Thursday, December 31, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Honorable Mention: 50 Cent, The Answer, Art Brut, Gnarls Barkley, Kaiser Chiefs, Razorlight, Wolfmother
10. The Strokes
The Strokes are an odd lot. I love all three of their albums, but I feel like they could have done more this decade. They burst on the scene in 2001 with stripped-down, punky, garage rock, and they were immediately haled as rock saviors. However, just about every guy in the band seems to have a side project or a solo album, which probably explains why they didn't make more than three albums as The Strokes. Anyway, they kick ass, but I want more.
9. Louis XIV
Until 2004, I didn't realize how much the world needed raunchy, punk-infused glam rock. It does. And Louis XIV delivers it.
I've written rather extensively about Township. The band plays good, old-fashioned rock and roll, inspired by the glory days of '70s rock, carrying the torch lit by lead singer Marc Pinansky's former band, Runner & The Thermodynamics. Their albums are on both Amazon and iTunes. If you like rock and roll, check them out.
7. The Darkness
For a brief moment in time, The Darkness looked like they were going to bring back what had been missing from rock for far too long: unabashed, ballsy cock rock that doesn't try to hide what it is. They might be higher on the list had they released more albums. Unfortunately, lead singer and guitarist Justin Hawkins quit the band in 2006 after realizing that, as long as he was a rock star, he would be indulging in the rock star lifestyle. It's too bad. Their debut album, Permission to Land, effectively kicked you in the teeth sonically, and their second (and final) album, One Way Ticket to Hell . . . And Back, was pretty damn good too. Certainly, Justin Hawkins has the best falsetto of the decade.
6. The Fratellis
With a Goonies-inspired band name and Ramones-inspired stage names, it's hard to go wrong. The Fratellis have only released two albums, but both are phenomenal, particularly their debut album, Costello Music. That might be one of the catchiest albums I've ever heard. "Chelsea Dagger" is one of those songs that you hear for the first time and you immediately want to listen to it again and again. Thankfully, now you can, as the song has become a sports arena anthem around the world, which makes sense, since it's about a burlesque dancer. Their follow-up album, Here We Stand, is also very good, although not as fast-paced as Costello Music and, therefore, not as fulfilling. Nonetheless, I'm expecting big things from The Fratellis in the future.
5. Arctic Monkeys
Arctic Monkeys were hyped, certainly by the British music press, before they had even released an album. They lived up to the hype and more. Their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, became the UK's fastest-selling debut album ever, and the US's second-fastest-selling indie album ever. It was filled with post-punk, rip-roarin' first-person narratives of young love, lust, boozing, and trouble-making. Their follow-up, Favourite Worst Nightmare, isn't as in-your-face as the first album, but almost as good. Their third album, Humbug, was much more mellow and, therefore, not as fulfilling. Nonetheless, I'm expecting big things from Arctic Monkeys in the future.
4. Kings of Leon
I'm sure that I would have called you crazy if you told me ten years ago that one of the biggest and best rock bands of the decade would be comprised of three sons of a travelling Southern evangelical minister and their cousin. They came out guns-a-blazin' in 2004 With their first three albums, I thought Kings of Leon made big steps forward. Each was very different from the others, but each were great in their own way. I thought they kind of took a step sideways with their latest album, 2008's Only By The Night, which, of course, is their best-selling album yet. I knew Kings of Leon had finally made it big when I was in a Subway and a fortysomething African-American woman was singing "Use Somebody" to her toddler. That's a long way from when I saw them open for U2 at the United Center in 2005, and I was one of possibly ten people in the arena who knew any of their songs.
3. The Black Keys
At some point around 2004 or 2005, my buddy Greg sent me a couple Black Keys CDs, and I was immediately hooked. It's stripped-down, blues-based, fuzzy garage rock. And, like The White Stripes, the group is only two people, which is pretty amazing. Dan Auerbach, the lead singer and guitarist, looks like an urban yeti and sounds like a old bluesman. Patrick Carney, the drummer, hits the drums harder than anyone I've ever seen. What I also love about The Black Keys is that they aren't afraid to go experiment. Their last album, Attack & Release, was produced by Danger Mouse and stepped outside just a guitar and drums. The result was a really good album that both stayed true to their sound and broadened it. And, of course, they recently released Blakroc, a collaboration with various hip hop artists, which has gotten rave reviews.
2. The Hold Steady
As with many bands, I stumbled across The Hold Steady while reading Rolling Stone, which was reviewing the band's sophomore album, 2004's Separation Sunday. I got the album, and I liked it. Lead singer and lyricist Craig Finn is one of the best storytelling lyricists ever. In my opinion, he is up there with Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and Phil Lynott. The band's songs are intricate and interesting stories, set against booze-soaked barroom rock and roll. Every album is a new world and, more importantly, every album has been a step forward.
1. The White Stripes
At some point in 2002, I declared The White Stripes to be the best rock band in the world. My roommates at the time scoffed, offering up The Strokes. I was right then, and I'm right now. If you don't own every White Stripes album, then you are doing yourself a disservice. Over the last decade, no band has consistently put out rock and roll as good as The White Stripes. In my opinion, Jack White is the best songwriter around. His ability to write good songs in just about any genre cannot be overlooked. I'm not sure there's anyone else who manages to channel Son House, Elmore James, Jimmy Page, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Joe Strummer, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Booker T. & The MGs, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, and Keith Richards all at once. If you don't know what I'm talking about, here is a non-exhaustive list of the different types of songs White has written: straight punk ("Fell in Love with a Girl," "Let's Build a Home"); bluegrass ("Little Ghost"); blues ("Little Bird," "Ball and Biscuit," "Catch Hell Blues"); ball-busting rock ("Icky Thump," "Black Math"); Beatles-esque pop ("You're Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)," "Hotel Yorba"); soul pop ("My Doorbell"); country rock ("Effect & Cause"); arena anthems ("Seven Nation Army"); heartfelt ballads ("I Want to Be the Boy to Warm Your Mother's Heart," "I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet)"); acoustic songs ("We're Going to Be Friends," "As Ugly As I Seem"); garage rock ("Hello Operator"); glammy fuzz rock ("Blue Orchid"); tongue-in-cheek songs ("It's True That We Love One Another," "It's My Fault for Being Famous"); and, of course, songs based on Orson Wells dialogue ("The Union Forever"). And let's not forget about Jack's diminutive ex-wife behind the drums. Meg bashes away and, like Ringo, her contribution to the band is probably overshadowed. Regardless, the fact that two people can generate such a huge sound (and, more importantly, a great sound) speaks volumes (pun intended, motherfuckers) about their talent.
