Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Beginning of a Wondrous Fall

>> Featured Artist: The Mountain Goats

As summer winds down, the Toaster likes to pop on albums that will make us sad. It all stems from the 2003 Beck-vs.-E battle of who could be the most depressed on an album. (Beck won out because with Sea Change as the Eels' Shootenanny! actually had some upbeat material on it). This fall, John Darnielle is determined to depress the shit out of us.

And yet his brilliant songwriting makes it all listenable and "put-it-on-repeat"able. It's no Sunset Tree or Tennessee or We Shall All Be Healed. But the majesty of lonely has never been done better, and slowly but surely, Darnielle is becoming the high hurdle of American songwriters.

We especially recommend pairing Get Lonely (title track available here) with Elvis' Get Happy!! It makes for a balance of imperatives we all need.

>> Album Lookout: I'm Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
Yo La Tengo - Due Out: September 12, 2006 Matador

Yo La Tengo has won our early award for best album title of the year (a close second was Jewel's I'm So Scared of You, and I Have a Crooked Tooth). The Toaster has always enjoyed the songs on which Ira sang. The leaked song from Beat Your Ass, "Beanbag Chair," is the perfect track to get our interest up. After buying the retrospective Prisoners of Love last year, we've been aching for new stuff.

Let's hope it pans out well.

>> Reverting to: 1966

You don't feel that first snare crack the same way without hearing the famed introduction to this song. Getting heckled from his own crowds for "going electric," Bobby D (who had another critically acclaimed new album out today) was having a relatively rough time that spring with his "loyalists." At this particular concert in Manchester (mistakenly referred to as the "Royal Albert Hall Concert") on May 17, Bobby completed the set with "Ballad of a Thin Man" and as he was heading into his closer, the hit "Like a Rolling Stone" one of the rabblerousing folksters in the crowd yelled out "Judas." Bobby mumbled back, "I don't believe you...You're a LIAR." And then, to his band, "Play it fucking loud!"

The energy, the anger, the frustration that made this song so wonderful is tripled into what might be the most passionate live recording we've ever heard. That snare crack still gives us the golden chills.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Second in the Strip Tease: Some More Bro

Praise for Bro is out of this world. It even had a spin or two soundtracking Kramerbooks and there are now copies floating all over the Earth.

>> Featured Artist: Lily Allen

It's summer. The Toaster included, we all like to unplug and get in the pool. Lily Allen seems to jump in with us on "LDN" even if the lyrics are kind of a downer and we suspect her optimistic chorus ("Sun is in the sky, oh why, oh why would I want to be anywhere else?) is a bit sarcastic.

This Brit's debut, Alright, Still has a number of tracks that the indie kids like to dance to. And she fits right in on Bro.

>> Album Lookout: Cansei de Ser Sexy
CSS - Released: July 11, 2006 Sub Pop

So you want to keep dancing? Track 3, "Music Is My Hot Hot Sex," brought to you by the lovely Brazilian pop group CSS, which stands for Cansei de Ser Sexy, which we're told is translated to Tired of Being Sexy. Hott.

Indeed, music is our great-grandaughter.

>> Reverting to: 2003

The Long Winters have a new album out, which is in queue to get its review from Mister Toaster. Investigating the new album, however, brought to our attention "Cinnamon," which polishes up the second side of this mix. Upon hearing the sheer catchiness, Bro insisted. And the rest will go down as history.

Dig in. Next week we'll resume our regularly scheduled programming.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Unveiling Bro, a mix to change your summer

Once again the Toaster has developed a highly controversial and deeply deadly combo of tracks. Rest assured, our summers will never be the same. Following Gil and Tug in this August heat, Bro is intelligent, daring and - yes - sexy. Contact Mister Toaster, esq., for a hard copy.

>> Featured Artist: Regina Spektor

Featuring Regina Spektor seems a little easy for the Toaster. Her debut, Begin to Hope, has seen vast critical success. Admittedly, our skepticism of anything with mainstream hype kept us away like a kid among grown-ups at our parents' New Year's Eve party.

Then we got wind of "
On the Radio," a ditty that reminds us of Fiona Apple and Nellie McKay. The piano-songwriter prodigy thing has been done. Hard. So why Regina Spektor when we have too many Tori Amoses out there to begin with?

For one, something just feels fresh about Spektor. Whether it's the playfulness of her vocal delivery or the intricate construction of the lyrics, she's endearing. And heartfelt.

