The Uberpop

Weekly Mixtape 12/13-12/19

Posted in Weekly Mixtape by theuberpop on December 16, 2009

Christmas is less than two weeks away, and I’ve about had it with Christmas music.  Over the last 10 days, I have spent four of them playing “Christmas Gigs” (various gigs at which some form of Christmas music is played…depending on who you’re playing with and where you’re playing the arrangements of these songs can range from good to detestable.)  So I’m going to pretend it’s January for a minute and suggest you listen to something else:

1) “Dig a Pony” The Beatles, Let it Be…Naked (2003, Capitol): For whatever reason, I associate this record with this time of year (I think I got it for Christmas one year) and though it’s not considered the post-fab four’s best work by most, I feel that this remix does better justice to the songs and performances on this record than the original reverb and string-laden mix.  The stripped down mix draws a more raw, visceral tone from the songs.  That and, for whatever reason, I can’t get this song out of my head.

2) “Atoms for Peace” Thom Yorke, The Eraser (2006, XL): In the years between Radiohead’s Hail to the Theif and In Rainbows, the esteemed Mr. Yorke released this fine collection of bleeps, bloops and simultaneously frenetic and beautiful vocals.  In true Radiohead fashion, most of these songs fall carefully into a solid groove and perform some kind of sonic hypnosis on you and “Atoms for Peace” is no exception.  The rather unusual groove starts as unsettling and unstable but makes more and more sense the longer you listen to it…so…listen to it.

3) “Centennial” Tokyo Police Club, Elephant Shell (2008, Saddle Creek): Unrelentingly catchy, oddly syncopated, self-assured yet self-conscious and synth heavy…nope, it’s not The Killers, not even close.  On Elephant Shell, Tokyo Police Club honed their craft into a quirky pop sensibility that is absolutely undeniable.  This record is fun, lots of fun, and this track (the album opener) accurately sets the tone for the rest of the album.

4) “Just Like Heaven” Dinosaur Jr., You’re Living All Over Me (2005 [reissue], Merge Records): Legendary band, this track would be a more than viable candidate for best cover ever.

5) “Tombstone Blues” Bob Dylan, Highway 61 (1965, Sony): No explanation needed.

6) “Does He Love You?” Rilo Kiley, More Adventurous (2004, Brute/Beaute Records): Not quite a Beatles rip-off, although it comes close, this song is a painful kind of beautiful.  Following the two female ends of a love triangle and the fallout that ensues, but the track avoids the stereotypes of traditional “cheater songs” by dealing with the victims and consequences of infidelity rather than directly addressing the perpetrator.

7) “Flowers (Lullaby)” Jason Harwell, Rebuilt Family Sampler (2008, Rebuilt Records): Honest, understated, beautiful.  You win, Mr. Harwell.


Weekly Mixtape for 11/22-11/28

Posted in Weekly Mixtape by theuberpop on November 23, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!  Here’s some Non-Christmas music for you…enjoy.

1) “Radio Radio” Elvis Costello, This Year’s Model (1978, Elvis Costello): Why not, right?  This guy is arguably one of the best songwriters of the last 30 years, was responsible for one of the best moments in any era of Saturday Night Live and married jazz/easy-listening piano cutie Diana Krall (but don’t be deceived, she can play circles around most of her contemporaries)…what’s next on the “bucket list” Elvis?  Swimming with 17 of the rarest dolphins and a talking whale in a pool of the world’s finest ginger ale?  Probably.

2) “Fight Test” The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battle the Pink Robots (2002, Warner Bros.): This selection achieves a tongue-in-cheek sonic landscape of pseudo-alt-country swagger with vibrant synthesizers bouncing in and out and lyrics about learning “to be a man” and how “to stand and fight” all in the presence of a studio engineered “live crowd.”  I’ll bite Mr. Coyne, I’ll bite.

