Monday, December 31, 2007

Patrick's Favorite Albums of 2007

I'm rationalizing this as a list of my favorites, which isn't necessarily a list of the "best" albums. Basically, which ones would I take to a desert island with me? Alas, there are probably some albums out there that I would love... but they just didn't make it into my hands this year. Like Sissyneck, I'm not including soundtracks, compilations, and live albums. Though, if you want some recommendations on that front, check out the I'm Not There soundtrack and the Elliott Smith New Moon double disc.

25- Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
24- The New Pornographers - Challengers
23- Rufus Wainwright - Release The Stars
22- Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? (The most abstract song titles ever)
21- Peter, Bjorn, & John - Writer's Block (Young Folks is still a kick-ass song)
20- The Shins - Wincing The Night Away
19- Federico Aubele - Panamerica (Argentinian chill music)
18- Travis - The Boy With No Name (Does Travis' music ever evolve?)
17- Norah Jones - Not Too Late
16- Steve Earle - Washington Square Serenade
15- Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Raising Sand
14- Rilo Kiley - Under The Blacklight
13- Amy Winehouse - Back In Black
12- Harry Connick, Jr. - Oh My Nola (Who am I? 50 and female?)
11- Polyphonic Spree - The Fragile Army (Their live show is an experience)
10- Rocky Votolato - The Brag And Cuss
09- Band Of Horses - Cease To Begin
08- Radiohead - In Rainbows (My favorite Radiohead since Kid A)
07- Wilco - Sky Blue Sky
06- Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - 100 Days, 100 Nights (coolest bonus disc ever)
05- The Avett Brothers - Emotionalism (bluegrass with punk-rock energy)
04- Josh Ritter - The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter (a poor man's Bright Eyes)
03- Bright Eyes - Cassadaga + Four Winds EP
02- Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala (Clever lyrics win me over)
01- Feist - The Reminder (A surprising choice for me, but I can't knock this record)

Some classics I picked up this year: Elvis Costello - My Aim Is True, Sam Cooke - Portrait Of A Legend, Simon & Garfunkel - Old Friends

Thursday, December 27, 2007


I watched a movie last night called Once, which I really loved. It's a folk-rock musical which came out this year and stars Glen Hansard (the frontman of the Irish band The Frames) and Marketa Irglova a czech pianist. Neither of these two had ever acted before, and I found the performances to be completely believable and captivating. But I think the real story is the music.
It's not the typical musical where the songs move the story forward, rather it's a musical about two musicians coming together and writing love songs to each other and other people. The songs that punctuate the action of the movie are used more to set the emotional tone, and they are some of the most heartfelt songs I've heard in a while. Glen Hansard (who i'd never heard of but who I will be looking into) has a singing and songwriting style very much like Damien Rice, and his songs are just as bombastic.
The two of them have been touring together singing the songs from the movie under the name The Swell Season. You can download or stream a beautiful live concert by them free here
Hope you enjoy as much as I do

Friday, December 21, 2007

Joe's Top 15 Influential Songs

This list is a bit strange is the sense that some of the songs on it are a bit low brow. When I was making this list I tried to think of the songs that had enough raw energy to jolt me onto a different musical path, and that usually didn't happen with very deep, introspective songs. In fact, some of the songs and artists on this list I can't stand anymore, but I owe a lot to them for directing my musical taste or my behavior.

1. Rave On, Buddy Holly. I remember when I was about 5 or 6 my mom
gave me a mix tape. This was the first song on it. I loved the tape,
but I'd listen to Rave on over and over and over again. My first step
towards my taste in music.

2. Simply Irresistible, Robert Palmer. I didn't have a record or
tape of this song, but it's on this list because of the music video.
Once I saw Palmer surrounded by all of those stoic women, I remember
being aroused for the first time.

3. The Devil Went Down to Georgia, Charlie Daniels. In 1994 I bought
an alarm clock and was setting the radio alarm before I went to bed on
night. I was scanning the stations when I came upon this song and I
was hooked. I listened to this radio station for the next several
years and it is the seed for all of the music that I listen to today.

