Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top Soundtracks of 2009

Any year that features films from music-oriented directors Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino is going to be a good year for soundtracks. Many of the films' soundtracks this year were highly anticipated, with indie rock star power attached early on to films like The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Thom Yorke, Grizzly Bear, Bon Iver) and Where the Wild Things Are (Karen O. of Yeah Yeah Yeahs), but not all delivered on that promise when the visuals were married in the final product.

The commonality of most the soundtracks on this list is nostalgia, whether it be for old cinema classics or for our own childhood. It's a tricky business, tickling that ache for the past, but for the films below, business is mostly good. (As an added bonus, several of the entries below have 'reassembled' playlists incorporating all the songs used in the film -- enjoy!)

10. The Twilight Saga: New Moon
New Moon makes this list almost purely because of the inclusion of new material from the likes of Grizzly Bear ("Slow Life"), Thom Yorke ("Hearing Damage") and pairing Bon Iver with St. Vincent ("Roslyn"). Whether it's the best music for Taylor Lautner to remove his shirt to is probably up for debate.
"Hello biceps. You know, anabolic steroids are really bad for you."

9. Whip It
The final tally on the soundtrack for Drew Barrymore's debut ran up to over 50 songs, making room for such diverse artists as Sugar Hill Gang, .38 Special, Radiohead and, serving as the soundtrack's heart, Sweden's pop maestro Jens Lekman. Extra points for cleverly referencing other films through the borrowing of Jon Brion score (themes to I Heart Huckabees and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Nearly makes up for trying to squeeze too much music into the proceedings.

"Yeah, let's celebrate mediocrity! That's fantastic."

8. Sin Nombre
Every year, there's one album I include that's purely for the score, and this year Marcelo Zarvos's brilliant work on Sin Nombre should (but likely won't) win him a nomination. A harrowing look at the plight of Central American immigrants who put their lives in the hands of a coyote trying to make it to the United States.
"Get off the train, Smiley!"

7. (500) Days of Summer
In looking at 2009's prospects, I had assumed this would make my list when I saw who was involved, and I'm only slightly disappointed by the final product. Before this film, Marc Webb was known as a music video director (Regina Spector, Fergie, Miley Cyrus) and it's possible that experience helped dilute the final product. Hard, though, to resist the charms of how Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams" is used.
"Either she's an evil, emotionless, miserable human being, or... she's a robot."

6. Observe & Report
Easily one of my favorite soundtracks of 2009, but conversely, also one of my least favorite movies on this list. Too bad all the magic dust used to bring back forgotten gems from The Action and Patto couldn't have been sprinkled on the screenplay. McLusky, Dwarves, Bob Dylan and even Flash Gordon-era Queen rule the day.
"The world has no use for another scared man. Right now, the world needs a f*cking hero."

5. The Limits of Control
I was blown away by this Jim Jarmusch thriller, and the feedback-laden soundtrack was a big part of it. Boris, Sunn 0))), Earth and The Black Angels all contributed to the psychological noir, even leaving room for some fun with LCD Soundsystem and some flamenco tracks as well.

"Sometimes for me, the reflection is far more present than the thing being reflected."

4. Inglourious Basterds
Tarantino originally had Ennio Morricone tentatively signed on to do the score, but the legendary composer's prior commitments prevented him from contributing. Instead, we get eight classic Morricone songs, which worked out OK for Tarantino, seeing how he loves referencing other films anyway. The result is stunning, even if a part of me wishes the planets would've aligned for a real Tarantino/Morricone joint.

"You know somethin', Utivich? I think this might just be my masterpiece."

3. Fantastic Mr. Fox
Wes Anderson films have always had an 'out-of-time' quality to them, and while the time and place appears to be an English countryside around 1970 (the year Roald Dahl published the children's book the film is based upon), the real setting is nostalgia. Robin Hood parallels are abound, and the soundtrack contributes to it leading off with "The Ballad of Davy Crocket" (used in the early TV series,) and even sneaking in a ballad from the 1972 film from Disney (Nancy Adams' "Love"). Fun 1950s-era Burl Ives folk songs are sprinkled throughout and more 'modern' classics from The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones (who have a song in every Anderson film). Don't forget to leave room for Jarvis Cocker, who voices Petey and sings a Davy Crockett-like ballad ("Fantastic Mr Fox AKA Petey's Song").
"I don't know what you're talking about, but it sounds illegal."

