Tuesday, October 31, 2006

We All Ain't Ready (a Halloween Edition)

>> Featured Artist: Ben Gibbard

For Halloween, the Toaster dressed up as an amplifier. And The Toaster Talks has set its sites as a clearing house for "Thriller" covers (see our earlier Petra Haden entry).

Yes, this the ol' Death Cab-Postal Service frontman going solo on some MJ at some undetermined live show.

In the words of Camus, "I love me a good 'Thriller' cover." So do we, Albert. So do we. And, wow, some of those lines ("beast with 40 eyes"?), well, let's just say we never quite heard them so clearly before.

>> Album Lookout: Pretty Little Head
Nellie McKay - Released: October 31, 2006 Hungry Mouse

After a self-induced contentious split with Sony/Colubmia earlier this year over how many damn songs would be on Pretty Little Head, Nellie McKay is finally releasing the full version on her own label, Hungry Mouse (which, like McKay, doesn't seem to have an operating official site).

The good thing for McKay, though, is that the material seems to be just as strong as that on her debut double album, 2004's Get Away From Me. She's still clever - almost annoyingly so - and turns a mean lyric when you're not looking, a talent that would make Elvis Costello proud.

With the lovely-angry vocal delivery Nellie seems to have spent her 24 years mastering, "There You Are in Me" jumps out as an immediate winner, as do "Cupcake" and "Columbia Is Bleeding" (the latter, we're told, is not a dig at her former label).

Everyone you meet secures a wretched seat within your memory
Wipe their filthy feel upon the yearning of your soul
There you are in me


>> Reverting to: 2005

As the title of today's post suggest (other than that we ended up wearing angel wings and a eye masks in the makeshiftest of makeshift costumes) is that the release of K. Fed's long-awaited debut album has finally fallen upon us. Where were all the leaked MP3s and music blog previews? Where was all the promotional appearances on Inside Edition? Where is Britney in this critical time for her is-he-significant other?

And after a glace at the track list, where did "Y'all Ain't Ready" and "PopoZao," the two tracks that were test-leaked to the welcoming arms of music enthusiasts and pavarottis everywhere?

Mr. Fed, please issue an explanation. Until then, we'll leave with the preview snippet of our favorite "lost" K. Fed barnburner, "Y'all Ain't Ready."

[OK, we do love the lyric to "Privilege" (whose MySpace version is notably dirtier than the version streaming on his website), most notably "I'm in love with the herb just like my wife." How'd he get that one by Brit's publicist?]

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Brand New Toaster (or: There's Noel in Toaster)

We apologize for the delay. Of course, we blame it on our brand-new toaster, Brando (above). See how Brando makes everything bigger!

>> Featured Artist: Aimee (F'n) Mann

Some of us are enthralled with fast cars. Others like beer. Or chocolate. In that way, Aimee Mann could sing us the back of a Neosporin tube and make us swoon.

Of course, she just violated all that's right in the world to release a Christmas album(!). We aren't kidding. The songs we secured from unnamed sources took us to the edge, Aimee. So we're going to forget about this transgression and just pretend One More Drifter in the Snow is an album filled with different versions of Joni Mitchell's "River" (the best "Christmas song" of all time, which doesn't appear on the track list, but was covered by Aimee here).

>> Album Lookout: Born in the U.K.
Badly Drawn Boy - Released: October 17, 2006 Astralwerks

Somewhere an indie songwriter is shedding a single tear. Badly Drawn Boy is broken. Yeah, that's three underwhelming albums in a row, and he's officially on indie probation. Hell, Born in the U.K. makes Have You Fed the Fish? look like Rubber Soul.

The title track wouldn't be painful if all Damon Gough's intentions weren't so blatantly relayed to us in the form of a Doves/Strokes/Killers-like drum track. We want to say, "He's trying too hard," but all the evidence points to one of two conclusions: 1) he's not or 2) he's washed up.

