Monday, December 23, 2013

Musicule's Faves and Fumbles of 2013

It's time to dust Musicule off just in time for the end of the year. You'd never guess from the dust that appears on this website, but music still does mean a lot to me - I voraciously listen to and buy music throughout the year. One of my clients for work is Pandora and I'm always on the hunt for music I've never heard or music that will become a favorite for me. Here are some of my favorite music things from 2013:
  • Climbing back on the Coverville bandwagon (and rediscovering podcasts again) - An interesting casualty of the the iPhone's success was the extinction of the iPod. It's not often that a company developed a technology that thoroughly eliminates one of its own biggest products. Well Apple did it. For me, an unintentional casualty of the iPod's demise was that I stopped listening to podcasts. It wasn't a conscious just happened. From about 2008 to 2013, I can count on one hand how many podcast episodes I listened to. Then one day a few months ago, I remembered that there was one podcast that I particularly enjoyed back in the day that was called Coverville. Surely it didn't still exist, right? WRONG! Not only does it still exist, it's better than ever. Once I looked it up and realized that it was still a thing, I was hooked all over again. Brian Ibbot does an amazing job with this podcast. Whether you're addicted to song covers or just have a passing interest, his podcast is worth listening to. Find it here or in your podcast app on your phone. Coverville restored my faith in podcasts again.
  • Visiting the town where Duran Duran's New Moon on Monday was filmed - Outside of music milestones, one of my highlights of the year was our vacation to Paris. A sub-highlight of that trip was when Mrs. Musicule didn't mind a side roadtrip to the town of Noyers, which is two miles outside of Paris. Noyers, you see, is where Duran Duran filmed most of the video for their 1983 hit, New Moon on Monday. I was in my element... I don't think anyone's taken more photos in that village since the video was filmed there 30 years ago!

This time La Luna: No torch to light and wave, but I didn't care - I was on hallowed Duran Duran ground. Next stop, the yacht from Rio!
  • Vevo - If you're not familiar with Vevo, it's what MTV used to do - play videos. It's like MTV meets YouTube meets Pandora. If you have Apple TV, you can start up Vevo and let it play, and it will play music videos to your heart's content.
  • Isolated tracks from Hungry Like the Wolf - I have 24 different version's of Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf" in my iTunes library. I'm not saying this to brag or pointing it out because I'm ashamed of this fact. It's just what it is. My completest nature, paired with my love of Duran Duran means that I'm the type of person who has 24 different versions of a song in their library. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the other day that Youtube houses not one, but four different isolated track recordings of Hungry Like the Wolf. My favorite? This one: 

  • Janelle MonĂ¡e's Dance Apocalyptic - 2013 was a great year for fun songs: Get Lucky, Blurred Lines, Thrift Shop and many more, but in the end, I think my favorite fun song was Janelle's jumpy track that genre- and decade-hops all over the place. It's as infectious as anything out there.
  • The surprising catchiness of Robin Thicke - I have to confess that until Blurred Lines came out, I didn't think much of Mr. Thickeson - I had written him off as a bit of an opportunist riding the coattails of his dad and that he could transform into something that sounded just enough like Justin Timberlake to garner a fan or two. That was before he came out with the one-two punch of Blurred Lines and Give it 2U. These are two great songs that I didn't think he had in him. I hope he can keep this up.
  • Texas' The Conversation - One of my favorite bands from college was Texas. They came out of nowhere in 1989 with I Don't Want a Lover, and at least in the US, seemed to disappear. However, they managed to put out a decent body of work over the years. I managed to check in on them from time to time to see how they were sounded (which was surprisingly consistent). Flash forward to this year, where they had fallen off my radar. In September, I was in a truck stop in France, thumbing through the CD bin just to see what was there and, OH SNAP, guess what I saw? A NEW Texas album! I bought it on impulse and loved it. I am thrilled that they're still around:
  • Vanessa Paradis' La Seine - It's official: I'm old enough to get tuned into music by my son. For months, he'd been telling me about this great movie he watched called A Monster in Paris. I didn't think much of it, until Mrs. Musicule selected the movie for one of our family music nights. This is a great song from an unlikely source:
  • Rediscovering David Bowie's Station to Station - 2013 was the year I took up running. I'm equal parts amazed and proud that I enjoy it as much as I do. A huge part of my running regiment is making sure my iPhone is loaded up with suitable music. I've gone to great lengths to make sure my running library had the right songs with the right BPMs, I've relied on Pandora's "Alternative Endurance Training Radio" and I've run to Coverville on occasion. One song that I've rediscovered thanks to running is David Bowie's Station to Station... it's one of those songs that could have only come out of the 70s, when rock dinosaurs like Yes and Pink Floyd put out songs that could be deemed "short" when they clocked in under the 6 minute mark. Bowie's take on that is as theatric as anything to come out of that period. By the time he's telling me that it's "not the side effects of the cocaine" and that it's "too late" to be late again, I'm usually clocking in a respectable pace.
  • The interesting year for the Monkees - Last year was a sad year for the Monkees with the death of Davy Jones. Out of his death came something entirely unexpected: The return of Michael Nesmith to the Monkee family with a tour of the three remaining members. I had the fortune to to be able to see this show in Napa over the summer, and it was, for me, a great ending for them - they sounded great, nicely mourned Davy and put on a wonderful victory lap of a show. I don't know if it's the last time they'll perform together, but it felt like a high note they could go out on. Breaking Bad also featured their "Goin' Down" in a sweet montage this year. 
  • Regina Spektor's You Got Time - TV is nailing on the music front these days. I can't tell you how many times I've Shazaamed a TV show to get the name of a song that's featured. Netflix got into original programming in a big way this year with new episodes of Arrested Development, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. In the latter, Regina kills it with a great theme song.
  • Surprise returns - I already mentioned the surprise return of Texas, but for me, two other welcome surprise returns were Alison Moyet and David Bowie. Alison, whom I've adored going back to her Yazoo days came out with a fantastic album with the haunting track, When I Was Your Girl. As for Mr. Bowie, for someone who'd become practically reclusive, it was wonderful to have a new album from him to absorb. One can't say it was a return to a particular form for Bowie, but considering how many different personas he's taken over the years, the fact that he came back with one older, wiser and more introspective, felt about right. His Dancing Out in Space was a particular favorite of mine. David, Alfie, we're glad you're back
  • Searching for Sugarman - Technically, this came out in 2012, but I only got around to watching it this year. The filmmaker might have taken some creative licenses with the story, but it is a great story. Worth watching:
  • Macklemore and Lewis - Another one my son got me into. Thrift Shop is DAMN infectious!
  • Skee-Lo's return - Remeber "I Wish"? A great one-hit wonder from Skee-Lo back in 1995. Thanks to Toyota, they used the track in a series of ads this year. My favorite one featured a rabbit in a hat with a bat. Sadly the '64 Impala was nowhere to be seen...