2. Adventureland
It could be I just have a soft spot for movies that look back fondly at the year 1987, but the music used and general feeling in this coming of age movie transcends simple nostalgia. Sandwiched between songs from The Replacements is The Velvet Underground ("Pale Blue Eyes" serves as a sort of theme for Kristen Stewart's Emily) and everything from Animotion to Judas Priest. And, of course, several playings of Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus," dampened only by the sweet, sweet dancing of Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva).

"Oh, but I'm an atheist, maybe more of a pragmatic nihilist I guess or an existential pagan if you will... "

1. Where the Wild Things Are
Karen O. continues the great tradition of artist curated soundtracks, taking a break from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to create a more Arcade Fire-ish score for this fantastical adaptation. Karen easily taps into the primal nature of a troubled boy, and with help from an indie rock orchestra featuring Deerhunter, Liars and The Dead Weather, has made an album that could even outlast the film. It doesn't hurt that Karen O.'s voice nearly matches Max's voice, from whisper to growl to scream.
"It's going to be a place where only the things you want to happen, would happen."

Also worth mentioning:
Away We Go, Crazy Heart, Funny People, I Love You Man, Watchmen and The Hangover.

Previously: Top Movie Soundtracks of 2007, Top Movie Soundtracks of 2008

Dinner with the Band: Vegan YACHT

Haven't commented on the past couple DWTB eps, due to a combination of 'not enough time' and 'not as interested in the band' and was all set to skip this one, but YACHT elevated it a bit with their performances (specifically, with "Pyschic City/Voodoo City"). I wasn't interested in the vegan menu, as I can see little chance of me evey cooking it and the chemistry between Sam & the band was just ok. So it was all music, for the most part...

Playlist: Dinner with the Band
1. "Togen's Hule" - Casiokids [mp3]
2. "Bejan" - Tanlines [mp3]
3. "Ring the Bell" - YACHT [mp3]
4. "The Explorers" - CFCF [mp3]
5. "Gront Lys I Alle Ledd" - Casiokids [mp3]
6. "Follow Me" - Codebreaker [mp3]
7. "High Hopes" - Justin Faust
8. "Psychic City" - YACHT [mp3]

Previously: DWTB - Les Savy Fav

Monday, December 28, 2009

Ear on TV: Week of 12.28.09: NYE with Rihanna & Jay-Z

New Year's Eve has always been steeped in tradition -- whether you're singing "Auld Lang Syne" or eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight, there's a familiarity to the proceedings. But sometimes you need to break from tradition, and for the past few years, it's become apparent that Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve has worn out its welcome. Some have pointed to Clark's unfortunate stroke back in 2004 and his resulting slurred speech as one reason for the event's failing, but I'd argue that it's really that the Rockin' New Year's Eve has gotten decidedly less 'Rockin' since Ryan Seacrest signed on as co-host and executive producer. This year's headliners are Jennifer Lopez and Black Eyed Peas -- where exactly is the rock?

Instead, it's been Carson Daly who's reigned over the real 'Rockin' New Year's since he started back in 2003, hosting NBC's New Year's Eve with Carson Daly. This year, Daly welcomes Green Day, who play Times Square live, and a taped performance\ from Rihanna, who was joined on stage last week during snow fall by Jay-Z for the smash hits "Umbrella" and "Run This Town."

Meanwhile, most programming is taking off the week, but IFC's Dinner With the Band has a new episode, this time featuring electropop purveyors YACHT in the kitchen with chef Sam Mason. The band are strict vegans, so the menu will be meatless. The performance in the living room, however, will be very meaty, thank you very much.

