Don’t Tell Me How To Hold My Nuclear Bomb (says Van Hunt)

Van Hunt‘s new album What Were You Hoping For? is in the very early stages of rocking my world.  It’s a little bit Funkadelic, a little bit Prince, a little bit Of Monreal.  Ok, and maybe a little bit Lenny Kravitz?  It’s funky, sweet, bratty, smart, and I listen to it every day, which is something I haven’t done in a while.

The line in the title comes from the song Plum, where he sings:

Don’t tell my how to hold my nuclear bomb

Until you’ve resisted urge to love one

[audio:|titles=Van Hunt – Plum]

Or the spectacularly rocking Watching You Go Crazy is Making Me Lose My Mind.

[audio:|titles=Van Hunt – Watching You Go Crazy Is Driving Me Insane]

Van Hunt has a lot to offer.  His guitar playing is inspiring, and he can sing a sweet-as-honey neo-soul growl while he sings about the joys and pitfalls of cross-dressing.

Ok, one slow one, just to show how pretty his little croak is.  This is Moving Targets:

[audio:|titles=Van Hunt – Moving Targets]


categories: Albums, Reviews
link to this post: Friday, November 11th, 2011

Louie for Louie

My friend Louie just hit me up on IM and the Ida Maria song Louie popped into my head.  I wanted to play him the song, and also realized that I’d never written about Ida Maria, and I really love her.

I can’t help thinking she came out in the wrong era.  If she’d released this album alongside Blondie in the 80’s I feel like this could have had big hits, and they’d be playing Drive Away My Heart at weddings across the country.

But maybe there’s just something too spiky, too howling, too raw, too hookless to really be popular.  I think I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked was meant to be the hit, and it has a damn cool video, but I can’t say it’s my favorite song on the album:


Cute huh?  Ok, then let’s get right to the Louie and play the Louie song for Louie!

[audio:|titles=Ida Maria – Louie]


And then the songs I really like the most.  First of all the bomb album opener Oh My God. Weirdly when this album came out I used to like to put this on as I started off to work, and I’m sure if I were a girl it’s the kind of thing I’d rock out to in the mirror while I put on lipstick:

[audio:|titles=Ida Maria – Oh My God]


And her drunken send-off, Queen of the World, where she explains why she’s so damn drunk:

I got no plans for tomorrow
I got no plans in sight
In fact I’m free this week
I’m free this month
I’m lonely
Lonely this year
I’m lonely forever

But you know, tonight she’s Queen of the World. She bumps into things. She spins around in circles.

[audio:|titles=Ida Maria – Queen Of The World]

I’m not sure why Ida Maria Sivertsen’s songs have stuck with me for so long, but to each his own right?


categories: Albums, Reviews
link to this post: Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Kurt Vile is a Lot Sweeter Than His Name Would Suggest

When I first heard Kurt’s Vile’s album, Smoke Rings For My Halo, I was so expecting something vile.  I was almost disappointed, so I hardly even heard it.

I went back and listened though, and I’m glad I did.  This is some really passionate, low-key Rock n’ Roll that makes Kurt sound like some kind of veteran.  Like, he already got famous and this is an album he did years later.

Not really though, Kurt’s still an up-and-comer, and I’m about to listen to his other three albums, cause he has my attention.

I’m listening to Puppet To The Man:

[audio:|titles=Kurt Vile – Puppet To The Man]

Jesus Fever

[audio:|titles=Kurt Vile – Jesus Fever]

Peeping Tomboy

[audio:|titles=Kurt Vile – Peeping Tomboy]

And a video from his first album:

categories: Albums, Reviews
link to this post: Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Neko Case – Furnace Room Lullaby

Neko Case got so much attention for this album when it came out that I forget sometimes how many people didn’t experience her until KEXP started playing the haunting Deep Red Bells.  By then I already was in love with Furnace Room Lullaby.

Neko Case and her wailing power have no like.  She is a monster.   And this isn’t the only album where she depicts herself dead.   Hell, even though it’s true that this album is about heartbreak and death, theres plenty that’s uplifting about it to me.  It’s just about being in pain and making an amazing howl of it.  Plus there’s a real amazing love song to Tacoma, and you don’t see that very often.