  • Music discovered on PopXport - I have a TV guilty pleasure. Every week, I watch the German pop music show, PopXport. Mrs. Musicle already bemoans the amount of German pop music in my library, thanks to Nena, but I'm steadfastly adamant that the next wave of great music is going to come from Germany. This year, I downloaded some great tracks from Lena, Boy and Mia Diekow, thanks to their exposure on PopXport. Check local listings!
  • Aimee Mann and Ben Gibbard's Bigger Than Love - Aimee Mann will always have welcome home here at Musicule, whether its for her contribution to music or her missing toe in Big Lebowski. While no new album from her in 2013, we did get a great gem from her in the form of a duet with Ben Gibbard. Thanks Aimee!
Those were the high points, now for a few low points...we won't dwell:
  • Katy Perry's return - I like the fun Katy a lot more than the anthemic one. Less Roar, more Hot n Cold, please.
  • KT Tunstall's Empire // Crescent Moon - I'm a card-carrying, poster-toting fan of KT, but I'm sensing a law of diminished returns with her albums of late. Her newest didn't do much for me, although I did like her cover of Don Henley's Boys of Summer.
  • Justin Timberlake's return - The 20/20 Experience? I keep waiting for a song to grip me from either parts of this album. Nothing yet.
  • TV Mania's Board with Prozac and the Internet? - This is a Duran Duran side project, recorded in 1996 but "misplaced" by Nick Rhodes until this year. Some things are better lost. This is a half-baked, "Emporer Has No Clothes" project that confirmed that Duran Duran had lost its way in the mid/late '90s.
What were some of your faves and flops for 2013? Post them in the comments section below or Tweet them to me with the hashtag #musicule. For the music mentioned in this post, check out the playlist I've created below:

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ending 2012 on a high note: My favorite downloads of the year (Part 2)

Yesterday I posted the first half of my favorite downloaded tracks of 2012, which you can read here

As a reminder, before we go into part 2, to qualify for "favorite download" status, the song had to be downloaded by me this year. This doesn't necessarily mean every song on here is new - it's more a reflection of what I was listening to this year, and in some cases, oversights on what I thought I had in my music collection. With that, here we go!

Note: You can scroll to the end of this article to hear the full list of songs on Spotify.

The Lumineers - Ho HeyI still call this song, "Greetings, Prostitute", but you can't ignore that it's a classic.

Madness - Uno Paso AdelanteDid you know Madness recorded a Spanish version of One Step Beyond?!?!? Neither did I! I also love that it's 16 seconds longer than the original.

Madonna - Give Me All Your Luvin': Remember how I said that Kylie Minogue's been phoning it in for a few years now? Well Madonna's been doing the same for dog years, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself downloading this one.

The Monkees - Star Collector and The Rubinoos - ValleriTV does a horrible thing to your memory. Davy Jones will forever be the teen heart-throb lead singer of The Monkees, until you realize he's not around anymore. This song was one of the few big Monkee songs that I didn't have. I downloaded this on the day Davy died. As for the Rubinoos, they do a nice cover of Valleri.

Mumford and Sons - I Will Wait and The BoxerIs the hipster revolution dying out? And if it is, will Mumford and Sons' banjo-tinged melodies capture the ears of young music lovers? It remains to be seen, but these two songs stack up with their best music from a couple of years ago. Besides, you can't go wrong covering Simon and Garfunkel's Boxer.

Muse - MadnessThis, hands down, is my favorite song of the year. I keep playing it...over and over and over. It's infectious. Muse wears their U2 influence on their sleeve on this album, but this track goes beyond anything Bono and crew have written in a very long time.

Nena - Das ist Nicht Alles: Since I'm throwing superlatives out right now, at the mercy of being ridiculed, I'll say this: This is the best Nena song that's come out in years. And I like Nena! And I'm one of the few people on this continent that can name way more than one Nena song off the top of my head that's not 99 Luftballoons. Look, I know I have a soft spot for Nena - she became popular around the time I was living in Germany. She was one of the few German acts back then that had catchy tunes and enunciated, which meant that I could understand...and learn what she was singing. There are worse ways to learn German. Download this's German pop at its finest. And, Nena trivia time...did you know she's a judge on the German version of The Voice?

Neon Trees - Everybody Talks: I should have added this to yesterday's trifecta of ubiquitous songs of 2012, but I'm not sure this one captured the zeitgeist (see, continuing with the German theme!) as much as the others. Incredibly catchy though!'

Newcleus - Jam On It: Ever have a song that's in your everyday vernacular? Sadly, this one's in mine. I'm not sure a week goes by where I don't say or sing "wicki, wicki, wicki, wicki, SHUT UP!" Despite that, I never owned the track. And did you know that this song is eight minutes long? That's a lot of song just to own "wicki, wicki, wicki, wicki, SHUT UP!"

The Offspring - Days Go ByThere are bands you expect to stay in one decade an never hear from them again. That's what I've always felt about the 90s and The Offspring, at least until they put out this track that channels The Cult and Green Day more than anything The Offspring put out in the 90s. Pretty fly for band of old white guys...

Rick James - Give It to Me Baby (Instrumental)Words can't describe how much I love this version of this song. To call it an instrumental just doesn't do it credit. That's because there's enough vocals in here to not call it an instrumental. Rick was at his funkiest in this track, but my favorite part comes in around 2:16. It's worth downloading just for that! You can just hear the piles of coke in the studio where this was recorded!

Robyn - Dancing On My OwnSome songs you just associate with a movie or a TV show. This song is now lockstep with HBO's Girls for me.

Sam and the Womp - Bom BomIf you don't know this song yet, you will. It's as infectious as anything out there. It has that "Big in Europe" label attached to it, but I think it will catch on here to. It reminds me of Dee-Lite's Groove is in the Heart. And I like their style of womping.

School of Seven Bells - Kiss Them for MeTake one of Siouxsie and the Banshees best songs, ramp up what makes it great and here's what you end up with. 

Sisters of Mercy - This CorrosionAs long as I've had a CD player or something to play digital audio, I've had this song. What I didn't have was the 11 minute version. Yes, there's an 11 minute version of this Meat Loafy/Gothy goodness. Hey now, gimme the ring!

The Sockapellas - F**k YouNo this isn't a Cee Lo cover, this is a Lily Allen cover. Even better, it's a sock puppet a cappella version of a Lilly Allen song. This is a last minute addition to my faves of 2012 thanks to the film, Pitch Perfect. It's everything great about a singing club movie or TV show that Glee is not. Imagine Bring it On but with singing and that's what you get.