Playlist: Picks for the week
Monday, December 28
CBS: Late Show With David Letterman: Tori Amos (REPEAT)
CBS: Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson: Rodrigo y Gabriela (REPEAT)
FUEL: The Daily Habit: 3 Inches of Blood
NBC: Late Night With Jimmy Fallon: Bon Jovi (REPEAT)
NBC: Last Call With Carson Daly: OK Go (REPEAT)
Tuesday, December 29
CBS: Kennedy Center Honors: Bruce Springsteen (honoree), Eddie Vedder, Ben Harper, John Mellencamp, Herbie Hancock, Dave Brubeck (honoree), Aretha Franklin
TBS: Lopez Tonight: Carlos Santana (REPEAT)
FUEL: The Daily Habit: The Bravery
IFC: Dinner With the Band: YACHT
NBC: The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien: Grizzly Bear (REPEAT)
NBC: Last Call With Carson Daly: Black Lips (REPEAT)
SYNDICATION: Live With Regis and Kelly: Twisted Sister
Wednesday, December 30
TBS: Lopez Tonight: Mary J. Blige (REPEAT)
NBC: Late Night With Jimmy Fallon: Mos Def & Talib Kweli (REPEAT)
Thursday, December 31
CBS: Late Show With David Letterman: Ray Davies (REPEAT)
CURRENT: Embedded Marathon: Thievery Corporation, Amanda Palmer, Delta Spirit, Common, Lykke Li, Bloc Party, Mos Def, Silversun Pickups, The Decemberists, Raphael Saadiq, Sebastian Tellier, Emiliana Torrini, Les Savy Fav, Elvis Perkins, Jason Isbell, F****d Up, White Rabbits, Amazing Baby, Black Lips, Nipsey Hussle, Telepathe, Zee Avi, Moby, Josh Ritter
FUEL: The Daily Habit: Youth Brigade
NBC: New Year's Eve with Carson Daly: Green Day, Rihanna, Jay-Z
NBC: Last Call With Carson Daly: Matisyahu (REPEAT)
Friday, January 1
NBC: Last Call With Carson Daly: Peaches (REPEAT)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Top 50 Albums of 2009

Coming on the heels of a terrible year for music, 2009 started out with a deluge of promising releases, and for the most part, was crowded in the 'absolutely great' echelon. As I look back at it now, though, the year wasn't as deep in great releases other years. Normally, I've over one hundred albums that I'm trying to squeeze down to fifty, but this year it wasn't too hard to get it down to fifty... only having to whittle off 10 or so. So without further ado... here they be.

Playlist: Top 50 Albums of 2009

Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca1. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

By far the most accessible release from Dave Longstreth and co., Bitte Orca is still complicated enough to no doubt fluster more than a few ears. There wasn't a better three song sequence in recent memory, with the 1-2-3 punch of "Stillness Is The Move," "Two Doves" and "Useful Chamber." They admirably pulled off the songs live on tour (and on TV appearances), even with the degree of difficulty.

Review, June 9, 2009

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion2. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Stream / Purchase [mp3

2009 began with a bang thanks to this release in January, easily topping all of the releases in the 12 months prior. Because it leaked a month early, last year's "top 50" list felt insignificant in comparison, and MPP wound up topping most folks list this year.

Review, January 20, 2009

Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest3. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

Hard to believe that once upon a time, Grizzly Bear was thought of as lo-fi. Veckatimest is teeming with precision and bursting with moments of harmonizing glory, as if alternating between lakeside surgery and wondrous visitations from the Lord (the album was finished in a church). Perfect follow up to 2006's Yellow House.

*Unless you settled for that unfinished leak that made the rounds, in which case I say to you "Dump that noise and pony up for the real thang, Son!"

Review, May 26, 2009

The Flaming Lips - Embryonic4. The Flaming Lips - Embryonic
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

The Lips return to the weird, after spending a few years dropping their quirks on the long-incubating Christmas on Mars project. Freed up experimentally, Embryonic doesn't concern itself with being loved by all, instead is bathed in paranoia and dread. If you're looking for bunny suits and confetti explosions, keep moving.

Review, October 13, 2009

Future of the Left - Travels With Myself and Another5. Future of the Left - Travels With Myself and Another
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

Review, June 23, 2009

Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix6. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

Review, May 26, 2009

Japandroids - Post-Nothing7. Japandroids - Post-Nothing
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

Review, August 4, 2009

Polvo - In Prism8. Polvo - In Prism
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

Review September 8, 2009
Download: "Beggar's Bowl" [mp3]

The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You9. The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

Review September 29, 2009

Girls - Album10. Girls - Album
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