Next week: Top Ten Songs of the 2000s
Monday, December 28, 2009
So I'm minding my own business doing some internet surfing at lunch when I came across an article linked from Yahoo's homepage entitled "10 Things Husbands Should Never Do." Since I am always looking for ways to get under Jester's skin, I took a look.
I found the list to be a little patronizing, both to men and women. It implies that men are insensitive morons who are incapable of consciously doing something for their wives that is inoffensive. It also implies that women all stay at home and are emotionally unstable and incapable of dealing with criticism or innocent terminology. This article might have been more appropriate if it had been written 50 years ago.
I realize every relationship is different, but it seems like we're past the point in society where a husband and wife have to walk on eggshells around one another out of fear of accidentally hurting the other's feelings.
Anyway, here are the ten bits of advice, with my response to each.
1. Offer to "babysit" your own kids. When your 16-year-old neighbor does it, it's called babysitting. When a parent does it, it's called child care, and it lasts for at least 18 years. Get it?
"Honey, I can child care the kids Saturday night while you hang out with your girlfriends." Yeah, that makes sense. In all seriousness, if you are going to get pissed off at your husband for using the term "babysit," then you're probably one of those people who searches for ways to get pissed off at other people for no real reason. Would you rather he "babysit" the kids or not?
2. Imply that office work is harder than housework. At the end of a hard day, there may be smoke coming out of your ears, but let's face it: You've basically been sitting on your butt. That same smoke is coming out of our ears too—but we've cleaned the house, shuttled the kids around, run errands all over town and lugged grocery bags besides. When we say we're exhausted, we are exhausted.
I can see some merit to this one, especially if a husband implies that something that is objectively not that hard or stressful is more stressful than housework and caring for children. But if I've had a really stressful and long day at work, I'm sure as shit going to complain about it to my wife. It's not a competition about who can claim that they had the harder day; it's about being able to vent to the person in the world to whom you should be most able to vent.
3. Give a home appliance as a gift. Forgive us if we can't work it up for this one. A new washing machine? Really? Can we get you some new snow tires?
I can also see some merit to this one, as giving the gift of a vacuum cleaner to your wife certainly may imply that you think of her as nothing more than a housecleaner (and a shoddy one at that!). Plus, appliances are generally items that benefit both the husband and wife, so it's kind of a cheap gift (no matter how expensive it might be). And yes, you can get me some new snow tires.
4. Buy us the "cougar" perfume. Under our crew-neck sweaters may beat the heart of an untamed vixen—but most of us don't want to smell like one. (Nice try, though.)
What the fuck is "cougar" perfume? Does she mean Sex Panther? If so, that's cologne, and everyone knows that sixty percent of the time it works every time. Regardless, I don't know a guy in the world who has bought his wife an unsolicited bottle of a new type of perfume. Guys either know what perfume their wives wear (or have asked for) and buy that, or they don't buy perfume at all. And everyone knows that guys don't want their wives to smell like cougars; they want them to smell like strippers.
5. Brag about your driving. This is supposed to let us know that ours isn't so great. If my husband tells me one more time that he's been "accident-free since 1978," I'm going to reach over, grab the wheel and make the car swerve into something, just to shut him up.
I disagree with this one. First, aren't women statistically less likely to get into car accidents than men? Second, unless a husband is specifically saying "I am a better driver than you" or there is some other context in which it is clear that he is comparing his driving ability to yours, I don't think his bragging is meant to comment on how terrible of a driver you are. And grabbing the wheel to make the car swerve into something would only exacerbate this perceived problem, since the wife caused the crash and, thus, the husband will still be able to brag that he has been accident-free since 1978. Either that or it will kill him, which will, in fact, shut him up, which appears to be more important to the article's author than her husband's safety.
6. Be unimpressed by a meal that took a lot of time and trouble. I don't know whose fault this is (Food Network? Julie and Julia?), but every so often we get the idea that it would be fun to make stock and spend the day basting. If the result is less than earth-shattering, say something nice anyway.
This is common sense: don't go out of your way to tell someone the meal they just made sucks. That said, if I don't like something, I'm not going to sit there and pretend I do, since I probably don't want to eat it again. If you're married, you should be able to be honest with each other. Frankly, I don't know why a woman (or a man, for that matter) would want to be lied to when such a lie would potentially encourage another full day of making stock and basting.
7. Buy clothes without trying them on. We know that the second you get into a department store you start to feel faint, but do us a favor and take the extra five minutes. Otherwise, you know who gets stuck with the returns?
Hey, guess what? I know what pants size I wear. Hence, I don't need to try them on. And if this is such a problem that you are consistently "stuck with the returns," then maybe show a little backbone and don't return the dude's clothes.
8. Know it all, especially in public. Oh, honey. While you're going on at length about whatever it is, we're taking the temperature of the room, and we know everyone's starting to fidget.
I'm not sure how this is specific to marriage. No one likes a know-it-all. And why would any woman carry around a thermometer?
9. Say anything remotely critical about our new haircut. Sometimes getting a new cut goes well; sometimes it doesn't. Usually we know the difference. Don't rub it in.
This seems to imply that women are shallow beings in search of hollow affirmations, even when they know the opposite to be true. If my wife asks my opinion of her haircut, I give it to her. Thankfully, she's never had a bad haircut, so I've never had to tell her that it looks terrible. But if she came back from the salon looking like Pat Benatar, you better believe I'd give it to her straight. Heartache to heartache, we stand.
10. Expect a medal for doing a little housework. Umm…it's your house too, right? For now, we'll give you the bronze. Maybe someday, if you work hard enough, you can pick up a gold.
I don't think I've ever asked for precious metals in exchange for loading and emptying the dishwasher or doing the laundry, and I don't know many husbands who have either. Also, that's an improper use of the ellipses. A comma would have been more appropriate. I would like a gold for that.
In no particular order, here are ten actual things that a husband should never do:
2. Make a major purchase without consulting his wife (unless, of course, it's a present for his wife or his mistress)
3. Physically or mentally abuse, kidnap, or kill his wife or children
4. Leave the toilet seat up
5. Turn state's evidence
6. Discuss what happens in the bedroom with other people (sex therapists, psychiatrists, and the husband's buddies excluded, obviously)
7. Walk out
8. Go anal without first asking
9. Hack into his wife's email
10. Steal money from his wife or her twin sister
Next up is Chuck Klosterman's new book, Eating the Dinosaur. I've enjoyed all of his other books, so I don't see any reason why this would be any different. From what I understand, it is a collection of unrelated (or very loosely related) essays, in the vein of Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs. I'm interested to see how he prepares the dinosaur.
