Sunday, December 30, 2007

Politics, Rehab, and Youngsters...OH MY!

*Disclaimer: These are MY picks for 2007. They might seem biased and not very well rounded for different music genres. There are MANY other artists that released wonderful albums this year, however, I have either not heard them or subjectively don't think they should have made the list If you have any to add, please leave a comment!

So another year ends, and with it, we come to the portion of our program where everyone and their mother gives their Best Of lists. As much as I hate to be a cliche, there is just no avoiding it as there were so many albums to choose from this year. So without further ado (god, I'm just a walking stereotype), here are This Girls' picks for best albums of 2007.

5. Cease to Begin-Band of Horses
This album is what indie rock is about. Absurd lyrics, haunting melody, and a scruffy lead singer with a beard. When you can make a hit out of a song with only 3 lines, and use the song as the first track, you know you've got talent. Band of Horses' sophmore album combines songs that talk about nothing, with songs that talk about, well, nothing. But just like a Seinfeld espisode, 'nothing' seems to make an incredible 'something'. I dare you to listen to The General Specific and not clap your hands or crack a smile. This song, which is geniously placed in the middle of the album pulls you back in from the echos of No One's Gonna Love You, to refocus your ears towards the ghost story that is Marry Song.

4. Back to Black-Amy Winehouse
As much as we want to hate her, or maybe pity her, Amy Winehouse released one of the most talked about albums of the year. Even with her 'no press is bad press' public shennanigans (rehab, bloody fights with her husband, singing at award shows incoherently inebriated), she managed to sell millions before her downward spiral. This is one artist who can rely on her voice to make her money. Listening to Back to Black, you are transported to a time where Do-Wop groups ruled the music charts, and the only substances abused were hamburgers and milkshakes. Amy directly channels the 60's with Tears Dry on Their Own and Rehab, then infuses her heartfelt lyrics and real life experiences to create an album worth listening to beginning to end.

3. Some Mad Hope-Matt Nathanson
If you went to college anytime in the years from 1995 to now, you have heard of Matt Nathanson. His college circuit tour has won him many a fan over the years. But with his second major label release and the Video for Car Crash being played on VH1, Matt Nathanson is sure to score with Some Mad Hope. While his musical style isn't altogether different from Mat Kearney or Five Times August, it is catchy and addictive. Matt can evoke emotions you didn't even know you had. Longing for a wedding you haven't had, invigorating frustration for chasing your dreams, even the complete exhuastion of falling in love. He doesn't push any buttons politically, and won't win any grammys for best new artist, but he will keep you highly entertained with quality tunes for approximately 45 minutes.

2. Undiscovered-James Morrison
Ok. So I guess techinically this CD should go under the Best of 2006 category since it already reached platinum status in the UK but the end of the year. But since it wasn't released in the states until spring of '07, I will allow it to be number two. And trust me, it deserves to be ranked both years anyway. The debut album from 23 year old James Morrison is quite possibly one of the best singer-songwriter records of the modern age. How is it possible for someone so young to have experienced all the pain, happiness, and confusion of an old man? And how does he actually make you physically feel all those emotions at the same time? This Boy and the title track Undiscovered are the most talented songs on the album. But ask again tomorrow, and it might be Wonderful World, and You Give Me Something. This album lets you rediscover each song over and over again through James' throaty voice and evident passion that distinguishes each song from the other. Listen again, and you'll realize that you, too are 'not lost, just undiscovered.'

1. Minutes to Midnight-Linkin Park
From the second I brought this CD home on the day it was released, I have said it's the best album of the year. It's great when you're in the car, it's poweful when you're on the treadmill, it's superb when you're doing the laundry. Mike Shinoda has always had something to say, and now him and the rest of Linkin Park are saying it out loud in opposition of George W., Katrina, and the war in Iraq. No song on Minutes to Midnight is more powerful than Hands Held High, where Shinoda come from behind the pen and paper, and in front of the microphone to lend his inspiring words to the world of music. The band clearly had fun making this album, straying from their typical rap-rock. Instead, Linkin Park tries out a slower, U2-esque circa The Joshua Tree style of music on almost half of the CD. It is unlike their previous albums, but obviously shows their range as musicians and artists. Anyone who can make such an ecclectic album unlike what they're known for, all while staying true to what they believe and not afraid to say it, deserves number one. Not to mention a purple heart for courage.

Neon Bible-Arcade Fire
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga-Spoon
So Much More-Brett Dennen
Live at Radio City Music Hall-Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds

But that's just THIS girl talking...