11. St Vincent - Actor
12. Atlas Sound - Logos (review 10/20/09)
13. The Very Best - Warm Heart of Africa
14. Micachu and the Shapes - Jewellery (review 04/07/09)
15. Volcano Choir - Unmap (review 09/29/09)
16. Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer (review 06/23/09)
17. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
18. Neon Indian - Pyschic Chasms
19. Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport
20. Islands - Vapours (review 09/22/09)
21. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone (review 03/03/09)
22. The Xx - The Xx (tv preview 11/09/09)
23. Fever Ray - Fever Ray (review 03/24/09)
24. Raekwon - Only Built for Cuban Linx... Pt. II
25. Real Estate - Real Estate (review 12/01/09)
26. Mission of Burma - The Sound, The Speed, The Light (review 10/06/09)
27. Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle
28. Dinosaur Jr. - Farm (review 06/23/09)
29. The Antlers - Hospice
30. DOOM - Born Like This
31. Fruit Bats - The Ruminant Band (review 08/04/09)
32. Pissed Jeans - King of Jeans (review 08/18/09)
33. Os Mutantes - Haih or Amortecedor (review 09/08/09)
34. Royksopp - Junior (review 01/29/08)
35. Foreign Born - Person to Person (review 06/23/09)
36. Art Brut - Art Brut Vs. Satan (review 04/21/09)
37. Wavves - Wavvves (review 03/17/09)
38. They Might Be Giants - Here Comes Science (review 01/15/08)
39. Black Lips - 200 Million Thousand (review 02/24/09)
40. Bat For Lashes - Two Suns
41. White Rabbits - It's Frightening (review 05/19/09)
42. Sonic Youth - The Eternal (review 06/09/09)
43. Antony and the Johnsons - The Crying Light
44. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz
45. Cass McCombs - Catacombs
46. Major Lazer - Guns Don't Kill People-- Lazers Do
47. Maxwell - BLACKsummer'snight
48. The Minus 5 - Killingsworth (03/19/08)
49. Dark Was the Night
50. Jarvis Cocker - Further Complications (review 05/19/09)

Previously: Best Albums from 2008, Best Albums from 2007

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ear on TV: Week of 12.21.09: The Muppets

For anyone that were weened on The Muppets variety series, the repeated appearances Jim Henson's legacy this past month has been a welcome surprise. In the past month, the lovable puppets have not only popped up on the tube, but also launched their own YouTube channel, generating several viral sensations in it's infancy. Their fine rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" alone has captured ten million views already, and the more recent (and festive) "Ringing of the Bells" is well on its way to everyone's inbox. In these clips, there's a bit of the magic that's been missing since Henson died back in 1990.

On Wednesday night, a few of Kermit's friends will make a very special appearance on The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon, which we can assume will be holiday oriented (ala "The Ringing of the Bells," embedded below). But there's also a recent history with the talk show, after Statler and Waldorf (the old hecklers from the opera boxes) interrupted Fallon and guest Jason Segel back in May. As long as Animal and Beaker are involved, their appearance will be must-see for the evening.

On the surface, the Sundance documentary Rufus Wainwright: Prima Donna (Monday,) is supposed to be about a pop star attempting to compose his first opera, but ends up being just as much a coming of age (and out of the closet) story. Between shots of Wainwright laboring over the project are home movies from his childhood and talking head interviews with famous dad Loudon Wainwright III along with soprano Renee Fleming and Rufus' boyfriend, Jorn Weisbrodt.

Playlist: Picks for the week
Monday, December 21
FUEL: Check 1, 2: The Dodos
NBC: The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien: Silversun Pickups
NBC: Late Night With Jimmy Fallon: Julian Casablancas
NBC: Last Call With Carson Daly: Brett Dennen
SUNDANCE: Rufus Wainwright: Prima Donna: Rufus Wainwright
Tuesday, December 22
ABC: Jimmy Kimmel Live: Weezer (REPEAT)
IFC: Dinner With the Band: Kid Sister, Flosstradamus
NBC: The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien: Kid Cudi
Wednesday, December 23
ABC: Jimmy Kimmel Live: Passion Pit (REPEAT)
NBC: The Jay Leno Show: Dan Finnerty and the Dan Band
NBC: Late Night With Jimmy Fallon: The Muppets
SUNDANCE: Spectacle: Elvis Costello With...: Elvis Costello, Richard Thompson, Nick Lowe, Allen Toussaint, Levon Helm
Thursday, December 24
ABC: Jimmy Kimmel Live: Wolfmother (REPEAT)
FUEL: The Daily Habit: The Entrance Band
Friday, December 25
ABC: Jimmy Kimmel Live: Band of Skulls (REPEAT)
FUEL: The Daily Habit: Municipal Waste
NBC: Last Call With Carson Daly: Doves
SUNDANCE: Monterey Pop: Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Janis Joplin, Simon & Garfunkel, Otis Redding

Friday, December 18, 2009

Now Downloading: New Releases 12.15.09

Here it is, nearly the end of the year and Animal Collective has released a superb EP, reminding us that they started 2009 off right as well. Other than that, there's the blues/hip-hop collaboration Blakroc. Beyond that... it's a holiday dumping ground, for the most part.