Books read in 2009:
The Informers by Bret Easton Ellis
Oh The Glory of It All by Sean Wilsey
I Hate New Music: The Classic Rock Manifesto by Dave Thompson
Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal by Ian Christe
Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector by Mick Brown
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Everybody Wants Some: The Van Halen Saga by Ian Christe
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Choke by Chuck Palahniuk
KISS: Behind the Mask: The Official Authorized Biography by David Leaf and Ken Sharp
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
As always, I am only ranking albums that I own. Therefore, if there is an album you think should be on the list, chances are I don't own it or, if I do own it, I didn't think it was better than any of the albums on the list. As a heads up, I tend not to buy music that puts me to sleep. Sorry, Death Cab fans.
And, of course, this list is likely premature, since I am sure that I will one day own more albums from this decade than I do today. Such is life. If I am able to do so, on the day I die, I will post an updated list.
Also, I am including only studio albums. Thus, excluded are soundtracks, live albums, greatest hits, or compilations.
Before I get to those studio albums, however, I will say that my favorite compilation of the 2000s is Sympathetic Sounds of Detroit, a 2001 compilation produced by Jack White featuring various Detroit garage bands, including The White Stripes, The Von Bondies, Detroit Cobras, The Dirtbombs, and Ko & The Knockouts, among others. It's an excellent album with some fantastic garage and blues-based rock.
Alright. Now to the studio albums, with a bonus 101st album. Yowzah!
101. Chris Gemkow - Drowsy (2004?)
I previously reviewed this album during my well-received A-Z CDs back in aught seven. Since I'm sure I can't write a better synopsis of the album now as I did then, here is what I had to say about it then: You may know him as Chris Thunder, Gemkeezi, Luda-Chris, or one of the creative forces behind The Franklins, the undisputed kings of Missoula, Montana's goth jazz/acid synth-pop metal scene. Drowsy, his 2004 (?) solo debut, went largely unnoticed by mainstream and underground media outlets, but don't let that fool you. From what I understand, Chris locked himself in a remote Montana cabin with nothing more than a four-track, an acoustic guitar, a harmonica, a single bongo, a didgeridoo, a pillow, the May 1994 issue of Cat Fancy, and like 740 pounds of ganja. He emerged 14 months later with Drowsy, a collection of songs mostly about being tired. "Sweet Solitude" is surprisingly upbeat, considering it recounts the time he spent at Sing Sing for human trafficking. "Looking Out for You" is a horrifying piece, marked by tear-filled wailing and what I think is the sound of a man beating himself in the chest with a half-full metal bucket of nails. Despite what its title implies, "Someone Else's Girl" is all about house cats, and it gets pretty graphic. At a funeral pace, "Without Looking Back" recounts in detail a man's lifelong quest for vengeance against a high school classmate who mercilessly mocked the man when he brought a pink cupcake to lunch one day, drawing accusations of homosexual incest. Derivative of early Kraftwerk, "Without a Sound" -- the second in the "Without Duology" -- is a lighthearted tale of rape and murder from the perspective of the victim -- a deaf mute merman. From what I can tell, "Been Thinkin'" is mostly about turtles, although it's unclear if he means the amphibian or the candy. "Lost and Empty" is a hilarious tongue-in-cheek tribute to AIDS. "Darlin'" is an over-the-top, overproduced ballad, singing the praises of angel dust, Conrad Bain, taxidermy, and wicker patio furniture, in that order. I think there might be a Dylan cover and a Ben Harper cover in there somewhere, but it's hard to tell when a didgeridoo is involved.
100. Kanye West - Late Registration (2005)
99. OutKast - Idlewild (2006)
98. Japandroids - Post-Nothing (2009)
97. Runner & The Thermodynamics - The Dude (2006?)
96. Interpol - Antics (2004)
95. The Dead Weather - Horehound (2009)
94. Weezer - Weezer (The Red Album) (2008)
93. Supagroup - Supagroup (2003)
92. Razorlight - Slipway Fires (2009)
91. Chickenfoot - Chickenfoot (2009)
90. Guns N' Roses - Chinese Democracy (2008)
89. Andrew W.K. - The Wolf (2003)
88. The Last Shadow Puppets - The Age of the Understatement (2008)
87. Jack Johnson - Brushfire Fairytales (2002)
86. Heartless Bastards - All This Time (2006)
85. Razorlight - Razorlight (2006)
84. Kings of Leon - Only By The Night (2008)
83. The Greenhornes - The Greenhornes (2001)
82. Foxboro Hot Tubs - Stop Drop and Roll!!! (2008)
Green Day's alter ego pumps out sixties-style garage rock, and quite well at that.
81. 50 Cent - The Massacre (2005)
80. The Black Keys - Magic Potion (2006)
79. Unicycle Loves You - Unicycle Loves You (2008)
78. Butch Walker & The Let's-Go-Out-Tonites - The Rise and Fall Of Butch Walker & The Let's-Go-Out-Tonites (2006)
77. Ben Harper & Relentless7 - White Lies for Dark Times (2009)
76. Kanye West - College Dropout (2004)
75. Shout Out Louds - Howl Howl Gaff Gaff (2005)
74. The Greenhornes - Dual Mono (2002)
73. Catfish Haven - Devastator (2008)
72. Angus Khan - Black Leather Soul (2009)
71. Ko & The Knockouts - Ko & The Knockouts (2002)
70. Kaiser Chiefs - Yours Truly, Angry Mob (2007)
69. Wolfmother - Cosmic Egg (2009)
68. Dirty Pretty Things - Waterloo to Anywhere (2006)
67. Weezer - Maladroit (2002)
66. John Mellencamp - Trouble No More (2003)
This is an album of blues, folk, and Americana covers by Indiana's favorite troubadour. Mellencamp pulls it off with ease.
65. Beastie Boys - To The 5 Boroughs (2004)
64. Weezer - Raditude (2009)
63. Louis XIV - Slick Dogs & Ponies (2008)
62. Kaiser Chiefs - Off With Their Heads (2008)
61. Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better (2005)
60. Johnny Cash - American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002)
59. Art Brut - Bang Bang Rock & Roll (2006)
58. Man Raze - Surreal (2008)
57. Beck - Guero (2005)
56. Be Your Own Pet - Get Awkward (2008)
55. The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers (2006)
54. The Strokes - First Impressions of Earth (2006)
53. O.A.R. - Souls Aflame (2001)
52. Lit - Atomic (2001)
51. The Go! Team - Thunder, Lightning, Strike (2005)
50. Ace Frehley - Anomaly (2009)
49. The Black Keys - Attack & Release (2008)
48. The Donnas - Spend the Night (2002)
47. Def Leppard - Yeah! (2006)
A fantastic album of '70s British glam and hard rock covers.
