No more stalling, girls. In our quest to determine the ultimate Song of the Summer, we’re going to have to start hurting some feelings. Some songs just aren’t winners. And while there are potential contenders who might show up in August, we’ve got a pretty clear picture of who’s got a good grip on the bouquet.
New York Magazine named a Top Six at the end of May before summer even started and the chart monsters are definitely there (Usher, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga) but hopefully none of those duds are actually winners in this race. Is the Summer 2K10 much more than “California Gurls?” Let’s hope.
As we hit the hottest stretch of summer it’s time to shed some baggage. In the most recent installment we put nine pairs together, 18 artists with hits on the summer radar. So let’s make a Top Ten and keep our eye out for late-July and August hopefuls expecting to put up a fight for the title.
HERE SHE COMES (With the Momentum) 1. Adam Lambert – “If I Had You” Oh, thank you. I knew from the second I saw that ridiculous For Your Entertainment record cover that this album would have one party-time gay smash hit. It was only a matter of time before he worked out the kinks and perfectly planned the drop of a club anthem. With this video, it’s like watching your coming-out-of-the-closet best friend take his shirt off on the dance floor for the first time.
2. Nicki Minaj – “Your Love” This bitch took out Alicia Keys with the quickness. Her single from the Barbie World mixtape blatantly rips off Annie Lenox but who cares? It’s been on the chart for nine weeks and has already skyrocketed to Top 20 Radio status. We knew she had “spunk” from all her collabs, but maybe going solo is the ticket to her success. She’s struck gold with this one.
3. Eminem featuring Rihanna – “Love the Way You Lie” It’d be weird for a gay-hater like Em to snatch the title, but you can’t deny the power of this song. While the entirety of Recovery, his newest LP, is a total downer and the previous hit, “Not Afraid,” is all basement-weight-lifter-white-male, this one’s got some serious steam behind it. It’s the No. 1 digital download and No. 2 Hot 100 track at the moment and it came out three weeks ago. DAMN. IF YOU WANT TO WIN YOU’VE GOT TO GET THE GAYS IN YOUR CORNER 4. Kylie Minogue – “All the Lovers” It’s much easier to root for Kylie now that we’ve heard the full album, Aphrodite, because it is awesome. This single, while absent on big Billboard charts, is easily topping (tee-hee) lists for gays who inhabit clubs. It’s a pretty simple song but on par with what we’ve come to expect from our goddess: synths, a swelling chorus, a euro-disco flare and the ever-present sex appeal.
5. Ke$ha – “Your Love Is My Drug” Sweet Jesus, I almost can’t believe I just typed her name with a dollar sign. But, seriously, this song isn’t going anywhere. It’s been on the charts for 22 weeks. This video’s been watched over 11 million times. The late-May release of this one was perfect timing for SOS placement. And even though her voice is kind of awful, the production is spot on—just the right amount of auto-tune and tinny electronica.
6. Robyn – “Fembot” The buzz around this Swedish blonde is strong. She just killed it at Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival, proving that she’s got game in a number of arenas: the indie world, big crowds, international success and places to dance. Put on Body Talk and try not to smile and move. She’s clever with her slutty lyricism (“Pull up in docking position/Pop the hatch and hit ignition”) but also packs a punch with hypnotizing beats. She might just be the one to watch.
7. Scissor Sisters – “Fire With Fire” While we wait with bated breath for more singles and videos from the unbelievably fabulous Night Work, for now we work with “Fire.” But, seriously, in the ridiculous “Any Which Way,” Ana Matronic coos that she’s going to find that man “that’s the right shade of bottle tan/A man that smells like cocoa butter and cash.” I gag. Good idea, Miss Thing.
ALSO BLASTING FROM CAR SYSTEMS 8. Big Boi featuring Cutty – “Shutterbugg” Sir Lucious Left Foot knows what’s up. This is the future. We need our hip-hop to be more than just ’hood. We need soul, we need style and we need to cut a damn rug up. This song’s been populating Saturday nights for a month or two now, and it’s not tiresome. He just turned it out with the Roots on Jimmy Fallon and it was sick. The whole record is a masterpiece kind of like Janelle Monáe’s. These two are the future’s future.
9. Usher featuring Will.i.am – OMG What can you say? He hit it out of the park with this. You can’t stop it. If a gun was put to my head and I was told to choose a song to listen to on repeat between “California Gurls,” LMFAO’s “Shots” or this one there’d be no question. Usher’s a talented man (remember “U Don’t Have to Call”?) and even though Will.i.am is pretty much the devil incarnate, this is no “I Gotta Feeling.”
10. Kelly Rowland featuring David Guetta – “Commander” She’s Top-Ten status, no doubt. Especially with her presence last summer, now, with this track she’s vogue-ing mirror-style with herself in tight latex. You’re in!
In Pitchfork’s 8.5-rated review of Converge’s Axe to Fall, Cosmo Lee compares the Boston quartet to pretty much the biggest punk band of our time, Black Flag. He even likens singer Jacob Bannan’s imagery on the covers of Jane Doe and You Fail Me to Black Flag’s bars. So whether they’re intentionally going for it, Converge have done well in achieving influence, acclaim, and success in the hardcore metal market. There’s a reason this album is their most commercially successful effort to date: it bowls people over with their talent.
What seems to be clear is that an artistically impressive hardcore metal record must have more than just balls-to-the-wall thrashers. Converge certainly deliver those in the first four tracks with “Dark Horse,” “Reap What You Sow,” the title track and “Effigy.” But then you get “Worms Will Feed,” an ambient and disturbing slow build with a reverb-heavy feedback intro that you’re just expecting to explode. And it does, with Bannan’s howl, Kurt Ballou’s needling guitar and Ben Koller’s patient drumming. “Worms” ushers in a lovely slower-paced portion of the record with “Losing Battle” picking the pace back up with a blistering, punishing drum part at its core.
Bannan, Ballou, Koller and bassist Nate Newton invited a host of musicians to guest throughout the record. Members of Cave In provide guitar and drums on “Effigy,” Steve Von Till of Neurosis offers lead vocals on “Cruel Bloom,” and Genghis Tron show up for “Wretched World,” the record’s exquisite closer. These are Converge’s contemporaries but this is not a “guests” record, so to speak. In fact, with this collection of songs they’ve shot to the top of the class. Few bands achieve their level of artistry in the metal field, but perhaps sharing the genre’s spotlight with Isis, Mastadon, Dillinger Escape Plan and Deftones would be appropriate.
