Monthly Archives: December 2008

#142 belle and sebastian – o come, o come emmanuel

belle

i spent my christmas eve night at church, as i have been for quite a while. part of the message was on the small and obscure circumstances surrounding jesus’ birth, and i thought it rather apt that my favorite carol, “o come, o come emmanuel” was sung near the end of the service during communion when there was lots happening around and not many people taking notice. it’s such a shy song with such weighty words, with even the chorus of rejoicing sung just barely above a whisper, so hearing it tonight in all its unassuming subtlety left in me the most lasting impression. with that little thought, i pray the meaning of christmas will resound in your heart too amidst all the noise that inevitably comes with the season these days.

mp3: belle and sebastian – o come, o come emmanuel

#141 the arcade fire – neighborhood #3 (power out) / rebellion (lies) (live at the bbc)

arcade-fire

i’ve just watched the new arcade fire documentary miroir noir, a film directed by vincent morisset and shot by vincent moon (yes, the man behind the la blogotheque takeaway shows). the camerawork lives up to moon’s reputation of capturing the right moments, in some instances hovering patiently in the background, in others facing the band and their fans directly, giving the closest possible approximation of their live energy on film. shuffling between carefully orchestrated scenes to the most candid ones ala cinema verite, miroir noir offers a precious snapshot of a band on its meteoric rise, interspersed with recordings fans left them on their answering machine. while it doesn’t provide as much coverage of full songs as one might expect, one exception was the favorite live medley of neighborhood #3 (power out) and rebellion (lies), both songs rivaling each other in energy and intensity. i don’t know how much higher this band will go, but i’m savoring each moment while they’re at it.

mp3: the arcade fire – neighborhood #3 (power out)/rebellion (lies) (live at the bbc)

miroir noir will be out on dvd by the end of march next year. the digital download is now available for purchase here.

#140 lcd soundsystem – all my friends

lcd-soundsystem1

just attended a second christmas party in a row last night at b’s (after a sumptuous feast at a’s), and it was a lovely night with friends old and new, with conversations drifting uncontrollably to the topic of getting older, as much as the thought of it thoroughly mortified us all. i could almost hear james murphy’s deadpan monologue from “all my friends” sung in my face, bringing to mind the years that have gone by, and all the friends that have been there along the way, several of whom i don’t meet anymore. what would it be like to meet all of them again? i think about the decisions i’ve made through those years, and again i find myself concurring with murphy: i wouldn’t trade one stupid decision, for another five years of lies. and then i remember why this lcd soundsystem track was my favorite song of last year: not so much that it was prescriptive or prophetic about my life (you spend the first five years trying to get with the plan, and the next five years trying to get with your friends again), but that it constantly brought me back to reality, forcing me to take stock of my life and then to move on beyond that recognition to the new things i need to figure out.

mp3: lcd soundsystem – all my friends

mp3: franz ferdinand – all my friends

best songs of 2008 (part 5)

05. hercules and love affair – blind (mp3)

hercules

andy butler and antony hegarty must have been listening to the arcade fire’s “wake up” when they were writing this song and figured the merits of having a “now that i’m older” line. for them, though, it’s not so much a newfound coldness of heart, but a shattered myth of the luxury of hindsight – that of eventually getting so close to your dreams that you couldn’t see it anymore for what it used to mean to you. it’s a tragic blindness that’s juxtaposed with an ironically upbeat disco melody, which really serves as the perfect context for us to hear antony’s voice in its fullest and clearest form.

04. beach house – heart of chambers (mp3)

beachhousedevotion

you could call this the song that got this blog started, gracing the first post of this humble webspace. there’s a surreal quality to the sound of beach house – one that’s perfected in devotion and captured beautifully in this song – that lets you float along, but never lets you go, holding on to you with the rhythm of each ebb and flow. there’s a haunting sound of the past, but also a stirring semblance of a distant future, both of which add to an unspeakable charm of the present in which time stands still for just that little while.

03. radiohead – jigsaw falling into place (mp3)

radiohead-jigsaw

ok, i’m not sure if this still counts as this year’s song, since in rainbows came out last year (but the single’s released this year!), but since i’ve been consistently listening to this through the year, i think it deserves its place here. this could possibly be one of the more straightforward radiohead songs that i love, simply because it actually translates pretty darn well what jigsaws falling into place actually sounds like. everything’s rather sketchy at the start, in fact it all stays tentative until thom yorke’s announces that “the beat goes round and round”. from then everything clicks, and the pieces fall into place in a frenzy.

02. the magnetic fields – too drunk to dream (mp3)

magnetic-fields

stephin merritt has a wicked sense of humor, which sounds even better when it’s delivered in typical magnetic fields’ folk singalong fashion, but only this time (as the album title suggests) washed in a sea of distortion. more than simply promoting the (if illusory) benefits of drunkenness, this is really a lovesick ballad sung with face planted on the bar counter, though never to drunk to forget the reason for the binge in the first place. i don’t know about you, but my ears start ringing when i’ve had too much to drink. for stephin merritt, i think it’s what he hears all day long.

