Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Toasties (Odds and Ends), 2006

It's party time at the toaster! As we celebrate Mister Toaster's birthday, there will be no mp3 posts this week. Instead, we proudly present the first-ever edition of the Toaster Odds and Ends Awards (or, what will hereafter be affectionately known as "the Toasties"):

Best Band Name: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

Best Album Name: Yo La Tengo, I Am Not Afraid of You And I Will Beat Your Ass

Best Song Title: Johnny Boy, "You Are the Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve"

Best Comeback From Oblivion: The Lemonheads

Biggest Let-Down: The Killers

Best Follow-Up to Greatness: The Hold Steady

Biggest Surprise Love: The Long Winters

Best Summer Song: Belle and Sebastian, "Another Sunny Day"

Best Winter Song: Matt Costa, "Cold December"

Best Attempt at Bringing Despair Down All Around Us: The Mountain Goats, Get Lonely

Best Album to Get Blotto To: The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America

Worst Moment by a Great Band: When the Decemberists momentarily became Yes and Pink Floyd on "The Island"

Best Opening Act: (tie) The New Pornographers (sans Neko Case and Dan Bejar), for Belle and Sebastian / Christine Fellows, for The Mountain Goats

Artist That Yielded the Most Cases of Music Blogs Losing Our Respect: Lavender Diamond, love for

Biggest What-the-Fuck?: Nelly Furtado

Biggest Where-the-Fuck-Have-They-Been?: Sparklehorse

Most Concise Song: Neko Case, "A Widow's Toast"

Most Imitated: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Best Release Date: June 6, 2006 - be your own PET

Worst Release Date: January 1, 2006 - The Strokes

Most Anticipated Albums of 2007: The Shins, The New Pornographers, Voxtrot

Worst Lyrics: The Killers, "When You Were Young"

Best Lyrics We're Not Sure We Understand: The Long Winters, "Teaspoon"

Best Live Show of 2006 (Witnessed by The Toaster Talks): Belle and Sebastian w/ The New Pornographers, March 6, 9:30 Club

See you next week for the Top 100 Songs of 2006.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Preliminary Report Card - Oh-Six

Though Pitchfork sent its tablets to the mount earlier today, the Toaster is taking a more informal approach. Following the format of our mid-year review from June :

Honor Roll

Mojave 3: So they decided to rock it a little harder this time around, and by all accounts, it worked. The standout tracks are stellar, and the songs that would normally merit only a listen or two actually become the album's draw. Bonus points for the album art, which distinctly reminds us of that art-kid in 7th grade's doodles. (A-)

Beck: Aside from our general "eh" response to Guero, Beck plows through with another batch of consistency in Beckdom. This might not be the best work of his career, but the dude still seems to be on top of his game and making music that is more interesting than almost everything else out there. (A-)

The Pipettes: Having finally gotten his hands on a copy of We Are the Pipettes, Mister Toaster proceeded to fall madly in love with their pop mastery. Tracks like "Pull Shapes" and "Your Kisses Are Wasted on Me" never fail to get us out of our seats (or, more accurately, singing in public with our headphones on). The madness that is Pipettes is highly endorsed. Even on the clunkers (and there are a few), the clear lack of pretension wins us over. (A)

M. Ward: Sure, we'd been enjoying M. Ward tracks we'd nabbed over the past couple years, but we were truly won over by his performance in Nashville in September. Post-War might not yield a lot of No. 1 singles, but the album plays like a pair of already-broken-in jeans feels. (A-) >> Highlight: "To Go Home" (Robert Johnston cover)

The Mountain Goats: Somwhere along the way John Darnielle got lonely. And dragged a few dozen of us with him and his new vocal approach - relying much more on a delicate falsetto that made its way onto a few tracks on The Sunset Tree than his typical straightforward vocal gait. It's not his best work, but it's hard to deny his prowess as a songwriter. We just wish there were a few more tracks we could bob to. (A-)

