• 10 great albums of 2013 (in alphabetical order)

    27 dec 2013, 23:49

    Body Music, AlunaGeorge
    It already starts with the best Aaliyah song of 2013: Outlines, a seductive and melancholic track that for me is the best song on Body Music. I was immediately hooked by Aluna Francis's voice and George Reid's delicate, 90s-influenced beats. The influence of 90's music is one of the things I like the most in this album: here are two young people who really love acts like Timbaland, Missy Elliott and Aaliyah. Yet they managed to create a sound that's modern without trying too hard, cool without excesses. Apart from already-released great tracks such as You Know You Like It and Attracting Flies, there are other excellent moments, like the lovely Diver and the infectious Just a Touch. It's exciting already to think of the wonderful things that may come out after the success of this debut.

    Reflektor, Arcade Fire
    Well, I certainly didn't expect Arcade Fire to become the biggest indie rock band of the new century. (Is it?) But when I remember the fan adoration they created since their debut, Funeral, I think: "I should've seen this coming". Here is a band that, pretensions aside, always seemed to truly love what they did (they remain my favorite live act ever). And what's the matter with being pretentious? As long as you have the talent for it. And Arcade Fire is a force of nature. The more I listen to Reflektor, the more I like it and its small wonderful touches: how Reflektor, the song, grows when the chorus comes; the sensational "Jeanne D'arc Ooh" moments from Joan of Arc; the hilarious'n'drunk introduction in Normal Person ("Do yoou like rock and roll musiiic? Cause I don't knooow if I dooooo..."). Like the next album on this list, Reflektor manages to be long but never boring. And it's hard to choose best tracks. There's the magnificent duo/dialogue between lovers Orpheus and Eurydice, there's kids with porno under a haunting electronic beat, there's the catharsis provoked by "an awful word" (Afterlife). Keep on maintaining my trust in rock'n'roll, Arcade Fire. Even if you don't know if you like it.

    Beyoncé, Beyoncé
    A couple of weeks have passed since Hurricane Beyoncé. Now I have no doubt: it was a stroke of genius to release this album the way it was released. First of all, she killed any expectations - the choice was only one: focus on the music. At the same time, the "visual album" thing made Beyoncé something truly unique: it feels like more than an album. There are the songs, there are the videos. They can live apart but they also have a connection. And when was the last time you sat and watched 17 videos of the same artist?
    But this would be all fluff if the album wasn't good. And damn, this thing is good. Even though I'm a huge fan of B'Day, this feels like the first time Queen B has something original/interesting to offer. I'm still struggling with some of the slower tracks (I can't see the genius in Drunk in Love; maybe I should blame the awful video), but I feel compelled to listen to this album. It provokes me. And Beyoncé - along with Kanye West - has become the creator of the best lines in music: "I sneezed on the beat and the beat got sicker" is GENIUS; "Let me sit this ass on you" is hilarious. The best tracks are usually the ones where the rhythm matches Beyoncé's energy: the disco feeling of Blow is better than 95% of what's currently on radio. In the end, what Beyoncé did with this album was something remarkable: she made mainstream pop music the biggest it's been in a long time.

    Settle, Disclosure
    Much can be said about Settle, but it's easy to say why it is on everyone's list of best albums of the year: the White Noise (feat. AlunaGeorge) video. Seriously, can you listen to this album and not feel like the guy from the video? Can you NOT dance? At least not move your feet? Or your hands, if you're more of a hand person? I can't stand still. My body begs me to move!
    I don't even think the entire album is brilliant (I could live without Stimulation and Grab Her!), but when it's good, it's magnificent. I could listen to Confess to Me (feat. Jessie Ware) 200 times and not get tired of it; January (feat. Jamie Woon) has the danciest sinister keyboards of the year; Help Me Lose My Mind (feat. London Grammar) is a hell of a closer. And to think the Disclosure brothers have barely reached their 20s. I hope they stay around for at least three decades!

    Tookah, Emilíana Torrini
    Of all the artists and albums listed here, probably the least listened is Emilíana Torrini and her Tookah. Even here in Germany, where she had a #1 hit with Jungle Drum, most people I talked to had no idea she had released a new album. It's really a shame: she remains of the most underrated current artists. It took her five years to release new music, and she keeps on being on her own rhythm, keeping a distance from trends. Even though the wonderful first single Speed of Dark seemed to show a more electronic direction, Tookah is mostly acoustic. There's a wonderful mixture of coldness (in the mood of several tracks) and warmth (in the acoustic guitars, in her voice). Some of the album's best secrets are slowly revealed: it takes several listens, for example, to realize how sad Caterpillar is. And even though I salivate at the thought of a full-danceable Emilíana album (that's how good Speed of Dark is), songs like the delirious When Fever Breaks make this album a compelling listen.

    The 20/20 Experience, Justin Timberlake
    Even the mighty Beyoncé couldn't release an album as uniformly great as this one (I'm talking about the first Justin album of the year, obviously). The boldest pop album of 2013, without a doubt - only one song has less than five minutes, for Christ's sake! And also the best pop album of 2013. From the strings that introduce the magnificent Pusher Love Girl, this whole collection is a masterclass in great production. It's been a long time since Timbaland sounded so inspired. What about the changes midway through each song? I love them. The way Strawberry Bubblegum becomes even sweeter when it approaches bossa nova; how Mirrors (single of the year?) manages to be surprisingly affecting with the mantra "You are, you are, the love of my life". This was not my most listened album of the year, but it was definitely the one that left me the most ecstatic. It's the rare case of a pop album overblown with ambition, production, and corresponding to all expectations. And for a change, the biggest album of the year - sales-wise - deserved the title.

