I was a big fan of 2003's D-D-Don't Don't Stop the Beat, the poptastic debut album from Danish gay/straight duo Junior Senior, and I'm talking about more than the "Move Your Feet" single. Though it has yet to see a U.S. release, the group's sophomore Hey Hey My My Yo Yo LP expands the Junior Senior sound, adding a number of female vocalists to the mix including Kate Pierson & Cindy Wilson of the B-52's, The Velvelettes & Le Tigre. "Itch U Can't Skratch" was the album's advance single, which Matt Fluxblog first posted back in March (months before I offered my own commentary):
I love that Junior Senior extend the inclusiveness of their twee party music to people like Bigfoot. Even in spite of that one Beastie Boys video, I can't imagine that Bigfoot gets out much. He's probably very insecure about his body, you know? He's exactly the type of person who needs a happy song that specifically asks him to dance. Come on out of the woods, Bigfoot! It's time to party. It won't be a coffee & cake affair, Junior Senior are going to have a DJ and dancing, pizza, chips, soda, everything!
The new album should find its way into stateside record shops sometime in early 2006, at least according to the last report from Pitchfork, though it can be ordered directly through Junior Senior's label Crunchy Frog or downloaded via iTunes. And to nobody's surprise, they're on MySpace too.
While not actually any part of the ever-expanding universe that is Broken Social Scene, fellow Canadian upstarts The Most Serene Republic sound right at home on BSS' Arts & Crafts label. Overflowing with band members, densely layered pop hooks, earnest intentions - check, check & check. Underwater Cinematographer, the band's debut album, was one on my sleeper favorites of 2005 that I grew to really enjoy. The M4V oddball music video (18.4mb, iPod ready) for this track is full of big bright colors & wide-eyed enthusiastic faces (often on "decapitated" floating heads) & boundless exploding bursts of energy that match the song's frenzied tone. What fun!
Sam Beam took things up a notch IMO (well, added more production to his sparse arrangements anyway) on this past spring's Woman King EP (possibly my favorite Iron & Wine release to date, despite its relative brevity), particularly on this powerful (and fiercely feminist) title track. I'll let Pitchfork's Amanda Petrusich do the rest of the talking:
There are a lot of ways to describe Iron & Wine's dark, woozy folk songs: writers and fans scramble to find the appropriate modifiers, the correct verbs, the variations on "hushed." [...] And now, for the very first time, "loud" can be added to that arsenal of adjectives: the six-song Woman King EP, a follow-up to 2004's Our Endless Numbered Days, opens with relentlessly click-clacking pieces of wood and a brash slide riff, booming out in all directions. And we haven't even gotten to the electric guitar yet - or the distortion.
Sam Beam has tweaked and re-imagined Iron & Wine's whisper-folk imprint to include a much broader palette of sound - anxious and intense, Woman King inches Beam even farther away from his scratchy lo-fi origins without sacrificing any of the microphone-eating intimacy that made his work so appealing to begin with. [...] Somehow, each step Beam takes feels organic, proper, true - Woman King (much like Our Endless Numbered Days) is different, but fundamentally linked to its predecessors.
More cheating here, with this track from the 2003 Pulling Our Weight EP from Swedish fuzzy popsters The Radio Dept. But the band was new to me this year (thanks blogosphere), and I kept coming back to this particular track throughout the year. It was part of my extended Valentines Day post, which is probably one of the better things I have written on this blog.
As we slide further into more sentimental tones, here's yet another repost, this time from Colin Meloy & The Decemberists. While "The Engine Driver" may have had the best lyrics ("And I am a writer, a writer of fictions. I am the heart that you call home. And I've written pages upon pages trying to rid you from my bones.") on Picaresque, "On The Bus Mall" is the most preciously majestic, and is probably my favorite off the band's third full album. I'll repeat the sentiments of Pitchfork's Stephen M. Deusner:
Perhaps the best song he's written, "On the Bus Mall" is Meloy's own private Idaho full of boy gigolos amok in the city, and he evocatively contrasts their innocent affection ("Here in our hovel we fused like a family") with the grittiness of their lives: "You learned quick to make a fast buck/ In bathrooms and barrooms, on dumpsters and heirlooms/ We bit our tongues/ Sucked our lips into our lungs 'til we were falling/ Such was our calling."
With the penultimate track of Mix '05, I made an unusual pick with former Zero-7 singer Sia, whose song "Breathe Me" played over the breathtaking final sequence of the Six Feet Under series finale. The song appears on both Sia's sophomore LP Colour the Small One as well as the second Six Feet Under soundtrack. The day after HBO aired the finale, Scott Stereogum was first on the scene with the MP3, though I prefer this remix by Four Tet off the "Breathe Me" import single. For more on the SFU finale, check out an segment from NPR's Fresh Air (via bradley's almanac) & a nice long blog write-up (via Kottke). Yes, I've had these links sitting around for a while.
MOV Sia - "Breathe Me" (7.2mb, lo-res)
Director Daniel Askill took A LOT of photos to create this video (check out more of his past work). Video via Aussie-based Collider Design/Film.
