Best Last Tracks

A great last song ties up an album, bringing climax and closure to an aural experience.  It should leave you satisfied, like after a great roll in the sack, providing a sense of denouement to the listener. Secret tracks don’t count as great last tracks; the requisite preceding 30 seconds of radio silence breaks the continuity of the album (and used to be a bitch to get to if the silence and the song were tracked together).

Too many of my favorite bands end their albums with a track that feels like a poorly attached afterthought.  There’s nothing worse than finishing off a masterpiece of an album with a weak, emotionless throw-away song with no “oomph” to speak of (Tool – I’m looking at you).

To me, a great last song is: 1) iconic (Zeppelin, The Beatles), 2) perfectly exemplary of the methodology and style of the band (DMB, Pink Floyd), or 3) a perfect narrative resolution of the album (R.E.M., Rufus).

Here’s my tentative top 10 (as always, it’s subject to change as my tastes evolve… and as I clean up my iTunes to put all of said album tracks in order… I need Mike to hire me an intern!).

Disagree or have additions?  Tell me in the comments!

Best Last Tracks (in no particular order, as of 2009)

Aural Sex (made possible by Puscifer)

Like I needed another reason to jizz over Maynard James Keenan

Listen to Puscifer’s “The Mission” immediately.  It’s not on iTunes yet, but you can get the MP3 here and also listen to it at puscifer.com (ohhhh… and on MY profile page, stalker).  It features Milla Jovovich on vocals (who I would also gladly have sex with… okay, would PAY to have sex with) and is a superhot grindfest.  I don’t know what it is about most of Maynard’s stuff, but it speaks to me (and my ladyparts), whether it be Tool, A Perfect Circle, or his current project.  For how bizarre and ambient Puscifer’s music can be at times, I found the entire first album very sexual.  Maybe that’s because it was titled “V is for Vagina.”  Maybe.

Anyway, listen to the song, your ear pussies will thank you.

You know… Jerome, Arizona is only 18 hours by car from Boulder… road trip anyone??

20

[“It’s all fire and brimstone, baby / I got my brand new pistol, baby”]

MP3 audio can be found here: The Mission

Kevin Rudolf is Dancing in My Brain

I don’t know who this Kevin Rudolf guy is.

But I like him.

I’ve heard this song on the radio a couple times.  But it got stuck in my head since it’s featured in those damn repetitive Rhapsody commercials (the ones with the chicks in the bubbles).  It’s damn catchy and makes me want to dance instead of work on my finals.  Rudolf apparently worked as a studio musician and released his first album last month.  I think this might be a throw-away single, but it can play in the clubs until my ears bleed because it makes me want to dance.

I spent the $.99 om iTunes for this gem, but I’d hold off the album for now.  Totally worth it, especially for the tauntingly sexy line: “I’ll make you COME/alive…”

And anything Lil’ Wayne touches turns to hip hop gold.  Just listen to any iterration of “Tha Carter” and then tell me I’m wrong.

Here’s the video for the single:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiKsnyaeNqQ[/youtube]

Music for the Broken-Hearted: Archive

One of my favorite songs off of Londinium, Archive’s “Again.”

The original song is a commitment-listen, stacking in at 16:20.  It’s filled with mostly musical interludes, but once it crescendos and gets going, it’s an indomitable piece of music.  The lyrics connect with anyone who’s left a long-term relationship or been broken up with.  The song commiserates with that feeling of lonliness and desperation, especially when that person is just beyond your reach…

Um, yeah, let’s just say that it has really helped today.

Rad video for the single is below, with lyrics beneath that.  Get out your old photo album and whip out the Kleenex.  Enjoy.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5aNNVdYbFo[/youtube]

LYRICS:

You’re tearing me apart
Crushing me inside
You used to lift me up
Now you get me down
If I
Was to walk away
From you my love
Could I laugh again ?
If I
Walk away from you
And leave my love
Could I laugh again ?
Again, again…

You’re killing me again
Am I still in your head ?
You used to light me up
Now you shut me down
If I
Was to walk away
From you my love
Could I laugh again ?
If I
Walk away from you
And leave my love
Could I laugh again ?

