Wednesday, December 31, 2008

G.R.O.'s Best of 2008!

Establishing the best albums and tracks of 2008 proved a significantly more challenging task than I anticipated. Firstly I needed to objectively reach a shortlist of the year's musical elite. I achieved this by erecting an elaborate structure of wires, test tubes and suction pads to collect sweat and tear droplets and ascertain which generated the most exhausting body movements / intense emotional reactions. Then to arrive at a definitive ranking I locked myself away for a week and held internal jousting matches between the leading contenders. The "Foxes" vs. the "Vampires" proved an especially entertaining and gruelling duel!

And thus here they are, my scientifically accredited top 10 albums of the year, along with a playlist of my favourite tracks.

Top 10 Album Countdown

10. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
9. The Kills - Midnight Boom
8. Pete & The Pirates - Little Death
7. Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
6. MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
5. Born Ruffians - Red, Yellow & Blue
4. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
3. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
2. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
1. Laura Marling - Alas, I Cannot Swim

G.R.O's 2008 Mix

1. MGMT - Time To Pretend
2. Hot Chip - Ready for the Floor
3. Tilly & The Wall - Beat Control
4. The Magic Wands - Black Magic
5. Chairlift - Bruises
6. Florence & The Machine - Kiss With A Fist
7. The Tunics - Cost Of Living
8. Pete & The Pirates - Knots
9. Born Ruffians - I Need A Life
10. Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal
11. Laura Marling - My Manic & I
12. Mystery Jets feat. Laura Marling - Young Love
13. Elbow - Grounds For Divorce
14. Slow Club - Me & You
15. The RGBs - The Day
16. Ladyhawke - Paris Is Burning
17. Passion Pit - Sleepyhead
18. The Mae Shi - Run To Your Grave
19. White Lies - Death
20. Late Of The Pier - Bathroom Gurgle

Let the inevitable cries of WTF, no TV On The Radio, Cut Copy or Glasvegas commence!


Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Five

Aderbat - Mastodon
A recent find for me, if you're a fan of Wintersleep or perhaps Ryan Adams' singing, you'll dig this.

Weird Tapes - My Babe Walk
Though I haven't paid much attention to dancier stuff in the last few months, I heard this and was immediately impressed. The track mixes atmospheric chilled out segments with a Cyndi Lauper sample and some Kavinsky-like sinister sounding shit thrown in to boot. The track sounds great as is, but if you've heard it incorporated in a nice set please drop the name and download location...

The Dears - Demons
Always an intriguing band, now with far fewer members, Dears remain strong on their new album Missiles. Murray Lightburn sings incredibly well on the entire album, particularly on "Berlin Heart," the title track, and the fantastic "Demons."

Cut Copy - Sands of Time
It's hard to buy any argument against In Ghost Colours as one of the better releases of 2008, it's just so damn infectious. And bundled on the new Far Away single is "Sands of Time," which doesn't disappoint in the least.

The Golden Filter - Solid Gold
I found this when I looked for a download for "Sands of Time," rigorously researched, yes, but ultimately a welcome random find. Another retro sounding electro gem chock full of bombasticity and smoky soulfullness (also by this author: Even more bullshit ways to pretend how to describe pleasurable sounds...) Good on Neonized for the find.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Inbox Wednesday - James Yuill

Moshi Moshi Records has been preaching to us about folktronica master James Yuill for many months now but it wasn't until his performance at last night's Moshi/Wichita Christmas party that I realised just how awesome he really is.

His debut album Turning Down Water for Air was released on October 13th and according to Moshi Moshi, it "fuses sweet and innocent acoustic melodies with some darkly introspective electronic magic." That's a pretty accurate description and predictably almost everyone seems to be labeling him the new Postal Service. However, there's more to Mr. Yuill's music than that. Check out the tracks below for yourself.

James Yuill - No Surprise
James Yuill - She Said In Jest
James Yuill - No Pins Allowed

Video for 'This Sweet Love':

Ain't no party like... an Adidas Originals House Party?