The Sugarhill Gang - Apache: Sometimes you have a craving for old school rap. It don't get much older school than this. And sometimes that craving isn't particularly politically correct.

Sweet - Wig-Wam Bam and BlockbusterSpeaking of politically incorrect, here's a story for you. A couple of weeks ago, I downloaded The Best of The Sweet. For those of you who don't know...they were a minor big deal in the 70s, particularly in Britain. Many of you may know The Sweet as the band that originally sang Ballroom Blitz, a song featured in Wayne's World:

So anyway, I was getting my Sweet fix on, when I suddenly had a flashback as Wig-Wam Bam was playing: "Hey, I remember our teacher making us sing this song in chorus when I was a kid!"  Then it dawned on me that it probably wasn't the most culturally-, or sexually-sensitive or appropriate song for an 11 year old to sing. Times were different then, I guess. Regardless, Blockbuster's still a great song. I never understood why Blockbuster Video never procured it for using in ads. I mean, hell, one of the key lyrics is "does anyone know the way to Blockbuster!?!?" Maybe if they had used the song they'd still be in business...

Tone-Loc - On FireI have a good friend who shares my love of late-80s hip-hop. We'll chat about, quote and spout trivia Tone Loc, Young MC, Big Daddy Kane, Kool Moe Dee, etc. Well, the other day, the "Deluxe Edition" of Tone-Loc's first album, Loc-ed After Dark caught my eye at the iTunes Music Store. And like most people, the only Tone-Loc songs I had were Funky Cold Medina and Wild Thing. I mean, yeah, somewhere in my parents' attic there must be a dusty cassette of that album, but it hadn't been heard in years. So I downloaded the Tone Deluxe! I had forgotten how good this album was, particularly this track. I'm still down with the L-O-C!

Van Halen - TattooSince we're stuck in the 80s right now, it seems a perfect time to visit this song. This is off of this year's Van Halen album with Diamond Dave back on vocals. The albums a hot mess, but this track, which I believe was a reworked demo from the 70s, would have fit perfectly on 1984 or Diver Down.

Ellen and the Escapades - Addicted to Love: As promised, let's end on a high note. Here's a clip I discovered on Youtube this year. It's a nice little cover of Robert Palmer's Addicted to Love. It starts slow, but let it play out.

Happy New Year everyone!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Ending 2012 on a high note: My favorite downloads of the year (Part 1)

As far as years go, I've got no complaints with 2012 - the Mayans were wrong, my first year of marriage to Mrs. Musicule is suiting me nicely and my new business is up and running.

It's this latter point which kept me away from Musicule these last few months, but just like the title says, we're ending the year on a high note. Today's were going to look at my favorite downloads of the year. A point of clarification: To qualify for "favorite download" status, the song had to be downloaded by me this year. This doesn't necessarily mean every song on here is new - it's more a reflection of what I was listening to this year, and in some cases, oversights on what I thought I had in my music collection. With that, let's hit the list!

Update: At the end of the blogpost, you can access the full playlist of the Musicule 2012 favorite downloads from Spotify.

Aimee Mann - Charmer and Labrador: It's always a good year when Aimee Mann has a new album out, and this year's contribution, Charmer, was worth the wait. As an aside, do yourself a favor and follow Aimee on Twitter. It's fascinating! I couldn't limit my favorite song of Aimee's this year to one, so I chose these two. "Charmer" continues with Mrs. Michael Penn's (or does that make her Juliet in black jeans?) ongoing homage to The Cars, but tops the homage with her very tight songwriting skills. "Labrador", was the other strong song on this album, which was also aided by a great video - a nearly shot by shot remake of 'Til Tuesday's "Voices Carry" video.

The Black Keys - Gold on the Ceiling and Lonely Boy: These are the Tour Rehearsal Tapes versions of these two fantastic songs off of El Camino.

Bruno Mars - Locked Out of Heaven: Okay, this is the year I became a Bruno Mars convert. This Mark Ronson-produced, and VERY Police-influenced track further endeared me to the man who co-wrote Cee Lo's "Fuck You". He can write, genre jump and may be the first person to come close to Justin Timberlake on the music talents/SNL hosting chart.

Bush - Glycerine: Back in the 90s, I danced around the fringes of grunge: I liked Nirvana, enjoyed some of the less moody Pearl Jam tracks and will admit to having a Collective Soul CD hidden in the attic somewhere, but Bush found a short track to getting on my nerves. They never felt like true grungies, which probably had as much to do with the fact that they were British, but to me had mostly to do with the fact that Bush's lead singer, Gavin Rossdale always struck me as a bandwagon rider. However, Glycerine is a great I inadvertently didn't have in my collection.

Carly Rae Jepson - Call Me Maybe, Gotye - Somebody That I Used to Know, Psy - Gangnam Style: The only way I can write about these three tracks is by lumping them together. They're catchy, ubiquitous and yes, I downloaded all three. If you don't own any of these, you have stronger willpower than I do.

Cary Brothers - Never Tear Us Apart: It was only this year that I discovered that Cary Brothers is a person and not a duo (First name Cary, last name Brothers...they're not The Cary Brothers). INXS was on my playlist quite a bit this year. Earlier in 2012, I exposed Mrs. Musicule to Rock Star: INXS, the reality show that spawned the JD Fortune era of INXS. This was in time for INXS to again unveil another lead singer, which resulted in an incredibly lackluster track, We Are United (which was apparently so bad, iTunes has removed it since I downloaded it in January). INXS has had a lot of ups and down, so when they decided to call it quits earlier this year, I'm not sure anyone blamed them. Cary puts a nice coda on their career with this cover.

Colin Hay - Down Under (Live) [The Birth of the Song]: This track embodies what I love about music: a great song by a performer who's had a long history and also has a sense of humor. This is a live version of Colin singing his biggest hit from when he was with Men at Work. In 8 minutes, he walks through the song, telling the audience how the song came together. If you have a chance to see Colin Hay live, do. It's most worth it. If you're in the Bay Area, click here and just go to the show.

The Colourfield - She and Can't Get Enough of You Baby: This has, up until now, been a total blind spot in my music collection. I'd always known about Fun Boy Three and Terry Hall, but never knew about The Colourfield. In case you're like I was, here's an interesting two-song primer. The first, is a cover of The Monkees' "She," which Terry takes even darker than The Monkees did. The second, Can't Get Enough of You Baby, which is their cover of a ? and the Mysterians song that was later covered by Smashmouth. Of the three versions, I think this is the best of the lot.

