Music is the cornerstone of many a writer's inspiration and the Behind the Hype staff is no exception. A few of us music nerds decided that we would compile our pompous list of albums so that you might benefit from our nerd nuggets of musical wisdom. It follows no standard format, as we all like to do things our own way.
DISCLAIMER: None on the Behind the Hype staff has been paid any sum of ducketts in order to persuade you to like and/or buy any of these albums. We happen to love them by choice...but if anyone wants to throw money at us after the fact...knock yourself out...and we like cash...or a giraffe...and we already have tons of porn soooo...a giraffe covered in cash would be best.
Dr. Jonathan C Goodvibes' Picks
Cat Power: Jukebox This is the best collection of covers you’ll hear for some time to come, even if you don’t know it. Chan Marshalls beautiful and haunting voice weaves and hovers through the record, interlacing every song with a whiff of smoky melancholy. The killer track (and I do mean killer) on this album has to be the icy Blue. Cat Power, with her Dirty Delta Blues Band manage to inject blooming warmth like a shot of bourbon set against Joanie Mitchell’s chilling lyrics. Her reinterpretation of Hank Williams anthemic and oft-quoted Ramblin’ Man (titled here as Rambilin’ (Wo)man) strips from the lyrics all masculine unapologetic bravado and swaddles it in feminine grace and sensuality. These two songs are typical of the rest of the album. Covers are either really fucking bad or really fucking great and their great because they manage to be more than ham-fisted pantomimes or interpretations that are way off the fucking mark. You can tell Chan really loves these songs and after you hear Jukebox, you’ll understand why.
Xu-Xu Fang: The Mourning Son Xu-Xu-Fang is a band I have had the agony of following for over two years with the end result being Two EP’s which is not anywhere near enough to satiate my appetite. The sweet and rich morsel that is The Mourning Son , however, should be enough to indulge your rock sweet tooth. Sit back, relax, light a joint (don’t forget to put on the album), and drift off into the world Xu-Xu-Fang invite you into. The psychadelia-infused textures and rich soundscapes will pull you in like a dragnet. Though short in length, tracks such as These Days and Good Times have Gone Away will choke and drown you while Thunderhooves allots you the recovery time to breathe and pray the rock gods for more.
Mogwai: The Hawk Is Howling Mogwai, pioneers in the instrumental rock movement prove once again their worth and show they are in no fucking way running out of steam with The Hawk Is Howling. Songs like I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead , Batcat, and Scotland’s Shame trudge and march ever forward with sludgy resolve across the instrumental rock landscape. Though the band personally sees their previous release Mr. Beast as their best work, I feel this is not only one of the best rock albums of the year, but their best work to date. Every song undulates with dramatic peaks and troughs making the entire album feel like an unavoidable massive wave that catches you in its momentum. Songs, let alone albums like this are hard to come by. Mogwai once again prove how infinitesimal we are by making giant fucking music that shadows us and sweeps us in.
Cold War Kids: Loyalty To Loyalty In twenty years when you’re explainin’ to some piss-ant baby balls twenty-something why his favorite whatever-the-fuck kids are listening to in the future ain’t got the stayin’ power of a true rock band because it ain’t got the voice of a generation expressing frustration, alienation, boredom, a cryptic inherent joy in the sadder things in life and a graceful unapologetic undercurrent to an acceptance of want of vice and vice as a fucking virtue, you’re withered hand will point at some futuristic floating space-jukebox blasting Against Privacy, Something Is Not Right With Me, I’ve Seen Enough, and maybe even Every Man I Fall For if you’re feeling particularly nostalgic and negligent towards your beer. But nobody’s heard of ‘em in the future, you old coot! “Shit, if they were so fucking important, why haven’t they got a reality show yet?”, and that’s when you know you’re way too fucking old.
The Walkmen: You & Me This is certainly the best piece of work from The Walkmen oeuvre. Those looking for the raw and precise power of Bows and Arrows might find themselves disappointed. Though no song on the album is as fast and adrenaline-inducing as The Rat, Tenley Town (which was on A Hundred Miles Off), the songs on You & Me draw their power and evocativeness from subtlety and grace. On The Water, Donde Esta La Playa, and Red Moon are personal favorites and are among the best examples of the creativeness and tight musicianship of one of the best bands. Truly a great American rock band.
Murder By Death: Red Tooth and Claw Having finally heard this band shortly before the release of this album, I was so blown away by the force of Red Tooth and Claw that I doubt I'll ever stop getting goosebumps when I listen to it. Passion drips deliberate from every instrument, hand and vocal cord and as the songs progress, the listener is propped on the edge of their seat from beginning to end. The cello, the drums, the guitars, and the echo of Celtic sorrow, Tom Waits and Johnny Cash, this is not an album to relax by, but rather much closer to a mission statement or a call to arms, facing a bare landscape with nothing but love, loss, family and purpose. You can't help but be moved, in fact I dare you not to feel the ferocity to your very bones. Get in your car, find a long stretch of empty road at sunset, and breath in this album.
Elbow: The Seldom Seen Kid Why doesn't everybody know about Elbow? This band is awesome (as you can see I am struck dumb without decent adjectives as a result)! Guy Garvey's lyics and howl are heartbreaking and fill the part of your heart that you like to keep blue. Don't fight it, embrace it and throw on Elbow. The second track The Bones Of You, sweeps you off your feet and for some may carry you into memories “five years ago and three thousand miles away”. Grounds For Divorce, The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver, Some Riot and Friends of Ours are the highlights. I expect An Audience With The Pope goes under appreciated but lyrically it reminds me of the charm of classic lyricists like Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer. I find the album's appeal universal. Anyone who's heard it in my car wanted more.
