Saturday, December 18, 2010

Who Knows What Time it is?

Holy smokes, is the year really almost over?!? Well kittens, that means it's time for me to blow some dust of this old blog of mine and drop the list:

Alyson's Top Ten (ish) Albums of the Year!!!
I feel like this gets considerably longer every year, and since that's a good thing (right?) I've added a couple of new categories this year. So, on to the victors, in semi-particular order.

First up, the Honorable Mentions, those sweet little albums that burned a trail through my ears this year, but can't make the proper list since they weren't released this year. Still worth a spin though!

5. Common Reaction- Uh Huh Her Synthy, dreamy, dark poppy goodness you can (kind of) dance to.
4. Diorama- Hailey Wojcik She might possibly be a little crazy, but I'm okay with that.
3. Tr
ansmitter Failure- Jenny Owen Youngs Seriously bummed I missed this last year.
2. Passerby- Allie Moss Ingrid Michaelson's right-hand lady delivers gorgeously ethical songs that break my heart every time.
1. Lungs- Florence + the Machine Duh.


Given that little list, you may be thinking, "Oh great Alyson. This is going to be another list of weird pop music and female singer songwriters. You are so predictable." And you'd be right, mostly. But that's why I've added the following two sections to the list: Diversity.

Since my cup of tea may not be your cup of tea, here are some albums I respect this year, but can't make myself like, no matter how hard I try. That's right, it's time for my 3 Begrudgingly Acknowledged Albums of 2010:
3. High Violet- The National
2. The Suburbs- Arcade Fire
1. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy- Kanye West

And finally, before we get on the to really good stuff, here are a few more albums that were On My Radar this year:
7. The Ghost Who Walks- Karen Elson

6. We Are Born- Sia
5. Flamingo- Brandon Flowers
4. I Learned the Hard Way- Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings

3. The Living Sisters- The Living Sisters
2. Lady Killer- Cee Lo Green
1. Archandroid- Janelle Monae

And now, after so much ado, here's the real deal kids.

10. I’m Having Fun Now- Jenny and Johnny Ok, so let’s be honest: if this album was by anyone other than Jenny Lewis, I would probably think it was a pretty decent record, but hardly listen to it. Take for example, Best Coast’s album that everyone else is excited about, but I just can’t be bothered to care because it’s just too low-fi for me to listen to without wanting to punch someone. That being said, even if Jenny isn’t as interesting with Johnny as she is on her own, she seems to be having fun. I just wish it weren’t buried under so much fuzz. Highlights: Scissor Runner, My Pet Snakes, Big Wave, Committed.

9. Songs for a Sinking Ship- April Smith and the Great Picture Show From time to time I come across a producer whose work I totally dig and I decide I want to marry him. In the past that’s been T-Bone Burnett, Mike Mogis, and Jon Brion. At the moment though, my heart belongs to Dan Romer, who along with Ingrid Michaelson’s albums, produced this album, a perfect little pastiche-y (NOT an insult) slice of fun. For her part, Smith’s got a big voice she uses to deliver bold insults (Drop Dead Gorgeous), growl out withering threats (Dixie Boy), and belt out torch songs (Beloved) with equal panache—this kid’s gonna make it big I think. Highlights: Terrible Things, What’ll I Do, Wow and Flutter, Stop Wondering.

8. Volume Two- She & Him I’ll always appreciate the knack these two have for making music that’s optimistic, but totally bummed out at the same time. It feels sunny on the surface like Lesley Gore, but there’s some deep insecurity lurking underneath, which makes their tunes so much more interesting than they’d seem at first listen. I’m hoping to hear something a little different sonically next time, but I’m glad we got two albums worth of this sound out of them. Highlights: In the Sun, Don’t Look Back, Over it Over Again, Brand New Shoes.

