Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Happy Birthday Us!

Casey Dorrell

It's odd, isn't it - that websites and businesses are always so eager to throw themselves parties? I mean, if websites were people, they'd be the most narcissistic, self-absorbed, yet unloved, group ever. And that probably explains why I like working on the site - It's just like me.

Of course, the site now is the work of three dedicated music fans and a handful of assorted others but, at the beginning, the very beginning, it was just me. On Febuary 27th, 2005, I decided to make a music website. I didn't know at the time that a few hundred other bloggers were thinking the same thing. Geoff and I had talked about it previously, making grandeous plans for a full-fledged music site. We even had a list of about forty music alliterations for potential titles. But our collective laziness meant the site never materialized. It probably didn't help that Geoff had to do all the work, as I'm html-challenged.

I soon began writing for "An Exercise in Self-Absorbtion" with the original url of caseydorrell.blogspot.com which you can still see, in all its glory, today. I'd long ago wrote for the site, back in 1991 when blogger was less known. Only one post was created, but I think it speaks for itself. When I came back to the site last febuary, Geoff joined me within a day and we changed the name to "Mocking Music". Shortly afterward we changed our address, unable to live up to the expectations for prophecies attached to the old site address.

You, of course, loved us right from the beginning and our popularity surged to the great height of a minor D-list music site with our post on the C86 album, of which people were very excited about the mp3s and, sadly, not so excited about my terribly clever picture and commentary. Depressed and forlorn, all our trust in the blog community shattered, we left the blogging world. Mocking Music offices downsized to a single office (read: we moved out), and our support staff (read: parents) had to be let go. We graciously offered them the chance to continue cleaning our clothing and making us food on a semi-regular basis, worried that they would miss us.

Eventually, we decided that depriving the blogging world of us was simply too cruel a punishment to inflict. Thus, we returned almost half a year later, this time joined by indie kid extrodinaire, Calum Marsh.

Calum is behind our newest feature, regular reviews of albums hosted on a review-centric extension of our site (which isn't quite done). All reviews will be posted here in summary. For our other features, refer to the playlist, but unlike the reviews, all playlist material is simply archived blog material in nifty format (i.e. Click on the reviews because you won't see them in full here).

Geoff's been busy redesigning our site - it's been changed many times, much to Geoff's delight. I'm picky, but also inept with html design. We'll be keeping some form of our current design, but the colors might still be in flux (let us if you have problems). For those that miss the white simplicity, we will be making a alternate simple design very soon. The Profile section's actually still the old design, but that will change shortly. [Update: I, for one, am finding it impossibly hard to read the text with all the nonsense going on at the sides - maybe if we change the center area to white?]

To celebrate our birthday, Montreal band, Stars, held an early birthday bash in our honour early this February in Seattle (Check out their cover of Bruce Springsteen's Hungry Heart). Mocking Music's current favourite person, Jessica, pointed us to Redshifter's audience recording of the Mocking Music Seattle bash (oops, we didn't record our own show). To read about another Stars concert held in our honour, read Mel's review of their Ottawa concert here.

Stars - Theme From Stars
Stars - Set Yourself on Fire
Stars - Death to Death
Stars - Going Going Gone
Stars - Heart
Stars - Soft Revolution
Stars - Life Effect
Stars - Hungry Heart (Bruce Springsteen)
Stars - What I'm Trying to Say
Stars - One More Night
Stars - Your Ex-Lover is Dead
Stars - Ageless Beauty
Stars - Let it Go (This Charming Divorce)
Stars - He Lied About Death
Stars - Elevator Love Letter
Stars - Calendar Girl

Mocking Review: Mates Of State - Bring It Back

Calum Marsh

Mates Of State
Bring It Back

The happy pop duo known primarily for their ecclectic style settle down to record an album of surprising maturity and (gasp!) depth. Read as Calum kicks off our newest weekly feature, Mocking Reviews, where we devote far too many of our precious hours to analysing contemporary and classic albums from across the indie world. [Read Full Review]

Mates Of State - Think Long
Mates Of State - Like U Crazy

Monday, February 27, 2006

Please Stand By . . .

Casey Dorrell

The entire Mocking Music staff is hard at work preparing for an exciting post (of course, everything we post is pretty damn exciting) for tonight. We'd meant to have it all ready for you now, but life's like that.

In the meantime, why not check out the blog, Little Hits. It's a great blog that's not getting its deserved allotment of love. The reason for that is the same reason it should be visited regularly by all music fans: it has great songs, mostly by completely unknown artists. The songs are often taken from vinyl and, rather than being forgotten, were probably never really known to begin with.

Here's a song off a vinyl single you may not have.

Boy Least Likely To - Rock Upon a Porch With You

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Best of the East Coast Music Award Nominees

Casey Dorrell

Out on the eastern end of Canada, on the oft forgotten, Prince Edward Island, the East Coast Music Awards are being hosted this weekend. The ECMAs are an annual award show for artists based out of Atlantic Canada. It's now in its 17th year and beyond being a one-day ceremony, the awards (which rotate through the Atlantic-Canadian provinces) mean a weekend full of multi-artist shows where, at any point, there's likely two or three ECMA-related sets taking place.

The awards and surrounding shows are regularly criticized for featuring only to the most established groups and, often, for appearing somewhat out of touch with the focus on groups catered to an older audience (e.g. Shoreline Festival's absence from the "Event of the Year" category). While I agree with this sentiment to a degree, I think the real problem is that it's no longer 1995 (When Halifax indie reigned supreme) and what's popular isn't always what's best. Same goes for any other region.

With that said, there are some nominated artists that deserve further exploration:

Two Hours Traffic - Rock Recording of the Year Nominee [MP3]
They've toured both with Joel Plaskett and Cuff the Duke, and their latest album was produced by the former. Their full-length debut falls short of being terribly challenging or exciting, but it's consistently . . . pleasant. Early-90's throwback pop.

Wintersleep - Video of the Year, Alternative Recording of the Year Nominee [MP3]
Coke Machine Glow describes Wintersleep's latest album, "This album's interesting; it seems to occupy some sort of no-man's land between mainstream rock sludge and, say, country-indie like My Morning Jacket or Magnolia Electric Co. Maybe like if Three Doors Down made a "difficult" record where they (successfully) "established themselves as artists" (Ouch....sorry if that was overly harsh)." That's probably better than anything I could have said. Wintersleep's lead, Paul Murphy, features a sort of dirgy, shaky vocal style that I usually find off-putting, but on most of their songs, it works for me. The song, Orca, is particularly haunting.

Matt Mays & El Torpedo - Album of the Year, Group of the Year, Entertainer of the Year, Single of the Year, Rock Recording of the Year Nominee [MP3]
Matt Mays is self-described as hard rock, and while many of his songs are heavier than the one I've selected, the band is actually solidly rooted in alt-country territory. Comparisons are made to both Neil Young and Tom Petty, but the vocals definately mirror the latter more than the former. Jason MacNeil (AllMusic) describes "On the Hood" as "resembling something cruelly omitted from 'Into the Great Wide Open'" which also happens to be my favourite Petty album. Mays sells better than any of the other artists on this list where I work (Sloan included), but he's yet to find a wider audience outside Canada.