4. You Don't Know how it Feels, Tom Petty. I got "Wildflowers" for
my birthday and heard the lyric "...let's roll another joint." It was
the first time I'd heard any kind of drug reference. I was listening
to VERY tame country music, and this song caused me to being pulling
away from country.

5. Something to Talk About, Bonnie Raitt. She's the first female
artist who I grew to respect. I heard this song at a friend's house
and was blown away that Bonnie was the one playing the slide guitar.

6. Why Should I Cry for You, Sting. I remember this song was the
first time I really paid attention to lyrics. The context of the song
is about a guy at sea who's in love with a woman on the mainland. In
the middle of the song, Sting sings "Why must I, why should I cry for
you?" The difference between MUST and SHOULD really made me think
about what the character in the song was experiencing.

7. Cream, Prince. By far, not my favorite Prince song, but I
remember the guy who taught me how to play guitar recommending that I
listen to Prince. I was very hesitant, but I finally got his 3-disc
hit collection. I put them all in the CD player on shuffle, and when
Cream came on I froze. I couldn't get enough of the album, and his
explicit songs opened even more doors that I'm sure never would have
been touched otherwise.

8. Tea in the Sahara, The Police. Another song by Sting, I know, but
this song did me a great service. I realized that Tea in the Sahara
is the title of a section of a book by Paul Bowels called "The
Sheltering Sky." This song made me want to read this book as is often
the case with songs based on literature now.

9. Come Pick Me Up, Ryan Adams. I had lost faith in country music.
I found out about studio musicians and the fact that the performers
hardly ever write their own lyrics or music. The industry had lost
all of it's sincerity and it pissed me off. I hadn't listened to
anything the slightest bit country until a friend of mine told me
about Adams. I respected his country edge and the fact that he wrote
it all, so I guess he but me back on track.

10. The New Style, The Beastie Boys. My household HATED rap and hip
hop, so I didn't even bother listening to it until I got to college.
A guy I really looked up to was a huge Beastie Boys fan, and I think
the only CD he had was Licenced to Ill, so I heard a lot of it. This
song, was just fun to rap along with and knowing the lyrics reinforced
my bond with this kid.

11. Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen. This one seems a little
unremarkable, but I remember not liking the Boss before, and I think I
saw some MTV special that qualified this song as the 5th greatest of
all time. I hoped on the band wagon and bought the song, and I'm glad
I did.

12. Woke up this Morning, Alabama 3. I was watching The Simpsons and
they were spoofing The opening credits of The Sopranos. Alabama 3's
song is used there and I wanted to learn to play that song on my
guitar. I only heard about 30 seconds of it, but it caused my to
order the CD from England because none of the stores in Columbia
carried it. Awesome fucking band. One of my top 5 favorite.

13. Attitude Dance, Tower of Power. Horns, man. I never really
listened to the horn arrangement in any song until l heard this song.
Everything from Maceo Parker, Prince songs with a horn section, and
Lyle Lovett's Large Band, it didn't sink in until TOP, for some

14. Big in Japan, Tom Waits. This was the first Tom Waits song I
heard and I liked the beat, lyrics, instrumentation, everything but
his voice. I thought though that if the rest of the song was so
appealing to me that Waits must have some good in him. I searched the
rest of "Mule Variations" and I loved the way it sounded on "Take it
with Me" and "Come on up to the House." Having nurtured my enjoyment
of Tom Waits I now consider him one of my all time favorite artists as

15. Jesus Of Suburbia / City Of The Damned / I Don't Care / Dearly
Beloved / Tales Of Another Broken Home, Green Day. Finally, another
recommendation from a friend caused this song to be one of the most
influential. I never liked Green Day, they just bored me. In 2004
when American Idiot came out one friend came to me with the disc and
insisted that I burn it. I took it and later laughed about it to
another friend, Paul, who's musical talents and opinions I respect
very much. I chortled about this album when Paul said, "You know,
Joe, it's actually pretty good." I was surprised, but I trust Paul.
So I gave it a shot and I fucking loved it. Going from 2 minute
bursts of songs on Dookie to a 10 minute song that tells a story, not
to mention how it fits into the album as a whole made me take back
every bad word I said about Green Day.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Sissyneck's Top Ten Albums of 2007