    Yeezus, Kanye West
    Was there ever a case of such a talented artist being such a despised figure? No, I don't hate him; but even the most ardent fan of Kanye would have a hard time defending some of his actions, and declarations. It's easier to focus on the music.
    Or is it? Yeezus is by far the most difficult album he's ever released (and to think some people had a hard time with 808s & Heartbreak). There are basically no singles, no radio-friendly songs. It's not an album I feel like listening often. But its power is undeniable. Of course, it's impossible to take the whole thing seriously: "Hurry up with my damn croissants" is there to prove it. But the beats are abrasive, unfriendly; when he raps about sex, it's completely unsexy. Kanye may not be a god as he believes, but he's a true original. The lack of a cover/booklet makes perfect sense: here is an album hard to be translated into images. Some songs could be soundtrack for nightmares. Yeezus will probably not have the staying power for me that Late Registration or My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy have, but it's another tremendous statement of the importance of Kanye West for music these days. In a word, he's vital.

    Trouble Will Find Me, The National
    A website called The National's music "dad rock". I'm still struggling with the meaning of this. Does this mean "grown-up music"? If it is, once again the band is showing us that being a grown-up means nothing. At least nothing much different than being young. The confusion, the feeling of being lost, will always be there in the group's songs. But what a collection they have here. Those three guitar notes in Sea of Love, ascending, are a thing of beauty. This Is the Last Time (with a discreet appearance by St. Vincent) has one of the most beautiful lines of the year: "I wish everybody knew what's so great about you". It's not only the fact that The National is a band truly deserving of the adjective "solid": it's how, after saying "When I walk into a room I do not light it up...", Matt Berninger adds a "fuck" that can be heard as melancholic or hilarious. After Boxer, this is their best album.

    Woman, Rhye
    This is my most listened album of the year. Of my 10 most listened songs in the past 12 months, 7 are in this album. And what's so special about it? Honestly, I have a hard time describing it. It's just an album that makes me happy. And also a bit nostalgic (maybe it's the video of The Fall - the best song of the year. Woman is a small, compact collection of beautiful music that has been compared ad nauseam to Sade. Of course, there's the voice of Milosh; but it's been a long time since Sade released music so beautiful. In the middle of lovely rhythms, lines of truth are sung: "Tell me lies and lullabies, but don't tell me to change", "Don't call me love, unless you mean it". And One of Those Summer Days manages to put into song all the feelings that its title can evoke. Woman, one of the least ambitious albums I've heard in 2013, left one of the biggest impressions.

    Night Time, My Time, Sky Ferreira
    I had paid basically no attention at all to Sky Ferreira before the release of Night Time, My Time. I knew she had a song called Everything is Embarrassing that everyone seemed to love; it never made an impression on me. But then a friend sent me some songs from her debut, and I was hooked. Then I listened to I Blame Myself, and I had to hold myself from crying (I was at the subway).
    I Blame Myself sounds like a long lost song from the Sixteen Candles soundtrack; there's a huge feeling of melancholia on the production (I don't even have to mention the lyrics). Hey, why aren't the big pop divas making music as affecting as this? Well, Sky is far from being a big pop diva. She sounds more like Ladyhawke - especially on the wonderful 24 Hours, that deserved to be huge. Heavy Metal Heart, although not a heavy metal song, is noisy, 80s, loud like the feeling of love being found (and let's agree that "You put my faith back in boys", from Boys, is a sensational line). Of all the "indie-pop" albums of 2013 (which includes Charli XCX's excellent True Romance), Sky Ferreira created the best one, the most authentic and surprising.
  • Five years of Last FM

    18 okt 2011, 11:05

    Five years already! :-D

    On every Last FM birthday, I write a journal entry about my top 50 artists at the time. Now it's time again - to compare my charts from 365 days ago it to my current top 50. The first number is their current position, and the second number is the position in my charts one year ago.

    1 (3) Joan as Police Woman
    2 (1) Lucinda Williams
    3 (4) Gemma Hayes
    4 (2) The Smashing Pumpkins
    5 (5) Tori Amos
    6 (6) Sheryl Crow
    7 (7) Madonna
    8 (12) Kanye West
    9 (8) Leona Naess
    10 (11) Jill Scott
    11 (9) Amerie
    12 (10) Liz Phair
    13 (15) Teedra Moses
    14 (13) PJ Harvey
    15 (14) The xx
    16 (21) Arcade Fire
    17 (18) Laura Nyro
    18 (17) Laura Veirs
    19 (19) Rachael Yamagata
    20 (20) Aimee Mann
    21 (16) Web Sheldon
    22 (23) Björk
    23 (26) Emilíana Torrini
    24 (31) Robyn
    25 (22) Antony and the Johnsons
    26 (29) Shelby Lynne
    27 (25) Céu
    28 (-) The Kills
    29 (24) Regina Spektor
    30 (27) Vanessa da Mata
    31 (28) Portishead
    32 (30) The National
    33 (-) DJ Shadow
    34 (36) Joni Mitchell
    35 (38) Kelis
    36 (39) Kings of Convenience
    37 (25) Missy Elliott
    38 (49) Britney Spears
    39 (33) Shannon Wright
    40 (34) Yeah Yeah Yeahs
    41 (45) Fiona Apple
    42 (44) Natalie Merchant
    43 (42) Vashti Bunyan
    44 (37) The Long Blondes
    45 (32) Arctic Monkeys
    46 (41) Sade
    47 (-) Rihanna
    48 (43) Sonic Youth
    49 (46) Suzanne Vega
    50 (47) Ray LaMontagne

    Well, few things have changed. But one thing changed for the first time: My number one artist! For the first time in the past five years, Lucinda Williams is not my #1 artist anymore. Don't worry, Lu! You're still at #2.

