Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Us Kids Know

>> Featured Artist: Son Volt

As Jay Ferrar preps his post-Uncle Tupelo outfit's fifth full length, the Toaster has to admit it was introduced to the bandwagon not more than a year ago by friend and coworker Michael S. Since then, it's been hard not fall for the songwriter who pretty much created alt-country as we know it.

The Search is due out next week on what is shaping up to be the biggest release day yet of 2007. Still, Mister Toaster insisted on featuring a Son Volt throwback. "Too Early," a mournful tale of "too much habit" from 1995's Son Volt debut Trace.

We can't completely put our finger on it, but there's something religious about the way the simple acoustic guitar changes interact with the accordian solos. It has kept the song on our playlist for months.

>> Album Lookout: Neon Bible

Arcade Fire - To Be Released: March 6, 2007 Merge

Arcade Fire has a knack for writing epic pop songs. It seems that, even when they're not trying, the sheer musical mass and the intricacies of each song's texture force each song into our "Holy Shit-Music to Change the Goddamn World" folder. They don't help things with all the use they get out of the choir.

For those familiar with the band's 2003 self-titled release, "No Cars Go" isn't much of a teaser of next week's Neon Bible release. While we're not always an advocate of rehashing old material to slip one by all those new fans, "No Cars Go" is an obvious choice for a revisit.

It's not just a perfect showcase for the bigness of the Arcade Fire sound, it's practically a childhood dream anthem. It's also a puzzle - a place where no cars, planes, ships, spaceships or subs go? Hmm. Then the devolution of the song into an into-the-lifeboats motif...Yeah, us kids know it's probably about sex and/or drugs. At least, we can only hope it is.

>> Reverting to: 1981

Now this isn't meant to coincide with the coda of Black History Month, but if you, the eager reader, want to read this post about an all-white synth-pop Brit trio with leftist sympathies that way, we can't do anything about that, can we?

A coworker made Mister Toaster a mix for his birthday with a song from each year he's been alive. The mix began subtly with Heaven 17's "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang." And his life hasn't been the same.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Fat Oscars

>> Featured Artist: El Perro del Mar

As Mardi Gras comes to an end down in New Orleans, we're increasingly drawn to the creepy-pretty El Perro del Mar song "Party." From the minor-key insertion of "Be Bop a Lula" at the end of the chorus to the droning backing vocals, El Perro del Mar creeps us the fuck out.

Having lived in New Orleans for the summer of 2001, we're hoping that life in New Orleans' Mardi Gras carnivale/festival/parade/drunkfest has not become the minor-key rendition of its past.

Still, there's a party going on.

>> Album Lookout: The 79th Annual Academy Awards

Various Artists - Airing: Feb. 25, 2007 ABC

With the nominees for Best Original Song including the requisite Randy Newman song, a trying-too-hard political song by Melissa Etheridge for An Inconvenient Truth and the three original tracks (read: the underwhelming songs) from Dreamgirls, the Toaster decided to revert to one of the 51 songs that were submitted but did not receive nominations.

Though there were only a few indie tracks gracing the Oscar submissions this year, Spoon's "The Book I Write" for the impressive Will Ferrell vehicle Stranger Than Fiction stands out among them. Not only is it one of the better recent Spoon songs, but it adds a component to the movie that something like Etheridge's "I Need to Wake Up" or Dreamgirls' "Patience" didn't. It was a natural fit.

Our vote goes to Randy Newman.

>> Reverting to: 1965

Now that we've depressed you all, let's relish in one of the best Mardi Gras songs of all time, The Dixie Cups' "Iko Iko."

"My grandma said to your grandma, 'I'm gonna set your flag on fire.'"

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ice Ice Baby

>> Featured Artist: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

Just more than a month after being awarded a Toastie for "Best Band Name," Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin cashes in with an even bigger mention from Mister Toaster, who is reportedly "moderately excited" by the band's fortcoming appearance at Black Cat with Chin Up Chin Up on February 22.

While "House Fire" on barely got out of the nineties in the best-songs-of-2006 countdown, its the most accomplished No. 89 song The Toaster Talks has ever seen. And comparisons to Weezer aside, there's a depth to SSLYBY that Rivers Cuomo never really attempted - perhaps we're confusing depth for a minor chord progression.

But those minor chords make the poppy chorus all the more sweet. But we'd be remiss not to mention the subtle harmonies that lace this song's more delicate moments.

