• 2013: Ruminations On Chance, Insulation, And The Year That Was

    30 dec 2013, 05:11

    As the year draws to a close, I felt inspired to share some thoughts I've had relating to music and its place in our lives. Throughout the year, I've had ideas on possible entries to this seldom-used journal, but I think it's taken until now for viewpoints to coalesce and for themes therein to become apparent, and the end of the year is always a good time to reflect.

    At the top of 2013, I found my listening habits in a state of flux from my once comfortable routine. I was a part of an amazing online social group listening experience not named Turntable.FM that had unfortunately finally petered out in 2012, leaving a void where I once had constant exposure to great music played by everyday people that was new to me if not to the world and the opportunity to share with others music I held dear. This loss was the subject of some surprising amount of angst for me. I had begun trying to fill the void last year by returning to my regular habits before social listening, but I had changed, and I missed the interactivity. The experience couldn't be replicated or truly replaced, but I've found some solace in quality radio programming. I saw advertised on the back of a bus and then was reminded again by one of my good social listening chums happening upon the station coming back from a trip out of town that local NPR affiliate WAMU had begun its own spinoff FM station, Bluegrass Country, and, since I suddenly did not need an HD radio receiver to tune in, I began listening at home and quickly became a fan of just about every DJ and program running on the station, including some I had heard many years earlier when WAMU aired them on weekends before banishing this working class roots music to elite HD radio and online-only obscurity. The complete change in music from what I had been exposing myself to for longer than I can remember was just what I needed. I did turn to Internet radio away from home to soundtrack my work hours, namely the BBC, after a casual recommendation of one particular program from another pal from my social listening days I took as a nudge to give the BBC a try again after last listening with any regularity some years earlier. I started with fitting into my listening schedule one weekly program, and over a year later I now am a fan of more shows across the network than I have time in the office to listen to each week. Having all but eliminated commercial radio stations from my listening habits other than daily WTOP news, traffic, and weather in the kitchen and the occasional Jack FM indulgence, I also regularly listen to Classical WETA and most recently, after dial surfing and hearing a glorious or oldie and then the distinct, familiar, and reassuring voice of WHFS alumnus Weasel, WTMD, broadcasting loud and clear out of Towson University, since for some reason, despite still living just miles away, I can never get WMUC, which was a pivotal station for me as a teenager. Gone for the most part, for various reasons, is a station I once championed and listened to for over a decade, WPFW. At the time of writing, its FM signal has been broadcasting dead air, which doesn't surprise me. What these stations have in common are a core of DJs and programmers who share a passion and knowledge of music, and I enjoy what they play. I still play albums in the car usually, but what has fallen by the wayside this year for me is the crypto-corporate influence of the new music industrial complex and the illusion it casts of individual eclecticism while controlling the narrative.

    A couple years ago, I made myself a half-serious and definitely halfheartedly attempted vow to stop following new music. The wonderful music I was exposed to through social listening threw a wrench in that plan, but to my credit I had stopped reading music blogs and decided that reviews of new music releases were inexorably tainted. I shifted my attention to retroactive discovery, exploring music backward in, and out of, time and renewed my appreciation for old pop music. As old habits die hard, I also kept my ears and eyes open for chance encounters with artists toiling away in the fringes, catering to their niche or just to their own love of music.

    To wit, my new music discovery of the year is Kawehi. I came across her Vimeo page by chance at the end of last year, and the titles of many of the songs were familiar to me. I took advantage of her generous download enabling of most of them and the sheer volume of uploads and dumped those that piqued my interest into a folder for later viewing and listening. I finally made time and hard drive space on my TV-connected device for them as winter wore on, and I was blown away by her talent. In a time when videos of unknowns covering famous people's songs on social media are as common as cat videos, she immediately stood out. Her ear for arrangements impeccable, her primarily Kickstarter-sourced song choices refreshingly varied and inspired, her live looping-based performances fully engrossing, and the production values of her performance videos top of the line for DIY, all I can say is right on.

    These days, I am more excited for a new upload on Kawehi's page or that of any of my former social listening compadres than the wolf tickets being sold to me by the music industry and its proxies, be they owned and operated pros or merely those insinuating themselves into "the conversation" in their foolhardy race to advance Internet monoculture and have an opinion only to move just as quickly onto the next new thing. I am not sitting around waiting for the next Great New Artist. A journal entry I started writing a couple years ago crystalized this for me when I realized there probably never could be another movie like Purple Rain or The Song Remains The Same because the days of the creatively ambitious, larger than life artist with mystique, awe-inspiring talent, and adequate financial backing are over. If you love music and grew up any time before the late '90s, consider yourself lucky you got to experience at least a somewhat organic collective appreciation for true artistic talent. I am content to continue trawling through music's rich and intricate past and to enjoy independent contemporary artists following their muse rather than buy into corporate shills and hucksters. I will take great music where I can get it over the new and market testing-exhausted masquerading as greatness foisted upon me by a confused and dying capitalist machine.

