Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top 25 Songs of 2010: 5-1

Well here we have it. The Top 5 Songs of the year, from somebody who knows what he's talking about. Or at least is pretentious enough to say he does. I'll probably get around to doing my top albums and top films over the next few weeks (still have oodles of movies to catch up on), but this should tide you over until that blessed day. Here are my 5 favorite songs of the year.

5. Sufjan Stevens - Vesuvius

48 States left,
Sufjan takes a different trip.
Sorry no refunds.

4. Big Boi - Shutterbugg

Talkbox rattles teeth.
A treble and bass orgy.
Still missing Outkast?

3. Cee-Lo Green - Fuck You

Poor Cee-Lo gets dumped.
30 million views later,
I think he'll be fine.

2. Kanye West - All of the Lights 

Kanye's masterstroke.
Even Fergie can't kill it.
Goodbye Taylor Swift.

1. Robyn - Dancing On My Own

Step 1: Turn up loud.
Step 2: Listen. Dance. Feel chills.
Step 3: See Step 1.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Top 25 Songs of 2010: 15-6

Hello. I hope you had a nice holiday. Mine was great too, thanks for asking. Let's cut these formalities and get back to business. It is snowing, and threatens to stay that way through tomorrow, dumping up to 20 inches on the hungover masses. When it comes to Nor'easters, shoveling is futile until it's all over. You're better off putting on that new sweater, making some cocoa, and finding a movie marathon worthy of your valuable time. But before you get sucked into that sedentary vortex, take a few minutes and join me as I countdown another ten great songs.

15. Rihanna - Only Girl (In The World)

Tasty techno pop,
"Natural Woman" with bass,
Helps me run up hills.

14. Warpaint - Undertow

Pretty. Dangerous.
Don't say they didn't warn you.
I hope you can swim.

13. The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio

Mistakes and regrets.
Madness in the minutiae,
Don't ever get old.

12. Janelle Monae - Cold War

Sonic chameleon
Does Rihanna impression,
But with better hair.

11. Yeasayer - O.N.E.

African arcade
Meets sappy break-up anthem.
Please add more quarters.

10. Arcade Fire - Ready to Start

Angry teens rejoice!
Grown ups hate everything too!
Now go to your room.

9. All I Want- LCD Soundsystem

Murphy boosts Bowie,
but with his signature bloops.
Forty and Emo.

8. The Tallest Man on Earth - King of Spain

One part skinny jeans,
Extract of Dylan, Sweden.
Add mustache to taste.

7. Vampire Weekend - Giving Up the Gun

New Western epic
Starring Nic Cage and Tom Hanks.
Oscars guaranteed.

6. Crystal Castles ft. Robert Smith - Not In Love

Emo king stays young,
Lends voice to boring techno,
Turns it into gold.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Top 25 Songs of 2010: 25-16

After spending way too long writing song synopses last night, I had an epiphany. They don't really matter. The songs are fantastic, and a write-up or lack thereof will not change anything. A simple picture, a sentence, and a link to the song should be more than sufficient to get the point across. As such, each song on todays installment will now be accompanied by a haiku instead of a long-winded paragraph. Happy reading.

25. Das Racist - You Oughta Know

Not white. Not black either.
Yes, they're serious.

24. Gold Panda - You

Put on your space suit,
Alien abduction rave.
Hope I don't get probed.

23. Gorillaz - On Melancholy Hill

Coldplay is that you?
Nope, just some cartoons in love.
Oh, right. That makes sense.

22. Waka Flocka Flame - No Hands ft. Roscoe Dash and Wale

Bologna hatin'
Made me buy some Moscato.
It was pretty good.

21. Local Natives - Airplanes

What are you booing?
You should have thought about that,
before you dumped her.

20 - Donnis - Gone

Atlanta menace.
Family Matters, Maybelline.
Shit Fertilizer.

19 - Drake ft TI and Swizz Beatz - Fancy

Mopey Drake shuts up
Girls like Ziti and Riesling
Mental note taken.

18. Beach House - Take Care

The snow is coming,
Come inside and have some tea.
No I am not gay.

