time to catch up on music releases that I, for whatever reason, haven’t heard/bought yet. This year my attention was focused on three bargain-bin priced releases from artists that I’ve posted about this last year. All are undeservedly forgotten albums, and I was happy to discover that they’re all three pretty good. It’s not entirely unexpected to get burned by albums that are on sale for under five dollars on amazon, but these three were a good buy:

Tally Hall
I posted Good Day by Tally Hall a few months ago to great success, and I was eager to hear the whole album. I’m happy to report that it’s the best of the three releases. A very schizophrenic album, the band has the eccentric stylings of groups like Sparks and Of Montreal, and also a very strong Beatles influence in some songs. The record is all over the place: songs about bananas, the Olsen twins, haikus, etc. There’s even an amusing rap thrown in. The Queen-like Good Day is still the highlight, but the entire thing is remarkably consistent.

Mp3: Ruler Of Everything

I posted In The End by Australian duo Glovebox awhile ago and it seemed to interest a lot of you. Luckily, it’s not even the best song on the album. I recently saw the band’s video for their debut single Superstar and loved their style, so I decided to invest in the (admittedly cheap) record. It’s pretty good. There are definitely highlights with some filler surrounding them, but the whole thing ends up sounding like Anastacia if she hadn’t gone rock.

Mp3: Serendipity

De Novo Dahl
I posted Shout by these guys awhile ago and it seemed to go somewhat unnoticed, but I loved it, so I picked up their earlier album, an interesting two disc set called Cats & Kittens. Both discs contain the same songs, but Kittens is in remixed form. I actually haven’t listened to Kittens yet… still digesting the original versions. What I hear is fantastic Cars-esque power pop that, at very brief moments, almost reminds me of my beloved Ark. It’s actually better than their new stuff.

Mp3: All Over Town

Friday, December 29, 2006

02. Scissor Sisters - Ta-Dah
They did it before in 2004 with their debut, and if it wasn't for tougher-than-nails competition this year, they would have had the number one album again. Ta-Dah, more than anything, proved that the band had staying power. A carnival of pop styles that manages to be at once dark and dancible, the album really has something for everyone. Combined with their debut, unreleased demo and mountain of b-sides, Scissor Sisters are the band to beat in 2007.

Album Track: Might Tell You Tonight - The sweetest and most subdued track on the album, it sounds like a long-lost AM radio classic, and it will be a shame if it's not released as a single. Of all the tracks on Ta-Dah, I think it has the most staying power.

01. Delays - You See Colours
I still remember the first time I listened to this album. It was one of those knock-you-over-the-head, practically religious experiences that you can only get with transcendent pop music. Classic after classic, You See Colours is unlike any other album out there. Smart pop is hard to find, and even harder to market (as evidenced by YSC's poor chart performance). Basically, I could go on and on about this miraculous album. If you don't have it yet (and apparently not many people do), buy it as quickly as you can. You will not be sorry.

Album Track: Given Time - One of what I consider to be the album's unsung tracks, Given Time possesses one of those huge, magical choruses that'll hook you right off the start.

5. The Killers - When You Were Young
Biggest single yet from Las Vegas' favorite rockers... epic riffs meld with Meat Loaf-esque vocals to create something timeless.

4. My Chemical Romance - Welcome To The Black Parade
Former screamo quintet go all Queen on us... craft the single of their career in the process.

3. Mika - Love Today
Delightful pop truffle mixes the best of Prince, Scissor Sisters and Freddie Mercury... an anthem in waiting.

2. Scissor Sisters - Don’t Feel Like Dancing
The catchiest single this year, and an amazing success for a band that I didn't think could get any better... unavoidable.

1. Delays - Valentine
Ultra-clever pop rocker about life-or-death love amidst Hurricane Katrina... epic, epic, epic. Undoubtedly the single of the year.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

4. The Alpine - On Feel Trips
My favorite debut of the year, The Alpine have the gift of creating perfect power-pop. Any band that can make this type of music sound so life-affirming deserves all of the success they get. On Feel Trips is a whopper of an album. There's barely room to breathe between one huge epic chorus and the next. They've really found the perfect blend between girl/boy vocals, guitar and keys.

Album Track: Iceland - Not one of the band's most uptempo cuts, but definitely one of their most catchy, this atmospheric ballad is so gigantic that you could probably hear it all the way from Iceland.

3. Melody Club - Scream
A ridiculously fun pop release from one of my favorite pop bands, this is the kind of music that should be setting radio waves on fire, yet seems only to gain any sort of success in Scandinavia. Comprised of eleven tracks that recall the best of the eighties, Scream is the band's funkiest, most propulsive effort to date, and one of the best pop albums of the year.

Album Track: Last Girl On My Mind - A hotbed of hooks, the anthematic Last Girl On My Mind is one of the album's early highlights, opening with stabbing strings and only getting better from there.