Joel Plaskett - Male Artist of the Year, Songwriter of the Year Nominee [MP3] [2]
Plaskett is a product of the Halifax Pop Explosion back in the 90's when Halifax was briefly what Montreal is today. He's released three albums either under his own and as The Joel Plaskett Emergency. His post-Thrush Hermit music is mostly acoustic-based songs that are often narrative in nature, sometimes coming across as stream-of-conscious lyrically. His songs on record are almost to easy to enjoy - which generally means you won't find anything you've missed on repeat listens. Best heard live and acoustic.

Sloan - Single of the Year nominee [MP3] [2]
Sloan was both the impetus for the Halifax scene excitement in the 90's and the only band that kept on going. They've been around for fifteen years now and, sadly, each new album they put out is just a bit worse than that which preceded it. They continue to produce some pop gems, but most of their new material is throw-away. Still, if you're a fan of power pop, your album collection is lacking if it doesn't include at least one of the band's first four albums, all of which are near-flawless. I've selected two older songs, both of which are better than the single they're nominated for: "Underwhelmed" is off their debut album and is both amusing and insanely catchy. "Coax Me" is from their sophomore album - a slower tempo song which is no less catchy and also includes the lyrics, "I drink concentrated OJ" and "It's not the band I hate, it's their fans".

Buck 65 - Video of the Year, Alternative Recording of the Year Nominee [MP3] [2]
Buck 65 made some end of year lists in 2005 with his album, "This Right Here is Buck 65". The album, his American debut, was actually a compilation of tracks off several of his earlier Canadian releases, excluding his most recent one. This is a shame because, while all but his earliest efforts are worthwhile, his latest Canadian release, "Secret House Against the World" (on which he colloborated with electronic titans, "Tortoise") is an eclectic tour-de-force which was easily one of the best albums released in 2005. This will likely be the last Buck 65 album that's eligible for the ECMAs as he now resides in Paris.

Known for an almost-spoken word style of hip-hop that envokes Tom Waits, on "Secret House..." Buck 65 actually sings on select tracks, includes female-back vocals courtesy of his wife, and jumps from Johnny Cash to Frank Zappa (which explains why he's in the alternative genre for his nomination rather than rap). Beyond his musical inventiveness, though, what Buck 65 is best at is lyricism, as each song expounds a different fascinating narrative; sometimes they recount the mundane, sometimes the fantastical, but each clearly show Buck 65 to be a storyteller at heart. I selected two songs almost at random because the songs are so varied that's it's hard to showcase properly.

Dependent Music is nominated in the "Record Company/ Distributor/Indie Label" category. A regular freelance mocker, Rollins, recently did a feature on the label and all the bands it represents. Read it here.

Classified - Maritimes
Buck 65 - Devil's Eyes
Buck 65 - The Floor
Sloan - Underwhelmed
Sloan - Coax Me
Joel Plaskett - Love This Town
Joel Plaskett - Happen Now
Matt Mays and El Torpedo - On the Hood
Wintersleep - Orca
Two Hours Traffic - Better Safe Than Sorry

Friday, February 24, 2006

Full Album Friday 7: Catholic Gaydar

Casey Dorrell

Normally we use this site to tell you about music we like. Often we'll describe it in detail, adopting a semi-impartial viewpoint but it remains clear that we're, at heart, fans. Today, I'm going to do something a little bit different. I'm going to tell you about a band that you must avoid. Catholic Gaydar is an awful band created by wretched people.

Jackass Johnny (Left) and Malevolent Matt (Right)

First, the members. The ringleader, who sings, plays keyboards, is none other than the infamous Matt Packman. Matt, upon helping me get my current job, quickly fled our mutual workplace, leaving me all alone amid persons, with some exceptions, of questionable musical tastes. Alongside Matt we find none other than Johnny Larusic. Johnny, of course, is guilty of having a site so hot that it needlessly shames the rest of the internet. Additionally, he recently led two members of Mocking Music into a car (which may or may not have been subsequently locked) and forced free alcohol upon us. His sole redeeming feature being a one-time appearance on Mocking Music in 2005. I can only imagine the depravity of the rest of the band.

Surely then, you see why you can never listen to Catholic Gaydar. Read about them below if you must but, please, don't listen to them:

Catholic Gaydar is a Halifax-based band which is predominately a one-man outfit in recordings, but grows to a four person group for live shows. The brain child of Sharp Like Knives keyboardist, Matt Packman, the band hasn't yet released a full-length album. However, they have recently given away free self-titled EPs, and plan on recording something more substantial sometime in 2006.

Catholic Gaydar

The band is pop, but the lofi DIY approach leaves Catholic Gaydar with enough rough edges to keep them interesting. The nasal whispery vocals of lead, Packman, may be off-putting to some but for most of the songs it works, sounding natural rather than affected. The most obvious comparison is Grandaddy. Both the vocal style and the mix of basic instrumentation and inventive sampling recall early Grandaddy recordings. Lyrically, the band has much more in common with Pavement - a throwback to when indie and irony were synonymous (see Bryan Adams cover).

Packman agreed to let us host the self-titled EP which I have below. What you'll hear is a band that has a lot of potential, which I know is a dirty word. Still, given their geographical disparities (they don't reside in the same province), the fact that the lead member is already in another somewhat successful band, and the jokey nature of the band, they probably won't ever grow beyond what they are now. But that's not necesarily a bad thing. Ideally, this is for fans of Grandaddy's B-side album, "Broken Down Comforter".

Geoff with Band, Pretending to be Four Feet Tall

Included are a few cover songs that didn't make the EP's cut. The Clinic cover is of particular note.

Catholic Gaydar - Don't Let Go
Catholic Gaydar - Run to You (Bryan Adams)
Catholic Gaydar - Cigarettes & Sleeplessness (Kim's Song)
Catholic Gaydar - Call in the Gaydar
Catholic Gaydar - I Fell in Love With Daniel's Hair, and Then He Cut it (Live @ Citadel Hill)
Catholic Gaydar - Starlight Ball (Laura Peek)
Catholic Gaydar - Distortions (Clinic)
Catholic Gaydar - 500 Up (Sloan)

Full Album Friday 6 (Sunday Edition): Hole Unglued, Unbootlegged
Full Album Friday 5 (Monday Edition): Illegal Art
Full Album Friday 4 (Sunday Edition): American Edit
Full Album Friday 3 (Saturday Edition): Thrush Hermit - Nobody Famous
Full Album Friday 2 (Saturday Edition): The 8Bits of Christmas
Full Album Friday 1 (Saturday Edition): Sufjan Christmas

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Boo! ... Scary Music?

