Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Meet Sugar (Part III)

And now for the final installment of SUGAR!

12 >> The Innocence Mission, "Into Brooklyn, Early in the Morning"
14 >> The New Pornographers, "My Rights Versus Yours"
15 >> The Polyphonic Spree, "Section 22 [Running Away]"
16 >> Glen Hansard, "Say It to Me Now"

* * *
As we come down from the highs of last week, SUGAR opens up the tail end of this comp with a song from a lesser-known Maryland outfit whose MySpace quote is "suntooth/metal wind have a glory jockey wondermane." It's a big tent here, though, and the catchy screaming harmonies provides a perfect pick-me-up before what is going to be the most pleasant of come-downs.

* * *
Toaster Talks have been trying to squeeze an Innocence Mission song on mixes for at least 18 months. Nothing ever seems to fit - at least not perfectly. And then SUGAR found this sudden masterpiece off the band's 2007 album We Walked in Song. The band's standard weightless melodies and dreamy arrangements lead couldn't be sweeter on this track. In my limited knowledge of this band's output, this ranks among the top.

* * *
Oh, Paul! Of course, you can't have a summer-sticky sweet mix without a near-meaningless ditty from Macca. We've gotten a bit of flak for this choice - and perhaps fairly so. But what is important about this song is its triumphant simplicity. Even after an album of many serious, introspective songs, Paul returns to his penchant for the just-plain-nice. He makes no mention of politics or freedom (or, for that matter, taking tea in an English garden). If the man hadn't been going through a bitter - and bitterly public - divorce just prior to this album's release, perhaps it would have been a bit disappointing. But for Paul fans, this was a welcome return to form - and a strong signal that the Paul we've always known was still there after all. And behind all that simplicity is actually a pretty interesting arrangement driven by a loud bass drum and a crisp mandolin part. So, haters, tread lightly: It's Paul McFuckingCartney.

* * *
The New Pornographers have a new album out! Yay. SUGAR welcomes them into her arms to begin the denouement. Continuing the themes of empires and wheels and dabbling in the arts and dangerous levels of medicine that still won't sing, Carl Newman and co. give us a typically infectious piece of pop music - complete with the same vocal prowess and twists, turns, and unexpected et ceteras we've been celebrating for three albums now.

* * *
The Polyphonic Spree have always freaked me out. From their uniforms to their sheer army-sized stage ensemble, I've always expected it all to end in a KoolAid mass-suicide fiasco. Or at least a concept album about one. Still, they're making great pop music, specializing in the anthem. And it's at this point SUGAR's intentions become clearer. "Parades of this day will outshine them all." "I get around the world upon your freeways."

* * *
Even if Once isn't likely to be an Academy Award-winner, it's still one of the brightest spots of this year's movie scene. Even more, though, it's one of the best finds of the music year as well. The Swell Season had gone mostly unnoticed with last year's album and, if it hadn't been for this Fox Spotlight film, most of their now-swooning fans wouldn't know Glen Hansard from that guy who plays down by the Metro who never quite pulls off "Sweet Caroline." This track, while a bit of a surprise for most Toaster regulars (with the screaming and all), is a logic coda for SUGAR, who had spent 15 tracks having fun, dancing and doing recreational drugs. Perilously close to being misunderstood and with doubt clouding her saccarine path...well, yeah, I guess she just loves the movie Once.

I hoped you enjoyed SUGAR: There's dangerous levels of it here. The Toaster will be back to its regular programming next week.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Meet Sugar (Part II)

Welcome back to SUGAR! Today, I'll walk you through her midsection:

06 >> Blitzen Trapper, "Wild Mountain Nation"
07 >> The National, "Fake Empire"
08 >> Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang, "Freedom of the Heart (Ooodily Ooodily)"
09 >> Let's French, "Genevese"
10 >> Justice, "D.A.N.C.E."

* * *
Blitzen Trapper has found favor on the blogs this summer, and I guess we're no different. SUGAR has chosen the title track from their LP as the crucial six-track, which bridges us from the heights of the beginnings to the end of the mix's first side. "Wild Mountain Nation" attempts to pull us into a nature theme, but SUGAR is clearly just in it for the blow. The song centers on a killer lead guitar hook that develops into a pretty nice, cutting solo - just in time to get you ready for the way the refrain brings you back to square one. Nicely done, Blitzen Trapper, wherever the hell you came from.

* * *
It's no secret that the Toaster is a big fan of Boxer. The lead track has always flabbergasted me. How do all those instruments playing competing rhythms come together, let alone in such a way that allows the song to continue to build until the final sustained chord. That strange piano part and Matt Berninger's low croon create a mysterious, devious tone that is eventually compounded by the attack of the drum kit. It's a tone that's held throughout the album, so if you don't dig it, this album might not be for you. And, man, that breakdown blows me away with those rivaling horn parts. You got me goin', SUGAR!

* * *
After the intensity of "Fake Empire," you're probably expecting something equally heavy. But the mood is lightened quickly with "Freedom of the Heart" - at least for those of you unfamiliar with indie film Chuck and Buck. For those who have seen it, you're probably feeling heavily disturbed, which I can only assume is just how SUGAR would have wanted it.

* * *
It is with a heavy heart that I have to say that this next track is by a band that no longer exists. The Toaster Talks' favorite DC band, Let's French, have disbanded. This makes the repeated "I can feel you changing; I believe that I'll be changing soon" all the more sad. Tears in heaven, guys. Tears in sweet, sweet heaven.

* * *
Dutiful subscribers to the Toaster know this song from the kick-ass (and VMA-nominated) video that got Toaster Posted a few weeks ago. It's a dance song, as its title states pretty clearly. And, for those of you who can't stand dance songs, just blame it on the French (cos they're from France).

Until next time...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Meet Sugar (Part I)

SUGAR is a collection intended for summer's blinding, life-crushing heat. It's a little recipe passed down from Toaster's maternal great aunt, twice removed.

It aims to soothe.

01 >> LCD Soundsystem Watch the Tapes
02 >> Immaculate Machine Dear Confessor
03 >> Moonbabies Take Me to the Ballroom
04 >> Spoon The Underdog
05 >> Art Brut Pump Up the Volume

If anyone has a claim on anthemic summer songs, it's LCD Soundsystem. "Watch the Tapes" is one of many endlessly catchy hits to pop off of the band's latest LP. Take it in and wiggle your hips.

* * *
Immaculate Machine has come a long way (from Canada), paired with supergroup New Pornographers for tours and even lending co-lead Kathryn Calder to be a permanent member of said supergroup. "Dear Confessor" is a shipshape representative of the pop sensibilities they've honed over the past few years. The ballads, however, are where the band takes off. Check out "Roman Statues" if you get a minute. Keep the SUGAR on pause.

* * *
Every time I turn this song on I think it's Death Cab. Hmm. Still, once over the hurdle of realizing it sounds a whole lot like something from Plans, I am won over by this song's lush arrangement (sweet, sweet melodies). SUGAR finds it to be a perfect transition from the fun-fun-fun of Immaculate Machine to the more serious side of Toaster.

* * *
"Jon Brion-produced" is sometimes all you have to say to get my attention. I enjoy Spoon; don't get me wrong. But this song jumps from "enjoyable Spoon romp" to "team-sports anthem of the summer" in its lovely few minutes on SUGAR. She loves to be underestimated.

* * *
Fuck it. Art Brut is everything I want to be. The irreverent, we're-not-phonies rock they've churned out now on two critic-blessed LPs is a source of love - not the deep kind of long-term love that each of us deserves. No, this is more of the "summer fling, give me that pop music" love. Who hasn't been there before?

Next week, The Toaster will feature the next five songs from Sugar: There's Dangerous Levels of It Here.

Stay tuned. And stay hot, compatriots.

(Some would say this was a day late, but really I'm on vacation...in the future.)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Taking the Day Off

Due to the severe heat, the broken AC in my apartment and my subsequent dwindling will to live (as well as the Band of Horses show tonight), I have decided to take the week off from blogging about that fine indie rock music.

Instead, I'm leaving with you the best music video I've seen in a long time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fo_QVq2lGMs.

Sweet song, too, for Frenchies.

Next week, the Toaster will be back with a look at Sugar, the mix Al Gore blames most for global climate change.