Equation for a successful viral ad: celebrity cameos + sweet tunes + no specific target demographic...

I've watched this commercial for Adidas' 60th Anniversary like 6 times in a row now, and am still making new discoveries. Mostly, that Pilooski's version of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons' "Beggin'" is amaaazing. Also: decorating house parties with streamers is still cool, David Beckham is painfully suave, and Katy Perry will do just about anything to titillate, including licking curtains.

Here is the commercial, the Pilooski video and the original FVTFS tune. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Whisky, Smoke, Piano Key Stroke.

First off, I have to admit that I have a thing for female jazz vocalists, maybe it's the sultry sweetness of their voices, but I will truly sit and listen to any female jazz vocalist.  For me, there's nothing better than the beautiful airy voice of Blossom Dearie, accompanied with a choice scotch on a cold December night, to keep the soul warm.  There's something about her ability to connect with your subconcious and slowly settle your thoughts from a roar to a faint hum.  There are very few singers who can touch Miss Dearie when it comes to this, in my opinion.  Not to neglect Piaf, Fitzgerald, or Holiday, but Miss Dearie has won my heart.  Her songs seem to lift my spirit.
I recently came across a couple women who carry Dearie's legendary vocal approach.  Thanks to my good friend and former NAC Ochestra oboeist Lawrence Charge, I have come to know the music of Athens Georgia's Madeleine Peyroux.  Peyroux's French-American background has allowed her to penetrate the highly critical French jazz scene and earned her a BBC Jazz Award for Best International Jazz Artist.  There is a time and a place for Peyroux and the above mentioned scenario would suit quite well.
Halifax's own Jill Barber, better known to me as Matthew Barber's sister, is a real gem.  From the first track on her new album Chances, I was sold.  She may have replaced Feist in the category of Most Attractive Voice in the annual Mookie Awards.  Her music is mostly jazz-influenced, but it doesn't prevent her from folk-like tendencies creeping through.  She's going to keep my ears warm this winter.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Remix (& a Cover) Sunday

Can you remember what you were doing when you were 15 years old? I have a vague recollection I was wasting every waking hour playing Championship Manager, in a vain attempt to prove I had more tactical acumen than the current England football manager? I can tell you for sure I didn't have the slightest inclination to head out to a forest and record a spellbinding cover of one of the best artists of the year. That's exactly what Klara and her older sister Johanna Söderberg, aka First Aid Kit, have achieved with their enchanting version of Fleet Foxes' "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song". The warmth, maturity and empathy is overwhelming to witness for ones meant to be so devoid of experience.

To keep this post on message, I've also thrown up a lovely remix of Passion Pit's "Sleepyhead". The lo-fi electro-pop original is an early contender for single of the year in 09 and my tip as the song most likely to generate collective euphoria at the festival season this summer.

Passion Pit are seemingly spurning our fumbling British advances at present with no UK dates currently scheduled. First Aid Kit however, are playing the joint Moshi Moshi / Wichita Xmas Party in London this Tuesday, along with Slow Club, James Yuill and Sky Larkin. BTA London will of course be in attendance...

Passion Pit - Sleepyhead (Landau Wake Up Remix)
First Aid Kit - Tiger Mountain Peasant Song

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Five

I can't believe 2008 is almost over. I'm currently compiling my yearly 'best of' mix and the following five tracks might make the final cut, although they face some pretty worthy competition.

Titus Andronicus - My Time Outside the Womb
This year's mix will undoubtedly feature something from New Jersey group Titus Andronicus' debut album The Airing of Grievances. Every track is full-on, joyful, unrestrained rock and roll and 'My Time Outside the Womb' is no exception.

The Decemberists - Days of Elaine
Colin Meloy and the gang are a prolific outfit. On October 14th The Decemberists began releasing singles from a collection called Always the Bridesmaid comprising 5 new tracks and a Velvet Underground cover. The original material is more in the vein of Castaways and Cutouts than the more recent Crane Wife stuff, which is A-OK with me. The band also confirmed that new album Hazards of Love will be released on March 24th of next year.

