Monday, January 31, 2011

R.I.P. John Barry

I didn't realize he wrote the Midnight Cowboy theme. Also, for a mediocre movie (some might say terrible) I really like his score for The Black Hole.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Dogtooth (2009)

I have been reading about this movie ever since it premiered (and won an award) at Cannes in 2009. It has finally made its way to Netflix-Watch Instantly even-after that long, arduous journey....I don't even know what to say about the movie now. No explanation of it can actually prepare you for the experience of watching it, which maybe makes it sound more ominous then it is. The barebones description of the plot certainly doesn't do it justice-three siblings are shut off, literally in a house in the middle of nowhere with high fences, and kept under strict control by the parents somewhere in the Greek countryside in what seems to be some extreme, bizarre, sociopathic behavioral experiment. The patriarch, even though mostly calm, seems truly out of his gourd in how he has shaped his kids from birth.  The family starts to come undone (somewhat) when a stranger starts introducing pieces of the outside world to the oldest daughter in form of videotapes. The explanation of how that stranger (or acquaintance really) gets into the house would be giving too much away. Like I said this doesn't even begin to do this justice, it is bizarre, surreal, shocking, truly twisted and darkly, darkly comic. Its, well, it's really nuts. You should just see it for yourself. Its also nuts that this was nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar this year. While I don't think it has any hope in actually winning, it would be wild if it did.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I Am Love (2010)

Recently reading my fellow blogger and friends' top ten favorite films list I realized that there was actually a fair amount I had actually missed in 2010. Which is actually okay, since that just means that there was more goodness out there to catch up on. Case in point, I Am Love. Here's the thing: it looks beautiful, Tilda Swinton is amazing (she plays a Russian immigrant turned matriarch of a wealthy, Italian family) so she has to speak Italian, but with a bit of a Russian accent. She's really good. Oh, and Pedro is right, John Adams score is really amazing too. Ever since I watched it last night I keep going over the ending in my mind, and here's where I am not so sure. I don't want to give too much away plotwise or anything else, and I am not sure if it is an Italian thing where emotions are blown (some might say overblown) into  huge melodrama or what-they are a passionate people after all. Maybe the fact that it has stayed on my mind so vividly says a lot right there. But there is a lot to recommend here, even if it is somewhat overblown.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

2012 (2009)

You know, I'm a reasonably intelligent person, so going into this movie I expected loud, dumb spectacle, not much more or less. That's what I got more or less. But here's the thing, this could have easily been an hour and a half, half of that running time could have been planes flying and buildings falling and a few people escaping to start a new life/world or whatever. But this movie pads itself out with philosophical arguments and discussions that it is far too stupid to even support, much less make interesting. The laziness is personified by this character portrayed by Woody Harrelson who plays some mountain man with a radio show he does from Yellowstone from his RV. And of course he is the crazy man that has figured out about the world ending (spoiler alert!) At one point he tells John Cusack to "download his blog" to learn the truth of whats going on. "Download my blog"? No one has ever said that, and the fact that no one bothered to change just that line because "who would notice" in a million dollar movie just shows how lazy this is, despite all the time and effort that were put into the effects. I mean there is a certain amount of batshit thrill to watching the world fall apart, sure, but the rest...ugh. Like I said, not so surprising.  Speaking of which, though, how long does John Cusack get to skate on Lloyd Dobbler and/or Rob Gordon before he gets called out for his crappy movie choices? The guy that played his kid's stepfather/romantic rival in here is Tom McCarthy. He played the journalist who made up stories about the homeless being murdered in the last season of The Wire, and has directed two good movies in  The Station Agent and The Visitor. He just had another one which is getting good reviews open up at Sundance with Paul Giametti called Win-Win.  I'm just saying, that might be where the money went for him.

I will say this, though, did you see the teaser trailer for 2012? It was actually pretty neat (and for a movie so loud, somewhat quiet, comparatively speaking). 

As subtle as huge wave going over a mountain could be, I suppose. They probably got that ideas (somewhat) from the original teaser trailer for The Shining using that same music and just a shot of the elevator. 

Not really the same effect, though.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Frozen (2010)

One of those instances where a neat premise-here three friends get trapped on a ski lift on the last run when the ski lift operators forget about them, and there is going to be a long weekend before anyone gets back to the mountain. It's an instance where a neat premise is somewhat marred by not-great acting, and a somewhat convoluted turn of events. (How they eventually get stuck up there is a real "only in a movie" series of coincidences) But I have to admit that parts of this movie were definitely suspenseful, and definitely made my palms sweat. This might have worked better as a shorter movie, because even at only an hour and a half it still drags a bit. Part of it might just be that even back in the day when I used to ski, or maybe its like this for everyone, there was always something nervewracking about the chairlift, whether it would stop or if it would fall, and this movie plays pretty well on those fears in some respects, while being pretty goofy in other ones.


Friday, January 14, 2011

William Atherton: Greatest Adult Jerk of the Eighties

On my old blog I once wrote about William Zabka being the greatest teenage jerk/bully of the eighties. Well, yesterday I was reading the AV Club's New Cult Canon entry on Real Genius and I realized I had forgotten about William Zabka's adult counterpart in jerky villainy: none other than William Atherton. You might not know the name but you definitely know who he is even if you don't recognize the name. (On a sidenote (I love sidenotes) off the top of my head Paul Gleason, who played Principal Vernon in The Breakfast Club could have had a very good run at this title too with that movie, Trading Places, and a little Christmas movie called Die Hard, which also costars one William Atherton. Close,  very very close).

Here is the trilogy (quadrilogy?) of William Atherton's yuppie douchebaggery:

Ghostbusters (1984),  Walter Peck

The EPA official who ended up unleashing all the ghosts onto Manhattan. Stupid government bureaucracy.

Real Genius (1985), Prof. Jerry Hathaway
Tried to use students and their research to gain large government contracts. Got his house filled with popcorn in the end.

Die Hard (1988), Richard Thornburg
Dick reporter.

Same to somewhat diminishing returns in Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)
Except on an airplane.

Bonus: the creators of Lost knew him to be so good at playing a dick that they had him guest spot as the principal to Michael Emerson's Ben in the sideways universe in the last season. He excelled here at what he did best.

Just for fun: the runner-up: Paul Gleason.

Sadly, Paul Gleason passed away in 2006. You should check out his because, of course, he plays well known jerks in these movies below, but he was on a ton of stuff, pretty much every popular television show of the eighties. He was even in the TV movie Ewoks: The Battle For Endor. Pretty amazing.

But we are here to talk about his classic movie jerkdom:

Trading Places (1983),  Clarence Beeks
His comeuppance in the end is simply amazing.

The Breakfast Club (1985), Principal Richard Vernon
You mess with the bull, you get the horns.

Die Hard, Deputy Chief Dwayne T. Robinson
"Looks like we're gonna need some more F.B.I. guys."

Eh, we can call it a tie, I guess.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006)

A fascinating documentary on how the MPAA ratings board and how they go about the process of rating, and basically, who they are really beholden to. Basically the MPAA ratings board, who operate in secret without an ounce of transparency, are basically a bunch of Maude Flanders (the head of it is a certified Republican-make of that what you will, and the appeals board actually has two clergymen on it as "unofficial observers") shouting "Who is going to think of the children!?" Its an interesting look at something, you realize as you watch,  that has been around forever but noone really delves into. It might be a bit too long though, as a lot of the points seem to be made over and over. On a sidenote, the director, Kirby Dick, hires a pair of private investigators, Becky and Cheryl, and Cheryl's daughter Lindsay to track down who exactly is currently on the MPAA ratings board since their members are kept secret. These three either need to have their own reality show or a narrative show based on them. Their exploits tracking down these members are some of the most entertaining parts of the movie.


Monday, January 10, 2011

R.I.P. Peter Yates

Peter Yates, the British director who broke into American films died this weekend at the age of 82 after a long illness. What was (is) interesting about Yates is that he would pretty much direct anything. That doesn't mean he wouldn't direct quality movies, because he did, but he was willing to step outside of his comfort zone so often...actually, it seemed like he was comfortable with most genres really, and was interesting because his output was so eclectic. And he happened to have directed some of my favorites.  Just check out some of his movies:

Bullitt (1968)
He had made a couple movies before this but this was definitely the one that made a name for himself in Hollywood with an iconic Steve McQueen and one of the best car chases ever.

The Friends Of Eddie Coyle (1973)
Not only one of my favorite movies, but also one of the best movies set in and around Boston. It's awesome to see Robert Mitchum go to the Bruins game and cheer for Bobby Orr.

Mother Juggs and Speed (1976)
In the 70's, Yates lightened up a bit with a few comedies, one being this little curio starring Harvey Keitel, Bill Cosby, and Raquel Welch. It actually does deserve a look if you have the time. Particularly if you like the idea of Bill Cosby harassing nuns.

Breaking Away (1979)
Hmmmm, I didn't realize until reading about him that he directed the Peter Benchley adaptation The Deep. But then again, I've never seen it. Anyway, Breaking Away is also really good. A nice take on the coming-of-age story. Because we've pretty much all been there: wanting to grow up and move out of our small towns to see what the world has to offer. I guess it sounds cliched but its really well done.

1983 wasn't the end for Peter Yates, he worked until starting to slow down some in the nineties (He directed Suspect that Dennis Quaid/Cher thriller from 1987) But in 1983, it showed how he would pretty much try anything once. He directed The Dresser  a stately drama about a Shakesperean actor, playe dby Albert Finney, and his assistant. It ended up being nominated for best picture and he for best director, among other nominations.

I've never seen it,  (it's supposed to be good) but I just wanted to put it out there to contrast with his other offering from that same year, the sci-fi cult classic Krull.

Definitely not as stately. I hadn't seen this until a year or two ago, and I watched it on my birthday, a day I took off from work. It really should be seen once, with a crowd if you can do it. It's funny because, I don't know if you can tell in the trailer but it features in it's a cast a young, thin Robbie Coltrane, as well as a young Liam Neeson. It combined sword and sorcery tropes with an outer space setting, plus lazers and even a magical boomerang. Seriously.


At The Movies

This past week I watched a few movies but for some reason (probably laziness) I didn't get to give them a full post. So here's my roundup for the past week:

Easy A (2010)
Not quite as smart as it seems to think it is. And, on top of it, what started out as a somewhat smart exploration of teenage sexuality and, well, the power of gossip, sort of pulls back on the satire towards the end. Not terrible by any means, actually pretty fun in the end, it just wasn't quite as great as perhaps it could have been. But a game cast, particularly Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as Emma Stone's parents help things along.

Good Hair (2009)

Chris Rock's really fascinating documentary about the how's and why's of African-American women's hair. He delves into the social, racial, and even religious practices and outcomes that are all intertwined in the industry of having or providing the titual "good hair" to African-American women. Seriously, it sounds, maybe silly, writing it here, but this documentary is not only immensely fascinating but also illuminating and entertaining.

Dinner For Schmucks (2010)
When Year One came out, everyone thought that that was pretty much the bottom of the barrel as far as big comedy goes. The problem there is the same as Dinner For Schmucks,  you have a really good cast, including Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell, and Zach Galifinakis, and a lot of potential that goes nowhere. Its a serious disappointment when you have this assemblage of comedy heavyweights and they manage to turn out something this lame. Steve Carrell is usually one of the best parts about many things, here he might be the worst, I could hardly get past how annoying his performance was. Yes, that was probably the point, but it wore on me...a lot.  The whole thing wore me down until I was counting the minutes until it was over.

The Kids Are All Right (2010)
I either read, or once said myself, that you will know gays are fully accepted in the U.S, when a romantic comedy comes out and at the end long lost lovers Will Smith and George Clooney kiss as "Don't Treat Me This Way" swells on the soundtrack. Perhaps a good first step is just showing a lesbian couple with two kids and not making a big brouhaha out of it, which is sort of what they do here. Mark Ruffalo plays a sperm donor is brought back into the lives of the kids he, uh, fathered, and proceeds to turn things upside down, so to speak. I have to say, even though they Southern California boho thing started to wear on me (the singing Joni Mitchell scene is particularly egregious) I did think the performances were all good, particularly Ruffalo, and Annette Benning and Julianne Moore as the couple, who just made it seem that they were an actual long time couple. Very lived-in, so to speak. Although a few plotpoints and perhaps the end don't ring quite true to me, all in all this was a nice little movie. But nothing to me, to lose your mind over.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Beastie Boys' "Paul's Boutique" is the Center of the Musical Universe

I have had this idea in my head for a long time. And just recently, our very own Pat O'D mentioned something similar on Facebook. Not only has the Beastie Boys' classic, Paul's Boutique been unfairly slept on when discussing the best rap albums of all time, but the Dust Brothers' production, particularly for something coming out in the late eighties is actually revelatory. The short, short history is that after the success of License To Ill, the Beastie Boys moved out to L.A. and hooked up with the Dust Brothers producing team, sort of went nuts, and the rest is, as they say, history. Here is the oft repeated point about the Dust Brother's production on Paul's Boutique too, due to the way copyright laws have changed since the eighties, there is no probably no way that the album would have been able to be made, or at least not made in the same way. nowadays. Which makes it sort of a time capsule. I am sure procuring the Beatles rights alone would be near impossible today. I can't say this for sure, but I would venture to bet that the Dust Brothers production on this album inspired everyone from DJ Shadow to Girl Talk.

And here's the thing about that production: the samples are so deep and so myriad, the Dust Brothers have never released an official list of the samples that were made. This has inspired so much interest in trying to figure out what each and every sample on there that there is a whole webpage devoted to sorting through the samples to each song. The production on here is so dense that you could make a good mixtape of the songs that are used in the making of just one song on the album. Sure, the Dust Brothers use as a base a lot of old school soul, funk, and disco, but a lot of what they use aren't the usual suspects, greats like James Browns, they dig a little deeper and go a little different. Now, in the title of this piece I said that Paul's Boutique is the center of the musical universe. I guess that's overstating it a bit, but in some ways its true, because not only do they incorporate old school (particularly from the seventies) soul, funk, and disco, but also, classic rock, old school hip hop (well, it wasn't old school then), punk rock, reggae, film scores, film clips, and I am sure a lot more that I am forgetting right now. My point is, if you decided to crate dig into these samples, make a mix tape of say one of the songs, any number of these samples could be a great introduction to that particular form of music, which is pretty amazing. (Also amazing, considering how many samples were used, and how deep it actually is, is to think of the fact that is was all done on tape, snippets of tape, not on a computer program like Girl Talk would use today)

Here are just some examples for you, crate digging, and sample finding can indeed be the ultimate gateway drug:

Here's one of my favorite songs off of Paul's Boutique, Egg Man:
First Live because it rules (thanks for indulging me):

Now, from the album:

Incidentally, apparently when they were in L.A. they used to drive around egging people. Real Life. (The 33 1/3 on Paul's Boutique is pretty amazing, and kind of a must-read. Both 33 1/3 books I have read-the other being the Neutral Milk Hotel one-have been amazing)
Anyway, Samples Used (and I forgot to mention-this includes their lyrical references too):
  • "Dance to the Music" by Sly and the Family Stone when MCA says "I'm on the roof"
  • "Now they got me in a cell" - "Bring the Noise" by Public Enemy which also includes "Get Off your Ass and Jam" by Funkadelic
  • "You're gonna get yours" - song of same title by Public Enemy
  • Bass line from from "Superfly" - Curtis Mayfield
  • End of song includes sample of Bernard Herrmann's score from the movie Cape Fear.
  • scream after "Come Halloween" is either Drew Barrymore from E.T. or the character Newt from Aliens
  • The main beat throughout is from "Sport" by Lightning Rod from the album "Hustlers Convention". Back up provided by Kool & The Gang.
  • The movies "Jaws" and "Psycho", the last harmonica clip may come from the intro of the movie
  • Tower of Power's "Drop It In The Slot", from the album, "In The Slot"
Okay, so right there we have some famous and not so famous samples. From the famous, of course, Curtis MAyfield's Superfly to the Tower of Power sample. And the most mindblowing the sample within a sample there in the Public Enemy sample

Here's "Shake Your Rump" the first real song on the album (actually the second after "To All The Girls")


  • "Hoo-ha! Got them all in check." - "8th Wonder" by The Sugarhill Gang
  • "It's the Joint" - song of same title by Funky 4+1
  • "Shake Your Rump-ah" - from the Unity album by James Brown and Afrika Bambaataa
  • 'Scratch' heard under "the most packinest", "your belief, chief" and at the end - "Could you be Loved" by Bob Marley
  • Additional beats from "Super Mellow" by Paul Humphrey from the album "The Drum Suite"
  • Afrika Bambaataa's, "Jazzy Sensation"
  • After the chorus phrase "Shake Your Rump-a" there is a drum break with synth. The first two runthroughs, right before the rap starts again, the concluding drum fill is from "Good Time Bad Times" by Led Zepplin.
  • Beat is Harvey Scales's "Dancing Room Only" (from the lp hotfoot: a funque dizco opera, casablanca, 1977)
  • Bong hit
  • Mostly taken from the "Car Wash" soundtrack by Rose Royce
  • Ronnie Laws, "Tell Me Something Good"
  • the disco call is from Foxy's "Get Off"
  • The main drum roll is from "Funky Snakefoot" by Alphonze Mouzon from the album "Funky Snakefoot"
  • The sound similar to a straw being pulled through a soft drink lid is an African percussian instrument known as a "cuica" (kwee-kuh). The instrument was originally used in Africa for lion hunting because the sound produced is very similar to a female lion's roar, thus attracting the male. The cuica's sound is produced by pulling and pushing a wet cloth on the bamboo stick. (
My goodness, check out that last one. And I think it's funny that they decided to include "bong hit"

I would have included the trippy painting video version but its a live one so you can't hear the music as well:


  • "Being very proud to be an MC" - "It's the Joint" by Funky 4+1
  • "Never gonna let 'em say that I don't love you" - Ballin' Jack's "Never Let 'Em Say"
  • "Say What?" is sampled from Trouble Funk's "Good To Go"
  • "We love the hot butter on the popcorn" - Bar-Kays song, "King Tim III"
  • "We love the hot butter on what? The popcorn." is from King Tim III by The Fatback Band from the album 21 Karat Fatback.
  • Drums and bass from "Hot and Nasty" by Black Oak Arkansas
  • James Brown's, "The Funky Drummer" is the beat at the end
  • Rose Royce's "Do Your Dance" is the first you hear as the intro for the song, with the bass drum and clapping.
  • Sly & the Family Stone's "Loose Booty" comprises most of the song
  • Sugar Hill Gang's, "Sugarhill Groove"
The Sounds of Science:

(Included the live one because, well, it looks so great. Look at that crowd!)



  • "I do not sniff the coke, I only smoke the sensamilla" - Pato Banton's song "Don't Sniff Coke"
  • "Right up in your face and dis' you" - "My Philosophy" by BDP
  • James Brown's, "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved", when MCA says "that's right my name's Yauch"
  • Jet flying overhead from The Beatles "Back in the U.S.S.R." off the White Album
  • The Beatles, "The End" is scratched trhoughout the song
  • The crowd noise in the break is from the beginning of SPLHCB
  • The drum track underneath the guitar sample is a sample of the Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)" from SPLHCB
  • The guitar track at the end is a sample from the Beatles "The End" from Abbey Road.
  • The oboe track you hear at the beginning is a sample of the Beatles "When I'm 64" from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
  • The occasional beeps and bass lines during the first half of the song is from Issac Hayes' "Walk from Regio's", on the "Shaft" soundtrack
  • The sounds at the beginning is from the small toy in a can that would make a "mmmoooooooooo" sound each time it was turned upside down.
  • The violin and other orchestral tuning you hear in the middle (I believe when AdRock says "Rope-a dope...") is a sample of the intro to the Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" from SPLHCB
I included this for a couple of reasons, first off, because, as mix it is pretty amazing, I think its interesting to have KRS-One and the Beatles co-existing on one track. It's something that might seem more commonplace now, but put in the context of when this came out, it must have been on another level. Then I would like to ask Matt, our resident Beatles lover, if he took the Beatles songs sampled here, what that indeed be a pretty good mix and/ or introduction to the Beatles?

So, sure, saying Paul's Boutique is the center of the musical universe is a shorthand piece of hyperbole. Its probably close to one of those annoying sayings like "I like everything but country" when asked what kind of music you like. Really? Everything!? This is sort of the same, while close, obviously, it doesn't quite get there, there's no classical music, there's no say early blues, probably the closest to country might be the sample from the song "Oh Sharon" from singer-songwriter David Bromberg on "Johnny Ryall". So it isn't perfect in that sense. But the ability of the Dust Brothers to take so much from different parts of the musical spectrum and turn it into the perfect pastiche for the Beastie Boys' rhymes is still pretty amazing. It's really an amazing accomplishment. And it also is an example of another statement I made a few months ago, I was talking about DJ's, and basically about how the best DJ's know the most about music in general, and I think the Dust Brothers, particularly here with their magnum opus, prove this to be pretty close to the truth.

(Actually I take it back, because they sample people like Joni Mitchell and Johnny Cash in the 12-minute B-Boy Bouillabaisse)


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Matt's Top 20 Albums of 2010

This list was pretty difficult to put together.  There were a lot of great releases I came across this year and I found myself splitting hairs over choosing certain albums over others.  Kevin was right when he said in his post that this list is true for now, but time can change one’s opinions of certain albums.  So as with every other list, this is to be taken with a grain of salt. 

                                             20) Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid

Of all the albums on this list, I probably know this one the least but I had to include it here for the sheer scope and size of it.  Coming in at a whopping 18 tracks that go over an hour, this album spans more genres than any other album should have the right to do so.  Mostly a fusion of hip-hop, soul, R&B, rock, rockabilly, metal, and classical, Monae is all over the place here and although I don’t quite grasp this album fully, I can tell it is something special.

                                                          19) Jonsi – Go

It is hard for me to not like just about everything this Icelandic artist does.  Known mainly for his work with his band Sigur Ros, Go represents Jonsi’s first solo album and it is just as beautiful as most of Sigur Ros’s work.  He is getting more upbeat with a lot of his newer music, and although I do like the slower and more somber stuff of earlier albums more, this still packs a number of great songs that infuse a lot of electronic instruments and orchestras surrounding Jonsi’s hauntingly beautiful falsetto. 

                                                   18) Vampire Weekend – Contra

Critics like this band more than I do and I think they’re kinda overrated but that still doesn’t take anything away from their second album which while more adventurous than their first, does not quite best their debut album released a few years ago.  They continue to carry on their afro/Caribbean pop styles (which is kind of odd for four rich mostly white kids from New York) making them one of the more unique bands out there. 

                                                    17) Yeasayer – Odd Blood

I’m still trying to grasp this album more as I slept on it for a number of months and only recently got a copy.  There are a lot of sounds and styles going on here which can get funky and experimental in some places but at the end of the day, it represents what I mostly look for in music; a great pop album.

                                      16) The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang

This quartet from New Jersey just may be the best straight up rock n’ roll band I have heard in some time.  I fell in love with their debut album The ’59 Sound which was released two years ago and then saw them at Bonnaroo this past year and witnessed a great set.  They continue on with this very solid album that reminds me that no matter how many different sounds modern musicians can come up with in the studio, there is no substitute for a straight ahead great rock album.

                                           15) The Corin Tucker Band – 1,000 Years

Tucker’s first effort after the disbandment of one of my favorite female acts ever, Sleater-Kinney, is a surprisingly mellow one.  The former SK leader decided to slow things down a bit and produced a great album in doing so.  I wasn’t sure what to think at first and although I do prefer the edgier and louder sounds of SK, I very much appreciated and enjoyed this album which when listened to carefully seems to be a large understatement of her traditional styles.  There are a few rocking tracks on here which are probably the best but it’s nice to see her try something new as well.

                                         14) The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards  

My least favorite Jack White band is still great.  Especially since they improved so much since their first album, Horehound, released last year.  This is certainly his most experimental and crazy project which takes the normal blues style he follows and flips it on its head trying to make it as aggressive and bizarre as he can.  This is a much more consistent effort for the band and I hope they continue to get better, for I see something pretty cool developing here.

                                              13)  Local Natives – Gorilla Manor

One of my favorite new bands I’ve “discovered” this year is this quintet from L.A. that focuses its sound on a lot of great percussion which sometimes includes two drummers.  It was one of those albums for me that took me some time to get into but got better and better with each listen.  They are a really talented band that includes several multi-instrumentalists who infuse melodic harmonies in just about every song and also has a gift for building the songs up to a crescendo at the end which is always a plus for me.

                                                12)  Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday

Surprised by this inclusion?  Yeah, so am I.  Especially since I’ve only heard it a few times.  But for some reason this fusion of hip-hop, R&B, pop, and soul just grabs me.  It’s catchy, aggressive, fun, dirty, expansive, and yet, simple. 