17. Interpol - Barricade

Homeless bees and snakes.
Rest of album blew huge chunks.
I saved you ten bucks.

16. Perfume Genius - Mr. Peterson

Drugs and suicide.
Vague man + boy relationship.
I need an adult.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Top 25 Songs of 2010: Honorable Mentions

So here we are 2010. We made it. YOU made it. It didn't look look too promising early on, what with that Haitian earthquake and that Tiger words tornado. And then there was that leaky faucet on the gulf coast that took a while to plug. With little to celebrate in the news, music did what it does best; fill the vacuum (however impossible that is scientifically). I listened to thousands of songs this year, liked hundreds, and made a playlist of an absurd number before I pared until I could pare no longer and I was left with 40. As this blog post is entitled Top 25 songs of 2010, I decided to bunch songs 26-40 together into an honorable mention category which I'll be sharing today, and the rest to be counted down over the next few days. I limited myself to one song per artist, so if you don't see your favorite song on hear, I apologize profusely. I'd also love to hear your own favorite songs in the comment section.

Honorable Mentions:

Mean Mug - Soulja Boy ft. 50 Cent
Before The Deandre Way, Soulja Boy's name was mud. Worse than mud actually, because mud wasn't responsible for the 2nd worst song of the decade, but he redeems himself for that turd with Mean Mug. 50 and Soulja's verses slickly dovetail each other, nearly overlapping at times, and coming from all directions.  The threats 50 and Soulja dispense here carry more weight than your standard hip-hop trap talk, 50 literally daring you to challenge him by the end of the song. If I were you, I'd try to avoid eye contact.

DOM- Living in America
I don't remember how I happened upon this song, but I wish I did, because I would go back for more. Coming from Worcester, I wasn't expecting something so sprightly, but that serves me right for judging a band by its hometown. If that were the case, then Bruce Springsteen would smell bad and the Beatles would have bad teeth.

The Love Language - Heart To Tell
I keep waiting for the day when The Love Language blow up and are in car commercials, but until that day I guess I'll have to settle for being their number one fan and seeing them at the tiny TT the Bears whenever they swing through Cambridge. Their debut album was my #1 of last year, and while Libraries isn't as strong, it still had a lot to offer. As a song, Heart to Tell leaves you wanting more. Another verse, another chorus, more of whatever they take to infuse so much energy into 2:26. Anything really, just don't end. No? Well, I guess that's why they have the repeat function.

I'm sure Maya will be celebrating the end of 2010 with a little extra exuberance. Heck, 2011 can't be much worse. There was the scathing NYT article that challenged her authenticity, a string of poor performances that hurt her rep, and a poor received album that hurt her bottom line. Whatever you though of MIA this year, XXXO is a song that can be enjoyed completely independently. Sure she rambles on about downloads and tweets, but if she keeps bundling her social critiques in such easy to swallow packages, I'll follow her anywhere.

Shad - Rose Garden
I wrote about this song a few months ago for an On Repeat post, but it still stands up as one of the best music videos of the year and a fantastic song on its own merits. MIA should take a lesson from Shad on how to deliver a message without being grating, and it should be compulsory listening for hip-hop artists who feel obligated to swear in every song simply for the sake of doing it.

The Dream - Yamaha
The Dream is gross. Let's get that out of the way first. I hope his mother has never listened to an album of his, because she would surely send him to his room without dinner. He does not mince words when it comes to what he intends to do with the young women he beds. Now call me old-fashioned, but such brashness is not how one finds a nice lady to take home to said mother. Yamaha is just about as romantic as he gets, and even then it's the girl who is his "little Yamaha". Hard to like at first, but even harder not to love once it gets going.

Cults - Go Outside
Cults are a mysterious band, but it's clear from the beginning of Go Outside where their name comes from. Jonestown leader Jim Jones talks over the xylophone introduction, before mercifully drowning him out. Maybe their whole album will have different cult figure ramblings opening each song. If that's the case, I can't wait to hear how they dress up the Manson folks. It will be tough to top this.