    I saw only three concerts this year. Sandwiched between the two I paid to see, which happened to be groups led by Trent Reznor, who also happened to release my two favorite albums of the year, was a total surprise. By complete and utter circumstance, I witnessed on a farm in Massachusetts a dinner performance by a sibling band, The Knuckle heads, average age about 9. Their set list was as follows.
    Sweet Child o' Mine
    Ho Hey (their rousing and shambolic take was superior to the saccharine and sheen of the original and truer to the folk spirit, for my tastes)
    I Love Rock 'n' Roll
    Two of the kids stuck around and, after an intermission, played an acoustic encore.
    Karma Police
    an original ("this is… something we made up," said the self-effacing young singer and songwriter)
    Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)
    A Hard Day's Night
    Wish You Were Here
    I only got to experience this by chance, and it was awesome. I also had the opportunity to hang out with the band, and they were nicer, cooler, and more down to earth than just about any band you can name.

    My favorite remix of the year was by Lephtee, and I only encountered it or him because I listen to 6 Mix on BBC Radio 6 each week regardless of the mixer, and this was a highlight of an especially brilliant set by Ben Watt. You can hear Rickie Lee Jones' mesmerizing "On Saturday Afternoons In 1963 (Lephtee's Years May Go By Remix)" at, where I left a comment. I feel it's important to reach out and express your gratitude to those who have impressed you with their skill and imagination. Talent, not fame, is cause for recognition and celebration.

    My favorite new music in film this year was in Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity, a movie I initially didn't even want to go to because I was so turned off by the ridiculous and generally unappealing trailer. The score by Steven Price in tandem with the sound design, editing, and mixing perfectly matched the isolation of space and catastrophe and calamity depicted onscreen.

    A year ago, I had found myself at a crossroads as a music listener. I feel like I had mastered the concept of curating my own experience, taking in what I wanted or was interested in and blocking out "the other." That sense of insulation had already begun to unravel in 2011 as I opened myself up to whatever people wanted to play in social listening and the bounty of free music on sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud made it hard not to give aspiring and lesser known artists at least a chance, which was rewarding most of the time in its own right and as an alternative to the forced-choice scenario put forth by the various branches of the music industry.

    Here's to the New Year and not new music but what you get out of it.
  • The Unlikely Fan

    18 jan 2010, 17:55

    Coming off a nearly decade-long self-imposed exile from rock radio, I've found myself a fan of modern/hard rock radio hits "Blurry" by Puddle of Mudd and "Forever" by Papa Roach. I've come to appreciate each on its own terms, but my "in" with these songs, neither of which is by a band I am a fan, is how similar they are to other music I already liked.

    "Blurry" (2001) reminds me a lot of "Dark River" by Coil, specifically Puddle Of Mudd's porcelain verse guitars. That's what hooked me, hearing a commercial, hard rock take on an old Coil instrumental. The vocals are better than passable, however, and the lyric "There's oceans in-between us, but that's not very far"? Beautiful.

    The other song, "Forever" (2006), really surprised me because I remembered Papa Roach from laughable songs like "Last Resort," the kind of thing that made me stop listening to rock radio in 2000 after growing up on the format. Fast-forward to a few years later and Jacoby Shaddix can actually sing. Think what you want about the song subject matter and some questionable yet true lyrics in the verses, but those vocals are strong. Part of what makes the song so catchy to me, however, is the prechorus guitar line reminds me a whole lot of The Cure and Robert Smith's unmistakable playing style.

    Anyone else hear these similarities?
  • My Top 50 Favorite Albums Of The Decade 2000-2009

    2 jan 2010, 04:33

    1. Radiohead - Kid A (2000)
    It's been over nine years. Frankly, I'm all talked out and have been for some time. I didn't even put up a fight when my cousin dismissed it out of hand recently, having only heard it once, years ago. However, anyone reading this has probably heard Kid A already and formed their own opinion long ago, so what more could I add that hasn't been said too many times before?

    2. Björk - Vespertine (2001)
    It's her album, but it's also her songwriting album. Vespertine showed me how glitchy electronics could be warm, but harps, strings, and one of the most gifted and talented singers of all time help make this an immaculate listen. I think this is one of the most underrated albums of the decade and in her vast, impressive discography.