Calum Marsh

Sometimes music can scare the hell out of you. The Horror genre isn't exactly something musical, of course, but that's not really the point: the genre's conventions are based in mediums with visual or literary narratives, so by definition Horror remains exclusive to Film, Literature, and Video Games. But what is Horror, if you strip away the conventions? The very core of the matter is simple - scaring the hell out of you (which, as noted, music is prone to occasionally doing).

Lyrically, music can be chilling. The story of a sexually abusive relationship (romantic or otherwise) in the title track of Xiu Xiu's Fabulous Muscles is deeply disturbing, for example - Jamie Stewart's vocals sound too weak to go on, and that frailty is terrifying. The early Bright Eyes song If Winter Ends is full of dark and painful sincerity, too, and the effect is similarly hard to bear.

Perhaps the scariest music, though, is that which doesn't rely on lyrical strength. Creating imagery through metaphor or frightening with starkly literal lyrics can work well, as it has with Xiu Xiu and Bright Eyes, but music can scare with sound alone. Sound can be used to establish mood or atmosphere (which, when done correctly, can be much more haunting than Horror film murders), and most importantly it can be used to evoke. Scary images are one thing, but evoking those images through sound alone is a much more impressive (and effective) accomplishment. The rich and undeniably bizarre soundscapes of Sunn-0))), for instance, are deceptively simple but undeniably affecting; let's just say I don't exactly feel comfortable listening to 2005's Black One loudly in the dark.

The most infamous scaremonger of them all is electro-god Richard D. James, whose stretched out grin is forever ingrained in the mind of anyone who's seen an Aphex Twin video. His music, for the most part, is not all that scary, but his most infamous work (especially to the mainstream crowd) is that of Windowlicker and Come To Daddy, which are two of the creepiest, most disturbing tracks ever recorded. The latter is particularly terrifying - mostly because of the psycho-children, TV-monster music video association, but the song itself, with an "I will eat your soul" refrain, isn't exactly calming.

So is this "Horror Music"? Kind of. The conventions that make up Horror Film are lost when the idea is applied to music, but the basic concept remains intact. Music can scare you, and when it comes right down to it, that's what Horror is all about.

Sunn-0))) - Sin Nanna
Xiu Xiu - Tonight & Today
Xiu Xiu - Fabulous Muscles
Bright Eyes - If Winter Ends
Bright Eyes - When The Curious Girl Realizes She's Under Glass
Aphex Twin - Windowlicker
Aphex Twin - Cornish Acid

Sunn-0))) - Black One
Xiu Xiu - Knife Play
Bright Eyes - Fevers & Mirrors
Aphex Twin - The Richard D. James Album

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Julie Ruined In Paris Fire: False

Casey Dorrell

Dear readers, Casey is feeling a bit under the weather, Calum is off for reading break, and Geoff is busy doing top-secret Mocking Music business deals in shady back-alleys. As such, we didn't post anything new yesterday. I had every intention of posting something nifty for you today but, alas, I'm not feeling well so I'll leave you with this repost from back before we left, proving that we've always had some mean photoshop skillz. Word.

We've all experienced this. You have a friend, probably a close one, maybe even your best one. But as time wears on you find that where you once had everything in common, you now differ on all things. Still, the shift is gradual - it's not so hard. Then there's the other type of split, one where someone makes such a bewildering and willful change that you can do little but scratch your head in puzzlement. Such was the case with my friend in high school as he pursued his dream of being a drunk prep - such is the case with Le Tigre in their quest to break into the mainstream.

Le Who? Le Tigre is Kathleen Hannah's post-riot grrl electro-dance group. Hannah is better known as a member of Bikini Kill, the early feminist punk band that kick started the riot-grrl movement. Beyond that, she's known for her for her public fights with Courtney Love (Hole being a "suspect" member of the riot grrl movement, and Hannah being an early friend of Kurt Cobain). In retrospect, it seems that Hannah saw Love as a media-whore well before everyone else caught on.

Le Tigre with New Member
One of These Things is Not Like the Others . . .

After the end of Bikini Kill in late 1997, Hannah released a self titled album under the pseudonym Julie Ruin which left behind the punk in favour of more upbeat electronic music. From Julie Ruin came a three-person band, Le Tigre. In all, Le Tigre released three albums of danceable politics. It was the third, This Island, where the bewildering shift began.

The album was their first on a major label, Universal, having left behind their own label, Mr. Lady Records known for the personal notes that came with any direct label orders. A lot of the faux indie and punk types confuse success with "selling out" and therefore got upset over the label change. But really, they'd never spoken out against being on a major label. Next, when the new album came out, it was less political. Also, the post-punk rough-edge aesthetic was lost, leaving the band with a unatural sheen reminicent of electo-dance band, "Chicks on Speed".

At the same time, people started hearing "Deceptacon" off Le Tigre's self-titled debut on TV. Le Tigre had sold the rights to the song to Telus (a Canadian Telecommunication Corporation). In their defense, there's nothing particularly offensive about Telus. Hannah explains, "Signing to a major didn't make us rich by any means. Having bills to pay is a fact of our lives and sometimes we have to do weird shit to keep the band financially afloat."

Hilton and her Tigre
Who's a Little Le Tigre! You Are! Yes, You Are!

Then comes last week's news. At first I thought it was some sick joke. I fact-checked like crazy, latching on to one contradictory report hoping that it might be the true one. I'm still clinging to that, for now, but it's probably futile. Le Tigre, guardians of the post-riot grrl feminism, are collaborating with Paris Hilton. First reported by MTVe.com, the story has also been picked up by Much Music, Philadelphia Weekly, and SoulShine. The only ray of hope is provided by an MTV.com story from last week which cites Le Tigre's rep as acknowledging Hilton approached the band but cautioning, "that's as far as it's gotten".

Hilton's new album is rumored to have the tentative title of "Paris is Burning" in a nod to her earlier amateur porn success in "A Night in Paris" and a sucker-punch to late Joe Strummer of the Clash ("London's Burning"). Le Tigre's song production and co-writing credit will find interesting company with other confirmed collaborator, JC Chavez (Black Eyed Peas declined involvement).

Febuary 22nd, 2006 Update: It seems that we can wipe one sign of the coming apocalypse off our collective whiteboard of doom. There is no news denying the Le Tigre collaboration, but there's also still no word confirming it. I'd say it's safe to say that, at this point, it will never happen. How the whole rumour began is anyone's bet. Was there ever any truth to it? Did Hilton even approach Le Tigre? Who knows.

Paris Hilton - Screwed (Alex G Remix)
Le Tigre - My My Metrocard
Le Tigre - Deceptacon (DFA Remix)
Le Tigre - Nanny Nanny Boo Boo (Junior Senior Mix)
Mu - Paris Hilton

Le Tigre - Feminist Sweepstakes
Mu - Out of Breach (Manchester's Revenge)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Setting Yourself On Fire Never Sounded So Good


There's something uniquely Canadian about a couple thousand people bundling up to stand in -25*C weather on the world's largest skating rink, to listen to a free show by an equally bundled up band.