46. The Black Keys - Thickfreakness (2003)
45. The Darkness - One Way Ticket To Hell . . . And Back (2005)
44. Art Brut - It's a Bit Complicated (2007)
43. The Hold Steady - Almost Killed Me (2004)
42. The Bravery - The Bravery (2005)
41. The Black Keys - The Big Come Up (2002)
40. Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple (2008)
39. The Fratellis - Here We Stand (2008)
38. The White Stripes - Icky Thump (2007)
37. Weezer - Weezer (The Green Album) (2001)
36. Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007)
35. Velvet Revolver - Contraband (2004)
34. Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand (2004)
33. 50 Cent - Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2003)
32. Township - Coming Home (2008)
31. King Konga - Something Good (2001)
30. The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday (2005)
29. The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound (2008)
I recently bought this album at the recommendation of Mike "Not the same guy I went to high school with of the same name" McHugh, and it is fantastic. It's really good rock and roll with interesting lyrics. Think Springsteen-inspired rock mixed with The Clash, early Goo Goo Dolls, The Killers circa Sam's Town, and a little bit of The Cure.
28. Wolfmother - Wolfmother (2006)
27. Runner & The Thermodynamics - Runner and The Thermodynamics (2004)
26. Robert Randolph & The Family Band - Unclassified (2003)
This is, for the most part, energetic, funky, rocking steel lap guitar jam band music. It's a great album.
25. Kaiser Chiefs - Employment (2005)
24. The Answer - Everyday Demons (2009)
23. The Strokes - Room On Fire (2003)
22. Kings of Leon - Because of the Times (2007)
21. The White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan (2005)
20. Township - Township (2008)
19. The White Stripes - De Stijl (2000)
18. The Killers - Hot Fuss (2004).
I think it's a sign of a good album when I remember exactly where I was when I first listened to it. For Hot Fuss, it was in August 2004, on a plane to Boston for a guys trip to see the White Sox play the Red Sox at Fenway. Thus, whenever I hear "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine," it brings back memories of busting into a hotel bathroom to vomit, only to find my friend sitting on the pot, thus forcing me to puke in the bathtub, resulting in the both of us laughing our asses off. Good times. Also, the drumming is excellent on this album.
17. Metallica - Death Magnetic (2008)
16. The Darkness - Permission to Land (2003)
15. The Strokes - Is This It? (2001)
14. Kings of Leon - Youth & Young Manhood (2003)
13. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive (2008)
12. The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely (2008)
11. The Black Keys - Rubber Factory (2004)
Andrew W.K.'s full-length debut is a giant ball of bombastic energy with wall-of-sound production and songs celebrating hedonism. What make this album great, though, is that behind that wall are well-crafted pop hooks. This isn't just some hard-on blowing off steam by yelling into the mic; this is someone who is calculatingly harnessing pop sensibilities while blowing you away sonically. If you combined mid-'70s Springsteen and Meat Loaf with Black Flag, The Ramones, The Replacements, and Motörhead, this might very well be the result.
9. Kings of Leon - Aha Shake Heartbreak (2005)
Kings of Leon have put out three excellent (and one pretty good) album this decade, but in my opinion, their best is their sophomore effort, Aha Shake Heartbreak. The band matured from their debut album, Youth and Young Manhood, and put out an album with just as much grit, but a little more polish. The songs rock, they have interesting lyrics (presuming you can understand Caleb Followill), and, well, they're just good, solid rock and roll.
8. Arctic Monkeys - Whatever You Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (2006)
Every now and then an album lives up to the hype, and this one was certainly hyped. And it definitely lived up to that hype. Hailing from Sheffield and only 19 or 20 at the time, Arctic Monkeys released a phenomenal debut album. I would describe the album as neoclassical British punk. It's straightforward, brash, honest, and youthful, but not entirely innocent. Most importantly, under the angst (or appearance of angst) are catchy songs. The Arctic Monkeys do a wonderful job of combining old school punk, like Sex Pistols or The Buzzcocks, with newer dance-punk (if that makes sense), like Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand, yet their sound is their own.
After I bought this double album, it was in my CD book (this was long before I had an iPod) for several years. Simply put, the album is excellent. I can't really categorize this as fitting into one genre, as there are elements of hip hop, rap, jazz, rock, pop, soul, R&B, and electronic present throughout the album. I think "Hey Ya!" is one of the best pop songs ever written. "Roses" is fantastic. I love "The Rooster" and "Last Call."
The Best Little Secrets Are Kept has one of the best starts to an album. The first song, aptly entitled "Louis XIV," starts off with some odd baroque-esque strings, which abruptly stop to make way for lead singer Jason Hill's distorted vocals wryly belting out, "Well, I am a weapon of mass destruction" as the song kicks into fuzzed out glam. The entire album is a punk- and garage-infused ode to '70s glam. The songs are catchy and raunchy. And you might be wondering how an album gets an "Explicit Content" sticker when it doesn't contain a single swear word. In the case of this album, it's the tawdry, sexually charged subject matter of several of the songs (i.e., "Pull your skirt up a little bit / Pull down your top and show me a little tit"). And the cover art is fantastic.
5. The White Stripes - Elephant (2003)
This is the White Stripes album that established Jack White as a guitar god. This album is ridiculously good. You all know "Seven Nation Army," which is great, but the rest of the album is just as good, if not better. "Black Math," "The Hardest Button to Button," "Hypnotize," and "The Air Near My Fingers" kick you in the teeth. "Ball and Biscuit" is a raunchy blues rocker that would make Led Zeppelin proud. "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself" is probably the best Burt Bacharach cover of all-time. All in all, the album is simply fantastic.
4. The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America (2006)
The Hold Steady is better than any other band at creating a universe within an album. The songs tell stories, in the tradition of Springsteen and Lynott, and, most importantly, the stories are interesting, relatable, and somewhat interrelated. On this album, they have created a world of young love, parties, dances, drugs, booze, and concerts. "Stuck Between Stations" warns "She was a damn good dancer / But she wasn't all that great of a girlfriend." I think all guys can relate to that on some level. And the song "Massive Nights" is one of my favorite songs of the decade.