3) “How To Be Dead” Snow Patrol, Final Straw (2004, Polydor): I understand that artists have to grow beyond what people expect of them, and I understand that sometimes this means tailoring your sound into something more commercially viable…this seems to be the way of the world.  It appears (from an outsider’s perspective) that Snow Patrol has taken the later route with the albums following their mainstream breakthrough, Final Straw.  I’d like to submit that the track (and album) in question are Snow Patrol’s creative peak [to date], blending post-Coldplay Brit-pop snark and the electronic savvy of producer Jacknife Lee with an end result that simultaneously had undeniable pop sensibility and real sonic grit without being overblown or pretentious.  It’s not quite lightning in a bottle, but it’s a more interesting pop record than most “Top 40” records cranked out since its release.

4) “Quiet Houses” Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes (2008, Sub Pop): Beautiful, hypnotic, pastoral…maybe don’t get to invested in this song – or the record in its entirety, for that matter – while driving.  I’d love to think that people still know something well-crafted when they hear it, and this band’s recent blip on the national attention screen (ie. a performance on Saturday Night Live) last year did more than blow me away, it gave me hope for all humanity.  I’m psyched for the followup.

5) “Stars” Hum, You’d Prefer and Astronaut (1995, BMG): Cadillac commercials aside, this song is much bigger than the riff that launched a thousand imitators.  Dynamically, this song explores the extremes of “quiet-loud-quiet-loud” almost to a fault.  It’s refreshing to sit back and listen to something that demands a little effort to listen to, something that jumps out and scares the pee-pee out of you with the click of a distortion pedal.

6) “Bad” U2, The Unforgettable Fire (1984, Island): Yep, this record is 25 years old.  We can’t go back.  Because of this record and it’s followup The Joshua Tree every commercial on television and every song in the “Contemporary Christian” canon features a digital delay-ridden guitar and some hack trying to own Bono’s strained high C#.  I can’t bring myself to listen to it very often anymore (mainly because of the previously mentioned imitators), but it’s worth revisiting for the sake of reminding oneself why they’re the “biggest band in the world”…even after that record they put out in March.

7) “Maps” Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell (2003, Interscope/Geffen): The final note in this end-of-playlist string of startlingly good songs that will continue to be imitated for the next 20 years is a sensitive moment from 2003’s smart and abrasive (and I mean the best kind of abrasive) Fever to Tell, which boasts more soul and pure longing than any current pop starlet could ever halfway exude.  I’d encourage you to kick back, relax and forget that a certain “American Idol” (rather the people who wrote for a certain “American Idol”) flat out stole the bridge to this song and just enjoy it for what it is.

Weekly Mixtape for 11/8-11/14

Posted in Weekly Mixtape by theuberpop on November 11, 2009

1) “Selfless, Cold and Composed” Ben Folds Five, Whatever and Ever Amen (Sony BMG, 1997): Before Ben Folds was conducting ringtone orchestras on Myspace and covering Dr. Dre (which is a great cover, by the way) he made piano-pop hip in the late 90’s a prominent third of Ben Folds Five.  This particular record featured the single “Brick”, which garnered considerable commercial success…but that’s not what I’m concerned with right now.  “Selfless, Cold and Composed” stands out to me as a moment of real beauty on an already beautiful record (save for tracks like the abrasive “Song For The Dumped”).  Folds’ playing is reminiscent of Bill Evans or Vince Giraldi and although this may seem like a hackneyed format, there’s something about his juxtaposition of such depressing subject matter in such a vibrant musical setting.

2) “Shiver” Coldplay, Parachutes (Parlophone, 2000): This record was really important for me, and I still think this is one of the best songs in the Coldplay canon.  Do yourself a favor and forget about the overblown (and overrated) live shows and the law suits and sit back and remember why we fell in love with this band in the first place.

3) “Aurora” Foo Fighters, There is Nothing Left to Lose (RCA, 1999): This isn’t the record that most people think of when they think of the Foo Fighters, and that’s understandable.  It’s a very different record than its predecessor, 1997’s The Colour and The Shape, and the backlash associated with branching out heavily affected the band’s following effort, 2002’s One by One.  This song in particular is a more interesting diversion from Grohl and co.’s previous course, a delay-laden pop song about remembering possibly simpler, better times.  The outro, although pretty daunting, features some interesting noises that you’d only hear from a big-riff rock band stretching itself a little, and honestly I think that’s something worth commending.

