A Farewell to Orange (County)

With the recent news of former American pop culture phenomenon, The OC, being cancelled, I have grown a little nostalgic. While I never exactly hid the fact that i was a religious watcher, there were times that i must admit i wasn't exactly forthcoming about my Thursday night rendezvous with Cohen and the gang. Nevertheless, once Grey's Anatomy decided to move to the coveted 9pm Thursday evening slot during fall of 2005, I started to drift away from Newport beach. I tried to keep up by recording The OC on DVR, and watching it on Fridays, but i soon realized that my heart strings could only be spread so thin. The plot began to grow more and more ridonculous (even by OC standards), and come fall of 2006, the season premier felt so uninspired, that i finally pulled the plug on the three year roller coaster romance. I guess The OC, much like the two story beer bong or the pathological lying/kleptomaniac roommate, was just a college thing.

I still have fond memories of the old OC though. What i will always love most about the made-for-tv novella, even more than all the drama and hot chicks, was that it was pretty hip when it came to the music. In fact, while im not exactly proud to admit this, i discovered a number of new bands/artists by first hearing them play in the background of Summer and Seth slow dancing, or over one of those melodramatic moments at the end of an episode where they pan to each cast member intently reflecting about their respective lots in life. It was about this time of my life (the college years) that i went from casual music listener to music obsessed, and i would be lying if i said The OC was not a piece of the puzzle in this change.

As such, i thought it would be a fitting tribute, a fond farewell so to speak, to list my top ten musical moments from The OC (through season three, as i haven't been watching season four). Naysayers and hardasses, can scoff all they want, but the last time i checked, Modest Mouse never stopped by SportsCenter to play a set...and Seth Cohen didn't land Summer Roberts by playing her Sean Paul's "Temperature".

10. Interpol - "Evil" - Season 2: "The Accomplice"
In the midst of a blooming same-sex relationship between the not-so-wholesome Marissa Cooper and the punk-rockin' (underage?) barkeep, Alex, The OC writers decided to take their music from a little darker place. This uncharacteristically upbeat number from one of New York's sketchiest (for lack of a better term) post-punk bands frames one of The OC's most taboo moments perfectly. Opening with a bass line that always makes me look twice for Krist Novoselic, and Interpol's typical lyrical ambiguity hitting on solitary confinement and slowly released pleasure, the song spoke for a girl whose (not so) squeaky clean mother and step-father were horrified at the thought of a potential lesbian scandal. Leading us all to ask the question, "Hey, who's on trial?"

9. Joseph Arthur - "Honey and the Moon" - Season 1: "Premier"
Summer of 2003 was winding down, and from what i can remember, there was not a whole lot of excitement in the prime time summer lineup. Who would have thought that a few rich kids, and a Russel Crowe look alike would change all of that though. When The OC broke on the scene, the first song i remember hearing (besides the over-exhausted Phantom Planet played theme) was Joseph Arthur's "Honey and the Moon". Forever reminding me of late-summer evenings, "Honey and the Moon" was the scruffy, yet inviting, introduction that The OC needed. In just under five minutes, the song pretty much outlined the show's main themes of ever-changing hearts and never knowing what move to make next, all inside a not so simple singer-songwriter package. Most importantly, we learned early that in Newport, anything can happen at anytime, and what is right, may not be right, right now.

8. Stars - "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead" - Season 2: "The Test" What a perfect song for the situation. Seth is losing Summer to that big doofus Zach, who is about to take Ms. Roberts to Italy. Eventually, Seth tells Summer that he is over her, but we all know this is a farce. Seth is doing this because, as the song instructs, when there's nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire. However, if it is over, this tale of a chance encounter between two former flames is a fitting close. In the end, "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead" really reminds me of a Postal Service song, but better (I like the Postal Service too, so this isn't a knock to Gibbard's other gang). Where the Postal Service probably lose some of the passion in their music-by-mail recording style, Stars retain it all (and then some), and it all shines through in the performance.

7. Radiohead - "Fog" - Season 3: "The Day After Tomorrow"
I am pretty sure this was the only time Radiohead made it onto The OC, which is probably a good thing. Nevertheless, the minimalist arrangement of the Radiohead b-side, "Fog", which features nothing more than a piano and Thom Yorke's sometimes undecipherable vocals, lent itself wonderfully to one of those intense episode-ending scenes. This chapter saw Seth revealing to Summer that he would not be attending Brown in the fall (but failing to mention why...he did not get accepted), as well as the slow drifting apart of Ryan and current non-Marissa fling, Sadie. Images of the broken down gang flash before us as "Fog" leads the episode to the credits, and Yorke's difficult to discern vocals clear up just long enough to ask the questions everyone (or at least Summer) is wondering, "How did you go bad? Did you go bad?"

6. Sufjan Stevens - "For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti" - Season 3: "The Heavy Lifting"
In an episode where we (finally) say goodbye to that surfer punk that was obsessed with Marissa (Johnny), this Sufjan Stevens track leads us to the promise land (where the promise land equals the credits...which eventually meant Thursday night's most exciting 30 seconds...scenes from next week's episode). Here we have yet another cast spanning scene closing the show, and this time Stevens and his banjo are at the controls. The song slowly simmers from the start, nothing more than Stevens and his aforementioned instrument of choice. Soon though, things heat up (never to a boil though) with Stevens proclaiming "Ill do anything for you". Cue a not-so-subtle shot of Ryan on the screen. Loyalists know the show started with Cooper taking care of Atwood, but the tables quickly turned, and this scene just reinforces that. While we all knew Coop was about to hit (another) low, Sufjan spoke for Ryan, reminding us that we could rest assured, knowing Atwood was still in the pool house.