    3. Aphex Twin - Drukqs (2001)
    Although not a cohesive listen in the traditional sense, to take in Drukqs is to go on a wild ride through the mad genius of Richard D. James. Here, he revisits his classic of the early to mid ' (setting the stage for his return to in the mid to late ') but aided by every production skill and compositional strength he's developed since then. As if that were not enough, the modern day master lets us hear his beautiful, Erik Satie-inspired pieces and a series of acoustic workouts and freakouts. Never has one album offered so much and received so little appreciation and understanding in return. No wonder Aphex Twin stopped making albums.

    4. Hood - Cold House (2001)
    This album will always be dear to me because it helped get me through a difficult time. It also serves as an awesome example of the promotional power of the mp3, as I'd never heard Hood until browsing Audiogalaxy (R.I.P.) when they were a featured artist with three legal downloads from this album. I was quickly taken by Hood's fragile, gorgeous, melancholic sound, and today I own 12 of their releases. In an ideal world, this naturally flowing, genre-blending album would get at least half of the acclaim heaped on Kid A.

    5. dead prez - Lets Get Free (2000)
    This is quite simply one of if not the most inspiring album I've ever heard. Listening to this gets me charged every time. I may not agree with every unabashed, radical political stance espoused by M-1 and Stic.Man, but how can anyone disagree with messages like Be Healthy and Discipline makes things easier? Besides the raw, jaw-droppingly brilliant, poetically expressed lyrical content, the album is musically amazing. Few emcees have ever sounded this consistently sharp, focused, and hungry, and every beat knocks and sounds beautiful at the same time. The fact that dead prez had an active role in producing the album makes it all the more special.

    6. Deltron 3030 - Deltron 3030 (2000)
    This album is just a lot of fun, even if Dan the Automator's production makes an album set far into the future sound dated. Del Tha Funkee Homosapien was seriously in the zone writing and recording this album.

    7. A Perfect Circle - Mer De Noms (2000)
    I don't think it's fair or accurate to call anything above a album, so that makes this debut release by Maynard James Keenan's side-project the best rock album of the decade and them the best new rock group, at least for my tastes. I love how their songs completely rock but are full of nuances and subtleties. The arrangements are great, and the production is perfect. Rock needs more of this.

    8. Deftones - White Pony (2000)
    The production may be a little cold on this album, but it works. The songs rock hard but sound delicate, too. There isn't a bad song on the initial release, which is what I have and is the intended tracklisting.

    9. Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006)
    If you'd told me any time before 2006 that I'd be putting a singer from *NSYNC and former Mickey Mouse Club member ahead of most of my favorite artists in my top albums of the decade list, I'd have never believed you. Have you listened to this album though? It's incredible. Very rarely do I listen to an album and just envy the music the whole time as if I wish I'd made it, but this is one of those. No longer an industry puppet, Justin grew up (perhaps trying a little too hard in the process) and, with the able assistance of Timbaland and Danja at the height of their prowess, created a masterpiece.

    10. Madvillain - Madvillainy (2004)
    Rarely do dream combos work out as well in reality as they do in theory, but MF DOOM and Madlib even managed to exceed expectations. It may not be Doom at his deepest or 'Lib at his most , but it's a hell of an album. Here's to the next.

    11. Autechre - Confield (2001)
    The musical equivalent to every frenetic, weird, crazy thought I've had, this is still the most mindblowing album I've ever heard. I've learned this is also the worst place for newcomers to Autechre to start.

    12. Prefuse 73 - One Word Extinguisher (2003)
    This was one of two discs that served as the road soundtrack to the worst summer of my life (so far!). I loved how catchy, visceral, and busy this album sounded, which was just what I needed. I thought Prefuse was cool from his first album, but a couple tracks aside it was just another album to me, so I didn't have high expectations for this album. I was blown away by the tremendous growth in production, from the sinewy synths to the ambient textures (including vocals) to the assortment of other instruments and growing supporting cast. This album introduced me to the music of Diverse, Dabrye, Daedelus, and Tommy Guerrero, but Prefuse is the star of the show here. At the time, it seemed like the perfect melding of and IDM, my two favorite genres then (and perhaps still). To this day, I still consider One Word Extinguisher Prefuse's magnum opus.

    13. Radiohead - In Rainbows (2007/2008)
    I had a long history with this album before I ever played it, but it's really not that interesting to recap, especially now. Suffice it to say that I'd heard nearly every song on here in its live incarnation long before the album was released and didn't expect much based on what I found to be second rate material compared to the songs they toured before the release of their three previous albums. I think it speaks to the power of an even, cohesive-sounding album that In Rainbows is as good as it is. In the right order, these songs complement each other flawlessly, and although I find the high points to be higher on Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief and the production of those albums to be more "interesting," this is truly a great, often addictive listen.