Later on, her production gets smoother, and she refines her Feminist-Country-Femme-Fatale songwriting style to a more polished shine, but here it’s not so smooth.  Just rousing country music songs with her voice slicing through everything like a knife.  There isn’t a single song I don’t love on this album, but there’s a few that stand out to me.

First, there’s Mood To Burn Bridges, her ode to giving the kiss-off to “Snooty Bitches”:

Then, I am a huge sucker for the watery guitar and Patsy Cline style of No Need To Cry:

Finally, I think you’re ready for the heavy hitter, the astounding South Tacoma Way.  Is it too inexact to just say I consider this an example of some kickass songwriting?  From the very first words, “I put on that sweater you gave me.  I woke up in the kitchen, a few minutes later.  I didn’t know how I had gotten there.  Did you guide me?” to “couldn’t pay my respects to a dead man, your life was so much more to me, and I chased it away with sticks and stones, but that rage kept following me” to “I can’t comprehend the ways that I miss you, they come to life in my mistakes” to “the cross-streets bear your name.”  (Which, I’m sure they do.)

The Morning Benders do ‘Japan Echo’

One of my favorite albums last year was the Indie Rock band The Morning Benders’ album Big Echo.

Evidently, Chris Chu, the singer was born in Japan and was excited to play their first scheduled show in Japan, which was cancelled due to the whole Japanese earthquake / tsunami / nuclear disaster / are you sure this isn’t a movie / total unholy clusterfuck with tens of thousands dead.  So, they were moved to create an EP and donate the proceeds to disaster relief.

The EP was enough to get me to get off my lazy white-privilege butt and donate a little money (and buy the EP) which I have had the pleasure of listening to several times this morning.  I guess I could describe it as a great set of chillwave-style remixes of some of the songs on Big Echo, and a couple of original songs.  If you’re a huge fan of Big Echo but have pretty much listened it to death, then it’s a really welcome reprisal of these songs.

If you don’t have any idea what chillwave is, I think it’s best described as elements of downtempo-hip-hop, and spacy crystalline synthy sounds… and often gentle voices.  It’s not for everyone, but it’s good makeout music.

I haven’t been able to really digest the two new songs: Better in Blue and Little Riot, but I liked them on first listen and they fit in well with the dreamy feeling of the EP as a whole.

So, have a listen to my favorite remix so far… totally worth checking out on headphones, a remix of Cold War by the band Star Slinger, who I’ve never heard of before but really do the song right:

[audio:|titles=The Morning Benders – Cold War (Star Slinger Remix)]

Then, go ahead and donate and get the album. It’s for a good cause.

categories: Albums, Reviews
link to this post: Thursday, March 24th, 2011

The Sweet Snob’s 10 Most Amazing Albums of 2010

Ok, I’d better get this out there, late and incomplete as it is, so I can move on to 2011 already.  I want to write about James Blake and the new Radiohead, but it’s all stuck in my craw until I can present: The Sweet Snob’s 10 Most Amazing Albums of 2010.

I am The Sweet Snob.   I heard a lot of albums this year.  Some really impressed me.

I hungered for them, and I listened over and over, stunned by their value.

I hope you find something you didn’t hear here, and you give it a chance.  I love these albums.

Note that the covers are my blurry, cropped reinterpretations of the album covers in question, but just click on each one to see the real album cover.

Without further delay, I bring you:

#1 Big Boi – The Son of Chico Dusty

Nothing lifted my spirits, and could reliably get me and my woman shaking booty as well as The Son of Chico Dusty.  On Your DJ Ain’t No DJ, Big Boi challenges any rapper to challenge him.  I so wanted to come up with something, just to do it, just to see what he’d say.  But I didn’t.  Big Boi is unassailable.  What am I going to criticize him for?  Being into Jesus and blowjobs at the same time?  Hey, maybe if I got as many blowjobs I’d be more into Jesus myself!  You’re alright with me Big Boi, and next time I see you live, I hope you do 90% Big Boi songs, and don’t lean as hard on the Outkast catalog.  You don’t need to, playa’.