Shearwater - Rooks
I was a bit slow on the uptake with Shearwater's album Rook. I'm a big fan of Okkervil River so naturally checked Shearwater out some time ago (the band is a side project of Jonathan Meiburg and Will Sheff from Okkervil River) but failed to give their newest release a proper listen until last month. Better late than never, as they say; it's a fantastic album.

Dosh - Don't Wait for the Needle to Drop
Dosh's album The Lost Take was one of my favourites back in 2006 and this year he produced another gem in Wolves and Wishes. Tracks on the new release feature contributions from Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Andrew Bird, Fog and others but it's still purely electronic pieces like 'Don't Wait for the Needle to Drop' that really get my blood pumping.

The Moondoggies - Changing

Another slice of quality rock, this time from Seattle group The Moondoggies. NPR recently named their album Don't Be A Stranger among the top 11 debut albums of 2008, and with good reason. Check out 'Changing' to see for yourself what all the fuss is about.

Monday, December 08, 2008

New Music Monday: J.J. Ipsen

I would like to take this Monday's edition of New Music to introduce a very promising artist.  Transplanted from Woodstock, Ontario to Ottawa J.J. Ipsen dabbled with established local musician Eric Vieweg (of The Withering Pines, who will have an album in the new year) among many others.  With Vieweg's performance experience and Ipsen's knack for harmonies the pair played clubs and bars all over Ottawa.  Ipsen has since recently moved to Toronto devoting all his time to his career.
Ipsen's music encompases everything from folk, to jazz, to rock with arrangements that can only please the ear.  What is evident in all the tracks, is Ipsen's comfortable and confident harmonies.  With the help of veteran musicians and a very talented producer Justin Nace (of The Two Minute Miracles) Ipsen successfully completed a wonderful preview to a what I hope will be a fruitful career.  Having personally seen J.J. reduce his audience to a puddle of tears more than once, it's easy to say that he shoots from the heart.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Remix and Mo' Sunday

It seems as if many of us are over the remixes for the time being, and I would have to agree. After being inundated by countless mixes and mashups over the summer months (where our boy Girl Talk triumphed over all) I for one feel like I need something fresh to keep up the spirits in the dark winter months of this hemisphere. So I'm just going to do both.

I just can't get enough of T.I and his shenanigans. This DiscoTech remix adds some blips and more of an electronic flow while staying pretty true to the track. Love that beat though.

T.I - Whatever you like (DiscoTech Remix)

Now for something fresh. Deep Sea Arcade is one of the latest bands to be unearthed by Australian radio station Triple J. With several festival appearances approaching due to this, these guys won't be unsigned for long. The eerie Beatles like track 'Crouch End' has quickly become a new favorite of mine. Although I'm not sure about the whole 'Arcade' and reference to an element in the band name. Kinda sounds familiar..?

Deep Sea Arcade - Crouch End

UPDATE: Moments ago our good friend Telemitry dropped this new mix of his in our mailbox I guess in an attempt to rekindle my faith in banging remixes. I dig this guy and everything he has put out as of late. I also love Journey. So I felt obliged to share this with all of you.

Journey - Any Way You Want It (Telemitry Remix)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I Hate Christmas.... But I Love Three Litre

In the interests of balance, I feel compelled to stand up for the heartless, cynical populous who fail to subscribe to the enforced jollity, mass tree slaughtering and financial misery of this time of year. Those of us who sink into depression from the impending aural assaults from the latest X-Factor winner, novelty record or, gulp, Cliff Richard single that infest the airwaves in pursuit of the coveted Xmas no. 1 slot.

For Scrooge worshippers everywhere, I offer you Three Litre's anti-yuletide anthem, "I Hate Christmas". A storming indie pop song with insightful, tongue in cheek lyrics, and melodies Morrissey would be proud to call his own. Guaranteed to warm your soul even when you're coerced into wearing that tacky yellow paper hat.

Three Litre - I Hate Christmas
Three Litre - A Girl From The Industry

You can buy these and many of the band's other great ditties at: