December 21, 2009

OSS’s Sweetest Songs and Notable Moments of 2009

It’s that time of year again—every music blogger and their music-blogging mothers are writing out their “Best of the Year” lists. Don’t get me wrong—I’m highly appreciative of this trend. It helps me remember to check out albums that I may have missed throughout the year and gives me fodder for bickering with friends (“Bitta Orca is their number four. I knew there was a reason I liked that blog!” vs “Really!? THAT made their list?”).

Last year, I didn’t do a “Best of the Year” list. And, because I think there are just too many lists already, I’m going to shy away from it again this year. HOWEVER, I do want to make a list because it’s the end of the year and I think it’s a nice way to look back and recap. HENCE, I am pleased to present OSS’s Sweetest Songs and Notable Moments of 2009, a compendium of my favorite tracks featured on this blog over the last year (in chronological order), a synopsis of what makes them essential in 2009 and an alternate (and also sweet) track by the same artist.

OSS’s Sweetest Songs and Notable Moments of 2009

1/20: Nina Simone//Feelin’ Good
A liberal president finally shows up to break the hell-streak of GWB and to break down some racial barriers in America. Obama is inaugurated, we feel “good”…until of course we remember all those problems we still have as a nation.
Alternate Take: See Line Woman.mp3

1/29: Brothersport//Animal Collective
I hereby declare this the jam of the year.
Alternate Take: College.mp3

2/9: Jeff Buckley//Hallelujah
The ninth of February was the day that my girlfriend left for Minneapolis to be in a show for two months. We had only been dating for two months. It blew.
Alternate Take: Dream Brother.mp3

4/15: Edith Piaf//Milord
A. and I weep uncontrollably over the life and death of Edith Piaf after watching Ma Vie En Rose. Later, we Netflix I’m Not There, the even-weirder Bob Dylan biopic. We shed no tears over it.
Alternate Take: Padam, Padam.mp3

6/25: Fleetwood Mac//The Ledge
My friends, Mitch and Karen, get married. We take a trip out to the Midwest for the wedding and stop in Chicago to see friends. Ali gives me her summer mix, which brings me the brutal realization that there is a Fleetwood Mac song I actually like.
Alternate Take: Enough for Me.mp3 (Also off Tusk, which is actually a good album).

6/26: Michael Jackson//Billie Jean
2009 was our last year with the King of Pop. Jackson died, shockingly, on June 25th.
Alternate Take: Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.mp3

9/29: Graceland//Paul Simon
My band went on tour and listened to this album nonstop, which made me understand that it was truly awesome.
Alternate Take: I Know What I Know.mp3

10/20: Atlas Sound//Walkabout
Ethan and I went to see Atlas Sound and Broadcast at La Poisson Rouge. Broadcast permanently damaged my hearing.
Alternate Take: Criminals.mp3

12/2: Beyonce//Single Ladies
NY State Senate votes down Marriage Equality, dooming me to a life of being unable to “put a ring on it.”
Alternate Take: Crazy in Love.mp3

12/8: The Monks//Shut Up
I finally listen to the birthday present that Ali gave me. My mind is blown. Also, it should be noted that I was listening to this album during The Great Computer Disaster of 2009(which, by the way, resolved positively—my computer lived).
Alternate Take: Drunken Maria.mp3

And with that, friends, I am going on vacation (to Minneapolis and DC). 2009 has been an awesome year for me and for OSS. Hope it's been good to you too.

Have lovely holidays and see you in the new year.

December 18, 2009

World Atlas//Girl on a Boy's Bike

So Twee, So Local: Local Music Friday.
Tell me...what is this Local Music Fridays?

We played with World Atlas at the same show we played with Knight School and they were equally awesome. It just so happens that friend Fred Thomas also used to play with them. AND! Palmyra is playing again with them and Zoos of Berlin tomorrow night at The Cake Shop.

I really enjoyed this quote, from The L Magazine:
“Some might say they sound too much like Belle and Sebastian, but we think they sound just the right amount like them. By which we mean, well, exactly like them."

WA does sound A LOT like B+S, but it's still quite enjoyable. Also, I'm a girl who rides a boy's bike. That's cool.

ANYWAY, I'm going to step out now. It's my anniversary and I am taking my girlfriend out for a "night on the town." Where are we going? It's a secret. See you (and World Atlas) tomorrow, perhaps. Snowball fight to follow.

Girl on a Boy's Bike.mp3

Girl on a boy's bike,
What do you feel like
Waiting for the other kids to catch you up?

December 17, 2009


Manc, the hotbed of post-punk and post-industrial decay, also gave us James.

The band started out as Tribal Outlook and eventually changed their name (good move, guys) to James after bassist Jim Glennie. A gig at the Hacienda got them signed to Factory. They went on tour to support The Fall and The Smiths. Still, they didn't really break until the 90s with the release of their album, Gold Mother. A few albums later, Eno produced a double album, one of songs (Laid,) and one experimental (Wah-Wah).

This song, probably the band's biggest hit, is full of sex, gender-bending and pyscho-therapy. What's not to love?

James broke up in 2001, but they're back together again now and planning to release a new album in 2010.

Also, my friends over at The Party Store alerted me to the awesomeness of this video:


My therapist says not to see you no more,
She says you're like a disease without any cure.

December 16, 2009

Orbital//Halcyon & On & On

And while we’re on a bit of an electronic music kick…
I’m beginning to think I should just ask Ali to come do some guest posting here, since I unabashedly poach so many songs from her.

I can’t even listen to the opening piano notes of this song without being transported back to my freshman year of college. At the beginning of school, everyone was sharing music like crazy and people were being opened up to bands and groups they had never heard of, as well as bonding over slightly obscure shared favorites (Archers of Loaf). Ali downloaded this onto my roommate/BFF Kot’s computer and we became hooked on it.

Orbital, an electronic duo made of brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll, has been cranking out the pretty electronica and ambient techno since 1989. Though these have never really been my favorite genres, the skill and craft of what these guys do is pretty impressive.

Recorded in 1999 at Glastonbury, in a time before the word “mashup” entered the popular vocabulary, this live version of Orbital’s “Halcyon & On & On” served up a pleasant surprise halfway through in the form of expertly cut and layered samples from Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” and Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth.” Eight years into the era of Girl Talk, this relatively simple bit of mixing still produces a truly astounding artist effect.

Halcyon & On & On (Live).mp3

Shot to the heart
And you’re too late
You give love
A bad name

December 15, 2009

Koushik//Pretty Soon

I first heard this song (over and over again) in a friend’s car. Then, when I was on outing hunting for this, I saw one of Koushik’s albums, a limited edition instrumental thing, displayed prominently in Other Music. We all know what that means.

Koushik is a Canadian DJ and electronic musician who has (predictably) worked with Caribou (and also Madlib and Fourtet). I believe that much of this music has been produced by label mate/founder and recipient of much revival-hype, Peanut Butter Wolf.

Like Caribou, his music has a hazy retro feel, with one foot in the past (analog quality, references to lazy bossa nova, 60s pop and mellow funk) and one in the future (tight highly-edited drums often cascade in to form delicious beats and Koushik’s soft and breathy voice compliments the tracks nicely).

Pretty Soon.mp3

Pretty soon I’ll be ready to die.

December 14, 2009

Ro Spit//Renaissance State Of Mind

Login, Refresh, Monday Mail Monday Facebook Status Update.
What is Monday Mail?

A friend of mine posted this awesome video (see below) on her Facebook yesterday. I was instantly charmed by this song, an obvious not/rip-off of Jay-Z's Empire State of Mind, a nod to my own current home-city. I'm completely loyal and all, but NYC gets more than its fair share of hype. Let's give The D. a hand for a sec, even if they did have to lift Jay-Z's catchy beats and hook.

Anna said:

I'm from DEEEEtroit. Had to repost this.

Detroit just happens to be on my mind a bit lately. I met this awesome guy at a party a few weeks ago who produces this radio show. One of their first episodes is on Detroit and featured an old housemate of mine! The show was great. It was a nice reminder that even though the D has such a shitty rep, there are a lot of really cool things happening there now.

Please put your hands up for Detroit with this catchy jam from hometown hip-hop hero, Ro Spit.

Renaissance State Of Mind (Feat. Monica Blaire).mp3

Old English D,
Yeah, you see it on the brim.

December 11, 2009

The Candy Band//Ken Lost His Head

Kid Friendly Local Music Friday.
Tell me...what is this Local Music Fridays?

You may remember, in roughly 2005/2006, there was a movement emerging of moms playing in bands. Dubbed "Mom Rock," by some, the movement garnered a lot of national media attention.

Around this time, I had to pleasure to play on a show with one of these bands--The Candy Band from Detroit. These gals played some awesome punk rock kids songs and were really fun to watch.

This song is about a favorite childhood toy theme: headless barbies. Considering the holidays are coming up, if you have kids in your life, you're bound to see some of these appearing soon. That said, if you're looking for presents for your friends who are kids and who are also awesome, think about this.

I don't know what the status of all those mom rockers these days, but I hope they are keepin' on keepin' on--for the children!

Ken Lost His Head.mp3

He can't eat Barbie's cookies.
He has no mouth.

December 10, 2009

Patsy Cline//Walking After Midnight

I am such a sucker for a pedal steel. Honestly, I can feel so-so about a song...then add pedal steel--suddenly, I'm sold. I know, what a cheap date.

Let's face it though, this song would be incredible if Patsy Cline was just singing it a cappella. Cline's got this way of fully embodying romantic tragedy in her voice that few people can pull off.

As a late '50s/early '60s country singer who enjoyed a lot of crossover success, she's got plenty of hits. It's hard to choose just one of her songs to put up here. Although "Crazy," and "I Fall to Pieces" are two other predictable favorites, I've always had a special fondness for this song, even though Cline herself was never very into it. I think it's a very honest portrait of how love can kind of make you do ridiculous/rash/insane things.

Something truly interesting about Cline is that she broke through many barriers for women in country music and the entertainment business as a whole. From wikipedia:

She was so respected by men in the industry, that rather than being introduced to audiences as “Pretty Miss Patsy Cline” as her female contemporaries often were, she was given a more stately introduction such as that given by Johnny Cash on their 1962 tour together: “Ladies and gentlemen, the one and only Patsy Cline.” As an artist, she held her fan base in extremely high regard (many of whom became friends), staying for hours after concerts to chat and sign autographs.

Cline was not only the first woman in country music to perform at New York’s Carnegie Hall (which she did with fellow Opry members and disapproval from gossip columnist Dorothy Kilgallen—whom Cline fired back at) but also to headline the Hollywood Bowl with Johnny Cash and, later, in 1962, the first woman in country music to headline her own show in Las Vegas.

According to legend, Cline also predicted her own death, which came in a 1963 airplane crash. Creepy.

Walking After Midnight.mp3

I go out walking after midnight,
Out in the moonlight,
Just hoping you may be
Somewhere a-walking after midnight
Searching for me.

December 9, 2009

Plastic Bertrand//Ca Plane Pour Moi

I woke up this morning with this song in my head and thought, "this would be a great song for OSS today. It follows The Monks well and it kicks away the Wednesday blues." The problem? I had no idea what it was.

When it comes to figuring out little puzzles like this, I always assume that the internet will know, provide and generally have my back. However, decoding this song was a formidable challenge. I didn't know much about what it was besides the fact that:

1. it was in a foreign language. I assumed it was Western European and had a hunch it was a French song, although I thought it also might have been German.
2. it sounded kind of 60s, but then again, it could have been a later era copying the 60s.
3. it had a surf feel about it.
4. I had definitely heard it in the company of my friend Cara before, although I couldn't remember who had put it on. Also I had heard it many other places, possibly on a soundtrack. I frequently asked what it was and never remembered the answer.

After sifting through dozens of not-it Serge Gainsbourg tracks on Hype Machine and LastFM, trying that stupid site where you can tap out songs on your keyboard (which doesn't work--they kept telling me this was a Guns and Roses song) and searching "French Surf Hit," French Rock Hit 60s," "German Surf Hit" and "What is this song in my head?!?!" to no avail, I finally turned to a trusty old friend.

All Music Guide, based in Ann Arbor (rep!), might be the best music resource on the entire internet. Although their site is outdated and slow in terms of interface, you absolutely cannot beat the information they have. I went to the International section, then to the Foreign Language Rock section, then to the French Rock section, which spit out a list of top songs. Even though Plastic Bertrand was Belgian, this song was number two on their list.

Of course, AMG also has everything you need to know about it.

And so, I am pleased to present to you, the perfect song for today. I hope you find it as satisfying as I do.