That doesn’t explain why it gets the #1 spot.  It’s not as intelligent as LCD Soundsystem.  It’s not as iconic as Kanye.  But it BUMPS, and in 2010, that’s what I needed.  There’s so many hooks, jumps, bridges, surprises, George Clinton, and lines we repeat to each other as private jokes.  I had a long time this year to listen to this album, and let’s just say it passes the smell test.  When this album comes on, we sing along.

#2 LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening

Yeah, this happened.  You finally charmed me to the bone you bastard, James Murphy, and I’ll never be the same.  You made be believe that a middled aged guy can be a genuine star.  That sometimes the hipsters are right and their flavor of the month really is all that.  That you can make magical music to shake your ass to, and not even sell out.  That you can make a video so funny and creepy it actually goes back in time and makes the song better.

What some people love about LCD Soundsystem is the sonic construction: a mishmash of many dance music forms.  Me, that’s just the frame for James’ warmhearted jokes and really lovely singing.  In Dance Yrself Clean, the album opener, James starts his plaintive verse about friends who are “talking like a jerk because you are an actual jerk, and living proof that sometimes friends are mean”.  If this was the first LCD Soundsystem song you ever heard, you might be surprised at the three minute mark when this epic really kicks in.  He waited three minutes and just strung you along before suddenly you’re in the middle of a passion dance party.  By the time he tells you to “throw your little hands up”, it’s not cause you don’t care, it’s because of a “string of divorces”.

In Pow Pow, he pokes fun at New York art and criticism culture, himself, America lovers, America haters, pretension, Wired Magazine and a bunch of other things.  He does this while also making it danceable and saying POW POW POW POW POW a lot.

Mid-album, he shows convincingly that he’s not the coolest guy he can think of, by singing two painfully-sincere-but-painfully-tongue-in-cheek odes to unrequited love, All I Want and I Can Change.  Can I just say how much more romantic his All I Want is than Radiohead’s All I Need?  Thom Yorke of Radiohead says, “You are all I need, you’re all I need, I’m in the middle of your picture, lying in the reeds.”  James says, “All I want is your pity.  All I want is your bitter tears.”  And you can dance to it.

This is a guy I want to come to my party.  This is a band I finally want to jam with, to mentor me, to jet set with, to follow on twitter even though his updates are mostly about good Japanese food.  I look up to James Murphy.  James Murphy, will you be my friend?  Check this box.

#3 Beach House – Teen Dream

This was the real sex album of the year, and it is a dream.  Victoria Legrand is just a powerhouse of a singer, and something like a less pretentious Stevie Nicks!  This album was a creeper.  It was fine and generic-sounding dream pop to me the first few times, but it’s generic only in the way that a true classic is: Like a smooth stone with all the rough edges worn away.

How can I explain how it landed at number three though?  Because it’s just beautiful.

Listen to 10 Mile Stero, a pretty stellar example of the highs and lows the album can hit.  If you don’t feel it from this one song, I would understand, even though I think it’s stellar.

[audio:|titles=Beach House – 10 Mile Stereo]

#4 Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me

We smoked a joint and went the the Joanna Newsom concert.  Joanna was so neurotic and intense that my companion actually had to leave.  Joanna kept flipping her new haircut back and singing like a precocious child alien from another dimension.

This album is #4 just based on the double album of this triple album that I’ve even half digested.  The quotable quotes could fill a whole review.  There’s no one like Joanna and even if you don’t like her, it’s retarded to say she’s not critically relevant.  People are already reverently covering her, and I wait with bated breath to hear what she’ll do next.

I had really eaten and chewed every song on her last masterpiece of an album, Ys long before Have One On Me came out, so I’m just deciding this one was designed to hold me over a little longer.

The obvious choice is the crowdpleaser, Good Intentions Paving Company

[audio:|titles=Joanna Newsom – Good Intentions Paving Company]

#5 The National – High Violet

It’s better than the Arcade Fire album.  By a lot.

#6 How To Dress Well – Can’t See My Own Face: The Eternal Love 2 EP

This is R&B for ghosts, and maybe some living people like me.  Later in the year, How To Dress Well put out a whole album, with all of these EP songs and more, but these are the songs I love.