    14. Saul Williams - Saul Williams (2004)
    It was really difficult to rank Saul's three albums from this decade. Even his Rick Rubin-produced debut that sat on the shelf for two or three years before seeing a poorly promoted release is great. The margin between Saul Williams and the next album is paper thin, but I give self-titled the edge because the music, nearly all of it self-produced, seems to fit Saul a little better, which makes sense as some of NiggyTardust! is built on scraps from unreleased Nine Inch Nails material. Regardless, listening to him grow as a musical artist from Amethyst Rock Star to Saul Williams is remarkable. Here are fully fleshed-out, seriously heavy compositions sung more often than spoken or rapped, so it feels more organic than the spoken word over and debut.

    15. Saul Williams - The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust! (2007/2008)
    Saul's Ziggy Stardust concept album produced by Trent Reznor hits all the right notes. Even more so than Saul Williams, NiggyTardust! signaled the arrival of a fully matured artist within the realm of music (as opposed to all those other creative arts Saul has mastered or at least dabbled in). Some of it does sound like NIN with another vocalist, but it also sounds global yet completely personal. Obviously the elements from the previous album are pushed even further to the forefront here, but the and hip-hop remain intact, and the sonic palate is greatly expanded, including everything from to gorgeous, credible ballads. I was down in front for three shows supporting this album, all spectacular.

    16. Cannibal Ox - The Cold Vein (2001)
    Dark, scary, depressing, and brilliant, I was a little late to Can Ox's unique brand of cerebral street rap, coming to it after falling in love with the production on El-P's Fantastic Damage. The music on The Cold Vein is just as tense if not more so, but the more accessible and adept yet creative and experimental flows and lyrics anchor the album. One of the other biggest disappointments of the decade in music is the revelation of just how unlikely it is that Vast Aire, Vordul Mega, and El-P will ever regroup for a sequel.

    17. Outkast - Stankonia (2000)
    Even for me, it's easy to take this album for granted because its singles are so deeply ingrained into popular culture and the disc itself is full of so many songs and interludes, but it's important to remember that this is Outkast still at their creative zenith, making it look so easy trading smooth, rapid-paced rhymes and taking influence from all over, something we haven't truly gotten again from them in the decade since. The title for their planned full reunion album, The Hard 10, has taken on a new meaning.

    18. Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero (2007)
    Trent Reznor's allegorical, politically dystopian, concept album consists of really catchy songs that formulaically devolve into glorious noise. It loses points for some generic -isms, but Trent delivers the goods for the most part, making this an exciting listen complete with some career highlights like Vessel and In This Twilight. The remix album is great, too, and you can remix every song on Year Zero with the multitracks posted online and in a DVD-ROM accompanying Y34RZ3R0R3M1X3D, further defining the concept of a DIY laptop musician future come reality.

    19. N*E*R*D - In Search Of... (2001/2002)
    The at their peak stretched out and created a fun, catchy album with a couple really beautiful heartfelt, serious songs. I had the European and promo release as a download in 2001, but the album didn't really hit me until later in the year when they posted a stream on their official site of what would be released to the U.S. in 2002. I much prefer this live instrumentation version, but that's a debate that has been ongoing among fans ever since.

    20. Outkast - Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003)
    Listening now I remember why I recommended this double album to everybody back then. While Andre 3000 experimented (and I say succeeded admirably) on his disc with singing, Big Boi delivered on what he does best, zany, funky, but street-credible rap. Between the two discs there are so many winners, yet this appears to be a Diamond-certified album that is actually underrated, at least among hip-hop heads.

    21. Common - Like Water for Chocolate (2000)
    This is another close call. I don't love this album as much as I did at the beginning of the decade, but I still find it one of the best rap albums I know, and I really do know every song on here very well. This is the album where Common joined up with The Roots Crew and Jay Dee, officially the Soulquarians, and it sounds like the best of all three worlds. It's also the last album where Com wasn't P.C. Note the homophobia on album highlight Dooinit and references to "bitches" peppered throughout the album. Nonetheless, Like Water For Chocolate probably has Common's most tolerable musical love letters to women, especially the breakout single, and still classic, The Light.

    22. Common - Electric Circus (2002)
    For my tastes, I prefer Electric Circus these days. I give LWFC the edge lyrically, but the weird, beautiful, seriously bumpin' (when's the last time you heard that? ha) /hip-hop/ music of EC appeals to me more. Despite what some say, I think Com spits hard on this album, too. I feel one of the most regrettable things in this decade in music was Com's audience convincing him that he was too different on this album, that it sucked, that he dressed weird. They got their wish because he's never been the same since, unfortunately.

    23. Mogwai - Rock Action (2001)
    A lush, beautiful album, and their last where I can remember the music just by the track titles. It is a tad short, but maybe it's just right. It's a bit of a departure not only in length, but also in content, as You Don't Know Jesus is the only song that rocks long and hard (pause?) like so many highlights on their first two studio albums, but I wouldn't trade Sine Wave or 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong.