    My new #1 is more than deserving. In 2011, Joan as Police Woman not only released The Deep Field - which may be my favourite album of the year so far -, but I also had the huge honour of meeting her after a concert in Hanover. Believe me, I was deeply thrilled. She was nice, humble, and a delight. Just like her music.

    As for the (three) artists who entered the top 50, it's no wonder The Kills is the highest new entry. After the sensational Midnight Boom, they did it again and released the excellent Blood Pressures. After seeing them in Paris, I'm on my way to see them again live - this time in Rio!

    I'm glad DJ Shadow is now on my top 50 - since his Endtroducing..... album is one of my all-time favourites. As for Rihanna, the other new entry, I'll use her words to celebrate my five years in Last FM: I'll drink to that!
  • Four years of Last FM

    18 okt 2010, 12:40

    On every Last FM birthday, I write a journal entry about my top 50 artists at the time. Now it's time again - to compare my charts from 365 days ago it to my current top 50. The first number is their current position, and the second number is the position in my charts one year ago.

    1 (1) Lucinda Williams
    2 (4) The Smashing Pumpkins
    3 (5) Joan as Police Woman
    4 (2) Gemma Hayes
    5 (3) Tori Amos
    6 (6) Sheryl Crow
    7 (8) Madonna
    8 (7) Leona Naess
    9 (19) Amerie
    10 (11) Liz Phair
    11 (9) Jill Scott
    12 (13) Kanye West
    13 (10) PJ Harvey
    14 (44) The xx
    15 (14) Teedra Moses
    16 (12) Web Sheldon
    17 (23) Laura Veirs
    18 (16) Laura Nyro
    19 (15) Rachael Yamagata
    20 (17) Aimee Mann
    21 (21) Arcade Fire
    22 (18) Antony and the Johnsons
    23 (20) Björk
    24 (28) Regina Spektor
    25 (46) Céu
    26 (25) Emilíana Torrini
    27 (26) Vanessa da Mata
    28 (22) Portishead
    29 (27) Shelby Lynne
    30 (24) The National
    31 (-) Robyn
    32 (-) Arctic Monkeys
    33 (32) Shannon Wright
    34 (31) Yeah Yeah Yeahs
    35 (33) Missy Elliott
    36 (30) Joni Mitchell
    37 (29) The Long Blondes
    38 (41) Kelis
    39 (-) Kings of Convenience
    40 (38) Interpol
    41 (-) Sade
    42 (35) Vashti Bunyan
    43 (37) Sonic Youth
    44 (43) Natalie Merchant
    45 (36) Fiona Apple
    46 (40) Suzanne Vega
    47 (42) Ray LaMontagne
    48 (34) Nicole Atkins
    49 (39) Britney Spears
    50 (49) Phoenix

    Few things have changed. Only four new artists entered the top 50 (last year it was nine). I suppose that, as I said last year, the charts tend to become established as time goes by. It's hard for me to listen to a new artist so heavily that it's capable to enter the top 50. In the past 12 months, only one artist that I hadn't heard before entered my top 50: Arctic Monkeys. And the interesting thing is, I only started to listen to them because of my friend Ivan, whom I met here on Last FM. This still is the best social network around. And every year I keep meeting amazing, wonderful new people.

    For me, it's nice to see how The xx jumped from #44 to #14. 2010 was their year, right? Even though their album is from 2009. But in 2010: two Glastonbury concerts, a Mercury Prize award, their songs being played in several TV series... I'm glad to see the success they got. They deserve it (and they placed four tracks on my top 50).

    The highest new entry, Robyn, deserves the title. With her Body Talk albums, she is now undoubtedly the best pop artist around. And Pt. 3 wasn't even released yet! Could it be album of the year?
  • Three years of Last FM

    18 okt 2009, 14:00

    Wow, it's been three years since I joined Last FM. On every birthday, I write a journal entry about my top 50 artists at the time. Now it's time again - to compare my charts from 365 days ago it to my current top 50. The first number is their current position, and the second number is the position in my charts one year ago.

    1 (1) Lucinda Williams
    2 (4) Gemma Hayes
    3 (3) Tori Amos
    4 (2) The Smashing Pumpkins
    5 (5) Joan as Police Woman
    6 (6) Sheryl Crow
    7 (10) Leona Naess
    8 (8) Madonna
    9 (7) Jill Scott
    10 (9) PJ Harvey
    11 (18) Liz Phair
    12 (30) Web Sheldon
    13 (24) Kanye West
    14 (23) Teedra Moses
    15 (39) Rachael Yamagata
    16 (20) Laura Nyro
    17 (21) Aimee Mann
    18 (35) Antony and the Johnsons
    19 (11) Amerie
    20 (17) Björk
    21 (15) Arcade Fire
    22 (14) Portishead
    23 (13) Laura Veirs
    24 (12) The National
    25 (-) Emilíana Torrini
    26 (16) Vanessa da Mata
    27 (26) Shelby Lynne
    28 (-) Regina Spektor
    29 (27) The Long Blondes
    30 (22) Joni Mitchell
    31 (-) Yeah Yeah Yeahs
    32 (29) Shannon Wright
    33 (28) Missy Elliott
    34 (19) Nicole Atkins
    35 (-) Vashti Bunyan
    36 (37) Fiona Apple
    37 (32) Sonic Youth
    38 (25) Interpol
    39 (43) Britney Spears
    40 (33) Suzanne Vega
    41 (31) Kelis
    42 (-) Ray LaMontagne
    43 (41) Natalie Merchant
    44 (-) The xx
    45 (42) Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton
    46 (-) Céu
    47 (-) Ladyhawke
    48 (34) Kate Nash
    49 (-) Phoenix
    50 (44) Sleater-Kinney