7. Kaleidoscope Heart- Sara Bareilles I have a theory that that part of King of Anything where she talks about talking in “all-caps” is about Kanye West. I just thought everyone should know about that, because if anyone thinks he’s the King of anything, it’s Kanye fo sho. Anyway, I REALLY like this album—a huge improvement over her first, if you ask me. Aaaaand I think that’s all I’m going to say about it. Highlights: Kaleidoscope Heart, Gonna Get Over You, King of Anything

6. The Family Jewels- Marina and the Diamonds An incredibly well-produced pop album, Marina’s debut is surprisingly sensitive underneath all that gloss. Sure she sings about robots and being obsessed with Hollywood, but there’s deep concern for the damage our modern lives are doing to us, leaving us isolated, shallow, and emotionally vacant. Give this one another listen folks. Highlights: Are You Satisfied?, I Am Not a Robot, Girls, Oh No!

5. Brothers- The Black Keys I mean, have you listened to this one? It’s minimalistic, dirty, bluesy rock at its best, and in case you missed it, it sounds pretty darn cool. If Jack White isn’t green with envy over this one, I’ll be surprised. Highlights: Everlasting Light, Tighten Up, Sinister Kid

4. Masquerade- Lelia Broussard Another tour de force by my favorite new producer, Mr. Dan Romer, this little gem from upstart Lelia Broussard caught me by surprise. I don’t know much about her, but this is a smart album, with tightly written songs, melodies that make me so so so jealous, and rock solid production. I LIKE IT OK? Highlights: Masquerade, Shoot for the Moon, You’re Not Fooling Anyone, Something True.

3. July Flame- Laura Veirs I’ve been trying to get into Laura Veirs for a long time now, but like, she’s so mellow it just hasn’t worked out til now. This is the perfect album for if you just need to chill the heck out, plus she’s got some solid songwriting working for her. Oh, and one of the best refrains I’ve heard in a looong time on the title track. Check check check check it out! Highlights: July Flame, Life is Good Blues, Summer is the Champion

2. My Best Friend is You- Kate Nash Two songs into my first listen of My Best Friend is You, I realized Kate had dropped a serious contender for album of the year. And if it weren’t for those two songs I don’t like, and the one I REALLY don’t like (Mansion Song, I’m looking at you), this would totally be the winner this year. But, because Kate is a little crazy and it wouldn’t be her if she didn’t run with that, respect. And seriously dudes, the 8 or so other songs on this album are primo. I dare you to listen to Paris without singing along at the top of your lungs. Highlights: Paris, Don’t you Want to Share the Guilt?, Do-Wah-Doo, Early Christmas Present.

1. Release MeThe Like LA’s teen-rock darlings have grown up, and thanks to lead singer/songwriter Z Berg’s love of all things mod, their sophomore album Release Me is an enthusiastic, driven sixties girl group update produced by a guy who knows a little something about that, Mark Ronson. Berg’s cheeky lyrics and solid guitar work plus superb drummer Tennessee Thomas are still here, beefed up by new additions in keyboardist Annie Monroe and bassist Laena Geronimo. They’re having a good time with the new outfit, and this album makes sure you do too. Highlights: Wishing He Was Dead, Release Me, In the End, Catch me if You Can.

Monday, March 29, 2010

March Madness

That's right boys and girls, it's my favorite time of the year-- Fug Madness! What? You thought I was paying attention to the basketball tournament? Not this year baby!

If you aren't familiar with the geniuses over at Go Fug Yourself, the Fug Girls basically post pictures of bad celebrity outfits and make fun of them. It's a simple formula that grows into sheer awesome once a year during Fug Madness, a tournament of fug that follows a bracket system much like the NCAA basketball tourney.

I filled out my bracket and have Lady Gaga taking down Rihanna in the final match-up, although at the moment, it looks like RiRi is going down to Beyonce's little Sis Solange. Boo.

But, because this outfit has become famous in my household, I give you Hairbox:
You're welcome. If you don't want to sleep tonight, check out Gaga's archive over at GFY. It will leave you speechless, or more likely, screaming in horror and disbelief at your monitor.

So. That's what I've been up to lately. Peace.



Tuesday, February 16, 2010

#2: Robert Byrd

Well kids, it's time for another exciting edition of "Meet the Congressor!" And, since I've decided I care more about the Senate than the House, it's time for another Senator, and we're starting from the top!