    24. Boards of Canada - Geogaddi (2002)
    I love the paranoid effect derived from the obscure vocal samples, sinewy synths, and ambient textures married with insistent drums. The track titles and album artwork only add to the mythos. This freaky, psychedelic album has been imitated but never duplicated.

    25. El-P - I'll Sleep When You're Dead (2007)
    The hip-hop auteur grew in the many years between proper solo albums into a better emcee and even more formidable producer in the traditional sense, here drafting The Mars Volta, Cat Power, and Trent Reznor in addition to the usual help from his Definitive Jux roster. Every song here hits hard on some level emotionally and musically.

    26. Nine Inch Nails - With Teeth (2005)
    Although this wasn't another masterpiece that announced the triumphant return of Trent Reznor, I think this album is underrated. A lot of the quirks on past albums and Year Zero are replaced here by sludgy or jagged guitar riffs and pummeling drums, but it's a great performance.

    27. Slum Village - Fantastic, Vol. 2 (2000)
    This is a very fun hip-hop album with dope beats and catchy raps. The End.

    28. Portishead - Third (2008)
    This was my favorite album of 2008. I consider it nearly as good as the first two albums but in a completely different way. With Portishead having spent so much time away from music, no reasonable person could expect them to sound the same as they did before, back when was still alive, and I'm glad they didn't try to act like nothing happened, either to their band or the Bristol scene. What they give us instead on Third is their rock album (some may feel more comfortable seeing "kraut" or "psychedelic" prefixed to that, but it's rock nonetheless). The feel is thus different but familiar. Beth Gibbons still sounds fragile, lost, and distraught but resolute, and the music is still heavy and serious, except for the delightful breather on the album, Deep Water, which always reminds me of Steve Martin's The Jerk. The band is in top form, and I am so pleased that more new material is on the way this year.

    29. J-Live - All of the Above (2002)
    Perhaps too sincere for some, All Of The Above is nevertheless a tutorial on great hip-hop. J-Live has a sporty flow and clearly has fun kicking nonstop substance and creative concepts over serviceable beats. It's refreshing to hear someone put so much time and effort into his craft.

    30. El-P - Fantastic Damage (2002)
    This is the second, darker half of the soundtrack to the worst summer of my life and is a natural accompaniment to Prefuse 73's One Word Extinguisher as it, too, is a hybrid of hip-hop boom bap and electronics. This album is harder and uglier, however, in the most beautiful possible way, from the harsh sound of the beats to the subject matter of the songs. Very few albums are this well produced either.

    31. Massive Attack - 100th Window (2003)
    Nowhere near as good as Mezzanine, nowhere near as bad as many say. The intensity and paranoia here are aided by glitchy, icy electronics. This album is a heavy listen, not meant for dinner parties. My favorites are the songs where 3D sings lead.

    32. J Dilla - Donuts (2006)
    Despite how easy it plays, this album can be difficult to get a handle on intellectually if you love hip-hop and other music because of the length and treatment of the samples used. Is this technically a megamix? Are these even beats? These were among my first questions when I got into the album. As I listened, new questions arose. Is this Dilla's best album? Is this going to be a new trend in hip-hop? That last question was quickly answered in a resounding yes!, but the rest isn't so clear. I know this reads like the introductory paragraph of the pamphlet handed out at gatherings of the Cult of J Dilla, but just listen to the album. Closely. It has a message it speaks to you, if you listen.

    33. Quasimoto - The Further Adventures of Lord Quas (2005)
    This album is mad. It's musically all over the place and full of so many ideas it can be hard to keep up. A lot of people don't like the funny voice affected by Madlib as the character Quasimoto, but I love it both musically and conceptually. I think the voice and the Melvin Van Peebles samples fit the music perfectly, too, so much so that I've never wanted to hear the instrumental version of either album.

    34. Jay-Z - The Blueprint (2001)
    This is big budget, blockbuster rap in every sense. Jay-Z became a superstar here, but so did Kanye West and Just Blaze. This album has long reached Kid A levels of overdiscussion and overpraise, however.

    35. Kanye West - Late Registration (2005)
    I've always found this album to be complete and musically masterful. Time has shown this to be the last time Kanye rapped for a whole album with substance and conviction, and although he's grown as a producer and composer since, nothing has sounded this fleshed out (thank Jon Brion).

    36. Radiohead - Amnesiac (2001)
    With this following so quickly behind Kid A and consisting of songs recorded at the same time, it's a little too easy to dismiss Amnesiac. I don't advise it, as the highlights on this album are just as good as those on Kid A. I do find the "" to be a little overcooked here, to the point of ruining what was their best new song in their live set in years, I Might Be Wrong, a kink they finally worked out on In Rainbows. The piano, strings, and horns that fill many of the songs here help make them some of Radiohead's finest moments.