Is it too cliché to end Mix '05 with Sufjan Stevens, given the ridiculous year he's had? Perhaps. He's topping best-of lists left & right with his second "50 States" album, the gargantuan yet lush Illinois that even spurred a controversy over cover art. I desperately wanted to post this fabulous title track when the album first leaked last spring, but (not suprisingly) the recently inactive Keith TTIKTDA beat me to it by a matter of hours:
So, Sufjan Stevens has finished another state, moving south from Michigan and on to Illinois. And the tracklist should have been an indication that he’s continued his long steady fall right off the deep end. And thank god. Because if he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have "Come On Feel The Illinoise," with it’s surprisingly dancable horns and choirgirls and xylophones - Sufjan’s gone vaudeville, like a whitebread David Byrne without the nervous stutter. Every time I try to listen to another track on Illinois, I end up struggling to suppress the urgge to skip back to this moment of magic. When the guitars and the string section take over and the song transitions into "Part II" we have something transcendant. I don’t remember who it was that said Morrissey is trying to become the weird, gay, british indie Frank Sinatra, but it seems like Sufjan might be trying for crazy, christian, indie Sinatra title himself. And he’s not falling too far from the mark on "Come On Feel the Illinois" - that whispering croon lacks the force of old Blue Eyes, but the backup singers are downright transformative - the MP3's genre tags may say folk, but thats hardly an appropriate label for this album. It’s more vital, more kinetic, and perhaps most appropriately, more urban. Where Greetings From Michigan found it’s urban moments in the joblessness of Flint and the desolation of Detroit, Illinois captures the hopeful vibrancy of the windy city on the lake, the constant transformation and rebuilding of a city thats probably been destroyed more times than any other city in America. There’s a wierd optimism in that really.
I eventually got around to posting this track myself when Sufjan & the Illinoisemakers rolled through Mpls this fall, so here's one more re-post for old time's sake. I really can't think of a better song to end the year on.
Just as he did last year, my good pal Chicago Marc Shapiro was able to whip up some sweet-ass cover art to go along with Mix '05, and as always I thank him for his lending me his talents once again. That's ka-blamo!
This mix is a totally subjective collection of songs from 2005, and I regret not being able to include Animal Collective, Antony & The Johnsons, Annie, Metric, Feist, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Andrew Bird, Art Brut, Fiery Furnaces, Franz Ferdinand, José González, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Of Montreal, My Morning Jacket, Super Furry Animals, Deerhoof, M83, The Raveonettes, Fiona Apple, Caribou, Archer Prewitt, The Kills, Common, Architecture In Helsinki, Gorillaz, The Books, The King of France, Doves, Kaiser Chiefs, Final Fantasy & every other artist/group that I didn't get around to or didn't listen to enough etc. It was tough to keep current with everything during the last year, and I know that I probably missed tons of good stuff while I was busy off doing something else. In 2006, I hope to be more receptive to new music, more attentive in general, more consistent with my posting & maybe even get around to responding to my e-mail (which is way backed up, btw). I dunno if I'll be able to live up to all of these resolutions, but I'll certainly give it a whirl. Happy new year everybody.
Track 01: The Constantines - "Draw Us Lines"
Track 02: Spoon - "The Beast & Dragon, Adored"
Track 03: The Russian Futurists - "Our Pen's Out of Ink"
Track 04: Broken Social Scene - "7/4 (Shoreline)"
Track 05: Bunky - "Chuy"
Track 06: The New Pornographers - "The Bleeding Heart Show"
Track 07: Stars - "Ageless Beauty"
Track 08: Danger Doom f/Cee-Lo - "Benzie Box"
Track 09: Legendary K.O. - "GWB Doesn't Care About Black People"
Track 10: M.I.A. - "10 Dollar"
Track 11: Soulwax vs Lipps Inc. - "NY Lipps (Kazasaki Dub)"
Track 12: Vitalic - "My Friend Dario"
Track 13: Low - "When I Go Deaf"
Track 14: Gogol Bordello - "Undestructable"
Track 15: Silver Jews - "Punks in the Beerlight"
Track 16: Sam Champion - "It's Getting Late"
Track 17: Stephen Malkmus - "It Kills"
Track 18: Okkervil River - "For Real"
Track 19: Wolf Parade - "I'll Believe in Anything"
Track 01: The Mountain Goats - "This Year"
Track 02: Howard Hello - "More of the Same"
Track 03: The Deadly Snakes - "Gore Veil"
Track 04: The Hold Steady - "Stevie Nix"
Track 05: Sleater-Kinney - "Wilderness"
Track 06: Bloc Party - "Like Eating Glass"
Track 07: LCD Soundsystem - "On Repeat"
Track 08: Mylo - "In My Arms"
Track 09: The Juan Maclean - "Give Me Every Little Thing"
Track 10: Junior Senior - "Itch U Can't Skratch"
Track 11: Most Serene Republic - "Content Was Always My Favorite Colour"
Track 12: Iron & Wine - "Woman King"
Track 13: The Radio Dept. - "I Don't Need Love, I've Got My Band"
Track 14: The Decemberists - "On The Bus Mall"
Track 15: Sia - "Breathe Me (Four Tet remix)"
Track 16: Sufjan Stevens - "Come on! Feel the Illinoise!"
The entire Mix '05 can also be accessed via the December archive.
FWIW: Touch-ups aside, I honestly did publish this post mere moments before the ball dropped (well, the midwest time zone TV replay anyway).