For the closing weekend of Winterlude, Ottawa's annual winter festival, Montreal's Stars took to the makeshift stage built on top of the Rideau Canal, to play an hour and a half free set (did I mention it was free?), on what I will attest to as being one of the coldest nights of the year.

"We've been playing a lot of shows in the States, and our countries have a lot in common... we both have idiots running our countries, but there are differences. This would never happen in the US. There's no way we could get people out here on a night like this in the US," Torquil Campbell, lead male vocalist, said to those in attendance.

Now, I'm not sure if that's a testament to how much we like our catchy, romantic indie-pop here above the 49th parallel, or a commentary on our lack of concern in maintaining a healthy core body temperature, but either way, he seemed pretty happy about it.

Despite the fact that setting ourselves on fire was sounding more and more appealing as the set continued, energy remained high. The extreme weather created a bond between the performers and the crowd, as Campbell and fellow singer Amy Millan cheered everyone on almost as much as audience did for them. Between numbers, Campbell led intervals of jumping, to encourage blood flow to the extremities of concert-goers.

Even aside from the band/fan camaraderie, Stars' show was excellent. Songs performed ranged from recognizable tracks from their most recent release, "Set Yourself On Fire", like 'The Big Fight', and 'Your Ex-Lover Is Dead', to the first single to garner attention from their sophomore album Heart, 'Elevator Love Letter', as well as a few surprises thrown in, like a cover of Bruce Springsteen's 'Hungry Heart'.

The most striking performance was, unsurprisingly, the last of the encore, 'Calendar Girl'. The song exemplifies the give and take vocal style of the band, with verse and chorus being tossed back and forth between Campbell and Millan. When it reached the end, the band faded out, Campbell left the mike behind, leaned out into the crowd repeating the last line, "I'm alive" without any technical help. Instead of joining in, the crowd fell quiet and listened to his voice drift out through the frigid air, over their heads. The show then ended with Campbell congratulating everyone on living through the night.

I stood on a snowbank for the whole show. I was seriously becoming concerned with how I had lost feeling in my big toes, and it took a lot of self control not to run directly for the closest thing emanating any kind of heat, but this was the perfect way to see one of my favourite bands perform. Everyone who went to the free show paid their admittance by slipping a little too close for comfort towards hypothermia, and it was totally worth it.

Mel is fondly known as the resident concert reviewer here at Mocking Music but she's also known as DJ mel on Radio@UPEI. Check out playlists of some past shows and the shows themselves.

Stars - Going Going Gone (Live KEXP 2002)
Stars - Aspidistra Files (Live KEXP 2002)
Stars - The Woods (Live KEXP 2002)
Stars - Look Up (Live KEXP 2003)
Stars - Life Effect (Live KEXP 2003)
Stars - Heart (Live KEXP 2003)
Stars - Sleep Tonight (Live KEXP 2004)
Stars - Soft Revolution (Live KEXP 2004)
Stars - Big Fight (Live KEXP 2004)
Stars - Reunion (Live KEXP 2005)
Stars - Your Ex-Lover is Dead (Live KEXP 2005)
Stars - On Peak Hill (Live KEXP 2005)
Stars - Calendar Girl (Live KEXP 2005)

All Mocking Music Concert Reviews

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Week End Blog Wrap Up #5

Casey Dorrell

This week was reading week (also known as Spring Break, though there isn't any Spring to be found), and although I'm only taking one class right now, I took the week as a chance to slack off, do a mocking music marathon, and escape the province for a few days. This also meant that I didn't keep up with the world of music blogs at all. No doubt, at least twenty new bands were discovered, brought up from obscurity amid countless overblown superlatives, then derided as over-rated by the week's end.

Here's some of the more interesting things I missed - maybe you missed them too:

1. Jennings (Rbally) had his readers worried that his bandwidth concerns would mark the ultimate demise of Rbally. Perhaps in order to convince them otherwise, he's begun an onslaught of not-so-subtle subconcious reassurances by focusing his last several posts on live mp3 collections. Or maybe he's just posted a bunch of live stuff. Includes Flaming Lips, Jose Gonzalez, and Antony and the Johnsons. [Link] [2] [3] [4] [5]

2. Jesus (What Would Jesus Blog?) and I continued our stormy relationship this last week. While I feel a great love for him and his attempt to reach out to today's youth through a contemporary medium, I was also hurt by his favortism toward number 3 of this list. Will I decry atheism in favour of Jesus or will I embrace atheistic values, knowing that Jesus loves me anyhow? Stay tuned. In the meantime, explore your own relationship with Jesus by listening to his personal valentine's themed mix, full of Jesus-love. Also check out his mp3s of the undertow orchestra (including the soon to be defunct Pedro the Lion). [Link] [2]

3. Heather (I am Fuel, You are Friends) is a Jesus favourite and this week, she lived up to that love by providing us all with a new Streets track off the upcoming album, "The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living", set to hit stores three days after my 23rd birthday. That means March 27th, but I'm sure you knew that. [Link]

4. Kevin (So Much Silence) broke the silence this week with some b-side goodness. He took the time to sift through the usual garbage on free samplers, saving only the best . . . and Death Cab for Cutie. Actually, I like Plans. Along with the Japanese bonus track from Death Cab's latest release, there's also a Flaming Lips b-side, a Strokes b-side, and a Stars remix. [Link]

5. Dodge (My Old Kentucky Blog) has done what I'd like to see more of in the music blog world: criticism. Music blogs tend to be filled with overzealous reviews of only the very-established pseudo-indie artists, or the very obscure up and coming acts. The emphasis often seems to be on who praises which group the most, the earliest. Not everything is deserving of praise, though, and the positive is a lot more meaningful when it can be contrasted with the negative. In addition to Dodge's qualms with the new Rocky Volato album, go back a few weeks and check out his wife, MJ's, second pick in her new series for a pretty touching review/tangent. [Link] [2]

6. Trick or Travis (Awesome Until Proven Guilty) first caught my attention earlier this week with a little bit of over-the-top self-congratulatory commentary on a mutual friend's blog. I guess Dodge had linked him giving him a few hits. Regardless, there is something worth seeing that's probably merits being called "Awesome". Trick's compiled an (apparently?) incomplete but very long list of downloadable cover versions of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart". Included are Jose Gonzalez, Calexico, and Hawksley Workman. For some reason, I'm always reminded of Levy's "Rotten Love". [Link]

7. Amrit (Village Indian) has also been up to some compilation excellence, collecting all the recent Yeah Yeah Yeah's tracks in one place for us. One of which (Diplo's remix of Yeah Yeah Yeah's "Gold Lion") I slipped into my last blog wrap-up despite it having nothing to do with the content of the post. Anyhow, lots of good songs and a definate new direction for Karen O. [Link]