    37. The Roots - Game Theory (2006)
    On their Def Jam debut, The Roots trade their feel-good vibes for sad times and tension, crafting a claustrophobic, dark, gritty masterpiece that stands among their best work.

    38. The Roots - Phrenology (2002)
    This is the third or fourth Roots album I heard and owned, but it's the first one I learned front to back and still some of their most creative work. I'd love to hear the Black Thought solo album, Masterpiece Theatre, that half of this album was versioned from. As diverse and well-produced as the music is, BT's solid command of the mic and songwriting development arguably make him the high point of the album, the group's first without Malik B sharing mic time (although he is the subject of the experimental album highlight Water).

    39. D'Angelo - Voodoo (2000)
    If Burial isn't ambient r&b, this is. I've always been attracted to the creeping tones of this album and how pretty melodies, simple but often profound lyrics, and even the funk would cut through the murk. This album is so good I can almost forgive D'Angelo for not releasing another one after.

    40. Blackalicious - Blazing Arrow (2002)
    This may have had too many hands in it, but I still find it a highly accomplished work and a rewarding listen. Gab has the same fun but substantive and conceptual lyrical content and dexterous delivery as J-Live but doesn't come across quite as naturally. Still, if you can tolerate a little geekiness and playful corniness in your rap music, this album was the best of its kind in the decade.

    41. Hood - Outside Closer (2005)
    There really isn't a noticeable dropoff in the quality of the music and lyrics between Cold House and this album. I think that, other than the two singles, the songs here are a little less catchy. If Cold House hinted at any hope for the future, it isn't really found here, as this is a sobering listen, with Closure being perhaps the most emotionally devastating song I've ever heard. This album isn't for everyone, but I find it a very rewarding listen. It's also another album that shows the similarities between and .

    42. Herbert - Bodily Functions (2001)
    This album is highly accomplished musically and contains some of the most sophisticated and fully formed songwriting in the electronic music genre. That, in addition to live instrumentation, so much of this album consists of samples actually sourced from the human body is remarkable. Matthew Herbert and his jazz singer wife Dani Siciliano make a wonderful team.

    43. Reflection Eternal (Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek) - Train of thought (2000)
    I think this is Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek at their individual best, and joining forces they created a classic with serious bars and serious bass. The mournful tone found in many of the songs adds even greater depth and resonance.

    44. The Notwist - Neon Golden (2002/2003)
    I guess I like this album in the same way other people like The Postal Service, but I find The Notwist's beautiful and quirky brand of "" music to have a lot more depth and lasting appeal.

    45. The Dandy Warhols - Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia (2000)
    This is the album of the decade as far as I'm concerned. Every song on here is good if not excellent.

    46. Talib Kweli - Quality (2002)
    Talib Kweli shocked the underground by releasing his first solo album without any assistance from Hi-Tek and with actually measurable swag. I've always loved this album. The songs are fun and meaningful. It's no mystery why Kwe broke through with this album and Get By in particular.

    47. Burial - Untrue (2007)
    Judging by my list so far, you'd never know ever happened, and Burial is probably the least dubstep-sounding artist associated with that movement, which is perhaps why I love him and this album so. Every song here is basically a stolen r&b over top of ambient music with a percussion set consisting of samples of a wood block, an aerosol can, a gun cock, and bullet shells hitting the floor. Burial's music also sounds like there's a room playing drum and bass and another playing r&b and you're in a room in-between. Or maybe it's just really good ambient . That's the thing with Burial, he's intriguing and hard to classify.

    48. Air - Talkie Walkie (2004)
    It's an album full of really pretty, catchy songs, some light, some serious. There's probably more variety in mood and instrumentation on this than any other Air album.

    49. Squarepusher - Go Plastic (2001)
    It's really good Squarepusher, easily some of his best work, a solid album, and fun to listen to. It hurt to exclude Ultravisitor, as that is a more interesting album, but consistency and cohesiveness made the difference.

    50. Daft Punk - Discovery (2001)
    I listened to this album a lot, and you probably did, too.

    Personally, I have a hard time taking seriously album recommendations from people who don't put their money where their mouth is (or their key-tappin' fingers, as the case may be). If you're like me, you should know that I bought every single one of these albums.