Playlist: New Releases 12.08.09 to 12.15.09

Animal Collectice - Fall Be Kind
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

Animal Collective - Fall Be KindLeave it to Animal Collective to start and end the year with two of the best releases of 2009. Fall Be Kind almost seems like a reminder to all that Merriweather Post Pavilion released back in January was pretty damn good, and here's a brilliant EP released during the "garbage time" of the holiday season. "Gaze" is fine enough, but "What Would I Want? Sky" starts off like an AC jam but turns on a dime to become what sounds like a long lost hit for the Beta Band. There's no throwaways here, making it, perhaps, even harder for them to follow up MPP, given the bar they've set. (I wouldn't bet against them.)

More on the radar (and in the mp3 player) this week:
Blakroc - Blakroc
Timbaland - Shock Value II
Snoop Dogg - Malice 'N Wonderland
Shiny Toy Guns - Girls Le Disko
Alicia Keys - The Element of Freedom
Robin Thicke - Sex Therapy
Glee Cast - Glee: The Music, Volume 2
Cloud Cult - They Live on the Sun / Aurora Borealis
Spiritualized - Ladies & Gentlemen, We are Floating in Space (Bonus Tracks)
Paul Weller - Paul Weller

tags: , , , , ,

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Spectacle - Case, Sexsmith, Crow & Winchester: Guitar Pull-Ups

So if it seemed like Sheryl Crow was an odd piece in this guitar pull puzzle, I guess we have 30 Rock to blame for that, as both appeared on an episode ("Kidney Now") last season. (But so did Steve Earle -- why no Earle?). The way Crow sings "Leaving Las Vegas" makes me want to strangle something.

While it'd be interesting to see what kind of stories Costello could coax out of Jesse Winchester, I can understand the need to time with each artist. Ron Sexsmith and Sheryl Crow had little to say, Winchester didn't seem to get his bearings until late, and Neko Case seemed a bit nervous. (Any amount of time with Neko I consider a gift.)

Playlist: Spectacle - Episode 2.02 (Neko Case, Ron Sexsmith, Sheryl Crow, Jesse Winchester)
1. "Payday" - Jesse Winchester (performed by all)
2. "Secret Heart" - Ron Sexsmith
3. "If It Makes You Happy" - Sheryl Crow
4. "Don't Forget Me" - Neko Case (Harry Nillson cover)
5. "Sham-a-Ling-Dong-Ding" - Jesse Winchester
6. "Everyday I Write the Book" - Elvis Costello (sung by Ron Sexsmith, Costello)
7. "Leaving Las Vegas" - Sheryl Crow
8. "The Brand New Tennessee Waltz" - Jesse Winchester
9. "Ring Them Bells" - Bob Dylan (Sexsmith, Crow, Costello)

Click here for your chance to win a copy of Season One on DVD

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Favorite Photos of 2009

This was my first full year with an SLR at my disposal, so when you combine that with a couple passes into 'the pit' and it was a decent year for this amateur. Oddly enough, most of the shots below were taken when I was denied access and had to 'earn it.' Got a few bruises to show for it, but it was worth it.

I'm still learning, so 2010 should be an even better year. (Cue vanity parade:)

"Air Whelan" - The Wrens @ Sasquatch, Day 2 on May 24, 2009.
Fitting that the band that has my album of the decade leads off my photos of the year post. From one of my favorite sets of the year, the Wrens' Kevin Whelan jumps off of his bass cabinet to the lower riser. No wires... all air (kind how i felt trying to capture him, moving from sun to shade and back to sun so quickly). (More photos as recap from event)

"Storm Troopin'" - Audience at Animal Collective, Day 1 on May 23, 2009.
Trapped in a sea of head-bobbing fans... desperately trying to find something to photograph. (More photos and recap from event)

"Show Off" - Cole Alexander of Black Lips @ Capitol Hill Block Party, July 24, 2009.
The Lips put on quite a show, as evidenced by Alexander's acrobatic antics. (More photos and recap from event)