Friday, December 21, 2007

The evolution of the TV sountrack

How many times do we tune into our favorite show each week, only to hum or sing along to the opening credits? Think back, and I bet you can remember the theme to your favorite cartoon as a child. Smurfs, Thundercats, Speed Racer, or even Batman can be found in the back corner jukebox of any adults’ memory. Just push play and the words will come flowing out of their mouth, as the quizzical look in their eyes says ‘How the hell do I know this?’. Better yet, the nostalgia in their face when the memory of that television program and what it represented for childhood comes rushing back.

The soundtrack to our early morning and late night programming is as important as the content itself. Shows such as The Patty Duke Show, The Addams Family, and The Beverly Hillbillies in the 1960’s gave you the premise of the show before you even watched a single episode. Identical cousins who are opposites; a family that’s creepy, kooky, and mysteriously ooky; a man named Jed who found oil/Texas Tea/black gold and moved his family to Beverly Hills. Simple, easy, and most importantly, catchy enough to keep you tuned in.

Moving into the 1970’s and 80’s, the introduction of sitcoms such as Happy Days, The Facts of Life, and Golden Girls saw theme songs shift into a still catchy, but unrelated-to-the-story 30 second chorus. Each one memorable in it’s own right, but doesn’t really tell you about the characters involved or even what the whole idea of the show is. A modern classic such as the Cheers theme, has morphed itself into pop culture by no longer only representing Sam, Diane, Norm, and Cliff, but any neighborhood pub or even your basement bar.

As we approached the new millennium, our favorite programs began with actual radio songs. Songs that hit the Top 40 charts. Songs that last two and a half to four minutes long (cut down for the opening credits, obviously). Dawson’s Creek used the already chart topping Paula Cole hit I Don’t Want To Wait, while Married…With Children channeled Frank Sinatra’s Love and Marriage. Can anyone forget FRIENDS? Even if you lived under a rock and didn’t watch the six twenty-somethings living in NYC, you still somehow knew all the words to I’ll Be There For You by The Rembrants. It was so popular, that an entire 13 song CD was created, and featured mega stars from the decade like Hootie and the Blowfish, R.E.M., Barenaked Ladies, and The Pretenders.

Finally, entering the 2000’s and latching onto it’s heels, is the dramedy. In shows like Grey’s Anatomy, House, and The O.C., the laugh track is replaced with snippits by already established, as well as up and coming acts. Songs are played during key moments in the show, spawning the viewers to question, ‘Who sings this song?’. The genius of this is evident in the incredibly successful commercial sales of TV soundtracks. Artists the like of Snow Patrol, Mat Kearney, and Rilo Kiley are now household names thanks to the brilliance of network music editors.

While the television soundtrack is by no means nearing extinction, theme songs and supporting music are becoming obsolete with extremely involved shows like Lost, Heroes, and 24. Don’t expect to be able to keep up with the increasingly confusing story lines while enjoying the newest hit from The Fray. But if you’re looking for some general entertainment with a climactic scene enveloped by an emotionally matching song, keep tuning in. It’s still there.

But that's just THIS girl talking...

Band of Horses stampedes into Atlanta

As the 99th concert of 99x’s Unplugged in the Park Concert Series echoed in the Atlanta skyline, the signature echo sound of Band of Horses played through the patio of Park Tavern. The band that Rolling Stone referred to as the ‘hot band of 2007’ had a clearly strong fanbase in a sea of tapered jeans, hoodie sweatshirts, and the guy who carried around a bejeweled plunger. If Band of Horses was looking for a way to keep the crowd interested from the start, they achieved success by beginning with the recently played radio hit Is There a Ghost for the first song. A haunting three minutes of repeating the same three lines was enough to generate interest and curiosity in new listeners, all while exciting and energizing loyal fans. Founded in Seattle, the six man band considers its hometown Columbia, SC. Their southern roots were apparent in songs like The General Specific when lead singer Ben donned a University of Georgia cap and traded in his guitar for a tambourine, as well as crowd favorite Part One in which references to Carolina and Savannah are made. Even tunes like Marry Song, with the hint of southern twang and lyrics such as “Lucky ones are we all ‘till it is over/Everyone near and far/When you smile the sun it peaks through the clouds/Never die for always be around and around and around.” could be imagined sung by the likes of Brad Paisley and Kenny Chesney with the addition of a banjo and cowboy hat. The sleeper hit The Funeral from Band of Horses’ first album Everything all the Time, was not played as an encore, but surprisingly, around the middle of the set. However, this could have been a strategic maneuver to re-ignite the concert-goers after a series of slower but melodic and entrancing songs. The smart set list promoted the new album Cease to Begin by sprinkling in favorites from the bands’ earlier work, which no doubt had intrigued Atlantans lining up to purchase one, if not both CD’s at the merchandise table. By the end of the evening, it is assured that there were two types of people left at Park Tavern: several hundred new fans of Band of Horses, and those saying ‘I told you so.’

But that's just THIS girl talking...