The Long Winters: Far and away, this was our favorite surprise find of the year. We'd heard a bit of these guys in the past and always dug what we'd heard, but on Putting the Days to Bed the band proves it's one of the most original and consistent indie rock acts out there. The art of writing a pop melody has advanced yet again. (A) >> Highlight: "Hindsight"

The Hold Steady: Looking back, the Toaster feels no shame in our premature declaration of Boys and Girls in America as the No. 1 album of the year. Craig Finn and Co. bring the house down in a way that complements Finn's compelling lyrics, recurring characters and themes of boozing, sexing and drugging. The sinning aside, this is an album about what it's like to be young. And it nails it. (A+) >> Highlight: "Stuck Between Stations"

Smoosh: Eels' opening act and Death Cab for Cutie friends Smoosh have warmed our hearts and won us over. Under ordinary circumstance (read: if Sufjan put out an album like this), it'd probably get a solid B, which is pretty remarkable considering these sisters were 12 and 14 when they recorded Free to Stay. (A-)

(from June...)

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins:
Cat Power: (A-)
Neko Case: (A)
The Elected: (A)
Belle and Sebastian: (A+)
Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs: (A-)

Merit Roll

Camera Obscura: A solid album with Belle and Sebastian-esque song stylings that strays only occasionally from where we'd like to see it go. (B++)

Be Your Own Pet: "Adventure" is a classic and the album plays so fast and fun that we see why the reviewers have fallen in love with these teenagers. But occasionally BYOP starts to grate...and, well, no amount of hype or youth or happy sunshine can beat that. (B)

Snow Patrol: Man oh man, when we first rooted ourselves among D.C. indie rockers, all they could breathe was how freaking cool Snow Patrol is. So, naturally, we were excited to hear Eyes Open. Without much reservation, The Toaster can say it's a solid album with a few excellent songs ("Hands Open," "Set Fire to the Third Bar," etc), but some moments are greatly over-reaching and overbearing in a way that Coldplay can be on occasion. It's no biggie, just not or deal. (B)

The Decemberists: After swearing our undying love for them, the Decemeberists managed to find a way to underwhelm us. Not that The Crane Wife is a bad album; to the contrary, it's probably among the best of the year. But expectations are expectations, and Picaresque set the bar awfully high. (B+)

Sufjan Stevens (The Avalanche): Even his outtakes! Even his outtakes! (B)

Ben Kweller: Just as Ben Lee did to us last year with Awake Is the New Sleep, except probably not as egregiously or completely, Ben Kweller is slipping into some adult contemporary cocoon. And there are quite a few clinkers among only a handful of keepers. Still one or two songs rank among the better he's ever written, which is why he still earns the grade he does. (P.S. You don't get as many brownie points these days for playing all the instruments on your album, especially when your band would have actually made the album better...) (B-)

(from June...)

Laura Veirs: (B-)
Calexico: (B)
The Arctic Monkeys: (B+)
The Concretes: (B+)
The Streets: (B)
The Weepies: (B+)
Pearl Jam: (B)
Tilly and the Wall: (B++)
Gnarls Barkley: (B)

More end-of-the-year reviews to come next week...stay tuned.

Happy xmas, folks.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stuffing Your Stocking

>> Featured Artist: Let's French

From: The Toaster
To: You, Beloved Listeners

You might know this, but Washington, D.C., is the capital city of the United States of America! Congratulations, Washington!

Not only do Washington residents get to pay taxes without having voting representation in Congress (giggle), but they also get to get propositioned by its indie rock scene. Let's French, fronted by Randy Chugh, is a rock and roll band that wants to sexify the room everywhere they go. Their stage presence, if not their tongue-kissing prowess, is undeniable.

The comparisons to Interpol - made by pretty much everyone who's ever heard both bands - are well deserved because Chugh's vocal delivery is disturbingly similar, but in a way that just makes you wish Interpol was a more lively band. We recommend "Boys and Girls" from their self-released three-song EP.

Mister Toaster has frequented two recent Let's French shows in the D.C. and reports back that they might just well be the next band that make it outside the district. Happily, though, he also reports that none of them appears to be able to cast a vote in Congress. Thank god.