A friend of mine didn’t like them because, “I don’t like the distortion, even if they’re doing it on purpose.”  They are, Damien, but they play it like an instrument, like Jimi Hendrix.  If Jimi Hendrix were some kind of falsetto ghost.  I never know what to play for people, because Suicide Dream and Mr. By and By are such different songs.  You’ll have to listen to both.

Suicide Dream 2:

[audio:|titles=How To Dress Well – Suicide Dream 2]

Mr. By and By

[audio:|titles=How To Dress Well – Mr. By & By]

#7  The Morning Benders – Big Echo

My girlfriend had to go home after their opening band because her back was really hurting, so she kind of dared me to take the bowl I had in my pocket and smoke it with the band after the show.  I did, they were really nice, and the show was great.  The album is great.  I expect big things from these young men.

To understand what they’re capable of, listen to the astounding Excuses from the album:

[audio:|titles=The Morning Benders – Excuses]

and then listen to their amazing cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams, which is not on the album, but is spectacular enough to recommend them in general:

[audio:|titles=The Morning Benders – Dreams (fleetwood mac cover)]

#8 The Roots – How I Got Over

There’s so many raps on here that are better, stronger, more grown-up, more worthy of scrutiny and quoting, that make me say, “YEAH!” than anything on Kanye’s album.

I submit for your approval, part of a Black Thought verse from Walk Alone:

I go above and beyond, the duty called, truly y’all
Even though they kind of blew me off like a booty call
Asked me if I’m just another moolie or a movie star
Forced to face the music like a graduate of Juilliard
Walk alone, talk alone, get my Charlie Parker on
Make my mark alone, shed light upon the dark alone
Get my sparkle on, it’s a mission I’m embarking on
A kamikaze in the danger zone far from home

Now that’s a rhyme!

Now I’ll give Kanye this, MBDTF has some really rockin’ production.  This roots album is a lot more classic in construction.

Side note: This was the year I finally realized (from watching The Sopranos) that “moolie” referred to the Italian word melanzana (pronounced mu-lin-yon), or eggplant, a racial slur for Africans.

#9 Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

I wanted to leave it off, just because I’m pissed it hit #1 on so many lists, but I can’t.  This album damn well belongs here, and despite its high profile, it’s damn damn good.  Something about it compels me to press play, and it’s got highlights for its highlights.  Truthfully it’s better than #9, but I just can’t bear to place it any higher.

#10 Yellow Ostrich – The Mistress / kissed her little sister – HIGHandLow

These are young lions!  (And grouped together because I discovered them on the same top 10 list, and they’re on the same label.)  I know it’s cheating to group things, but these albums hit me so much at the same time, and so hard and so fast, that I needed them together here, as one.

You have no excuse not to listen to these albums, since you can listen to them both in their entirety on Bandcamp, as well as buy the albums on a “pay what you want” basis.

Ok, so Yellow Ostrich is sort of a heartfelt, choral rock and roll.  The best way to grok them is listen to the amazing trilogy of songs: WHALE, Hate me Soon, and Hold On in succession.  If you like anything like The Love Language, Animal Collective or Grizzly Bear, then do yourself a favor and be the first person on your block to hear this album.   Sure it’s a little twee, but they can rock.

[audio:|titles=Yellow Ostrich – WHALE] [audio:|titles=Yellow Ostrich – Hate Me Soon] [audio:|titles=Yellow Ostrich – Hold On]

kissed her little sister is similarly lo-fi, and has a similarly gentle-punk-rockiness to him, but I consider this the more edgy musically of the two.

And, since you can listen to the whole album on bandcamp for free, I recommend you do so.  My favorites are cocaine, discotheque dialect, my dreams are televisions, and he walked on the water.

Honorable Mentions

These albums are really damn good, but either I didn’t get the time to hear them enough, or they they were brilliant in places but not enough to vault them up into the stratosphere for all time.

Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse – Dark Night of the Soul

Mark Linklous of Sparklehorse killed himself with a shotgun last year, and now this insane collaboration with a bunch of big name indie artists is finally officially out

Real Estate – Real Estate

Beach guitar perfection.  This is music so soft and gentle it would bear you away on a cloud.  Sort of like Bill Evans piano playing.  It could sound like background music, but listen to it 100 times and it will never get old.  You’ll always be able to lay on your bed and listen to the whole album while you daydream.