8. Connor (I guess I'm Floating) posted a two CD mix up of 90's tunes on his blog. I have to say that the 90's had a lot better music than what graces his list (Eels, Digable Planets, Weezer, Bad Religion, Radiohead, Sloan, Beastie Boys, Blur, Oasis, Ben Folds Five, etc.). Granted the point of the list was to show that popular music in the past hasn't completely sucked, but all the groups in my list had commercial success in the 90's too. Either way, it's an interesting romp through the alt-rock and grunge of the last decade. [Link]

9. Matt (You Ain't No Picasso) recently reviewed The Like Young and, gasp, didn't care for them too much. Since most of you have heard me say positive things about the band for some time now, go there to hear some negative (or at least mixed) thoughts. Also, make sure you read Batman's comments. I suppose he must have been too busy saving Gotham to listen to any music in the last decade. [Link]

10. Satisfied '75 (Aquarium Drunk) put up Ryan Adam and the Cardinal's Loft Sessions, an XM Radio set. It's all nicely divided into individual mp3s for tidbit Adam consumption. I'm afraid I'm permanently on a low-Ryan-Adams diet, but if you're not watching your good music consumption, I suggest you take the chance to get these songs. There's a lot of them. [Link]

11. Scott (Stereogum) made up a nifty Chinese Democracy (the ill-fated, psuedo-fictional post-G'n'R band of Axl Rose). Apparently the band may finally have a CD coming out soon. Har har. Does anyone care? I know I don't. If you do, go check out some leaked mp3s that Scott put up. [Link]

Flaming Lips - She Don't Use Jelly (Live)
Pedro the Lion - Breadwinner You
Saturday Looks Good to Me - Lift Me Up
Eels - Something is Sacred
The Streets - When You Wasn't Famous (Radio Edit)
Levy - Rotten Love
Karen O. - Hello Tomorrow
Eels - Stepmother (B-Side)
Weezer - I Just Threw Out the Love of my Dreams
Radiohead - Lewis

Week End Blog Wrap Up #4
Week End Blog Wrap Up #3
Week End Blog Wrap Up #2
Week End Blog Wrap Up #1

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Terms & Conditions Apply: Castanets

Calum Marsh

Have you ever recommended a band to a friend with the disclaimer that they have to listen to it at night? It seems like such an odd thing to say, but there is a lot of music that requires the kind of mood that only arrives between midnight and 4am, so occasionally this warning is necessary. Castanets, a band I've been meaning to write about since I joined Mocking Music, requires in my mind similiar recommendation advice, and then some: not only is it absolutely necessary that you hear Castanets during the wee hours of the night, but it's also crucial that you do in the winter. If conditions could be ideal, November would be best, but February will have to do. A drink might be nice, too, so pour yourself a glass if you've got any around.

These conditions sound excessive, but I assure you they aren't. These stipulations make the difference between good and bad; if you heed my advice, I guarantee you'll fall in love with Castanets - If not, it might not go down so well (and probably won't).

I first heard Castanets' when I picked up their most recent album, First Light's Freeze, back in November. I was fortunate, because I just so happened to be listening for the first time in the exact conditions the material required: A cold, dark November night, distraught over various matters and milking a glass of who-knows-what. The result was amazement. I immediately found myself in love with the album, and I couldn't stop listening. I'd stay awake every night, repeating the conditions of the first listen, just so I could duplicate that effect. The album's second last track (though it should really close the disc), 'Dancing With Someone (Privliage Of Everything)', is particularly breathtaking: softly and slowly sung over a little guitar, it's an incredible less-is-more song that pushes the album from good to great (just listen to that goddamn airplane flying faintly overhead near the end - brilliant). I was ready to call First Light's Freeze one of my favourite albums of the year - nay, ever! I was overwhelmed.

But the enthusiasm was doomed to fade away, and quickly. December was starting, exams were ending, things were looking brighter. I starting sleeping more and drinking less, and I soon lost interest in staying awake for a nightly listen to that album which I had so recently adored. I tried listening, still, only now during the day. It scored my bus rides to campus, or to my afternoons writing. The effect was not the same. In fact, the effect was so totally and completely unlike what it once had been that I could hardly believe it was the same record. It dawned on me that First Light's Freeze was perhaps not the marvellous recording I had once paraded so triumphantly.

My current feelings about the album remain somewhere in the middle of my original obsession and my sudden disappointment: there are nights, still, when I can throw on that album and be reminded of why I loved it in November. Occasionally I'll listen while I ride that city bus across town at night, and it seems to make sense. Other days I'll press play and hear nothing of what I once heard, and I'll forget entirely what that sense was all about. It's a difficult balance in my mind, one that, at the end of the day, depends entirely on conditions. 'Dancing With Someone' still consistently wows me every time I listen, but the rest of the album needs to be heard when I'm feeling ready for it (and I'm only ready for it, apparently, at 3 in the bloody morning).

So, what does that mean in terms of my recommendation? Well, you be the judge. If you think you'll be awake at 3 in the morning tonight and you don't feel bright and cheery, give it a try - otherwise, it may be best for you to steer clear. Just remember: only at night, only in the winter. That's crucial.

Castanets - As You Do
Castanets - Three Days, Four Nights
Castanets - All That I Know To Have Changed In You

Castanets - First Light's Freeze
Castanets - Cathedral

Friday, February 17, 2006

Pink Moon, Better than Blue

Casey Dorrell

Last week I finally bought a Nick Drake album. I know, I should have a long time ago, but I've honestly never seen any for sale locally - and never thought to search him out online. I guess being forgotten or dismissed is a fitting state for him, but aside from my own ineptitude this isn't Drake's fate.

Drake, as many of you know, was a 70's musician who now sits aside most indie music of the last two decades more comfortably than with his better-remembered contemporaries. His music was often labeled as "folk" but this implies either a whimsical or political nature to a sound which was neither. Much like recently deceased cult favourite, Elliot Smith, Nick Drake wrote haunting songs of beautiful minimalism that often surprised listeners with complex instrumentation. Unlike Smith, though, Drake lived in an age before movie soundtracks and the internet made cult status a marketable commodity. Both suffered from chronic depression, both died far too young.

Since his death, Nick Drake has developed an intense cult following that borders mainstream recognition. In other words, if you're seriously into music, you know him. If you're not, you may recognize the name, if that. Drake only recorded three albums. Each was better than the previous - his clear masterpiece being his final work, the brilliant "Pink Moon", which was a solitary recording with minimal after-dubs. The album was in stark contrast to his previous albums which shared Drake's keen lyricism and brilliant songcraft but also featured a Jazz-like feel with more complex arrangements.

On November 24th of 1974, shortly after producing "Pink Moon", Drake overdosed on Anti-depressants and died. As with Cobain, as with Smith, friends and family argued that something else must have happened, explaining that Drake had been in better mental health of late.