This week, we're learning about Mr. Robert Byrd, the oldest and longest-serving current member of Congress. Hailing from West Virginia, Bob was born while World War I was still in full swing, and has been serving in the Senate since 1959-- the first person to have broken the 50-year mark in Congress.

To put this in perspective, Byrd's been serving in the Senate since before the Kennedy assasination, the moon landing, and the Cold war. When he was first elected, President Obama hadn't even been born yet. Yea. It's been a long time, which makes me wonder why we don't have Senatorial term limits.

Currently, he serves as both the Dean and the President of the Senate, which places him 3rd in line for Presidential succession, behind Joe and Nancy. Although seeing that he's 92 years old, I seriously doubt we'll see the day he makes it to the Oval office. Sorry Bobby.

As a Democrat, Byrd has served as a whip, minority leader, majority leader, as well as other party leadership positions. Byrd also held leadership roles in the Ku Klux Klan, of which he was a member as a younger man, reaching the title of "Exalted Cyclops." I don't know what that means, but it sounds creepy and makes me think of this guy:Yech John Goodman is so scary in that movie! Seriously, seriously bad news.

Anyway, to round things off, here is a list of bonus factoids about Senator Byrd:

1. Often called the "King of Pork," for the billions in Federal funds he's routed to pork projects in home state.
2. Served as Senate president pro tempore 4 times
3. Named PETA's 2007 person of the Year for his speech against dog-fighting.
4. Married to his high-school sweetheart, Erma, for nearly 70 years until her death in 2006.
5. Filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Amendment with other southern Senators, something he now claims to regret.
6. Strongly opposed the Iraq war from the beginning.
7. Played the fiddle in a square dance band.

A complicated guy huh?

And yes, this did all come from Wikipedia.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Did You See it Coming?

Ever since resurrecting ye olde blog, I've been meaning to get around to talking about the Health Care reform that's been kicking around Congress. But I've been going through this little thing called being really lazy, and knowing those rascally little elected representatives, I figured I had MONTHS of feet-draggety goodness ahead of me to moan about. And wouldn't you know it, I do!

But instead of that, let's move on to a new feature, one I like to call "Meet the Congressor!" (Yes, I'm still saying that. It's gender-neutral and sounds like 'transgressor,' which implies naughtiness.)

For the inaugural edition, I've selected Mr. Scott Brown, who recently filled the Massachusetts Senatorial seat long held by Mr. Ted Kennedy.

Aside from being a Republican who managed to get elected in MASSACHUSETTS to Ted Kennedy's old spot, Scott is a Scorpio, and exactly two months older than my mom. His daughter was in the top 16 on American Idol the year that dude with the grey hair won, and as you MAY have heard, he was voted Cosmo's sexiest man back in 1982, an honor for which he posed in the buff. (What, you thought this was going to be full of useful information? Please.)

He's served in the Army National Guard, likes to run triathlons, and play basketball. His wife, Gail is a reporter, and they met in 1985 while both were working as models.

Politically speaking, Scott is a somewhat moderate republican. He's pro-death penalty, sort of anti-abortion, sort of anti-gay marriage, and sort of handsome. Or maybe I just think he is because every time I look at him, I imagine John Hamm. See below:



Oh Kristen Wiig, how you run SNL these days.

Well, kids that's it for me pretending to be responsible for a while.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Post #3; In Which I Tell You About Awesome Music, and Not Congress

That's right ladies and possibly a gent or two. It's time for another music post! Currently, I am OBSESSED with a couple of songs right now and I wanted to do one of those embedded playlist thingys in this post, but shockingly, I couldn't find the songs I wanted on there, so you will have to deal with following a few links. But fear not, gentle readers, they will be WELL worth it.

1. I can't be bothered to not listen to Last Person by Jenny Owen Youngs (whose name I always say 'Jenny Owens Young,' because that would make more sense) for the last few days. If you only do one thing on the internet today, make it clicking that link there for the music video.

