Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Dance, you! Dance!

>> Featured Artist: Hot Chip

Indie dancing didn't die in 2006, but little got us off our pensive asses to move our feet. Sure, pop megastars like Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado and Beyoncé did their fair share, but where were the indie kids?

Our hope is that they were all with Hot Chip, which made a surprise leap from near obscurity to hit Number 35 on the year (thanks to input from the Great Aarby Machine. In the end, few songs made us want to dance more in 2006 than "And I Was a Boy From School" off Hot Chip's June release, The Warning.

Not that we dance well.

Still, "Boy" effortlessly tosses together a winning melody, easy lyrics, soft harmonies and a nasty-catchy instrumental loop. Combined, it puts us in a trance - a trance of lovable indie electronic dance.

BONUS: Bless the folks at The Torture Garden for posting an acoustic version.

>> Album Lookout: Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

Of Montreal - Released: Jan. 23, 2007 Polyvinyl

Still somewhat mystified by the pairing of Of Montreal and Outback Steakhouse, the Toaster wakes up to find the band has release another critically acclaimed LP.

We're not going to try to decipher the title, as we understand it's somewhat of a concept album and - after hearing only a handful of tracks - it's not clear where the hell it came from. Nor do we claim to know what/where/how Heimdalsgate is.

All that confusion aside, Of Montreal can't seem to shake us. Even though they put their pop instincts through a thicker bed of electronic dance music on this go-round, it's no less infectious than the band's previous releases. And, sticking with today's theme, it isn't short on the spirit either.

Though AllMusic characterizes Fauna as a "grower," we quickly found "Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse" to be one of our fave Of Montreal tracks ever released. The way Kevin Barnes sings so buoyantly to his drugs to get him over a streak of depression is the ultimate contradiction. The conclusion: endearing happy-sad dance pop is off to a good start in '07.

>> Reverting to: 1965

Not all dancing is peppy, of course. Finding ourselves inside watching a rerun of the strange and sad (not to mention, addictively bad) biopic of the Temptations this weekend on VH-1, we started to recall better times for the Temps and happier times for the Toaster - back when a little shuffle and a finger snap could save the world.

And then we did a bunch of drugs and called it a day.

That said, here's to one of the greatest pop songs ever written (thanks, Smokey): "My Girl."

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The State of the Toaster

Mister Toaster presented the following address this evening to both houses of Toast:

"The state of the Toaster is strong. After the first meeting of the Toaster Talks Music Appreciation League this weekend [minutes below], I feel we are ready to enter the unknown with our heads high and our hopes for world peace and indie rock ever-so-slightly lower."

>> Featured Artist: Voxtrot

With three highly enjoyable EPs under their belt, Voxtrot head into 2007 readying a full-length, or so we're told. As frontman Ramesh Srivastava sings on "Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives," the title track from their May 2006 EP, "Listen, I've come to rock this boat."


The Voxtrot prescription for pop music is airy, catchy lead guitar riffs over a thick, driven rhythm sectio and all tied together with a vocal delivery that appears at first unremarkable, but quickly proves irresistible. (Maybe throw a little 'verb in there for good measure).

There's a reason theirs is among our most-looked-forward-to releases of 2007.

>> Album Lookout: Meet the Smithereens

The Smithereens - Released: Jan. 16, 2007 KOCH

We have an idea: Why don't the Smithereens take eight years off and come back as Beatlemania? Oops. Once again, reality beats sarcasm to the punch.

Even as resident Beatle maniacs, we're more than a little taken aback by this self-described "homage" to the Beatles' second album and first U.S. smash.

Don't get us wrong: It's not that it's bad. It's not. To the contrary, they faithfully recreate this classic 1963/1964 release. Aside from a few seemingly uninspired flourishes, it's note for note the same album, which is perhaps why these flourishes and a slight difference in the vocal mix on songs like "I Saw Her Standing There" give us the heebie-jeebies.

We don't want to sound anti-recreation of classic rock music...actually, scratch that. We do. New Toaster adage: Don't recreate an entire living work unless there's good reason (among them: artist is unknown; you've formed a one-of-a-kind band to do so, etc.). At the very least, if you must completely recreate something, do something interesting with it. Pull a Petra Haden. I mean, we're probably not going to buy that art student's recreation of "Starry Night" on Ebay. Unless that art student is our granddaughter.

"OK," you're saying, "Settle down. It's just the Smithereens here. They're just having fun. They didn't mean any harm."

Yeah, you're probably right. They probably didn't mean anything by it.

>> Reverting to: 1985


Word on the street is that Dan Aykroyd still has this on his resume (see 4:18).

>>Minutes: Mister Toaster unveils 100 songs. Crowd rejoices, cries with joy. Songs end. Peace becomes the night.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Rediscovery Galore

>> Featured Artist: Bob Dylan

We have to admit: Modern Times didn't wow us the first time. As DW described it, it seemed like "too much shuffle, not enough stomp." Sure, we all liked the video for "When the Deal Goes Down," but we weren't sure we could separate our affinity for that video from its star, Scarlett Johansson.

Taking a second spin around, as we figure the guy probably has earned it, we suddenly got it. Songs like "Workingman's Blues #2," our personal favorite, popped out among all the shuffle as seemingly inspired works from the master himself.

We might not be able to give Modern Times the stellar reviews it got in the mainstream music press, but there's little question it's yet another solid Dylan album.

>> Album Lookout: Lon Gisland EP

Beirut - Due Out: Feb. 6, 2007 Ba Da Bing!

The Toaster Talks is admittedly a little behind on the phenomenon that is Beirut.

Upon first hearing the first few songs from Gulag Orkestar, it became clear that the music sent the listener into some Eastern European carnival to do one of two things:

1) Revel in our carefree abandon and let the breeze spread the sweet smell of elephant ears and french fries into our eager nostrils.
2) Ride those fucking spin rides until we vomit.

Just as one should be when walking into a carnival, we were hesitant. Now that the 20-year-old Zach Condon and his band have an EP coming out in February, we can safely say that nobody has hurled and we're all still very happy about that smell.

"Elephant Gun," the first track from the forthcoming EP, doesn't stray from the Gulag formula and proves to be yet another winner, maybe the best song he's released aside from the masterpiece "Postcards from Italy."

And who can help but love an according-led coda?! Get on the merry-go-round, boys.

>> Reverting to: 1985

"And She Was" is a permanent fixture in the soundtrack that was Mister Toaster's upbringing. With a father who went to law school and worked as a manager at a local Toledo record store, the Toaster house was always filled with new music. Most of it stayed in rotation on the record player for no more than a few months, which meant that Mister Toaster's adolescence would be filled with rediscoveries. As you might imagine, these songs tend toward the poppy - even the uncool (ahem, Starship's "Sara"...yeah...).

But the Talking Heads were different. They were cool. David Byrne still is cool, having almost coined his own definition of the concept.

And so we submit yet another song toward the Toaster Hall of Fame collection.

Please note the first-ever meeting of the Toaster Talks Music Appreciation League will take place Saturday, Jan. 20, in Washington, D.C. Inquire within.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Exploding Into 2007

>> Featured Artist: Albert Hammond, Jr.

The way the organ in "Bright Young Thing" (#47 of 2006) interacts with its vocal melody still leaves us feeling warm about the Strokes' guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr.'s solo career. It certainly isn't the only bright spot on his debut album, Yours to Keep, which was released elsewhere in October (it was just annouced today that the album will have an official U.S. release in March).

Hammond wins us over not by proving he can do the Strokes thing, too, but rather in the moments he sounds nothing like them. This is not to say that there aren't Strokes-ish affectations on the record; to the contrary, there are a few rhythm guitar licks that sound familiar. But on some songs it sounds like Hammond has been listening to the Jon Brions of the world.

All indications are that the Strokes are doing fine, and we'd certainly not want to kill them off. What the Toaster really would like to see is Hammond to get a bigger role in the band's repertoire; perhaps Julian could turn off his condenser and hand the lead vox over to Hammond once in a while. We're not holding our breath.

Meanwhile, Hammond is touring with, of all acts on Earth, Incubus. We hereby bite our tongues.

>> Album Lookout: Wincing the Night Away

The Shins - Due Out: Jan. 23, 2007 Sub Pop

Mister Toaster was a little taken aback when he heard the first leaked song from the forthcoming Shins album, "Phantom Limb," blasting out of the speakers at the mall over the holidays, marking the third time he'd heard it in public that weekend. An endorsement from Zach Braff will do that, we suppose.

The single certainly meets the bar the Shins have set for themselves on past releases. The melody sails freely into patterns that sound somewhat unnatural at first and ever-so-natural on every listen thereafter. In that way, "Phantom Limb" is yet another Shins' calling card, the song that gets stuck in the head before the head can pick up what the lyrics are.

What's left to be seen is how the rest of the album stacks up; James Mercer has described Wincing in interviews as an album much more along the lines of Oh, Inverted World, except - and this excites us - with higher fidelity. Low-fi, after Chutes Too Narrow we guess, would just be disingenuous.

With releases from the New Pornographers, the Arcade Fire and others coming at us soon, giving us unreasonably high expectations for the first half of 2007, the Shins have to get us off on the right foot in two weeks.

>> Reverting to: 1970

With Saturday's passing of "Sneaky" Pete Kleinow, one of the world's finest pedal steel players, we thought it only appropriate to eulogize him with his own twang.
Thanks to 33/45 for posting a few Flying Burrito Brothers cuts and providing the Toaster and its listeners with the Burrito'd "Close Up the Honky-Tonks," which All Music tells us was intended for their second album, Burrito Deluxe.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Best of 2006: Songs 100 to 1

Mister Toaster can post mp3s of only the top five for now. We'll pepper future entries with others, we promise.

Please comment with any specific requests and we'll get them up, too. Dig in. We'll resume regularly scheduled programming next week. Happy 2007!