    Nine new artists entered the top 50 - again, a decent amount; with more time, the charts tend to become established (see how the top 10 hasn't changed). It's kinda hard for me to listen to a new artist so heavily that it's capable to enter the top 50. Some of the "new" artists, of course, are not new to me; they just got benefited from releasing great albums since October 18th, 2008 - likeRegina Spektor and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
    The highest entry though, Emilíana Torrini, was heavily played because she was my favourite act at this year's Glastonbury - I played Me and Armini non-stop.

    There are some new-to-me artists though, such as The xx and Céu - owners probably of my two favourite albums of 2009. Even an artist as veteran as Vashti Bunyan managed to enter the top 50 - courtesy of my friend William (speaking of him: Web Sheldon, you're almost on my top 10! When is that EP coming out?).

    As for the top tracks, it's interesting to notice how every new Gemma Hayes release always grabs my attention: there are 7 Gemma songs on my top 50 - at least one from each album, one from the 2009 Oliver EP and at least one B-side. You go, girl.
  • Top 10 songs to dance to

    10 aug 2009, 02:43

    This is not a top 10 like, "These are my TEN FAVOURITE songs ever to dance to!". I explain. A friend of mine invited me to DJ at her party. I was one in 10 DJs. Each DJ had to choose 10 songs he/she loves dancing. No need to be hit singles, just 10 songs you absolutely love to dance.

    I tried to avoid some of the most obvious tracks - like amazing dancey songs that people usually play in clubs (Justin Timberlake's "Rock Your Body", Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Y Control"). I tended to choose songs that I never hear on the dancefloor. And I avoided some of the pop stuff cause the venue I DJed is more rock-oriented.
    Anyway, these are the 10 I came up with. In the order I played.

    1) Everglade by L7
    I just love L7. I think Bricks Are Heavy is chock-full of hits for the (rock) dancefloor, but people always play "Pretend We're Dead". Everglade may be the best song to dance on the album (even though it's SO good to scream and dance with "Shitlist"!). And L7 always remind me of one of my best friends, who share my enthusiasm with this album.

    2) Rocket Boy by Liz Phair
    This song is so underrated. Why Liz Phair relegated this to a soundtrack? I'll never know the answer to this question. Anyway, in my perfect world, this would've been a smash hit.

    3) Turn It On by Sleater-Kinney
    They never play Sleater-Kinney at the clubs! Well, a friend/DJ usually plays "One More Hour", and I always die when she does it! Turn It On is so pop, with its handclaps and great chorus. And it's also a great song to scream along.

    4) Sealings by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
    To me, this is one of the best Yeah Yeah Yeah songs. The soundtrack question again...

    5) Honey Bee by Lucinda Williams
    Couldn't miss the chance to play a song by my favourite artist. And Honey Bee is so... raw and dirty. It suits the venue. I don't think I'll ever hear a Lucinda song on a dancefloor.

    6) House Of Jealous Lovers by The Rapture
    Of course, this is a huge hit and has been played to death. But it still is one of the best songs to shout along, really loud! And the last time I heard it on the dancefloor was like, three years ago?

    7) Lucky Star by Basement Jaxx
    Whenever I hear this song, I just want to go completely crazy and shake my ass, my non-existent hair, my head, my arms, my legs and everything left of me. It's so insane.

    8) It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp (feat. Taraji P. Henson) by Terrence Howard
    Gotta love this. Impossible to resist.

    9) Gossip Folks by Missy Elliott
    Among the zillion amazing songs and singles in Missy's career, I still think this is her best song. And it hasn't been played a lot here in Brazil, unfortunately.

    10) Everyone Nose by N*E*R*D
    I know it's a hit, but not in the clubs I usually go! And there's no chorus as bizarre-and-catchy-at-the-same-time as this. But I still prefer to sing "KA-CHOO!" than "ACHOO!", I just think it's funnier :-)
  • The best albums of 2008

    3 jan 2009, 16:36

    #10 > tie: In Ghost Colours, Cut Copy and "Couples", The Long Blondes

    Years go by and I listen to less and less electronic music, but In Ghost Colours gave the genre a shining moment in 2008. Can Cut Copy be called an "electronic music" band? With all the guitars on the album, it's hard to tell. But this was the record that made me dance the most in 2008, with great hymns-for-the-dancefloor such as Lights & Music and the wonderful Unforgettable Season, with its New Order inspiration. This is an album for the good times.

    As for The Long Blondes, the band said goodbye in 2008. Their sophomore album, "Couples", was another proof that the band had a bright future ahead. Dorian Cox's lyrics are still full of acid commentaries on love and sex, addressing situations such as not betraying your boyfriend (Guilt) and the sadness of being single while "the couples go by and give the eye" (The Couples). Kate Jackson's vocals are nuanced and smart, making every song intelligent while retaining the band's pop approach. As for the complaints that "the band abandoned the guitars and headed to the dancefloor", it's just bullshit - powerful rock moments such as Here Comes the Serious Bit are there to prove the contrary.

