Radioscooter, The Best of 2011: The Singles








A trichotomous array of blatant dance pop, guitar-laden grunge, and ethereal chanteuse-sung torch songs containing coyotes,  shadows, matadors, pilotfish and the odd Paul Simon and Mama Cass references.

(Extended, 30 song playlist version. Go HERE to download playlist.)

1. Jimmy Fallon – Reading Rainbow
Butterfly in the sky. I can go twice as high.

2. British Seapower – Who’s In Control?*
Over here. Over there. Over here. Every fuckin’ where.

3.The Black Keys – Lonely Boy
Any old time you keep me waitin’.

4. Slow Club – Two Cousins
It’s where your heart goes when you’re done.

5. M83 – Midnight City
Waiting in a car.

6. IvyFascinated
Tell me how to break down these walls.

7. Grouplove – Tongue Tied
My eyes on your eyes.

8. Nicole Atkins – Hotel Plaster
At least we’d have a pretty soundtrack.

9. Death Cab For Cutie – Stay Young, Go Dancing
When we move as one, we stay young.

10. Maria Taylor – Matador
Every day’s a new day outside the door..

11. Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi (feat. Jack White) – The Rose with the Broken Neck
Help myself to a drink, help myself to the sink.

12. Bright Eyes – Shell Games
Everyone on the count of three.

13. Those Darlin’s – Screws Get Loose
I went to a doctor, I guess I must’ve shocked her.

14. Los Campesinos! – By Your Hand
Is the only end I foresee.

15. Lana Del Rey – Video Games
I heard that you like the bad girls, honey, is that true?

16. Chris Bathgate – Poor Eliza
The shadows are serious and cursed, all washing out in the distance.

17. TV on the Radio – Will Do
It might be impractical to seek out a new romance.

18. Deep Dark Robot – Can’t Getcha Outta My Mind
I struggle with emotion, feeling kinda broken. I Can’t. Get. Her. Outta my mind.

19. The Lonely Forest – Coyote
Do they know what I did last night? And does my sin seem interesting?

20. Telekinesis – 50 Ways
I try to focus on anything else but I keep on hearing your name.

21. Phantogram – Don’t Move
Keep your body still.

22. Florence + The Machine – Shake It Out
And I am done with my graceless heart. Tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart.

23. The Decemberists – Calamity Song
Till all that remains is the arms of the angels.

24. Alberta Cross – Wait
Rise and fall. Rise and fall.

25. The Rosebuds – Woods
Don’t you wait for me to give up all my signs.

26. The Chapel Club – Surfacing
You mean it. I’ve seen it. The poet’s got nothing on you.

27. Portugal, the Man – Got it All (This Can’t be Living Now)
You’ve got it all till the revolution comes.

28. Sharon Van Etten – Serpents
Sepents in my mind, searching for your cries.

29. Zola Jesus – Vessel
And it’s around everything. And it will take you the way.

30. Yacht – Dystopia (The Earth is on Fire)
If we cut off the water, then the jackals will return.

Radioscooter: The Best of 2010 (The Singles)









As with last year, I did a 20 track CD length version for those of you still listening to music via spinning aluminum oxide and lasers, and an extended MP3 Playlist (marked accordingly on the list) which rounds up a cozy 28 tracks.

1. “Everlasting Light”
Artist: The Black Keys
Notes: I know this was overplayed this year, but it warrants inclusion for the backup vocals alone.

2. “Down by the Water”
Artist: The Decemberists
Notes: I am stoked that the Decemberists went back to the pop song format at least for one album.  Yes, it’s supposed to sound like “The One I Love”. Peter Buck produced it and plays on it. And that’s Gillian Welch singing backup. “The More You Know…”

3. “Boyfriend”
Artist: Best Coast
Notes: I have an entire folder full of retro/pastiche bands from just the last couple years. Thank you Mark Ronson.  It seems like this year the R&B homages (Sharon Jones, Isobel Campbell et al) were eclipsed by the umpteen Brian Wilson and T-Rex high-fives. This Best Coast track brings a little Mindless Summer to the list.

4. “Fistful of Mercy”
Artist: Fistful of Mercy
Notes: Lots of Ubergroups this year.  Fistful of Mercy is Dhani Harrison, Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur. This officially has my vote for Best Beatles Offspring track. Sorry Julian.

5.“Bitter Pill”
Artist: Mt. Desolation
Notes:  This mega-uber-band gets turns from members of Keane, Noah & the Whale, Mumford & Sons, the Killers, the Long Winters etc.

6. “Live There”
Artist: The Lonely Forest
Notes: Another beautiful EP and another thing we can thank Deathcab For Cutie for.

7. “Rill Rill” * (MP3 Playlist Bonus Track)
Artist: Sleigh Bells
Notes: Yeah I’m a sucker for a groove-based throwback sounding pop song. I wasn’t as jazzed about this whole album as everyone else seemed to be. But this is a fun song with some great production stuff going on. Plus as a Pittsburgher, I love the title.

8. “Lisbon” * (MP3 Playlist Bonus Track)
Artist: The Walkmen
Notes: Horns, Bells and Mandolins are the must-have extra instrumentation on  scads of albums in the past few years. Personally, I blame Wilco. Or again, Mark Ronson. Sure, they sound great right now, but in 10 years the Glockenspiel is going to seem “So 2009.”

9. “Femme Fatale” * (MP3 Playlist Bonus Track)
Artist: Aloe Blacc
Notes: I usually try to include a couple more covers on the set, but this year there wasn’t enough room. This one surprised the heck out of me in a delightful way. Worth it for the superb guitar alone.

10. “We Used To Wait”
Artist: The Arcade Fire
Notes: Nyde, I tried, I really did. I had another A.F. track all set to go. But I couldn’t break away from this one.

11. “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo” * (MP3 Playlist Bonus Track)
Artist: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Notes: Give it a minute or so. It builds nicely. Crunchy, dpsych-garage-rock with a dark groove.

12. “Angel Dance” * (MP3 Playlist Bonus Track)
Artist: Robert Plant
Notes: Another surprisingly great solo album from Bob.


13. “Foot Shooter”
Artist: Frightened Rabbit
Notes: No Best of the Year compilation from me would be complete without at least one Brogue Band.

14. “Marmalade” * (MP3 Playlist Bonus Track)
Artist: Sea of Bees
Notes: Great, lush pop track from a great, lush pop album.

15. “When I’m Small”(MP3 Playlist Bonus Track)
Artist: Phantogram
Notes: Infectious sampled groove riff with a cool, ethereal haunting guitar and vocal track.

16. “Heaven and Earth”
Artist: Blitzen Trapper
Notes: One of the most beautiful tracks of the year.

17. “Lovesick”
Artist: Lindstrøm & Christabelle
Notes: I wasn’t going to include any dance/ heavy synth/groove/pop tracks on the list . This one kept rubbing my leg until I couldn’t ignore it anymore. Plus it allowed me to have one pretentious Norwegian letter in my set. Now, I just have to get some bands with æ and å in their names.

18. “Own Stunts”
Artist: Breathe Owl Breathe
Notes: This one is a sleeper that I’m surprised didn’t make more best-of lists. I think it’s one of the sweetest lyrical tracks of the year. Of all the Fleet Foxes/Bon Iver clones this year, not all of them should have bothered. B.O.B. is one of the exceptions.

19. “Up In The Dark”
Artist: The New Pornographers
Notes: One of my favorite dashboard hand-drummers this year.

20. “Don’t Do It”
Artist: Sharon Van Etten
Notes: For those of us that were waiting for that magical, haunting mashup of old-school Sara MacLachlan and Brandi Carlile – here’s the reward for all our cards and letters. Song of the year? possibly.

21. “Old Fangs” * (MP3 Playlist Bonus Track)
Artist: Black Mountain
Notes: I needed another band wth “Black” in their name. Or I needed another garage/psych band to restart the set list. Take your pick.

22. “Boy Lilikoi”
Artist: Jónsi
Notes: Jónsi is the lead singer of Icelandic band Sigur Rós. And kind of a male version of Bjork. Except with more feathers. Imagine a bunch of big, cinematic, orchestrated pop songs that all somehow tie together in some sort of Rekjavikian fairytale and still remain crazy hook-laden and catchy as hell. I’m not sure how this song stays so ‘sing-alongy’ when I really have no idea what he is singing at any given moment. Hot Tip – put on the Neverending Story DVD, turn down the volume and put on this album.

23. “Fixed”
Artist: Stars
Notes: Bit of a jump from 2007’s “Take Me To The Riot”.  Synth 90’s Brit Pop throwback sound.

24. “Sdp”
Artist: The Kissaway Trail
Notes: Biggest, longest epic track on the set. Great album. Bells, big arrangements, anthemic Arcade Fire style sound, especially with the time sig. change after the first verse. Well done you Danish nuts.

25. “The First Time”
Artist: Doll & The Kicks
Notes: My vote for Best New Band of the Year. When I try to get other people into this band, I fail miserably with my descriptions “It’s like 4 Non Blondes meets Concrete Blonde with Nicole Atkins’ rhythm section…” Tara said it sounded like Gwen Stefani. Yikes. All I can say is give this song a shot. She’s one of those performers who is more captivating live than on record (at least from the YouTube videos) but this track captures some of that power.

26. “Bloodbuzz Ohio”
Artist: The National
Notes: I wasn’t fully on the National  bandwagon with the last album. I LIKED it . I didn’t LIKE, like it. This album is more fully formed.

27. “Kaleidoscope”
Artist: James
Notes: Well, nobody talked about this album at all. I didn’t even know it had been released until I was following some random James links. I loved this band in the 90’s and when I heard about it, I feared this reunion would be bad. But it’s superb. A powerful, destructively simple song. Tim Booth remains a tremendously overlooked singer.

28. “Goodbye Sweet Dreams”
Artist: Roky Erickson with Okkervil River
Notes: I said it before – there’s a place in rock heaven for Okkervil River to have  so compassionately made some sense out of one of the most brilliant, disturbed minds in music. This track could bring anyone that knows Roky’s story to tears.

Radioscooter: Best of 2009 (the singles)

After 3 years of shoegazing, introspective alterna-folk-beard-rock – it was time for a bit of a pop blast.

Best of 2009 (the singles)

1. Franz Ferdinand – No You Girls

A great sexy power pop opener that should set the tone for most of this set. This song was introduced during their live 2007 tour and just made it onto Tonight this year. And no, you girls really don’t have any idea how you make a boy feel.

2. Metric – Sick Muse

This year marks a return of the infectious hook/groove guitar riff. This song could diverge into a nonsensical speaking-in-tongues Dave Matthews jam halfway through and still be worthy of inclusion just for its opening.From Fantasies, one of my favorite albums of the year as well.

3. Rocco DeLuca & the Burden – Any Man

Ever since “It Might Get Loud” I’ve been enjoying the bejezus out of some blue-eyed soul. How Mercy avoided most people’s best-of lists is truly beyond me. All the blues power and legitimacy that Jack White covets. Check out the live version of this track on YouTube.

4. JET – She’s A Genius

What can I say? They’re named after one of the best Wings songs ever, they rock, and if this song came on while you were driving your Dodge van on the Ohio turnpike on your way to Cleveland to see your girlfriend, you’d turn it the hell up, roll the windows down and sing along. Loudly.

