Sunday, December 24, 2006

Blue Republic's My Space Band of the Week: The Pipettes

Could it be another all-girl singing trio doing the retro soul-pop-garage rock thing? Yes - and they are also good. Direct from Great Britain, these are the Pipettes.
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Listen to "Judy" on my page, before going to the official page and site.


Blue Republic Holiday Special Number 2: The World of Karl Pilkington

2006 was the year of the podcast and of YouTube. No question about it. And the most popular (among the It crowd like those such as myself) merged the two through the video editions of the Ricky Gervais show podcast. The last 3 holiday audio podcasts are free for download here but in the meantime here are the video podcasts and that. Right.

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Blue Republic Holiday Special Number 1: Stephen Colbert vs. The Decemberists

What with the continuing violence in Iraq bogging down our country, the continued plagues of poverty and global warming festering on the open wounds of this nation, and the sheer mass insanity that is our celebrity-crazed media and culture...I skipped blogging this week and have decided to give you a couple Chrismukkah-Festivus treats. First up: this past week's historic half-hour showdown between Stephen Colbert and the Decemberists. Enjoy:

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Blue Republic's My Space Artist of the Week: Josh Ritter

This year's winner for Best Album certainly made it an easy choice to pick Josh Ritter for Artist of the Week.
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Listen to "Girl In The War" (a near-winner for Best Male Single) on my page before going to Josh's page and site for more.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

2006: The Year In Music

Before we get into it, let me warn you that this is, like pretty much all lists, a grossly uninformed and limited view of pop and rock music. And in comparison to previous years, I don't personally feel satisfied with the amount of music I have heard by which to judge these categories. So take everything with a grain of salt and the notion that this is the opinion of one rock n roll fan and the music he has heard, and not a music critic instruction manual in what was good in music in 2006:

Best Artist With A New Album
Josh Ritter – The Animal Years
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If only because this is a classically perfect album. It's almost too good and mechanically so. Every song is a melodic radio friendly bit of singer-songwriter pop. And yet this kind of music doesn't make a dent in the charts anymore. And although garage rock and blues are arguably my favorite genre of music, this is the third year in a row that an undeniably non-garage rock record wins. Blanche won 2 years ago and the Decemberists won last year, indicating that it takes something special and different to stand-out, even if, as in the case of Ritter, sounding different means sounding so predictable. Not to mention, The Animal Years wins by eeking out other albums that were near-perfect and split the difference. Listen to some stuff here.

Bob Dylan – Modern Times
At the top of many other lists this year (and shockingly shun by the Grammys), the legendary Dylan's new record is one of many albums this year that are half-perfect and half-flawed. Like many other records, it peters out with some filler but what's good about it is so good that it is still part of the Top Albums of the Year. See the video for "Thunder on the Mountain" below.

The Black Keys – Magic Potion
Like the Dylan record, what's great on this record is great enough but it sort of weakens out as it goes on. Not to mention, trying to follow up Rubber Factory is like God trying to show up...well...Dylan. Here's the video for "Your Touch".

The Changes – Today Is Tonight
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A sharp, sudden, and stylish debut from these pop-rockers out of Chicago. Jingle-jangle all the way. Listen.

The Decemberists – The Crane Wife
After having last year's Best Album with Picaresque, it was going to be hard for the Decemberists to match it completely just one year later. They almost pulled it off with a handful of solid tracks and a couple of shocking departures but all together it's a bit too much to take in at once. Plus, it's way too derivative of Pink Floyd, ELP, and Talking Heads at different times, and even as the Decemberists do the homages well, they're above it. But still...a fine record to remember the year by. Expect the Decemberists to stick around a long time, if they choose to do so. Now how about some Colbert-inflamed "Valencia"?!

The Flaming Lips – At War With The Mystics
By Lips standards, this is an eclectic record filled with nice twists and turns. No Flaming Lips record is a complete masterpiece (though The Soft Bulletin came closest) but this album held on from its spring release to remain a top entry. Scroll down below in the video section for the "Yeah Yeah Yeah Song".

James Hunter – People Gonna Talk
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I first heard James Hunter on Dave Raven's Raven N Blues podcast and it turned out he was getting help from some big time stars, Starbucks, and Virgin Records Stores. So he was stuck in my head. The second coming of Sam Cooke provided the most lighthearted and pleasant record of the year. Listen to some of the stuff here.