2006, a year in music:

100 >> CSS / Let's Make Love and Listen to Death From Above
99 >> Midlake / Roscoe
98 >> The Dears / There Goes My Outfit
97 >> Peter Bjorn and John / Young Folks
96 >> Division Day / Colorguard
95 >> Smoosh / I Would Go
94 >> And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead / Eight Days of Hell
93 >> I'm From Barcelona / This Boy
92 >> The Pernice Brothers / Somerville
91 >> Bob Dylan / Workingman's Blues #2
90 >> Yo La Tengo / Beanbag Chair
89 >> Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin / House Fire
88 >> Jeremy Warmsley / 5 Verses
87 >> Alexi Murdoch / All My Days
86 >> Pearl Jam / Marker in the Sand
85 >> The Mountain Goats / If You See Light
84 >> Voxtrot / Soft and Warm
83 >> Let's French / Boys and Girls
82 >> Beyonce / Irreplaceable
81 >> TV on the Radio / Tonight
80 >> The Weepies / The World Spins Madly On
79 >> The French Kicks / So Far We Are
78 >> Lily Allen / LDN
77 >> Arctic Monkeys / The View From the Afternoon
76 >> The Sleepy Jackson / I Understand What You Want But I Just Don't Agree
75 >> The Format / Oceans
74 >> Chin Up Chin Up / This Harness Can't Ride Anything
73 >> Justin Timberlake (feat. T.I.) / My Love
72 >> Asobi Seksu / Thursday
71 >> Neko Case / Star Witness
70 >> Barbara Morgenstern / The Operator
69 >> The Stills / In the Beginning
68 >> Razorlight / Hold On
67 >> The Sheds / Too Many Pictures
66 >> Apparitions / Electricity + Drums
65 >> The Futureheads / Skip to the End
64 >> Danielson / Time That Bald Sexton
63 >> Mates of State / Fraud in the 80s
62 >> Cat Power / Could We
61 >> Josh Rouse / The Man Who…
60 >> The Rapture / Whoo! Alright Yeah…Uh Huh
59 >> Jenny Lewis With the Watson Twins / Born Secular
58 >> Matthew Friederberger / Up the River
57 >> Nellie McKay / There You Are in Me
56 >> The Submarines / Peace and Hate
55 >> Will Stratton / I'd Hate to Leave You
54 >> Beck / Think I'm In Love
53 >> The Decemberists / O Valencia!
52 >> Sparklehorse / Some Sweet Day
51 >> Sufjan Stevens / The Henney Buggy Band
50 >> Angela Desveaux / Heartbeat
49 >> Belle and Sebastian / Sukie in the Graveyard
48 >> Snow Patrol / Hands Open
47 >> Albert Hammond, Jr. / Bright Young Thing
46 >> Guillemots / Trains to Brazil
45 >> The Long Winters / Pushover
44 >> Voxtrot / Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives
43 >> El Perro del Mar / Party
42 >> M. Ward / Chinese Translation
41 >> The Concretes / On the Radio
40 >> Mojave 3 / Most Days
39 >> Fionn Regan / Put a Penny in the Slot
38 >> The Pipettes / Your Kisses Are Wasted on Me
37 >> Band of Horses / The Funeral
36 >> Be Your Own Pet / Adventure
35 >> Hot Chip / And I Was a Boy From School
34 >> Ingrid Michaelson / Breakable
33 >> Phoenix / Long Distance Call
32 >> The Hold Steady / First Night
31 >> Regina Spektor / Fidelity
30 >> Sufjan Stevens / The Mistress Witch From McClure
29 >> The Flaming Lips / Yeah Yeah Yeah Song
28 >> The Lemonheads / No Backbone
27 >> Ben Kweller / Penny on the Train Track
26 >> Swan Lake / All Fires
25 >> The Elected / Fireflies in a Steel Mill
24 >> The Strokes / You Only Live Once
23 >> CSS / Music Is My Hot Hot Sex
22 >> Matt Costa / Cold December
21 >> Snow Patrol / Set Fire to the Third Bar
20 >> Camera Obscura / Let's Get Out of This Country
19 >> The Long Winters / Teaspoon
18 >> Jenny Lewis With the Watson Twins / The Big Guns
17 >> TV on the Radio / Wolf Like Me
16 >> The Weepies / Gotta Have You
15 >> Tilly and the Wall / Sing Songs Along
14 >> Neko Case / The Needle Has Landed
13 >> Beirut / Postcards From Italy
12 >> The Pipettes / Pull Shapes
11 >> Beck / Strange Apparition
10 >> The Mountain Goats / Woke Up New
09 >> Belle and Sebastian / Another Sunny Day
08 >> The Format / Time Bomb
07 >> Gnarls Barkley / Crazy
06 >> Band of Horses / The Great Salt Lake
05 >> Regina Spektor / On the Radio
04 >> Mojave 3 / Breaking the Ice
03 >> The Hold Steady / Stuck Between Stations
02 >> The Long Winters / Hindsight
01 >> The Decemberists / The Crane Wife 1 & 2