Anyway, you may notice that Jenny looks quite a bit like the other Jenny (Lewis) who I talk about a lot. What's weird is I liked this song before I had any idea who sang it, and I knew who Jenny O.Y. was before, but I never liked her old stuff (folksy but with a very dirty mouth.) SO in summary, how can I help it if much of the music I enjoy is made by chicks with the same haircut? But, I LOVE this video. It looks like a party I would like to be at, especially if it meant I got to leave with her telecaster.

2. Another song I can't get enough of, accompanied by another cool video: Pavlov's Bell by Aimee Mann. I'm pretty sure almost the whole thing was filmed backwards, which means major props to Ms. Mann for learning how to sing her song backwards. I first heard this song on an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which, yes, I started watching about a year ago. While I'm on the subject, that show is AWESOME and I'm sorry I never watched/always made fun of it while it was on.

3. Next up is Miss Rie Sinclair, who I discovered recently while on a jaunt through imdb. Turns out she was in one of my favorite movies of all time* (bonus points for those of you playing at home if you can figure out which one), and now she's a singer-songwriter whose myspace has been providing some excellent listening material. Interestingly enough, she tends to write a lot of songs for soap operas, but I actually think she's pretty rad. Not least because she delivered the line "Right now, I'm thinking Othello... or Soylent Green," with conviction. Favorite songs right now: Scared of the Dark, Tell Me (How it Ends).

4. Finally, a song off Brandi Carlile's new album, "Give Up the Ghost," which along with Jenny O.Y's album might have to be late addendums to my Top 10 albums of 2009. Sorry I let you down. Anyway, this song "Caroline" is actually a duet with Elton John and I LOVE IT. Try not to tap yer toes.

So there you have it. Four bona-fide musical recommendations from yours truly. Let me know if you give 'em a listen.

*Okay! It's Drop Dead Gorgeous! But seriously, if you got it from that quote, you're my favorite. Rie played Michelle, the drama girl, who in fact chose to perform a monologue from Soylent Green for her talent.

Pauly Shore Lied to Me.

As we know, serving on a Jury is a duty we'll all most likely share at one time or another, just one of the many civic responsibilities of living in a democracy.

Today I did my part as a citizen of these United States by sitting in a room for 4 hours, listening to my mp3 player and reading the September 2008 issue of InStyle. It was not as glamorous as it sounds, or as exciting as it was in that movie Jury Duty.

Riddle me this: Why would the Las Vegas 8th District court call 250 people into Jury services, have 200 of them fill out questionnaires, then send them home (not me) and have the other 50 sit in a small room watching America's Funniest home videos for 3 hours (yes me), then excuse them dramatically, ten numbers at a time? Call me crazy but I don't get it.

And, I'm pretty sure NONE of the people called in today were actually placed on a jury. Weird.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What?!? She's Back?

Well, after a brief hiatus from the world of the blog, I'm back. And for a very good reason.

As you may know, the annual Barbara Walters' special aired recently (I didn't watch it, but just knowing the Wawa had to interview Lady "Pantsless Wonder" Gaga for it warms my little heart), which means it's time for my Top Ten Albums of the Year!

This year didn't feature many I'm-so-excited-I'm-going-to-crawl-out-of-my-skin-if-this-album-doesn't-drop-soon releases except for maybe Metric, Regina Spektor, and St. Vincent. (Although, lets be honest, nothing gets my heart a'racing quite like Rilo Kiley. Le' sigh.) BUT let me tell you, the list was an utter BLOOD BATH this year. Any one of the top five could have easily taken the proverbial cake, so really, they're all champions.

And now, the Honorable mentions:

13. Yeah Yeah Yeahs- It's Blitz! Oh Karen O. and co., you're so much fun, but sometimes you scare me a little. Yikes. Still, keep on keeping on you crazy kids.

12. Mates of State-Re-Arrange Us This is more of a revision to 2008's list-- shame on me for not picking up this stellar album last year! Easily their best effort, Re-Arrange Us manages to be simultaneously more grownup and more fun than their past efforts. And good grief I love it when they yell. Highlights:Get Better, The Re-Arranger, Help Help, Now.