Mondo Topless – Take It Slow
The best garage rock record of the year, Philadelphia's Mondo Topless takes too long to put out new albums but if consistency requires big lapses of time, then let them do what they want. Listen.

The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldiers
Yeah yeah yeah yeah, I know. How could the official band of the Blue Republic blog not have the Album of the Year? In all honesty, it would be a little unfair. The Raconteurs were not the only band around in 2006. That's obvious. And if I have to get technical, let's just say "Call It A Day" cost them the victory. They should have put the live version of it on the record and we'd have a different story. My Baby's on the "Level".

M. Ward – Post-War
M. Ward has yet to make an album I completely love from beginning to end, but he gets better every time and he's become of the most endearing authentic artists out there. Listen to some tunes.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Show Your Bones
For most of the year, it was probable that the YYY's third album would shock the world and be the Best Album of the Year. It was tough not giving it to this unique and important (band-wise) record which showed the trio could shift their sound without changing their aesthetic. See the videos for "Gold Lion" and "Turn Into" below.

Best Song/Single Released by Band , Group, or Duo

TV on the Radio – “Wolf Like Me”
Usually I break this category down into three winners but this year there was almost no contest. The true number 1 - and certainly one of the best singles of this decade - is TV on the Radio's "Wolf Like Me". It's everything that experimental rock n roll should be. Their albums remain too much for my taste but I appreciate where they are coming from and what they are trying to accomplish and producing songs like this certainly make that possible. Listen here and see their Letterman performance here.

Blanche – “What This Town Needs”
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Oh boy - here they are again. 2 years after winning it all, Blanche is back. Those of you who thought I shilled for the Raconteurs (and for that matter, the Dirtbombs)...just wait till 2007 when the full Blanche lp is released! This sneak preview, released off an October EP, demonstrates that Blanche is going down true rock n roll paths on their continuing unique road. Listen.

The Raconteurs – “Broken Boy Soldier”
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Yep, here they are. But it can't be helped. By the sheer technicality of releasing this mostly-title track as a single at the end of the year, the Racs sneak into the winners circle. But they deserve it. It's Led Zeppelin, Decemberists, White Stripes all in one and all at their finest moments. Scroll down to the video category to check it out.

The Black Lips – “Oh Katrina”
Atlanta's Black Lips are fast becoming a band that when they're good, they're good and when they're not good, they're not good. "Oh Katrina" is pure good. Hookish, garage-ish, fun-ish. Good. Google search - find it.

Electric Six – “I Buy The Drugs”
Switzerland may have been an overall bust, and even the live show slacked off at least one night, but E6 can still put out the singles that ought to be hits. Here's the video and here's hoping they pull out all the stops on New Year's Eve at Maxwell's.

The Flaming Lips - “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song”
See below.

Gnarls Barkley – "Crazy"
It had to be on here. It was that good. And that's the end of it. The video.

The Soledad Brothers – “Good Feeling”
They came, they saw, they broke up. But they left this shoulda-beena-classic behind. See the video below.

The Strokes – “You Only Live Once”
Last year's First Impressions of Earth came out too late to matter last year and had too much filler to be considered this year but the band wisely released the opener as a single. It's the best song on the album. the video.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Gold Lion”
The video.

Best Song/Single Released by a Female Artist
Jenny Lewis (w/the Watson Twins) – “Rise Up With Fists!!!”
No contest this year. No female-sung song stuck in my head quite like this one. See the video below.

Cat Power – “The Greatest”
Chan Marshall gets better all the time and less of a secret each time at that.

Neko Case – “Margaret vs. Pauline”
Neko's voice is one of the best in the world and she shows it off on this diddy from Fox Confessor Brings The Flood. Watch

Best Song/Single Released by a Male Artist
M. Ward – “Right In The Head”
How did M. Ward fend off Bob Dylan and the album-winning Ritter? By combining rock, country, folk, and pop into one haunting little song that's how. Watch.

Bob Dylan – “Thunder on the Mountain”
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Nothing was finer on Modern Times than this opening track. The video.

Josh Ritter – “Girl In The War”
Barely losing to M. Ward in this category, it's the best song on the best album. Listen again.

James Hunter – “I’ll Walk Away”
Listen to this episode of Raven N The Blues to hear it.

Best New Artist
The Changes
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An impressive combo of a great live show with a solid debut album is all it took for these boys to win it.

