Sunday, January 29, 2006

Toaster Full of Women

Side note: Hey, if it's you, would you please stop killing all the great soul singers out there?

>> Featured Artist:
Laura Veirs

Well, Ms. Veirs opened up last night in Alexandria, Va., for
last week's Toaster Artist, the always-charming Colin Meloy. Who can pass up an artist whose name is a sentence?

Her set was about 30-percent really solid songs like "Spelunking"; 45 percent of material that mostly just set a nice mood for the evening of glassed singer-songwriters singin' 'round a non-existent campire; and the remaining quarter of songs that decayed into a self-indulgent loop pedal exercise (seriously, leave it home, Laura. We'd rather just hear you sing normal-like).

"Spelunking" (off Year of Meteors) really grabbed the Toaster with its pretty fingerpicked geeter and Veirs' lush, layered vox that reminds us all of Kathleen Edwards. Preliminary research reveals that spelunking is some sort of outdoor activity. More on this to come...

>> Album Lookout: The Greatest

Cat Power -
Released: Jan. 24 on Matador

Apparently, Jan. 24 was the day to release an album, as all three of the Toaster's Album posts thus far were released from the artists' womb last Tuesday. Cat Power has always been treading water, keeping her head afloat, in the Toaster's lush catalog of MP3s we don't listen to enough. And now she's broken loose.

A holiday monetary gift was exchanged for the pink, shiny album this week and has once again proved that file-sharing can lead to album sales -- not just homeless musicians.

"Could We" is on this new release, which features a title that is simultaneously a little confusing and seemingly pompous. All we can say is this is the best lazy-Sunday album of the year thus far. Put your Norah Jones comparisons away; Cat Power deserves better.

>> Reverting to: 1969 (again)

"After Hours" - Everyone who's ever started a band because of The Velvet Underground's first album probably would have also put this at the tail end of a mix tape -- you know, in the way "Her Majesty" put a nightcap on Abbey Road.

It's our favorite song to sing late at night or when the curtain's going down or when someone left the dishes on the living room table (maybe due to the "wine glass" lyric...?).

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Ill Literacy

>> Featured Artist: Colin Meloy

Not only did Colin Meloy pen
book-nerdiest and best album of 2005, The Decemberists' Picaresque, he also shares his name with a buddy of mine (the last names are differently spelled). And when Mister Toaster talked to him after The Decemberists' 2004 Cleveland show, he had yet to meet another "Colin Meloy." Yet another life altered by the trivial input of The Toaster!!

Sure, a Decemberists concert is not to be missed, but The Toaster and DJBryan got a chance to catch Meloy on his solo tour last winter at Iota in Arlington, Va., and signed a written pact -- scrawled on bread with deli mustard -- never to miss a solo Meloy performance. Naturally, when it was announced he was playing another gig in Arlington next Saturday, the usual suspects decided to honor the pact (which was later consumed) and jumped onto the Internets to purchase tix. "Charlie" is a track off Meloy's tour-only release, Colin Meloy Sings Shirley Collins!

>> Album Lookout: Sun Sun Sun

The Elected -
Due out: Jan. 24 on Sub Pop

Last week, The Toaster posted the first
of the two Rilo Kiley solo efforts being released Tuesday, and upon further listening and agonizing, decided The Elected's sophomore effort also deserved a shout out.

The Toaster doesn't have a distinct favorite song yet, so it decided to post the most intense Bright Eyes-like of the songs floating out there, "Not Going Home." Love the harmonies on the verses.

>> Reverting to: 1969

"Helplessly Hoping" - Not much to say. Pure beauty here from the harmony masters Crosby Stills & Nash's self-titled debut, which is being re-released Tuesday. This song was a friend's fave, and now it's one of ours.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

You Crazy Swedes! A First (Real) Post

So, the first real post yields lots of pressure to deliver. So, naturally, The Toaster Talks turns to what we're comfortable with.

>> Featured Artist: Jens Lekman

From our favorite quirky Swedish indie guy who has a name as equally intimidating as "Sufjan Stevens." How does Jens follow up a smashing compilation of his best releases from 2003 to 2004*?

