Best and Worst Songs of All Time This Week (12/2/09) 

Best: “Cousins” by Vampire Weekend 
“A-Punk” may have established the swift, breezy, electric sound that people love or hate this band for, but with only three chords to work with (and I know, that’s the point), it never really reached its full potential. The only reason it is remembered more fondly, possibly, than any of the other songs on their self-titled debut is that it was the first one everybody heard. Countless listens in, though, that same song feels like the album’s only low point, if also its signifier. “Cousins” is the rare but beautiful sequel that outshines the original (Toy Story 2, The Spy Who Shagged Me, etc). The lyrics are clever and actually coherent, but even more impressive is that the sharp guitar finds a pocket within the syncopated, punk-ish bass and drums, rather than dumped in the lap of the song, which was the case with “A-Punk” (again, I know that was the point). What makes the song great is that they can progress from the finesse of the verse to an utterly satisfying shout-along chorus. If Ezra Koenig’s anxious yelp annoyed you before, it will now too. But fans of the band have reason to anticipate their forthcoming Contra. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1e0u11rgd9Q 

Worst: “Fireflies” by Owl City 
It doesn’t matter if this song rips off the Postal Service; it does, but that does not matter. There’s something bigger happening here. Nearing the end of 2009, a year in which Grizzly Bear has headlined major, MAJOR motion picture soundtracks and garnered the patronage of Jay-Z, there is reason to feel like independent music is turning the corner toward success with minimal damage to the art form; selling out without selling out. So it’s especially sad that the year will end with Owl City atop the iTunes bestsellers list. Not because the song’s half decent hook leads the song into a lazy, repetitive, unfocused stupor by the one minute mark (not unlike “Sexy Can I,” but that’s beside the point). And not because the totally copped electronic aesthetic loses every ounce of authenticity it doesn’t have when strings are thrown on top (because that will make it even more haunting and beautiful, right?). Many pop songs, that I have no problem ignoring, fall into these traps. The reason “Fireflies” is the worst song of all time this week is the slowly spreading idea that this is alternative music, or, perhaps more correct, music for “alternative people.” All it took was a casio, laptop, earnest voice, and a tight enough pair of jeans; Owl City has created a soundtrack for the quirky, understanding, endearing, glasses wearing dorks that have befriended every female protagonist in the history of high school romantic comedies. Sadly those people are not real, and neither is this song. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psuRGfAaju4

 

Best and Worst Songs of All Time This Week (7/12/10) 

Best: “Hello Good Morning (Remix)” by Diddy – Dirty Money feat. Rick Ross & Nicki Minaj 

Listening to Diddy rap is like watching him dance: he is clearly trying to hard, and every move is almost scarily unnatural, but a mix of ego and legitimate talent make it fascinating to watch and listen to. His verse at the end of this remix of the second single of his Last Train to Paris project is definitely the highlight. This despite being riddled with hints of his rising age: “How fly is he? / Your baby mama cry for me like Jodeci”. It’s a good line, but it’s been almost twenty years since “Cry For You”, and the reference would lose the young listeners he’s gunning for, if those young listeners he’s gunning for cared at all about lyrics. Still, his two back-up singers keep him young and string together these three verses together seamlessly. Nicki Minaj will keep him young too; her verse is characteristically erratic, but that’s half the fun. “Last time I checked I was bubblin’ out / I gotta turn down shows out in Dublin now”, she brags after recovering from a strange opening rhyme. Hers is a new brand of ego, and Diddy’s is so old that we haven’t seen it in long enough for it to feel new. Rick Ross is in the middle, which makes his verse the lowlight, but it’s right in the beginning. Listen up after that; Diddy and Minaj are so undeniable that they make it seem likely that the future of hip-hop belongs to the misfits. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OciO2MPnmzU 

Worst: “Not Afraid” by Eminem 

Forget the singing, because it’s obviously awful. Let’s focus on the parts of the song that actually had a chance of not being terrible. Em informs the listener in the second line that “You won’t take the sting out of these words before I say them”. And no, I won’t; he already did. I mean, hasn’t he made this song, like, a billion times? “Beautiful”, “The Way I Am”, “Cleanin Out My Closet”; I’m so sick of Eminem cutting the crap and telling it like it is, surprising us with how serious he can be. By now, the way to really surprise his audience would be shooting a video that doesn’t involve him jumping off a tall building, or wandering through the sad, gray streets of Detroit, connecting with the “real” people with a determined, stern face. He can still rap, but why do I care? It doesn’t matter how fast you talk, there’s a limit to how many times I can listen to someone say “YOU CAN’T HOLD ME DOWN!!!!” and he passed it a long time ago. Also, there are some pretty terrible lines in here. Most notably, “Like a ‘fuck you’ for Christmas / This gift is a curse”. Gawd. I hope this isn’t how it ends for Eminem. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5-yKhDd64s 