    #09 >> Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
    Being from Brazil and not exactly following the indie scene discussions, I didn't get all the arguments over Vampire Weekend's debut. Is it a "love-it-or-hate-it" album? This sounds bizarre, since it's such a simple album, and (for me) so instantly likable. It's hard not to enjoy the contagious rhythms of A-Punk and Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa (how long till movie people start using this song in beach parties sequences?). Great musical bits such as the guitar in Oxford Comma add a lot to the pleasure of hearing this pretty short album.

    #08 >> Me and Armini, Emiliana Torrini
    La Torrini keeps on making a new album that's quite different from the one before. Here she abandons (for the most part) the acoustic pieces of Fisherman's Woman and goes for songs that are filled with drums (there's a song called Jungle Drum, for God's sake). She's more adorable than 99% of people in tracks like Big Jumps with a impossibly lovely "do do ro do do", and on Ha Ha - where an acoustic guitar resembles the most magnificent moments of her previous album. But she can also sound heavier (and sexier, too). Just check the dense Gun or the amazing Heard It All Before, which goes from reggae to an almost punk-ish song (!).

    #07 >> Thirteens, Leona Naess
    As a big Leona fan, I've been waiting for a new album for five years. I was almost getting used to the thought that she'd never release a fourth album. And then there was Thirteens, a lovely, serene, acoustic and very "repeatable" disc. From the "ghostly" backing vocals on Ghosts In The Attic, it's a sequence of little songs that keep on growing on me. In a fair world, Leave Your Boyfriends Behind would be a hit as big as Feist's "1 2 3 4" (ok, maybe Leona should've done a video as amazing as Feist's), since the songs share the same "vibe". I'm currently in love with Learning As We Go and her advice to "Just don't lie to your heart"; but the great moments are plenty. Even though the album is haunted by her father's death, Leona's spirit can be resumed on a song title such as Unnamed (This Song Makes Me Happy): it's simple, it's optimistic despite some bad news, it's amazing.

    #06 >> Detours, Sheryl Crow
    For a long time, Sheryl Crow was my favorite female artist. Then came Wildflower - probably one of the greatest musical disappointments of this decade for me (along with Madonna's Confessions on a Dancefloor). Most of the songs sounded the same, and the lyrics weren't near half as good as other Sheryl lyrics. But now I have Detours, and I'm in love with her again.
    An american friend told me that it's considered very "uncool" to like Sheryl Crow these days (he's a fan, just like me). Maybe it's because Sheryl never wanted to be "cool" in the first place; she seemed to be in a place all of her own, just doing her stuff. At the same time, she's trying to save the world - another "uncool" thing. Well, the songs are memorable, and that's what matters. Out Of Our Heads has to be the cheesiest and happiest protest song of the year; impossible to dislike. Gasoline takes Sheryl back to the narrative format she mastered in previous songs. But the best moments are the most intimate: battling with cancer on the very sad Make It Go Away (Radiation Song), singing a Lullaby For Wyatt, asking for mother care on the brilliant title track or singing softly to me on the perfect Drunk With The Thought Of You.

    #05 >> Little Honey, Lucinda Williams
    I wasn't expecting another Lucinda album in 2008, since she released the devastating West in 2007. But there she was with a new batch of songs, and she's sounding HAPPY! Great news for her; great news for the fans, who got a new album so soon. The Grand Dame of rock'n'roll (come on, Lucinda deserves a title) is still as raw as ever, from the opener Real Love to the cover of AC/DC's It's A Long Way To The Top that closes the album. In the middle, Lu rocks her sex life on Honey Bee ("Now I got your honey all over my tummy", yeah!), and cries Tears Of Joy. But the better moments come with the serenity of Knowing and the sadness of If Wishes Were Horses. That's the thing with Lu & me: she never disappoints.

    #04 >> 808s & Heartbreak, Kanye West
    I certainly don't listen to Kanye West the same way american (or british) people do; I don't follow all the lyrics and the raps. The thing that attracted me to Kanye's music was always the music itself. Since The College Dropout came out, Kanye's inventiveness caught me. With the Jon Brion collaborations, Late Registration quickly became one of my favorite albums of the decade.
    So on his 4th album, Kanye's not rapping! I don't give a shit; the music is still awesome and original. It's his darkest album (by now, everybody knows that it's haunted by his mother's death and the breakup with his fiancée), and the music really suits his mood. Tracks such as opener Say You Will and Amazing were made for the night, with cold beats and a chilly atmosphere. Highlights include singles Love Lockdown and Heartless, and my personal favorite Paranoid - finally Mr. West has done the dancefloor hymn he's been threatening to make since album #1. With 808s & Heartbreak, Kanye solidifies his status as the most original act in current mainstream music.

    #03 >> Third, Portishead
    11 years, and they come back with an album as wonderful as the previous ones? How surprising is that? Third leaves me speechless whenever I listen to it. Some people say "trip-hop" is a limited definition of the Portishead sound; the band itself hates it. I like it because I can't define what exactly is trip-hop; if a friend asked me for an explanation, I'd have no words. To me, this is an album for the end of the times; there's an "Children of Men" vibe here that I quite enjoy (check those alarm sounds in the end of Threads!). We Carry On is the sound of machines going to war; Machine Gun is, hm, self-explanatory. Small, with the Nico influences, is apocalyptic. Should I say anything about Beth Gibbon's vocals? And should I even mention that this war is a war of the heart, in Beth's lyrics? Masterpiece - the third in the band's career.

