January, 2005 Archives

It’s practically 2006, but here is my much anticipated (by Bil) best of 2004 music list. At first when I looked back I thought that 2004 was a great year for music. Upon further examination I realized that 2004 actually was a misstep – what actually increased was my love for music. I hope that my musical appetite continues to grow this year, but I also hope that 2005 brings a few more mind-blowingly good discs.

10.) The Thermals – Fuckin A (Punknews.org review) – 30 minutes of lo-fi garage rock that isn’t trendy, pretentious, or any of the other annoying things that usually get associated with lo-fi garage rock. Fast rock songs that bleed into each other so well that you will probably just press play when the album ends and start the whole thing again. Nothing new here, but still very refreshing.

9.) The Good Life – Album Of The Year (Pitchfork Review) – You either like Tim Kasher, or you don’t. If you like him, this is a thick moody ride that you should check out. This album isn’t number 9 because of the gimmicky 12 songs = 12 months of a failed relationship motif – it’s here because every time I listen to it the story becomes clearer and the characters become more lifelike. It’s one of those albums that create pictures in my head.

8.) The Living End – Modern ARTillery (Punknews.org Review) – I don’t have much to say about this one. If you put out a pop-punk CD in 2004 that isn’t a steaming pile of dog shit, then you have my attention. The Living End is a great band and Modern ARTillery sees them refining their sound, reaching out, and experimenting. This is one of those albums that is as good on shuffle as it is in order.

7.) The Life Aquatic – Soundtrack – (Pitchfork Review) – What the hell is a soundtrack doing on this list? Well for one, as a soundtrack this disk is pretty much perfect. The original compositions hold up outside of the film, the Portuguese Bowie covers are good enough to deserve their own disk, and I’m now staring to realize how great old David Bowie and Devo songs are. That’s one hell of a multi-tasker.

6.) Death From Above 1979 – I’m a Woman, You’re a Machine (Punknews.org Review) – How can I put this nicely? This album will rape you. Dirty, sex fueled dance/noise punk that just won’t let go. Did I mention that this is only a 2 man act playing drums, keys and bass? The best songs on this album are songs that you will want to hear right away when they finish. It’s like sex in so many ways…

5.) Wilco – A Ghost Is Born (Pitchfork Review) – This year I have a lot of respect for a ‘grower’ – an album that is at first underwhelming, but gets better every time you hear it. This is one of two big growers on this list. Ghost is an enigmatic marathon with self gratifying guitar solos, songs breaking the 10 minute mark alongside short pop songs, and extended periods of ambient noise. That being said, it’s a great CD. And if you have the good fortune to see Wilco live this year this disc will take on new meaning. These songs rock balls live.

4.) Blood Brothers – Crimes (Punknews.org Review) – As far as I can see, there are only two types of people left in the music scene – people who get the Blood Brothers and people who don’t. Sadly the majority of the world falls into the don’t category. Let’s me take a second to speak frankly. If you don’t like these guys, then I don’t like you. ‘Crimes’ is what your kids will be listening to in 2025. Dual vocals so high pitched that will make Alvin, Simon and Theodore will cover their ears. Songs that stop and start on a dime, finding structure in their complete lack of structure. Lyrics that sound like they were cribbed from the journal of a madman. It ain’t easy listening, but if you have the ears for it this is an incredibly rewarding album. A departure for the Blood Brothers that only hints at the ground these guys will cover over the next few years.

3.) Say Anything – …Is A Real Boy (Punknews.org Review) – As I mentioned above, if you put out a good pop punk CD in 2004, then you have my attention. This one is about as good as it gets. Originally conceived as a rock opera, ‘Real Boy’ is one of the most clever concept albums to hit in years. It’s an anti emo rant consisting of songs that tread on every existing emo cliché. Retarded song titles, John Cusack References, the acoustic love song, New Found glory type pop hooks, songs about girls, mentioning love and death in the same sentence (in a concentration camp love song, I shit you not). Sure this shit has been done before, but never so well, never so angry and never so tongue-in-cheek. Did I mention that aside from drums, one 20 year old kid wrote and recorded every note on this? Highlights include amazing sing along gang vocals, and ‘Admit It!’ a 5+ min rant going after stuck up indie kids across the U.S. This could easily have been #1. Highly suggested.

