Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best of 2009: Song

I think one of the big selling points about 2010 is that 2009 will be looked back upon as terrible. It happens every 10 years (1979, 1989, 1999), but secretly everyone knows that the '9 years actually rock. I can list tons of examples... but people have shoddy memories and can't remember what they ate for breakfast.

Julian Casablancas: "River of Brakelights"
Julian's voice may sound Dylan-scraggly, but he sure does know his way around a synth. His solo effort is basically Strokes without the live instruments, and I chose "Brakelights" over the single ("11th Dimension") because it seemed more enduring. (Oddly, both songs contain lyrics about sports, hate and robots.) I could listen to the second bridge for hours.

Phoenix: "1901"
"1901" is a really catchy and French-y breakout single from a 10-year-old band. Only bad thing about the tune is the sell-out factor (the Cadillac commercial). Plus, the word "phoenix" strikes me as the most stereotypical word in the rock dictionary. Otherwise, lovely.

Marilyn Manson: "15"
Although universally panned, High End of Low is actually a great addition to the Manson catalog. It is chock-full of inspiration--his girlfriend dumped him and he reunited with counterpart Twiggy in the same breath. Nobody dumps Manson! "15" is a point-blank song about an unnamed assailant, and it's really sinister ("Not letting you live won't satisfy me").

Hot Leg: "Cocktails"
Justin Hawkins has been out of the limelight for some time, but since the Darkness he has been writing lots of songs for other bands and... Adam Lambert. Hot Leg is his new group, and it's basically a step up from a hair metal cover band. But their music sounds modern. A guitar, bass and drum solo in the same song, sweet woman! This is maybe the best song ever about mixed drinks, which is a perfect song for a bar.

Sonic Youth: "Malibu Gas Station"
I thought that The Eternal was kind of a dud, but there are still some absolute gems from this old band. "Malibu Gas Station" features an actually listenable Kim Gordon lyricising about southern California "white trash celebrity" (at least that's what I think). The guitar melodies are a little metal and a little rockabilly.

More Best of the Year 2009 ...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Best of 2009: Music video

Lenny Kravitz

Director: Keith Schofield
I just discovered the catalog of Schofield oddball videos this year. His "Heaven Can Wait" vid is definitely screwy, but this one is sleek. I am amazed no one has done this before (maybe they have): make a music video just like the end credits of a movie, but keep it a part of the film.




Empire of the Sun
Director: Josh Logue
Sometimes three props are all you need. But it must be a cool chair with a bull and a raptor statue. One other necessity, however: look like Bowie.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Best music videos of the decade (Honorable mentions)


"Video Phone" (Extended Mix) (2009) 
Beyonce with Lady Gaga
Director: Hype Williams
It was a tad too late in the year to put them up against the Chosen 15, but I had to give these ladies a shout-out. Beyonce has become a video minimalist while Gaga has gone the other way--Hype Williams melds the two the only way he can: awesomely. Hype even left some of the bluescreen hoods in the video! Chicks, guns and chewing gum; please don't leave us in 2010!




 "3's and 7's" (2007)
Queens of the Stone Age
Director: Paul Minor
QotSA definitely understand the importance of 21st century video making. There is one particular shot near the end of this one--it only lasts a second--but it's a view from a shotgun, blasting a fleeing victim. It may sound morbid that I like it, but it perfectly captures what grindhouse/exploitation films were all about. Really authentic.



Friday, December 11, 2009

Best music videos of the decade (5 - 1)

The Darkness
Director: Alex Smith
Best use of a sausage as a microphone in history.... Just watch it and enjoy the spaceship tomfoolery.



#4
"Dashboard" (2006)
Modest Mouse
Directors: Mathew Cullen and Grady Hall
All of Modest Mouse's videos are worth watching. "Dashboard"'s video is the least surreal (subjectively) and most story-driven, but what a great ride. A fisherman tells a dive bar about a hyperbolic fish tale, all with some great elektro-fantasy CGI and island shots [that totally remind me of Tim Burton's Chocolate Factory remake]. It's a bit Moby-Dick and a bit that Daggermouth episode of Family Guy. The moral: always watch out for the old fisherman that gives you the wink.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Best music videos of the decade (10 - 6)

#10
"Whale Song" (2009)
Modest Mouse
Director: Nando Costa
If I had to pick a hall-of-famer from America for their video achievements in 2000s, it would be Modest Mouse. This one is about drawing no less, and this contraption thingy lets Isaac Brock go on a mind trip, extrapolating visions from the paper. Neither gravity nor snails prevent the band from rocking in this waking dream. And, when used right, projectile intestines and ejected organs are a perfect touch.



#9
"Invincible" (2007)
Muse
Director: Jonnie Ross
Oftentimes great videos have stale follow-ups (usually because the previous had an overblown budget). The previous wow factor isn't there most of the time, but Muse nearly equals "Knights of Cydonia". The It's A Small World After All ride may be a tad cliche here, but the CGI-laden climax is really cool. I don't know what the message here is, but time travelers are definitely good alien killers.



#8
The White Stripes
Director: Michel Gondry
There's a sizable chance you've never heard of this song or video. In the are-they-siblings-or-lovers era, nothing can come close to fitting the Jack and Meg White public personae. It's amazingly simple and yet something only seen regularly in Disney World's Haunted Mansion... I don't know why this projector effect isn't used more. This is just one of the few Michel Gondry musings that made the White Stripes a household name.