Drake's posthumous influence is immense. Beyond directly affecting countless indie and folk artists, he's also been featured on several soundtracks in the last five years. None more important than "Garden State" which increased Drake's status among younger music fans. Replete with O.C. Sethisms and a mix of hip contemporary and classic rock music, indie kids everywhere latched onto both the movie and its music. I'm still pretty sure it was this generation's "Reality Bites". It might seem cool now, but I think we'll look back on it and realize Zack Braff was selling us a false sense of communal identity . . . and pizza. Regardless, the movie was a huge boon for both The Shins and Drake.

The latest in popular musicians who've taken their musical cues from Nick Drake is Beck. Few other artists (contemporary or otherwise) have created such an eclectic mix of music in such a short period. Despite being best known for his ability to consistently produce high quality music without ever having to retread old ground, there are still clearly threads that tie all his music together. His genre-hopping, genre-bending, antics led him to a clearly Drake influenced album with 2002's Sea Change. The minimalist approach, the string flourishes, the dark lyrics - all implied Drake. Beck's latest album, Guero, may be influenced in part by Drake, but if it is, it's certainly not obvious. Still, his interest in Drake continues, as his website recently streamed three Drake covers: "Which Will", "Parasite", and "Pink Moon".

Take the time to download the Beck cover songs and the original Nick Drake songs. If you like them, I suggest you look into purchasing "Pink Moon". I actually like "Sea Change" more, Beck being a favourite artist of mine, but there's a special appreciation for that which came first. Besides, everybody enjoys a tortured soul. At least someone else's.

Nick Drake - Which Will
Beck - Which Will (Nick Drake)
Nick Drake - Parasite
Beck - Parasite (Nick Drake)
Nick Drake - Pink Moon
Beck - Pink Moon (Nick Drake)

The End of Black Tuesday?
Introducing Beck

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Interview: Casiotone For The Painfully Alone

Calum Marsh

Owen Ashworth, the sole genius behind the infamously minimalistic Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, recently spoke with us about his forthcoming album, his movement away from keyboards, and James Murphy.

Mocking Music:You started out as a Film student but dropped that to pursue a musical career. Why the switch in mediums? Was this transition difficult, or did you always have an affinity for music?

Owen Ashworth: It feels like the same thing to me. I couldn't afford to make the films I wanted to make, and I just found it easier to work out my ideas with song writing after a while. Once I got good at it, I mean. I still think of my songs as movies.

MM:Your first two albums were recorded solely with battery-operated keyboard equipment and was very lo-fi. As your music has progressed, the sound quality has increased (your first two records having been recently remastered and rereleased, too) and the instrumentation has expanded to include more than just the keyboard. What is the reason for this shift toward higher production values, and why the movement away from the keyboard?

Ashworth: 'Twinkle Echo' was sort of meant as the end of a trilogy. I knew I wouldn't make another Casio album when I finished it. I was ready to try different things. Etiquette is a bit of an evolution. The fish crawled out of the bog and it's got legs now.

MM: Your most recent singles, Cold White Christmas and Young Shields,sound much different than your previous material. The tracks are considerably longer, the music is more rich and full, and the production values are much higher. Is this an indication of the direction your work has taken and will continue to take? Does your forthcoming LP, Etiquette, have a similar sound?

Ashworth: Etiquette is kind of all over the place. I was trying lots different things. I think it all sounds like me, though. Even the songs that I don't sing still sound like Casiotone songs to me.

MM: Some critics felt your decision to work exclusively with keyboard equipment was artistically limiting. What is your response or defense to this kind of attitude?

Ashworth: Well, limiting myself was sort of the whole idea.

MM: You have worked closely with Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu. What kind of impact has this relationship had on you artistically? Have you been influenced or inspired by the work of Xiu Xiu?

Ashworth: Jamie and I mixed Twinkle Echo together, and we had some big arguments over some of those songs. He really made me defend what would otherwise have been very easy decisions, and I'm really grateful for that. I had to rethink a lot of my aesthetic notions of pop music. Those arguments are still part of my process now. Jamie works really hard at what he does and I have loads of respect for that guy.

MM: You frequently write songs that seem directed to specific people, or write songs from the perspective of others. Are these characters fictional, or are the based on people you know?

Ashworth: The characters are almost always fictional, but the songs are often inspired by real people or events. I have no qualms with steal my friend's stories, but I don't feel any obligation to stick to the truth. I'd rather the songs be interesting and evocative than be real or true or whatever. They just have to feel honest. When I was a kid and I'd hear a song that really affected me, I never assumed that the song was a true story. I just assumed that the singer was a really great songwriter. It just never occurred to me that I had to tell true stories to write good songs.

MM: Your song 'Jeane, If You're Ever In Portland' was incredibly popular on internet blogs. Did you anticipate the success of this song as a kind of single?

Ashworth: Yeah, I figured that would be the favorite. That was the song that most of my friends liked. If I had made a lead-off single for the album, it would have been 'Jeane.' I always preferred 'Roberta C.' or 'Attic Room,' personally.

MM: Your music frequently deals with young, struggling students - do you intentionally aim your music toward this audience?

Ashworth: Well, I mostly write about people I know, so it's not surprising that the songs would reflect a certain character. Whether it's intentional or not, I really think I write songs for my friends. They are my audience. As i get older and the people around me get older, so will the characters in my songs, I imagine.

MM: Your music has infamously been compared by critics to Magnetic Fields, The Smiths, and Leonard Cohen. What are your musical influences?

Ashworth: I've been asked this so many times and I still don't know how to answer it. There is a ton of music that I love and I'm sure all of it has influenced me in a million tiny ways that I probably wouldn't even recognize. I like all of those dudes you mentioned. Sly & The Family Stone's 'There's a Riot Goin' On' LP was a direct aesthetic influence on the new album, as was Vince Guaraldi's 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' LP. Have you heard that Pet Shop Boys song called 'Flambouyant?' That song hit me really hard the first time I heard it. I probably wouldn't have written 'Scattered Pearls' without it.

MM: You've earned the attention of critics as large as Rolling Stone, James Murphy of the DFA said he was "blown away" by your music, and you've had the opportunity to tour with artists as big as The Rapture. What kind of effect has this wealth of positive attention had on your music?

Ashworth: I would hope the answer is none. Maybe I have a bigger ego. Or maybe the extra attention has meant more people have bought albums so I have more money to buy fancier drum machines. So, maybe every time James Murphy name checks me, my beats get just a little huger. Thanks, James.

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone - Oh Illinoise
Casiotone For The Painfully Alone - Cold White Christmas
Casiotone For The Painfully Alone - Attic Room
Casiotone For The Painfully Alone - Roberta C.
Casiotone For The Painfully Alone - Jeane, If You're Ever in Portland

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone - Twinkle Echo
Casiotone For The Painfully Alone - The First Two Albums Collection
Casiotone For The Painfully Alone - Answering Machine Music

Casey & Geoff Go To Halifax; Are Really Cool

Geoff Trainor

Well, Casey and I are leaving for a few days. We're off to Halifax on very important Mocking Music business. What business could that be? Well, we can't say, but we can say it will involve a lot of cds, drinking and a gay bar. We left 11 AM today, and will be back sometime Saturday night. We may be posting while we are there, if we find a wireless connection. While we're gone enjoy some songs by a band aptly named Halifax.