As I was contemplating this list, I decided this was actually kind of a disappointing year for music. I enjoyed each album on this list immensely, but none would break into my top ten albums of all time. In fact, only one of these is the best album by a band who I've heard other music from (Okkervil River). That said, there are some amazing moments here. The first three tracks from kings of leon are possibly the best start to an album ever. Antichrist Television Blues from the Arcade Fire is a Bruce Springsteen song as good as any song Bruce Springsteen ever wrote. Tim Fite's Over the Counterculture is an astonishing indictment of consumerism, the record industry, violence, addiction, and the bush administration. He manages to connect the dots of each of these seemingly disparate things and then backs it up by offering the entire album free on his website. get it here
Oh, and there's Radiohead. I'll write more about that later.

10. The White Stripes - Icky Thump
9. Wilco - Sky Blue Sky
8. Dana Falconberry - Paper Sailboat
7. Rilo Kiley - Under the Blacklight
6. Tim Fite - Over the Counterculture
5. Kings of Leon - Because of the Times
4. Okkervil River - The Stage Names
3. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
2. Bright Eyes - Cassadega
1. Radiohead - In Rainbows

I've disqualified live albums, soundtracks and other compilations from this list, or the Soundtrack to I'm Not There would probably be on there. But I was thinking - for my purposes, what does it matter what albums were released in 2007. There are a lot of great albums that I heard for the first time this year that didn't come out this year, and isn't this supposed to be about what music I was loving this year? Yes it is.
So This is Sissyneck's revised top ten list for 2007:

10. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
9. My Morning Jacket - It Still Moves
8. Kings of Leon - Because of the Times
7. Okkervil River - The Stage Names
6. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
5. Regina Spektor - Begin to Hope
4. Bright Eyes - Cassadega
3. Rilo Kiley - More Adventurous
2. Cat Power - The Greatest
1. Radiohead - In Rainbows

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sissyneck's Top 15 most influential songs.

This is a project my friend and I decided to do. We each made a cd for each other of the songs that most shaped our musical taste and our lives because we’re music nerds and that’s what music nerds do. The idea is that the songs come in chronological order as we discovered them. They aren’t necessarily the best songs or our favorite songs. They’re songs that led to other things. They’re songs without which I wouldn’t listen to the things I listen to today. Thinking about and writing this list led me to the idea of beginning a music blog. It will be a place for people to share their thoughts on music, and hopefully create a community based on a common love for music. You and I can come here to read reccomendations, have a place to share our thoughts, reviews of albums, new and rediscovered, compare tastes. My hope is that this will gather at least a few interested parties who regularly log on and write about whatever they're loving. This will not be a blog that reviews every album that comes out, or that feels it neccesary to mention everything that happens in music - just the music we love! The idea is that hopefully people will start by sharing their own list of where their musical taste came from. If you feel so compelled, make a cd of your own, send it to me (email me for an address if you don't have it) along with a little blurb about each song. If I love it enough, I’ll give you a password to log into the blog and start posting your thoughts (and of course, I'll send you a copy of my cd). So make a fucking great cd!

REM – country feedback.

This was maybe the first alternative rock song I ever truly heard, and definitely the first song I noticed with slide guitar. But actually, what I loved about this song was the vocal delivery, and especially the lyric. My dad bought this cd when I was in 6th grade, when it first came out. I loved the whole album from the word go, but part of that was that my parents were actually listening to something on modern radio (which I had recently discovered, having finally switched from catholic school to public). I went on later to be completely obsessed with REM, and especially the next album automatic for the people, but I rediscovered this song in high school, at a time when I thought myself very depressed (just a romantic notion for angsty). I realized I could listen to what people are saying and get some kind of feeling from the words even if, as in this case, the words don’t seem to mean much. Stipe’s lyrics are anything but straightforward, but the overall emotion they convey is right on. Pre-nirvana grunge bliss.

Nine Inch Nails – kinda I want to.