3. The Fratellis - Costello Music (2007)
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: this album has more hooks than a tackle box. You've no doubt heard "Chelsea Dagger," which has become a sports anthem (and an Amstel Light anthem), but "Flathead," "Henrietta," "Baby Fratelli," and "Vince the Lovable Stoner" are just as catchy. There isn't a song on the album that doesn't rock. Double negatives aside, I don't know how anyone wouldn't like this album. Quadruple negatives aside, seriously, this album is awesome.
2. Razorlight - Up All Night (2004)
I think I read a review of this album in Rolling Stone, and it sounded like something I would like, so I went to Amazon and listened to the clips, and I liked those. So I bought the album, and, needless to say, I loved it. Like The Fratellis' Costello Music (see #3 above), Up All Night is full of hooks, but with a punk edge. The album has a fantastic energy, and there are no let-downs. I love the way "In the City" starts off slow and crescendos into madness. "Stumble and Fall" is just a great song. "Don't Go Back to Dalston" ensures that I won't go back to Dalston. "Golden Touch" is catchy as hell (and, if I'm not mistaken, was once used in a Pontiac commercial).
This is the album that made me fall in love with The White Stripes. When I bought the CD, all I had heard was "Fell in Love with a Girl" and "Dead Leave on the Dirty Ground," both of which I thought were great songs. Little did I know what lurked beyond those songs. The album is a mélange of well-written punk, Beatles-esque pop, acoustic ballads, and straight-up rock. Jack White is a great storyteller, and every song is good -- even "Aluminum," which is a weird instrumental with moaning. "Offend in Every Way" might be my favorite White Stripes song. If someone were to ask me which White Stripes album is the best introduction to the band, I would definitely go with White Blood Cells. And, the best part is that it was recorded in something like 4 days. Ridiculous.
I'd love to hear your favorite album of the last decade, or your Top 10, or, if you're feeling like wasting several hours, your Top 100.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
All in all, the first week of fatherhood has been slightly easier than I expected. For writing that, I fully expect shit to hit the fan (quite possibly literally).
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Just so we're all clear, this list only includes EPs that I own. To include others would be an injustice to the words "extended play."
Because the freecreditreport.com band has not yet released an EP, here are the best of the rest:
10. V Sparks - EP (2006?)
I saw this band a few years ago at the Kinetic Playground, and I picked up their EP while I was there. It's '70s glam-tastic, inspired by T. Rex, Bowie, and Mott the Hoople.
Favorite song: "Red Love Suicide"
9. Catfish Haven - Please Come Back (2006)
I saw these guys a few years ago opening up for The Hold Steady, and I immediately went home and bought this EP. It turns out they are a local Chicago band. The lead singer looks like an urban yeti, but sounds like an old bluesman. The band's sound combines garage rock, CCR, the blues, soul, and something I can't quite put my finger on.
Favorite song: "Madeline"
8. One Day as a Lion - One Day as a Lion (2008)
This was the one-off project for Rage Against the Machine lead singer Zach de la Rocha and former Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore. It sounds a lot like Rage (and the subject matter is just as politically tinged), so it's good.
Favorite song: "If You Fear Dying"
7. The Greenhornes - East Grand Blues (2005)
Of course, you know of The Greenhornes because two of their members (Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler) are also in The Raconteurs. Before all that, they were Cincinnati's finest garage band, and East Grand Blues was a solid effort. As with much of their material, if you didn't know it was made in the 2000s, you would think it was straight from the mid to late '60s.
Favorite song: "Pattern Skies"
This EP is more of a single with a bonus. The White Stripes more than ably covered Tegan & Sara's "Walking With a Ghost," and some live versions of White Blood Cells' "Same Boy You've Always Known," their eponymous debut album's "Screwdriver," and Get Behind Me Satan's "Denial Twist" and "As Ugly As I Seem."
Favorite song: "Walking With a Ghost"
5. Stillwater - Stillwater (2001)
Yes, this is an EP by the fictional band that stole our hearts in the movie Almost Famous. It came with the special edition DVD, and it's fantastic. In addition to their signature hit "Fever Dog," which is also on the soundtrack, the EP contains the other songs the group plays throughout the film. There are songs written by Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson (the latter of whom, as you may know, is filmmaker Cameron Crowe's wife) and Peter Frampton, among others.
Favorite song: "Fever Dog"
4. The Answer - Never Too Late (2008)
This is The Answer's US debut release (before their full length album, Everyday Demons), and it is pretty damn good, ball-busting hard rock. And, as a bonus, the EP comes with a live DVD.
Favorite song: "Highwater or Hell"
3. The White Stripes - Conquest (2008)
In addition to the title track, which is from the Icky Thump album, this EP contains a few fun-loving b-sides and a mariachi version of "Conquest." The White Stripes are awesome.
Favorite song: "It's My Fault for Being Famous"
2. Township - Township EP (2007)
This is Township's first output, and it's fantastic. It picks up where lead singer Marc Pinansky's former band, Runner & The Thermodynamics, left off, harkening '70s rock. From the "108/200" on the CD, it would appear that only 200 copies were made available.
Favorite song: "Lady Ann"
1. The Black Keys - Chulahoma (2006)
This EP is a collection of covers of song by late bluesman Junior Kimbrough, and the boys from Akron bring it, adding fuzz and Rust Belt soul to Kimbrough's music. In a moment that is both touching an eerie, the EP ends with a message left by Kimbrough's widow on lead singer Dan Auerbach's answering machine telling how much she's proud of the duo's work and how they sound like Kimbrough.
Favorite song: "My Mind is Ramblin'"
Next Tuesday: The Top 10 Albums of the 2000s
Monday, December 14, 2009
She was 8 lbs 5 oz., which means that Beth won the "guess the baby's weight" contest with her guess of 8 lbs 3 oz. Beth, email me your address to receive your very own copy of the album Jessie played pretty much all day on Thursday, Black Sabbath's heavy metal classic, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, a dark and plodding album that should be a part of every central Indiana librarian's music collection. And every birth.
In addition to the deliciously evil title track (which contains a totally badass riff and, oddly, was once covered by The Cardigans), highlights of the album include:
-"A National Acrobat," which is a pyschedelic metal masterpiece about, appropriately, the miracle of conception (I kid you not).
-"Sabbra Cadabra," which is a rollicking song with the approximate beat of my kid's kicks when she is being changed.