5. Death Cab For Cutie - "A Lack of Color" - Season 1: "The Goodbye Girl"
For a brief period of time during spring of 2004, you could ask anyone between the ages of 15 and 25 the simple question of "Summer or Anna?", and i'd be willing to bet that more often than not you found someone with an opinion on the matter. Personally, i preferred the more genuine, alternative Anna to the formerly "too cool for Cohen" Summer, although Roberts was my favorite in the end. We all knew Anna (much like Lindsay and Sadie) wasn't a permanent cast member though, and Ben Gibbard's steady girl, Death Cab, served as the backing band when we officially learned this. Gibbard's lyrics, over a simple acoustic guitar lick, tell the story of a desperate man who realizes he has made a mistake, but soon learns that it's too little, too late. Seth has a similar epiphany after he discovers Anna is heading back east, but much like the song's narrator, he never gave the girl a reason to stay.

4. Bloc Party - "Blue Light" - Season 3: "The Aftermath"
Season two left us with the cliffhanger of whether or not Marissa had killed Ryan's dead-beat brother, Trey. Season three's premier revealed that Trey survived the gunshot, and was in intensive care. However, the gang has a new issue: what will happen when Trey wakes up? Will he ruin everyone's "perfect" lives in Newport by telling the cops that Marissa shot him? Luckily, it never comes to that though because Trey vanishes from the ICU when he wakes up, and we see Ryan make it to the bus stop just in time to see his brother skipping town. As the bus pulls away, a remix of Bloc Party's "Blue Light" fades in, and we see a downtrodden Ryan and Trey acknowledge one another through the glass. While Ryan knew that Trey was nothing but trouble, and that his departure was the best thing for everyone, he was still sad to see his big brother go, and that's what this reflective Bloc Party song is all about. Kele Okereke communicates this bittersweet sentiment with the line, "I still feel you and the taste of cigarettes", and Ryan is living this juxtaposition with the loss of his cancerous brother.

3. LCD Soundsystem - "Daft Punk Is Playing at My House" - Season 2: "The Rager"
The episode that this song played in was called "The Rager", and that pretty much sums this selection up. Basically, there is a big-ass party at Marissa Cooper's house (that i never would have been invited to), and James Murphy's LCD Soundsystem is serving as the DJ. Put the track on, and you will see why this party was rocking out. Murphy creates an environment here that really can't be described as it is the sonic equivalent of the word "boogie". Combine a pumping distorted guitar, a corresponding heavy bass line, hand claps, plenty of cowbell, and a ridiculous story about french group, Daft Punk, playing a show at Murphy's abode, and you have what "party music" truly should sound like. Ha-Ow-Ow!

2. Ryan Adams - "Wonderwall" - Season 1: "The Heartbreak"
I realize that to most individuals (specifically die hard 90's music fans), Mr. Adams' cover of a song that many regard as one of the best songs recorded in the 90's, is downright blasphemous (although, id be willing to bet that my blog cohort, a hardcore Oasis fan, would not even consider this song to be one of Oasis' top 10 songs...just a hunch though...kinda like how most die hard Stones fans would not consider "Satisfaction" one of their best songs...just kinda how it works when you devote yourself to a band...but that is whole other blog for an entirely different day). Anyhow, i would argue that Adams' version and the Gallagher's version aren't really comparable. While, yes, the lyrics and general structure are the same, Adams' slows it down to make it an entirely different beast, and i believe that it is not totally impossible for an individual to find great beauty in both versions. Additionally, it is Adams' version that is playing when Seth finally gets the girl. Up to this moment, Summer and Seth had actually had sex and and been "together", but this moment in Cohen's bedroom is when she finally lets her guard down to the indie-rock poster child. Summer reveals to Seth that she too was a virgin when they had sex, and that she was just trying to live up to her "reputation". After this, they both realize they need to slow it down a bit, and what better way to knock it down a couple notches than a slow-dance to a Ryan Adams record (Seth actually puts on the vinyl version of Love Is Hell...furthering his overall music credibility)? This scene had sensitive indie-rock nerds across America jumping up and down in their basements, saying to themselves, "Today is gonna be the day."

1. Jeff Buckley - "Hallelujah" - Season 1: "The Model Home" & "The Ties That Bind"
I should start by saying that Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah" is not just my favorite OC musical moment, but one of my favorite songs of all time. "Hallelujah" is nothing more than a solitary man and an electric guitar, and i do not fear that my masculinity is in question when i say that it is one of the most beautiful songs i have in my music collection. This song could have been playing while Caleb Nichol signed a contract to sell the Cohen's home to the devil and i still would have loved the scene. In other words, Jeff Buckley's chilling cover of Leonard Cohen's breathtaking track is worthy of a spot on this list no matter what was happening when the song played. Throw in the fact that OC creators decided to use Buckley's version of the Cohen penned song as bookends for season one, and then you have my all-time favorite OC music moment. As i have alluded to before, i tend to be a sucker for the dramatic, and the OC's creator's played me like a fiddle on this one. The song was first played early in season one (second episode, touching moment between Marissa and Ryan right before Luke and Co. come to beat Ryan's ass, and the model home burns to the ground...i believe) and then is the last song we hear in season one's finale, bringing us full circle. As one would expect, it plays (in it's entirety by the way) during one of the most memorable OC moments: Ryan is leaving Newport and driving back to Chino, Marissa is drinking alone at her new home, and Seth is sailing off into the sunset. In essence, everything great that had built up during the 26 episodes preceding this one, came crumbling down, leaving us on the edge's of our seats until next November (wtf was that by the way? 6 months?!) to find out how it was all going to get put back together again. This really was the pinnacle for the show, and many would argue (quite accurately) that the season one magic was never realized again. For that moment in spring of 2004 though, The OC had America tied to it's proverbial kitchen chair.