By quitting. In November, that crazy Jens officially went on hiatus, all the while hinting it wouldn't be permanent. And guess what? On December 31, Jens announced that "Jens Lekman is back in business" and that "nothing can bring me down right now. NOTHING." Gotsta love that crazy Swedish indecision/quick recovery.

"Black Cab" reminds The Toaster of The Velvet Underground. Perhaps it's all the mentioning of parties. Or Jens' dry delivery which can be likened to an accent-laden Lou Reed. Or maybe it's just that we'd love to hear Nico sing this.

Kudos to Sister Katie, who was a good year ahead of everyone else on this, as she often is.

* sans "You Are the Light," which is sadly left off the album.

>> Album Lookout: Rabbit Fur Coat

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins -
Due out: Jan. 24 on Team Love

The Toaster Talks tried to resist the hipster, white-middle-class-cool of Rilo Kiley, but got reeled in on
Execution and now The Toaster is primed for what will be a month of two Rilo Kiley solo efforts -- this album and Blake Sennet-fronted The Elected's follow-up to Me First, Sun Sun Sun (also to be released Jan. 24 on SubPop).

Everything we've heard from Rabbit Fur Coat sounds like Jenny Lewis hasn't missed a step and the Watson Twins' harmonies and background delight greatly complement Lewis' attack-the-mic-then-sing-pretty style.

"You Are What You Love" sounds at first pleasingly like a More Adventurous outtake, but the well-crafted lyrics have made this an instant Toaster favorite.

>> Reverting to: 1978

"No Action" - What's not to love about the way that Elvis Costello and the Attractions start out This Year's Model? hat else do you expect from the way Elvis is peering menacingly on the cover?

It's 2:01 of flailing intensity and biting lyrics and single-handedly can wake The Toaster out of any funk (something very few songs aside from Survivor's "The Eye of the Tiger" can do). The Toaster Talks hereby coins the term: "No Action" rush. Flail along with us.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Year That Was: 2005 (Complete List)

Thanks, 2005!