    All questions, comments, and recommendations are welcome. I only delete advertisements.
  • Album of the year 2009

    31 dec 2009, 22:59

    Tim Exile's Listening Tree

    Coreleased by my all-time favorite record label and one of my other favorite electronic music labels, this album, for the most part, sounds like a goofy British guy singing over Plaid's greatest hits. That's not a bad thing in these times. The music also harkens back to LFO (Advance and Sheath) and what may be my personal favorite era of Warp and what I consider the last hurrah for overall before its key figures went dormant or shifted their focus to electro, acid, or breakcore and before dubstep usurped the throne for many fans and critics. When Every Day's A Number could have been released in 2001 as it sounds like Squarepusher circa Go Plastic and Aphex Twin circa Drukqs. Listening Tree, the title track, reminds me of Coil's Amethyst Deceivers (any version). Enough about the music; what I really appreciate and admire about Tim Exile on this album is how bold and unafraid he sounds singing. He doesn't mumble. He strikes just the right tone and exudes the confidence and humanity to carry these songs the way they deserve. When he runs his vocals through effects, including a totally rad high pitch filter you can hear in the video below, it's not to run away from what he's singing, it's to enhance the lyrics and create a vibe. His wry, crafty, catchy approach to singing and songwriting reminds me a lot of The Human League, but despite all these comparisons, I've never heard another album with the same musical approach and unique, twisted vision. Listening Tree also has one of the best closing sequences in recent memory. Finally, and this may seem obvious, listening at a healthy volume on a home or car stereo makes everything here that much more enjoyable and really creates an immersive experience.

    "Family Galaxy" video:
  • With Flair

    10 apr 2009, 20:22

    Take your top 20 artists. For each of these artists, collect the top 5 similar artists. The resulting number of unique artists is your eclectic score. If the score is small (extreme = 5) your musical preferences are very limited, and if it is large (larger than 80, extreme = 100), then you have an eclectic musical preference. You can compute your own score at

    My eclectic score is currently (outdated)


    The 91 related artists for my profile are AFX (2), Alanis Morissette, Amorphous Androgynous, Aphex Twin (2), Autechre (2), Bark Psychosis, Beanie Sigel, Beck, Bilal, Biosphere, Black Light Burns, Black Sun Productions, Bono, Bracken, Britney Spears, Caustic Window (2), Charlotte Martin, Christ., Cyndi Lauper, D'Angelo, Dannii Minogue, Darien Brockington, Duran Duran, Dwele, ELpH, Epic45, Eric Roberson (2), Fiona Apple, Freeway, GAK, George Michael, Goldfrapp, Halo33, Howard Jones, Humanoid, INXS, J*Davey, Janet Jackson (2), Jonny Greenwood, KUKL, Kanye West, Kate Bush, Kirsty MacColl, Kylie Minogue, Lamb, Memphis Bleek, Michael Jackson & Paul McCartney, Modwheelmood, Muse, Musiq, Nas, Nurse With Wound, Orbital, PJ Harvey (2), Passengers, Peter Gabriel, Piano Magic, Polygon Window (2), Portishead (2), Prince & The Revolution, Prince and the New Power Generation, Psychic TV, Puscifer, R.E.M., Raheem DeVaughn, Roland Orzabal, Sheila E., Sigur Rós, Simple Minds, Sneaker Pimps, Squarepusher, Suzanne Vega, The Declining Winter, The Jackson 5, The Jacksons, The Orb, The Sugarcubes, The Time, Thom Yorke, Thompson Twins, Throbbing Gristle, Tori Amos, Trent Reznor, Tricky, Tycho, U2 & Green Day, UNKLE, Universal Indicator, Van Hunt, Wendy & Lisa, múm

    Take your top 50 artists. For each of these artists, collect the top 20 similar artists (where the artist itself is the #1 most similar). The resulting number of unique artists is your super-eclectic score. You can compute your own score at

    My super-eclectic score is currently (outdated)


    The most similar artists for my profile are Autechre (6), Aphex Twin (6), PJ Harvey (4), Jill Scott (4), Amel Larrieux (4), Plaid (4), Janet Jackson (4), Maxwell (4), Sly & The Family Stone (4), Jennifer Lopez (3)

    OK, these are fun and somewhat confirmed what I already knew.

    How well do you fit in?

    No surprise:
    My musical preference is 31.71% similar to the Okayplayers group. Musically, I do not fit in ...

    Kind of surprising, especially since I stopped posting there for good in spring 2005:
    My musical preference is 77.6% similar to the Xltronic group. Musically, I fit in!

    Makes sense more or less, despite the forum ceasing to exist last I checked:
    My musical preference is 64.43% similar to the hoodmusic group. Musically, I fit in!