It’s rare to find a hardcore metal record that induces headbanging and moshing the way that, say, “Dark Horse” would, and also includes a first-rate stoner voyage on “Wretched World.” Axe to Fall is an impressive record with diversity, good pacing, tempo varieties and passionate playing.
Kylie Minogue Aphrodite (EMI Records) SOUNDS LIKE: At last, a sustainable crop of dancefloor gems from the Aussie whose "All The Lovers" is as good as the record; beat-heavy, ecstatic, simple and joyous FREE ASSOCIATION: She's no opera singer, but she can make a damn fine pop song FOR FANS OF: Cher, ABBA, Annie, Olivia Newton-John, vodka
Sting Symphonicities (UMG Recordings) SOUNDS LIKE: The English legend employs New York and London philharmonics to back his songs from Police days to now, and it's not as terrible as it could be FREE ASSOCIATION: "Roxanne" sucks bad; still better than that horrifying Xmas record FOR FANS OF: Don Henley, Elton John, Billy Joel, Paul MCCartney
Hanson Shout It Out (3CG Records) SOUNDS LIKE: Oklahoma boys are get older and settle into a soft rock niche; some of these have solid craft and execution, but some are so vanilla, not even vanilla bean FREE ASSOCIATION: Say what you will, Middle of Nowhere was a sick record in 1997! FOR FANS OF: One Republic, Five for Fighting, Jonas Brothers
Skinny Friedman Hundred Dollar Salad EP (Young Robots) SOUNDS LIKE: Philly DJ's funky as hell house, dancehall and dubstep collection of three new songs and three remixes from Sammy Bananas and DJ Apt One FREE ASSOCIATION: Think you don't like house or dance music? Try to hate on this FOR FANS OF: Hercules and Love Affair, Juan MacLean, UNKLE, disco
Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse Dark Night of the Soul (DNOTS/Capitol) SOUNDS LIKE: Sparkles is mostly Mark Linkous and, obvs, Mr. Mouse is the Gnarls Barkley//Beck producer, and here's a muddle super-guest star record FREE ASSOCIATION: James Mercer! Iggy Pop! Julian Casablancas! David Lynch! Enough. FOR FANS OF: Traffic, messy bedrooms, banana splits, super sizing
Sia We Are Born (Monkey Puzzle/JIVE) SOUNDS LIKE: The Aussie/UK songwriter leaves behind the nap-inducing jazzy vocals of the past and gives a big ole' bear hug to dance-friendly diva anthems FREE ASSOCIATION: These are some stunning, funky times ten dance tracks, damn! FOR FANS OF: Zero 7, Beth Ditto, Beth Orton, Nelly Furtado, reinventions
MIA /\/\/\Y/\ (N.E.E.T. Recordings/XL) SOUNDS LIKE: Her third sure is full of wolrdly bleeps, noises, scratchy rhythms and beats but most disturbing is that we realize that she can't really sing or rap well FREE ASSOCIATION: Hype and production's only gonna get you so far, sister FOR FANS OF: Peaches, Lady Sovereign, Amanda Blank, truffle fries
Big Boi Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (Def Jam) SOUNDS LIKE: "Shutterbugg" is just the tip of the Escalade, this is a dense, funky album of potent hip hop with excellent guest spots from Janelle Monae and T.I. FREE ASSOCIATION: Speakerboxxx was gonna be tough to live up to but he KILLS it! FOR FANS OF: Curtis Mayfield meets Cee-Lo, Goodie Mob, crunkness
RJD2 Inversions Of The Colossus (RJ's Electrical Connections) SOUNDS LIKE: Another one from our local disc-spinning hero, some re-worked versions of his January release but some new, beat perfect jams here, too FREE ASSOCIATION: There's nobody that harkens back to DJ Shadow quite like him FOR FANS OF: Boom Bip, El-P, Danger Mouse, Daedelus, Diplo The Gaslight Anthem American Slang (Side One Dummy) SOUNDS LIKE: New Brunswick, NJ quartet of punk revivalists who have clearly adored Bruce their whole lives but have their own pleasant spin on heartland rock FREE ASSOCIATION: So Jersey isn't your favorite, but you can't deny their rockness FOR FANS OF: Calm Pearl Jam, The Hold Steady, Ted Leo, raspy vocals
Konono No 1 Assume Crash Position (Crammed Discs) SOUNDS LIKE: Congo's supreme street band, they use junk to make instruments and amplifiers that churn out rhythmic, modern-influenced joyful dance music FREE ASSOCIATION: You'll have no idea what they're saying but it doesn't matter - dance! FOR FANS OF: Fela Kuti, The Very Best, BLK JKS, happy times
Pan Sonic Gravitoni (Blast First Petite) SOUNDS LIKE: Whacked out Finnish noise minimalists who've made instruments out of power tools creating compositions of tripped out beat-heavy electro FREE ASSOCIATION: There's something wrong with this disc it's all glitchy and fuzzy FOR FANS OF: Bjork, Autchre, Johann Johannsson, Matmos, challenges
Carissa's Wierd They'll Only Miss You When You Leave: Songs 1996-2003 (Hardly Art) SOUNDS LIKE: Seatlle's chamber rock collective, birthplace of Band of Horses, issues a retrospective that's full of strings, piano, ambience and beauty FREE ASSOCIATION: A reunion isn't necessary with this lovely collection of tunes FOR FANS OF: Grand Archives, Death Cab, Modest Mouse