4) “Here Comes Your Man” Pixies, Doolittle (4AD, 1989): Hopefully we all saw this band’s triumphant performance of this song on The Tonight Show last week…if you missed it, you can check it out on Pitchfork.  After that, you can find this song (or better yet buy this record) and embrace this heavily influential band.

5) “I’m a Loner Dottie, a Rebel” The Get Up Kids, Something to Write Home About (Vagrant, 1999): Don’t judge me, this song is awesome.  It’s loose, raw and devoid of any auto-tune, giving it more soul than most of the records in this genre that would follow.

6) “Believe Me Natalie” The Killers, Hot Fuss (Island/Def Jam, 2004): This is a particularly deep cut from the Vegas natives’ debut album, seeped in Brandon Flowers’ synthesized goodness and driven by Ronnie Vannucci Jr.’s pseudo-African drum line and Dave Keuning’s arena-ready guitar parts.  To me it’s the only Killers song to date that actually deserves the uber-Vegas horn parts stacked on top at the end.

7) “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” The Postal Service, Give Up (2003, Sub Pop): There have been rumors surrounding a possible follow-up to Give Up since they released it, but do we really need one?  This record spawned more imitators than you could shake a stick at (I’m talking to YOU Owl City) and generated so much hype that any follow up at all would likely be considered forced and inferior by most critics.  Granted, if anyone could rise above such lofty expectations it would be the members of this “imaginary band.”  While there is still hope, we should probably just pop this record in and enjoy this groove laden bit of emo-tronica we’ve been given.

Weekly Mixtape for 11/1-11/7

Posted in Weekly Mixtape by theuberpop on November 2, 2009

It’s the first week of November, and it seems that we here in America have skipped right over Thanksgiving and are diving straight into Christmas.  I for one refuse to listen to Christmas music until AFTER Thanksgiving (and even then only in small doses).  So here’s what I am listening to, maybe you’d like to join me on this little sonic joyride? (Click the band names for links to their respective websites):

1) “I’m a Wheel” Wilco, A Ghost is Born (2005, Nonesuch): Overrated?  Underrated?  Who cares, I’m pretty sure this is one of the coolest rock and roll songs I’ve heard in the last decade.

2) “The Neighborhood is Bleeding” Manchester Orchestra, I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child (2006, Manchester Orchestra):  Atlanta heroes Andy Hull and co. released this “is this emo or just really really expressive rock and roll?” record in 2006, garnering numerous comparisons to Death Cab for Cutie and sparking a new direction in the Atlanta scene.  This song in particular is a shimmering example of Hull’s lyrical chops, covering a touchy subject like AIDS spread through dirty needles through the eyes of one of the infected.

3) “Fine for Now” Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest (2009, Warp): I know, I know…you can smell the hype around this band from seven miles away.  But I’d like to submit that a song that covers a haunting tension-and-release form like this with such grace and ease warrants that kind of attention.  These guys can appear on as many teen vampire movie soundtracks as they want as far as I’m concerned.

4) “Lake Michigan” Rogue Wave, Asleep at Heaven’s Gate (2007, Brushfire Records): I’m a sucker for a catchy tune, and this song is beyond catchy.  From the opening drum-line to the lilting guitar parts and the grove that swings in perfect 6/8, this song was built for consumption without being pretentious or overdone.  Congrats, guys.

5) “Hospital Beds” Cold War Kids, Robbers and Cowards (2006, Downtown):  Last year’s Loyalty to Loyalty was a disappointment, but let’s not be too hard on these Californians whom everyone thought were most assuredly from somewhere deep in the bayou.  How else do you follow a record like Robbers and Cowards, a record that was drenched in enough raw soul and guitar reverb to forgive the Kids’ offering-plate-stealing antics.

6) “Weekend Wars” MGMT, Oracular Spectacular (2007, Columbia): As the rumors swell about this Brooklyn duo’s followup Congratulations, I’m inclined to sit back and soak in these guys’ best satanic-era Stones/early-Bowie impersonation.  Yeah, they sometimes wear their influences on their sleeve, but they do it with such bravado that you’d be upset if they didn’t.