Electric Guest - This Head I Hold: I love this has a timeless '60s soul sound to it. The first time I saw the video for this I had the same reaction I had when I saw a Rick Astley video, "Wait, he's white?!?!":

Grace Potter and The Nocturnals - Never Go Back and Ah Mary: I developed a thing for Grace and her band this year. I've known of their existence for the past couple of years, but either wrote them off or never gave them much thought. Never Go Back was the first single of their new album this year. I'm not sure why it didn't do better. The second track is an older track of theirs, Ah Mary, which I first heard in a grocery store this year - go figure. Music hits you in the strangest places.

Jack White - I'm Shakin': Is it wrong that I like this song because it reminds me of the Heat Miser song from The Year Without Santa Claus?

Janice Whaley - How Soon is Now?: From the "I'm a sucker for a good cover category," here's Janice Whaley's haunting cover of The Smiths' How Soon is Now?

Kylie Minogue - Timebomb: Kylie's been phoning it in for a few years now, so it's nice to see she's still capable of a good dance song with mass appeal.

Lionel Richie, featuring Willie Nelson - Easy: You weren't expecting to find this here, were you? Lionel pandering to the country crowd reeks of opportunity and a yearning for late-career relevance, but hearing Willie's buttery/leathery tones on this track makes up for it.

The Little Willies - Jolene: Speaking of Willie, Norah Jones named this side project after Willie Nelson. A little Norah Jones can go a long way when you're not sitting in a coffee shop, but she does a nice emotional take on this Dolly Parton classic.

LMFAO - Sexy and I Know It: We all know this is this century's I'm Too Sexy, right? We're going to hear this song for years in every bad comedy film where the character is trying to look cool but failing miserably at it. We know this. Even with knowing this, I can't help but laugh every time I hear this song. It's just too infectious. Just sit back and do the wiggle, man...

Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow!

UPDATE: You can read Part II RIGHT HERE

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Now you know what music I bought in August

August flew by, didn't it? Let's have a look at the music I downloaded this month and why:

"Navajo" by Ponderosa - This was an iTunes download of the week. Besides, who can resist a band named after something on Bonanza? It's a pretty good track, and I wasn't expecting something that reminded me of The Alarm. The Alarm were never a band credited for influencing others.

"I Will Wait" by Mumford and Sons - I have previously admitted past disdain for Mumford and Sons, but I am willing to admit that my disdain was totally misdirected. I thought they were a band with a banjoey gimmick...they're not. They have decent chops. This is their new single off their upcoming album, which you'll see me write up in the September edition of this blogpost (this is a rare example of me pre-downloading an album from iTunes).

"The Man Who Stole a Leopard (Gosteffects Remix)" by Duran Duran - Like I'm going to turn down a free Duran Duran download! This is a remix of what I think is Duran Duran's best track on All You Need Is Now. It's a song that doesn't need a remix. Stick with the original.

"Barracuda" by Rasputina - I sung Rasputina's praises a couple of weeks ago. I'm guessing iTunes loves that I blog about music, because I tend to purchase songs while I write this blog. Having this in my collection is an example of this. It's a cover of Heart's "Barracuda"...a nice mix of strings and guitars.

The compilation album, "A Symphony of British Music - Music for the Closing Ceremony" - I was captivated by the 2012 Olympics' closing ceremony. It was great to see who was going to come out... and disappointing to see who did not. As happy as I was to see Madness performing, I was equally crestfallen that David Bowie or Duran Duran weren't there - glaring omissions, in my opinion. This album has a great bunch of tracks by Madness, Jesse J, Kaiser Chiefs, The Who, Annie Lennox and much more. There are some true clunkers here, too (Yes, Russell Brand, I'm looking at you). It's worth buying.

Prince's "Musicology" - The lovely Mrs. Musicule, passed this one to me. Here's my problem: I struggle with Prince's legacy. He's amazing. He has a great back catalog and is usually ahead of the curve musically, but his output over the past 15 years just doesn't compare well with anything he released prior to Sign O' the Times. I keep hoping that I'll find gems in his newer stuff that taps into that genius.

"Ho Hey" by The Lumineers - Another one courtesy of Mrs. Musicule: The song I affectionately call "Greetings, Prostitute!" (think about it). It's currently in heavy rotation in the Wilke household.

"Diet Mountain Dew" by Lana Del Rey - Okay, I've given Lana a fair shake, and lord knows it's easy to pile criticism on her, but she just doesn't do it for me. This song sounds like something Jewel would have put out when she was trying to reinvent herself to appear more trendy. It didn't work for Jewel, I don't think it'll work for Elizabeth Woolridge Grant.

"We Come Running" by Youngblood Hawke - I'm convinced that bands are getting signed these days based solely on their ability to write a decent hook that might be buried in an otherwise uneventful song. Fun. has managed to get some mileage out of this with We Are Young - a song with a fantastic chorus, but little else. If you like We Are Young, you'll love this. Take that however you'd like.

"Daddy Cool" by Placebo - From the "I like covers of cheesy songs" file. I won't even begin to try to defend this purchase.

The Sisters of Mercy's "Floodland" - I get genuinely annoyed when I realize that I don't have an album in my collection that I honestly thought I had. A couple of weeks ago, This Corrosion came on the radio and I tweeted the following:

Yeah, I got the album wrong in the Tweet: For those of you who don't know, Jim Steinman (he's the guy who wrote most of Meat Loaf's over the top songs) wrote a few Sisters songs, "This Corrosion" included. After tweeting that, I discovered that I didn't have Floodland (or Vision Thing, for that matter). So I bought it...and discovered that it has an ELEVEN MINUTE VERSION OF "THIS CORROSION" on it! It doesn't get any better than an 11 minute version of a goth song writing by the guy who was goth before goth existed!

The short version of what I affectionately call "The Hank Kingsley Song".

Missy Higgins' "The Ol' Razzle Dazzle" - My good friend Andrew Woodward tuned me in to Missy, an excellent Australian singer-songwriter who's not far from the Sarah McLachlan mold. By the way, the album's on sale for $7.99 at the iTunes Music absolute bargain.

"The Gift" by The Velvet Underground - I was in the mood for a good narrative song. This John Cale gem does it better than just about anything else.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Quick thoughts on tonight's cancelled Duran Duran AC show

Tonight's Duran Duran concert in Atlantic City was cancelled. The band posted this update on its website.

If you're a fan who had planned on going to the show tonight, there's no way to put a positive spin on it. It sucks. And Duran Duran fans are a hearty lot... I'm sure there were hundreds of fans who travelled from all over to see what was supposed to be the final show (correction: one of the last shows. There are still shows scheduled for next week) of the "All You Need is Now" tour. When you're a fan who was looking forward to a show, there's not much you can do to be consoled. You can be annoyed, you can be upset, you can feel bad for the band. And in this case, you can feel bad for Nick Rhodes, whose exhaustion was the catalyst for canceling the show. You can express some or all of the above. It's easy to be angry at the band, but before you do that, step back and think about it: after everything Duran Duran's done the past two years, there's no way in hell they wanted to cancel the show.