Ca Plane Pour Moi.mp3

Ca plane pour moi!
(This life's for me!)

December 8, 2009

The Monks//Shut Up

Ali gave me this as a birthday present this year. A few months later, she asked me if I had listened to it yet. I hadn’t. I have a lot to listen to. I forget sometimes.

Finally, I ended up picking it up and putting it on. I’m so happy I did. The Monks are SO delightfully weird.

The story: five American GIs stationed in Germany in the mid-sixties start a garage band. They get discharged from the military and keep playing music, calling themselves The Monks and dressing the part.

They didn’t sound like anything else around at the time—and many credit them with being the first to define a certain early lofi proto-punk sound (think Velvet Underground, but weirder), which strayed away from many of the elements found in a popular rock and roll at the time. Drawing from sensibilities that seem like they could only be routed in Dadaism, their lyrics are sometimes nonsensical, sometimes offensive and often hilarious.

Shut Up.mp3

World is so worried,
World is so worried.

December 7, 2009

Gospel Gossip//Sippy Cup

Fumble, Mumble, Monday Mail. What is Monday Mail?

Ok, OSS, I’m telling you this story because I need to get it off my chest. I already feel terrible about this, so please try not to judge me too hard.

I was having a good weekend. I was getting a lot done—-working on my book and a number of other things. Thursday night, I stayed up very late to write. Friday night, I cleaned my whole apartment in order to try to support productivity.

Friday night was nice. I was happy. I went to the grocery store to buy some things for dinner and I also bought one, count ‘em!, ONE! beer to enjoy with dinner. I ate dinner. I was drinking the beer, doing something on the computer when I got up to get something from the other room. As I stood up, I knocked the beer over and watched about an eighth of it poor into my laptop. Awesome.

I panicked and ran into the kitchen to get a rag. By the time I got back to my computer, most of it had seeped inside. I mopped up what I could and poured out the rest. The computer kept working fine and I thought, “huh. Maybe it wasn’t that big of a deal.” Then, the hard drive started making a weird noise. Yeah, it was a big deal.

I started uploading things I hadn’t yet backed up to Gmail as fast as I could, but it was to no avail. Within 15 seconds, the screen went blank save for some random splotches of blue and purple. PRETTTTY. Also, it sounded as if a metallic demon was in there, banging on tiny microchip pipes.

I got online and searched “I spilled beer on my computer.” The amount of people who have spilled beer on their computers across the country would boggle your mind. It’s incredible. In case this ever happens to you, here’s what you should do:

1. Turn the laptop off and remove the battery ASAP. If you do this quick enough, you can avoid causing a short. Sadly, I don’t think I did this quick enough.
2. Flip it over and pour out the beer/liquid. Mop up the rest with a towel.
3. Take it apart and clean it with rubbing alcohol. Or take it to your local reliable computer shop. Mine’s currently having a fun AND fancy vacation at Tekserve.
4. Let it dry. For days, apparently. Don’t use a hairdryer. Do use a fan.
5. Try to turn it back on. Cross your fingers. Please cross yours for me.
6. Dance around or cry, depending on what happens.

Or better, don’t be dumb like me. Don't drink beer next to your computer, especially when you quit your job to work on a book that you haven’t fully backed up. And if you absolutely have to, consider using a sippy cup.

I’m pretty sure that Minnesota-based band Gospel Gossip probably didn’t write this song for me, but I like it anyway.

Band member Sarah Nienaber wrote in a while back to say that GG was going on tour. While they’re not on tour anymore, they play often in Minneapolis and you can hear some more of their stuff on the trusty internets (obviously I’m here by the grace of another computer). They also scored many points with me by using a negative Pitchfork quote on their myspace. Well done, guys.

This song’s got a balanced mix of feed-backed shoegaze guitar and strong melody; a nice distraction for the wake of The Great Computer Disaster of 2009.

Sippy Cup.mp3

I never knew my love could get so far away from me.

December 4, 2009

Knight School//Pregnant Again

I wear my sunglasses at knight on Local Music Fridays.
Tell me...what is this Local Music Fridays?

We got to play with these guys last summer for the Northside Festival at Public Assembly (where my friend Tim is Djing tonight, coincedentally). I don't think I got to talk to them much, but their show was super fun.