    #02 >> Elephants... Teeth Sinking Into Heart, Rachael Yamagata
    In 2008, Beyoncé made a double album that could be fit into a single one; she separated her "personalities" in two albums with 5 or 6 songs each. Rachael Yamagata didn't go that far (she never mentioned two personalities), but, like Beyoncé - before Beyoncé, actually -, she did the same. "Elephants" is the softer Yamagata, the one from Happenstance, the one with the fuck-me-I-wanna-die-with-these-lyrics. She's quotable as a movie from Billy Wilder; songs such as What If I Leave, Elephants and the 9-minute-epic Sunday Afternoon cut deep inside.
    "Teeth Sinking Into Heart" is the real surprise - there's also a ferocious side in this girl! Sidedish Friend and Faster are the standouts, rockin' hard and with intensity. "Intensity" may be the key word here: Rachael sings everything with a passion that's impressive. Her songs pierce me and heal me. And I love her for that.

    #01 >> To Survive, Joan as Police Woman
    Oh, Joan! So simple, yet so complex. I can hear someone ask me "Why do you like this girl so much?", and I can't explain. I can try.
    In the end of an interview, Joan thanked the reporter. When he asked why, she said, "For not asking about Jeff (Buckley; they used to date when he drowned). For letting me be me".
    This is what I like about her. And this is in her songs. It's in the verses of Holiday, my favorite song of 2008, with her letting go of "this worn out desire to be free". To be in love is the opposite of being free, but she knows this is not a sad feeling. "I'm so happy to be loved", she states on the next song, and the message is said, simple as that. Simple? Try To Be Lonely, where she says she found "the one to be lonely with". Joan understands the complex simplicity (to quote Teedra Moses) of love, and this wisdom is everywhere on the album. Even if she's struggling to find "the spark to survive" on the devastating title track. Joan is not just a great singer-songwriter, she's someone I truly admire.
  • Two years of Last FM

    18 okt 2008, 12:56

    Two years since I entered the world of Last FM. One year ago, I wrote a journal entry about my top 50 artists at the time. Now it's time to compare it to my current top 50. The first number is their current position, and the second number is the position they were in my charts one year ago.

    1 (1) Lucinda Williams
    2 (2) The Smashing Pumpkins
    3 (3) Tori Amos
    4 (4) Gemma Hayes
    5 (23) Joan as Police Woman
    6 (24) Sheryl Crow
    7 (5) Jill Scott
    8 (27) Madonna
    9 (12) PJ Harvey
    10 (39) Leona Naess
    11 (8) Amerie
    12 (9) The National
    13 (7) Laura Veirs
    14 (-) Portishead
    15 (6) The Arcade Fire
    16 (11) Vanessa da Mata
    17 (10) Björk
    18 (16) Liz Phair
    19 (36) Nicole Atkins
    20 (-) Laura Nyro
    21 (34) Aimee Mann
    22 (31) Joni Mitchell
    23 (15) Teedra Moses
    24 (20) Kanye West
    25 (14) Interpol
    26 (26) Shelby Lynne
    27 (35) The Long Blondes
    28 (21) Missy Elliott
    29 (18) Shannon Wright
    30 (-) Web Sheldon
    31 (13) Kelis
    32 (19) Sonic Youth
    33 (-) Suzanne Vega
    34 (46) Kate Nash
    35 (17) Antony and the Johnsons
    36 (22) Janet Jackson
    37 (38) Fiona Apple
    38 (-) Beirut
    39 (-) Rachael Yamagata
    40 (29) Tracey Thorn
    41 (48) Natalie Merchant
    42 (-) Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton
    43 (-) Britney Spears
    44 (50) Sleater-Kinney
    45 (43) Pato Fu
    46 (25) Timbaland
    47 (49) Hilary Duff
    48 (-) Cut Copy
    49 (30) Blondie
    50 (-) Carly Simon

    Ten new artists entered the top 50 - a decent amount, I guess? Since I'm not known for discovering new/obscure bands, I think 20% of new stuff is quite alright. "New", well, "new": most of the new entries are artists I already knew and enjoyed. One could argue that the Top 4 remains intact, but hey - I never said I'd give up listening to my perennial favorites.

    The highest new entry, Portishead, jumped to #14 thanks to a new wonderful album - the 11-year wait was worth it. The other two highest entries were, again, courtesy of the friends I met here on Last FM. Laura Nyro, which I had never heard one year ago (but was curious about), was introduced to me by a dear friend of mine. And boy, she's awesome. #20, and deserving. A true original, criminally underrated - it's so easy to see her influence on artists such as Joni Mitchell and Tori Amos. She's one of my favorites forever.
    And the other biggest entry, well, he *is* a friend of mine. Web Sheldon, with his EP and some demos, became almost an obsession of mine. What can I do? The kid's got talent. I'm his #1 fan, proudly.
    (there's also Beirut at #38, an artist that was introduced to me almost exactly one year ago by the same great friend who told me I should listen to The National).