Chatham County Line Wildwood (Yep Roc) SOUNDS LIKE: Rootsy Americana from a North Carolina foursome, their fourth LP with Yep Roc, is a beautifully picked and sang piece of countrified folk FREE ASSOCIATION: If bluegrass is ever gonna do it for you this might be just the thing FOR FANS OF: Uncle Tupelo, Del McCoury, Steve Earle, pedal steels
Jackie Greene Till The Light Comes (429 Records) SOUNDS LIKE: California boy's been at it for almost a decade now, on his sixth he goes a pit poppier, a much more hook and melody-friendly version of his alt-rock FREE ASSOCIATION: These are perfectly crafted tales that sound rich and complex FOR FANS OF: Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Billy Bragg, Joe Pug, the Boss
Seu Jorge and Almaz Seu Jorge and Almaz (Now-Again) SOUNDS LIKE: Brazil's resident musical genius gets a band, fills out his sound with a tight rhythm section, a casual electric guitar and his remarkable voice over the top FREE ASSOCIATION: Life Aquatic was the tip of the iceberg, this man's a force of nature! FOR FANS OF: City of God, tropicalia, maracas, Stevie Wonder meets Bowie
Scissor Sisters Night Work (Downtown Records) SOUNDS LIKE: Disco pop thrives with NY's troupe of gender-bending queers under the guidance of Stuart Price (Madonna, Kylie, Killers) on this synth-friendly opus FREE ASSOCIATION: Their debut was genius, Ta-Dah! was a bore, this one's wicked good! FOR FANS OF: Bee Gees, Blondie, Mika, Duran Duran, disco balls
Maps & Atlases Perch Patchwork (Barsuk) SOUNDS LIKE: Sometimes angular and punchy, others rhythmic and ecstatic, Chicago-bred math rockers' debut is an occasionally wonky but solid LP FREE ASSOCIATION: Oh snap, they usin' a flute! Doesn't make them J Tull but still, props FOR FANS OF: Menomena, Shapes and Sizes, Man Man, finds
Samantha Crain You (Understood) (Ramseur Records) SOUNDS LIKE: The Oklahoman dynamo has a voice that barrels you over with thoughtful, mysteriously dark lyricism and a talented backing band to boot FREE ASSOCIATION: Maybe its her Choctaw origin, but this girl's got soul and it shows FOR FANS OF: Regina Spektor x Joanna Newsom, Gillian Welch
Best Coast Crazy For You (Mexican Summer) SOUNDS LIKE: Bethany Cosentino took her time, picked a good band, and now finally a stellar batch of fleshed out surf rock, girl pop indie rock with grit and punch FREE ASSOCIATION: When will this beachy retro girl pop wave start to feel tired? Not yet! FOR FANS OF: Beach House meets Vivian Girls, Jenny Lewis with Real Estate
Neu! Neu! '86/Vinyl Box (Gronland Records) SOUNDS LIKE: Krautrock legends and Kraftwerkers, Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger, made a huge volume of inspiring, stripped down proto-electro grooves FREE ASSOCIATION: Here they release a previously unheard record and box up the past FOR FANS OF: Can, Bowie, Tortoise, Velvet Underground, !!!, Yaz
Miss TK and the Revenge The Ocean Likes to Party Too (Ernest Jenning Record Co.) SOUNDS LIKE: Asbury Park dance pop masters shock with their simplistic grooves and funktastic rhythms and bass while Miss TK coos and groans the party started FREE ASSOCIATION: Miss TK could easily do what MIA does if she were Sri Lankan FOR FANS OF: Peaches, The Sounds, Le Tigre, Human League
The Melvins The Bride Screamed Murder (Ipecac Recordings) SOUNDS LIKE: One of the weirdest bands around bundle a march, sludgy metal, a 7-minute Who cover ("My Generation") and punk/noise into one on their 20th LP FREE ASSOCIATION: Fans will eat it up; at least it's not a bunch of covers and remixes FOR FANS OF: Black Flag, Sonic Youth, Boris, Soundgarden
Wolf Parade Expo '86 (Sub Pop) SOUNDS LIKE: The Quebecois rockers have made a brooding, moody gem of guitar and drum rock, perhaps not as catchy or digestible as we're used to but it'll do FREE ASSOCIATION: It pays to have some big deal friends (Arcade Fire and Isaac Brock) FOR FANS OF: Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, Frog Eyes, Canada rock
In Search of the Douchebag: A crawl up Third Street, from Oregon to Girard.
The premise was simple enough: A crawl of the Third Street corridor’s bars, from Oregon to Girard, to investigate the nearly three-mile stretch with the reputation of having the highest douchebag-bar concentration in the city. But what exactly constitutes a douchebag bar, you ask? It’s broad, but I compiled a ranking system by asking that question of various people I met along my journey. The most common responses involved similarity of patrons to one another, fights, fashion cliches and open mistrust or mistreatment of the Other (whether gay, female, of color, skinny, fat, etc.). I found my definition challenged at each destination, which I lined up bottom-to-top.
(Note: If you haven’t ever tried to bike or drive around Pennsport, around Snyder, Third becomes Second, Second becomes Third and Moyamensing screws everything up. If an address is on Second St., just take our word for it.)