2.) The Arcade Fire – Funeral (Pitchfork Review) – This is the other ‘grower’ – I have spun this thing hundreds of times by now and every time I hear it, it gets better. It’s a CD that tells a vivid story, and each listen reveals a new layer brining more details to light. This one also brings up another important pattern this year, bands who want to sound like The Talking Heads. Aside from those two general leanings, this disc is really difficult to classify – it’s loaded with tons of creative instrumentation (most band members are multi-instrumentalists), and songs that shift from dark and cryptic to bright and dancy (often within seconds). ‘Funeral’ is also dripping with emotion without it feeling forced, or dare I say ’emo’. A great discovery for those who don’t mind music that feels like literature.

1.) Modest Mouse – Good News For People Who Love Bad News (Punknews.org Review) – I doubt that this CD will hold up as well as ‘Funeral’ in the future (I expect “Funeral’ to grow to be one of my favorite albums of all time), but I can’t deny Modest Mouse of the top spot this year. ‘Good News’ is a great album – eccentric, diverse, and fun as all hell. It’s a wonderful thing when an artist embraces major label production values and comes out better because of it. What could have been a slick, over-produced misstep arrived on store shelves as a wonderful next step for Brock and company. Here great production values emphasize what was already amazing about the sound of this band. Plus, ‘Float On’ is one of the greatest singles released in my lifetime. This CD is greater than the sum of its parts – it finally forced me to fully explore the Modest Mouse back catalog, which is a gift in and of itself. What is more important here is that this CD was a huge commercial success. The fact that a band like Modest Mouse can get airtime says something really good for rock music over the next few years. I’m looking forward to it.

Worth Noting – Black Keys – Rubber Factory, Bad Religion – The Empire Strikes First, Jimmy Eat World – Futures.

Guilty Pleasure of the Year – My Chemical Romance – Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (Please don’t tell anyone).

CDs that I wish I caught in 2003 – Lucero – That Much Further West, Bear Vs. Shark – Right Now You’re In The Best Of Hands

As always – everyone is highly encouraged to comment with their own personal top 10.

The Best Albums of 2004

Free this week from the iTunes Music Store, Bright Eyes – When the President Talks to God

when the president talks to God

When the president talks to God
are the conversations brief or long?
does he ask to rape our womens’ rights
or to send poor farm kids off to die?
does God suggest an oil hike
when the president talks to God?

when the president talks to God
are the consonants all hard or soft?
is he resolute all down the line?
is every issue black or white?
does what God say ever change his mind
when the president talks to God?

When the president talks to God
does he fake that drawl or merely nod?
agree which convicts should be killed?
where the prisons should be built and filled?
which voter fraud must be concealed
when the president talks to God?

When the president talks to God
I wonder which one plays the better cop
“we should find some jobs. the ghetto’s broke”
“no, they’re lazy, George, I say we don’t,
just give ’em more liquor stores and dirty coke”
that’s what God recommends.

When the president talks to God
do they drink near beer and go play golf
while they pick which countries to invade,
which Muslim souls still can be saved?
yeah I guess God just calls a spade a spade
when the president talks to God

When the president talks to God
does he ever think that maybe he’s not?
that that voice is just inside his head
when he kneels next to the presidential bed
does he ever smell his own bullshit
when the president talks to God?

I doubt it.

I like to listen to Dennis and Callahan on WEEI Sports radio in the morning. It’s an amusing sports show, and they would sprinkle in little things about the election and the news. One guyis a big Bush fan (which isn’t surprising for a high-earning white guy) and one is not too big on the President (not surprising for a New Englander). For the most part they get their jabs in and move on to what an idiot Terry Francona is or how good the Pats are.

This morning, though, I turn on their show and it was like I got a more polite version of radio Crossfire. One guy’s decided that maybe he’s been giving too much credit to the administration and thinks we need to get out of Iraq. And now, like most arguments made by people who don’t really delve deeply into history and present day issues, the show has turned into “why don’t you support the troops” and “hey, Germany declared war on us!” (along with callers weighing in on how Libya gave up their WMD for fear of America’s giant penis).

So even sports talk radio is getting a nice injection of bile. Where’d my iPod get to…

The Providence Journal Sports sections has rolled out a new feature in the past few weeks: a “print blog.” I assume (yes, yes…) that this comes from the excellent and well-wired sports editor Art Martone, but something seems to have been lost in translation. For instance, the B in blog is short for “web“.

Now, the feature is excellent. Tom Curran writes it in perfect blog-style, inserting observations and behind the scenes stuff. But “print blog”?! I’m sure this has some sort of cosmic significance for the medium, but I’ll be damned if I know what it is.

You can read some entries here and here. They really are good (as is the rest of the ProJo sports section, Jim Donaldson’s negative nabobisms notwithstanding).

Print blog? Really?