Listen, I've been there. I've been the victim of two cancelled Duran Duran shows. The first was in 1993, when they were scheduled to play in Delaware, less than a mile from where I lived at the time. I could have walked to the concert (this was a big deal for me at the time). Weeks earlier, Simon experienced some vocal chord problems and had to cancel several dates. Heartbroken? Yes. Angry? Absolutely. Anger passed...again, I realized that they wouldn't have cancelled unless absolutely necessary.

The second time it happened to me in 2004. I was living in Singapore and me and my partner in Duran Duran crime, Mazlee, were going to fly to Tokyo to see the band's second series of concerts there to support their reunion tour. As we were getting to the airport, we found out that Roger Taylor broke his foot, resulting in a cancellation of that show. Those same emotions came back. This time I even thought, "Well they went about 15 years without Roger on drums, couldn't they have rounded up a replacement quickly?". But then I stepped back and realized that if the band did that, the show would have suffered.

Me and Mazlee in front of the world famous Budokan in Tokyo in 2003, gearing up for the Reunion Tour.

Cancellations happen. It's part of being a music fan. At least Duran Duran don't approach concerts like Guns n' Roses: they plan great tours, they show up on time and they give the crowds their money's worth. If you want to read a great summary/review of Duran Duran's current tour, please read this article at the excellent Daily Duranie, written by @DailyDuranie.

Based on two personal Duran Duran concert cancellations (near and far) and tonight's cancelled show, here are eight things I've learned:

  • Just as Duran Duran fans are made of pretty sturdy stock, so is the band. Nick will recover from this and be appearing in a town near you fairly soon.
  • The band's recent embracing of social media has made cancellations so much easier. The band moved quickly to post the cancellation on their website and John Taylor went to Twitter to apologize and update fans. All class, all around.
  • It's a tiny conciliation, but if you missed the show, there's always the recently-issued A Diamond in the Mind video, which has been steeply discounted on iTunes, as far as I can tell. 
  • It could have been much worse...the Atlantic City show was the last show of the tour. If Nick's exhaustion had occurred earlier, it would have been more than one show cancelled.
  • If you travel to a show that's cancelled, you might not have a concert to go to, but there will be many fans in the same position...use this opportunity to expand your Duran Duran network. Grab dinner or a drink with these folks and compare war stories.
  • The band has always been generous to its fans...even more so in recent years. They will make up for the cancellation either through a special offer or by kicking off their next show in Atlantic City (who knows, maybe the discounted Diamond in the Mind video is part of it).
  • When one band member goes down, there's no temporary replacement. Just as the band couldn't tour without Simon, there's no way they can take the stage without Nick. Same goes for John, Roger, Dom and Anna. 
  • Having said that, it would have been kind of cool if John Taylor chose to soothe fans with a solo gig tonight. It also would have been a good promo for his upcoming book.
Finally, and I think I speak for all Duran Duran fans, we wish Nick a speedy recovery.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ten Songs - The Post-London 2012 Edition

I figured after the London Olympic Closing Ceremony, we might need some music to talk us off the ledge, now that we live in a world where the Spice Girls have reunited: Here's a new installment of "Ten Songs". I'm putting iTunes in shuffle mode to see what comes up. No skipping, just running commentary.

The 88 - Not Enough: This is actually from the Season 2 soundtrack of Weeds, one of those shows that starts off so incredibly strong and then wanders off the tracks. Unfortunately, the show was strong enough at the outset to make you think, "Hey, it could get better, I should keep watching". Well, we're into Season 8 and it hasn't gotten back to the level of quality seen in the first couple of seasons, but just like as in music, in television I'm a completist. I'll ride this show out to the bitter end. As for the song, well, if the Gallagher brothers were still together, their lawyers could call up the folks in The 88 and ask for royalties.

Rasputina - You Don't Own Me: I first heard of Rasputina, when they opened for Siouxsie. There never existed a more fitting, perfect opening act for Siousxie. This is a fairly straightforward cover of Lesley Gore's You Don't Own Me, with the notable exception of the addition of some heavy strings, which better fits the gravitas of the lyrics. It's worth noting that I can't think of Rasputina without hearing this:

(I'm sorry)

Paul McCartney - Maybe I'm Amazed: I had a roommate in college who loved this song. I must have had to put it on repeat a zillion times senior year. I know the shine has dimmed from Paul's star over the years. It's easy to throw stones at him, since he's the only Beatle songwriter still alive, but I will always give him a free pass for the great songs he wrote as a Beatle, the great songs he wrote with Wings and his solo stuff. You may not like what he's doing these days, but the man's a musical living treasure. I adore how this song fades out at the end. Somewhere there's a tape of the post-fade jam of this song, and I'd love to hear it.

Vicki Lawrence - The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia: You see?!?!?! Proof that I just hit shuffle and let 'er rip. If I had a grain of self-censorship, I would deny owning a song by a cast member from The Carol Burnett Show. I think I was in my 20s before I realized that this Vicki Lawrence and the the Vicki Lawrence from The Carol Burnett Show were the same person. You have to admit, it's not a logical leap to put the two together. And how ballsy did the record executive who signed Vicki to a record contract have to be!?!?! "Oh yeah, the girl who plays Momma? A song about betrayal, murder and a hanging? Sure, can't miss!":

I'm convinced you could get away with just about anything in the 70s.

Mark Ronson and The Business Int'l - Somebody to Love Me: I'll never understand why Mark Ronson isn't a bigger name here in the US. Both of his albums are fantastic and he's a great producer. I'm also surprised that this song wasn't a bigger hit, especially considering it was a bit of a comeback for Boy George (he provides some of the vocals on this). If you haven't heard this track, give it a listen. It's worth downloading. And watching the video, it's almost like Boy George's version of Johnny Cash's Hurt:

The Cowboy Junkies - I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry: This album might be the poster child for "lightning doesn't strike twice". In 1988, The Cowboy Junkies came on the scene with a beautiful, simple album, The Trinity Sessions, so named because they recorded it in the Holy Trinity Church in Toronto in the most minimal microphone in one day, no overdubs.. I can't recommend this album enough. It's haunting, sparse and just brilliant. Flash forward 20 years, and someone in or around the band said, "Hey, let's do it again! Same songs, same place, same approach...and we'll throw in some guest singers too." Yeah, like I said, "lightning doesn't strike twice." It's amazing how badly they got this version wrong...some songs are too fast, some are too slow, and there is absolutely no need for any voice other than Margo Timmins' to be heard. Stick with the original.