Nickels Tavern (2655 S. Second St.) was just about empty. A delightful Two Street native named Nicole bartended with a solid tan and a heartwarming accent. Fights-wise, every second Saturday she serves beer to men just out of extreme wrestling bouts at the Arena who are sometimes held together with stitches and bloody bandages, but that’s only once a month. Anyway, in Nicole’s experience, guys who’ve been fighting all night just want another beer, not another brawl, much less to fight in the amateur sense. Nicole’s instinct when pressed to name the Douchiest Philly Bar was Fatso Foggerty’s (2655 S. 18th St.), a bar that in her experience is full of junkies, addicts and dickheads. RANKING: 6
Off to Raw Dawgs Saloon (1700 S. Second St.) at Morris St., on the border of Pennsport and Queens Village. Demerits for the vaguely Irish theme, the (sparse) presence of loudmouth South Philly guys and the incredibly loud jukebox. A regular named Jimmy was playing Springsteen, which was a slight relief from Eminem, but even the Boss gets grating when you can’t hear yourself think. Thankfully, nice bartender Scott turned down the jukebox to talk to me, giving me one of my best definitions of the night: “What do you mean by douchebags? Like, five guys who look all alike?” RANKING: 5
Makos (301 South St.) was where the night took off, as I started getting to bars that had more people than I could count on my fingers. I parked my bike in front of O’Neals (611 S. Third St.), and the bouncer, Dan, confirmed that Jon’s Bar & Grille (606 S. Third St.) was more upscale, but that I was about to hit the douchebag jackpot at Makos. But, I soon realized, Dan must have been operating off yet another definition of the word. Makos was more populated with South Street-type freaks and weirdos. While Rammstein and Rob Zombie blared and strobes flashed, no one seemed douchey so much as frightening and dangerous. RANKING: 4
National Mechanics (22 S. Third St.) isn’t so bad on its own, despite its Old City location. Some sweet girls took me under their wing and had a wealth of expertise to offer. Lianna, Allie, Sarah and Jenn offered some traits from the perspective of female bargoers as to what constitutes a douchebag: “Guys who think they are the shit when they’re not,” “Screaming in a bar” and “Acting like you’re in a frat when you’re 29.” With the aid of their trained female eyes, I counted five d-bags (from afar) here, one confirmed by Jenn, “He’s talking to girls and looking around.” Damning! RANKING: 2
McFaddens (459 N. Third St.), in that weird pocket between Spring Garden and the expressway that’s dead aside from a few Walmart-sized bars, was a mystifying experience. With a $5 cover and $4.50 Lager drafts served in a plastic cup, apparently the patrons here have money to blow. It was here that music began to play a significant part in my ranking criteria. Think “Cherry Pie,” “Get Low” and then “Cotton-Eyed Joe” to get the party started. One dude went over to a tall woman of color in heels, danced up on her for a few seconds, then came back to his friends and collected his high fives. “I did it!” Ugh, I was out of there, $5 cover or not. RANKING: 1
North Third (801 N. Third St.) is tricky. This Northern Liberties bar had few popped collars and the “Cotton-Eyed Joe” count was at zero (thank god), but bartender Scott’s words echoed in my mind. “Like, five guys who look all alike?” Is a crew of loud dudes with identical wash jeans and black button-downs really that different from a crew of loud dudes with the same plaids, knit hats and whimsical facial hair? Or there’s always bad manners, the staff reminded me. “Getting called ‘sweetie’ or ‘hon,’ snapping at an empty glass, ordering things that aren’t on the menu, sitting at a dirty table” are all behaviors they’d classify as douchebaggery. RANKING: 3
Conclusion: McFaddens is clearly the Douchiest Bar on Third Street! I’m not going to lie, “Cotton-Eyed Joe” had a lot to do with my ruling.
It’s tempting to be unenthusiastic about record releases these days. With leaks, digital downloads and continuously pushed-back street dates, the release date isn’t exactly exciting any more, and doesn’t send folks running to the record store like it used to. But that’s all a bunch of stinkin’ thinkin’. There are some solid and exciting releases to expect this summer and we’ve broken them down for you by genre to mark your calendar and budget your downloads.
POP: While Robyn’s Body Talk Pt. 1 has already (technically) hit the shelves, there’s just too much excitement around her little EP cycle to not mention it. Parts 2 and 3 will be released at the end of summer and in the fall, but in the meantime we have the singles “Fembot,” “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do” and the Diplo-produced “Dancehall Queen” to settle into this summer. They’re simple, catchy and make you want to dance like a damn fool. Kylie Minogue, the Queen of the Gays, gives us a much-anticipated, full-length Aphrodite, on July 5, and has released the single “All The Lovers” to get us salivating in the meantime. The video’s pretty druel-inducing, too. Finally, with the ridonculous video to “Acapella,” Kelis has caused a bit of a stir and excitement surrounding her new album Flesh Tone, also out on July 6. Until then, we advise using Adam Lambert’s “Whataya Want From Me” to scratch that pop itch until those three divas give it to us good.
ELECTRO & ROCK: This is where most of the summer’s heavy hitters are dropping bombs, starting with controversy-monger M.I.A., who’ll be giving us an unpronouncable, but highly anticipated record on July 13. The un-typable typographic representation of Maya’s name has made waves with the redhead killing mini-film for “Born Free.” However, “XXXO,” the first official single off the album, is a Diplo track that gives us a taste for what we’ve come to know and love from the Sri Lankan mess. Controversy aside, Kele Okereke, the former frontman for Bloc Party, has taken his newly out-of-the-closet status and run with it on a much dancier, club-friendly electro record called The Boxer (even the title’s kinda gay!), out next week (6/21). The Boxer’s first single, “Tenderoni,” is promising to say the least. Plus he’s working with Spank Rock’s XXXChange, so we can we get a “Hell yes”? Other electro/rock releases getting us giddy this summer include Panda Bear’s Tomboy (7/13), Acrade Fire’s The Suburbs (8/3) and Menomena’s Mines (7/27). Someone get the ice wooder! HIP-HOP: Finally, we’ve got our hip-hop sluggers. Big Boi’s given us some of the most remarkable hip-hop of the past decade and a half with Outkast, and now his solo record looks to be all that and more. Sir Lucious Left Foot hits the streets July 6. “Shutterbugg” is the outstandingly funky single and accordingly sick video and tantalizing feature guests abound: Janelle Monae, Gucci Mane and George Clinton to name a few. Not to mention the Andre 3000 produced track, “You Ain’t No DJ.” Finally, Eminem’s surprisingly happy-go-lucky LP Recovery, drops next week. Enjoy your summer!