Glasser – Ring

Percussion, singing, and hooting.  This is a magical album.  Somehow it didn’t push enough boundaries to be a top 10 album.  It didn’t capture 2010.  But it is good.  It is damn good.  There’s echoes of Kate Bush in here, but more symphonic, less dorky.

Avey Tare – Down There

Animal Collective released a powerhouse of an album last year in Merriweather Post Pavilion.  I would have thought it would have been a wonderful year for Avey Tare, but I guess it kinda kicked his ass.  Down There is not the same kind of masterwork as MPP, but Avey shows that he’s more than a one-trick pony.  For such a creative guy with the bleeps and bloops and shouts, it’s good to see that he can just sing his damn heart out, and create the sonic landscape of the swamp as he can the wide open fields and skies.  It is also just a DAMN good album.

Balam Acab – See Birds EP

An album I first thought unremarkable, I grew to love.  It is quiet, liquid music for loving lizards.  What do you say about an album like this?  It bubbles over you with just the weight of mossy water.

Freddie Gibbs – Str8 Killa EP

I needed to believe that midwesterners could rap too.  Freddie Gibbs is one of my favorite rappers, and as soon as he learns how to rub two hooks together, he’s going to be huge.  People talk about how he can slip effortlessly between regular and doubletime rap. and I actually had to listen after reading about it, just to realize that’s what he’s doing.  His subject matter is hardly creative (weed, grinding, etc.) but he still inspires me somehow.  The album was a little overstuffed, but the EP is sublime.

Digesting Joanna Newsom’s – Have One On Me

Not everyone can stomach Joanna Newsom’s “Lisa Simpson on Crack” voice, or twisty lyrics to get to the amazing meaty rhythms and poetry underneath.  Even I have to be in the right mood, but when I am, I can let the kaleidoscopic beauty of her masterpieces just wash over me.

It took me months of listening to even begin to crack the nut that was Joanna’s last album, titled after the fabled mystical-city-swallowed-by-an-ocean: Ys.  Joanna packs enough puns, wordplays, turns of phrase, and subtle passion into one song to make listening something like trying to study a James Joyce story.

As impenetrable as Ys seemed sometimes, it’s a light snack compared to the 3-CD wall of words she released as her latest album, Have One On Me.

On the first few listens I just hear little intriguing phrases, and it takes a while to start to piece together the whole picture.

Now, I’m finally starting to pull some favorites and sense out of these 18 songs which range from two minutes to eleven minutes totaling a full two hours, and I just wanted to share with anyone who wanted to come with me a little into her world.

For one thing, I think I can tell you without a doubt what most of these songs are about.  Much like Ys, the main theme is of Joanna Newsom expressing in a million ways how she’s throwing herself in utter love and loyalty at the feet of a man who really just doesn’t feel the same way about her.  Not an uncommon theme in pop music, but no one says it like Joanna.

She lays it out simply on the album opener “Easy”.  She’s easy.  Easy to keep.  He pleases her even in his sleep.  So (like Bloody Mary) he can just speak her name and she’ll appear.  That’s how goddamn easy she is.  So easy it’s… actually kind of creepy!

She doesn’t say it explicitly, but somewhere in there it’s obvious that she knows he likes a challenge.  He doesn’t like things easy.  She’ll never capture his heart.  But she can’t help it.  She’s never going to be able to make herself seem credibly harder to get for him.  So she’s fucked.  She knows it.  She can’t stop loving him anyway.  No one says it better than her.

She starts to talk about this on what I would consider the album’s most easy listen, the crowd-pleasing “Good Intentions Paving Company” (god knows I’ve been an employee for so long I’m vested).

Just consider a few choice quotes from the song:

I regret…I regret…
How I said to you, “Honey, just open your heart!”
When I’ve got trouble even opening a honey jar


And I saw straight away that the lay was steep
But I fell for you, honey, as easy as falling asleep

and conclusion:

And I know you meant to show the extent
To which you gave a goddang
You ranged real hot and real cold,
But I’m sold.
I am home on the range

And I do hate to fold
Right here at the top of my game
When I’ve been trying with my whole heart and soul
To stay right here in the right lane

But it can make you feel over and old
Lord, you know it’s a shame
When I only want for you to pull over
and hold me, ‘Til I can’t remember my own name


Second to last, as a break from ordinary romantic heartbreak, she tells the story of “Baby Birch”, perhaps the story of an abortion?