I’m losing you again
Like eating me inside
I used to lift you up
Now I get you down

Without your love
You’re tearing me apart
With you close by
You’re crushing me inside
Without your love
You’re tearing me apart
Without your love
I’m dazed in madness
Can’t lose this sadness
I can’t lose this sadness

Can’t lose this sadness

You’re tearing me apart
Crushing me inside
Without your love
(you used to lift me up)
You’re crushing me inside
(now you get me down)
With you close by
I’m dazed in madness
Can’t lose this sadness
It’s ripping me apart
It’s tearing me apart
I don’t know why
Without your love
It’s tearing me apart

Get out of my head, John Faye!

So, per usual, I made the mistake of tooling around on MySpace instead of working on my grad school finals today and now I can’t get this dude out of my head.

I know I posted about him yesterday, but seriously, this song won’t leave my brain.  Just so we’re all clear – I don’t get paid by these musicians for promotion.  I met them through hanging at the Grape Street (RIP) & other local music venues.  Eventually, I went from “fan” to “friend” (although I still get all fandom giddy at times).  If getting the word out on here lets someone else become a fan, then that makes me happy.

Anyway, I posted this video in the hope that it’ll have “The Ring” effect – if I put it in someone else’s head, maybe it will leave mine and let me work on my Mass Comm Theory final… le sigh.

Here’s John Faye of IKE (formerly of The Caulfields and John Faye Powertrip… “Miss Catch-22,” holla!), performing a solo acoustic version of “Just a Moment.”  IKE’s last show with rockin’ bassist Joann Schmidt is at World Cafe Live (31st & Walnut, Philadelphia, PA) on December 26.  Also performing are Jealousy Curve, Matt Duke, and The Caulfields.  You can get 20% discounted tickets through IKEonline.net.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_YeJ702-fA&eurl=http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewProfile&friendID=4803378&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

Download This! v1.0

Do yourself a favor… delve into those couch cushions (I know we’re in a recession), go through your pockets, somehow dig up $9.99 and open iTunes and download Johnny Cash’s American IV: The Man Comes Around (or buy from Amazon).

Or you can be a communist and steal it, but we all know that God hates communists.  You don’t want to be on God’s bad side, now do you?  *removes tongue from cheek, continues post*

I was over on Mix Tape Therapy (with Ms. Mix and Bitch) reading her list of the Top 20 Covers and came upon JC’s cover of “Hurt” by NIN.  I forgot how much I loved Cash’s version of the song and scoured my computer for it.  I lost the MP3 when I switched to my Mac and referred to iTunes (where I, luckily, had a credit – thanks mom!).  Cash also cover’s Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” on the same album, another cover about which I forgot, and rekindled my love for.  Another bonus is the Sting cover, “I Hung My Head,” off Mercury Falling, one of (in my opinion) Sting’s most underrated solo albums.

Cash’s version of “Hurt” opens up a flood of memories.  The pain in his voice resonates more viscerally than Trent Reznor’s, as though we’re hearing the deathbed confession of an old man, weary of the world and the pain in it.  Prepare yourself for some catharsis; the song just breaks my heart.  Doesn’t help that a very significant ex introduced me to it (and, huh, funny that he lived up to the song’s lyrics), and he just emailed me for the first time in a year, so it’s fitting that this song comes back into my life.

Start with track 1, “The Man Comes Around,” and listen through to the end.  Cash emotes raw feeling that most modern recording lacks.  He didn’t record this for lack of money, fame, or prestige.  He made it toward the end of his life and gave us lucky listeners one more solid recording in a legacy of legendary music.

Thanks, Johnny.

The Perfect Album

I have been listening to old WMMR podcasts to counter the homesickness since moving to Boulder.  I started thinking about this article while listening to Preston and Steve’s show from April 3, 2006.  They discussed the “perfect” album – an album that is the quintissential example of a band’s style and can be listened to from beginning to end.  It doesn’t have a song that you skip – no black sheep to be found.  These are the albums I’ve determined to be perfect, beginning to end.  Feel free to post your own in the comments!