5. Neko Case – People Got A Lotta Nerve

There are some artists that I hope produce something good enough to include every year. Some artists – I don’t ever have to worry about. Neko Case, whether solo or with New Pornographers has been a consistent joy for years now. Plenty to choose from on Middle Cyclone. This one won both for its borrowed Lloyd Cole opening 12-string chords and for the lyric: “I’m a man-man-man-maneater, but still you’re surprised when I eat ya…”

6. Antony & the Johnsons – Kiss My Name

I was faced with the prospect of either abandoning my bombast mission, leave Antony off the singles list or choose a slightly less maudlin track from The Crying Light. The poster child for pain and personal transformation, he makes Morrissey and Joy Division seem like The Wiggles. For those who haven’t been initiated yet, I realize Antony Hegarty is an acquired taste. Do yourself a favor. Acquire it.

7. Morrissey – Shame is the Name

As a 25 year long Moz fanatic, I don’t wait around for things like “Release Dates” and as such, I featured a track from Years of Refusal on last year’s playlist.  Luckily, this year gave us the B-side compilation Swords, and as any Morrissey fan will attest – his B-Sides often outshine regular album cuts. In a departure from recent work, Shame is the Name revives classic retro Alain Whyte/Boz Boorer Your Arsenal era production, complete with Chrissie Hynde guest vocals, a crunchy bridge segue and cinematic dialogue sfx in the intro.

8. Richard Swift – Lady Luck

An infectious opening groove and R&B unison falsetto. Just the way we like it. He has a few more tasty ones as well. The Atlantic Ocean

9. Regina Spektor – Laughing With

Not as crunchy, but a wonderful lyric that is dear to my heart.  This album was overlooked a bit, I think from the plethora of artsy girl singer songwriters all driving to the hoop this year. (Neko Case, St. Vincent, Toti Amos etc.) From Far

10. The Avett Brothers – Laundry Room

I’ve successfully avoided being moved by these guys for a while. But this album had some excellent writing on it. I passed up the title track for this tastier, shorter gem. From I And Love And You

11. The Phenomenal Handclap Band – Baby

This is an eclectic album by an equally hard to pin down band. There are a few other great soul based dance tracks on their debut album, but this one just kills me dead. Delphonics meets Moby. And they get along. Like waffles and whipped cream.

12. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes – Home

Wow. Look what happens when hippies stop jamming and pushing away the colors and turn their attention to pop songs. Trickle down from the cult-turned-band template that the Polyphonic Spree started some time ago. There’s something about a couple in love singing with each other and touring with a full band in a white schoolbus that just says – um, Partridgy. In a good way. They are  AMAZING live.

13. Twilight Sad – Reflection of the Television

Question: How many amazing “Brogue Invasion” bands can I fit on one playlist? Answer:  How many’ve you got? This song tears me up. “There’s people downstairs, I stole it from a letter –
off your tongue it rolled” From their sophomore release Forget the Night Ahead

14. Lightning Dust – Antonia Jane

Okay, there’s a little sad softer stuff on this playlist. But at least she doesn’t have a beard. Haunting wispy chick folk. Just right for a week where we haven’t broken 10 degrees yet. From The Infinite Light

15. Manchester Orchestra – Shake it Out

Aaand we’re back on track. I don’t know why they named themselves this, and no they don’t sound anything like the Boston Pops OR ELO. This is my favorite NEW band/album of the year.  Rockin’ good news, Lulu. Mean Everything to Nothing

16.Trevor Hall – Unity

Before you all check to see if I’ve been replaced by a pod.- yes, it’s technically a reggae song. And yes, he’s a young white guy from South Carolina effecting a Jamaican accent. And okay, yes – his claim to fame was having a track on Shrek III. And yes, that’s Matisyahu (Hacidic M.C.) singing with him. All that notwithstanding, this is a great, infectious, uplifitng, celebratory song for these troubled times. Play it once and see if you don’t hum it later.

17. Benjy Ferree – Blown Out

I loves me my Glam Rock. So naturally I love this Benjy Ferree release with its Bolan guitars and Sweet hooks. From Come Back To The Five and Dime, Bobby Dee, Bobby Dee

18. The Lonely Forest – We Sing in Time

This Washington band has been around since 2006, but this album has really let them spread their sound out and breathe a bit. From We Sing the Body Electric, but don’t let that fool you.

19. We Were Promised Jetpacks – Moving Clocks run Slow

Their bio says that they cite labelmates Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit as influences. Yeah, ya think? Fortunately, as I mentioned before, if you have more hard alt rock melodic Scottish bands – bring them forward with good steed. The more the merrier. Well, the more the thriftier I guess, really. (That’s a Pictish joke)

20. Passion Pit – Little Secrets

More turn-it-up dance electronic rock that will be was on an iPod or CUBE commercial before you finish reading this blog.

21. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero

Dear Karen O, thank you for reminding us of the original promise of The Pretenders before James Honeyman Scott died and took their mission statement with him. Dear Yoko…nevermind.

That’s the CD length playlist. Once we get past this Sony-imposed 74 minute technological muzzle, we can all get back to the 90 minutes of music that used to grace our UDXLII’s. Until then – I guess we’ll have to settle for unlimited length i-playlists. So here’s the rest of the set.
22. Bob Mould – Mm 17

I heard Bob Mould playing on the in-store music at Home Depot the other day. I kid you not. And recent Bob too. Not just some Workbook or Sugar standby. Maybe I’m showing my age but the guy is a war machine. he puts out great albums every year and when I saw him in October it was the loudest live show I have ever seen. From Life and Times

23. Brandi Carlile – Bend Before it Breaks

This would have made the prime playlist if it wasn’t so moody. Another phenomenal album from the new queen of indie-alt-country. Give Up The Ghost

24. Grizzly Bear – While You Wait For The Others

I first heard the new GB material from NPR’s All Songs Considered’s SXSW live roundup and knew it would be on my best albums of 2009 list. But I didn’t think there was a single potential. This song proved me wrong. Vekatimest

25. A.C. Newman – Heartbreak Rides

This was going to be my lead song for this playlist earlier in the year. It shifted when the list went another direction but it’s still a strong track and I love the album. Get Guilty

26. Fanfarlo – Drowning Men

Thanks to Tara for this band, back before anyone else I knew had mentioned them to me. Reminiscent of Okkervil River but more British. From Reservoir

27. The Big Pink – Dominos

I begrudgingly include this song here. Why begrudgingly? Because I had to go through 6 “live” videos to find one where they didn’t just sing over a recorded track. And then it turns out that they still used mostly loops and what wasn’t loops sucked. VIDEO So why include them at all? It’s a cool track. Yep. I’m that simple. Like MGMT before them, they blend rock with techno-dance. Unlike MGMT before them, they aren’t self-aware or ironic or even fun. But – sigh – it’s a cool track.