Katy Perry - I Kissed A Girl: Wow, I don't think iTunes could have gone with a farther off the spectrum shuffle here! You already know my stance on Katy Perry: she's talented and she knows her audience. One thing that surprises me: When looking up this song on the iTunes Music Store, Kissed a Girl is only the 12th most popular song of hers based on iTunes downloads. See for yourself:

David Bowie - Zeroes: Timely. Last week I was reading a great article at AV Club about how it's always good to revisit an artist's worst albums. I think it's safe to say that Never Let Me Down is one of David's clunkers, but there are some good songs on here. It's a good album, it's just not a good David Bowie album. David's presence at the Olympics was sorely missed. I kept waiting for him to pop out at either the opening or closing ceremony...or anywhere in between. I'll take a bad Bowie track over no Bowie any day.

Yes - Changes: Here we have an example of an album that was huge in its day, but has not aged well...from the cover (famously designed on an Apple IIe computer. As an owner of an Apple IIc at the time, this was a really big deal to me back then) to the production. Yes gets a bad rap for being the popular torchbearer of 70s prog rock, but 90125 was their attempt at updating to an 80s sound. To their credit, they did...and they did a good job of it. Unfortunately the 80s sound faded out just like the 70s prog rock sound did. Yes didn't do themselves any favors with the revolving door of band members. You needed a program to keep track of all the band changes. In terms of Yes, while I like 90215, I used to always say that I preferred their other 80s album, Big Generator. Used to, is the operative phrase here. I had to do a little fact checking...I haven't listened to Big Generator in, oh, probably about 20 years. There's a reason for sounds more dated that 90215. If you have a hankering for 80s-era Yes, go with 90215.

General Public - Burning Bright: Speaking of bands that haven't aged well, I present our second and final piece of evidence for the evening, General Public. Now, I'm a big fan of Dave Wakeling... The Beat, General Public, you name it, but I will say this, in 2012 General Public can only be taken in small doses. I wore this album out when it came out in 1985. There are some wonderful tracks on this album, and this is one of them. I'm just saying that we're not dealing with fine wine here. Proceed with caution and Walkman-era headphones.

One final word about General Public before signing off...last month they issued a "Best of General Public". I just checked out the tracklisting. Again, proceed with caution...I don't think it's their 'best of'. You're better off going to iTunes Music Store and handpicking the General Public Songs you like. If I were to pick a 10-best of General Public, these would be my 12:

Victoria Gardens (with Madness)
Never You Done That
Too Much or Nothing
Come Again
Never All There
Where's the Line
Forward As One
Are You Leading Me On?
As A Matter of Fact
Burning Bright
I'll Take You There

Yeah, I know it's the trendy thing to list out one's favorite General Public songs on their blog... everyone's doing it, and I apologize for hopping on the bandwagon, but I felt that my opinion was useful here.

It was either that or telling you want I want, what I really, really want.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Welcome to August! The recent purchases

Welcome to August, everyone! At Musicule, we're all about looking forward, but there are times when it makes sense to look back at what July added to the ol' music collection. This July saw my tastes wander all over the place - from my usual stable of bands to random songs heard on the radio.

Here are the songs/albums of note I've downloaded this month and a brief description on how they found their way into my collection.

Katy Perry: Teenage Dream - The Complete Confection - Look, I'm not made of stone. As you'll see later in this post, I can't resist a good pop song. And let's face it, the former Mrs. Brand has, for now, figured out how to keep her name in the charts. I did buy the Teenage Dream album when it came out, but since then, I think she's put out three other versions. So this month I completed my Teenage Dream collection with three songs: the Tommie Sunshine Megasix Smash-Up (I know, it's shameful: I have a soft-spot for compilation singles. It's terrible.), Wide Awake and Part of Me. We need to face the fact that today, with a huge album, it's inevitable acts are going to hold back songs to release after everyone's already bought the album. Katy's management team has this down to a science. Whereas in the past we only bought the same album more than once when there was a new format (vinyl to cassette, cassette to CD, and so on), now you may need to repurchase an album or parts of it because new songs have been added. It's a smart strategy that keeps fans coming back for more.

Cathy Dennis: Too Many Walls - If you had heard this song in 1990 and someone had told you that this artist would be behind some HUGE hits for the next 20-plus years, I'm not sure you would have put money on that statement. Too Many Walls is a great pop song, but you'd never guess that the person behind this...

...would also have the writing chops to craft:
And she wrote the theme song to American Idol! Like I said, serious chops. I'm amazed I didn't have this song until now.

Emperors: Be Ready When I Say Go: This was an iTunes freebie. Not has a bit of 90s grunge meets Linkin Park sound to it. While writing this article, I looked up the video on YouTube...a big mistake: I know this is a hang-up of mine, but a lousy video can totally ruin a song for me.

And what we have here is a naval (they might like ships, I can't verify that for sure, however) navel-gazy band that conjures up 30 Seconds to Mars. And no, that isn't a compliment. Emperors, I knew Nirvana, I saw Nirvana, you, band, are not Nirvana.

Duran Duran - A Diamond in the Mind: Of course I pre-ordered this to ensure I had it the moment it came out. And of course you wouldn't expect an objective review of this from me, but here's the deal: I saw Duran Duran twice on the tour this live album came from. The band is in a groove right now...they're touring a phenomenal album (their second best, in my opinion) and they sound as good as they've ever sounded live. If you like Duran Duran and you like live albums, get this. If live albums aren't your thing, stick with All You Need Is Now.

Ozzy Osbourne - Crazy Train: This is me just filling a void in my music collection. Sometimes you just need a little Ozzy.

The Cramps - Human Fly: Another case of filling a huge omission in my music collection.

Neon Trees - Everybody Talks: Like I said, I can't resist a good pop song. Especially one with a great chorus in the mold of The Killers and The Strokes.

Love & Rockets - Express and Earth, Sun, Moon: I don't know how or why, but earlier in July I went on a HUGE Love and Rockets kick. I had owned these albums on cassette and CD back in the day, but somehow the complete albums didn't make it through to my 2012 iTunes collection. I'll confess to deleting songs I get sick of every now and then. L&R may have been part of that purge at some point in the late '90s. If they were victims of such a purge then I'm a fool for having done so. These two albums represent a band in an amazing career groove. They also get the "Zeitgeist Award" for looking like a band that would be prominently featured in a John Hughes movie:

As an aside, while looking for the above video, I stumbled upon this Siouxsie video:

Man, did I have a crush on her growing up! This is more a "full disclosure" rather than any productive content for this post. As you were!