1) REM – Automatic for the People

Not only is my favorite REM song on here (“Nightswimming”), but it holds two of the band’s biggest radio hits – “Man on the Moon” and “Everybody Hurts.”  Say what you will about REM, but this is a quintissential album, before they became an ambient three-piece (and somewhat irrelevant to rock music) and after their time of bizarre lyrics and hit-or-miss songwriting.  It’s poppy, definitely produced in the mid-90s, but doesn’t sound cheesy when I listen to it now.  And it’s one of the only albums that makes me cry like a baby when the mood is right.

2) Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon

Let me get the obvious out of the way – Pink Floyd does make concept albums.  I almost put “The Wall” on here instead, but there are random, weird tracks that I get the urge to flip through, but generally don’t because I’m too stoned to reach my iPod.  DSOTM is also short, sweet, and to the point at 10 songs.  The songs run into each other, making it criminal to put it on “shuffle.”  The album is positively glorious, crescendoing with two unlikely radio hits, “Brain Damage” into “Eclipse.”  It’s also my mom’s favorite album; she played it for me before I left for college, a car-ride for which I am forever grateful.

3) Radiohead – OK Computer

I have loved each Radiohead album for its own reasons, following their evolution from rock band to ambient computer superheroes.  But this album, for all its melancholy and techno influence, transcended its own boundaries to reach music lovers of all genres.  A far cry from their previous release, The Bends (which makes it into the runners-up), the album begins the band’s foray into ambient, electronic music.  It’s even in progression, with complex lyrics, some even sung (?) by a computer.  But it works, somehow, enough for me to listen to it repeatedly.

4) The Arcade Fire – Funeral

Taking a cue from Pink Floyd’s DSOTM, the songs blend seamlessly into each other, seranading the listener with a perfect blend of melancholy and jubilation in 10 short songs.  Oddly enough, if any song doesn’t fit on either album, it’s the fourth one (“Money” and “Neighborhood #3,” respectively).  The band blends melancholy with jubilation without sacrificing continuity – if you’re incredulous, listen to “Wake Up.”  Now.

5) Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head

Love or hate Chris Martin, but this album kicks my self-loathing ass, beginning to end.  Not one song I don’t like (and it even includes one sampled by 50 Cent).

My head feels like it’s about to explode… I haven’t even touched Zeppelin or many of the classic bands I love.  I’m going to end it here, but not without some runners up.  What’s on your path in the quest of the perfect album?

Runners up:

Peter Gabriel – So

Hate “This is the Picture.”  Sorry – it’s a little over-the-top for me.

REM – Out of Time

Fucking “Shiny Happy People.”  And a little immature to be a classic album.

Radiohead – The Bends

Simply because I couldn’t put two Radiohead albums up there, and because it’s rather uneven (songs like “Just” and “The Bends” don’t fit with “Fake Plastic Trees” and “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”).

David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

I don’t like “Hang Onto Yourself.”  That’s about it.

Steve Jobs Knows Customer Service

It always seems to happen this way: as soon as I am about to embark on a long trip, my big iPod breaks. This occurred two years ago three days before I was to leave for Japan – and let me tell you, a Nano would not do on a 13 hour flight. Same thing – a week before I take off for Colorado, my 30GB iPod gave me the sad battery face (seriously, it should just say “$70 repair” instead because that’s what it means). So I prepared myself to shell out some cash for a new battery and call it a day.

Because it’s me, this is totally not what happened.

I went to my local Apple Store in Suburban Square (Ardmore, PA) on Wednesday and spoke with a concierge about my problem. He assured me that the fix would be done by Saturday at the latest, since I had to leave town on Sunday. We scheduled an appointment with a “Genius” for Friday at 1pm, the next available appointment. He didn’t check to see if the battery was in stock then – and in retrospect I should have asked – but assumed that he would get the part in by Friday if they didn’t have it, since he knew a customer 1) needed that part and 2) could not wait to have it sent in and 3) with only a Nano, would end up killing her friend Kim on their cross-country drive.

I show up on Friday, surrounded by people with iPhone issues (dude, I’d totally be on that bandwagon if they hadn’t contracted with AT&T, but that’s another story). My personal Genius said yep, you need a new battery and OF COURSE they were completely out of stock. I state, somewhat irately (the first Genius wasn’t really that nice and blamed me for not checking on the stock on Wednesday), that it needed to be done, please call the King of Prussia store – anywhere from here to Delaware – and get me the part and an appointment. He stated that he didn’t have time to help me and grabbed the man who eventually become my Apple Store savior – Dan in the black shirt.