15 Albums That Rocked My World And Why

From Facebook.

Here are the rules:
Think of 15 albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it. They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. These are the albums that no matter what they were thought of musically shaped your world. When you finish, tag 15 others, including me. Make sure you copy and paste this part so they know the drill. Get the idea now? Good. Tag, you’re it!

I am a rules guy. There is nothing so horrible to me as a game that has no rules. I take that back, a game with vague rules is worse. And as such, warts and all, here are the albums that changed my life. For better or worse. I’d love to be able to show the classics with Blood On The Tracks heading it up in an “Almost Famous” moment, but – alas – I cannot. As others have noted – these aren’t all what I would say are my FAVORITE albums of all time, though some in fact are. But these are albums that when I play them or think about them – I can smell her hair, or the night, or the danger or the contraband.

Keep in mind that both my Father and his best friend were radio DJ’s when I was a kid growing up. We had LOTS of records in the house before I was able to buy my own. This may explain some things. I am trying to put these in chronological order if that’s even possible.

1. Various Artists: “Sunday Morning With the Comics” – This was an LP from the 60’s that featured cover versions of Super Hero and Comic Strip character theme songs along with some old serial and TV themes from the 50’s; The Green Hornet, Superman, Batman, The Lone Ranger, Our FBI in Peace and War etc. I begged my Dad to play this whenever I could. This was exciting stuff. I inherited this album and it sits not 12 feet from where I work everyday. In a related comment – my wife and son gave me a USB turntable for Christmas. Standout Track – “Batman Theme”

2. Various Artists – “Walt Disney’s Merriest Songs” – This is not to be confused with “Walt Disney’s HAPPIEST Songs” They were both compilation albums put out as premiums by Gulf Gas back in the late 60’s that featured the big numbers from the various Disney movies of the past 15 years. The gems for me of course were the 2 Jungle Book songs and the album that had Louis Prima’s and Phil Harris’ scat war from Jungle Book (I Wanna be Like You) was my favorite. I still own both of these as well, but they need replacing.

3. The Beatles – “Abbey Road” – This one hardly warrants commentary by me. I’m sure we’ve all had a similar experience. Many Beatles albums shaped my musical life. One of the problems we had growing up was that my Dad was an early adopter of cassette tapes. We had them (literally) in 1969. And he would often create tapes of albums we gave him. Unfortunately, or fortunately, we had since given the album back to whomever we begged it from so months later were wondering what the hell this song about coming in through the bathroom window was called. Another side effect was that he would fill the tape up with songs from another album once the first album was finished. As such, I went for a long while thinking “Get Back” and “I Dig A Pony” were from Abbey Road. Standout Track – All of them.

4. Elton John – “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” – This was the first ‘real’ rock album that I remember being mesmerized by the sleeve art and the inclusion of lyrics as much as by the music. The double album was such a decadent luxury of the 70’s that has gone the way of the Chevy Van – bastardized beyond all recognition and coolness. It takes me maybe 12 more minutes to illegally download 50 Neko Case songs as it takes to download 11. I don’t think I’d recognize the covers for 85% of the albums I’ve acquired in the last 5 years because I’ve never seen them. Every song on this album is amazing. The sounds and production on this album are amazing. Trite as it may seem today (not to me) – “Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” is still an epic masterpiece.

5. David Bowie – “Ziggy Stardust” I came to this era of Bowie a bit late, but it introduced me to one of the best bands, best guitar players and set of songs in the world for me. I remember hearing Ziggy for the first time and just being awestruck. Mick Ronson’s guitar was more transforming for me as a musician than almost anyone’s. I remember very few of my friends at the time liking this album so it was a lonely pleasure. Like Cocoa Pebbles.

6. The Who – “Tommy” – When the movie came out, the existence of this original version album, and the knowledge that my older cousins owned it – forced me to beg them to borrow it so my Dad could tape it for me. I was disappointed by the lack of Elton’s Pinball Wizard (sorry, it’s vastly superior to the original in every conceivable way) but thrilled because the original versions of “I’m Free” and every other track far outshined the movie soundtrack versions.

7. Queen – “News of the World” – This album ushered me into manhood, rock music-wise. the first time I heard the opening of “We Will Rock You” at Tom Burke’s house was like God had spoken to me and only me. It may be a trifle ironic or at least interesting to note that in my personal rock history, if not the world’s, the penultimate moments in macho rock Godhood have most often been reached and delivered by gay men. (Or at least, always by Brits which some may say is a horse apiece). Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Morrissey. This triumvirate of rock stars in my catalog have achieved the flamboyant uber-arena royalty drama that other rock stars and their music hint at but are often left scratching their heads in the wings. Standout song – “Fight From The Inside”

8. Original London Cast – “Jesus Christ Superstar” (the f’ing Brown album) I’ve written and spoken about this one before (on the blog, natch) so I won’t re- spend the time here. This album has better guitar work and better production, emotion and everything than just about any album of its day. Ignore the Broadway and movie versions. Standout Track “Overture/Heaven On their Minds”

9. KISS – “Destroyer” – What can I say? The pomp and majesty of rock and roll made visually real and married to comic books, sci-fi and superheros? Where the hell do I sign up? Standout track for me – “God Of Thunder”

10. Pink Floyd – “Dark Side Of The Moon” – Now we will visit a different meaning of “life changing” Ah yes, we are getting into prog rock which will lead in turn to new wave and punk. But for now, let’s just see what we can melt. My first love and I used to listen to it quite a lot when we hung out. In fact, one night coming home alone from her dorm room in Oakland at about 2am in the morning after moving her stuff in, driving her Grandfather’s HUGE American boat of a car (LTD?) I had this album playing super loud on the car stereo and was driving down Grant Street in town when I noticed a bus bearing down on me from a side street on the left. I quickly accelerated but another car was passing the bus on the left of it and we collided. Pretty badly. And we took out a phone booth as well. It was as traumatic as it gets for a 17 year old. It was determined to be their fault and I was completely substance free at the time. But the car was absolutely totaled and I did not drive for a while. I remember sitting shivering in shock on the side of the road with the paramedics asking me questions and shining a flashlight in my pupils and “Run Rabbit Run” was still blaring from the car. They hadn’t been able to get past the twisted dash and wheel to shut it off yet.

11. Genesis – “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” Yup. For as much grief as I continually give musicals and Broadway, there was some sort of a moment when it all changed for me. Because before that I loved the whole medium, was in choirs and many shows and loved the whole experience. Something snapped one year and it turned completely around for me very suddenly. Luckily it was replaced by the almost equally extravagant Prog Rock. And seriously, this is the best of that genre. It’s peter Gabriel at his most potent, albeit oddest and the best prog drummer in the world at the time battling to salvage an album while a band is on the verge of breaking up. The narrative is goofy but the songs are transcendent. Standout Track “Back In N.Y.C.”

12. The Smiths – “The Queen Is Dead” This is possibly my favorite album of all time. So naturally it goes on the list. I remember in 1984 hating the Smiths like many people that hated the Smiths did at the time. From afar they are ephemeral and morose and without merit. One excruciatingly thin onion layer later and they became the only band that mattered for me since the Beatles. Right about the 2nd album I became a convert and by TQID – they had become absolutely without peer for me. It’s a rare joy to be in the throws of liking a band and familiar with their work when they issue their opus. I was too young to be aware of Sgt. Pepper’s. But at just the right time and place for this one. I can list valid, objective, rock critic reasons why this album should be in the top 5 most important rock albums of all time. But you wouldn’t listen to me. Or else you would and you already know it to be true. Standout Track – “Bigmouth Strikes Again”

(Here’s where it gets hard not to complete the list with Smiths albums for me.)

13. Kate Bush – “Hounds Of Love” – This was a breakthrough album that got played from start to finish, rinse, repeat for weeks on end when I lived in Massachusetts. Gads the crap we used to do. I briefly shared a flat over a bar with a guy named Danny and two girls from Syracuse. One night the girls were tripping their asses off and just played this album literally all night long. You’d think it was over and then those strings would slowly fade in from “Running Up That Hill” again as the whole thing started up again. Again, the rest of the story will have to wait for a spot in the sun someday.

14. Laurie Anderson “Strange Angels” – An odd album from an odd performer. This was her finding out she could write songs under 12 minutes and catchy. It seemed to annoy her. And yet there are moments on this album that bring tears to my eyes to this day. There are not many songs more beautiful or poignant than “Hiawatha” Do yourself a favor. If you think you dislike Laurie Anderson – go download “Hiawatha” and see if it’s what you’d expect. It’s not even the best song on this album. Anyway – I saw this show at the lamentably now defunct Syria Mosque and she transformed this album into one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen.

15. Morrissey – “Your Arsenal” – This is the man at his peak. Though the new album is giving it a run for the money. But here’s a great example of sticking to the rules. So much was going on around this album in my life that it almost couldn’t help be on this list, even if it weren’t his best album or one of the best albums of the 90’s. This is also the swansong album for producer Mick Ronson, one of my top 3 favorite guitarists of all time. Who died of cancer in the months following the release of this album. In this album, I challenge you even if you hate Morrissey, to not hear his respect, love and abject mastery of the power-pop-rock song format. Drenched with T-Rex guitars and walls of solid 4/4 drumming – this is as good as any of it ever gets. This is the album that true critics should start having trouble remembering the names of his former band mates after hearing.

ADDENDUM: Obviously there are many albums that could have or maybe should have made this cut. Some I’ve probably just forgotten about. One that I’ll give honorable mention to here is The Carpenters: “Singles” album. I wasn’t a Carpenters fan. I mean – I like the songwriting and the fact that she was a drummer was cool – but those are both things that probably mean more to me NOW than as a 14 year old boy. But this album was my sister’s “Destroyer” at the time. Meaning she played it. A. Lot. She would put it on the old stereo we used to have in our dining room on Potomac ave. and not unlike some form of waterboarding, would play it over. And over. And over… And because it wasn’t “rock music” it was apparently all okay with my parents. The odd thing is – I didn’t really mind it as such. It was funny is all. And I remember one thing funny about it.

The year she got the album – the song “Top Of The World” was a hit on the radio. Now, my father was even less of a music aficionado than he was a stickler for punctuality. He heard music in the world like I notice danger in food choices. That is to say – extremely peripherally. Couple this with the fact that in the mid 70’s he was tagged as a replacement host on the radio for lots of other talk show jocks who were on vacation or in rehab at the time. So this week he would be sitting in for Jack Bogut, next week Art Palent, etc. And they all had different flavors of their shows. Not when my Dad was subbing. I’m sure they expect a sub Jock on a call-in talk show to exercise his own free will, but holy crap, Bill. Anyway, that entire year, different show after different show, day after day, week after week, I remember him not only opening but closing each and every show with The Carpenters “Top Of The World” I would not be surprised if the actual numbers for that song were inexplicably MUCH higher in the Metro Pgh. region that year. I never knew if my sister had subliminally been influenced by this, or what is much more likely, subliminally achieved this – but to this day, when I hear those poppy pedal steel slide strains in the beginning of that song – I cannot help but think of my Dad and my sister, locked in some Top-Of The-Pops Pavlovian battle of wills…


Don’t Call It A Comeback: The 20 Best Songs Of 2007

If I had to assign a lame soundbite title to 2007 musically, it would have to be “The Triumphant Return Of The Pop Rock Song” And by that I’m not referring to the newest Justin Timberlake dance ditty, but rather the well-crafted, under-5-minutes, thoughtful, evocative, hummable, rock type of alt-pop song. You know, like Radiohead used to write before they went all Radiohead and stuff. This movement has been gaining ground for a while and this year it really hit its stride.