Robyn Body Talk Pt. 1 (Interscope) SOUNDS LIKE: Swedish electro Queen drops an eight-song mini-LP that is jam packed with badass disco beats, growly clever lyrics and magical hooks FREE ASSOCIATION: People, wake up! Robyn is the unknown diva you need to hear FOR FANS OF: ABBA, Blondie, Kyie, Annie, Goldfrapp, dancefloor ecstasy
Stars The Five Ghosts (Vagrant) SOUNDS LIKE: The Toronto indie darlings have been downhill since Set Yourself on Fire, and while Amy Milan kills her vocals, it starts to sound all alike FREE ASSOCIATION: OK, got it - heartbreak and devastation, barbs and regrets, repeat FOR FANS OF: Smiths, Broken Social Scene, Metric, journaling
The Roots How I Got Over (Def Jam) SOUNDS LIKE: Hometown pioneers of thoughtful, instrumentally-inspired hip hop turn it out with a collection of funky, jazzy grooves under Black Thought's deft spits FREE ASSOCIATION: No "Seed 2.0" detectable; much prefer another Things Fall Apart FOR FANS OF: Gang Starr, Fugees, Mos Def, J-5, Digable Planets
Andy Bell Non-Stop (Mute) SOUNDS LIKE: Erasure alum's flawless falsetto drifts over disco-spiked trance beats and tasty Friday night synth rhythms for a really fun electro record FREE ASSOCIATION: Perry Farrell wrote "Honey If You Love Him (That's All That Matters)"! FOR FANS OF: Depeche Mode, New Order, Pet Shop Boys
Devo Something For Everybody (Warner Brothers) SOUNDS LIKE: Ohio masters of new wave really do offer something for everyone on this shocking piece of awesomeness; old fans, new fans, strangers and experts FREE ASSOCIATION: Bird and the Bee and Santigold production? Well done, Devo! FOR FANS OF: Roxy Music, Sparks, Kraftwerk, Can, tenacity
Rooney Eureka (Rooney Records) SOUNDS LIKE: L.A. pretty boys' third LP is a strange mix of retro guitar rock, pop radio and sunny surf radio but it seems clear that these guys are actors/musicians FREE ASSOCIATION: They've got that teenage girl demo on lock; and they got money! FOR FANS OF: Steely Dan meets Spoon, ELO, Weezer
Various A Cure for The Broken-Hearted (Edible Onion) SOUNDS LIKE: Eerie, moody and slightly dark collection of folksy, bluesy rock put together by West Philly's Darian Scatton is a perfect dark rainy night companion FREE ASSOCIATION: Each track's got different instruments and arrangements; well done FOR FANS OF: Snowcaps, Br'er, Motorcyle Maus, Brian Reichert
Kele The Boxer (Glassnote) SOUNDS LIKE: Bloc Party's front man goes solo with a much more club-flavored, electronic record produced by Spank Rock's XXXChange and it's a keeper FREE ASSOCIATION: He's achieved stellar Euro disco realness, especially with "Rise" FOR FANS OF: Thom Yorke x Chemical Brothers, London circuit parties
Christina Aguilera Bionic (RCA) SOUNDS LIKE: The dirty diva returns triumphantly with a long jump into the future embracing futuristic electro pop with hiccupy dance tracks and killer beats FREE ASSOCIATION: "Woohoo" with Nicki Minaj is about to blow; GaGa can eat it FOR FANS OF: Santigold, Beyonce, MIA, slutty choreographed dancing
The Chemical Brothers Further (Virgin/Astralwerks) SOUNDS LIKE: A psychedelic and propulsive synth journey that lasts a little too long and transports you to a dancefloor crowded with pacifiers and glow sticks FREE ASSOCIATION: Remember "Block Rockin' Beats"? Man, that was a good song FOR FANS OF: Digitalism, Dust Brothers, drawn-out repetition
Foals Total Life Forever (Sub Pop) SOUNDS LIKE: Oxford, UK rockers kick it out on their second LP with rich, rhythmic songs full of soaring vocals, catchy choruses and beautiful arrangements FREE ASSOCIATION: Magically post-everything and deliciously retro (INXS) at the same time FOR FANS OF: Fleet Foxes x Interpol, happy Joy Division
Hot Hot Heat Future Breeds (Dangerbird) SOUNDS LIKE: Victoria, BC whine-rockers' first on a new label and their first self-produced effort is supposed to be their best since 2002, which doesn't say a lot FREE ASSOCIATION: Elevator ('05) was pretty good, but Bays' voice is just too annoying here FOR FANS OF: Pop punk Spoon, The Faint, crappy Walkmen
Lamb of God Hourglass Vol. III The Vault (Epic) SOUNDS LIKE: The Richmond, VA metal kings put together a retrospective from their past collecting their most virulent, screaming death sludge on one disc FREE ASSOCIATION: The $999 Super Deluxe set includes a coffin guitar case and a sticker! FOR FANS OF: Mastadon, As I Lay Dying, Slayer, Pantera
Clay Aiken Tried and True (Decca) SOUNDS LIKE: The American Idol runner-up takes on classics like "Unchained Melody" and "Mack the Knife" and performs them all over daytime network TV FREE ASSOCIATION: Watching your face and eyes contort is like staring at the sun FOR FANS OF: Susan Lucci, the Buffalo Bills, Nader
Drake Thank Me Later (Cash Money) SOUNDS LIKE: The DeGrassi alum's much-anticipated is a super-produced monster (Swizz Beats, Kanye, Timbaland) of hip hop; computery and voice-effected FREE ASSOCIATION: Big name guests does not equal a good hip hop record FOR FANS OF: Jeazy, Lil' Wayne, Jay-Z, Kanye, Alicia Keys
Ozzy Osbourne Scream (Epic) SOUNDS LIKE: The Oz-man cometh indeed, at 61, he kills it here - there's no doubt he hobbles into the studio, but this is as solid as Blizzard of Ozz thirty years ago FREE ASSOCIATION: With so much garbage metal out there, Ozzy shows us how it can be rad FOR FANS OF: Sabbath, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains
Janelle Monae The ArchAndroid (Bad Boy) SOUNDS LIKE: Stylistic hybrid of funk, soul, R&B, and hip hop from a futuristic new diva for the 21st Century whose take on pop music is refreshing and new FREE ASSOCIATION: Solid production, ambitious variety and infectious hooks FOR FANS OF: Ms. Badu, Estelle, Jill Scott, Santigold, VV Brown
Blitzen Trapper Destroyer of the Void (Sub Pop) SOUNDS LIKE: Laid back countrified indie rock from Portland on their second Sub Pop but fifth LP, it's a breezy, ambient spin on Americana for dusk FREE ASSOCIATION: The title track is an impressive sprawling proggy gem of weirdo folk FOR FANS OF: Neil Young, ELO, Beach Boys, Gram Parsons
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti Before Today (4AD) SOUNDS LIKE: The weirdo/creative genius is a production maverick and DIY hero, but he uses his power for retro, trip rock and not for groundbreaking futurism FREE ASSOCIATION: Tempo changes, peculiar vocals and the occasional deep groove FOR FANS OF: Bowie, Eno, Hall & Oates x Zappa