Thank god for black shirt Dan. After hearing my sob story about the stresses of moving across the country (I know – I’m moving to freaking paradise, finally going to grad school, and getting a dog… my life is soooooo tough), he called KOP (who OF COURSE also didn’t have the part). Sensing that I had completely given up hope (literally, head down on my Fat City Reprise purse, completely dejected, and wondering how many times I’d hear Miley Cyrus on shuffle all on my Nano), Dan vowed to figure something out. I expected, I guess, that maybe they would forward my info to the Apple Store in Boulder and hook me up or maybe let me purchase a replacement 30GB (since they no longer sell them) for the price of the repair.

I was offered neither of those options. I saw the Holy Grail of ridiculously amazing customer service.

Since there were no 30GB iPods in stock (OF COURSE!!!), I was going to be given a brand spanking new 80GB iPod for the price of the repair. Holy shit. Insane – I don’t even have enough music to fill that. I looked at Dan and tried to not cry, which freaked him out I think, because he got that “Oh Christ, please don’t freak out” look on his face. I assured him that I was thrilled, just because shit like this doesn’t ever happen to me and I had been super-stressed out. He then made it better by telling me that it would be easier if they charged me nothing. NOTHING.

Because Apple cares about their customers, I got an 80GB iPod for free.

Now, I think this is just an instance of good karma… I wouldn’t expect to just be handed iPods when you walk in. They definitely saw my case as a special circumstance, especially since I had been promised that the repair could be completely by a certain date. And I tried to keep my composure (although I’ve been an emotional headcase because of this stupid move and leaving my friends), which I think helped my case a bit. I was just really pleased to see that they value their customers – I’ve been pretty loyal to that store, having purchased my two iPods, my mom’s iPod, and my MacBook there. But I think this was just Gaia’s way of telling my misanthrope self that humanity have some redeeming qualities (like the patience of Dan in the black shirt). Well done, Sub Square Apple Store – not only have you redeemed my faith in humanity, but you made a long road trip much more bearable.

Electronica Part 3

Hello again! Hope the electronica suggestions I’ve provided have kept you satisfied between posts. Now we get to dive into the FuN genres! 

PSY-TRANCE: This is electronica on drugs…Isn’t most trance on drugs you ask? Yes, I agree with you, but I am referring to trance on a DIFFERENT sort of drugs.. An example would be the artist Hallucinogen, or my personal favorite, the Israeli “Infected Mushroom”. Also I would include the UK’s “Shpongle” (he also does solo work as “Simon Posford”) as well as “Astral Projection” and “Juno Reactor. Dark Soho is less popular, though their song “The Fusion” provides a wonderful soundtrack for driving 100mph on the freeway. This music is… intense. There is a lot of bass and a lot of sound waves that are manipulated in such a way as to give the sensation of aliens drilling at your brain. A whole new concept of ‘expanding your mind’ perhaps? 

 
IDM: This stands for Intelligent Dance Music, though it is arguable how ‘danceable’ these tunes really are. Purely synthetic and claiming a range between electronic elevator music and someone’s twisted joke of an emergency alarm system, one of the best examples can be found in the artist “Autechre”.  IDM is a strange genre, not really inclusive but for a few exceptions, it mainly names a specific sound, but few artists limit themselves solely to that sound. For example, the popular Death Cab For Cutie is occasionally slotted under IDM. Autechre is quite an experience as the IDM sound is bent to include jazzy riffs and hip hop beats. Anyone who is familiar with the workings of a synthesizer will recognize this genre as the most ‘raw’. That is, the effects a synthesizer can produce, such as the arpeggiator, which turns a single note into a “flurry of sounds” is easily recognizable within the music itself. Honestly, I find IDM the most difficult to describe, I recommend checking out the sound sample on Amazon.com.