My brother had a tape with pretty hate machine on one side and nirvana’s nevermind on the other. I would listen to it on his walkman when I was mowing the lawn. This is one of those songs where you truly notice the stereo mix, and the production in general. Definitely a headphones record, and this song is so dark and now seems to me to be kind of juvenile. Of course at the time, it was SCANDOLOUS, and at the same time, said everything my repressed Christian conscience didn’t ever want to hear. But the sounds are fantastic, and I love the drum machines, the goat/animal noises (do those mean he kinda wants to fuck a goat?), and that freakout guitar. The end with all the layers of the song playing at once was pretty mind-blowing for a seventh grader who had been listening to Eric Clapton and the Tom Petty most every day of his life. Of course, at the time, i didn't recognize that the Beatles did it first and best. Prog rock for goth teenagers.

REM – there she goes again.

After my angry alternative rock phase, I went back to REM. My brother had always listened to them, and owned most of their albums. In early high school, he tired of REM and decided to trade me his REM collection for my nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots cds. I had never listened to most of them, but I discovered a lot, and I went about finding their entire catalog. One of the cds he didn’t give me was dead letter office, and I went out and bought it. I read the liner notes about this cover of the velvet underground, and how they were the only band that everyone in REM counted as an influence. My curiosity was piqued, but it took me several years to actually listen to the velvet underground, which was a watershed, and led to so many things; belle and Sebastian, the strokes, patti smith, lou reed. The velvet underground and nico is still in my top five albums of all time. This song was the start of that, and I still love this cover version possibly better than the original, which is saying a lot. Sounds like The Byrds singing about the slut everyone knows.

Beck – Sissyneck.

I remember when Beck’s loser came out, I thought for sure he was a one hit wonder. My brother had the cd , and I thought it was just boring. Then odelay came out and devil’s haircut was all over the radio. I bought odelay and put the cd on in my room at home. I listened to the whole album all the way through, and this song stood out. I was really into finding the diamond in the rough songs that wouldn’t make it on the radio, and this was definitely one of those. The slide guitar with hip hop beat combo is so cool, and you can’t possibly beat that whistled intro for pure unabashed innocence. Danceable country without the line.

Ben Folds Five – Don’t change your plans.

As a junior in high school, I was dating a girl who went away to college. We tried to stay together, but when I wanted to start seeing someone else, I told her to listen to this song as I broke up with her if she wanted to know how I felt. God, what an asshole! Coolest pianist since Elton.

Moby – Porcelain.

I thought this was techno. I thought I was ready to go to raves and twirl glow sticks. But this song is actually kind of just peaceful. When I listen to it now I don’t think of dancing, I think of floating. And the words don’t mean anything!! He just says hey a lot. Before this song, I thought a song had to have a meaningful lyric to convey anything aside from empty emotion, but this song is anything but empty, or if it is, it’s that kind of emptiness that feels like freedom. Freshman year of college in a nutshell.

Elliott Smith – Son of Sam.

This was the first Elliott Smith song I ever heard, and I couldn’t stop playing it immediately. My friend in college lent me the cd, and said she didn’t think it was his best work(it’s not), but I should try it out. I think I freaked out the first time I heard that fuzz guitar with the paul mccartney honky tonk piano in the bridge. And the drumming is amazing – I think probably one of the first times I ever really noticed drumming. This was the essence of everything the beatles meant to the 60’s for my generation. Vocal bliss, beautiful melody, great drumming, must be the beatles!

Ryan Adams – To Be Young.

I was hanging lights for a T-Bone Burnett concert when I first heard this song. It was honestly the first time I heard something that I recognized as country and liked it. There is definitely a rock edge to it, but the twang is undeniable and beautiful. This was the start of my love for Ryan Adams, and while I wish he were more consistent, he’s definetly written some of the best songs of the last 10 years. I finally went back to his first band whiskeytown several years later and saw where this came from. By that time I listened to a lot of country music, and there’s no way I would have responded to it if I’d heard it when I heard this, but what an amazing wealth of music and talent.

Johnny cash – The Man Comes Around.

This was the first Johnny cash song I knew. When I heard this, shortly after he died, I had no idea what his back catalog sounded like. I only knew what people were saying about him, that he was an incredible talent, and that he sang about death and drugs and darkness and jail and truth unlike most of modern country music. This song could not have fit better into the picture I had in my head of this man, who I would never appreciate while alive. Now probably in my top ten artists. Just haunting.

Wilco and Billy Bragg – Hesitating Beauty.

I saw Wilco open for REM in 1999 in support of their summerteeth album. They had already put out this album, and several before that, but I didn’t know them. I loved their sound live and went out and bought summerteeth my freshman year of college, and I liked it but it didn’t sound like the live stuff I remembered. Then I passed a record store advertising the 2nd volume of the mermaid ave. discs with Billy Bragg. I listened to that record nonstop for probably 2 months, then found the first volume. How could it possibly be better? This song is not my favorite from the collection, but I love the idea of the lyric that Woody Guthrie wrote here. This was also around the time I was falling in love, and this song was so comfortable and safe and said everything I wanted to say. “by the stars and clouds above, we could spend our lives in love if you’d quit your hesitating, nora lee.” (sigh)

The White Stripes – Fell in love with a girl.

I hated this song when I first heard it. I never would have listened to the ramones or the clash without this song. I never would have gotten the led zeppelin/blues connection without this song. I never would have thought that such an amazing burst of bubble gum could have such deep roots. In my world, there would be no Bob Dylan without there first being a Jack White. Also, Meg is cool like a caveman.

Bob Dylan – Simple Twist of Fate.

Soon after I returned from a year abroad, Rolling Stone put out an issue cataloguing the 500 greatest albums of all time, and there is no telling how much music I have listened to and loved because of that issue. There were something like 3 Dylan albums in the top 12 of all time, but the problem was I hated Dylan. But the issue came with a sample cd with this song on it, and I put it on in my car in the parking lot of the store where I bought the magazine. The first thing I noticed was that you can hear his fingers strumming the strings before you hear the resonant sound of the guitar. I had never noticed that before, and acoustic guitar rarely sounds this good. How much has this song influenced my life, my love of music, ultimately my feelings on just about everything? Immeasurably.

Bob Dylan – It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry.

This song has maybe the best title of any song ever. Again, not my favorite bob Dylan song, but I had at least heard the first two tracks on highway 61 revisited before I listened to it. after like a rolling stone and tombstone blues, I thought he couldn’t keep it up. He did. It was the first Dylan album I owned, the first one I loved. The part that cemented it for me is the line where he says don’t the sun look good going down over the sea, then that guitar comes in that sounds exactly like the sun going down over the sea. It’s a love song like most of dylan’s best love songs, guarded, lashing out, a spurned lover recollecting how much he loved someone in spite of their faults. The ultimate kiss-off, you’re-not-good-enough-for-me-anyway hindsight. The song doesn’t end, it just fades out like the brave face he’s putting on. I wish I could say this was his finest hour, but I’m still optimistic that – like Johnny cash – his is yet to come, and of course, there were his country years.

Bruce Springsteen – Open All Night.

As Jack White is to Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan is to Bruce Springsteen. I know that’s backwards, but that’s the order it came in chronologically for me. Bruce is one of those artists that I fought adamantly not to like. He’s so overdramatic, so lyrically ridiculous, so cliché. But the Nebraska album is different, and this song has an amazing sound that somehow captures how we all feel about America, even if you’re not into cars, or cruising, or from jersey. It, like all bruce’s greatest songs, is about escape, and that’s why he can get away with being overdramatic and cliché. I learned that you have to judge bruce on his own terms. He sets the rules, and if we’re to believe that he knows what it’s like to be the common man on the run from the law, from his boss, from his life – well, he sells it so well. And I’m now buying it enthusiastically.

DJ Danger Mouse – What more can I say?

I heard about this mashup when it came out and all the controversy it caused, but I never heard it until a couple of years later when I started having music share parties where people brought albums they thought others should hear. Our friend brought this cd, and she played us this song. I guess I never thought it would work befre Id heard it it. But it does more than work. It redefines both songs so completely that I think it transcends any other sampling or mashup I’ve ever heard. That jaunty, challenging piano goes so well with Jay’s ridiculous bravado, it’s easy for me to forget that they were written almost 40 years apart. I now can’t listen to either original song without thinking of this one. What more can I say?