Sleigh Bells Treats (Mom & Pop Music) SOUNDS LIKE: Electrified mixed bag of punk, crunchy synths, beats, grungy dance music and pop ditties that has everyone jerking off to their indie appeal FREE ASSOCIATION: "Tell Em'" is tired, the rest of the album's chiller and not nearly as shitty FOR FANS OF: Go! Team, Bat for Lashes, M.I.A., popularity
Tobacco Maniac Meat (Anticon) SOUNDS LIKE: The Black Mother Super Rainbow solo project is a psychedelic, tweak-treatment of electro synths and beats with distorted vocals and reality FREE ASSOCIATION: Beck shows up for three unremarkable minutes; otherwise rad! FOR FANS OF: Justice, Xiu Xiu, Broadcast, Ladytron
Toni Braxton Pulse (Atlantic Records) SOUNDS LIKE: The R&B diva returns to the fore with a major label after five years with a collection of ballads, bangers and breakups in her sultry voice FREE ASSOCIATION: Remember 2000's The Heat and "He Wasn't Man Enough"? Straight FIRE! FOR FANS OF: Whitney, Chaka, Luther, Babyface, Brandy, Monica
Jack Johnson To The Sea (Universal Republic) SOUNDS LIKE: The soft rocker's bazillionth record in ten years isn't so bad because he lets his band play a little louder; as always, sun-drenched folksy surfer rock FREE ASSOCIATION: Doesn't it feel like you're funding his stoner beach lifestyle? FOR FANS OF: Dave Matthews, G Love, John Mayer, Jimmy Buffet
Deftones Diamond Eyes (Reprise) SOUNDS LIKE: Sacramento prog metalheads' first in four years is a cathartic scream-out after their bassist emerged from a coma; less melody and more brute force FREE ASSOCIATION: It feels like a dying genre, but these guys keep breathing life into it FOR FANS OF: Tool X Smiths, Faith No More, Nirvana x Metallica
Madlib Medicine Show #5: The History of the Loop Digga (Madlib Medicine Show) SOUNDS LIKE: A throwback collection of '90s beats, trip hop and found sounds with Dolemite pimp comedy snippets and Crate Diggas Palace gems FREE ASSOCIATION: If it's true that "Grass increases creativity," he's consuming lots of it FOR FANS OF: Madvillain, Flying Lotus, Danger Mouse, blunts
Born Ruffians Say It (Warp) SOUNDS LIKE: Toronto trio's second LP is a bouncy and playful rock record full of Luke LaLonde's yelpy vocals, simplistic but pungent drums and herky jerky guitars FREE ASSOCIATION: Ef Pitchfork, they don't know what they're talking about on this one FOR FANS OF: Pixies, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Canadian rock
Free Energy Stuck On Nothing (Astralwerks/DFA) SOUNDS LIKE: Minneapolis-come-Philly boys make delightful pop-friendly retro-inspired sunny guitar rock equally appropriate for arenas and car radios FREE ASSOCIATION: Soundtracking Good Times Summer 2010 loud and clear! FOR FANS OF: T Rex, Thin Lizzy, non-depressing Pavement, joy
Le Pop 5 Les Chansons De La Nouvelle Scene Francaise (Groove Attack) SOUNDS LIKE: Current frenchies making hushed, whispered and ambient pop tunes; mostly soft folksy rock songs here with a few precious little ditties FREE ASSOCIATION: Get some red wine, some stinky cheese and put this on to be transported FOR FANS OF: Serge Gainsbourg, Yelle, Uffie, CocoRosie, baguettes
Tokyo Police Club Champ (Mom and Pop Music) SOUNDS LIKE: Shimmery sophomore LP from the Canucks tries to wow you with production, complexity and catchy hooks undern the Julian Casablancsy vocal FREE ASSOCIATION: Not to be confused with the horrifyingly shitty Tokio Hotel FOR FANS OF: The Strokes, Death Cab x Modest Mouse
Karen Elson The Ghost Who Walks (XL Recordings/Third Man) SOUNDS LIKE: The UK supdermodel is more than just a pretty face in this hauntingly sparse debut of variety including folk, pop, country, folk and murder ballads FREE ASSOCIATION: Jack White is her husband and it's probably awesome because of him FOR FANS OF: ScarJo, Zooey Deschanel, Jenny Lewis, gingers
Chali 2na Fish Market Part 2 (Decon Records) SOUNDS LIKE: The Jurassic 5 baritone's stepped it up with another collection of dopeness - lyrics, guests, beats, samples, skits, styles, all real fresh! FREE ASSOCIATION: Whoa, Quality Control was ten years ago?! Classy, smart emceeing FOR FANS OF: Ozomatli, GIft of Gab, Roots crew, black thought
Suckers Wild Smile (Frenchkiss Records) SOUNDS LIKE: LP debut from the fuzzy Brooklyn rockers jumping on that afro/animalistic tribalism bandwagon and riding it all the way to the buzzworthy bank FREE ASSOCIATION: We'll ride along if we get road sodas and the wagon goes to the beach FOR FANS OF: Yeasayer, Animal Collective, Le Loup, Bowie
Male Bonding Nothing Hurts (Sub Pop) SOUNDS LIKE: Brit trio's debut of washed out, garage rock that's fast, noisy and a little punk but this is Sub Pop and nothing's very hard to swallow FREE ASSOCIATION: "Year's Not Long" single and video is a delightful play on the band name FOR FANS OF: Japandroids, Thermals, Buzzcocks, white boy thrash
Far At Night We Live (Vagrant) SOUNDS LIKE: Sacramento quartet's big reunion record after some disbanding ten years ago is a power-rock tour de force with touches of metal and screamo emo FREE ASSOCIATION: Should be perfect for teenagers and soundtracking WB moments FOR FANS OF: Live, Weezer, Our Lady Peace, The Verve Pipe
Transmit Now Downtown Merry-Go-Round (Silent Majority Group) SOUNDS LIKE: Blistering MTV-supported power-pop from Orlando's debut is a horrendous mix of computers, auto-tune, power chords and sunshiny angst FREE ASSOCIATION: That cover is a total farce, that ecstatic pony must be on drugs FOR FANS OF: Paramore, Fall Out Boy, Jimmy Eat World
Windsor For The Derby Against Love (Secretly Canadian) SOUNDS LIKE: Hushed and atmospheric rock from local boys via Austin and Tampa, they practice simple, ambient chamber rock that makes you want to nap FREE ASSOCIATION: This is so chill, let's just rest our eyes for a minute or two FOR FANS OF: Tortoise, Stereolab, Yo La Tengo, The Notwist on 'ludes
Toy Soldiers Whisper Down the Lane (Mad Dragon) SOUNDS LIKE: Local folks make a bluesy, folk rock record that feels sun and bourbon-soaked and also par for the course for a Mad Dragon record FREE ASSOCIATION: Some of the finer moments feel reminiscent of Zeppelin's blues joints FOR FANS OF: Hoots & Hellmouth, the Swimmers, Wilco x DeVotchka