100 >> New Buffalo | "Recovery"
| Last Beautiful Day
99 >> The Darkness | "Is It Just Me?" | One Way Ticket to Hell…And Back
98 >> Sambassadeur | "Between the Lines" | Sambassadeur
97 >>
Aqueduct | "The Suggestion Box" | I Sold Gold
96 >> Bloc Party |"Banquet" | Silent Alarm
95 >> The Mountain Goats | "Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod" | The Sunset Tree
94 >> Imogen Heap | "Headlock" | Speak for Yourself
93 >> Franz Ferdinand | "Eleanor Put Your Boots On" |You Could Have It So Much Better
92 >> John Vanderslice | "Trance Manual" | Pixel Revolt
91 >> The Bravery | "An Honest Mistake" | The Bravery
90 >> Paul McCartney | "Anyway" | Chaos and Creation in the Backyard
89 >> The Spinto Band | "Did I Tell You" | Nice and Nicely Done
88 >> Andrew Bird | "A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left" | Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs
87 >> Of
Montreal | "The Party's Crashing Us" | The Sunlandic Twins
86 >> Super Furry Animals | "The Horn" | Love Kraft
85 >> The Decemberists | "Engine Driver" | Picaresque
84 >> The
Coral Sea | "Look at Her Face" | Volcano and Heart
83 >> The Spectacular Fantastic | "Darkest Hour" | Goes Underground
82 >> Goldrush | "Wait for the Wheels" | Ozona
81 >> Voxtrot | "The Start of Something" | Voxtrot
80 >> Wolf Parade | "I'll Believe in Anything" | Apologies to the Queen Mary
79 >> Jeff Hanson | "This Time It Will" | Jeff Hanson
78 >> Bright Eyes | "Gold Mine Gutted" | Digital Ash in a Digital Urn
77 >> Jose Gonzalez | "Heartbeats" | Veneer
76 >> Low | "
California" | The Great Destroyer
75 >> Eels | "Trouble With Dreams" | Blinking Lights (and Other Revelations)
74 >> Fiona Apple | "Oh Well" | Extraordinary Machine
73 >> Get Him Eat Him | "Mumble Mumble" | Geography Cones
72 >> Harvey Danger | "Little Round Mirrors" | Little by Little…
71 >> Kaiser Chiefs | "I Predict a Riot" | Employment
70 >> Ben Folds | "Late" | Songs for Silverman
69 >> Moonbabies | "War on Sound" | War on Sound
68 >> The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers | "Concerning Lessons Learned from the Aliens" | The Mother of Love Emulates the Shapes of Cynthia
67 >> Shout Out Louds | "The Comeback" | Howl Howl Gaff Gaff
66 >> Paul McCartney | "At the Mercy" | Chaos and Creation in the Backyard
65 >>
Okkervil River | "Black" | Black Sheep Boy
64 >> Southeast Engine | "I Try Not to Lie" | Coming to Terms With Gravity
63 >> Doves | "Walk on Fire" | Some Cities
62 >> Kathleen Edwards | "Summerlong" | Back to Me
61 >> Coldplay | "Fix You" | X&Y
60 >> Kanye West (featuring Jamie Foxx) | "Gold Digger" | Late Registration
59 >> Sigur Rós | "Hoppípolla" | Takk…
58 >> The
Mendoza Line | "Catch a Collapsing Star" | Full of Light and Full of Fire
57 >> Immaculate
Machine | "No Way Out" | Ones and Zeros
56 >> M. Ward | "Radio Campaign" | Transistor Radio
55 >> Norivello | "The Hypothesist" | Aim Right for the Holes in Their Lives
54 >> Bloc Party | "Like Eating Glass" | Silent Alarm
53 >> The National | "Mr. November" | Alligator
52 >> Death Cab for Cutie | "Different Names for the Same Thing" | Plans
51 >> Devin Davis | "Turtle and the Flightless Bird" | Lonely People of the World, Unite!
50 >> Franz Ferdinand | "Walk Away" | You Could Have It So Much Better
49 >> My Morning Jacket | "Knot Comes Loose" | Z
48 >> The New Pornographers | "The Bleeding Heart Show" | Twin Cinema
47 >> Iron and Wine | "Woman King" | Woman King
46 >> Kelly Clarkson | "Since U Been Gone" | Breakaway
45 >> Beck | "Rental Car" | Guero
44 >> Of Monteal | "So Begins Our Alabee" | The Sunlandic Twins
43 >> Bright Eyes | "Old Soul Song (For the New World Order)" | I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
42 >>
Okkervil River | "For Real" | Black Sheep Boy
41 >> Calexico & Iron and Wine | "Sixteen, Maybe Less" | In the Reins
40 >> Happy Bullets | The Vice and Virtue Ministry | The Vice and Virtue Ministry
39 >> Spoon | "The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine" | Gimme Fiction
38 >> Stars | "Ageless Beauty" | Set Yourself on Fire
37 >> The Mountain Goats | "This Year" | The Sunset Tree
36 >> The Deathray Davies | "Plan to Stay Awake" | The Kick and the Snare
35 >> Page
France | "Chariot" | Hello, Dear Wind
34 >> Natasha Bedingfield | "These Words" | Unwritten
33 >> Paul Duncan | "Oil in the Fields" | Be Careful What You Call Home
32 >> Kings of
Leon | The Bucket | Aha Shake Heartbreak
31 >> The Boy Least Likely To | "Be Gentle With Me" | The Best Party Ever
30 >> The Cloud Room | "Hey Now Now" | The Cloud Room
29 >> Kate Miller-Heidke | "Space They Cannot Touch" | Telegram
28 >> Southeast Engine | "Coming to Terms With Gravity" | Coming to Terms With Gravity
27 >> The Hold Steady | "Your Little Hoodrat Friend" | Separation Sunday
26 >> Sufjan Stevens | "Casimir Pulaski Day" |
25 >>
The Decemberists | "The Infanta" | Picaresque
24 >> The New Pornographers | "Sing Me Spanish Techno" | Twin Cinema
23 >> Rogue Wave | "Salesman at the Day of the Parade" | Descended Like Vultures
22 >> Kathleen Edwards | "What Are You Waiting For?" | Back to Me
21 >> Iron and Wine | "Freedom Hangs Like Heaven" | Woman King
20 >> Fiona Apple | "Tymps (The Sick in the Head Song)" | Extraordinary Machine
19 >> Death Cab for Cutie | "Marching Bands of
Manhattan" | Plans
18 >> Eels | "In the Yard, Behind the Church" | Blinking Lights (and Other Revelations)
17 >> Franz Ferdinand | "The Fallen" | You Could Have It So Much Better
16 >> Martha Wainwright | "Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole" | Martha Wainwright
15 >> Nada Surf | "Armies Walk" | The Weight Is a Gift
14 >> Devin Davis | "Cannons at the Courthouse" | Lonely People of the World, Unite!
13 >> Ryan Adams & the Cardinals | "If I Am a Stranger" | Cold Roses
12 >> Coldplay | "
Til Kingdom Come" | X&Y
11 >> Calexico & Iron and Wine | "A History of Lovers" | In the Reins
10 >> Andrew Bird | "Fake Palindromes" | Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs
09 >> …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead | "Worlds Apart" | Worlds Apart
08 >> Sufjan Stevens | "
Chicago" | Illinois
07 >> Stars | "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead" | Set Yourself on Fire
06 >> Eels | "Things the Grandchildren Should Know" | Blinking Lights (and Other Revelations)
05 >> The Decemberists | "We Both Go Down Together" | Picaresque
04 >> The Mountain Goats | "Broom People" | The Sunset Tree
03 >> The New Pornographers | "Use It" | Twin Cinema
02 >> Sufjan Stevens | "The Predatory Wasp of the
Palisades Is Out to Get Us!" | Illinois
01 >>
Devin Davis | "Giant Spiders" / "The Choir Invisible" | Lonely People of the World, Unite!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Year That Was: 2005 - Part VI (5-1)