Their Website Described It As Overused ... I Thought I'd Help

Casey and I discovered this band the last time we were in Halifax. Actually, neither of us really heard any songs until we got back and we looked into them. Upon downloading a few of their songs I realized that I'd already heard their song 'Sydney'.

Sydney and Halifax are both cities in Nova Scotia and, from what I can tell, the band is not from Nova Scotia. Their website describes them as a So-Cal 5-piece, so one would assume they're from South California. Go Figure.

Nothing spectacular, but they are quite catchy.

Halifax - Sydney
Halifax - Finished In A Day
Halifax - Name Your Price
Halifax - This Could Be You

Halifax - A Writer's Reference

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Life and Times of Dependent Music


Haven't heard of this label, but you'll likely be hearing a lot about them in the near future and for years to come. Dependent Music is home of some of the greatest, most underrated Canadian artists. That's pronounced Dependent, not Arts and Crafts. Last year was huge for Dependent. Wintersleep released their mind-blowing untitled album, toured across Europe and Canada, and a performed a few shows in the States. They even opened for Pearl Jam in Newfoundland, twice. Contrived finally released their long-awaited sophomore album, 'Dead Air Verbatim'. Brian Bocherdt released the second part to his Remains of Brian Borcherdt solo project. He toured all across North America with his evil super group Holy Fuck, and the group also played shows alongside Beans from Antipop Consortium. Holy Fuck's self-titled album finally came out and soared to the top of the college charts.

None of this went unrecognized, either. Nova Scotia's The Coast Magazine voted Dependent the best independent label for the third year in a row. Jill Barber won best female artist also for the third year in a row in the same publication and Wintersleep received five out of six awards including best band, best local and national video and best album art. The band has also been nominated for two East Coast Music Awards for video of the year and alternative recording of the year.

This is my story on my one of the best group of musicians on the planet:

My story goes all the way back to 1996 when I was working at a local record store that carried independent acts from all over Atlantic Canada. There was one album that stuck out from the rest. The band was Burnt Black and it was their second album, 'Nervous Wreck'. The artwork alone was enough motivation for me open it up and see if the music lived up to its art. It did and then some. It was like nothing I'd ever heard before from this part of Canada. Keep in mind that when most people think of the Maritimes they think of traditional fiddle music and, at that time, Sloan. I was so impressed with the album that I went hungry for a day and spent my lunch money on Burnt Black's first studio recording on cassette, 1994's "... happy?".

Fast forward to 1997, I'm still listening to these albums constantly and out of nowhere I hear that they're playing at a local dive. Problem, I was only 16. My friend who was of legal drinking age and I leaped at the opportunity to go to this show but I had to keep my age on the down low. Sure enough, I wasn't allowed to stay in the bar long enough to see the band play at first, but my friend pulled some strings and they let me stay. I saw them play, then bought up as much merchandise as my part-time job would allow, including side projects that the band was involved with such as Christopher Robin Device and Chiselhand. Afterward, I kept in contact with the front man Brian Borcherdt via e-mail and phone.

Shortly after releasing 1999's 'Burned Out', Burnt Black broke up and played their final show on the eve of the new millennium. Brian's brother Adam, the guitarist, moved to the States, Neil, the drummer, moved to China to teach English, and their bass player Marcus would become a fisherman. Still, Brian sent me an EP of a band he figured I'd enjoy named Kary. I was hooked. The EP was purely a lo-fi demo but it rarely left my disc player.

By 2001, I was itching for something new from either Brian Borcherdt or Kary. And I got it; that year marked the second coming of the monster that would become Dependent Music. Brian's old band 'Chiselhand' reformed with a new guitarist Mike MacNeil (of Contrived) and released a six song EP under the name Trephines (which eventually appeared on Fox TV's "24"), while Kary released their debut LP "The Sound of Beauty Breathing" which, to this day, is one of my all-time favourite albums. It was around this time that Dependent's drummer-for-hire Loel Campbell entered the picture. I was running a Burnt Black fan site, while he took charge of the official site after Burnt Black disbanded. He sent me a copy of the first Contrived demo which was impressive despite the lo-fidelity.

In 2002, Dependent welcomed Contrived, and their debut album 'Pursuit Of Plots', to their roster. Heavy Meadows recorded their first full-length as well. Sadly, long time friend/collaborator of Brian Borcherdt, Marcus Boudreau of Christopher Robin Device committed suicide. Not to be confused with Marcus Webster from Burnt Black, though CRD was his side project alongside Boudreau. Brian coped with it the only way he knew how: Music. He released a short EP of songs dedicated to his fallen friend entitled 'Moth' with a very small run of 100 copies, all of which were numbered and signed. It's still available, vinyl only. Around this time Brian was living in Toronto and I heard that he had joined-up with Canadian alt-rockers By Divine Right as a touring guitarist. They toured across North America and even went to Japan. The next year Tim D'eon (guitar) and Paul Murphy (vocals) of Kary formed an acoustic side project featuring Loel Campbell (Contrived) and Jud Haynes (Bucket Truck) on bass, while Members of Dependent, By Divine Right, and Broken Social Scene collaborated produced a journey through sound entitled 'Junior Blue'.

In 2004, By Divine Right's vocalist Jose Contreras released an electronic experimental album under the name Extra Virgin and Brian left By Divine Right on good terms to pursue his solo career. He released his first album under the moniker 'The Remains Of Brian Borcherdt', a majority of which was recorded with his brother Adam Borcherdt. In the same year Dependent released a few other incredible albums; Kary re-formed to record their second album "Light", Jill Barber was welcomed to the family with her first EP, "Oh Heart", and the third Heavy Meadows album finally hit shelves. As I said, last year was a huge year for the label, in addition to releasing all the other previously listed albums, they also compiled recordings of a influential now defunct local group, The Motes titled "The Remains of False Starts".

This year is shaping up to be a good year. Holy Fuck, who organically recreate electronica, are the first to blow up and will be touring with post-Unicorns group, the Islands, as well as Metric. But first there's a cross-Canada tour featuring Wintersleep, Holy Fuck, Jill Barber, Contrived, and Brian Borcherdt.

Be sure to check the bands out live if you get a chance, and if you do, buy Loel a beer, he's going to need it. He'll be drumming for pretty much all those bands.