James Hunter
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Did I already mention he's the second coming of Sam Cooke?

Les Sans Culottes
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The live show says it all. So much fun. Listen.

Best Live Act
The Dirtbombs
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Winning it outright 2 years ago, and sharing the title with about two dozen bands last year, the Dirtbombs sieze it outright again this year. No one does it better. No one. Listen to the live "Missionary Man" on the greatest MySpace page in the world. Watch something.

The Changes
You'll want to date Molly Ringwald after listening to this band live. Maybe.

The Decemberists
Colin Meloy remains the great frontman and the band remains a killer live show. Watch.

Electric Six
Yes they had one sour show but they are still E6 and they are still better than you on your best day. Watch.

Les Sans Culottes
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If you see them live, request "Les Enfants Terrible". But here's "Ecole De Merde" in the meantime.

The Mooney Suzuki
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I caught the Suzuki three times this year in three radically different stages. No bass player, a brand new bass player, and finally, a working band. I don't know how the next album will turn out, but live-wise they're getting it back together. A taste.

Mondo Topless
The best way to appreciate the Topless is to see them live. Give them a beer!

Not your typical Detroit band, Pas/Cal stays outside the box with their own brand of pop. Listen. Watch (kind of - the idiot cameraman is an idiot friend of mine).

The Raconteurs
Despite breaking the single-year record for most times I've seen an act live, the Racs came up just short in this category too. And they did so if only because it's impossible to best the Dirtbombs and because it was more interesting seeing them perfect their sound each time they played. The Raconteurs of April were good but they were not the Raconteurs of September, who were flawless. Also, it helps to have the world's greatest living rock n roll guitarist in your band. Nothing beats "Headin' For The Texas Border".

Yeah Yeah Yeahs
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Sexy sexy nights out thanks to YYY. Believe it.

Best Music Video
The Raconteurs – “Broken Boy Soldier”
If only for the cannon-firing squirrel, here's the winner.
Plus, for all the non-stop attention I gave them, they deserved more than just a co-win for Best Single and coming in second in two other categories.

The Flaming Lips - “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song”
Why is Wayne Coyne the goddamned greatest?

Jenny Lewis (w/the Watson Twins) – “Rise Up With Fists!!!”
Dang cute.

The Soledad Brothers – “Good Feeling”
The band put together this one official video, filled with friendly cameos (including the one and only Dan Miller). A fond farewell to some good time guys.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Turn Into”
As intoxicating as the song.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Blue Republic's My Space Artist of the Week: Elvis Costello

Why is Elvis Costello this week's Artist of the Week? Isn't the better question why isn't Elvis Costello the Artist of the Week every week? Either way, here he is.
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Watch "Radio Radio", "Pump It Up", and "Oliver's Army" on my page, then check out Mr. C's offical page and official site to see what's the latest he's up to.

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Ooh La La! It's Les Sans Culottes!

Les Sans Culottes; Tide
@ Arlene's Grocery
New York, NY - December 8, 2006

First hearing of them and seeing them last Februrary, The Without Pants (this is America dammit!) made a cute first impression but I didn't investigate further. On December 8, the anniversary of the death of the man who - lookwise - was reincarnated in the form of the lead singer of Les Sans, the band played at Arlene's Grocery - the LAST venue I had yet to see a show at since I moved back to New York several years ago. So it was a night of a few points to remember, to say the least.
Anyway, Les Sans Culottes were fantastic. And while I still don't get the idea of a John Lennon-look alike being French and singing garage rock, I like the results. The band's range of organ-based garage to X-like punk is loads of fun and the French facade for a helping of sillyness and nonsensical lyrics certainly makes the band distinct. One of the shows of the year.

Tide was the act that came on before Les Sans Culottes and while I don't care for efforts that try to wax poetic about Williamsburg (I still can't get over that many people now first associate Brooklyn with hipsters and know...BROOKLYN), the band had decent pop hooks. They appear to be one of the better chill bands playing the local scene. And 5-dollar t-shirts are a good populist way to keep people interested.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Blue Republic's My Space Band of the Week: DeVotchKa

Ethereal, haunting, symphonic...just some of the words to describe this band.
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Listen to "How It Ends", one of the many DeVotchKa songs used in the great film Little Miss Sunshine, on my page. Then go to the band's official page and official site.