-"Killing Yourself to Live," which, in addition to being an awesome song inspired by Geezer Butler's kidney problems from alcohol abuse, is also the title of Chuck Klosterman's 2005 book detailing his journey around the country to various sites where rockers died.
-"Looking for Today," which is another great, fast-paced song, presumably about Alzheimer's.
And of course, the cover art was inspired by that one episode of The Odd Couple where Felix has a nightmare.
Rolling Stone described the album as "nothing less than a complete success." Merry Christmas, Beth, from our little girl, Ozzy.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Also, if you haven't yet guessed the baby's weight, time is running low. Click here to submit your guess and for details about the awesome mystery prize that awaits the winner. All submissions will count until the kid is born.
Anyway, here are the texts:
312: Why would you ever want to bartend in the 1800s? Most dangerous job ever. That would be a sweet reality show.
937: The guy standing in front of me in line to get flu shots looks exactly like Jack Klompas
312: Fyi pooing at a sushi joint in minn twins, have not eaten yet.
773: I'm in a hotel in dayton listening to a guy argue that the regular season for college basketball has no nothing to do with the 64 teams in the tourney.
937: Of course.
773: 'No, they don't count these games. they don't start counting until they name the 64 teams'
937: Selig stepping down after 2012 season. He must know that mayan prediction is correct
937: I will send money to michigan and notre dame if they sign their current coaches to long term extensions.
773: So then is john 16:34 'or not'?
312: I'm bored, cold, borderline drunk, watching a movie i love, and just picking it apart. I'm getting old.
949: Rape arena looks extra rapey today
312: What do you think richard grieco is doing right now?
312: Ha ha ha. Maybe with booger?
937: I feel like booger is more of a mad dog kind of guy
312: When it goes down you need to smoke cigs 1950s cartoon style in the delivery room.
As I said in the initial Thursday Texts post, I invite you to email hilarious texts that you send or receive to email@example.com, and I will post them accordingly. All texts will be anonymous, identified only by their area code. Or, I also strongly encourage people to post texts as comments to the Thursday Text posts. I will not approve any comments that contain last names.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
10. Township (Reggie's Music Joint, November 7)
This would likely be higher up on the list, but Township was on the bill with several other bands, so they didn't get to play for very long. Their set was excellent, however, and I'm sure they grabbed some knew fans. I'm looking forward to their return to Chicago.
9. Razorlight (Double Door, March 14)
Although my memory of the event is somewhat hazy, I do remember that Razorlight was awesome, even if they only played for 45 f'n minutes.
8. Arctic Monkeys with Screaming Females (Riviera, December 6)
This past Sunday, for some reason Jessie let me go to a concert. I have wanted to see the Arctic Monkeys for several years, but for one reason or another have not been able to do so. They put on a really good show. The crowd was as energized as I've seen at The Riv. And at some point before the show, someone puked in two spots on the main floor, so, for the 45 minutes it took before that got cleaned up, it was a joy to watch people walk through it unknowingly and then get mocked mercilessly, like a fat-faced child of divorce in a suburban elementary school.
7. Anvil (Metro, April 22)
If there was a Comeback Band of the Year Award, I'd venture to say that Anvil would win it hands down. This particular show was a combined viewing of their documentary and a concert afterwards, and they put on a great show. Plus, as an added bonus, I got to meet the band beforehand at the hot dog place across the street where we all happened to be eating.
6. The Hold Steady (Taste of Randolph, June 21)
I love The Hold Steady, and they always put on a good show. If you've never seen them, I strongly encourage you to do so. Granted, I prefer them indoors rather than outdoors, but that's just my opinion, man. I'm sure as hell not going to pass up an opportunity to see them for $5 (or whatever the admission to the street fest was).
5. KISS with Buckcherry (United Center, November 6)
KISS is another band I've wanted to see for a long time (approximately 28 years – ever since I stopped being terrified by them as a toddler). You expect KISS to put on a great show, and they deliver. My only knock on the show is that Tommy Thayer was not Ace Frehley.
4. Art Brut with Unicycle Loves You (Schuba's, June 10)
I had never been to Schuba's before, and this was a great introduction. Art Brut took up residency there for a week in June. I've been a fan ever since they opened up for The Hold Steady a few years ago at The Metro. Art Brut put on a great show. They're energetic and funny, and lead singer Eddie Argos isn't afraid to walk through the crowd during songs or stand behind me and drink a cup of coffee or tea while watching the opening band. Speaking of which, I really liked Unicycle Loves You as well.
3. Def Leppard, Poison, and Cheap Trick (First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, July 17)
I love hair bands, and I love Cheap Trick. All three bands played great shows. No one was going through the motions. I've seen Def Leppard six or seven times now, and they bring their A game every time.
2. The Answer (Beat Kitchen, August 15)
Seeing a band in a small venue when that shouldn't be playing in a small venue is always great. The Answer blew the doors off of the Beat Kitchen (not literally, Kevin). It was loud, it was raw, and it was awesome. Plus, as with Township and Anvil, I got to meet band members.
1. Metallica (Allstate Arena, January 26)
I had never seen Metallica before, and they definitely did not disappoint, playing a solid variety from throughout their career (and mercifully skipping over stuff between the Black album and Death Magnetic). Plus, the actual stage show was great too. In addition to an "in the round" stage and pyrotechnics, they had several giant coffins that housed lasers. Enough said.
Monday, December 07, 2009
He didn't look great; he looked fabulous.
Sunday, December 06, 2009
Please post your guess in the comments (and yes, I will approve them all). There are no duplicates, so if someone has already posted your pick, you must pick something else. Anonymous posts are ineligible. Only one guess per person.
Just to give you guys some context, I was 2 weeks late, and I weighed 8 lbs 1 oz. Jester was a month early, and she weighed 3 lbs 2 oz. Good luck, and happy holidays!
Thursday, December 03, 2009
"Mandy" by Barry Manilow is one of those songs. Because we're weird, back in law school when I was rooming with Tradd, Ryan, and AC, before heading out to the bars, we would occasionally put "Mandy" on the Victrola, crank it as loud as possible, and open the front door, so that it's soothing sounds would be broadcast down Grant Street. It made sense at the time.
When you hear "Mandy," you might assume that it's a sweet love song about a woman who selflessly tries to save the narrator from his bout with the shakes. However, when you dig a little deeper, you find something else. Mandy was a rewrite of a song written by a couple British songwriters named "Brandy." Urban legend has it that "Brandy" was about a dog. By the time Barry Manilow decided to cover the song, The Looking Glass had a hit of their own called "Brandy," so Manilow changed the name of the song to "Mandy" to avoid confusion. Also, there is a dog pictured on the back of the Barry Manilow II album, which "Mandy" is on.