Kate Nash - Kiss that Grrrl
It wouldn't surprise me if most girls hated Kate Nash. She sings about being a vindictive, jealous girlfriend, effectively showing all of her genders well-guarded relationship cards. As catty as she may be at times, she is also fragile and loyal, and at the end of the day has the same fears and insecurities as everyone does, she just sings about them.

Darwin Deez - Radar Detector
Oh Darwin, what are you doing with those mashed potatoes? Is that clever? Am I missing something? And what's with the curls and headband? You make yourself very easy to hate, but what you lack in accessibility, you make up for in musical charm. If you buy into his shtick, you will be well-rewarded with songs like Radar Detector. If you don't, well, I won't hold it against you.

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Round and Round
Disregard that album artwork. I said stop looking at it. I know, it's hard to stop looking at, and even harder to unsee. Now with that introduction, you are likely expecting a comedy album or a folk album. Ariel Pink is neither of those. They sound closer to an inspired outtake from one of the Brady Bunch's musical episodes. You know what I mean. The high choruses, the ebullience, the bell bottoms. They're all here. Except for Jan, she's probably reading or something. "Time to Change", eat your heart out.

Freeway and Jake One - One Thing ft Raekwon
Raekwon has had a good year. He was on his way up before Kanye gave him a boost, riding high from the near-universal praise following 2009's Only Built For Cuban Linx II, but he is arguably better here on "One Thing". I love the back-and-forth chorus between the soul sample and the rappers, lamenting the "turncoats" and "snitches" with a combination of paranoia and fury. I can relate to absolutely nothing in this song, but that doesn't make it any less awesome.

Spoon - Written in Reverse
Known for making songs with mathematical precision, Spoon shook things up a little bit on Transference, the fruits of which are best seen on the rollicking "Written in Reverse". The notes sound like they are being pounded into a dusty bar piano, and the electric guitar operates without a leash, playfully interjecting without warning. The trajectory of the song is never compromised, but cracking voices and intersecting solos abound, things that the Spoon of the last decade would have never allowed. I'm not arguing with the results.

Big K.R.I.T. - Country Shit
Big K.R.I.T. is from Mississippi. Things are different there. There are candy yams and collared greens. The water is muddy. But there are still drugs, and people still rap. Big K.R.I.T. is living proof.

Diamond Rings - All Yr Songs
I told myself I wouldn't link any videos in this write-up, but I'm breaking that pact to showcase the video for All Yr Songs. Firstly, All Yr Songs is the best kind of catchy. The words are clear, the voice is simple, there are like 3 chords. You can sing this song as you are listening to it for the first time. But the video. I'm half convinced it was just unearthed from a time capsule, but Youtube tells me otherwise. I owned each of those basketball jerseys, and the laser photo background is icing on the cake.

The Black Keys - Everlasting Light
The Black Keys have been reviving rock and roll for the last 5 years, and I am beyond thrilled that they are starting to get the recognition they deserve. Their songs are on a bajillion commercials, they've been nominated for a Grammy, and they played Madison Square Garden last tour. Things are coming up roses for this duo, and their newest album, while a bit too long, has a bunch of gems. Especially the T. Rex stomper Everlasting Light.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Trader Joe's Invader Show

Every season, Trader Joe's bestows upon its brethren a slew of new products. They talk them up in the Fearless Flyer, and give them prime shelf space in the store, but for eagle-eyed regulars like myself, these promotional lengths are not necessary. I know the items at Trader Joe's like I know the Radiohead discography or Arrested Development quotes. That is to say, quite well. I know that there will be a mosh pit of elderly folks in the cheese section, and a swarm of housewives near the wine. The produce section will resemble Wario Stadium and I can skip the entire section of frozen seafood. So when a new item pops up in-between the Shredded Beef Tamales and the Paneer Tikka Masala, I take notice. Typically, I greet new products with a wary eye, having been played a fool on more than one occasion (SALTINE GOLDFISH), but that fear is unfounded at TJ's. Nearly everything I have had the pleasure of ingesting from Trader Joe's has been delicious, and this goes for new and old items alike. Their quality control is impeccable, and they don't slap their name on just anything (you hear that "Best Yet"?). To prove this theory correct, I bought several new TJ's items last week, and ate them for the benefit of this blog and its followers.