"No Encore" - Andy Falkous of Future of the Left @ Capitol Hill Block Party, Day 2 on July 25, 2009.
Darkest set I've ever attempted to photograph. Was just too damn hot in Neumo's for stage lights.(More photos and recap from event)

"Lean Back" - Brian King & David Prowse of Japandroids @ Capitol Hill Block Party, Day 2 on July 25, 2009.
Taken before I started getting crushed against the barricade. (video) (More photos and recap from event)

"Z, my Hat, Friday Mile" - Friday Mile @ Doe Bay Fest, Day 2 on August 15, 2009.
You knew I'd figure out a way to get one of my kids on this list.
(More photos and recap from event)

"Having a Ball" - Matt of Matt & Kim @ Bumbershoot, Day 1 on September 5, 2009.
Their set was like unicorns and cotton candy coming out of their amps... the kids lapped it up. (More photos and recap from event)

"Grapes of Wrath" - RA Scion of Common Market, Day 2, September 6, 2009.
Workers unite! Common Market performs a theme of worker oppression, and what do you know -- it works. (More photos and recap from event)

"Keep it Dark" - Mark Lanegan with Soulsavers @ Bumbershoot Day 3 on September 7, 2009.
Lanegan ask them to cut the lights on him, making it difficult to capture him. Got this one right before the last bit of light on him was shut down. Dude likes it dark. (More photos and recap from event)

Sasquatch coverage
Capitol Hill Block Party
Doe Bay Festival coverage
Bumbershoot coverage

Stick a P'Fork in 2009: Top 100 Singles

One of my favorite items of the year is PFork's singles list, because it's so loooooong -- and I like 'em long, yo (scroll down for playlist).

Topping the list is Animal Collective's "My Girls," a song that nearly could've made last year's list -- having leaked over a year ago. Other songs we knew were locks for the top 10 (and albums likely as well) are Dirty Projector's "Stillness is the Move" (#2), two from Phoenix ("1901" at #3, "Lisztomania" at #8), Grizzly Bear's "Two Weeks" (#5) and Girls' "Lust for Life" (#9). It was a good year for music -- probably the best since 2003 -- and it shows.

Playlist: Pitchfork's Top 100 Singles of 2009

Craig Ferguson's 1000th Episode Puppet Spectacular

As previewed on Monday, Craig Ferguson celebrated his 1000th Late Late Show episode last night, and it was chock full of puppety goodness. Wavy the Crocodile hosted and participated in the hottest cold open the talk show has done (scroll down). But the highlight, as we predicted, was Jason Segel with Dracula puppet singing "Dracula's Lament," complete with The Broken West backing him.

The band helped turn what was an intimate charmer in the movie into an E Street Band crowd-pleaser. By the end, we're all bellowing along with Segel's Dracula:

The "hot" cold open, with Wavy the puppet miming "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk":

Closing, with all the puppets (and MST 3000's Joel Hodgson) swaying to James Taylor's "You've Got a Friend" (credits are worth watching too):

Previously: Music on TV This Week - Jason Segel & Dracula

Monday, December 14, 2009

Win Spectacle Season One on DVD (and more)

In celebration of the 2nd season of Spectacle: Elvis Costello with..., we're giving away a copy of Season One on DVD.

To enter for your chance to win, just tell us what music artist you'd most love to see sit down with Elvis Costello (alive or dead) in the comments section below. Enter by Friday, December 18 at noon (PST) and we'll choose an entry at random.

Besides the DVD, there's also a plethora of Sundance branded items we're throwing in as well (see picture below). All together, it makes a nice gift package for the music/art snob in your life. Just come back at the end of the week to find out who won.

Read our Season One DVD review.
Preview of Season 2 premiere (w/ Bono & the Edge).
Recap of Bono & the Edge episode.

Ear on TV: Week of 12.14.09: Jason Segel & Dracula

This Tuesday marks the 1000th episode for Craig Ferguson as host of The Late Late Show, and to celebrate the occasion the musical guest is actor Jason Segel singing "Dracula's Lament" from last year's comedy hit Forgetting Sarah Marshall (scroll down for a refresher video).

To make things even more interesting Segel will be operating Dracula the puppet and will be backed the L.A. indie rock band The Broken West. Throw in an appearance by fellow Sarah Marshall star (and frequent Late Late Show guest) Kristen Bell along with Wavy the crocodile puppet acting as host and you've got the makings of appointment television. (The kids are still into vampires, right?)