Calexico: Carried To Dust (Bonus Track Version) My first exposure to Calexico was unfortunately their most uncharacteristic album Garden Ruin, and not until hearing the collaborative album with Iron & Wine was I want to give them another chance. Carried To Dust is a consistent and charming arrangement that releases my shoulders from their usual rack. The individual tracks melt one into the other easily and though this Tucson, Arizona based band always seasons their sound with flavors of their region (and that hollow weeping guitar that seems to bounce right off of the canyons and into your ear) it by no means defines their sound. Alt-Country comes close, but I hate labels...it's fucking good. Tracks that speak to me the most, Victor Jaras Hands, Two Silver Trees, Man Made Lake, Falling From Trees.
Girl Talk: Feed The Animals The first time I heard DJ Girl Talk was the album Night Ripper and I was in absolute shock at how such a simple concept could light me up and make me so hot and ready to dance! The follow-up album was a little...miss-guided and featured too much self glorification and I was prepared for the DJ to fall into the sad category of flash in the pan, but Feed The Animals broke down the door and may have actually trumped Night Ripper...though I still haven't decided. Mashing the craziest combos of hit after hit from so many different corners of the pop and hip-hop landscapes it's continually stimulating to the brain, ear and feet. Suffice to say if you need a damn good party album and/or goin' out and getting pumped, you need look no further, only use with caution...you may struggle profusely to replace it in the future.
Shelby Lynn: Just A Little Lovin' Though not a popular choice, having an affection for Shelby I am partial to her work and I thought this album was an appropriate choice for her. A cover album of Dusty Springfield classics, she breathes heartbreaking life into painfully honest lyrics. Shelby, much like Dusty, takes her musical strength from her misery and so I thought the album a very fitting tribute. Few people could be more or equally qualified. Anyone Who Had a Heart gains a depth that it never evoked before. With the exception of the smiley I Only Want To Be With You and sultry Just A Little Lovin', the album breaks your heart but makes you come back for more, just like the heroine of her tales. Anyone who's ever loved will see themselves reflected in the weaknesses. If not, it provides excellent solace in sorrow.
Cat Power: Jukebox Oh yeah, Dr. Goodvibes and I fought over this one! I think it's only fair then to give a variety of perspectives to reiterate what an awesome album it is. Some might quack that a cover album does not deserve such fanfare, however C.P. makes each song very much her own. Ramblin' Woman is an anthem typically hear from the male perspective and finally and refreshingly approached by a woman that at least sounds like she knows what it means. Silver Stallion is my favorite and the rest of the album just slides into the sultry corner of every persons mind. For men, she's the one, and for women, she's the hero.
Adele: 19 Damned good and Damn fun! I'm not going to spend too much time on her but to say, don't fight it and just listen. Don't listen to who she's compared to, just listen. Vocal talent:Check, Lyrics: Check, Great Production: Check, Variety: Check. My faves: My Same, Best For Last, Melt My Heart To Stone, Tired.
The Spazz's 10 Hot Tracks That Get A Nod (from albums not already covered):
- Tricky: Coalition
- The Black Keys: Strange Times
- Kings of Leon: Closer
- Eagles of Death Metal: Wannabe in LA
- Coldplay: Lost!
- Portishead: Carry On
- Sia: Little Black Sandals
- Vampire Weekend: Oxford Comma
- Hooverphonic: Expedition Impossible
- Santogold: L.E.S. Artistes
Old people love redemption. Hell, we crave it. So when our personal heroes stray like lost dogs and find their way back, I have nothing but respect and gratitude for their return to fortune.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! The albums title has 3 explanations points behind the title. Can you argue with such confidence? After angst filled side project with Grinderman, the Australian “Man in Black” returns to lesson the good folk with a new lineup and a return to a more familiar form. Expect an angry walking bass line with a dialogue to match.
- Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
- We Call Upon the Author
- Midnight Man
The Pretenders: Break Up the Concrete “Boots of Chinese Plastic” Herald the new beginning. I have not heard material so fresh and alive since Pretenders II. The riffs and attitude are new, unexpected and wholly welcomed. At times it sounds like Dave Alvin joined the band and they jammed at the Knitting Factory.
- Boots of Chinese Plastic
- Don’t Cut Your Hair
- Break Up the Concrete
James: Hey Ma Their first release in nearly 7 years, it’s a quiet, melodic cannonball aimed to disarm all of their previous deceased contemporaries and distant themselves from their successful but pandering experimental albums. Many listens reward greatly in its sublime humor and buried melodic shenanigans. Although constantly compared to The Smiths, this album is more reminiscent of early Waterboys recordings. A powerful affirmation that their best work is yet to come.
- Hey Ma
- Boom Boom
The Cure: 4:13 Dream I was not a fan of Bloodflowers, but consider this latest undertaking “The Head On the Door” Part II. Sweeping, breathless and a permanent reminder of Robert Smiths pop genius. It plays like your favorite movie projected unto a blowing bed sheet behind your Mother’s house.
- Underneath the Stars
- The Perfect Boy
Elvis Costello & The Imposters: Momfuku I saw him open for The Police at the Hollywood Bowl - he blew them away! A very spontaneous and unexpected record. (Yes, I own the vinyl). It sounds like some of these songs could have been written during his Get Happy days. Steve Nieve, his longtime keyboardist of choice, really shines through this bare-knuckled, stripped down arrangement.
- No Hiding Place
- Stella Hurt