    The "I'm his #1 fan" thing (no Misery jokes here, please!) can be noticed on my Top 50 tracks: 5 of these songs are Web Sheldon songs! He shares the top spot with Lucinda Williams and Gemma Hayes, with 5 songs each. And with 5 songs too there's Joan as Police Woman - probably the artist I loved the most this last year - , including what's possibly my favorite song of 2008, Holiday, at #2. She's definitely a contender for album of the year, too. But there are so many new stuff to listen - including a new album from my favorite of them all, Lucinda... I wonder if she'll be my #1 artist in 2009 :-)
  • The best albums of 2007

    1 feb 2008, 16:50

  • Love, Crowbar 2007 (or, The best songs of the year)

    17 jan 2008, 16:48

    Since 2001 I've been doing end-of-the-year compilations (called "Love, Crowbar"). For me, 2007 has been a fantastic year for music, so this time I decided to make a double album with the best songs of the year. Here they are, with silly comments, in the CD order:

    Are You Alright?, Lucinda Williams
    Such a simple question, with so many meanings. "Are you alright?", Lucinda asks over and over again, while feelings of hurt, pain, love and sadness cross her words. Who is she talking to? Is she addressing The Man That Got Away? Or is she talking to her late mother? That's not the most important thing. What Lucinda wants us to know is that she cares. She wants the best for you. And she hurts. So do I, whenever I listen to this work of art.

    Dear Darkness, PJ Harvey
    White Chalk is full of moments so-quiet-it's-scary, but Dear Darkness may be the most affecting. “Dear Darkness, I’ve been your friend for many years”, she says, her voice absolutely fragile. With its soft piano, this is a song that demands to be listened in entire silence: any noise outside may break it like glass.

    Someone Great, LCD Soundsystem
    The electronic beats could sell this song alone (as it did on the 45:33 album), but James Murphy's lyrics turn it into one of the most affecting songs of the year. "There's all the time and all the planning, and songs, to be finished" – how can any of this stuff be important "when someone great is gone"? Six minutes of brilliant melancholy.

    Rest My Chemistry, Interpol
    Since I listened to it for the first time, it became my favourite song on the (somewhat underrated) Our Love to Admire. That intro! So solid, so… rock'n'roll. No hymn for the indie dancefloor, no fast guitars for now; these New York guys are taking their time.

    Marry Me, St. Vincent
    "Marry me John; I'll be so good to you". Who can resist such a request, when it's such a beautiful voice who's singing? That charming piano keys, those lovely handclaps! "You won't realize I'm gone". Somehow I doubt that.

    Crown Royal, Jill Scott
    Pure sex. In less than two minutes, Jill Scott is able to deliver the sexiest song of the year. Less than 120 seconds (108, to be more accurate) of wet and hot activity – car (and drink) metaphors included. Why so short, Jill? Maybe she intended us to listen over and over, back and forth? That's what I do.

    House of Cards, Radiohead
    In Rainbows is probably the most sensual album Radiohead has ever done, and House of Cards feels like an invitation to the bedroom. Thom Yorke almost moans, the gentle and persistent guitar sounds like an invitation to surrender... The sex song for indie boys and girls?

    Quem Não Sou, Pato Fu
    Hiding beneath a voice distortion, Fernanda Takai sings gently and sounds like a fragile robot. At first, I thought the verses of this song were kinda nonsense, but then I realized: this is Pato Fu's own X-Static Process! Are we ourselves when we try so hard to please someone else?

    In The Morning, Shannon Wright
    Shannon 's latest album didn't convince me much, but this song has everything I came to expect from her: a deep feeling of melancholy, spare instruments, a waking feeling after a terrible day. Avoid it if you're feeling seriously depressed, but don't deny the beauty of it.

    Digital Ghost, Tori Amos
    The best thing Tori has done in this decade, perhaps? The standout of the great-but-too-long American Doll Posse appeals to anyone who relies on technology to get closer to a friend, or even a lover. "I have to trust, you know, this digital ghost", she says, while a ghostly Tori coos in the background. It's so sad, and so personal to me, that it's hard for me to write about it.

    Moon Pulls, múm
    On No Cars Go, The Arcade Fire sing about the moment "between the click of the light and the start of the dream". Moon Pulls beautifully captures this moment. It makes me dream of lands I have yet to see, and moons I want to admire in foreign countries. Dreamy and wonderful.

    Meu Deus, Vanessa da Mata
    "Um homem bonito assim – o que quer de mim?" ("A man so handsome – what does he want from me?"), sings Vanessa da Mata in the first verses of this song. She knows it's impossible to resist, and I don't even try. On the chorus of this fabulous song – filled with sensual pianos and drums –, she puts into words the beauty of someone who's truly heavenly.

    Slow Show, The National
    "You know I dreamed about you for 29 years before I saw you". Enough said. I just hope it doesn't take this long.

    My Body Is a Cage, The Arcade Fire
    This is the song that keeps the Arcade Fire's teenage angst burning higher. Fans of more abstract verses can go somewhere else, but for thousands of people, "Set my body free" will speak volumes. The perfect song to end a wonderful album. And what about that You Tube video with the Once Upon a Time in the West images?

    Silver Lining, Rilo Kiley
    This song was made for the road. It demands to be listened on the road, with the wind in your face. Such a cliché image, but who can resist trying while listening to that guitar riff? Jenny Lewis’ voice feels like an invitation to a great vacation.

    Saltbreakers, Laura Veirs
    The secret is in the male voices in the background during the chorus. Sing along!

    Frank & Ava, Suzanne Vega
    Sometimes all I want is just a nice old pop song, with a strong hook, a beautiful voice, clever lyrics… “Just” that? Suzanne Vega knows how to do it and making it look easy. And that first line always cracks me up.