"Degrees of Separation," thus far into our listening, is the only thing that comes even close to being a song of Gough's previous caliber. But even it wouldn't be a standout track on About a Boy or Badly Drawn Boy's stellar 2000 debut, The Hour of Bewilderbeast.

We hereby on this 25th day of October, 2006, are officially calling on Astralwerks to drop him like he's burning. Maybe then he can go back to his four track and nail out something more his speed.

>> Reverting to: 1971

As previously referred to, Blue's "River" is a Joni Mitchell masterpiece, not just the best "Christmas song" around, but it has got to be the best song that could hit your headphones during those long, cold walks home.

(By the way, we'd like to point out that this year the Toaster finally commemorates the coming Christian holiday before Starbucks and its damned red snowflaked to-go cups. Thank you.)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Nothing More, Nothing Less

>> Featured Artist: Sprites

While the The Toaster stumbled onto the Sprites, we were mildly amused, especially by the "true story" of the lead singer Jason Korzen's failed attempts to become a blogger, "I Started a Blog Nobody Read" from the latest LP, Modern Gameplay. For him, we suggest this WikiHow.

We're still fairly amused and somehow feel a strange draw to the indie dorkiness of the whole outfit, which we understand is mostly just Korzen. Perhaps it's cameraderie. Nothing more, nothing less.

>> Album Lookout: The Lemonheads
The Lemonheads - Released: September 26, 2006 Vagrant

There's an adage we like: When life names you Evan Dando, make Lemonheads. As much as we like saying "Dan-doooo," we also can't blame Evan for abandoing the solo project after one album to go back to band that gave us things like "The Great Big No" and a decent cover of "Mrs. Robinson."

"No Backbone" is the first single from the long-avoided (and perhaps also long-awaited) self-titled Lemonheads album. Our first thought: someone needs to tell the lead guitar to stop taking all those uppers. Half of what he does is absolutely unnecessary and it gets in the way a bit. (The rest of the stuff is good. Nice work).

With Dan-doooo's catchy and seemingly effortless songwriting, the Lemonheads don't miss a beat from where they left off. This is both good and bad, though, because it sounds a lot like a outtake from Come On Feel the Lemonheads. NM, NL.

>> Reverting to: 1985

File this under "formative years" in Mister Toaster's Hall of Fame. We're not (that) proud.

It's pure Starship. Glorious synths, 'verbed out harmonicas and tasty melodramatically beefy guitar riffs. It's "Sara." NM, NL.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

War Is Over (If You Want It)

>> Featured Artist: Christine Fellows

While the United States is busy funding wars and wiretaps, our logging-friendly neighbors to the north have been busy funding artists like Winnipeg's Christine Fellows. (From the liner notes: "We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Music Fund for this project.) The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle ascribed Fellows the almighty title of his "favorite songwriter," which says more than we can say right in a blog entry.

Fellows' songwriting is unique in that she is not a songwriter as much as she is a storyteller. Her lyrics, often without rhyme or obvious meter, read like a novelist's journal entries. Listen to "Vertebrae."

2005's Paper Anniversary could be the most overlooked, untrumpeted album of that year. The writing is inspired and seemingly thematic. If it wasn't enough to have a solidly written album, merely listening to Fellows' voice triggers something in the nervous system.

The Weakerthans' John K. Samson has good taste in wives.

>> Album Lookout: Friendly Fire
Sean Lennon - Released: October 3, 2006 Capitol

Sean Lennon's career hasn't not taken off. He's a relatively talented songwriter and he has a decent voice. He's got the backing of Capitol Records and his celebrity friends. And by all accounts he couldn't be a nicer guy.

He's just not his father. And because of that he will never escape into the realm of greatness.

His first album was just weird, even though it supposedly showed much potential as some revisionist historians have now remembered. The potential, of course, was lived up to (it's good to live up to something when you're Sean Lennon) with last week's release of Friendly Fire.

"Dead Meat," the pre-release leaked track, has Lennon sounding more like Elliott Smith or Badly Drawn Boy than the Sean Lennon we knew. It's a solid track, without a doubt. And the video features Lindsay Lohan. Woot.