7) “Django” Modern Jazz Quartet, Django (1987, Fantasy): Yep, I’m playing the jazz card, it’s definitely a mismatch for this particular list…but this is my playlist, right?  Enjoy the ominous intro, the sweet solos of Vibe-legend Milt Jackson, the precision of pianist John Lewis and the air-tight rhythm section including drummer Kenny Clarke and bassist Percy Heath.  You’ll be a better person for it.

So give these songs a listen, feel free to tell me what you think.

Weekly Mixtape for 10/25-10/31

Posted in Weekly Mixtape by theuberpop on October 27, 2009

Thus begins the time-honored tradition of putting together a list of songs that I think are really cool at this moment.  Here goes nothing:

1) “Wordless Chorus” My Morning Jacket, Z (2005, Sony BMG Music Entertainment):  Jim James and co. opened their critically acclaimed opus Z with this seemingly Captain Obvious-titled track (the chorus is solely comprised of “Ah” and “Oh” vowel sounds, which are technically words…but that’s really just splitting hairs.)  James’ reverb-drenched vocal harmonies and the eerie organ parts that haunt the better part of the album create a simultaneously dreamy and spooky vibe that seems to fit this time of year like a fitted flannel shirt on a skinny hipster.  Check out MMJ here.

2) “Getchoo” Weezer, Pinkerton (1996, UMG Recordings): Amidst news that Weezer collaborated with the likes of Kenny G, Lil’ Wayne and Chamillionaire for their upcoming record, Raditude, I figured I’d hearken back to a simpler time, namely 1996.  This banner year saw Weezer at their finest, releasing the highly influential yet commercially  ignored Pinkerton, on which Rivers Cuomo traded the sugary pop of “Buddy Holly” for grittier, whinier tracks like “Getchoo” and “Tired of Sex”.  Check out Weezer here.

3) “There There (The Boney King of Nowhere)” Radiohead, Hail to the Thief (2003, Capitol): Radiohead tops a very short list of bands who have retained both their relevance and creative potency nearly 20 years into their career (actually, they just might be the only band on that list).  “There There” is a perfect example of of the band’s ability to somehow marry avant-garde art music and impeccable pop sensibility.  Everything about the song, from the almost primal wall of drums to the warm, meandering guitar lines, paints a sonic landscape that is simultaneously dystopian and beautiful.  This record, in my humble opinion, is the band’s most underrated release to date.  Check out Radiohead here.

4) “So Much Trouble” Matt Pond PA, Several Arrows Later (2005, Altitude): This is another song that seems to perfectly capture the spirit of Autumn, as cliche as that statement may be.  The lilting, mellow tone of the lead guitar line juxtaposed with mellotron flutes and cello is catchy and hooky to the point that it almost acts as the song’s chorus, which is fine with me.  The song is understated and genuinely likable, which may explain why it has the highest number of plays on my ipod (yes, I did go looking for that.)  Check out Matt Pond PA here.

5) “1901” Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009, Ghettoblaster S.A.R.L.): I don’t care how many car commercials this song is in or whether it’s really a “summer jam” or not, this is the most undeniably catchy song I’ve heard in years.  Bravo Phoenix, you win.  Check out Phoenix here.

6) “Can You Tell” Ra Ra Riot, The Rhumb Line (2009, Barsuk) Traditional string instruments (ie. violin, cello, etc) and popular music have always had an uneasy relationship, but this Brooklyn quartet seems to have written a song that embraces that tension without becoming a regurgitation of “Elanor Rigby.”  You can check out Ra Ra Riot here.

7) “My Mirror Speaks” Death Cab for Cutie, The Open Door EP (2009, Atlantic): This track off of DCFC’s post-script to 2008’s Narrow Stairs finds the band doing what they do best: juxtaposing darker lyrics about insecurity, aging and fear of commitment (Gibbard posing as “a man who hides from all that binds and a mess of fading lines…”) with a musical backdrop that bounces and claps as if the song were about lollipops and cookies.  You can check out Death Cab for Cutie here.

There you have it, any thoughts?