                                                 11) The Black Keys – Brothers

The most produced album by this duo from Akron, Ohio may not be their best, but it certainly is their most creative.  Normally restricted to just a guitar and drums, the Keys have really branched out here including more instruments, vocals, and production techniques that has them changing their sound, but not their awesomeness.

                                                     10) Spoon – Transference

I’ve let this band slip by me for so many years and I finally got the stones to just go out and get an album and I’m so glad I did.  A lot of their music is very staccato and is not very fluid which can be a difficult thing to pull off successfully.  But they do a great job here producing one of the more interesting rock releases of the year.

     9)  My Chemical Romance – Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys

What can I say?  I really like this band (or at least their last two albums).  Even though they came out along with a bunch of “emo” bands which were mostly generic crap, MCR are actually good and do an amazing job of writing some great pop-punk songs.  (I also just realized they share my initials.  Sweet!)  Granted, they are pretentious and ridiculous and while this effort is not as good as The Black Parade it is still chock full of songs that just put a smile on my face.

                                                      8)  Warpaint – The Fool

The most obscure selection on my list came to me just recently but I loved this mellow album with Radioheadesque tendencies so much and had to include it on here.  It might seem high, but I actually had to fight from putting it higher.  The band is a four piece of women from L.A. and they’ve put together a great experimental rock album that is fairly tranquil and atmospheric. 

                                                    7) The National – High Violet

Originally it took me a while to get into the National but if this had been the first album I heard by them, I don’t think it would have taken me that long at all.  Their style doesn’t deviate much from previous efforts as it’s pretty chill, but for me the quality of songs is much more consistent than on their previous album.  They do an excellent job of starting from nowhere and building to a boisterous crescendo that when you really think about it, isn’t really boisterous at all.  Yet somehow, they make you feel that way

                                   6) Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

I first listened to this album in my car on the way to the airport for Thanksgiving break.  And I wasn’t feeling it.  At all.  I’m not sure why because after about three listens later, I felt totally different about it.  Like everyone else, I think Kanye is a jerk.  But I’ll be damned if this guy cannot create one hell of a song.  I don’t know much about production and hip-hop in general, but even I know that this is something special.

                                                      5) Wolf Parade – Expo 86

The third album by this indie band from Montreal is another gem.  Though not as good as their previous album, At Mount Zoomer, Expo 86 shows that these guys can create some of the best indie music around today.  I was really amped to find that they hadn’t lost anything with this album and was sure there was more to come in the next few years.  However, it seems the band may have broken up recently and I really hope that’s not true. 

                                                4) Band of Horses – Infinite Arms

One of my favorite bands of the past few years is this group from Seattle who create some of the most beautiful pop alt-country I have ever heard.  They expand their sound a little more on this record but still hold true to great songwriting, at the core of which is lead singer Ben Bidwell’s superb voice.  There are great songs that rock out here as well as ones that slow down and nearly bring you to tears they’re so pretty.

                                           3) Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More

This band has started to blow up recently and I couldn’t be happier for them.  For they have made one hell of an album that just about anyone can get down to.  They blend folk, country, rock, and a kind of Irish trad musical style and usually start off slow and then build to what becomes a near all-out hoedown.  They seem to have taken the formula from the Avett Brothers and made it into something even more palatable, if that is even possible.

                                             2) Titus Andronicus – The Monitor

It took a few listens to this album but I eventually came around to see how freaking great it is.  If ever there were such a thing as a prog-punk band, it would be these guys.  Many of their songs go well over the five minute mark and include up to three different sections that seem to have nothing to do with each other yet somehow fit in together.  It’s pretty raw and unpolished and there is kind of an Irish punk overtone to most of their tunes.  It’s powerful, creative, fun, and amazingly crazy.

                                                  1) Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

Maybe this is a little too obvious, but seriously, Arcade Fire came out with their strongest release with this sprawling and adventurous album that I liked immediately.  They have really put themselves out there on this one with a lot of songs (16) yet it never gets dull.  They try a number of styles including lo-fi rockers, experimental rock, and even synth-pop.  Are they trying too hard?  Getting too full of themselves?  Pretentious?  Perhaps.  But they are oh so good.