DOWNTEMPO: Also accused at times of being elevator music, this genre is also known as CHILLOUT. It is more focused on atmosphere creation than on the music itself, though some downtempo can be quite involved and conducive to heavy introspection. Zero 7 provides a general example. Try Mum for a more complex experience. Boards of Canada is a good choice as well. If you are looking for the soundtrack for sweeping landscapes and powerful aspects of nature, try the Icelandic group Sigur Ros. Sigur Ros is more often slotted as AMBIENT, though, truthfully, they are a genre all their own, somehow combining NEW ROCK, AMBIENT, and massive orchestral arrangements.

 
INDUSTRIAL (DANCE): Grinding, depressing, with often apocalypse style motifs, this is not stuff for the faint of heart… or those with little patience for emo. Apoptygma Berzerk is my personal favorite, though VA nation is generally more popular. If you are familiar with the chain store “Hot Topic”, this is the sort of electronica that you might find playing on their stereo system. For those of you unfamiliar, Hot Topic is a goth/emo/fairy/bondage/gamer store popular here in California.

 
I do not have an official title for this genre, I would refer to it as HOUSEFUNK, specially created for such artists as DAFT PUNK and BASEMENT JAXX. Daft Punk in particular can have a DISCO flavor at times.

All right, thank you all for your interest, that will be all for now. Please feel free to comment and suggest music (I am always fiending for more), or if you find a new artist you like from these articles, please tell me! I would love nothing more.

Electronica Part 2

 Hello again, it is time to continue through the veritable jungle of artists and genres that lend themselves to the “Electronica” theme!

 Oldies “electronica” hits that you may have heard of include Donna Summer’s I FEEL LOVE (70’s) and Soft Cell’s TAINTED LOVE (80’s). In my opinion, one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) electronic band coming out of the 70’s is Kraftwerk. A quadruplet of fellows from Germany using synthesizers almost exclusively, they revolutionized the way in which the electronic genre was perceived. Their music has been covered and remixed by everyone from Coldplay (Kraftwerk song “Computer love”) to a hard rock band out of Slovenia named Siddharta.

Another electronic hit of the 70’s was the single  POPCORN by Kingsley, yet another surprise U.S. hit out of Europe. Both of these artists are classified, strangely, as DANCEPOP. The difference in sound from 70’s to 2000’s dancepop is incredible. Kraftwerk is also classified as ALTERNATIVE. Alternative is the genre that happens when the individual listening to the music throws their hands up in the air and exclaims, “what IS that????” It seems to happen frequently in less mainstream electronica as my favorite band growing up, Joy Electric (A single fellow from the San Francisco area who uses no instruments, no straight vocals, not even a drum machine, only a synthesizer) is also classified as ALTERNATIVE.

One of the aspects of electronic club music that even I cannot stand is what I refer to as “RAVE MUSIC”, or HARD TRANCE. I cannot even provide you with a sample artist because I find this genre so hideous. If you take a normal trance song and crank up the speed dial until it sounds like the chipmunks, congratulations! You now have a soundtrack that thousands of 15 year olds wearing glowsticks and not much else will gyrate to until the wee hours of the morning! How do I know this? Uh… personal experience? I admit that I too am a lover and wearer of glowsticks.

An interesting and less popular type of “hard” electronica is HARD HOUSE. Try DJ Icey, he has a more INDUSTRIAL flavor without the whiney emo (Stay tuned for Electronica part 3 where I discuss industrial electronica).

All right, we’ve covered the basics, now it is time to branch off into more interesting types of electronica! Stay tuned, next week I’ll deal with INDUSTRIAL, IDM, PSYTRANCE, HOUSEFUNK and DOWNTEMPO.

 Until then, here is some bleeping and blooping to keep you happy.

Zero 7 – moody lite rock grooves, the have an unbelievable remix of Radiohead’s “Climbing up the Walls”

Scooter – As close to “rave” music as I can listen to, uptembo bouncy and repetative.

Sasha (& John Digweed) – I mentioned Sasha last time in regards to his single “Xpander”, but “Wavy Gravy” and “Clubbing Seals” (haha) are also worth mentioning. He often works in tandem with John Digweed and when he does the sound is less electronica and more funk.

Ratatat – Rock electronica. This is one of those crossover artists who I feed to individuals who are against the electric sounds on principle. They create a very interesting fusion.

Massive Attack – One of the few artists that seems to sit well with the general public. They are best known for their collaborations with Portishead.