Best and Worst Songs of All Time This Week (7/19/10) 

Best: “Drunk Girls” by LCD Soundsystem 

James Murphy crafts his songs like arguments. He yells and sermonizes during the verse, finding frantic, hilarious variations on melody and turns of phrase that keep you on the same page, even if you find his demeanor abrasive or beats repetitive. Then he reaches a sing-along that we can all agree on (in this case: “Oh, oh, ohhhhhhhhh!” and “The day becomes the night”). That’s how he convinces you. Pretty much every LCD song functions this way. It’s not so much a formula as it is a different brand of songwriting. The songs (and this song in particular) maintain their mystique within this format, mostly because it’s usually unclear exactly what is being argued. The title and first twenty seconds give the impression that “Drunk Girls” will be a more clever and guitar-driven version of NERD’s “Everyone Nose”, but it’s much sadder and more complex than that. Lines like “Drunk girls know that love is an astronaut / It comes back but it’s never the same” and “Sometimes love gives us too many options / Just ’cause you’re hungry doesn’t mean that you’re lean” have enough wit and truth to fit the song in the moment, but when considered afterward, you’ll probably wonder what they are doing here. And you won’t be wrong; this song is more fun than it actually is. By the end, the aforementioned “Oh, oh, ohhhhhhhhh!” sounds less like the club-uniting, carefree shout you heard at first, and more like a scared, confused, pained cry for help. The fact that you don’t know exactly what he’s crying for doesn’t make it any less affecting, or danceable. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xT6cdfP_cM 

Worst: “Lil Freak” by Usher feat. Nicki Minaj 

Someone tell Usher that this is not how the world works. You have to fake being a sweet guy with a love song before you get to have weird, scary sex with multiple groupies. You do not get these groupies with a song about groupies. No! I mean, of course he does, but it should not work this way. He’s upsetting the natural balance of the pop world, and doing so really nastily. This song is gross. The eerily soaring string hook could be intriguing and catchy in another song, but here they just amplify the creepy. Minaj tries desperately to save the song with a solid verse and an Everybody Loves Raymond reference, but it’s way too late by then. This is worse the first time than “OMG” is the billionth time. The only “Lil” Usher should be interested in contacting is Jon. Until he drops “Yeah Pt. 2 (Yup)”, keep him off the air. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNVNzRzDt-k

If you haven’t heard the news about the Lollapalooza lineup being released, crawl out from under your rock and check it out! Personally, I’m stoked to see Green Day and Chromeo on the list, with a few other bands to boot. But how does this year stack up against the previous years…

2005 – Pixies, Widespread Panic, Weezer, The Killers, Dinosaur Jr., Cake, Dashboard Confessional, The Arcade Fire, Billy Idol, Death Cab For Cutie, Digable Planets, Liz Phair, G. Love and Special Sauce, Blonde Redhead, The Black Keys, The Bravery, The Walkmen, Louis XIV, Sound Tribe Sector 9, Z-Trip, Los Amigos Invisibles, M83, The Dandy Warhols, Tegan and Sara, VHS or Beta, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Soulive, Ambulance LTD, Shout Out Louds, Blue Merle, The Warlocks, DeSoL, World Leader Pretend, The Redwalls, The Changes

2006 – Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kanye West, Manu Chao, Wilco, Death Cab For Cutie, The Raconteurs, The Flaming Lips, Ween, Queens of the Stone Age, The Shins, Common, Matisyahu, Ryan Adams, Umphrey’s McGee, Sonic Youth, Thievery Corporation, Sleater-Kinney, Nickel Creek, Blues Traveler, Broken Social Scene, The New Pornographers, Iron & Wine, Poi Dog Pondering, The Secret Machines, Eels, Panic! At the Disco, The Disco Biscuits , Reverend Horton Heat, The Smoking Popes, Andrew Bird, Gnarls Barkley, Stars, Cursive, Blackalicious, Editors, Lyrics Born, Lady Sovereign, Calexico, Nada Surf, Feist, Aqualung, The Frames, The Hold Steady, The Go! Team, Mates of State, Pepper, Particle, The Redwalls, Mute Math, Wolfmother, Sparta, The Subways, Of Montreal, Blue October, Jeremy Enigk, Living Things, Sound Team, The M’s, Hot Chip, The Benevento-Russo Duo, Matt Costa…

2007 – Pearl Jam, Daft Punk, Ben Harper, Muse, Iggy & The Stooges, Modest Mouse, Interpol, My Morning Jacket, Satellite Party, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Snow Patrol, The Roots, Patti Smith, Kings Of Leon, The Black Keys, Regina Spektor, Spoon, Lupe Fiasco, TV On The Radio, Pete Yorn, G. Love, Paolo Nutini, Amy Winehouse, LCD Soundsystem, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Silverchair, Femi Kuti, Yo La Tengo, Hold Steady, Jack’s Mannequin, Stephen Marley, STS9, MIA, Slightly Stoopid, Blonde Redhead, Sparklehorse, Sean Lennon, !!!, Blue October, Son Volt, Motion City Soundtrack, Polyphonic Spree, Peter Bjorn & John, Silversun Pickups…