With this as a backdrop, the lyrics to "Mandy" are very confusing.
I remember all my life
Raining down as cold as ice
A shadow of a man
Jesus, man, take a Valium. Either that, or move out of West Lafayette.
A face through a window
Crying in the night
Maybe feed the puppy.
The night goes into
Morning, just another day
Happy people pass my way
That makes sense, since people like dogs.
Looking in their eyes
No need to creep them out.
I see a memory I never realized
You made me so happy, oh Mandy
That's pleasant. It's always nice to hear dog owners praise their pets, although it's obviously a little concerning that he didn't appreciate what he had at the time.
Well you came and you gave without taking
This is just wrong. In fact, all dogs do is take without giving. For example, not once since I've owned Harley has she reimbursed me for any of the food, toys, shelter, beds, vaccinations, medication, or vet expenses that I've provided for her.
But I sent you away, oh Mandy
Sent you away? Like to a kennel? Or to a "farm"?
Well you kissed me and stopped me from shaking
This is just creepy.
I need you today, oh Mandy
Well, maybe you shouldn't have sent her away.
I'm standing on the edge of time
That's not true.
I walked away when love was mine
It's a dog. You could have kept it on a leash and/or not walked away from it. Either way would have prevented this predicament.
Caught up in a world of uphill climbing
This doesn't make much sense, since Manilow lived in New York at the time, and there aren't a ton of hills in the city.
The tears are in my mind
You should feel guilty about the dog's tears, since you, as the owner, had the ability to control whether or not your dog was crying.
And nothing is rhyming, oh Mandy
Again, this is false. "Rhyming" rhymes with "climbing." Therefore, something is rhyming.
Yesterday's a dream I face the morning
Crying on the breeze
The pain is calling, oh Mandy
Get a grip, man. You can always get another dog. Sure, it won't be the same as Mandy because, more than likely, it will take without giving, but it will still provide companionship. But this time, maybe don't abandon it or put it to sleep. Also, pain is an inanimate object, so it can't call.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Thus, while many of you were celebrating Blackout Wednesday, Jester and I were chilling at home, playing cops and robbers with Harley.
Thursday morning, I made some pumpkin pie while Jessie took pictures.
Per tradition, I wore my turkey shirt (and made my classic "Thanksgiving creepy eyes"). Deal with it, America.
We had two pies for four people. I ate until the point of physical discomfort. There was enough food to go around that Alex's anonymous wife found it to be appropriate to make their runty dog a plate of people food.
When I woke up Friday morning, I kid you not, my pee smelled like turkey. And shame.
Friday was D Day. And no, I don't mean to imply that Friday was either June 6, 1944 or Daniel Simpson Day. Rather, Friday was the date that some charlatan predicted would bring the birth of our child.
Friday afternoon, we saw a movie about men who stare at goats. From what I gathered, the entire point of the movie was simply to alert you to the existence of some men who stare at goats.
Friday came and went without the fulfillment of the prophecy. Friday night I got over ten hours of sleep, possibly for the last time in my life.
Other than a trip to the Smoke Shack (a local BBQ place) with my dad (who stopped by on his way out of town), much of Saturday was spent doing nothing, although we did go shopping for rugs (not toupees or murkins, but actual rugs), to no avail. We also went to Whole Foods, where they apparently sell a lot of excellent, extremely potent winter beers that I am incapable of not buying. Saturday night, I drank some of said beer, along with Ryan, as we watched Road House on Spike. After about a half hour into the movie, I realized that I own Road House on DVD, so I popped that in, caught up to where we were, then watched the rest of the movie uncut. When we finished, there were still 15 minutes left on the Spike version, so we got to see Brad Wesley die twice. But then again, if the sheriff asks, we didn't see Brad Wesley die.
Sunday was also spent doing very little. We watched some football, grilled some old burgers, and watched Gregerson's dog pee on our kitchen floor and then on our deck.
At the present time, we are still waiting for this kid to be born, if for no other reason than so we will be able to yell at her once she comes out for being so unpunctual. I hope this insolence isn't a trend.
On a side note, that wives' tale that walking induces labor is horse shit. And if one more person tells Jessie to walk or drive on bumpy roads or eat spicy food or eat a big meal (or any of the other wives' tales for inducing labor that don't really work), I fear that my child will grow up with a mother behind bars for murder. Seriously, people, those things only work to move the process along if you are already in the beginning stages of labor. Telling an already miserable, overdue pregnant woman to do something she knows is futile only serves to remind her that she is still pregnant and can't do anything about it.
A few months ago, I posted the Top Ten Things Not to Say to Pregnant Women. Here are a few things you should not say to pregnant women who are past their due date:
-"Be patient." The first nine months were about being patient. Even if you are a woman who has gone past her due date, you shouldn't be saying this.
-"Enjoy it now because you won't get any sleep when the baby comes." It turns out really pregnant women don't sleep very well as it is, especially when they have acid reflux.
-"Have you had that baby yet?" No.
Use some common sense, people.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
I was going to do a top ten albums of 2009, but I realized I only bought 13 albums that were released this year, so, out of fairness, I'm just going to rank all of them. And, unlike last year, I though this year was relatively weak as far as new albums.
And before you freak out about some album that you think is awesome that I've left off the list, bear in mind that I am only ranking the albums that I own. Thus, while your choice may be totally sweet, I don't have the authority to put it on the list.
Also, if I happen to get another 2009 album or two in the next couple weeks, I vow to review it on the GMYH scale, such that you can easily assess it in relation to the albums reviewed in this here post.
As a reminder, here is the GMYH CD Review Scale:
-6 Handrews - Buy it now. NOW!!