>> Album Lookout: Peace: Songs for Christmas, Vol. 5

Sufjan Stevens - Released: Nov. 21, 2006 Asthmatic Kitty

To: Man Who Died for Our Sins
From: Sufjan

Sufjan Stevens' declaration to the world earlier this year - "Bite me. I bet you Pitchfork will even eat up my outtakes with a spoon." - was bold. Perhaps even bolder was his next foray into published music, which was Volume 5 in his set of Christmas EPs. (It's like Jesus gets born every year.)

Sure enough, Pitchfork gave this one a rich 7.5, leading everyone on Earth to the conclusion that Sufjan can do no wrong. His next album will likely be the first in a collection of 7" records about all the vitamins in Flinstones vitamins.

But, in the sake of holiday spirit (read: we're always drunk), we're actually going to say positive things - again - about Sufjan. In reality, it's hard to be mad at Sufjan, especially when he's singing "Take it easy...You make it sound like Christmas is a four-letter word" on "Get Behind Me, Santa." And bonus points for the play on the White Stripes' title, not to mention the fact that it's a dialogue with Santa himself.

So, Sufjan, our neverending quest to discredit you has been foiled again. And we could actually get excited about that vitamin project...

>> Reverting to: 1979

To: Paul McCartney, 2006
From: Paul McCartney, 1979

Poor Paul. Wasn't 2006 the year that all of us were waiting for, with the promise of the "When I'm Sixty-Four" box sets and world tour?

Instead Paul is going through what appears from the outside one of the most vicious - and public - breakups in Beatle history.

So we're taking this opportunity to try to cheer Paul up.

An aside: You know, this song would be quite unbearable if it wasn't for that crazy synth and the occasional muppet-like sound effect, which have us whimsically bobbing our heads and, you know, feeling it.

[Thanks to our brethren over at Noise for Toaster for posting this, as well as a depressing take on it by Tom McRae, which is perhaps more appropriate for Sir Paul...]

Next week in the Toaster: A look back at the year in album releases; in three weeks: Top 100 songs of the year

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Revealed: Ubu, the new blue blood (pt. 2)

One last beautiful post about one last beautiful mix for 2006. We give you more Ubu.

>> Featured Artist: Red House Painters

The Toaster has developed some sort of unhealthy love for Mark Kozelek, whether he's being Sun Kil Moon, he's all on his lonesome or he's out with his old band, Red House Painters. And even though we ran into some dude who claimed his friend slept with a band member and set in motion the break-up of these guys, we can't claim we know these guys. At all.

At first, "I Feel the Rain Fall" feels like a too-simple alt-country number, perhaps something off a reel of songs meant for Johnny Cash to record (especially with that low note that caps off the verse lines). By the time it finishes, its unpretentious, catchy melody and lyrics stick around for another drink. And then we all end up doing something we will probably say we regret, but don't really. And here we find Ubu placing the Red House Painters firmly in the first half of November 2006.

>> Album Lookout: Ships

Danielson - Released: May 9, 2006 Secretly Canadian

While Secretly Canadian reports that, "in case you haven't heard, 2006 will be the year of Danielson," the Toaster is, to be honest, a little scared of that prospect. Though "Time That Bald Sexton" makes us smile and bop back and forth every time we enter a verse and commiserate with the lyrics we can decipher - "Oh, wasted on the job!" comes to mind - Danielson is just a little too out-there for the full Toaster endorsement. Ubu is on board, however. So take that how you will...

>> Reverting to: 1969

How can the Toaster issue a mix without a too-cute, too-short song to break up the monotony of three-minute numbers. And here we look to The Who's Tommy, the legendary rock opera that became an opera and a musical and probably a Saturday-morning cartoon, not to mention its story line being ripped off almost entirely by The Wizard.

Anyway, "There's a Doctor I've Found" fills its role well.

Thanks, Ubu, for baring all right here on The Toaster Talks. To request a copy, please contact Mister Toaster - in any way you can.