Introducing the Nine

One thing I hate about top 10 lists, is that there’s always that one item on the top 10 that you can tell was simply a place-holder, a stupid and less than original point that they used because they couldn’t find anything better to say. For example,Top 10 Reasons to Wear Clean Underwear:

10. Because your mom said so (because, you know, you could be injured and may need it).

Either that or the grand master list makers just threw it in there to make someone happy. For example, Top 10 Reasons to Wear Clean Underwear:

10. Because your mom said so (because, you know, you could be injured and may need it) (don’t forget to call the Law offices of Mather and Mather if you’re injured!).

So, I’m putting my foot down on top 10 lists. No more TOP 10! It’s time to seize power from these faceless list makers and give it to those who deserve it: ME…ok, and you can have some too. Let’s share: I’ll take the top 9, you add one to make it an even 10.

Behold, the Nine.

First up: 9 Bands You May Not Know Now (but you should).

1. Rogue Wave: After years of fringe popularity, including a few song cameos on one of those over-dramatized teenage life TV dramas based somewhere in Southern California, it is now time to give Zach Rogue his due. Forget for a moment that he has had incredible odds to overcome, including tragic losses and even a doctor warning that playing music would lead to paralysis…Rogue Wave’s latest album is pure brilliance on its own merit. Chris and the gang have effectively seized the classic R.E.M. sound (that Stipe and the boys left behind in 1994) and merged it with an uncharacteristic catchiness that often escapes Indie music. With a forthcoming marquee at Lollapalooza, Rogue Wave will not suffer Indie obscurity for long. Album: Permalight. Song: Solitary Gun.

2. Mates of State: Frequenters of this blog will know my personal bias for Mates of State. And I believe, by now, they have a big enough following that you may already know them. But if you don’t, get on the proverbial train. The best girl-guy mixed band since X and The Goodwin Club. Their music has already infiltrated TV commercials (Carnival Cruise)…which is step 1 in securing Indie greatness. Bonus points for raising a family while touring and blogging about it! Their latest album is one of the best of the last 10 years. Album: Re-Arrange Us. Song: Re-Arranger

3. Slow Club. Odd name considering there’s nothing slow about this band. Probably the most uppity, can’t help but play along band I’ve ever heard. They merge an infectious immaturity with the attitude of a one-hit wonder. Album: Yeah So. Song: It Doesn’t Have to be Beautiful

4. Rodrigo and Gabriela. Yes, I’ve hyped them before, but good Spanish Flamenco with an Indie edge to it? It’s a hard combination to ignore. The astute observer will recognize their song “Tamacun” which is played every 15 minutes in the Hispanic Heart of Disney’s California Adventure (see: Tortilla Factory). Album: 11:11, Song: Hanuman.

5. The Annuals. Young and raw, not to mention un-contaminated by the glitzy world of pop and un-tantalized by the lure of grunge (but mixing the best of both those worlds), the Annuals have a sound that I can only describe as a mountain fresh air with a hint of gritty twang and raw exuberance. Love everything about them. Album: Such Fun. Song: Wake.

6. Iron and Wine. I may be 2 weeks too late in declaring this one. Iron and Wine fans will have caught the song cameo in NBC’s Parenthood a few weeks ago (see: baseball scene), which followed up a highlight in an M&Ms commercial (see: Cover, Such Great Heights). Others may just mistake Iron and Wine for Sufjan Stevens. But that would be a mistake. Stevens is melancholy to Iron and Wine’s infinite rhythm.

7.Great Northern. It only took one song to sell me on this band (see recommended song at end of paragraph). The power of Paramore without the teenage angst (or punk princess tantrums for that matter).  Album: Remind me where the light is. Song: Story

8. Matt Pond PA. Mix the mystery of Iron and Wine with the groove of Matthew Sweet, and you have Austin’s favorite son: Matt Pond. Only a matter of time before he’s featured in some sappy prime time hospital drama. Album: The Dark Leaves. Song: Stranger.

9. April Smith and the Great Picture Show: Sultry voice, rythmic entrancement, incredible beef to pick with any guy who has ever crossed her. Throw in the fun of the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Perfect indie equation. Album: Songs for a Sinking Ship. Song: Terrible Things.

10. [Input Band Name Here]: Now, it’s your turn. Fill in the blank.

U2’s Forgettable Fire or How to become a pop heretic in just one easy blog post

I don’t like U2. Truth be told, I never really have. Maybe it’s because I spent far too much time living in Utah, where I’ve discovered that it must be an FCC regulation that a U2 song must be playing at all times, on at least one station. Maybe it’s because Zooropa really left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m not sure. I just know I really don’t think U2 is that good.

One thing I do know, though, is that U2 has been riding Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby for over 20 years, and every time you hear a U2 song on the radio made after those albums, it’s only because:
It’s U2–and they’re supposed to be best band in the world. They wrote a hand full of hit songs in the 80s and 90s
Call them the best branded rock band since the Beatles. But I digress…

I finally have proof that U2 has been riding its own shirt tails. Forget Discoteque. Forget that Batman Soundtrack Song. Their latest “hit single” is bad. As in “those annoying Yoplait Yogurt girls sitting around talking about how good the yogurt is” BAD.

I’m sure you’ve heard “Magnificent” off their latest album. Radio stations, if you still believe in them, have probably been force-feeding it to you. I haven’t listened to any of the rest of their latest album, and thankfully, I don’t have to. If the hit single is this bad, there’s no sense in listening to the rest. Magnificent is like U2 Unforgettable Fire-Lite. Take all the usual U2 style (the Bono wail, the echoing guitars), and then make it boring. No, make it elevator music. And you’ve got Magnificent. There’s nothing good about this music–it’s rehashed and photocopied, but using a copier that’s on its last leg and running out of ink.

Now, I know this is harsh…and I know that there will be plenty who will call me a heretic (what, insult the gods of the pop pantheon?!). At least by Itunes, it’s off the chart in popularity…

But then again, maybe I’m being too harsh on Bono and the guys. I mean, they HAVE been around a while, and most bands ride their own shirt tails after a good music run. REM lost it when they released Monster, and then somewhere a long the line, we had to endure a nauseating trip to Reno to become a Star. Coldplay just did it with that Ipod song album (yes, I know the title, but I prefer to refer to it in the same way we all refer to that Harry Potter nemesis). Either way, I think it’s time to admit it – U2 is done, or at least, should have been, a long time ago.

Crowded House: They’ve still GOT it

For the better part of three decades, the Finn brothers have been some of the best song writers in the world–and yet, they’re some of the most unsung as well.  The 80s’ “Don’t Dream It’s Over” is still one of the best songs to come out of that time period, and I’ve had their “Together Alone” album (featuring the Reality Bites’ song “Locked Out”) on and off my playlist for the last 15 years.

I haven’t followed their career too much, but one would say that their 2006 Fairwell to the World album would be a nice “Adios” to the music business, but it wasn’t so. I’ve recently gotten a hold of their most recent release (2007) entitled “Time on Earth”.

While you’ll be hearing none of the songs on the radio, it’s a masterful album. Deep, lyrical, and moving. The melodies are haunting, and are hard to stop listening to. “Nobody Wants To” and “She Called Up” are vintage Crowded House (after all these years, it’s nice to see a band not abandon their sound…*COUGH* R.E.M)…and Pour le Monde is a moving piece that might just be one of the best songs they’ve written.  “Say That Again” is an eclectic ditty that is quite catchy, makes the CD worth buying.

All in all, good stuff from the Finn Brothers…AGAIN.