This song builds slow, but the payoff is worth it.  Someone posted the song with lyrics, which works well:

And finally, the album closer, “Does Not Suffice”.  I think that this about sums it up:

It does not suffice for you to say I am a sweet girl
Or to say you hate to see me sad because of you
It does not suffice to merely lie beside each other
As those who love each other do


Of course, I’m still digesting.  I hope that some people are won over and take a chance on this amazing album.

Only An Expert Can Deal With The Problem

I have to really respect that there’s at least one or two people on the earth who have made a career out of non-rhyming spoken word, and I’m pretty sure Saul Williams and Laurie Anderson have at least brushed against it.

To do it, you have to be able to say some really smart shit, and deliver it just right.  Laurie Anderson has been doing this since, what, around the time of new wave?

What kind of person do you have to be to be married to Lou Reed?!

An easy entry to the album is Only an Expert, which just gets better and better as she develops her theme:

[audio:|titles=Laurie Anderson – Only an Expert]

And if you’re willing to dig in a little more to Homeland, the long and strong, slowed down and creepy, where she does what she calls “audio drag”, Another Day in America:

[audio:|titles=Julie Anderson – Another Day in America]
categories: Albums, Reviews
link to this post: Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Some Bedroom Covers

I’m really loving The Morning Benders, and crying that I didn’t see them when they were here in Seattle at the Crocodile.

But, I’m on their mailing list.  And they actually have good stuff on their mailing list.  Case in point: they released a little free album of covers called The Bedroom Covers.  Here are a couple of my favorite Bedroom Covers:

Dreams, a pitch perfect Fleetwood Mac cover:

[audio:|titles=The Morning Benders – Dreams (Fleetwood Mac cover)]

and Lovefool, a Cardigans cover… and the perfect match for The Morning Benders… they should do an album version!

[audio:|titles=The Morning Benders – Lovefool (Cardigans cover)]

Also, just a reminder that their recent album Big Echo is just the shit, and worth 100 listens.

categories: Albums, Reviews
link to this post: Monday, July 19th, 2010

Focus: An Astounding Jazz Album That Thrills Me

Stan Getz – Focus

In my early 20’s, I first got exposed to jazz, and still love most of those crowd pleasers, including one I’m sure everyone’s heard of: the so-smooth-as-butter that even the Starbucks generation has it on their iPod: Getz/Gilberto.

Girl From Ipanema has been so played and covered and tastefully coffee shopped that it’s hard to remember sometimes that Stan Getz did amazing and different stuff both before and after the Bossa Nova thing. He could have easily ridden that train until the end of his days.

But it’s not Getz/Gilberto, or even his later work that I want to turn you on to.

It’s his 1961 masterpiece: Focus.

Allow me to set the stage.  Another album I love is Joanna Newsom’s 2006 Ys album.  In Ys (pronounced like “ease”), Joanna sat down on pedal harp and recorded 5 long original songs in very few takes.  Once the recording was finished, she worked with composer Van Dyke Parks to create an orchestral score to lay behind her recording.  It’s an amazing accomplishment, and I think it’s kind of cool that Stan Getz did kind of the reverse on Focus.

Getz commissioned big band composer Eddie Sauter, to make him an album of modern classical pieces for strings, bass and harp, which Sauter delivered.

Now, I don’t have the liner notes in front of me anymore, and can’t find them on the internet anymore, but as I remember it, Getz laid down his saxophone takes on his first listen of each track!!!

I liked the whole album, but I remember about a minute into Night Rider just having a feeling like all the air was being sucked out of my chest.  Have a listen:

It’s well known that the sax is improvised, but if it’s true that he improvised the first time he heard the recordings, then it just blows me away, that he was able to create this level of excitement and invention without any planning at all.

Also worth listening to is another exciting track, I’m Late, I’m Late:

And a mellower ballad, I Remember When:

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