Item 1: Trader Jacques' Milk Chocolate Salter Caramel Butter Cookies

There is no shortage of holiday-themed goodies at TJ's, but rather than drop $12 on a box of truffles, these caught my eye. Shortbread + Caramel + Chocolate sounds like a pretty indomitable combination, and being imported from France scored it some Ooh Ahh points from the Missus. 

Here they sat in the dim living room light, looking like a chocolate-filled ice cube tray.

This is for size approximation. Good weight, awkward size. Difficult to eat in one bite, but perhaps that is the point. Enjoyed having the cookie portion to grab so as not to get chocolate on my fingers.

A profile view of the innards. I apologize for the poor lighting. The chocolate portion was thicker than I expected (a pleasant surprise), and the caramel was more Caramello than Rolo, if you know what I mean. The shortbread was nothing special, but yielded a satisfying crunch. The chocolate was quality, and there were 16 in the box (two sleeves), which made it a pretty good deal at 2.99 (<20 cents each!). Trader Jacque, merci beaucoup. 

Item 2: Coins of the World

The foil-covered chocolates you know and love have come to Trader Joes! But these aren't your Grandmas coins, these are cultured currency. Coins from all over the world are represented in this golden pouch that AG insisted that I save and give to her.

Oopsies, I'm so clumsy. But look at that shiny Euro! There are pennies and nickels for the US, as well as Canadian, Austrian, Danish, German? coins as well. It was fun to try and figure out exactly where they came from, and catalyzed the realization that US coins are lame, and don't get me started on the bills!

Look at the attention to detail! Ignore the terrifying cuticle! There may very well be a chocolate coin mint next door to the national mint in each of these countries, that's how realistic they looked.

AG and I enjoyed them on ice cream. They were good and much better than your run-of-the-mill sack o' coins that normally turn up this time of year. I was so impressed by them already that them not tasting like dirt was just gravy. I brought the rest into work the next day and played Santa. By the end of the day I had almost mastered the "What's that behind your ear?" trick. There must have been 40-50 coins in the bag, and at 1.99 for the lot, another TJ Bargain.

Item 3: Mac and Cheese Bites

Oh Mama. These were the devilish snacks that inspired this blog post in the first place. I had no business buying these, but by rationalizing it as "research", they somehow found their way into my cart. TGI Fridays and Texas Roadhouse better check themselves, because Trader Joe's has raised the bar on heart-attack appetizers. I suggest they use the name "Trader Bubba" for goods in this class.

Sweet Mary and Joseph just look at that thing. Crispy golden shell. Cheesy, soft inside. 15 minutes in the oven and all my cares melted away.

They were packed with macaroni and even more stuffed with cheese. They wilted a bit in the oven, but I won't hold it against them. Even Flora tried to get in on the action. It is said that there are some things that can only be described in French. Macaroni and Cheese bites are one of those things. $3.49 for 10. Worth triple.

Item 4: Lentil Chips

If Trader Joes has mastered one thing, it is the chip. They have an entire aisle devoted to chips, and are tirelessly reinventing the chip. Their Pita chips? Best in the business. They have 8 kinds of Tortilla chips. There are pretzel chips, plantain chips, bagel chips and green bean chips. Just when you think they have exhausted the possibilities of the chip, they come up with something else. This week's version: Lentil Chips.

Lentil chips are an intriguing prospect. I suppose anything that can be mashed can be chip-ified, but does that mean it should be done? I'll leave that to Congress, but I say more power to them. Currently, Lentil Chips come in only the sea salt and black pepper iteration, an interesting choice, because the black pepper really gives them some kick. Texture-wise, they feel like a glazed pita chip, and I mean that in the best-possible way. Sort of like a rice cracker, if you've tried those before. Very light and super crunchy. Good taste, satisfying flavor. No troubling aftertaste to speak of. I could see myself buying them regularly, especially if they come out with other flavors. All in all, one small step for TJ's, another giant leap for chipkind. 2.49 for the bag. More than pita chips, but something you should try at least once.

This concludes this episode of the Trader Joe's Invader Show. Tune in next time!