Segel, for his part, has been busy musically speaking. Besides his occasional foray into musical performance on How I Met Your Mother, Segel has been working on new Muppets movie and is rumored to be writing some music for the Get Him to the Greek, the sequel to Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Then there's his appearance last month, humorously using a Swell Season concert as a dating service. It appeared to at least work on Lindsay Lohan, so there's that.

While Ferguson is celebrating his 1000th episode, the experimental daytime talk (and tweet) show It's On with Alexa Chung is getting the plug pulled by MTV after only one full season. What started out as a one hour pop culture variety show hosted by British model Alexa Chung was retooled as a 30-minute show when it came back for it's second season back in October. Its last week kicks off with the soulful Robin Thicke (Monday), but unfortunately ends with (an) All Time Low. Probably not the best way to go out, but I predict we haven't seen the last of the dynamic (and, dare I say, twig-legged) Alexa Chung.

Elsewhere, Spectacle brings back the Johnny Cash-style guitar pull again, this time with singer/songwriters Neko Case, Ron Sexsmith, Jesse Winchester and Sheryl Crow. (Which of these is not like the other?) If you saw the season two premiere with U2's Bono and The Edge, you'll be struck this time by how little time Costello has to spend with each artist in comparison. Poor Neko Case looks lost half the time, with nothing much to do for most the hour -- except threaten to use her brightly colored tambourine.

Finally, you may notice that Snoop Dogg is everywhere this week in support of his new album Malice 'N Wonderland. He starts the week on The Colbert Report (Monday), chats with the ladies of The View (Tuesday) and ends the week in the wee hours with Carson Daly. All the while, he's in your car, helping you get to your destination as the voice of your GPS navigation system. I told you... Snoop Dogg is EVERYWHERE:

Playlist: Picks for the week
Monday, December 14
ABC: Jimmy Kimmel Live: Wolfmother (REPEAT)
CBS: Late Show With David Letterman: Alicia Keys
COMEDY CENTRAL: The Colbert Report: Snoop Dogg
FOX: Lopez Tonight: 50 Cent
MTV: It's On With Alexa Chung: Robin Thicke
NBC: Late Night With Jimmy Fallon: Chevelle
Tuesday, December 15
ABC: The View: Snoop Dogg
CBS: Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson: Jason Segel & his puppet Dracula, the Broken West
NBC: The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien: Norah Jones
IFC: Dinner With the Band: MEN
Wednesday, December 16
ABC: Jimmy Kimmel Live: Norah Jones
FUEL: The Daily Habit: Health
NBC: Late Night With Jimmy Fallon: Raekwon
NBC: Last Call With Carson Daly: Gossip
SUNDANCE: Spectacle: Elvis Costello With...: Elvis Costello, Neko Case, Jesse Winchester, Ron Sexsmith, Sheryl Crow
Thursday, December 17
CBS: Late Show With David Letterman: Matisyahu
FUEL: The Daily Habit: The Big Pink
MTV: It's On With Alexa Chung: All Time Low (FINAL SHOW EVER)
NBC: The Jay Leno Show: Mary J. Blige
NBC: Late Night With Jimmy Fallon: Boyz II Men reunion
NBC: Last Call With Carson Daly: Kenna, Franz Ferdinand
Friday, December 18
ABC: Jimmy Kimmel Live: Mary J. Blige
FUEL: The Daily Habit: Baroness
NBC: The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien: Foreigner
NBC: Late Night With Jimmy Fallon: Ronnie Spector
NBC: Last Call With Carson Daly: Snoop Dogg
SUNDANCE: Sigur Ros: Heima: Sigur Ros
Saturday, December 19
NBC: Saturday Night Live: Muse
Sunday, December 20
TNT: Christmas in Washington: Mary J. Blige, Neil Diamond, Sugarland

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Top 50+ Albums of the Decade

Playlist: Top 50 albums of the 2000s

The Wrens - The Meadowlands1. The Wrens - The Meadowlands
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

My top album of the decade is likely not even in many others' top ten, but I have to stand by The Meadowlands as my pick. The Wrens are notoriously uncompromising, which lead to their showdown with Alan Meltzer after Secaucus (1996), but the seven year wait was well worth it. Up to that point, The Wrens' noise rock was merely exhilarating, but then songwriters Charles Bissell and Kevin Whelen added heartbreaking to the mix and the result is devastating. The overarching theme throughout is failure, but the album is anything but.