Note: The Toaster Talks will post the entire Top 100 songs and the Top 10 Albums of the Year tomorrow. These songs, as opposed to earlier songs on the list, will be available for download for a few weeks.

:: 5 ::

The Decemberists | “We Both Go Down Together” | Picaresque

There is hardly a lull on this masterpiece recording by our favorite literary indie rockers. From songs about maritime vengeance in the “belly of a whale” to slightly veiled digs at the war to romantic epics about treason and spies to this Romeo and Juliet-esque ode centers on what now might be criminal sexual assault (“You wept, but your soul was willing”?). It makes no difference which Meloy-penned track you choose - “We Both Go Down Together” just happens to be the Toaster’s favorite - this is the best album of the year.

Artist Site:
Buy Picaresque

:: 4 ::

The Mountain Goats | “Broom People” | The Sunset Tree

John Darnielle performs like a younger, much more cognizant (but equally as fragile and intense) Brian Wilson. His semi-autobiographical The Sunset Tree proves once again that every subsequent Mountain Goats release can be seen as an improvement on the last. There’s a refined aspect to the songwriting, the delivery of the vocals, the subject intensity (it’s an album about child abuse) that just wasn’t there on We Shall All Be Healed. The succinct passion that is front and center on “Broom People” leads the Toaster crew to deem Darnielle at least the singer-songwriter of the year - if not that of the post-Elliott Smith generation.

“Half-eaten gallons of ice cream in the freezer, fresh fuel for the sodium flares. I write down good reasons to freeze to death in my spiral-ring notebook. But in the long tresses of your hair, I am a babbling brook.”

Artist Site:
Buy The Sunset Tree

:: 3 ::

The New Pornographers | “Use It” | Twin Cinema

Bliss, we tell you. Fucking pop bliss. It’s also worth noting that the live show -- hell, just having A.C. Newman and Neko Case on neighboring mics -- is not to be missed.

Artist Site:
Buy Twin Cinema

:: 2 ::

Sufjan Stevens | “The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is out to Get Us!” | Illinois

This marks Sufjan’s third appearance in the Top 30, a feat unparalleled for what not the album of the year (it’s a close second, docked by the wayward instrumentals and the fact that this is not the last song on the album - it’s a no-brainer!). “Predatory Wasp” is Sufjan’s lush arrangements, diary-like lyrics and staggered momentum at its absolute best - indeed, it’s a close second to the No. 1 song of the year.