She fools us with lines that seem simple, but hit hard. She turns hearing "November Rain" on the radio into something momentous and touching. For those of us who don't believe in Guns 'n' Roses, this is quite the accomplishment. I'm not sure she's a Fiona just yet, but this single is good enough for Bro. And it's good enough for us.

>> Album Lookout: Dog Problems
The Format - Released: July 11, 2006 Nettwerk

We're a bit behind on The Format, too. Mid-summer rave reviews got our attention, and we liked what we heard. Bro requested "Time Bomb" to lead off the mix with some explosive harmonies à la Queen. Frankly, there are so many hooks in "Time Bomb" that when tossed together keeps the listener's attention. The transitions are interesting, musically complex at moments and catchy as a velcro shoe buckle.

Interestingly, a friend of a friend dated the lead singer of this band, ending poorly but with a damn good story - n
ot just another NYC breakup. Sadly, however, the story is not for public consumption.

>> Reverting to: 1973

Mister Toaster has a habit of taking songs that are a bit kitschy and painting them as heroicly poppy. Olivia Newton-John's cover of John Denver's sing-along "Take Me Home, Country Roads" is marvelous for such a purpose. Bro only needed the church-choir intro to set the tone and make his move, but here's the full version - you know - out of fairness to Olivia.

Take us home.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Delay and Other Reasons to Push Back

>> Featured Artist: The Shins

It's a good thing the songs they write will change your life, because The Shins are calling their fisrt mulligan on a release date. Now we're hearing early 2007. Alas, we figured we'd remind everyone that we haven't heard from them in three years.

Of course, the Shins themselves argue this is the best stuff they've ever done, and they're very appreciative of the additional time they've been given. Considering every artist is always working on the best stuff he/she has ever done, we're cautious. Let's all pretend it's still 2003 when we were all "Young Pilgrims."

>> Album Lookout: Ben Kweller

Ben Kweller - To Be Released: September 19, 2006 ATO

Another artist we haven't heard from in a few years is actually going to put out a record this year. And soon.

Ben Kweller, older now, is also convinced this is the best stuff he's ever done. We can't argue with that...the lyrics have always been a little iffy. But lyrics were never Ben's strong point. His pop sensibility has always outshone all the details. And in person, he has won over Mister Toaster with being obsessed with the Toaster's red cord blazer.

"Penny on a Train Track," the first song released from the forthcoming self-titled album, is strong and seems to take a step forward - into musical ability and maturity of topic - from the last album, 2004's On My Way. He's still only like 25. We still hate his youth.

>> Reverting to: 1971

Joe and his neverending pursuit of the perfect classic rock song has found a number of gems that the Toaster had never heard. This James Taylor classic marks the best he's ever done.

That's all we can say: "You Can Close Your Eyes." One of the best songs ever written.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Little to Say. Lots to Hear.

>> Featured Artist: The Boy Least Likely To

DJ Bryan got to this band first, scoring high on the 2005 Toaster Countdown with "Be Gentle With Me." This charming - if wimpy - indie outfiit's latest single, "Hugging My Grudge," does not surpass the aforemention, perhaps just because "Gentle" seems to embody the band's entire sound and persona.

Still, following in the Toaster precedent of Nilsson and Cat Stevens, this song carries that same summer end-of-the-hot-damn-day calming effect that the Toaster enjoys so much.

>> Album Lookout: Personality (One Was a Spider, One Was a Bird)

The Sleepy Jackson - Released: July 26, 2006 Capitol

If you were to ask the Toaster in 2003 "Sleepy Jackson or the Strokes?," he would have bit his can't-be-too-trendy tongue and said "Strokes." Not that the Australian dance-pop gods couldn't make us dance with pop sensibility or smile with a clever turn of lyric.

The Sleepy Jackson, however, have jumped into the lead - by taking some time off. The Strokes have issued two underwhelming releases since 2003, while The Sleepy Jackson are back with a long-awaited, long-titled follow-up.

"I Understand What You Want But I Just Don't Agree" is similarly long winded in its title, but it's near-perfect pop to boot just in time for a late-summer release.

>> Reverting to: 1992

Another of the Toaster's hall of famers, XTC's Nonsuch was a coming-of-pop for Mister Toaster. On "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" Andy Partridge pulls a McCartneyesque ditty out of his hat and pretty much says, "Top this!" to the other Beatle bands out there.

I'm not sure McCartney himself has come close to topping it, you know, in the post-1992 era. OK, perhaps that's unfair. But life, summer and the Toaster are not fair, friends.