11. Kate Nash- Made of Bricks Good old Kate gets an honorable mention this year because her album was released way back in 2007, which is lucky for the other folks on my list because this album blazed a serious trail through my speakers this year. She's quirky British piano-driven pop at its best (think Lily Allen with fewer issues), and I LOVE IT. If you haven't gotten on the Nash train yet it's time. Highlights: Pumpkin Soup, Mariella, Foundations, Merry Happy.



Now for the crazy good stuff, in sort of particular order.

10. Heartless Bastards- The Mountain- Earlier this summer I got to see Heartless Bastards WITH Jenny Lewis, which has very little to do with their album except that it was quite possibly the best concert EVER, and this album rocks even harder live. Seriously, Erika Wennerstrom does not mess around. Highlights: Early in the Morning, Out at Sea, Nothing Seems the Same.

9. Tegan and Sara- Sainthood - At first listen I was a little overwhelmed with the much darker and slightly more electronic vibe of this record, especially since the other Tegan and Sara album I've been listening to a lot, If it Was You, is a much simpler album. But, if you take it in progression with So Jealous and The Con, it makes sense that this is where they've ended up. Highlights: Hell, The Cure, Alligator.

8. Camera Obscura- My Maudlin Career- How I love the sweet sweet sound of Camera Obscura. It's familiar and distinctive, but these guys still manage to surprise me alb
um after album without stressing me out. Highlights: French Navy, Careless Love, My Maudlin Career.

7. Leslie and the Badgers- Roomful of Smoke- Take a listen to Los Angeles, the opening track from this album, and try not to tear up a little, then check out Don Juan and try to not to giggle. This album is a perfect of the melancholy, wistfulness, and tongue-in-cheek fun that most countryish folks tend to get wrong. Highlights: Los Angeles, Winter Fugue, It's Okay to Trip.

6. Neko Case-Middle Cyclone Neko, Neko, Neko. Guess how jealous I am of your voice? This is another in a line of fantastic albums from the crazy-awesome Ms. Case, only this time with even better cover art. Highlights: This Tornado Loves You, People Got A Lotta Nerve, Don't Forget Me.

5. A Fine Frenzy- Bomb in a Birdcage- So Allison Sudol & co.'s first album sold a lot of copies, and I thought it was pretty, but sort of boring. But then I heard Bomb's lead single, a little song called "Blow Away," which, well, kind of blew me away, so I decided to check out the whole album, and I'm sold. Highlights: What I Wouldn't Do, Electric Twist, Blow Away.

4. St. Vincent-Actor- Her first album, Marry Me was my album of the year in 2007, and is a fitting follow-up. With the same meticulous production, incredible guitar work, and flowing melodies of the debut,but a different tone, Actor is another carefully organized but chaotic work that gets my brain and my feet excited every time I play it. Highlights: The Strangers, Actor Out of Work, The Marrow.

3. Ingrid Michaelson-Everybody- If we're going on sheer play time, Ingrid Michaelson takes the cake for me this year. She's a fairly new discovery for me and all three of her albums have been on heavy rotation this year. A beautiful voice, witty lyrics, and plentiful backup vocals-- how could I not love this? Highlights: The Chain, Mountain and the Sea, Locked Up, Maybe.

2. Metric- Fantasies- I'm listening to Fantasies while typing this and I'm so distracted by how much I love it that I can't think of a single interesting thing to say. Seriously. SO. Cool. Highlights: Help I'm Alive, Gimme Sympathy.

1. Regina Spektor- Far- I'm not sure if this is my favorite of Regina's albums, but it has the feeling, more so than the other albums I love this year, of being au courante. From computers figuring our lives out for us, to thinking about God, and imagining an award for human of the year, Regina is tapped into the zeitgest big time. Plus these songs are a whole lot of fun. Highlights: The Calculation, Eet, Folding Chair, Dance Anthem of the 80s, One More Time With Feeling.