01. fleet foxes – white winter hymnal (mp3)

fleet-foxes-winter

was there ever a doubt “white winter hymnal” would make it to number one? all the cliches of music writing – adjectives like warm, timeless and even classic – actually do genuinely apply to this masterpiece (ah, another cliche!). but far from sounding like a rousing epic (oh, that word!), this is in fact one of the gentlest and most sensitive recordings to have made such an impact, delivering in lush (and another!) tones and with a delightful cannon a song that’s personal yet aware, deeply intimate but also sensibly worldly.

best songs of 2008 (part 4)

10. the ting tings – that’s not my name (mp3)

ting-tings

how embarrassing is it to like the ting tings? very, but it’s even more embarrassing to be caught liking them without admitting to it, so i might as well settle for the lesser of the evils. this has got to be the year’s catchiest tune, even brinking on being the most annoying one as well in its petulance, saved only by its laudable lack of pretensions. “we started nothing”, the album title reads, reminding us to leave our prejudices, expectations and judgments at the door before we join in the party.

09. crystal castles vs. health – crimewave (mp3)

crimewave

it’s funny i heard the remix before the original, but as it turns out, it doesn’t really matter considering how different the two are. in this crystal castles version, video games, along with disco, become sexy again (i feel even wearing my calculator watch out isn’t so nerdy anymore) with what was originally a nasty heap of filthy noise filtered through an atari 2600 and fed onto your screen in its full pixelated glory.

08. cut copy – hearts on fire (mp3)

cut-copy-hearts

everything producer tim goldsworthy touches turns to gold (how could it not, with a name like that?). what starts off like a straightforward new wave disco hit with a dash of 90’s euro (did i hear some technotronics whoops along the way?) ends up takes a different turn every time the chorus comes on, sometimes with a psychadelic bleep-fest, and on other occasions a seedy saxophone. whatever the formula, the result is gold.

07. thao nguyen and the get down stay down – feet asleep (mp3)

thao

i first heard this song in its stripped down form on a krs sampler some years back, so when it finally came out on thao’s debut album this year, i was really keen to check it out. i didn’t take to it too well at first, but it had a swing so irresistible i was won over after a few listens. thao honed her songwriting skills through the many hours spent at her mom’s laundromat, so it’s most apt to have a song written about her.

06. hot chip – ready for the floor (mp3)

hot-chip

hop chip’s made in the dark has one of the brightest openings of this year’s releases, with three close to perfect songs. the most perfect of them all was the third, a single made for the dancefloor for every dj who’s run out of ideas for an opening song. beyond theme, however, hot chip has also perfected the dance pop genre, dishing out unhateable melodies at every possible opportunity with an impeccable sense of timing. it’s very fun too.

best songs of 2008 (part 3)

15. portishead – machine gun (mp3)

portishead

is this the best song on third? probably not – in fact i really can’t decide if there is a best song considering how exquisite the whole record sounds. but in terms of musical significance, the aggressively repetitive bursts of said weapon probably best ushers in the portishead we know so well sounding so much better, as if we ever doubted them even after that decade long wait. it was well worth it, i’d say.

14. lykke li – dance dance dance (mp3)

lykke-li

most of my friends hate her voice and hate how she really can’t sing. but that’s the point, really. every time she goes flat singing “hips”, i genuinely feel the music world getting just that little bit more democratized. it wasn’t too long ago that lykke li was just like us, attending gigs and dancing awkwardly to them. now she’s on the other side, but at least she’s still shy, shy, shy, and still not the best dancer around.

13. vampire weekend – walcott (mp3)

vampireweekend

walcott was the main character in lead singer ezra koenig’s film titled vampire weekend – a boy tasked to get out of cape cod to bring the warning of an impending vampire attack. does that make more sense now? anyway, it’s such a simple song, relying on such a simple formula of frenzied piano and strings, executed to perfection, no less. do check out the live versions too.

12. vivian girls – where do you run to (mp3)

vivian

taken off the debut self-titled album that reportedly sold out in just over a week, “where do you run to” must be the heartbeat of the record, with the most generous streams of sunshine peeking through the haziest fog in your dad’s old garage. the charming harmonies here would never have worked in any other situation without the relentless pounding beat and all its stubbornly fuzzy edges.

11. antony and the johnsons – another world (mp3)

antony

there’s an escapist in all of us, with traces of idealism we never admit to having, and bits of nostalgia we only sometimes dare indulging. the intoxicating voice of antony hegarty romanticizes everything to remind us there’s no shame in all that, and with the astounding beauty of his delivery exposes only the ugliness of the world we worship much too freely.

best songs of 2008 (part 2)

20. empire of the sun – walking on a dream (mp3)

empire

just like the mind-blowingly ridiculous cover art, it’s excessively indulgent in all that glitters, drenched to the toe in its own disco dust simply for the thrill of it (thrill of it).

19. mgmt – electric feel (mp3)

mgmt

there’s much to like, but my favorite moments are the expectant beats before every chorus. it’s the only times i get to breathe before i’m enthralled all over again.

18. the legends – seconds away (mp3)

legends

i love destroying my already damaged ears, especially when the relentless sheets of noise hide so poorly the pop melodies they’ve just butchered.

17. the pains of being pure at heart – everything with you (mp3)

pains

it starts as if it needs no introduction (naive? audacious?), and at the end it leaves a trail of unfulfilled promises which fade inevitably into the dark (ok, probably both).

16. the dutchess and the duke – reservoir park (mp3)

dutchess-duke

many questions find their way into songs, but few get asked with as much urgency as this royal duo. the answer, someone might tell you, is blowin’ in the wind.