-5 Handrews - Excellent album that you should seriously consider purchasing in the near future
-4 Handrews - Very good album that you should at least check out on iTunes
-3 Handrews - If you want it, download it illegally
-2 Handrews - Somewhere between Britney Spears and William Hung
-1 Handrew - Ashlee Simpson
-0 Handrews – PopoZao
Anyway, here are the albums:
13. Arctic Monkeys – Humbug. 3.5 Handrews
Given how great their first two albums were, Humbug was a bit of a disappointment. The band seemed to mellow too much on this album, and there is no stand-out track like "I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor" from the first album or "Fluorescent Adolescent" from the second. It sounds like the band too more cues from lead singer Alex Turner's less energetic side project The Last Shadow Puppets (whose 2008 album The Age of The Understatement is excellent, by the way). Don't get me wrong, I am still overly excited to see them play at The Riv Sunday night (assuming my wife is not birthing a child at or around that time). Top Tracks: "Potion Approaching," "Pretty Visitors"
11 (tie). The Dead Weather – Horehound. 4 Handrews
Just about everything Jack White touches turns to gold, in my opinion. That is, until The Dead Weather, his latest side project, in which he plays drums and occasionally sings, along with lead singer Alison Mosshart (of The Kills), guitarist Dean Fertita (of Queens of the Stone Age), and bassist Jack Lawrence (of The Greenhornes and The Raconteurs). It's not a bad album; it's just not as good as any White Stripes or Raconteurs album. Top tracks: "Treat Me Like Your Mother," "New Pony"
11 (tie). Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures. 4 Handrews
This is another supergroup, featuring bassist John Paul Jones of Led fucking Zeppelin and not yet beginning to fight fame, drummer Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and Nirvana fame, and Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age fame. (What is it with Queens of the Stone Age members in supergroups?) Anyway, I bought this album without hearing any song on it. That may have been a slight mistake. I like the album, but I was expecting more. I find many of the songs to be too drowsy. I guess I was hoping for a more rollicking album. Top tracks: "Mind Eraser, No Chaser," "New Fang"
6 (tie.) Angus Khan - Black Leather Soul. 4.5 Handrews
As the band's name implies, it is a combination of Angus Young and Genghis Khan – a formidable pairing of guitar prowess and ransacking ability. The music is fashioned in the band name's image. It's gritty, ballsy hard rock, harkening early AC/DC, and the lead singer even sounds eerily like Bon Scott. Top tracks: "On the Run," "Call Me Motherfucker"
6 (tie). Chickenfoot – Chickenfoot. 4.5 Handrews
What do you get when you combine former Van Halen members Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony with former Chili Peppers drummer (and Will Ferrell look-alike) Chad Smith and guitar wunderkind Joe Satriani? Well, you get a band with a weird name that plays good, straightforward rock. I'm not sure why this album has gotten a bad rap. I think it's pretty good. How could it not be with this line-up? Top tracks: "Soap on a Rope," "Oh Yeah"
6 (tie). Ben Harper & Relentless7 - White Lies for Dark Times. 4.5 Handrews
Ben Harper is one of those artists where every time I hear one of his songs, I ask myself why I don't own more of his music. The man is a Scorpio, after all. Anyway, his latest album is with a backing group called Relentless7, and their album, White Lies for Dark Times, is a good blues rock album. Top tracks: "Number With No Name," "Why Must You Always Dress in Black"
6 (tie). Japandroids - Post-Nothing. 4.5 Handrews
This is a weird garage rock-y, noisy album from two Canadian dudes. I'm not sure what prompted me to get it (it was more than likely a Rolling Stone review), but I'm glad I did. It's a little different than most of what I listen to. It's definitely filled with energy and fuzzed-out guitars, which are two things I enjoy when it comes to music. Top tracks: "Young Hearts Spark Fire," "I Quit Girls"
6 (tie). Razorlight - Slipway Fires. 4.5 Handrews
Razorlight burst onto the scene in 2004, and I love their debut album, Up All Night. Their second album, which was self-titled, and their third album, Slipway Fires, are both pretty good as well. Like their second album, Slipway Fires is a little less frantic than their debut album, but the songs are good and catchy (and many of them are still fast-paced). I don't know how else to describe them, other than good British pop rock. Also, they put on a really good live show, although I would recommend seeing them at any other time than 10 p.m. on St. Patrick's Day observed. Top tracks: "Hostage of Love," "You And The Rest"
3 (tie). Ace Frehley – Anomaly. 4.75 Handrews
Who knew the Space Man still had it in him? While his former KISS band mates are still selling out large arenas (and still kicking ass, mind you), Ace is quietly riding the club circuit supporting his latest solo effort – his first in 20 years. I bought this album after listening to a couple clips on Amazon and because I think Frehley's KISS solo album might be the best KISS album. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised by Anomaly. You may have heard his cover of the Sweet's "Fox On the Run," which is a perfect cover and has been getting some airplay on hard rock stations. Overall, I think this is a really good album, and probably better than anything KISS has released recently. And, as a bonus, the CD cover folds into a pyramid. Top tracks: "Outer Space," "Foxy & Free"
3 (tie). Weezer – Raditude. 4.75 Handrews
That Rivers Cuomo can sure write himself a pop song, and he has proven that throughout Weezer's history. Raditude is no exception, and he even has help on several songs, from the likes of hip hop producer and writer Jermaine Dupri (Jessie!), rock chameleon Butch Walker (who also produced the album), pop songwriter Dr. Luke, and a couple guys from All-American Rejects. The result is a carefree and shallowly fun album. Top tracks: "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To," "The Girl Got Hot"
3 (tie). Wolfmother - Cosmic Egg. 4.75 Handrews
After a three-year hiatus and nearly an entire line-up change (aside from lead singer and guitarist Andrew Stockdale), Australian hard rockers Wolfmother finally released a second album, Cosmic Egg, which harkens Zeppelin, Free, and Black Sabbath nearly as much as the first album. While, in my opinion, it's not as good as their first album, this is still a very solid hard rock album. Top tracks: "New Moon Rising," "White Feather"
2. The Answer - Everyday Demons. 5 Handrews
Perhaps 2009 is the year of the hard rock revival. If it is, then Northern Ireland's The Answer undoubtedly deserves a seat at the head of the table. Everyday Demons is the band's first full-length U.S. release, and it generally kicks ass. As lead singer Cormac Neeson channels Robert Plant, the rest of the band whips itself into a controlled frenzy. The songs are fist-pumping rockers that make you wish it was 1974. And the band is awesome live as well. Top tracks: "Demon Eyes," "On and On"
1. The Hold Steady – A Positive Rage. 5.5 Handrews
This is a live album (with a bonus DVD), made during a Hold Steady show at The Metro here in Chicago on October 31, 2007 – a night after Jessie and I saw them. The album has a nice mix of songs from the groups four studio albums (even though Stay Positive had not yet been released), but better yet, the album is a great representation of the essence of this band. They are, at heart, a live band, and their shows are always energetic. This band loves playing live. Just as you might recommend Alive or Live and Dangerous to someone you're introducing to KISS or Thin Lizzy, respectively, I think A Positive Rage is the same type of album for people who are looking to get into The Hold Steady. Top tracks: "Ask Her For Adderall," "Killer Parties"