Considering this is their only album they released this decade (their motto is 'Keeping folks waiting...since 1989'), perhaps their long awaiting follow up will top the next decade. They have to finish the album first, of course.

Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot2. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

Wilco's last album with the late Jay Bennett was a war. Much of the conflict both in the recording and with the record label was captured in the great documentary I'm Trying to Break Your Heart. By the time the album finally got a proper release, 9/11 happened, adding serious levity to a song like "Ashes of American Flags" and more. And the release still holds up to this day, while should be noted that no other Wilco (Bennett-less) follow up makes this list.

Spoon - Kill the Moonlight3. Spoon - Kill the Moonlight
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

With Kill the Moonlight, Britt Daniel and drummer/producer Jim Eno peeled away the layers and boiled the Spoon sound down for a minimalist feel. It's an approach that served them well on this release.

Radiohead - Kid A4. Radiohead - Kid A
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

If OK Computer changed the game for Radiohead, then Kid A made the word 'game' no longer relevant to the conversation. Like Spoon, Thom Yorke & co. rebuilt their sound from the ground up, leaving a more minimalist approach. But where Spoon retained the essential elements of 'indie rock,' Radiohead reached over to electronic music and Krautrock for inspiration.

5. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
6. Arcade Fire - Funeral
7. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
8. Sigur Rós - Ágætis Byrjun
9. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
10. Modest Mouse - The Moon & Antarctica
11. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
12. The National - Boxer
13. TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain
14. The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday
15. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
16. Radiohead In Rainbows
17. Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand
18. Spoon - Girls Can Tell
19. Ryan Adams - Heartbreaker
20. Outkast - Stankonia
21. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
22. The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America
23. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
24. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
25. Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary
26. Animal Collective - Sung Tongs
27. The Flaming Lips - Embryonic
28. Daft Punk - Discovery
29. The White Stripes - White Blood Cells
30. The Strokes - Is This It
31. M.I.A. Arular
32. Scott Walker - The Drift
33. Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
34. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
35. Jay-Z - The Blueprint
36. Broken Social Scene - You Forgot It in People
37. Future of the Left - Travels With Myself and Another
38. Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies
39. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
40. Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy
41. The Knife - Silent Shout
42. Panda Bear - Person Pitch
43. The National - Alligator
44. Madvillian - Madvilliany
45. Animal Collective - Feels
46. TV on the Radio - Dear Science
47. Liars - Drum's Not Dead
48. The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow
49. Fiery Furnaces - Blueberry Boat
50. Elliott Smith - Figure 8

More in no particular order...
Portishead - Third
Mclusky - Mclusky Do Dallas
Deerhunter - Microcastle
The White Stripes - Elephant
Burial - Untrue
Fugazi - The Argument
Kanye West - Late Registration
Iron & Wine - The Creek Drank the Cradle
Sufjan Stevens - Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lakes State
Grizzly Bear - Yellow House
Neko Case - Blacklisted
Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights
Queens of the Stone Age - Songs for the Deaf
Joanna Newsom - The Milk-Eyed Mender
Art Brut - Bang Bang Rock & Roll
Sleater-Kinney - The Woods
Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
No Age - Nouns
Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds
The Shins - Oh, Inverted World
Antony & the Johnsons - I Am a Bird Now
Band of Horses - Everything All the Time
Joanna Newsom - Ys
The Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree
Califone - Roots and Crowns
Yo La Tengo - And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out
Battles - Mirrored
Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
LCD Soundsystem - LCD Soundsystem
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Hearts of Oak
Sleater-Kinney - One Beat
The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema
My Morning Jacket - Z
Andrew Bird - Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs
Hot Chip - The Warning
The Microphones - The Glow, Pt. 2
Phoenix - It's Never Been Like That
M.I.A. - Kala
Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury
Radiohead - Amnesiac
Beck - Sea Change
The Postal Service - Give Up
The Walkmen - Bows and Arrows
Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala
Devendra Banhart - Rejoicing in the Hands
My Morning Jacket - It Still Moves
Hercules and Love Affair - Hercules and Love Affair
Low - Things We Lost in the Fire
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever to Tell
The Streets - Original Pirate Material
Belle and Sebastian - The Life Pursuit
Kanye West - Graduation
The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots