The Passion of the Weiss

Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick. But most of the time, I don't rhyme.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Best of 2005

I've never made many claims to knowing anything about music. Okay, that's a boldfaced lie (what a stupid expression that is). However, I'm not one of those tremendous musical nerds who gets all hyped up when you haven't heard of a certain band either. You know the type:

"Oh my god. You haven't heard of the Flaming Rocket Dogs. They're only like the most brilliant band on the earth. They're a little too commercial now though. But when I saw them at Spaceland on their first tour of the US, they were amazing. There were only 10 people in the audience, and it was really special because we were all wearing American Apparel. I can't believe you haven't heard of them. Where have you been? I've been listening to them for years. How do you live???"

I'm not quite there yet, and if I do ever descend into that dark dark labyrinth, I readily encourage anyone to ritually tar and feather me (because nothing says 'hipsters be damned' like a good tar and feathering.) So guys, you'll have to forgive my lack of obsessive musical knowledge and just take my word for it. If you pick up any of these CDs, you will not be disappointed. And if you are upset about your purchase, then blame yourself because you have bad taste in music. Seriously, you suck.

And now, without further adieu, the winners of the first annual Jeff Weiss Musical Top 10 List.

1. The Go! Team: Thunder, Lightning, Strike
The hipster crowd would like to say that this CD shouldn't count make the 2005 lists because it was released in the United Kingdom last year and didn't see a domestic release until sometime this Spring. But fuck them, it's a 2005 release. Honestly, only sailors buy import-only records. And are you a sailor, didn't think so...

This record is almost indescribable, a collage of horns, breakbeats, whistles, raps, guitars and bells, it manages to encompass almost every genre of music. There are few lyrics on the CD, just the sounds of life scattering across your ears. I guess the best way to describe it would be that it could serve as the soundtrack to your life. It can produce practically any sort of emotion possible, able to serve as the soundscape for a Saturday night when you're getting wrecked, Sunday morning when you're coming down hard and Monday morning when you want to start sniping fellow motorists on your hour-long commute to work. It's just one of those rare records impossible not to like.

2. Wolf Parade: Apologies To The Queen Mary
Produced by Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse, this Canadian band had been steadily building a great deal of buzz in the Indie community before releasing its debut, "Apologies" at the end of this year. And for good reason. If you like Arcade Fire and/or Modest Mouse, you'll probably like Wolf Parade. Their songs manage to be both cerebral and catchy, as they employ two lead singers that add to the depth and richness of their sound.
In particular, check out the song "Songs and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts." It's probably the best-named song of the year (what can I say, put ghost in a song title and you maketh me pleased) and it may have the best line of the year, "But God doesn't always have the best goddamned plans, does he?" Well played, Wolf Parade. Well played. They're also coming to the El Rey on January 3rd to make their Los Angeles debut. I will certainly be there and I highly recommend that everyone else make an effort to see this show. They are rumored to be quite good live.

3. My Morning Jacket: Z
I didn't know what to expect when I purchased this CD. It had been gathering a constant stream of critical praise, but the band's name WAS My Morning Jacket. How good can any band named My Morning Jacket be? The answer: very fucking good. They sound like a bizarre hybrid between Pink Floyd and Al Green and on this album they showed an uncanny ability to make fun, intelligent and catchy rock songs in genres stretching from pop to prog-rock, to soul, to even reggae. And "Off the Record," might be the catchiest rock single that's come out since "Float On," in 2004.

4. Edan: Beauty and The Beat
This CD completely took me by suprise. Why? Because Edan is a rapper from Boston. And very little has ever come out of the city of Boston that doesn't suck or annoy. But Edan doesn't annoy me, in fact I think he's the most original rapper I've heard since I first became obsessed with Aesop Rock.
He's almost single-handledly trafficking in his own genre of music: psychedelic rap. Splicing old dusty classic rock samples with clattering drum machine roars, Edan has the rare ability to cater to both Indie Rap and Indie Rock fans (normally, if you get those two in a room prepare for a monkey knife-fight AND some of the most obnoxious conversation you could ever begin to listen to).
Edan describes his goals best on his website: EDAN CONCENTRATING ON PUT SYD BARRETT FACE ON BIZ MARKIE BODY AND KOOL G RAP BRAIN. And if you don't recognize those names, well then, that's what Google was invented for.

5. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are the best band with the worst name that I've ever heard. Taking their moniker from some graffiti in Brooklyn (their home-base), they have a poppy but intelligent sound, kind of like a neo-Talking Heads. Plus, the lead singer Alec Ounsworth sounds eerily like a young David Byrne. This album, their debut, took the Indie world by storm when the well-respected music website gave them a 9.0. Without a label or a distribution deal, it sold nearly 50,000 copies and became an underground sensation. While the hype might have been a little overwhelming, they deserve much of their acclaim.
When I saw them play the Troubadour in October, they put on a very impressive show even though their front man needs to take some lessons in the art of enunciation (if you close your eyes and don't pay any attention, it really sounds like he's just spouting gibberish, not that there's anything wrong with that). Plus, any band that opens up their set with a cover of Dylan's "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" is A-Ok in my book.

6. Franz Ferdinand: You Could Have It So Much Better
Yes, Franz Ferdinand are really really popular. They get played on MTV and 13-year old girls who also like Avenged Sevenfold can sing along to all of their lyrics. But you know what? They are a phenomenal band and people need to stop hating on these guys just for being popular. They are a testament to the possibility that maybe pop music can again be good. Their songs are intelligent, witty and above all highly danceable (kidding about the danceable part, shit what the fuck do you people take me for? Though for the record, if I ever was going to dance to a rock group it prolly would be the Franz).
Their first record was outstanding and one year later, they repeated the feat. This album has no bad songs. Not one. And it also serves as the music that you can put on when you know you're hanging out with someone with terrible taste in music. Because even the retards like Franz Ferdinand. They're like Sublime for this generation.

7. Bloc Party: Silent Alarm
If Bloc Party were half as good live as their album is, they might have made the top five of my list. This album is highly literate, catchy as all hell and bears well with repeated listens. This is another one of those albums that has few flaws other than the fact that perhaps it is a tad derivative. On top of it all, they actually seem like decent people. I managed to get backstage at the KROQ Weenie Roast (it was for work, leave me alone) and before going onstage they had a little huddle with their arms around each other. They didn't seem like asshole rock stars who needed to drink a fifth of Jack and fuck a model before going onstage (then again maybe that's why they didn't score higher on the list).

8. Art Brut: Bang Bang Rock N' Roll

Art Brut is like the illegitimate love child of The Clash and Frank Zappa, mixing an almost punk rock-like savage indictment of English society with biting and acidic sarcasm. Every single song on their debut album, Bang Bang Rock N' Roll is completely sarcastic and hysterically funny, plus the guitar riffs are savage, sharp and very catchy. Art Brut also boasts an incredibly charismatic lead singer, Eddie Argosy who, despite having a terrible singing voice manages to make every song stick in your head for hours. with an arrogant and cocky Brit accent. As my man, Nate Jones once pointed out: Brits can get away with being cocky and needlessly arrogant, Americans just look stupid. And this is why I have filed my papers to become a British citizen. Fuck, I clearly had to do something.

9. Sleater-Kinney: The Woods
This CD is almost enough to make me a feminist and it definitely lays to waste any assumptions that women can't make outstanding rock music. The lyrics are highly poetic, lead singer Carrie Brownstein almost growls with passion and anger at the absurdities inherent in our society and the music is thundering and fierce. Sleater-Kinney sound almost like Led Zeppelin if they had worn dresses. Plus, the drummers' name is Janet Weiss and if you don't think that helped their odds of inclusion, then you've obviously underestimated my vanity and the fact that there has never been a famous Weiss--ever (in fact, the only other Weiss to be famous was Harry Houdini...and he changed his name from Ehrich Weiss. A bright move by Houdini because a Weiss can never be truly they decreed in the Torah and I'm not telling you which page)

10. Common: Be
After over 10 years in the rap game, Common drops probably his finest album. It's not as adventurous as his previous work, Electric Circus, nor is it as soulful as Like Water For Chocolate, but it's certainly his most coherent and consistent musical statement. At just ten tracks and barely clocking in at 30 minutes, Common's Be is an exercise in economy and power. In my opinion, this CD puts Kanye West's to shame and employs West the way he should be used: as a producer. The beats are all quite good, the lyrics strong and Common's flow is completely unique and inimitable. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this record is that he even managed to put John Mayer on track and not make it sound totally queer and lame. Now that's achievement.

Honorable Mentions

Of Montreal: The Sunlandic Twins--If I ever felt the need to frolic in a meadow this would be my soundtrack. Let's hope it doesn't come to that and that I can listen to it in peace.

The White Stripes: Get Behind Me Satan, Their weakest effort since their debut. Of course, this is like picking the least talented member of the "That 70s show" cast. Actually, this record is nothing like that. It might not be Jack and Meg's best, but it's still outstanding and beats the hell out of nearly every record out there.

The Decemberists: Picaresque, Literary, melodic Indie pop. Sounds like the soundtrack to a fairy tale. And no people, I'm not talking about Brokeback Mountain (stop it already!)

Iron & Wine: The Woman King A five song gem, in the vein of Elliot Smith/Nick Drake. Beautiful shimmering extremely depressing music.

Dangerdo0m: The Mouse and the Mask; MF Doom raps in a metal mask. Once again, MF Doom raps while wearing a metal mask.

Aesop Rock: Fast Cars, Danger, Fire & Knives EP; See the White Stripes...

Sufjan Stevens: Illinois; This album made every critic's "best of" list and it prolly would've made mine, but I just ordered the CD from Amazon after becoming obsessed with some of his MP3's. I intially was skeptical of this guy, believing him to be in the same vein as Bright Eyes. But he isn't. He's an original and he makes some unbelievably gorgeous music.

Deerhoof: The Runners Four Slashing angular bursts of rock music. Think Sonic Youth crossed with Bjork.

Top Five Performances of the Year
1. The White Stripes @ The Greek Theatre: August 17

Jacky White ripped through a greatest hits-like set and converted everyone in the audience to their cult. To see them live is to believe. I've been three times and each one was a revelation. Forget how much it costs, just go.

2. The Arcade Fire@ Coachella, May 1
This was their first LA show since they hit it big and they lived up to their advance billing, delivering an awe-inspiring hour long set. Arcade Fire is the real deal and are completely deserving of the hype. Few bands have this kind of energy and talent. At one point, all 7 or 8 members on-stage began rotating to different instruments and no one even missed a beat.

3. Franz Ferdinand @ The Greek Theater, October 7

Franz Ferdinand almost got ME to dance. Almost. The only other way anyone could've got me to almost dance would've been by putting a gun to my head and threatening to make me work as an investment banker. Nice work, Franz Ferdinand. Nice work.

4. Interpol@ The Grand Olympic Auditorium, February 18

Interpol has the best rhythm section I've ever seen. Their bassist Carlos D plays ungodly scyth-like riffs that reverberated throughout the smoky dilapidated arena. Their drummer Sam Fogarino reminded me of a young very depressed John Bonham. And their lead singer Paul Banks has a haunting baritone that will creep into your nightmares. Even the Mexican gangsters next to me were blown away. In fact, at times I could hardly focus on the music because of their incessant chattering: "Mang..check out Interpol, ese. These mothafuckas is dope!" Nuff said.

5. The Kills@ The Hollywood Palladium, September 20

The Kills completely stole the show from headliner Bloc Party. The lead singer, Allison Mosshart who goes by the moniker "VV" (which is more than a little bit hotter than Allison Mosshart) is perhaps the sexiest rock and roll singer I've ever seen. Not only is she beyond beautiful but her voice is powerful and fantastically primal. The substantially frat boy/sorority girl crowd might've wanted to mosh to Bloc Party, but the far less popular Kills put them to shame.


At 11:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

great new indie band out of Ga

At 8:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This list hurt every part of my body.


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