    Get Around To It, Tracey Thorn
    This woman can sing anything and make it sound amazing. Give her a fantastic tine like this, and the rest is up to her. The result is absolutely irresistible.

    Jimmy, M.I.A.
    Kala is full of innovative songs, political songs, out-of-this-world songs. And my favourite track is this version of a Bollywood song! It’s M.I.A. at her most “world party” mode, picking a great song (the video for the original song is fantastic) and introducing it to a new generation. Well done, girl.

    The Way I Are, Timbaland
    We wanna see you work your body. Release, I’m out of control. Bounce like your ass has the hiccups. Just dance!

    Gypsy Woman, Hilary Duff
    Who would say that, in a year full of great pop songs such as Umbrella and Makes Me Wonder, my favourite pop tune of the year would be by Hilary Duff! When I read that the lyrics concerned an affair her dad had with another woman, it grew on me. But the music itself is fantastic – check that funky introduction! And lose control.

    Innocence, Björk
    This is Björk at one of the things she does best: being an optimistic. “Let’s open up: share!”, she says, with a heavy beat following her (courtesy of Timbaland). After seeing her amazing concert in Rio last October, it’s impossible for me not to go ecstatic while listening to it.

    In the Mausoleum, Beirut
    Feel like traveling in time? Want to go to Europe? I do. This track allows me to do this whenever I want.

    Flashing Lights, Kanye West
    Or, Kanye becomes Kelis. And rules the dancefloor.

    Phantom Punch, Sondre Lerche
    A friend of mine compared this song to Franz Ferdinand. I know this is a compliment, but I’d take Sondre over Alex Kapranos anytime. And what about the fantastic Michel Gondry-inspired video?

    Hot, Avril Lavigne
    I don’t like her. In fact, I may hate the bitch. But this song rules. It was Blender magazine who opened my ears: when she sings “You’re so good to me, baby, baby”, she sounds exactly like Aimee Mann! And everyone around me knows I’m a sucker for declarations of love as energetic as this. For now, this girl is safe from hell.

    Crush, Amerie
    Without a doubt, the most underrated artist of 2007 is Amerie. It’s a complete mystery to me why her Because I Love It album, chock-full of hits-to-be, wasn’t released in the US. Crush is a classic: sensual and sweet, with lyrics so amazing I can’t believe it. “I wish I could save your kiss for some other girl to taste/ To see expressions on her face”. Nobody else could say it with so much charm.

    Party's Over, Nicole Atkins
    Best New Artist of the year. A killer performance on Letterman. An amazing voice. She even has great shoes! And the songs! Man! Party’s Over has it all: a joyous tune, great lyrics, a girl-group vibe, I Am Shelby Lynne strings… Deserves to be huge!

    Merry Happy, Kate Nash
    This was hard to choose: Mariella or Merry Happy? Mariella has the lovely Regina Spektor vibe, the great crescendo, the unforgettable never-ever-ever-ever-ever line. But Merry Happy is such a contradiction – the happiest tune, the saddest lyrics –, it won my heart. “You obviously didn’t want to stick around, so I learned from you”, and then Kate goes singing “do do do” as if she was actually happy. “I can be alone, yeah, I can watch a sunset on my own”. Of course she can, we all can. But it can be so very lonely. Do do do da do…
  • One year of Last FM

    19 okt 2007, 20:22

    One year since I discovered Last FM, these are my Overall Top Artists. It'll be nice to see, in a year from now, which ones I'm still listening to and which ones will leave room to new discoveries.

    1 Lucinda Williams
    2 The Smashing Pumpkins
    3 Tori Amos
    4 Gemma Hayes
    5 Jill Scott
    6 The Arcade Fire
    7 Laura Veirs
    8 Amerie
    9 The National
    10 Björk
    11 Vanessa da Mata
    12 PJ Harvey
    13 Kelis
    14 Interpol
    15 Teedra Moses
    16 Liz Phair
    17 Antony and the Johnsons
    18 Shannon Wright
    19 Sonic Youth
    20 Kanye West
    21 Missy Elliott
    22 Janet Jackson
    23 Joan as Police Woman
    24 Sheryl Crow
    25 Timbaland
    26 Shelby Lynne
    27 Madonna
    28 Gwen Stefani
    29 Tracey Thorn
    30 Blondie
    31 Joni Mitchell
    32 Basement Jaxx
    33 Paris Hilton
    34 Aimee Mann
    35 The Long Blondes
    36 Nicole Atkins
    37 Nellie McKay
    38 Fiona Apple
    39 Leona Naess
    40 M.I.A.
    41 LCD Soundsystem
    42 The Evens
    43 Pato Fu
    44 Sondre Lerche
    45 Joss Stone
    46 Kate Nash
    47 Regina Spektor
    48 Natalie Merchant
    49 Hilary Duff
    50 Sleater-Kinney

    On the Overall Top Tracks chart, of course, Lucinda Williams reigns supreme with seven tracks – six from her phenomenal album West (Are You Alright?, probably my favorite song of 2007, is at #3). Gemma Hayes comes close, with five tracks (with her B-side Can't Find Love in 5th place. I have a tendency to play a lot of B-sides: my most listened track by Teedra Moses is Take My Love Away, and there’s only one Smashing Pumpkins song on my top 50: Pennies, from the Zero EP).

    It’s also nice to see the songs by artists that were introduced to me by Last FM friends: The National’s Slow Show on #2 (!), and Squalor Victoria on #45; and múm’s Moon Pulls on #9. These songs (and artists) are the consequence of the best thing about Last FM: the people I’ve met.