This was again another year when it was agonizing to cut many worthy tracks. If I pussed out and did a top 100, maybe I could include them all. But I create these lists to be compiled and played on a single CD. So some big pants decisions had to be made, to quote my friend Nyde. Yes, best Springsteen album since Nebraska. Yes, Icky Thump. But I gotta call ’em as I see ’em. [Also: see the post about Songs Vs. Albums] I suspect by this summer the inclusion of the Kate Nash track (Foundations) will feel about as insightful as the year I thought I was the first and last person who would ever play Chumbawamba’s Tub-Thumpin. But ebb and flow, variety and dynamics and representing the lesser-known artists and so on…
The line between “rock” and “alt-rock” has never been thinner. These songs deserve more than to just be heard on Target commercials and CMJ CD Samplers. if these are “alternative” rock songs, then it’s only alternative to the drivel that most mainstream FM stations are fond of playing. These are all pop rock songs in my book.
And my book is: “Illusions:Tales Of A Reluctant Messiah” By Richard Bach, so you know – it’s all about the kick-ass Rock & Roll!
So then:

(In the order in which they appear on the Radioscooter Best Of 2007 CD. No ranking implied)

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1. Interpol – The Heinrich Maneuver / Our Love To Admire
Note to bands: Ensure your inclusion on year-end wrap-ups with at least one track with a bombastic intro. Fairly typical Interpol restating the modern breakup song with gusto. Some well-placed retro sounds including a blatant lift of the Echo & The Bunnymen orchestra synth stab from The Killing Moon.

2. Nicole Atkins – Party’s Over / Neptune City
A beautiful song from simply one of the absolute top 3 albums of 2007. Lush, retro while not seeming derivative, swirling opus to the Jersey shore.

3. Jesse Malin – Don’t Let Them Take You Down / Glitter In The Gutter
This was a tough call. Jesse’s sitting in the space that Bruce should have occupied but this year I tried to veer away from the absolute mainstream to introduce some newer, as yet non-icon status talents.

4. Brandi Carlile – The Story / The Story
It took a while (years) for me to give Brandi Carlile a chance for a stupid reason that I’m somehow eager to share with you. I kept hearing her name and thought she was an American Idol finalist. Turns out she’s um, not. When she finally gets to her belt zone in this song, you are right there with her for every bad mile.

5. The Arcade Fire – No Cars Go / Neon Bible
Sometimes a really great album doesn’t want to be cut up into bite size morsels. Happily, this isn’t the case with Neon Bible. This one was one of my favorite driving tunes.

6. Tegan & Sara – Call It Off / The Con
The most overlooked album of the year and my number one pick. Nearly a perfect pop album from the tortured queens of young love. Pick any track. Nothing but net.

7. The Shins – Phantom Limb / Wincing The Night Away
Yes okay, this track came out originally on an ep in 2006. But the actual album came out in 2007 and that’s how I’m looking at it. An achingly dear track that instantly makes you remember some dreamy, warm (and perhaps gooey) experience from your youth.

8. Feist – I Feel It All / The Reminder
(Play/Download/Lyrics/Band Website)
It was hard to resist putting the other Feist song on this list. You know – the “1,2,3,4…” one from the iPod iTouch commercials. But after selling my iTouch in complete frustration 6 days after owning it and retreating to the upgrade of the iPod 80GB “classic” I decided I didn’t need any more reminders of that misspent week.

9. Winterpills – Broken Arm / The Light Divides
If you took early Simon & Garfunkel and added some Mamas & Papas to a Pixies-esque rhythm section…you’d get like a darker, rockin’ version of the Weepies. Or – you’d get this Winterpills track.

10. Swati – 2 O’Clock In The Morning / Small Gods
Apparently, I loves me some angst-ridden female songwriters. Move over Cat Power, the bus is filling up. Nice desperation-drenched, red-eyed track.

11. Rogue Wave – Lake Michigan / Asleep At Heaven’s Gate
Borrowing an opening drum part from Kate Bush, this song delivers a lush, shins-like melodic journey through some late August Californian afternoon…in Michigan.

12. The New Pornographers – My Rights Vs. Yours / Challengers
Another contender for my album of the year pick. As a sideband project – they sound tighter and fresher than most of the member’s day-job bands.

13. Portatastic – Sour Shores / Be Still Please
Here’s the one that gets me kicked off the bus. Yes, a blatant 2006 track with no possible excuses other than I just plain missed it last year and had to include it this time. Sue me.

14. The National – Brainy / Boxer
These guys have become the critic’s darlings and while I still don’t see it as an album of the year shoe-in, there are some great tracks. Like this one.

15. Loney, Dear – I Am John / Loney Noir
This year was like part 2 of the Ikea Invasion and this sweet soulful Swede is one of the best of them. Indie folk from the heart.

16. Kate Nash – Foundations / Foundations
I hate anti-relationship, bravado/bitch novelty songs, so they don’t make the cut unless they can hold their own as a solid tune, which is rare. This one does. Just when you think you’ve figured out where this song is going to go, she kicks in a brilliant chorus which reflects genuine emotional vulnerability in a way most pop divas would never choose to go.

17. Okkervil River – Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe / The Stage Names
Like the Shins or The Killers or The Arcade Fire before them, these guys break down some conventions to deliver an amazingly fresh take on the same tired old chords as everyone else starts with. Probably the single of the year on my list.