Def Leppard: Pour Some Sugar On Me/Rock of Ages EP - I mentioned this last week: I love when a band has an external dispute with their record label. We end up with some interesting results, and sometimes some fascinating experiments. Def, because of a contractual issue with their record company re-recorded two of their songs for the Rock of Ages movie that came out earlier this year. To their credit, they worked hard to make the songs sound as much like the originals. To hear the band describe it, it almost sounds like an art restoration project. Stephen Colbert sums it up even better:

Adrian Belew: Young Lions - From the "I'm an idiot for this album not making it to my iTunes collection" file, here's an unsung album from the late-'80s that deserves more recognition. And if you're a David Bowie fan, his fingerprints are all over this. In addition to re-downloading this album, I also converted this YouTube link to MP3:

Spandau Ballet: Gold (Paul Oakenfold Mix) - I'll just start off by asking, "Has there ever been a DJ more overrated than Paul Oakenfold?". I've never been a huge Spandau fan, but True is a great song...and Gold is even better. It's always been, for me, the Bond song for a Bond movie that was never made. It's also a song I love singing at the top of my lungs in a car. When I saw this version on iTunes last week, I snapped it up sound unheard. Big mistake. It's horrible. For added ruin-ness, check this out:

Tyler Bates: These Boots are Made for Walkin' - I'm willing to go out on a limb and state that there isn't a bad version of this Nancy Sinatra song out there. And while I'm sure someone can prove me wrong, I really like this version. It's true to the original and the added timpani drum adds a great dimension.

Jerry Douglas: The Boxer (Featuring Mumford & Sons) - Another song that I view as practically perfect is Simon & Garfunkel's The Boxer. And while this version isn't as good as the original, I like what they've done with it. I'll also confess to having hated Mumford & Sons when I first heard them - I wrote them off as some hipster band obsessed with the banjo (like just about every other hipster act out there that hadn't discovered the accordion yet). I was wrong...they're the real deal.

Arctic Monkeys: Come Together - I'd written the Arctic Monkeys off. I love I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor and Bigger Boys and Stolen Sweethearts, but other than those two songs, they'd sort of fallen off my radar. It was nice to see them in the London Games Opening Ceremony with a great and faithful version of this Beatles song. I felt a little bad for Paul McCartney...the Monkeys did a better job on their Beatles song than he did at the Olympics

Colin Hay: Down Under 2012 Single - Finding this last week may be one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. This "single" has three tracks, with all three of them being Men at Work's lead singer, Colin Hay, recording updated versions. Don't groan...they're good, and one of them is amazing. In this one, Colin actually walks you through the creative process of how the song came into being. Download's worth it.

Finally, full disclosure on the pop song front: Yes, I own Call Me Maybe. The damn song is irresistible, but for the sake of this post, thankfully I downloaded it in June. :)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Ten songs - Debut edition

Today we present "Ten Songs". I'm putting iTunes on shuffle mode to see what comes up. No skipping, just running commentary.

Shiny Toy Guns - Le Disko (Ferry Corsten Mix): About five years ago this song was all over the place, featured in many ads and, I believe, was a free Apple iTunes download at some point. I've always liked the song (full disclosure: I have four different versions of this song in my music collection) and hoped Shiny Toy Guns would do more. They haven't exactly lit up the world. I think the best they ever mustered was a cover of Peter Schilling's Major Tom for a Lincoln ad:

Sennen - A Little High: Hmm... the first I've heard of this one. This came off a compilation I had from the now defunct "The Word" magazine from April 2010. Nothing special and a little generic. At least I get to edit collection thanks to this exercise.

The Travelling Wilburys - Heading for the Light: This will be news to most of my readers, but I have an irrational and unhealthy distain for Jeff Lynne. Anything he puts his hairy fingerprints on sounds like bad ELO. He does it to his own work, to artists like The Beatles and The Traveling Wilbury's of which, to me, he's the weakest link. And yes, I don't care if we was the producer, everything he touches sounds like ELO. It bugs the crap out of me. Why do I own this song, you ask? Because, thankfully, I'm able to recognize good music despite my bias. Hell, the band has Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and George Harrison in it. That's some serious heavyweight talent in one band! My second gripe about The Wilbury's aside from Mr. Hairy's ELO-ness of it? The first Wilbury album is only 37 minutes long. What band in the post-vinyl era puts out an album under 45 minutes?!?! I blame Jeff Lynne.

Madness - On the Town: Oh, I'm glad this came on. I'm always happy to shine some light on Madness music that isn't Our House. Madness, in my opinion, is one of the most underrated bands on this side of the Atlantic. They've had an amazing career and have put together a fantastic songbook. It amazes me that they didn't have a solid following in the US. This song appears on the album The Liberty of Norton Folgate, which may be their best album...and they issued it in, wait for it, 2009. Yes, they're still making music...great music. Don't believe me? Hey you, don't watch that, watch this:

NW5 appears on Norton Folgate. Buy it, listen to it and thank me later.

Duran Duran - Secret Oktober: It was an inevitable that a Duran Duran song would pop up for this. You're lucky, it's one of their better ones. Oktober was the B-side (remember those?) for Union of the Snake. Why they didn't include it on their album at the time, Seven and the Ragged Tiger, is beyond me, but it's one Duran's best dark tunes. They even whip it out for live shows every now and then:

It's an old clip, but you can definitely see The Doors influence Simon's wearing on his sleeve here.

Berlin - No More Words (Re-Recorded/Remastered): Nothing screams "I'm having record company issues" more than when a band re-records their back catalog. This is what we have here. Berlin (actually Terri Nunn) has kicked around the music industry a long time, and I suspect they got screwed out of some royalties, which resulted in this recording. This version is true to the orginal, and you'd be fine owning this version. In fact, if Terri's getting more money for this version than the orginal, snap this version up. She's a tour de force live. Besides, don't you want to own a song by someone who auditioned for Princess Leia? (And yes, I know I've shown this before but it's worth airing out again)

The Crickets - I Fought the Law: While not the most famous version of this song, this is the first version of it. It's interesting to hear that even in its earliest and most basic form, it's a rock classic.

Melody Gardot - Your Heart is as Black as Night: I'm not sure why I have this song. According to iTunes, I added it to my collection in 2010. It's a bit Shirley Bassey meets Amy Winehouse-ish. Lyrically, it sounds like something that could have been used in the Grinch cartoon, so it has that going for it.

Lewis & Clarke - Changes: A Bowie cover, from an incredibly mediocre collection of Bowie covers...present company very much included. This is a lounge-meets-folky version of Changes. The only reason I bought this was for Duran Duran's cover of Boys Keep Swinging. David Bowie deserves better.