    Monthly Top Artists

    Björk (22 plays)
    Gnarls Barkley (Cee-Lo & Danger Mouse) (9 plays)
    AFX (23 plays)
    Slum Village (8 plays)
    Yesterday's New Quintet (12 plays)
    Lupe Fiasco (9 plays)
    N.W.A (5 plays)
    Travis Christensen (7 plays)
    Steve Spacek (3 plays)
    Prince (12 plays)
    J Dilla Jay Dee (11 plays)
    Slayer (14 plays)
    Dwele (9 plays)
    Radiohead (8 plays)
    Pink Floyd (10 plays)
    Radiohead (19 plays)
    AFX (12 plays)
    Justin Timberlake (12 plays)
    Alice in Chains (7 plays)
    Jay-Z (18 plays)
    Pan Sonic (12 plays)
    Kraftwerk (8 plays)
    Radiohead (13 plays)
    Radiohead (22 plays)
    Nine Inch Nails (25 plays)
    Can (8 plays)
    DJ Krush & Toshinori Kondo (13 plays)
    Ochre (20 plays)
    Coil (25 plays)
    The Delfonics (3 plays)
    Baltimore Club (7 plays)
    Madonna (15 plays)
    Red Hot Chili Peppers (5 plays)
    Power-Pill (5 plays)
    Tom Waits (10 plays)
    Geggy Tah (7 plays)
    Fields of the Nephilim (6 plays)
    The Gun Club (12 plays)
    Stevie Wonder (1 plays)
    La Bruja (4 plays)
    Switch (1 plays)
    Dj Smash (8 plays)
    The Users (7 plays)
    Sheila Jordan (21 plays)
    Johnny Flynn (14 plays)
    Justin Deremo (29 plays)
    Coil (24 plays)
    Boards of Canada (45 plays)
    Boards of Canada (51 plays)
    Jawbox (24 plays)
    Jane's Addiction (23 plays)
    Prefuse 73 (29 plays)
    Kate Bush (25 plays)
    Aphex Twin (12 plays)
    Req (15 plays)
    Gescom (16 plays)
    D'Angelo (16 plays)
    Thom Yorke (12 plays)

    Pretty sure some of these are unofficial logos:
  • Tori Amos, song interpreter

    21 mar 2009, 18:41

    I may not listen to her all the time, but Tori Amos has been one of my favorite artists for most of my life. Not only is she an amazing songwriter, but also she does the best covers and often of songs written by some of my other favorite artists.

    If you're a fan of hers or of songs like
    Famous Blue Raincoat
    Killing Me Softly With His Song
    After the Gold Rush
    Can't Get You Out of My Head
    After All
    Smells Like Teen Spirit
    Do It Again
    Why not give this a listen?

    These are just a few songs for you to hear in your head. I also refer you to her uneven studio covers album, Strange Little Girls.
  • My 25 Favorite Albums

    10 jan 2009, 20:27

    Despite the music I scrobble, the following are my top 25 all-time favorite albums. I mostly listen to them on stereo systems. When I do this list, I often restrict myself to one album per artist, and now you will see why.

    1. Radiohead - OK Computer (1997). Play Climbing up the Walls.
    2. Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral (1994). Watch the uncensored video for Closer:

    3. Nine Inch Nails - The Fragile (1999). Play The Great Below.
    4. DJ Shadow - Endtroducing..... (1996). Play Midnight in a Perfect World.
    5. Massive Attack - Mezzanine (1998). Play Group Four.
    6. Tool - Ænima (1996). Watch the video for Stinkfist (A.K.A. "Track #1" if you ever saw this on MTV):

    7. Outkast - Aquemini (1998). Watch the video for Rosa Parks:

    8. Björk - Homogenic (1997). Play Joga.
    9. Radiohead - The Bends (1995). Play Street Spirit (Fade Out).
    10. Radiohead - Kid A (2000). Play How to Disappear Completely.
    11. Björk - Vespertine (2001). Play Unison.
    12. Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works II (1994). Play a sample of Cliffs (unofficial title). Read my comparative analysis of this album and Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians.
    13. Aphex Twin - Drukqs (2001). Play a sample of Vordhosbn.
    14. Neil Young - Harvest (1972). Watch the video for "The Needle and the Damage Done" live on The Johnny Cash Show in 1971:

    15. Talk Talk - Laughing Stock (1991). Play New Grass.
    16. Coil - Love's Secret Domain (1991). Play a sample of Dark River.
    17. Hood - Cold House (2001). Play You're Worth the Whole World (featuring Dose One and Why?).
    18. Björk - Debut (1993). Play Come to Me.
    19. Nine Inch Nails - Broken (1992). Play Suck.
    20. Prince - 1999 (1982). Play a sample of Little Red Corvette.
    21. Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine (1989). Play Terrible Lie.
    22. Prince & The Revolution - Purple Rain (1984). Play a sample of When Doves Cry.
    23. U2 - War (1983). Play Like A Song....
    24. UNKLE - Psyence Fiction (1998). Play Lonely Soul (featuring Richard Ashcroft).
    25. Deltron 3030 - Deltron 3030 (2000). Play a sample of Things You Can Do.

    Note the date this list was published--January 10, 2009--because that is the only day on which the list is accurate. :)