18. Against Me! – Borne On The FM Waves Of The Heart / New Wave
Like a bat out of hell, this track will have you reliving those classic 70’s boy/girl call & response songs. Turn this one up and sing along with your significant other by the dashboard light.

19. Stars – Take Me To The Riot / In Our Bedroom After The War
Boy this list has a lot of retro pastiche songs on it…Think of them as “homages.” This one is no exception. Shades of Nowhere Girl, but in a good, less droningly annoying way.

20. Chantal Kreviazuk – All I Can Do / Ghost Stories
While scores of other piano playing indie chanteuses get heralded as the next Sara MacLachlan/Tori Amos/Elton John, Kreviazuk continues to quietly steal their thunder by being all that and a phenomenal songwriting bag of chips as well. Sadly, this studio track pales to her live version of this great love song.

The Perfect Mixtape

radioscooter destroyer

As a kid in the 70’s, like so many other adolescents going through the angst ridden, hormone laden splendor of puberty – I retreated into music as often as possible. And as my father was among the first wave of audio hobbyists in the neighborhood to own cassette recorders, I started making tapes of songs around 1970.

A lot has changed since that era. We didn’t have iTunes to buy songs for .99 cents. We walked into “Rags & Records” past rows of feathered roach clips and 4 ft. translucent blue water pipes to buy 45rpm records for .99 cents. We did however have peer to peer file sharing. Only it was called borrowing your friend’s copy of Destroyer to tape it. And we did have music downloading. It was called holding a microphone up to the radio.

As you’re growing up, music choices are less voluntary and more happenstance. Your parents play KDKA in the car and you hear Neil Diamond or Bobby Vinton, and it makes an impression. Your older cousins give you a stack of 45’s they don’t want and  Uriah Heep and Spooky Tooth make an impression. Your sister plays the Carpenters: Greatest Hits non-stop on the living room hi-fi. Whether these blossom into your favorite bands or not – they all make impressions on you. It continues into adulthood;  you  wake up to the clock radio playing Rich Girl by Hall & Oates, the TV plays you a bit of Nick Drake on a car commercial, you hear the Decemberists on Letterman… Und so weiter.

The soundtrack of our lives. Songs. Different songs, often from wholly divergent sources or styles, assembled through a balanced symmetry of chaos and personal choice.

That’s the Perfect Mixtape.

Sometimes fun, sometimes poignant. Something old, something new. Something borrowed, something bluegrass…

The curse and the blessing of our current musical futureworld is that there are a zillion more new songs available to us every day than ever before in history, not to mention the kerjillion older songs we just hadn’t heard yet. All at our disposal within the click of a touchscreen app.

My goal with this blog is to curate some of these collections of songs as moments in time. Playlist suggestions. Mixtapes.

The discussion lines are open.

I hope you like the songs.
I picked them out myself.

Just for you.

Kill Rock Stars

cover_1901222122007There’s a one-panel cartoon I saw in a magazine a dozen or more years ago that has a sad, loser-looking guy sitting on the floor amidst a bunch of record albums and a woman going out the door and addressing him: “I’m going out to the store for a bit. Try not to identify with too many song lyrics before I get back.”

It’s funny because it’s true. It’s also almost impossible to avoid sometimes. It’s like EVERY song is EXACTLY what you are feeling. Oh my God.

I defy anyone who has ever felt any human emotion to put on the Decemberists “Picaresque” album and not find one song to identify with.

I’ve had some live Decemberists tracks from shows from 2002 and 2003 for awhile. To be honest – I was looking forward to getting out to see them, but maybe more for the solo drive to Columbus. I love the band but they didn’t sound THAT great live on the few tracks I had downloaded from other fans.

Well the THING happened between their constant touring for the last album and then the recording of this new one and this tour. That same thing that happened to the girl next door that one summer in 1977 when she went out a lamb and came back in September a Lion.  The band is now fan-fucking-tastic live. They are now better live than on studio album. They are now this tight, confident band that is treading on Smiths level transcendance circa 1986.

I highly reccomend you try them out. Picaresque is a beautiful album. But there are many amazing diamonds among the last 4 albums as well. The bonus is the name of their label – Kill Rock Stars.

The Decemberists are not for everyone. But then, neither am I.

RIYL: The Smiths, Robyn Hitchcock, The Beatles, Victorian and Elizabethan England, The Sea, Ghost stories,  Old unused words like ‘parapets’, ‘pantaloons’, ‘petticoats’, or ‘pinions’, Bands comprised of ex-theater and english literature majors.

No YOU had the wooden teeth…


From my sister’s Blog, “Liberus Lunaris”:

“My family agrees on two things: we all like Jesus Christ Superstar and we all like John Lennon. Two of my favorite all family outings were when we attended a local production of JCSS and when we went to the Rock n roll Hall of Fame and saw the Lennon Exhibit.

It was after the former when I realized how much the average person doesn’t know about musical theater when my brother, usually rather hip about artistic things, expressed surprise that the character of Herod would be interpreted as a Drag Queen. It’s a traditional theatrical convention almost as sacred as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest being played by a man…”


My family actually have agreed on many things in their history. One of them being my sister’s penchant for revisionist history. Well, I don’t think she will ever cop to it. But then – I really don’t think my Father liked Jesus Christ Superstar or John Lennon all that much either. And he never went with us to the local JCS performance. But her blog subtitle says “It’s not a lie – it’s a gift for fiction” and really – that’s how we all see it too. Lots of the facts are correct but sometimes she changes a detail here or there that others may have done or said. That’s the broadest, most diplomatic way I can paint it. We all (my family) have memories that exemplify God’s British style sense of humor.

I’ve been to three local performances of JCS. One in Indiana, PA in 1987. One in 1992 when Ted Neely and Carl Anderson revived it. And I know I went to at least one of them with my  family. I am 90% certain that the one she is referring to was the 1994 ‘official traveling Broadway’ version which was memorable for two reasons:

1) Dennis DeYoung played Pontius Pilate

2) They abandoned the hydraulic crucifixion stage.