2008 – Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Nine Inch Nails, Kanye West, Wilco, The Raconteurs, Louis XIV, Love and Rockets, Gnarls Barkley, Bloc Party, The Black Keys, Broken Social Scene, Lupe Fiasco, Flogging Molly, Mark Ronson, Cat Power, The National, G. Love & Special Sauce, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Explosions in the Sky, Brand New, Gogol Bordello, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, Dierks Bentley, Okkervil River, Amadou & Mariam, Blues Traveler, John Butler Trio, Girl Talk…

2009 – Depeche Mode, Tool, The Killers, Kings of Leon, Jane’s Addiction, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Snoop Dogg, Rise Against, Coheed and Cambria, Atmosphere, STS9, Ben Folds, Fleet Foxes, Lou Reed, Neko Case, The Decemberists, Andrew Bird, TV on The Radio, Band Of Horses, Of Montreal, Gomez, Heartless Bastards, Passion Pit, Asher Roth, The Gaslight Anthem, Los Campesinos!, Hockey, Cage The Elephant, Ke$ha, Band of Skulls, MSTRKRFT, Boys Noize, LA Riots, The Glitch Mob…

Which means you have every right and reason to blast Flogging Molly, Sixteen Layers, Power of Dreams, Dropkick Murphys, Kill City Defectors, and many many more Irish rockers. Dropkick Murphys just had a video surface of them playing this song along with the singer from Mighty Mighty Bosstones… Go check that one out. I’m unable to embed it here due to it NOT being on Youtube. (What isn’t on Youtube these days…)

Chromeo, keepin’ it all too real. This song is very unusual for Chromeo, considering they NEVER cover songs. But unusual is not always a bad thing… Take a listen and hear what I’m talking about.

What have you been up to recently Don Henley? One listen to this song and it will be in your head all day.

New Bullet For My Valentine song, “Your Betrayal”. Expect “Fever” from them dropping April 26th.

New Coheed & Cambria song, “The Broken”. Keep your ears peeled for “Year of The Black Rainbow” dropping April 13th.

I feel like I’ve made “It’s been too long” a title for too many posts, not for this one though… I haven’t posted anything on here in a while. Man Talk has been taking over lives. Don’t forget to tune in on Wednesday nights at 7!

Accept my apology in the form of The Balance by August Burns Red.

Hey there folks,
here. In case you didn’t know, I’m the Assistant Music Director at WLTL. So, I’m kind of a music fanatic, and with Katie Burns and Stuart Prentice working day after day to bring today’s greatest new tunes to your eager ears. Ever wondered exactly how we get all that awesome music on the airwaves? I’m here to let you in on the secret inner workings of the music department here at the nation’s #1 high school radio station.
It all starts with the record companies. We are lucky enough to have great connections with a number of companies you’ve probably never heard of, and even some that you have. (Sub Pop, anyone?) Their aim is pretty simple: get their bands some airtime. So, they send us tons of CDs every week in hopes that we like them enough to get them on air. Mail opening is one of my favorite pastimes here. Like some awesome cereal, there’s a surprise in every box.
Next is where Stu, Katie and I come in. This is the fun part. We review each and every CD that comes our way, and our refined and sophisticated musical knowledge allows us to decide whether the album is decent enough to go on the air. Most of the time, they’re flops. We get some pretty non-legit stuff around here from time to time. (One band was called V—– Panther, with the V-word being a certain female body part.) And some are literally designed on Printshop and recorded in GarageBand. But then we get the really exciting ones, like bands we know with some real backing already. However, my favorite part of the review process is when I listen to a CD from a band I have never heard of and LOVE what I hear. This was the case with The Dodos, a great group on Frenchkiss Records with an amazing blend of style and sound performed by some really talented musicians. Check them out here at http://www.dodosmusic.net/.
Once we’ve picked out the good apples from the bunch, it’s time to get them on the computer in the on-air studio. This involves some ripping and editing. We try to maintain a balance of 30 songs in our three rotation categories A, B, and C. (Rotation is just the more heavily played new music, if you didn’t know).
As soon as the music is all set to go on the computer, the magic can happen. Our fabulous on-air DJs pick and choose the songs they like from our picks a few times per hour, and voila! The music is flowing through our studio right into your radio. It’s a wonderful process, and yes, we do it all for you. To learn more about WLTL music, you can check out our top 30 list on http://www.wltl.net, check out where we report our plays at http://www.cmj.com, or stop by the studio. Happy listening!

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