Paul Weller Wake Up The Nation (Island/Yep Roc) SOUNDS LIKE: The Jam and Style Council legend's been making solo records for almost two decades, this one's full of punchy, upbeat little bursts of rockness FREE ASSOCIATION: Takes you back to swinging '60s London then right back to now FOR FANS OF: Stone Roses, Billy Bragg, Kinks, legends aging gracefully
Holy Fuck Latin (Young Turks) SOUNDS LIKE: Try to hate these knob twisters and tweakers, the music speaks for itself on this one - energy, rhythms and funk emerge out of the noise FREE ASSOCIATION: Singing feels overrated, it's not necessary or missing here FOR FANS OF: Kraftwerk, LCD Soundsystem, Can, sweaty dancing with lazers
Crystal Castles Crystal Castles (Universal) SOUNDS LIKE: Bouncy, synthy and scuzzy electro tempered by Alice Glass' wispy and haunting voice and you've got yourself a buzz band FREE ASSOCIATION: 52 minutes of feeling like you're in an '80s acid flashback in a good way FOR FANS OF: New Order, Ladytron, Health meets Pet Shop Boys
Since our inaugural Songs of the Summer Battle Royal column, we’ve heard that damn Usher song approximately one hundred times. Why must will.i.am be so successful and furthermore, why must he have those stupid periods in his name? To his (and Usher’s) credit, even if you hate the song you find your self singing, “Oh oh oh oh oh oh MY GOD.” But the title is a freakin’ Internet chat acronym. It does seem like the apocalypse is coming. The June 7 New York Magazine gave us a charticle putting Usher at the top of their race, with “California Gurls,” “Alejandro” and Ke$ha finishing after the newly divorced, fit attention whore. We’ll see about that one.
The MTV Video Music Awards gave us a glimpse of some of our summer superstars pandering to the young and with-it crowd. While most recaps of the night are highlighting the J Lo and Tom Cruise (he’s so straight!) performance, we got a look at a blue-haired Katy Perry and the always-fierce Ms. Aguilera in action. I must admit, the blue hair is a bit mystifying. So is the Russell Brand romance but I guess he’s got a decent body. Anyway, the story may have also been the Miike Snow performances at the “After-Party.” I’d heard of the Swedish band before but had never actually listened to their music or seen how beautiful they are. So let’s introduce “Animal” or “Burial” into the mix. Check out the performances on MTV.com and see his handsome bandmates in all their tattooed glory.
You know what also happened? Kylie happened. She debuted “All the Lovers,” and it is definitely summery and sexy. There’s so much skin, so much stripping, so much making out. But...it seems to be almost entirely straight making out minus one lez and one gay couple. No worries, though, Aphrodite comes out in a matter of weeks and if “Lovers” is an indication of what we have to look forward to, then it’s a celebration. The first single is a fairly simple, Euro-flavored dance track with a catchy synth beat that will no doubt be remixed to high hell. It feels a little reminiscent of the “Slow” video, doesn’t it? Minus the white horse, balloon elephant and dove. Nevertheless, in the chorus Kylie asks us to dance and we will no doubt say “Yes, ma’am.”
In the indie world, people seem to keep talking about Sleigh Bells, but there are a few other loose cannons kicking about. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti has a summer hit with “Round and Round,” Details mentions a Broken Social Scene song we should be listening to, “Sentimental X’s” but that’s not their only summery song worth cranking up the volume on this summer. Try “Art House Director” and “All to All,” too. Of course, LCD Soundsystem’s newest LP is full of gems with “Drunk Girls” being low on the list of listenable jams. “Dance Yrself Clean,” the slow-building nine-minute gem of an opener is a definite contender for Song of the Summer. Furthermore, Jamie Lidell, Holy Fuck and Crystal Castles all have records out in the past month or so worth consideration.
Christina’s Bionic is fresh out of the gates and we’ll see what she has to offer with it other than “Not Myself Tonight,” a pretty stellar single in my humble opinion. In the next couple weeks a few releases may make a blip on our radar: Uffie’s Sex Dreams and Denim Jeans may have some keepers, Drake’s new record and We Are Scientists’ newest could make noise, too. But what we can be really excited about is Kele Okereke’s new solo LP, The Boxer, which drops June 22. The sexy Londoner and out front man formerly of Bloc Party fame is going dancier and more electro on his own. The first single is awesome and features him shirtless. WIN!
Last but not least, Big Boi’s “Shutterbugg” finally has a badass video to support the badass single from his upcoming solo record. Do yourself a favor and watch it pronto.
Since our last installment we were finally given Robyn. The Swedish pop queen is still going very strong at the ripe age of 31 (remember 1996's "Show Me Love"?) and we've had the pleasure of watching her mature into a badass electro diva. With three installments to her Body Talk series, the first, a mini-LP of eight songs, dropped last week and it is intoxicating. The first three tracks are all stunners: "Don't Fucking Tell Me What to Do," "Fembot" and "Dancing On My Own" are all now officially in the running.
The Billboard charts would have you believe that Katy Perry and Usher are still ruling the world. But those of you who've laid your eyes on Ms. Perry's interpretation of her "California Gurls" Snoop collab might've let your stomach-turning apply to her as much as her ghastly vision of Candy Land. What was she thinking? It's not very appetizing. Even if you have a sweet tooth.
Oh, and have you not seen the nine-minute "Alejandro" video yet? Sweet Jesus, she sure does love us gays. But is this the way she wants to worship us? It does entice and titillate a bit to see an army of sexily-androgynous dancers with severe bobs, but the grabbing, humping and bed play are too much! Crawl out under your rock and settle in with this mini-movie if you haven't already. Does it do much for her chart status or favor in the world of gays? We'll have to wait and see.
In my world, the story is Christina. With Bionic she's dropped a new batch of songs for the next wave of XTina fandom to feed on. "Not Myself Tonight," the first single, is still super-fresh and despite the hub-ub around the video, it's a hot-ass club banger and radio hit. But the real promise lies in "Woo Hoo," her hook-up with the mysterious Nicki Minaj (is she going to put out a good record on her own?). This song will jump to the front of the Songs of the Summer race as soon as she makes a proper video for it. Check out some dirty choreography already being concocted to accompany this hip hop flavored gem.
And while I've already blown up Kele Okereke (former Bloc Party frontman), his new record The Boxer is about to be available to the public and while we're excited about "Tenderoni" there are a handful of other tracks worth pulling for in the race for your attention. Namely, "Rise," a dance number that's going to be remixed in unholy ways.
But now for the bad news. Some SOS hopefulls are already falling by the wayside. Like the radio-friendly "Nothin' On You" by B.o.B. feat Bruno Mars. But don't count him out. He's also got "Airplanes" feat Haley Williams climbing the charts.
And what about all the hype behind Drake? The first single of Thank Me Later, "Find Your Love," doesn't bode well. It seems like a real snooze.
Finally, there is last year's champion Kelly Rowland and David Guetta back to repdominate this summer's airwaves again with "Commander." Her self-titled third album isn't due until September but their single hasn't seemed so exciting until this fierce-as-shit runway vogue-off between black latex Kelly and red latex Kelly. She's really stepped it up with some classic Paris is Burning moves.
Deftones are hailed as being in a league of their own, and after a thorough runthrough of Diamond Eyes, one can hear why. Nobody else does quite what they do. In a relatively tiresome genre, with other bands fading into obscurity or just plain falling short of a quality product, the Sacramento quintet keep rising to the top.
With the massive success of Around the Fur (1997) and White Pony (2000), lead vocalist Chino Moreno has taken this band through several different versions of alternative and experimental metal. With this one, they scrapped a bunch of content from what was to be called Eros after bassist Chi Cheng suffered a serious auto accident. Subbing in for Cheng on the record is Quicksand’s bassist, Sergio Vega, but out of the mess of the accident came a concentrated effort to make a cohesive and subtly cathartic album to be reckoned with.
Diamond Eyes opens at breakneck pace and heaviness with the titular track, “Royal,” and “CMND CTRL” shaking you awake. Seriously muscular guitar riffing, pounding drums, plenty of cymbal crashes, and Moreno’s soaring vocals combined with his grisly howls and screams create a compelling atmospheric take on metal. The pace is almost always very nuanced and allows for peaceful breaks that fit in seamlessly. Then, on “You’ve Seen The Butcher,” you finally glimpse a slower, softer pace that doesn’t implicate them in making metal that’s too pop or feminine. It actually shows their grace and talent, and a willingness to make tracks that are easily digested and more accessible to first-time listeners.
They stun with two later tracks that are seriously beautiful in their ambiance and mellow complexity. “Sextape” features a dreamy buildup to a louder, more metallic chorus. Whereas on their harder tracks they call to mind future tour partners Alice in Chains and Mastadon, on these slower tracks they sound a bit like Filter, Incubus, or melodic Tool. “976-Evil” is also a moodier, calmer track that leads into “This Place Is Death,” concluding the album and reminding you that you’ve just listened to a thrashing, screaming, nu-metal masterpiece.
The slower tracks don’t distract the listener from appreciating the truly dark and headbang-friendly singles. First single “Rocket Skates,” for instance, has a chorus where Moreno screams, “Guns! Razors! Knives! Fuck with me!” Serious stuff. It’s evident they’re no longer just a band that used to open for Korn; Deftones are artistically and sonically legit.
Lords and Masters of the Kill-Core and Horror Punk Domain
GWAR’s been at it for a while now; just about 26 years of outlandish sci-fi costumes, gory stage antics and hardcore thrash metal punk rock to back it up. It’s not for everyone, but it is definitely for some. Sometimes, there’s nothing more boring than a bunch of long-haired white men screaming at the top of their lungs and slamming on instruments to whip an angst-ridden male audience into a vicious moshpit. Tiresome, to say the least. Do something different! Provoke! Be imaginative! Wear the craziest damn costumes you could possibly come up with and simulate decapitations and trot out political figures to destroy! If nothing can be said about GWAR’s longevity or their records, what CAN be said is that they are far from boring.
2009’s Lust in Space is their most recent story. It can be a little disorienting to wrap your head around the entire “GWARnogrpahy,” but unlike Coheed and Cambria, whose mythic multi-album metal opera falls flat on its face, each GWAR record tells a silly story. Here, GWAR steal a Scumdog ship and do their best to leave Earth, where “Bloodstained tomb, beer-cans and piss” lead them to proclaim “this is no life” and “Earth is a prison” on the album titlular breakneck opener. Heavy stuff, no doubt. That’s only the beginning of the mayhem and gore. “Let Us Slay” follows with a rather infectious chant of “Let them slay!” And repeat. You can almost envision the GWAR maniacs pumping their fist in time.
To the uninitiated, GWAR is practically a movement. Dave Brockie, the primary vocalist, is the only current member who’s been around since the beginning. A rotating cast of crazy people and musicians fill out the band’s lineup of characters: Beefcake the Mighty is played here by Casey Orr (bassist since 2000), Balsac the Jaws of Death by Mike Derks (guitarist since the late ’80s), and the list goes on. Whoever is involved, the pace, sound, tone and energy never change – aggressive, terrifyingly dark and violent both in content and execution. Notable records of the past have some pretty amazing titles: This Toilet Earth (’94) and We Kill Everything (’99) to name a couple.
These songs are unabashedly about genocide and war. It’s a wonder more sensitive types don’t make a bigger deal out of this blood-thirsty punk music, but it just seems to get chalked up to over-the-top craziness. It’s all a show. But wouldn’t loads of people confess to secretly fantasizing about executing an asshole boss or mowing down their political opponents? GWAR LIVES!
An upstate country boy who was Johnny HighSchool, went to an expensive liberal arts college and took about 20 English classes, went to graduate school in Oregon for a couple years then came back to the Empire state and tried to pass as a city boy for a minute. Now I'm Philly and I love it.