Now, there are things you need to know about me and JCS. I LOVE Jesus Christ Superstar. I mean – forget  Madonna, Stevie Nicks and 60’s Brit Girl Go-Go-Boots Pop – my most secret musical pleasure is listening to JCS. The original 1970 British album recording. The BROWN double album with the gold graphic logo. Not the photo-cover movie soundtrack. And NOT the American Broadway cast version.   I listened to this album SO much – I can tell the difference in any of the recordings within the first 4 seconds of the ominous Overture’s drone cellos. I know all the words to all of the songs. I secretly rehearsed the Judas role when I was younger in hopes that our school would put it on and I would get the part. I can do it right now for you if you like.

I really, really like this album.

You can take all the general bad will, disdain and derision I harbor for live theater as a whole and musical theater as a subgroup and it wouldn’t equal up to the love I have for JCS. And as it turns out – there are understandable reasons for this.

First – The original British recording (Brown album) with Ian Gillian (Deep Purple) and Murray Head is the absolute only one worth listening to. The weird thing about JCS is that it was not  a musical first. It was released as a studio ‘rock opera’ album first. Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice, both nineteen at the time, created this opera and got the most amazing bunch of singers and musicians that could be found, coupled them with traditionally superior British recording engineers and made a transcendent rock album. Not an album done with the cast of a show already in existence or even planned.

ust – a rock album.

It was a hit. Then the show went to Broadway in 1971. Then BACK to London’s West End in 1972. Then the guy that played Pilate on the original brown album decided to direct it as a movie in 1973. The original brown album’s music and singing were so much better than any subsequent version because they had rock musicians doing it. It was supposed to be a “ROCK opera”. But, after that album apparently the cast decisions have been made based upon theater experience vs. rock chops. So in every version since we get overly emotive, loud, vibrato-filled performances where the only criteria for Jesus’ role was to be able to hit the high arena rock notes of “My temple should be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!” (if there is any doubt here – witness the recent choice of Whitesnake’s  Sebastian Bach in the Jesus role. Then witness the reviews.) Don’t get me wrong – Ted Neely and Carl Anderson were fantastic too, possibly better than the originals. And of course Yvonne Elliman, as the single Kevin Bacon thread that made sure she got herself into EVERY version of the show including, I think, an Icelandic touring production – wasn’t bad either. But the instrumentation of every other recorded version blows. The secondary and tertiary characters’ singing almost all stink. The engineering and mixing all suck. So – if this makes you curious – only listen to the big gold logo brown album version. (which apparently has been digitally remastered as a big gold logo white CD version)

Conversely – I will sit through any live rendition of the show at all. Aboriginal touring cast? Sure. Eighth grade school for the deaf production? Sign me up. I don’t know why. I just love this show. And there is something amazing about the fact that both Ted Neely and Carl Anderson revived their roles like 4 times since 1972, the last of which was 3 years ago. Carl Anderson was slated to be doing Judas now, during this current tour but sadly died of Leukemia in 2004.

So – here was my family at this 1996 “revival” of the Broadway show with ex-Styx singer Dennis DeYoung as Pontius Pilate. Apart from the mixed signals that were being triggered in my brain from the ridiculous juxtaposition of  “I dreamed I met a Gallilean” being sung by the same voice that blasted “Rockin’ the Paradise tonight” in my headphones in 1975 – the show was pretty good. The only crap thing was when they got to the crucifixion scene – no hydraulic lift stage.

Now – my sister has thrown the gauntlet down that I am lacking in knowledge about ‘sacred theater conventions’ and I pray to all that’s holy that she is right and will stay right about that for the rest of my life. However, I do know a few things about theater. I know that even, nay especially in theater if a “sacred theater convention” comes into existence over the years then sure as Pooh Bear loves honey – there will be plenty of  fabulous, desperately-breakthrough directors that will strive to discard those conventions as if their lives depended on it.

“We’re doing CATS but with no music!”  “We’re doing an all black, hip-hop version of Annie Get Your Gun!” “We’re doing Hamlet except with all women!” and one of my sister’s favorites – “We’re doing the Wiz with an all-white high school cast!” (that one was real, it was 1979, I played the Wiz – seriously. Is there any wonder I am left with a bad taste for live theater?)

So while I NEVER would have been surprised by the idea of Herod being played as a Drag Queen – being as the original Mike D’abo part was supposed to have been Elton John on the album and then went to the movie version as a Benny Hill romp with Josh Mostel prancing around like Charles Nelson Reilly in Lidsville on fire like the freaking Ohio Players. However, a few productions of the show did NOT always take Herod over the top and this 1996 version we had seen seemed to have toned down much of the ‘spectacle’ aspect to the show (other than the aforementioned Come Sail Away flavor and I DID comment that I thought it was odd that THIS version was doing the Herod drag queen thing. Because THIS version couldn’t even keep alive the one true “sacred theater convention” that it really needed which was the damn hydraulic lifting stage for the crucifixion!! 

One last bit of JCS trivia that brings it all home. In July of 1971, after the original concept album was such a big hit – Weber and Rice were planning to take the show to Broadway but needed to debut the show in an arena setting  and still have it be sort of a ‘one-off’ tryout show to gauge the public’s acceptance. If it tanked – it might not have gone to Broadway. If it did well – it would arrive with much less trepidation from the producers. Remember this was the first time what was essentially a rock concert would be staged on Broadway. So they did a single, fantastic blowout show to prove what they had envisioned. Before London’s West End. Before Broadway’s Mark Hellinger Theater debut. The very first EVER live staged production of Superstar, personally directed and conducted by Weber and Rice themselves took place in July, 1971 in Pittsburgh at the Civic Arena for a crowd of 13,000.

God Bless Rock and Roll