In the end, it's the heart that the girls go for, and unfortunately The OC may have played this card a little too liberally, leaving us with nothing more than some great music and a bloody sleeve, but for that, i will forever be indebted.


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Songs of 2006: As told by Jameson

To break songs (as opposed to albums...which are considerably more substantial in content)down to a definitive list of best and worst for given period of time can be a somewhat arduous task. Primarily, this is due to the fact that with something that is as mood-dependent as songs are, what an individual likes at a particular moment in time can vary based on the weather, or what you ate for breakfast. While i know this is a bad way to go about doing business (especially as someone who is trying to maintain credibility to all those faithful readers), it is just the honest truth.

Anyways, i had previously posted a songs of 2006 list on my old site, and this one will be pretty similar to that one for the most part. There are some differences though...i have decided to expand the list to 14, and changed the order up a little bit (as well as wording). Unfortunately, even with the expansion of the list, Christina Aguilera's, "Ain't No Other Man", was still snubbed...im pretty close to demanding a recount though.

14. Ray LaMontagne - "Empty": In a year where when the words disappointment and Ray LaMontagne were synonymous (canceled shows, and a halfhearted attempt to follow up his gem of a debut album, Trouble), this was certainly a bright-spot for me. Sounding like the Ray LaMontagne from yesteryear, this track captures everything I fell in love with on the first album: minimal, dreary arrangements, combined with sheer desperation in LaMontagne's (trademark) vocals/lyrics. It is no secret that LaMontagne's music is better when his life is in shambles, so maybe this past year of disappointments will give us all something to look forward to on his next album.

13. Fujiya & Miyagi - "Photocopier": Don't be turned off by the band's moniker. They happily declare that "they were just pretending to be Japanese" anyways. In fact, there is nothing remotely Japanese about this group besides the name (not that there would be anything wrong with that...). The group is actually out of England, and they are in the business of light-hearted electronic pop music. Still skeptical? Id be willing to wager that the non-believers would all be on the dancefloor after a couple drinks if they actually heard this song. It's fun, it's got a beat, it's pop music. Sounds like a winning recipe to me.

12. Justin Timberlake (featuring T.I.) - "My Love": Somehow Justin Timberlake has escaped the black cloud that has hovered over so many other "pop" stars to come from his class. I guess it doesn't hurt that one of the best producers in (pop) music, Timbaland, just happens to be in his back pocket. Timberlake's vocals are spot on here, and laid over the top of one of the stickiest beats/tracks Timbaland has put out in his storied career, one cannot help but enjoy the song. Throw in T.I. who contrasts Timberlake's bubblegum sheen perfectly, keeping the song lighthearted enough for it to still be "fun", and you have most people's song of the year. People can continue write-off Timberlake all they want, but team Timb(er/a) won't be going anywhere for a while if they can keep churning out tracks like this.

11. Phoenix - "Napoleon Says": The opening track to the Phoenix album, It's Never Been Like That, is like an alarm sounding for those expecting to dance, but waiting to rock. For a band that has been primarily been known for music that would be more suitable in the club, Phoenix mixes it up on their third album with a whole lotta guitar, and "Napoleon Says" is the perfect introduction to this new direction. It's a fun, sparkling clean pop-rock song that will move your whole body...sounds accesible enough for me.

10. Arctic Monkeys - "Fake Tales of San Francisco": From the moment Arctic Monkeys frontman, Alex Turner, opens his mouth, there is no mistaking where his band hails from. These boys are British, and they make no attempt at masking that. While "Fake Tales of San Francisco" is less super-charged than the rest of their debut album, it still drips of that bastardized form of britpop-punk that they pump out (a style that leans heavily on equal parts Strokes and Libertines...among others). The guitar hook on the verse is simple, but will keep your head bobbing throughout, and the chorus screams singalong. The song is great, and I must say that it had me at hello with this line..."His bird said it's amazing, though, so all that's left is the proof that love's not only blind but deaf". Brash and British...what an unlikely combination.

9. My Chemical Romance - "Welcome to the Black Parade": Those who know me, know i have a soft spot in my heart for those with a flare for the dramatic. Well, My Chemical Romance was all over that train this year with their 2006 release, The Black Parade. This track, the spearhead single from the aforementioned album, puts it all on the table. There are horns, marching band drums, and an intro (and climax) that sounds more like Queen than Blink-182. Following the path paved by fellow pop-punk gone concept-album buddies, Green Day, My Chemical Romance went for the gold with "Welcome to the Black Parade", and fared pretty well. I must admit that i tried to hate this song, but the bleeding heart in me could not resist the grandiosity that is "Welcome to the Black Parade".

8. Josh Ritter - "Girl in the War": Josh Ritter should be a star...but im glad he isn't. The Idaho born singer-songwriter has crafted intimate folk songs on his first couple albums, but his third full-length release, Animal Years, finally sees some of these songs getting fleshed out. "Girl in the War" opens the 2006 release cheery-sounding, but as Ritter's (not so) ambiguous lyrics roll-out over the top of the bright music, we find a more mature Ritter speaking on the casualties of war, and an apathetic nation that just assumes everything will work itself out. Political views aside, Ritter's songwriting skills have grown stronger with each album, and with well-crafted songs like "Girl in the War", he will soon rise to the top of the ever-growing heap of singer-songwriters fighting to differentiate themselves from the pack.

7. Destroyer - "European Oils": From the first stroke of the piano keys on the best track off of Dan Bejar's solo project, Destroyer's, fifth full-length album, it is difficult not to be intrigued. It is once Bejar opens his mouth however, that the listener is won over. Bejar's clever (sometime clumsy) way with words immediately creates a sense of character in his songs, that pulls you in. "European Oils" is no different, with a number of quotable lines sprinkled throughout. None of this would matter though if the music didn't hold up, and Bejar's talent as a (more than) capable multi-instrument musician is visible throughout "European Oils"...fluttering pianos, dirty guitar solos, and la la's, what a fucking maniac.

6. TV on the Radio - "Wolf Like Me": Best track off an album that every critic in the world thought was this year's masterpiece. I didn't exactly fall for the album, but one cannot deny the brilliance of some of the tracks. On an album that knew no genre, "Wolf Like Me", is TV on the Radio doing their best attempt at rocking out (which for them means, rock and roll with thick layers of noise/sound/vocals stacked on top of one another). It's impossible to listen to this song without having your foot tapping though. Throw in the most accessible melody on the album, one of the best voices in "indie-rock", a flip-the-switch slowdown of a bridge (that accentuates the fervor of the rest of the song), and you have my only nod to TV on the Radio for the 2006 year in music (gasp!).

5. The Killers - "Enterlude" -> "When You Were Young": While technically two songs, i couldnt help but include the 49 second "Enterlude" as part of this entry. Following suit of My Chemical Romance, The Killers went for grandeur with their 2006 release, Sam's Town, only they came up short (or maybe didn't push it high enough?). Either way, they did stumble upon greatness with these tracks. While i should be deducting points for blatantly ripping off both Sgt. Peppers and Bruce Springsteen in a four and a half minute span, i couldn't help but acknowledge the ambition here (like i said, i have a soft spot for bands trying these kind of things). With bombastic guitars and giant-sized lyrics/vocals that make religious references and touch on everything from travel to lost youth to broken hearts, "When You Were Young" is the Killers trying to make themselves the biggest band in the world, and if they could have kept up this pace, they may have had a shot.

4. The Decemberists - "The Crane Wife 3": Every article that has ever been written about the Decemberists, inevitably alludes to the literary quality of Colin Meloy's (Decemberist front man) lyrics. Often times lost in the mix though is how much Meloy has developed over the past couple years as a singer and a songwriter. An excellent example of this metamorphosis is "The Crane Wife 3" (The Crane Wife's slow-rising opener, which, ironically enough, is the conclusion to a 3 part story based on a Japanese folk tale). Musically, "The Crane Wife 3" is the Decemberists doing their best impression of the Decemberists (full bodied acoustic guitar teamed with galloping drums and piano), but the inflection in Meloy's voice carries the story further than any Thesarus could, allowing him to say more while saying less. At about the 3:12 mark of the song, Meloy's made-for-indie-rock voice hits just right (or wrong), chills ensue.

3. Gnarls Barkley - "Crazy": The eccentric love child of DJ Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo, Gnarls Barkley, was introduced to the world through one of the most simple, and yet so soulful songs of the past few years. "Crazy" should not have worked, but it did. A simple drumbeat and guitar, a cooing choir, soaring strings drenching the chorus, and the smooth silk that is the voice of Cee-Lo. It doesn't sound like pop music to me, but throw it all together, and you have one of the most infectious pop songs of recent memory. Gnarls Barkley, i don't know who you think you are, but bless your soul.

2. Damien Rice - "9 Crimes": This was the only track on the new album that Damien's leading lady, Lisa Hannigan, has much of a part on, and it is no surprise that it is the best track on the record. The whole thing is haunting. A barely there piano, and Lisa's voice start the song. Before you know it, they are singing over one another and the cello is bellowing over it all. Of course, Rice's ambiguous lyrics hold it all together, and the fact that neither of these singer's have a "beautiful" (by traditional standards) voice makes this story of cheating lovers all that much more believable. It is the only track off of the new Rice album that wasn't an old track polished to look new, so here's to hoping it's a look at what is to come from Ireland's most depressed busker.

1. The Hold Steady - "Stuck Between Stations": The song opens with one guitar, cue the piano and drums, and then it all kicks in to place. The Hold Steady are one of the best rock bands out there right now making records, and "Stuck Between Stations" is exactly why. The song is soaked in rock and roll; it's everyman vocals, it's loud guitars, it's pounding pianos, and it's lifelike lyrics that tell a story of an America you won't see on television. It has my favorite opening line of the year..."There are nights when i think that Sal Paradise was right, boys and girls in America, they have such a sad time together". It has my favorite chorus of the year..."She was a really good kisser, but she wasn't all that strict of a Christian, she was a damn good dancer, but she wasn't all that great of a girlfriend, he likes the warm feeling, but he's tired of all the dehydration, most nights are crystal clear, but tonight it's like he's stuck between stations on the radio". It has my favorite bridge of the year...the song is about to explode at the 2:40 mark and the doors actually blow off at about 2:55 (one cannot help but take the reigns on air guitar when this all comes to a head). The whole thing just rawks out...