[Bizzarely, it seems Sean was dating Lindsay Lohan, after 2005's New York Post public request for a girl between 18 and 45 and with an IQ above 130." Lohan apparently repaid the debt from being allowed to date a Beatle spawn by appearing in the video and giving him Hollywood cred.]

>> Reverting to: 1970

Having just seen The U.S. vs. John Lennon on what would have been his 66th birthday (and was Sean's 31st, as well as the 31st anniversary of John and Yoko's winning their immigration fight), we felt it appropriate to dish out some more Lennon.

Plastic Ono Band was Lennon's first solo album and the only one influenced directly from his primal scream sessions. It's also an album of loss and longing, mostly for his mother, but also from the loss of his band earlier that year.

"God" hits home in a way that only some Lennon songs do; he self-references, knocks religion, politics and culture (including idols Elvis and Bob Dylan) and comes back to a haunting resolution, "I don't believe in Beatles. I just believe in me. Yoko and me."

On the heels of the band's March 1970 dissolution, this statement seems particularly tragic - not foolhardy or silly as it might later have translated.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Failures of Space

Due to space limitations, the Toaster Talks will only be carrying one week of songs from here on out. We apologize for the incovenience.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Guest Editorial: Mister Toaster on The Decemberists

As The Crane Wife hits stores today, The Toaster Talks original planned to do its ordinary Album Lookout today, editorializing on one of the tracks from this, the Decemberists' fourth full length. Alas, in a moment full of lust and longing, the editorial staff decided to give me the reins and explain why The Decemberists are so near and dear to our collective hearts.

Perhaps its the mere thought that I've followed this band from its first Kill Rock Stars release through currents of critical acclaim and the well-earned signing to Capitol Records.

Perhaps it's the fact that Colin Meloy is such a quirky, cool guy - in person, on stage and in song. (Perhaps it's because he found my hurried, nervous story about having a friend from school who shares his name amusing. Or acted like it.) Perhaps it's his showmanship; his self-deprecating stage humor; his Lennon-like personality.

Perhaps it's that Meloy & Co. are - as far as anyone can tell - the rightful heirs to the Neutral Milk Hotel legacy. The intensity in the songwriting combined with an often awkward mention of body parts (sinews?).

Perhaps it's that they have positioned themselves as the band for the learned, liberal indie music snobs of the world. And the fact that my friends can throw a dance party/sing-along soundtracked only by their albums.

Perhaps it's just that they have yet to let me down - once.

But, on most coherent days, I must admit The Decemberists are my favorite band on the planet. Only under the influence of amazing shows by other artists (New Pornographers, '05, Mountain Goats '05, Hold Steady '06 are among them) do I hedge. Most I know have embraced The Decemberists as well, and I purchased Picaresque for more than 5 people last year.

The first time I realized they had struck such an endearing chord was when "Billy Liar" charted - back when I served as DJ Tanner on ACRN's "Faces For Radio." The rolling, catchy melody and the off-beat vocabulary ("Let your legs loll on the lino!") stuck.

On Picaresque, the band created - as far as I am concerned - the best album of 2005 and the most coherent work of its career. While the album had many stand-outs, you could play me any track and I assure you I'd swear up and down that it was my favorite on the album. "On the Bus Mall" made its way onto DJ Bryan's late 2005 mix and quickly became an emblem for just how perfect that album was.

...which brings us to The Crane Wife. Those of you looking for a long-winded preview are out of luck. We have purposely avoided listening to much beyond the leaked title track (The Crane Wife 1 & 2) or reading much of the critical fawning out there (8.4 on Pitchfork), mostly because we don't want to cloud our thoughts on the album. After all, this is one of the few bands out there still crafting albums. And I supsect we'll be featuring it a bit more near the end of the year, as we wrap 2006 in all its shiny bows.

-Mr. Toaster, Washington, D.C., October 3, 2006