More Like Tlog

And now for two links that require no further description:

Before

After

In related news, I’m 75% done with my waaay to late best albums of 2004 list. At the moment I have it together just about as well as Mark Mathis does…

Before and After

The Daily Show is the both the best and most important show on television. It’s just that good.

I thought they’d win. I was wary of broadcasting that, but I thought they’d win. Never did I imagine they would absolutely paste the Pittsburgh Steelers to the tune of 41 points. This team, these New England Patriots, are just phenomenal. Wow.

I think you’ll probably hear this a lot in the coming weeks, but the Pats, in two weeks, limited the NFL’s best offense to three points, then scored 41 points on the NFL’s best defense. How are you feeling if you’re an Eagles fan?

What a ride. What an amazing ride. On to Jacksonville. Go Pats!

WOW!

Five hours, fifty-four minutes. Yeah, I’m excited for this game. I have no idea what to expect, except a great, hard hitting game. This group of Patriots is undefeated in seven post-season game, went 14-2 this regular season. They’re playing against a rookie quarterback that lost last week’s game, yet managed to move on to the AFC championship game on the foot of a Jets kicker. The weather will be cold, just like they like it. And Bill Belichick’s Patriots are undefeated the last 13 times they’ve faced a quarterback for the second time in a season.

Unfortunately, they are playing a team that went 15-1 in the regular season, including 15 in a row. The Steelers’ quarterback is undefeated in his NFL career, a guy who is scarily similar to Tom Brady in attitude and success. The defense was number one in the league this year. And this is the team that broke New England’s record-setting 21 game win streak.

Could you ask for anything more? Five hours, forty-eight minutes. Go Pats!

Go Pats (Again)

Back in the day, you used to be able to sign up for an email list to be told when there was a new Cry for Help. That function didn’t survive the move to Movable Type two Octobers ago. However, with the rise of aggregators and rss-readers, it became something of a moot point. Well, to the technophiles in the audience, at least. There’s an easier way, now.

I’ve stopped using bloglines, as the unread posts have piled up to over 1,000 now, and instead I’ve been using Thunderbird’s built in RSS (Really Simple Syndication) functions, so new blog posts and news stories from Yahoo! and the ProJo just show up in my email app. It’s pretty sweet. If you use TB and want to save yourself the trip of coming to this site, you can set up an RSS account to have all Cries for Help delivered to your inbox (how? read here). My rss link is http://www.bilherron.com/cryforhelp/index.rdf. You should try it out.

The ironic thing is that I originally started bil.com as a substitute for sending my friends cool links via email. Ah, how far we’ve come.

Thunderbird for RSS

Just watched Joe Lieberman on the D-show. Sometimes I wish he were a more public figure, because then everyone could probably ridicule him to the point where he’d no longer drop John McCain’s name EVERY. OTHER. SENTENCE. No, seriously, he called him “brother McCain” at one point. It was bad enough during the hip, cool, and “totally happenin'” Senator’s ill-fated (and ill-advised) campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. But even now, still with the McCain? Please, my neighbors to the west, rein in your Senator!

And I actually like Holy Joe! (well, more than most Kerry voters)

Joementum

No, not because the temperatures have been single digits here while I’m used to wearing shorts this time of year. I’m missing New Orleans today because of stuff like this:

To the tunes of old church spirituals, a jazz funeral rolled through the streets of the French Quarter on Thursday with hundreds of protesters mourning what they call the passing of democracy: a second term for President Bush.

The protest was timed to kick off as Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist administered the oath of office to Bush in Washington. The New Orleans event had the appearance of a lugubrious Mardi Gras ball, a raucous street protest, Halloween freak show and traditional New Orleans jazz funeral rolled into one.

It’s difficult to explain the exact cultural mix that makes the Big Easy so weird and awesome at the same time (it helps to think of it as a Latin American city in the US). A Jazz funeral, tradition in New Orleans, is both somber and celebratory; mourning for the lost and remembering what makes life worth living. It’s an apt activity for a progressive protest. And I’m sorry I couldn’t have been there today.

(I’m sure Ultra Laser would have gone if he hadn’t been banished to Alabama for work…)

Missing New Orleans

Check out the video for “We Will Become Silhouettes”. [from Napoleon Dynamite director Jared Hess, no less -bil]

I’m in love with Jenny Lewis. Her and the chick that sings with Broken Social Scene. If you don’t know Broken Social Scene; run, don’t walk to the record store and buy “You Forgot It In People”

There, i said it.

Also, i’m going to a few concerts in the next week. A band called Say Hi To Your Mom on friday night, and Bright Eyes next thursday. Maybe i’ll take pictures and post about my experiences…maybe.

i love you

The Postal Service