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Top Ten Albums of 2006 - Luke

Though it was a struggle to arrive at the proper list, the ten albums here will let no listener down when it comes to sonic goodness. The top EPs, Singles, and Compilations of the year will follow in a later post, along with the other yearly awards I usually give out

10. South – Adventures in the Underground Journey to the Stars

The follow up to their outstanding 2003 release, With the Tides (which was, incidentally, my number 1 album that year), Adventures in the Underground Journey to the Stars is filled with the complicated song structures and intricate melodies which have become South’s signature, but the album as a whole becomes jumbled with a few missteps between the great moments. Whereas With the Tides was South’s attempt at reigning themselves in after a debut album that featured sixteen tracks including six which clocked in at almost five minutes or more, Adventures in the Underground Journey to the Stars finds them again with shorter songs, but without the thought of With the Tides. Songs like Up Close and Personal, A Place in Displacement, and You Are One are fantastic space rockers which elevate the album to incredible heights, but the album is brought down to earth by folk-y love songs which are not only quite terrible, but almost laughable at times. On the whole, though, the great moments of the album more than make up for the occasional ridiculous song.

9. Yeah Yeah Yeah’s – Show Your Bones

I have to admit that I loathe Karen O’s voice, but Show Your Bones is such a barnstorming rock album that I could not help but fall in love with the songs. Guitarist Nicolas Zinner takes his cues from the best of the noise rock and punk guitarists of the mid 80’s to early 90’s and puts incredible power and melody into each guitar line. The guitar is what makes the album the intense rock experience that it is, not the squealing of Karen O, despite what any mainstream media review might say. Add the ribcage vibrating rhythms of Brian Chase into the mix and you are left with an album which is nothing short of the “make your ears bleed” indie rock which is in far too short of supply these days.

8. Glen Hansard – The Swell Season

Anything written about this album fails to capture the depths of the beauty which is translated into audio by the perfectly matched voices of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. It is simply a stunning piece of exquisite songwriting and delicately balanced composition which transcends any kind of accurate description. The only thing I can tell you is to buy it, put it on in a dark room, and allow it to seep into your soul.

7. Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Any band who receive as much critical praise and media attention as the Arctic Monkeys have this year elicit a great amount of skepticism from me, partly because I have never quite understood or liked the bands which magazines like NME have crowned as the “next big thing” and partly because I’m simply the type of person who usually shies away from massive media attention. Add to this heightened skepticism the fact that Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not became the fastest selling debut album in UK chart history, dethroning my beloved Oasis in that category, and you are left with an extremely agitated Luke. However, the album eventually grew on me, thanks in large part to my girlfriend falling in love with it, and despite the album and band’s massively overblown hype, it is a very good album, which has definitely influenced a large population of current UK acts. The songs are quick, fun, and ridiculously simple, with lyrics which capture the everyday doldrums and events of singer Alex Turner’s life, in a very Libertines inspired way. It’s a great album to put on and simply have fun with.

6. The Kooks – Inside In Inside Out

At first glance it may seem that the Kooks are simply a clone of Arctic Monkeys, as they play similar music with a similarly routine lyrical style and a singer who sings in a similarly heavily accented way, but The Kooks prove themselves better musicians and songwriters than the Arctic Monkeys. The song structures are more complicated and mature than the Monkeys and the musicianship on songs such as Jackie Big Tits, Ooh La, and She Moves in Her Own Way set them far apart from the occasionally sloppy play of the Monkeys and create an album of many different layers. In the then end Inside In Inside Out is another fun album which manages to combine the elements of pop and rock perfectly.

5. Hope of the States - Left

Another band who was a former recipient of the top spot in my top ten of the year lists (earning the number one spot in 2004 for The Lost Riots), Hope of the States gave us their second and final album Left in 2006, transposing their orchestral, apocalyptic rock onto a more hard rock album. The themes of Left are similar to those of The Lost Riots, the evils of industry and big government and the guiding theme and mantra which has carried Hope of the States from their inception, through the suicide of guitarist Jimmy Lawrence, and through their chart successes: hope in the face of adversity. Listening to a Hope of the States album absolutely changes the expectations a listener has for any album or artist that is listened to after, because they approach their albums in such a theoretically correct musical way. Whereas most bands today could tell you which key a song was in and little else, Hope of the States challenge the listener with epic melodies and orchestral arrangements while remaining a great rock band. Left departs from The Lost Riots and most of their previous work, focusing more on being a hard rock guitar band, but they keep enough of their flourishes, violin, and piano to create an atmospheric album of revolutionary proportions which is a fitting swan song for one of the best bands I have ever heard.

4. Human Television – Look at Who You’re Talking To

Oftentimes in music there are albums which a listener connects with and falls in love with despite the fact that the album is perhaps nothing special to anyone else. Look at Who You’re Talking To could very well be one of those albums, though I would expect anyone who listened to the album to enjoy it, even if they wouldn’t put it at the number four spot in a countdown of the top ten albums of 2006. However, the fact that it is a very personal album in terms of how much I love it should not scare anyone away because it is one of the most straightforward and charming albums I have ever come across. The songs and the entire make up of the band is very much in keeping with standard American Indie rock and the band can, at times, sound like The Shins, Nada Surf, or Ambulance Ltd. but Human Television manages to put enough raw emotion and appeal into each track that they are completely unique. Listen to Mars Red Dust or Untitled and you will find yourself instantly charmed.

