Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I will follow you into the dark

I was sitting here playing Aimee Mann's "Humpty Dumpty" tonight and I thought to myself: Aimee Mann is one of those artists I would follow to the end of the earth. I don't think she's ever recorded a bad song; she's an artist of such high caliber, with such impeccable credentials, astoundingly talented, I can't stop listening. Who are those artists you feel the same way about? I sat down and tried to think of the artists who I feel I can trust to consistently deliver quality material.

* Aimee Mann
* Bob Dylan - in the regard that I don't think he'll release another bad record before he dies.
* A.C. Newman and James Mercer - Mercer hasn't written a bad song (except maybe "Your Algebra") and Newman is just a genius who couldn't write a bad song if you held a gun to his head. In fact, if you commanded either of them to write a stinker, it would still probably be a delectable pop concoction.
* Danger Mouse - the man is just a superstar, not a bad feat for a producer. Everything he touches turns to gold.
* Stephin Merritt - but I'm running out of patience -- just release another damned Magnetic Fields record, already.

Really cheesy and incomplete list, but maybe it will inspire you to start thinking of beloved artists of your own. And no, despite what the subject line says, I would not include Ben Gibbard on this list...

Monday, December 18, 2006

End of a Year (almost)

There's some nights when you are just generally woozy, and you have a tough time thinking of anything to talk about, let alone write about. I'll start out by mentioning Stylus' list, released this past week, of its top 50 singles of the year.


I'll humor these guys and go through the list and count the number of tracks I would even recognize if I heard them. Ready? Go!....ok, about seven of the songs. Everything else seems to be hip hop I've never heard of, teenybopper anthems, or Swedish. Maybe their album list will be a tad less, shall we say, obscure, but there's still some things I like about this list. I was pleasantly surprised to see Camera Obscura rank so highly, as well as the Junior Boys. Also, I thought I was the only one who would wind up standing behind "When You Were Young", but apparently it was more well-loved than I thought. And "Crazy" at #1 is a no-brainer; there hasn't been a song that so defined a year since "Hey Ya!" in 2003. Pitchfork and other outlets will probably be posting their big lists in the coming week; if you're looking for a nice conglomerate of all the various lists, I've always liked Metacritic's year-end analyses. This year's link:

Maybe lists, especially at this time of the year, aren't your thing. I'm definitely in the camp of people who likes lists; they give us an outlet not only to let everyone know what we like, but also to gauge what everyone else has been into.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


It almost goes without saying that I should have gone to more shows this year. When all is said and done, I only made it to three concerts in the calendar year 2006. In between being at school and working multiple jobs, it was tough to find the time (or the money) to get to shows. I missed the Joseph Arthur and Mountain Goats shows, for example, which was really lame of me. Heck, I didn't even make it to the infamous Flaming Lips/Sonic Youth show at the State Fair, although I have multiple excuses for that: A.) I've never been a big fan of the former, and B.) I was holding down the fort at MPR, winding up filling in for the evening after Mark Wheat was marooned in the deluge at the fair. But enough about the shows I didn't see; how abou the shows I actually went to?

Belle & Sebastian/New Pornographers: The Orpheum, March 12
From the moment this one was announced, I knew I would be kicking myself if I somehow managed to miss it. I camped out on Ticketmaster to assure excellent tickets, the same strategy I had used for Wilco. The show was pretty amazing, as could be expected. The New Pornos opened with "Twin Cinema"; it was one of those moments where you can't believe you're actually watching one of your favorite bands perform. Their set was one of the happiest experiences I've had at any show; my only regrets are that it wasn't longer and that Neko wasn't there. Belle & Sebastian were almost an afterthought from there for me, opening nicely with "The Stars of Track and Field". I like the way they infused songs like "Your Cover's Blown" with such an energy, then suddenly switching to a completely bare sound on "Piazza, New York Catcher" without faltering. Sure, Minneapolis was struck by a blizzard that night, and we had a devil of a time making it back to Morris alive, but it was a great time.

KUMM March Music Madness: Halloween Alaska/Fitzgerald/Duplomacy, March 18
It's tough for me to assess this show in a fair and impartial way; after all, I was one of the major planners. I still think it turned out pretty well, even if Hal Al were a tad too low-key to be the headliners of the night. If anything, we should have sequenced it with a rock act starting out, then something more chill, and a high-energy band to end the night. This was tough, because Hal Al is about as chill a live act as you can get. Still, all the acts did a nice job, and overall, it was a great atmosphere and a fun evening. Most of all, I'm glad Hal Al ended the night with "State Trooper" -- they hadn't even played it two years earlier and I was glad it made an appearance at the end of this night.

Jens Lekman, Triple Rock Social Club, July 28
I never really wrote about this show at length, but what can I say? It was one of the best shows I've ever been to. Jens had poise & stage presence, with charming banter. His band was firing on all cylinders and put a real smile on my face. Jens and his band's performance of "The Opposite of Hallelujah" was simply phenomenal: I've never seen a band so effortlessly take control of a room and exude such energy as during that song. Another incredible moment took place during "Black Cab", the original version of which could perhaps be described as a funeral march, or a dirge. However, on this night, it took on a bouncy, almost celebratory tone, with the drums banging out a '60s garage rhythm like something from That Thing You Do! I know the song forwards and back (it is one of my most beloved songs) and I had hencefore never thought the song could ever be recontextualized in a way that could be characterized as "celebratory". Oh, how wrong I was. When I watched Jens during the performance, I saw him live the song, even mouthing along with the closing guitar part like so many of us do with our favorite guitar solos. It is as if he knows that "Black Cab" is the best thing he has or will ever write, a song that will live on forever, a song that he almost feels honored to get to perform on a personal level on a nightly basis. It was an amazing moment, just one of an amazing show.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The battle has only begun!

The news was disheartening when Golden Globe nominations were released this week:


And I'm not talking about Alan Arkin missing out for Little Miss Sunshine or Jenna Fischer for The Office. The part that makes me die a little inside is the Best Original Song - Motion Picture category:

Music by: Seal and Christopher BruceLyrics by: Seal

Music & Lyrics by: Henry Krieger, Anne Preven, Scott Cutler and Beyonce Knowles

Music & Lyrics by: Bryan Adams, Eliot Kennedy and Andrea Remanda

Music & Lyrics by: Prince Rogers Nelson

Music & Lyrics by: Sheryl Crow

Notice anyone missing? That's right, your favorite Replacement-turned-kiddie-songster, Paul Westerberg, got shafted for his work on Open Season, thereby delivering a blow to my campaign to get Paul Westerberg the Oscar this year. The entire soundtrack was pretty slick, with plenty of memorable numbers. They even got Pete Yorn to sing "I Belong" in an effort to make the material more palatable to voters. Maybe voters among the Hollywood Foreign Press mistook the soundtrack for the British Sea Power album of the same name, thinking it to be a veiled support for nautical imperialism, or perhaps they simply wanted to reward the other '80s icon from Minnesota who contributed songs to a CGI film about a ragtag bunch of animals -- Prince, for his Happy Feet song. Then again, if I had the choice of watching flocks of adorable penguins or a belching deer voiced by Ashton Kutcher, I know which one I'd choose. Still, we can't give up hope that when Oscar nominations are announced on January 23, Paul will be one of the 5 nominees. So forget what they all told you about the 2004 elections: this is the most important election of your lifetime!! Track down your local Academy voter and ask them to consider Paul Westerberg's songs for Open Season. Take out ads in your local trade papers, talk it up on the street. This is our best chance to help Paul Westerberg attain one of the ultimate honors in show business -- an Oscar.

Then again, it would be pretty cool to see Prince win......