I've got mixed feelings about this “fuzz on everything” trend that seems to somehow still be the hip thing to do. I don't think that fuzzing the hell out of something makes it instantly good. That said, sometimes it is good. Knight School has a retro punk sound with a just hint of pop. They really get it right and pull it off.

If you're in NYC, catch them in exactly a week at Silent Barn. If you're elsewhere, check out this compilation because our friends City Center are also on it.

Finally, I would like to mention that I think "Pregnant Again" is a really good name for a song.

Pregnant Again.mp3

Listen to more Knight School.

December 3, 2009

Jurassic 5//Power in Numbers

I've been enjoying J5's brand of conscious hip hop for quite a few years now.

In 1993, the group formed, weirdly, at LA health food store The Good Life, which was the host to a sort of hip hop renaissance in the city. Sadly, they broke up in 2007 because they "weren't seeing eye-to-eye."

I've always enjoyed the flow and the old school production on J5's records. Some things I particularly like about this song: the piano hits, the mix of rap bravado and humility, and, most obviously, the FLUTE.

If You Only Knew.mp3

Yo, how many times I got to hear
Some fanatic in my ear
Tellin' me I got to keep it real
When they ain't payin' my bills
Or feedin' my kids, judgin' me on how I live
If my crib in the hood or if its up in the hills?

December 2, 2009

Beyoncé//Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)

Apparently I am having a poppy week. That said, I am not ashamed at all of how much I like this song.

Although I'm sure I've heard it millions of times, I didn't really think about it until I was watching Glee (the jury's still out on that one) with my mom, girlfriend and little sister at Thanksgiving. My sister showed me the clip where the show's gay character Kurt gets caught mimicking the video of this song with his friends and then somehow ends up going out for the football team and teaching it, choreography and all, to the players. Yeah, it's TV. Still, I haven't been able to get this song out of my head since then.

I also stumbled upon this amazing post on Carrie Brownstein's Monitor Mix shortly thereafter. Now the track is firmly implanted in my brain.

Hey. If you like it, then you shoulda put a ring on it! Oh wait. You can't. Yep, this song just happens to also be timely today, as the NY State Senate voted down marriage equality. As my other sister said, "Rat Bastards."

According to Beyoncé (and everyone knows that Beyoncé is not only a class act, but also omniscient), not proposing in time can lead to disaster. Thanks to this recent turn of events in the Senate, my girlfriend may now opt to put on tight jeans, get wasted and dance with dudes in a club. This is not cool, NY. Not cool at all.

Also, last time I looked, this state (and definitely this city) is full of homos who pay taxes to pay your salaries, Senators. We fund your pet projects and we vote you in. If you like us, then you should think about putting a ring on it...or we're going to find some new man to dip up on and you're gonna know how it feels to really miss us.

Until next year, when we can revisit this bill...

Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).mp3

Your love is what I prefer.
What I deserve
Is a man that makes me, then takes me
And delivers me to a destiny, to infinity and beyond.
Pull me into your arms,
Say I’m the one you want.
If you don’t, you’ll be alone
And like a ghost, I’ll be gone.

December 1, 2009

Ida Maria//Oh My God

Oh! My! God! I can’t stop listening to this album. I have absolutely no idea where it came from or how I heard about it, but it’s amazing.

Although the sound is a little glossy for my usual tastes and the songs are written a a bit weakly, Ida Maria has impeccable timing, borrowed obviously but not annoyingly from ‘70s garage. She’s also got a voice that would sound like Rosemary Clooney if she were singing American ‘50s standards, but in this context, hits these amazing graveled-out snarls and screams, more Mick Jagger than Mambo Italiano.

From Norway, and currently living in Sweden, Maria has won many awards in Europe. She’s also a synesthete, which I think is awesome.

Despite some recent controversy over her performance on Perez Hilton’s music fest (yeek), I am still hoping she’ll end up in New York soon. She’s sadly cancelled the rest of her tour, officially citing exhaustion, with rumors of drug/alcohol problems swirling unofficially around the internet. Console yourself by buying her album and listening very loud through headphones (preferably over a roaring A train).

Oh My God.mp3

Find a cure,
Find a cure for my life.
Put a price,
put a price on my soul.
Build a wall,
Build a fortress around my heart.
Oh my god!
You think I´m in control?
Oh my god!
Oh, you think it´s all for fun.
Is this fun for you?