3. Muse - Black Holes and Revelations

What do you call songs about aliens, the apocalypse, space cowboys, and hatred of George W. Bush? Other than Black Holes and Revelations I would call it strangely addicting and positively genius. Mathew Bellamy, probably among the most talented men alive today (he is a piano and guitar virtuoso), crafts song after song of hard rock beauty, his Thom Yorke-like falsetto operatically stretching to hit notes which no human should be allowed to hit whilst thrashing through an intensely complicated guitar solo. Apart from the abysmal track names (Knights of Cydonia?) Black Holes and Revelations is epic in its scope and reality, encompassing the greatest parts of music from the last forty years, referencing Queen, The Who, The Beatles, The Smiths, and Radiohead, but never coming close to ripping any of them off or becoming hackneyed. From the incredible opening track Take a Bow, through the intensity of Map of the Problematique, and into the epic finale of the aforementioned Knights of Cydonia, Muse have crafted not only the best and most unique hard rock album of 2006, but certainly one of the best of all time.

2. Mellowdrone – Box

After touring with the likes of The Killers, Elbow, Johnny Marr, and The Secret Machines, two incredible EPs, and unending label problems and delays, Mellowdrone (the project of Jonathon Bates) finally released its debut album in 2006 and it, despite the cliché, was definitely worth the wait. Jonathon Bates has among the greatest and most versatile voices I have ever heard, from whisper-soft to full out scream he communicates emotion into every syllable he puts across on this album. With songs as varied as the soft 60’s era R&B pop-rock of Orange Marmalade, the perfect indie rock of Whatever the Deal, and the dark synth of Four Leaf Clover, Bates crafts sonic genius in every guitar line and perfectly married combination of voice, bass, and percussion.

1. Midlake – The Trials of Van Occupanther

Anyone who has talked to me about music since spring will undoubtedly have heard me ramble on endlessly about how much I love this album by Midlake. It is a departure from their Flaming Lips-ish debut album and is more in line with 70s folk artists like America or Neil Young, but the songs are so incredibly perfect that the retro synths and prevalent harmonies don’t feel dated in the least. In fact, they manage to make the corniest parts of the 70s seem not only cool, but topical in today’s music. Much like the Decemberists, Midlake’s songs are really stories told about people living either in rural areas or the late 1800s, lending the album a homespun feel which manages to go hand in hand with the retro influenced music. The arrangements and layering of the songs is absolutely beautiful, allowing a song about a scientist attempting to create a special type of drink to become a universally touching song about rejection and strength of character. The Trials of Van Occupanther is a record which has managed to mean more to me than any album put out by a band concerned with songs of love, loss, regret, hope, despair, or any other emotion bands try to put across in song and it manages to do it without being obvious or cheesy, which is really the mark of a great album and what most of us who love music look for in a band and an album: songs which truly impact the listener.

NOTE: Select songs from Midlake, Hope of the States, Human Television, and Glen Hansard are available to listen to on our myspace page at http://www.myspace.com/tuesdaysonthephone


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Top 10 Albums of 2006: As told by Jameson.

As sort of an introduction for the new, forces combined, blog, I have decided to post my top 10 albums of 2006. This list has already been posted on my old Xanga site, but I have decided to move it here to get things rolling. Disclaimer: These are only Jameson's albums (and thoughts) of 2006, not necessarily yours, certainly not Luke's, and definitely not Rolling Stone's.

10. Band of Horses - Everything All the Time
The fight for this last spot was a knock down drag-out, and really there are a number of albums that could have slid in here (2006 releases from Destroyer, TV on the Radio, and Damien Rice all held the spot at one point or another). I settled on Everything All the Time though because it just felt right. An album dripping with character, Band of Horses won't blow you away with parlour (studio) tricks or genre-bending tracks on Everything All the Time. Where the band pulls you in is with the approachability of their music. Reminiscent of a condensed My Morning Jacket, the band tip-toes the line between rock and alt-country magnificently, attracting both the indie faction and the festival crowd. Every song on this album would fit flawlessly on a summer evening in a friend's backyard, drinking, and enjoying the company of others. If that's not convincing enough though, just check out tracks like "The Funeral", "The Great Salt Lake", or "Weed Party", and I am sure you will have a change of heart.
9. The Dears - Gang of Losers

The Dears have scaled things back a little on this, their third full length release. In a year when so much has been said about grandiosity, Gang of Losers, is a slightly more restrained version of the Dears, which still fits them right in with this year's theme of going over the top. Are you still following along? Let me fill you in. In past efforts the Dears went for it all; orchestras, large, lavish arrangements. Here we still have extravagance, just in moderation. All of the albums' tracks fall under the 5 minute mark (with the album weighing in at 48 mins...as opposed to 66 minutes on their last effort), and the Dears rely more on their tight form of synthy brit-pop rock and the unchecked emotion of lead singer, Murray Lightburn, than on strings and complex composition. Speaking of Lightburn, he produces some of the best vocals of the year here, acting out every emotion (but mostly desperation, frustration, and anger...it is indie rock after all), and singing out against the perils of racism and ostracism. If you're part of the 1% of Americans who have never felt left out before, than this album isn't for you, but if you have ever spent the evening next to an idle phone, or sitting on an empty couch in a room full of people, than the Dears would be happy to have you. A little melodramatic? The Dears wouldn't have it any other way.
8. My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade
Any album that's first track has a beeping heart monitor, finger snaps, and lyrics about wanting to "grow up to be nothing at all" is probably going to turn out to be a little dramatic. My Chemical Romance's third release, The Black Parade, has been my guiltiest of pleasures in 2006. I would not have been honest with myself if i had omitted this from the list though. I did not just enjoy this album, i rocked it out. Every track on the album is soaked in the band's influences (most notably Queen's grandeur of soaring guitar solos and swaggering front man...but listen carefully and you will hear Our Lady Peace, the White Stripes, and even Coldplay). It turns out to be just the right mix of lifting though. As i have mentioned before, i tend to have a soft spot in my heart for band's trying to go for the gold, and My Chemical Romance pulled out all the stops here (marching bands, concept album, Liza Minnelli guest vocals). When you get down to it though, The Black Parade is just a scream at the top of your lungs, arena rock album circa the late 70's. And like so many of those albums, you try and hate it, but you can't help but sing along when its playing.