Artist Site:
Buy Illinois

:: 1 ::

Devin Davis | “Giant Spiders" / "The Choir Invisible” | Lonely People of the World, Unite!

Anytime a song comes around that makes you sing along and love the world, no matter your mood, its importance cannot be overstated. To the Toaster, Devin Davis has made a perfect record on this one (especially when paired with “The Choir Invisible,” which acts as Giant Spiders Part II). It started out as the song of the summer, discovered - as so many songs are for me - by Bryan, who featured it on an impressive June compilation. It ended up soundtracking our favorite moments of the year - road trips, post-concert/party cool-downs, power hours, July 4th roof parties (note especially the fireworks in “Choir”) and oh-so-many sing-alongs.

“There’s a dirty sock in my hair; I don’t remember putting it there…”
“But if we’re curled up behind some thick, lead wall, we should be fine if we can survive the GIANT SPIDERS! No I won’t sit still til I’m upside-down in the back of your eyes. Lonely people of the world, unite!”

Artist Site:
Buy Lonely People of the World, Unite!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Year That Was: 2005 - Part V (10-6)

:: 10 ::

Andrew Bird “Fake PalindromesAndrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs

From an artist whose M.O. is being all over the place and an album recorded in the same vein, “Fake Palindromes” feels so focused. The stop-start pacing strings us along from the get-go. We want to sing along, and hold hands and sing:

“And we’re gonna tie your wrists with leather and drill a tiny hole into your head. And we’re gonna drill a tiny hole!”

Artist Site:
Buy Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs

:: 9 ::

…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead “Worlds ApartWorlds Apart

The brashest, most irreverently political pop song of the year. You’d think we’d flinch at the 9/11 reference: “How they laugh as we shovel the ashes of the Twin Towers!” but then again, this band has never really been one to mince words. I must also recognize that the children reacting with cheers and laughter to the lyrics adds a nice touch; they single-handedly took this song to the top.

Artist Site:
Buy Worlds Apart

:: 8 ::

Sufjan Stevens “ChicagoIllinois

The road-trip song of the year, off of Sufjan Stevens’ 50-state project. Is it his voice or his blunt lyrics that makes this song so emotional for us?

“I was in love with a place in my mind, in my mind. I made a lot of mistakes in my mind, in my mind."

Artist Site:
Buy Illinois

:: 7 ::

Stars “Your Ex-Lover Is DeadSet Yourself on Fire

Stars have a knack for creating vibrant, danceable music. The pounding of the bass and the drums. The twinkle of the keys. The driving rhythm of the guitar. The lead hook being played on a cello. We’re not sure which of these elements makes the tone perfect for a dramatic post-breakup song. And we don’t know anyone who has had enough of Torquill Cambell’s voice. Her stage performance freaks us out, but that’s why they invented eyelids.

Artist Site:
Buy Set Yourself on Fire

:: 6 ::

Eels “Things the Grandchildren Should KnowBlinking Lights (and Other Revelations)

The capper of his two-disc autobiography, “Things the Grandchildren Should Know” has the weighty obligation of bringing things to a close. And, if this is E’s farewell to the music business -- a rumor the man denies (but, then again, he also denied being MC Honky) -- we can’t think of a more perfect way to remember him.

“And I had some regrets, but if I had to do it all again. Well, it’s something I’d like to do.”

Artist Site:
Buy Blinking Lights (and Other Revelations)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Year That Was: 2005 - Part IV (15-11)

:: 15 ::

Nada Surf | “Armies Walk” | The Weight Is a Gift

From its Moon-ish drum intro to the shouted “Armies walk! Inside of me!” chorus to the Beach Boys ode at the coda, “Armies Walk” is nothing short of our suggested personal anthem for 2005. For all of you.

Artist Site:
Buy The Weight Is a Gift

:: 14 ::

Devin Davis | “Cannons at the Courthouse” | Lonely People of the World, Unite!