Adam Ant - Wonderful: You already heard me prattle on about this song (or at least this album here), but it's worth repeating. Adam did a great job of reinventing himself with this album. It's more accoustic than what we're used to hear from him and it proves the guy knows how to write a song. It's worth mentioning that my wife hates this song, so it usually gets the immediate skip when it comes on.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Today's Mrs. Links Brought to You By Bobby Brady

Welcome to The Mrs. Links. They're a bunch of "hey, check these out" links I send to my wife on a regular basis. Sometimes they're funny, sometimes they're informative... and they're usually mindless.

Here at Chez Musicule, we're gearing up for the London Olympics. What better way to kick things off than with a look back:, thanks to Grantland, some interesting choices in Olympic product tie-ins:
Really?!?! Would anyone believe Bobby Brady as an Olympic athlete? And the greater shame was that because he was wearing the Tiki necklace, the US pulled out of the Moscow Games. 
  • Very often with the Olympics, you hear about the economic impact a city receives. Mental Floss highlights a particular city that decided to say "eff yew" to the Olympics
  • This isn't particularly for the Missus, but I found the fact that footage from the US Basketball Dream Team practicing is seeing the light of day 20 years later fascinating.  
  • Continuing with the Olympic theme, TechCruch has a grumble about the Olympic wi-fi ban. Having attended golf's US Open here in the Bay Area a few weeks ago, where cell phones were banned, a personal wi-fi hotspot ban is a cakewalk by comparison.
  • Moving away from the Games, a special thanks to Will Moss, who Retweeted this article by Charlie Custer an American blogger/journalist leaving Beijing. I swear I read about three of these "Why I'm leaving China" articles every year, and each story is more compelling than the previous. Thankfully Will hasn't penned one of those yet. Take my advice, follow him on Twitter - he's an excellent (and funny) read.
  • Mental Floss posted an interesting piece about the "12 things you didn't know about the Dust Bowl". They could have expanded the list well beyond the 12 for me and I would have enjoyed reading it.
  • As a Mac user, today's a big day with the OS upgrade. Here and here are a couple of useful links. My one grumble? Pre-2011 Macbooks aren't able to AirPlay to Apple TV (grumble, grumble)
  • To end things on a musical note, did you ever wonder where Grandmaster Flash got their bass line for White Lines? Well, wonder no more:

Best Albums of the '90s? (Part 2)

Remember when I said I missed music from the '90s? Apparently my last blog post only scratched the surface. In that post, I referred to a thought-provoking piece on Paste that listed their 90 best albums of the '90s. It's thorough, but I think they left a few out. Yesterday, I covered seven albums I thought the list overlooked. Today I've added a few more:

Hole - Celebrity Skin: Let's start with one of my favorites from the '90s. Hole has always worn the mood and situation of Courtney Love on its sleeve. Some also say that Hole is more of a reflection of who Courtney Love is dating at the time: It was often whispered that Live Through This had significant writing help from Kurt Cobain. In Celebrity Skin, those whispers credit Billy Corgan, who produced the album and "co-wrote" (heavy use of ironic finger-quotes here) many of the tracks. That influence can be heard, but I think Celebrity Skin is a better album than anything Corgan did with Smashing Pumpkins. In many interviews, Love has described Celebrity Skin as her love letter to Los Angeles. Malibu addresses that love head on:

This is the high-water mark for Hole...they never again looked or sounded better.

Elastica - Elastica and Sleeper - The It Girl: Two albums together may seem out of place, but I look at these albums as almost interchangeable. That's not an insult to either Elastica or Sleeper - both bands had a distinct, yet similar sound, and channelled early-New Wave bands like Blondie. Elastica was the most popular of the two bands, thanks to their hit Connection.

Elastica brought a little bit of Hole-esque controversy with them as well. Lead singer Justine Frischmann was dating Blur's Daman Albarn at the time, and it's been suspected that many of the songs on this album were ghostwritten by him. Knowing Albarn's proficiency for songwriting, I wouldn't put it past him, and you can hear at minimum, his influence.

Sleeper was the brainchild of Louise Wener, an absolute brilliant talent of the Britpop era. She had a great sound and a gift with words and stories. Sleeper had three albums and each is worth keeping, but The It Girl is one of those albums that you can play over and over again for days.

She also addresses a great urban legend in a very funny way with her song Good Luck Mr. Gorsky.

Aimee Mann - I'm with Stupid: My love affair with Aimee Mann is well-documented on Musicule. This was the album that confirmed to me that she was the real deal. You knew you've arrived when one of your songs is featured on Melrose Place:

Besides, there's something special about an album whose first line is, "You fucked it up..."

Alanis Morissette - Jagged Little Pill: Here's the thing, I don't particularly love this album, but it's not on Paste's list, and it should be. For an album to be of its time, it needs to capture a particular zeitgeist, and there are few albums that came on the scene and made a statement like Jagged Little Pill did.

No Doubt - Tragic Kingdom: Gwen Stefani bugs the hell out of me. Is it the make-up shilling, her fashion label, the drastic sound change around the time she left No Doubt or is it just that her shit is bananas (b-a-n-a-n-a-s)? Probably all of the above. Despite the distain, I embrace Tragic Kingdom as an excellent album, unique to anything that had come out at the time. Of its 14 tracks, I'd say 10 of them are classics.

Oasis - What's the Story (Morning Glory): Speaking of people that bug the hell out of me, Liam Gallagher may very well be one of the most annoying people in music, but as half of Oasis, he was magical. Oasis was never a critical darling, but with Morning Glory, they managed to shake off enough of their penchant for ripping off Beatles songs, embrace their role as Britpop kingpins and put an album together that was bigger than their band and the genre they led.

Sheryl Crow - Sheryl Crow: I may be in the minority here, but Sheryl Crow is at her best when she's dark, and she was at her darkest, most cynical and most clever on her self-titled album.

Verve - Urban Hymns: This is a brilliant album best known for having the infamous hit Bittersweet Symphony. The irony is that the song is a bittersweet one for the band as they lost all royalties for it due to sampling a Rolling Stones song. This is a shame because Richard Ashcroft is a gifted songwriter whose efforts are excellently showcased here.

Neurotic Outsiders: There's something special about a "supergroup" that's in it for the music and not the fame or the money. This is at play with Neurotic Outsiders. And yes, I said no Duran Duran, but Neurotic Outsiders technically isn't Duran Duran...and I also figured it was a good album to round the list out with. The band only had one Duran member in it: John Taylor. He was joined by Sex Pistol Steve Jones and former Guns n' Roses members Matt Sorum and Duff McKagen. Their mission was a simple one...foot to the floor punk, which sounded great. I was fortunate enough to see them live in Philadelphia one night in the early '90s when Billy Idol was the guest vocalist. Fun all around.