10. The Alpine - Mondays Look The Same
Peppy power pop anthem... kinda angry, but sounds absolutely joyous.

9. Melody Club - Destiny Calling
Swedish band's most direct single yet... mature and shimmering pop.

8. Alphabeat - Fascination
Quirky candy pop from multigender Danish group... inescapable from the very first listen.

7. Mika - Relax, Take It Easy
Scissor Sisters-esque dance rock... timeless in its simplicity and verve.

6. The Zutons - Valerie
My summer song of the year... perfect for backyard barbeques or days at the beach.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

6. The Killers - Sam's Town
A highly touted and much criticized follow up to the Killers' beloved debut, Sam's Town is probably the best on-the-road album of the year. Huge choruses and overblown lyrics highlight this delightfully schmaltzy (but ultimately affirming) release. A pretty big departure from the Killers' earlier sound, it is successful because of its earnest nature and its big ambitions.

Album Track: Why Do I Keep Counting - The All These Things That I've Done of the album, this gorgeous, building ballad nearly caps off Sam's Town in perfect form. It's practically built for the stage of a rock opera.

5. Under The Influence Of Giants
Fusing disco, funk and rock in a near-perfect combination, UTIOG were one of the most promising new bands to come out this year. Listening to the album is in many ways like reverting back to the best of seventies soft-rock, disco and pop. In addition to the requisite dance floor stompers, the band excels at the mushy ballad too, evidenced by Stay Illogical.

Album Track: Faces - A propulsive, insanely catchy (and funky) disco-rock confection, Faces comes late in the album and is only the icing on an already miraculous cake.

15. The Feeling - Sewn
Epic lighters-in-the-air ballad... shake that ass Danny boy!

14. Razorlight - In The Morning
Crazy-catchy AM radio throwback... pop swagger never sounded better.

13. Bodies Without Organs - Temple Of Love
Catchiest offering yet from Swedish trio... a temple a sizable amount of us wouldn't mind visiting.

12. Lucky Soul - Lips Are Unhappy
Throwback pop/soul from group to watch in 2007... demands shaking.

11. Linda Sundblad - Oh Father
Subversive Madonna-esque pop with glossy melody... Sundblad's perfect solo introduction.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

In my continuing file hosting drama, all files for the time being will be posted via yousendit, which means that they will be available for one week only. As of this moment I just don't have enough bandwidth to do it anyway else. Hopefully I will be able to find a new host in the near future. Until then, come back often to hear the music!

8. Whyte Seeds - Bold As Love
The best classically influenced rock album of the year, Bold As Love steals elements from the 60's, 70's and 80's and melds them into a surprisingly potent mix. The songs don't hit you over the head the very first listen, but their melodies quickly become inescapable. The verve of the band's performance guarantees that every track reaches its full potential, whether it's a dance rock hybrid or a gentle Beatles-esque ballad.

Album Track: Hungry - Opening the album with an undeniable riff, this was the song that sold me on the album. More than anything, it's the energy of the track that makes it so irresistible.

7. Linda Sundblad - Oh My God!
The female pop album of the year, hands down, belongs to this young Swede. Like all the best pop stars, Sundblad proves herself adept at a variety of styles, from Madonna-esque dance to more current spare, electronica-tinged tracks. Those waiting patiently for a new Robyn release could do worse than picking this up.

Album Track: Keeper - Note to Gwen and Fergie: This is how to do a hip-hop/dance/electronic/pop hybrid. Keeper is a strange little song that takes a few listens to appreciate fully, but unlike most disposable pop, it pulls you back in every time you hear it.

20. The Sounds - Song With A Mission
Swedish dance-rock group adds Rolling Stones riffs and gospel ad-libs to its sound... a guaranteed party starter.

19. Scissor Sisters - Land Of A Thousand Words
Epic ballad for nonexistant Bond film... a deserving successor to Mary.

18. Revl9n - Walking Machine
Otherworldly electroclash from a group of sexy Swedish aliens... nominee for video of the year as well.

17. The Automatic - Monster
Stadium song of the year... the goofy chorus was impossible to pry from your brain.

16. Bodies Without Organs - We Could Be Heroes
Near perfect cheesy euro-ballad... belongs in a textbook on how to write a hit single.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

I'd like to wish all of my readers a Merry Christmas! I hope everybody has a fun, relaxing day tomorrow. For now, I have a few early Christmas gifts for you!

First off, my best gift so far has been a short snippet of the Ark's new single "Absolutely No Decorum," over at their website. From what I can hear, it sounds like another future classic from my favorite band. Kind of a cross between Calleth You, Cometh I and One Of Us Is Gonna Die Young... brilliant already.

Speaking of the Ark (and really, when am I not speaking of them?), they also released a very old performance video of the Christmas classic O Helga Natt (O Holy Night for those who don't speak Swedish). I've got the video and the mp3 for you today.

The Ark - O Helga Natt

Third, (even though it's been posted all over the place already) I just had to post my favorite modern day Christmas song (forgetting of course that Mariah Carey's brilliant All I Want For Christmas doesn't exist). Darren's gives us the definitive version of this Wham classic and turns it into a brilliant pop song, Christmas or no Christmas.

Darren Hayes - Last Christmas

Finally, I'm posting quite possibly the worst Christmas song (and video) ever. There are people who love this, and for those that do... stop reading now. Christmas Shoes is the most schmaltzy, overdone thing I have heard this season. The singing coupled with the banal lyrics gets me everytime. The thing is, if you don't laugh at this, it really is one of the most depressing songs ever recorded. Don't get me wrong... I am not against "heartwarming" stuff, but god that chorus is lame.

I'll be back the day after Christmas to continue the end-of-the-year countdowns!