>> Album Lookout: Or Give Me Death

Aqueduct - To Be Released: Feb. 20, 2007 Barsuk

Discovered in the lonesome months of winter 2003 by DJ Bryan and his mix CD ruffians, Aqueduct made good with Mister Toaster with "Heart Design." Now back with a new LP fresh for a new winter, Aqueduct - the work of one-man-and-a-drum-machine, Oklahoma-native David Terry - is touring with Of Montreal and ready to make another splash on our hearts.

The Toaster had a hard time choosing a song to feature on these pages, but "Living a Lie" seemed to be appropriately Valentine's Day-themed. It also seems most representative of Aqueduct's charm - the hook-drenched electrona-pop with clever lyrics. And we couldn't get enough of all those crazy drum beats. (They're everywhere.)

>> Reverting to: 1970

Though this song will always be a Jesse and the Rippers song to us, the Beach Boys claim to have "the rights" to it. Bastards.

Just the line "If every word I said could make you laugh, I'd talk forever" shows the genius of Dennis Wilson and his oft-forgotten songwriting. Brother Brian called "Forever" (featured here is the a cappella version from Hawthorne, CA) "a rock and roll prayer."

We strive for the separation of church and blogs, so we'll settle for calling it a great song.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

In a Name

>> Featured Artist: Veruca Salt

Still plugging away at those Beatles references*, Veruca Salt released IV last fall, and few of us noticed. It appears the band, which sountracked a small - but notable - part of the post-grunge '90s, is back again for another post-Nina Gordon full-length.

Many didn't like the schizophrenic third album, 2001's Resolver, as much as the Toaster, and we won't fault them for the bad reviews. (Hell, half of us are still reeling from the fact that that little brat actress from the creepy Gene Wilder movie is not in the band after all.)

The album was light on the clever schtick it had pulled off so well with Nina Gordon. And it was probably a bit too heavy on dead-weight numbers, songs that sounded like a band trying to imitate itself.

But a few tracks, namely Louise Post's incredibly honest ballad about losing Dave Grohl, "Imperfectly," the band was as close to greatness as it had ever been.

Which brings us to 2006, five years later and five more years past their prime. And Veruca Salt wants back in. Now on Sympathy for the Record Industry, the band sounds - good god! - like Veruca Salt.

While we're not ready to declare a return to greatness - after all, the sound is still very reminiscent of the 1990s - songs like "So Weird" announce at least a return to form, seemingly both poppy and alive.

While not quite back on the scene (lackluster sales mostly resulting from lackluster promotions), Veruca Salt is far from dead.

* The Beatles' American releases include 1965's VI. Two of VS's other albums, Eight Arms to Hold You (working title of the film Help!) and Resolver (a play on Revolver), are also Beatles allusions.

>> Album Lookout: Phantom Punch

Sondre Lerche - Released: Feb. 6, 2007 Astralwerks

Oh, thank the Norwegian god above! Sondre Lerche is back. Back, we say. And it's not more of that crooner act he tried on last year. One more move like that and we'll start mispronouncing your name - the pronunciation of which we still are kind of unclear on**

The biggest surprise about Phantom Punch is that it comes packed with one. That's quite a loud guitar you have there, Sondre. You can hear on songs like "John, Let Me Go" that Lerche hasn't lost one bit of his craftmanship, even though he's rapidly approaching the age of 25. On this album, he has confidently expanded his sound - and here's the important part - without it feeling forced, which is something we can't say for his Duper Sessions release last year.

It's certainly nice to have the Scandinavian back. Leave the crooning to us.

** According to Wikipedia, it's pronounced Sän-drə Lâr-Kĕ. Which we're pretty sure sounds like "SAUN-dre LEHR-keh." His asshole fans on his fan forum (who are so tired of having to answer this question to us folks that they appear to have taken down the past posts about how to pronounce it correctly!) say it's agree or disagree and say it's pronounced "SÅNDRE LÆRKE," with the first "A with a halo" pronounced like the "a" in "always," the "E" pronounced like the "e" in "egg," and the "A-E thing" pronounced like the "a" in "camp." Wow.

>> Reverting to: 1965

With the news that Apple, Inc., and the Beatle-founded Apple Corps have kissed and made up over iTunes, this seems fairly appropriate:


(Note the verse-to-chorus costume changes!)