7. Phoenix - It's Never Been Like That
With the opening seconds of the album (which always sparks memories of a hotel alarm clock) as the harshest thing to hit your ears for the entire 37 minutes, It's Never Been Like That is about as feathery as a record can get and still be dubbed a rock album. French band Phoenix has been a group primarily known in the past for music that is more suitable for the dance floor than the rock hall, but on this, their third full-length release, we find a group more concerned with their guitars than ever before. Musically, this album sounds to me like what the Strokes would sound like if they decided to play their brand of dual guitar assault rock (circa Is This It ) in the style of Belle & Sebastian (Scottish Pop). Throw in lead singer, Thomas Mars', "too cool for school" vocals and you have yourself a bona-fide power pop gem.
6. Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

Well, the dust has settled, and the Arctic Monkeys are still standing. Was it the album of the year? No. Was it one of the best albums of the year? I think so. Creating some of the greatest stir of the year in music 2006, the Arctic Monkeys' debut album sold 118,501 copies in the first week (making it the fastest selling debut ever, while selling more than the rest of the top 20 combined in the process). One of the greatest appeals of this album to me though is that it sounds like someone you know could have recorded it. It is a raw, youthful, surprisingly accessible, take on what the Strokes and the Libertines were doing a few years ago. The whole thing is high-energy, and feels like it was recorded (in one take) in a room two sizes too small to a group of 100 sweaty kids buying every ounce of what the Arctic Monkeys are selling. Monkeys' lead singer, Alex Turner, romanticizes those difficult to define years between youth and adulthood perfectly, with a british snarl and an honest wit, making it difficult not to enlist as well. Despite the band's denial, it looks like whatever people were saying about the Arctic Monkeys may have been true after all.
5. Josh Ritter - The Animal Years
Of all the albums on my best of 2006 list, I would guess that this album would be the most universally enjoyed. Josh Ritter's fourth LP, The Animal Years, was probably my most listened to album of 2006. While this can partly be attributed to its early release (leak), it is also a statement about the overall quality/staying power of the album. From start to finish, this is a fantastic album. In past efforts, Ritter's work has maintained a pretty standard folk structure, but on The Animal Years, Ritter decided to add the word "rock" to some of that folk, and has started expanding some of these tracks out. Don't get me wrong, we still have our fair share of "bare-boned" tracks on this one, but even those reflect a certain level of depth and maturity that Ritter lacked on previous releases. It all comes down to Ritter's passion though. Serving as the mortar to this brick house of an album, Ritter's voice carries the kind of sentiment that can transform you from a listener to a believer. It is that kind of devotion that can set you apart from the imitators and take you places (Bruce Springsteen anyone?). As for us die-hards out there, Ritter says it best, "It's hell to believe there ain't a hell of a chance".
4. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife

In a year when most people thought the Decemberists would go commercial (The Crane Wife, their fourth album in five years, is their major label debut), it appears all of the quirks and aberrations are still in tact. In fact, im pretty sure there is nothing commercial about a ten track album with two songs clocking in at over eleven minutes in length, and a central theme that revolves around a Japanese folk tale. On The Crane Wife, band leader, Colin Meloy, sticks to his usual period pieces, bouncing throughout history in order to weave a literary web of lost love and regrets. For those familiar with the Decemberists' previous releases, you may be surprised to hear a little heavier side of the "prog-rock" darlings (akin to The Tain EP), but i find it a breath of fresh air, as the first three albums' homogenous sound was starting to feel repetitive. While the middle section of the album does feel somewhat forced, with bookends like these, one cannot help but overlook the momentary lulls. The three part story of "The Crane Wife", the epic rock opera of "The Island", and the pop punch rise of album closer, "Sons And Daughters", is some of the best music the Decemberists have ever produced, and with a supporting cast like "Yankee Bayonet", "O Valencia", and "Shankill Butchers", the album is fully equipped to stand amongst the upper echelon of albums released in 2006.
3. Albert Hammond Jr. - Yours To Keep
Sometimes great anticipation for an album can lead to great let down. Often the best medicine against such misfortune though is to never know about the album's release in the first place. It was not until Albert Hammond Jr. posted solo tracks on MySpace that i discovered the Strokes' enthusiastic guitar player was even planning to release a solo effort. The first thing i thought of was: Can he sing? Then i wondered: Are the Strokes breaking up? Lastly, i thought: Wonder if this will be better than First Impressions of Earth (the strokes 3rd, and very disappointing LP, also released in 2006)? As soon as i heard the tracks, the answers to my questions came quickly (Yes, No, Yes), and as far as the singing goes, i may actually prefer Hammond's smoother voice to Casablancas' grit (it at least works better than Casablancas' would have on this collection of sunshine pop songs). I read somewhere that this album could be described as Strokes-lite, and i have found that is the most accurate description of the music on Yours To Keep. This is essentially a Strokes album (confirming that Albert Hammond Jr. is the backbone of the band), but in a lighter/happier/more effervescent vein than we have ever seen on any of the band's releases. Clocking in at just over 35 minutes, the whole album is Hammond showing off how easily he can compose his take on simple pop music, and he nails it via effortless melodies and textbook guitar work. This is easily the most fun album on my list, and will go down as my favorite pop album of 2006. At least one of the Stokes had a good year.

2. Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova - The Swell Season

Glen Hansard is one of those musicians that cannot function unless he is emersed in music. As lead singer of the successful Irish band, the Frames, Hansard has put out four albums since 1999 (including a pretty solid album in 2006 which did not make my list), as well as toured constantly, becoming one of the most (if not the most) popular live acts in Ireland. Furthermore, in downtime away from the Frames, Hansard would play solo shows (with Marketa Irglova) anywhere they would book him. During one of these solo shows, Czech filmmaker, Jan Hrebejk, was so impressed that he requested Hansard and Irglova record a couple songs for his upcoming film, "Beauty In Trouble". A studio was booked for four days. The ambitious Hansard (feeling four days was a little excessive for two songs) decided to record the requested songs, as well as anything else Irglova and him had previously played together, and so the The Swell Season was born.
I have almost been dreading writing this review, as this album is so sacred to me (intense, i know). The Swell Season speaks so strongly standing alone though, that I am not even sure there is much that I could say which would do it any justice. It is a quite simple (master)piece, consisting mainly of acoustic guitar, a sparse strings section, and piano. At the same time it so rich, never sounding hollow/empty. The music is primarily lighter (as the instruments listed would imply), but there is so much passion/devotion in the voice/words of Hansard, that almost every emotion can be found, hidden somewhere on this 43 minute treasure. Additionally, Irglova's beautifully captivating voice is found complimenting Hansard's on nearly every track, building a soft (yet solid) foundation for him to project from. However, Irglova does take the lead on the album's haunting finale, almost stealing the show. In the end, it is clear that this is Hansard's creation though, and i would argue it rivals anything he has ever produced with his band. I would speak of some standout tracks, but this is one of those albums where almost every song at some point or another has been my favorite, speaking volumes about the depth and breadth of The Swell Season. One final thought: In a time when it takes some bands over a year in the studio to record an album, I must say that i am thoroughly impressed, and encouraged, knowing that such a phenomenal album was recorded in one week, almost on a whim.

1. The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls In America

While Boys And Girls In America is not a concept album, the whole thing revolves around a thesis taken from the Jack Kerouac novel, On the Road: "Boys and Girls in America have such a sad time together." The line is first sang (half-spoken) in the rousing opener, "Stuck Between Stations" (my 2006 song of the year), and the rest of the album is lead singer, Craig Finn, telling tales about the good, the bad, and (most often) the ugly side of being a youth in modern America. Finn is more a storyteller than a lead singer though, and with such an open-ended premise like the Kerouac line to branch his vivid stories from, he paints an American youth that spends more time drinking under graffiti-filled overpasses than playing catch barricaded in their back yards by white picket fences. For first-timers, take note, the speak-sing style of Craig Finn may take some getting used to, but it serves his writing style perfectly, and is worth the effort.

While Finn's hard-hitting anecdotes should be enough to get anyone to listen to Boys And Girls In America, no mention has been made about the fact that this was the best rock album released in 2006. In a year when the Killers tried so hard to be Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street band, this bar band from Minneapolis (technically Brooklyn, but 4 out of 5 members hail from the twin city, and most of Finn's stories make reference to the greater Minneapolis/St.Paul area) sounds more like the Boss and his cohorts than anything that four guys from Las Vegas tried to produce this year by throwing on some flannel shirts and growing facial hair. Pounding pianos/organs, soaring guitars, and a subtle horns section serve as the perfect canvas for Finn's everyman voice to spit and snarl his dark narratives over top of. Every track on the album is dripping with the band's blood, sweat, and tears, sounding more like a live recording than a studio release, further enhancing the Hold Steady's bar band integrity. Simply put, Boys And Girls In America is a modern rock classic with that classic rock feel. Anymore these days, people are scared off by terms like "indie rock", fearing that it will be too obscure for their tastes, and take too much effort. While the Hold Steady are often lumped into this conglomerate of a genre, make no mistakes about it ladies and gentleman, the Hold Steady are not an indie rock band, and there is nothing indie about this genuine rock release.


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For the Benefit of Mr. Kite

Oftentimes it takes the combination of two seemingly unrelated objects, events, or personalities distilled and properly combined to bring out the best elements of each. Dry, mouth clinging peanut butter has ultra sweet, somewhat creepy jelly, jack has coke, and now two music blogs have each other. Jameson Czech's "My Unqualified Opinion", filled to the brim with spot on musical observations, reviews, and the constant reminder that the author is not a music expert (though it seems that no one is better qualified) joins together with "Fuckle", the long defunct former stomping grounds of curmudgeonly music enthusiast Luke Barnard.

Tuesday's On The Phone will be a more than simply a place to get a decent review of recently released music, it will be a, hopefully, fertile plain of reflections on current, past, and future musical trends and artists as well as a place to actually hear a review. The blog will exist in two different locations: blogspot and myspace, allowing the authors to share not only their words, but the actual music they are discussing. The blogspot space will be the place to go to view the text and articles of the site most conveniently while the myspace site will be a destination for the music, although it will also feature every post.

We hope that you enjoy the soon to come reviews, articles, and miscellaneous posts, but more than anything we simply hope that you, the reader, will join into the discussions and open your mind and ears to the incredible amounts of wonderful (and awful) music that is at the tips of your fingertips.



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