Upon first listen, Devin Davis’ dream sequence “Cannons at the Courthouse” seems to start to unravel when it brings smoking reefers with Willie Nelsonon the roof of the White House into the narrative, just as it seems to continue headstrong into lyrical grievances with Wal-Mart and Starbucks. But as the song recovers and builds into a cohesive, it becomes clear that Devin Davis has taken his audience for an energetic indie-rock ride. While the multiple movements alone each contain elements of genius, they together prove to be something of a sacred song for the ADD kids.

Band site:
Buy Lonely People of the World, Unite!

:: 13 ::

Ryan Adams & the Cardinals | “If I Am a Stranger” | Cold Roses

We’re going to stick with Ryan Adams first release of 2005 on this one. For the occasional, not-so-dedicated fan, his rate of output is just plain hard to keep up with. Adams is at his best when he sticks to straightforward jangle country rock. “If I Am a Stranger” reminds us all just how good his hooks can be.

Band site:
Buy Cold Roses

:: 12 ::

Coldplay | “Til Kingdom Come” | X&Y

Chris Martin needs to lay off the falsetto. Again, it’s the understated beauty on “Til Kingdom Come” that brings the song to near-perfection. It’s that and the kick-in-the-ass the song gets from the organ in the choruses, but all we know is it’s hard to argue with Coldplay when they’re getting it right.

Band site:
Buy X&Y

:: 11 ::

Calexico & Iron and Wine | “A History of Lovers” | In the Reins

Iron and Wine’s second 2005 EP, the product of a partnership with Calexico, manages to outdo the first. Calexico’s tight, intricate backing tracks beefs up Sam Beam’s song stylings in a way his solo efforts avoided (even the more filled-out Woman King). The full band always stops well short of overpowering Beam and gives us all our pedal steel fix for the day.

Artist site:
Buy In the Reins

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Year That Was: 2005 - Part III (20-16)

[See the introduction in Part One (below)]

:: 20 ::

Fiona Apple | “Tymps (The Sick in the Head Song)” | Extraordinary Machine

Now that Fiona has been “freed,” she’s back six years after her brilliant sophomore album When the Pawn... with slightly revamped versions of the album leaked last summer. “Tymps” is the exception, a song absent from the original leaks to the Internets, and one that has such locomotion that it somehow brings order to the rest of the album, which had sounded somewhat schizophrenically compiled.

“And that signature thing that used to bring a following I have trouble now even remembering.”

Artist Site:
Buy Extraordinary Machine

:: 19 ::

Death Cab for Cutie | “Marching Bands of Manhattan” | Plans

We’ve all had enough of Death Cabbies jumping off the bandwagon once it made a stop at the O.C. Plans is a better-than-decent album that fails mostly in its inability to match the cohesiveness of Transatlanticism, but it is half-full with gems like the tone-setting opener, “Marching Bands of Manhattan.” Say what you will, but we’re human and we’ll cave to Ben Gibbard’s voice on top of that spacey organ any day.

Band site:
Buy Plans

:: 18 ::

Eels | “In the Yard, Behind the Church” | Blinking Lights (and Other Revelations)

E is the king of personal masterpieces. Blinking Lights may be the most inexplicably overlooked album of 2005; nine of its 33 tracks received nominations in the Toaster’s 2005 Best Of process, but it seems to have been forgotten in most critics’ end-of-the-year honors. “In the Yard’ may not be representative of the work as a whole, but it shines easily on its own as it plunges the listener from its delicate, bell-tinkling verses to its driving, lush vocal-less choruses.

Band site:
Buy Blinking Lights (and Other Revelations)

:: 17 ::

Franz Ferdinand | “The Fallen” | You Could Have It So Much Better

Franz at its finest. Yep.

“Well, what’s wrong with a little destruction?”

Band site:
Buy You Could Have It So Much Better

:: 16 ::

Martha Wainwright | “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole” | Martha Wainwright

Rufus’ little sister Martha Wainwright seems to have also inherited the family’s gift of bringing its personal problems into the public spotlight via song. The Toaster isn’t quite sure just who Martha’s singing to, but the muscle in her voice and the way she spits out “for you-whoever you are” lets us know she means it.

“And you have no idea, no idea how it feels to be on your own in your own home, with the fucking phone and the mother of gloom in your bedroom.”

Artist site:
Buy Martha Wainwright