Dependent Website
Dependent on Myspace (because so many of you are)

Holy Fuck - Korock
Holy Fuck - Tone Bank Jungle
Brian Borcherdt - Goodbye/Vibrations
Brian Borcherdt - Ransom
Wintersleep - Orca
Wintersleep - Avalanche
Kary - Breathe New Life
Contrived - Surrounded By Genius
Jill Barber - In Perfect Time
Jill Barber - Oh Heart
Heavy Meadows - Sweet Traverse
The Motes - Index as Anchor
Burnt Black - Novocaine
Christopher Robin Device - Parade Day
Chiselhand - Behind You
Trephines - Cataract

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Yes, but is it heart?

Calum Marsh

After a flurry of readers (one?) demanding (suggesting?) we do a themed list for Valentine's Day, I've decided to concede and write one up. I agree with the suggestion that "heart" might be a more interesting stipulation than merely "love", so I've compiled a list of 15 songs with titles that contain the word "heart". Even though it's for a romantic holiday, it isn't a prerequestite that the songs deal with romance - just the word "heart", that's all that matters for this one. Also, I'm going to try and avoid mentioning My Bloody Valentine. Wait, damn.

There are a couple of obvious choices (particularly obvious if you're familiar with my musical interests), but for the most part I tried to avoid picking anything you'd be able to guess without reading. I'm actually a little surprised, to be honest, that I was able to find fifteen heart-related tracks without resorting to Top 40 radio. I guess indie musicians have love stories to tell, too.

You asked, we delivered: The Top 15 Heart-Related Indie Songs ... Ever!

15. Deerhoof - Dummy Discards A Heart (MP3)
The opening track from Deerfhoof's excellent Apple O' album is a fun way to start of this list mostly because I can't tell what the hell is being sung. Is it a love song? I don't know, maybe. Deerhoof isn't really about understanding lyrics, though - the vocals tend to act as further instrumentation. It's probably not the best song to stick on a Valentine's mix tape for your significant other, though I suppose you could tell him or her that the song is about how much you love them - they'd probably never tell the difference.

14. ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead - Heart In The Hand Of The Matter (MP3)
Remember when everyone loved Trail Of Dead? Yeah, neither do I. They've always had an intense cult following, but indie kids in general seem to forget about them, for some reason. Despite the lackluster loving, Source Tags & Codes is a really great album (maybe not 10.0 great, but still), and this is probably my favourite track.

13. Annie - Heartbeat (MP3)
It may be hard for indie kids to stomach Annie's playful, often Kylie Minogue-ish pop sound. But honestly, if you can get past the negative connotations those descriptions have, Annie has a lot to offer you - her music is fun and catchy, and isn't that enough? It's pop music, alright, but it's also really, really good. I'm glad this song just so happens to have "heart" in it, because it's probably her best track - and even if it isn't, it's definitely the best introduction you could have to her music.

Xiu Xiu - Crank Heart (MP3)
I plan on working a Xiu Xiu track into every list I make just to shake things up. Thus far I've only discussed his cover songs, which is unfortunate considering the quality of his original work. The opening track to Fabulous Muscles - one of my all-time favourite albums - Crank Heart is full of everything that makes a Xiu Xiu song recognizably his own: beeps and crashes, soft-singing juxtaposed with screams of insanity; it's music that feels radical and sponteneous yet perfectly crafted just the same. Weird, yes, but also terrific.

11. Death Cab For Cutie - Your Heart Is An Empty Room (MP3)
As I've made perfectly clear in the past, I'm not a Plans fan. Still, I've no qualms with putting a Death Cab track on a list about hearts, so this will have to do. What's with the U2-ish electric that peppers the otherwise-fine lush instrumentation? Sigh. I guess it's not so bad, but for the most part it just makes me miss the old Gibbard.

10. Stars - Heart (Radio Edit) (MP3)
This is a much more obvious addition to the list, so I've opted to use the Radio Edit version of Heart, available exclusively on the rare Dead Child Stars EP, just to make this choice a tad more interesting. It's pretty much the same song, but it gains scene points for being hard to find. This was always one of my favourite Stars tracks, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that preference, but it's nearly impossible to resist that charming chorus. If you're making your loved one a mix tape this year, you can't leave this one out.

09. The Magnetic Fields - I Think I Need A New Heart (MP3)
I don't think any man could have crafted a love list without including a track from The Magnetic Fields' brilliant 69 Love Songs album. There are three songs that explicitly use the word 'heart' (were this topic 'love', I could form the entire list only using songs from this album), and any of the three would have done just fine in this spot. If you've never heard this album in its entirety, I highly recommend that you do so immediately.

08. Four Tet - And They All Look Broken Hearted (MP3)
Another track on this list taken from one of my favourite albums ever (the quirky and irresistable Rounds), Broken Hearted isn't immediately catchy or mindblowing, but if you really pay attention (headphones are a must), you'll get what all the fuss is about. Though it doesn't stand alone as strongly as some of the other Heart songs, it sounds wonderful in the midst of a mix tape or its original album.

07. The Arcade Fire - My Heart Is An Apple (MP3)
I originally didn't give this track much thought, particularly because in comparisson to the Arcade Fire EP's more immediately pleasing songs (No Cars Go and Vampire/Forest Fire), it didn't seem like anything to get worked up over. But now that I've spent long enough with that record to get to know each track well, My Heart Is An Apple has grown on my quite a bit. I equate it to liking Rebellion (Lies) best when you first hear Funeral, but slowly and surely realizing that In The Backseat is the real gem.

06. Final Fantasy - Took You Two Years To Win My Heart (MP3)
Final Fantasy got fairly looked over in 2005, partly due to his album being released among so many instant classics. With lyrics like "They say heartbreak is good for the skin/but all it has helped is my drinking", this is really the song for those who plan on celebrating Valentine's Day alone. A slow crawler, Two Years To Win My Heart sounds as though it could be used for Waltzing, assuming dancing couples can ignore (or not notice) the depressingly negative lyrics. Oh, irony, you slay me.

05. M83 - A Guitar And A Heart (MP3)
Why aren't more people into M83? This song (and album) is incredible for its ability to evoke the night so accurately. I've never been able to listen to it without thinking about late night highway traffic, tall buildings, stars, and an assortment of other dark soundscapes. Quit complaining about the cheesy voice samples and just enjoy the associations.

04. Sufjan Stevens - The Man Of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts (MP3)
What starts off sounding like a straight-forward rock song ends up being, of course, an accoustic Sufjan ballad - not that there's anything wrong with that. This song has all the great elements that make Illinoise so great: layered backing vocals, light guitar, big-band instrumentation, masterful lyrics, and...electric guitar breakdown? Only Sufjan could be so eclectic without sounding unfocused.

03. Wolf Parade - This Heart's On Fire (MP3)
Who didn't see this coming? Apologies To The Queen Mary's closer is close to perfect, ending the disc in the best imaginable way. I remember this song coming on at the dance club last week, which at first seemed odd but by the end made sense. Only Wolf Parade can make a song that, heard in the right context, could inspire emotional catharsis or drunken dancing. Problem is, I no longer know whether to cry or move my feet. Maybe I'll try both simultaniously.

02. Antony & The Johnsons - Hitler In My Heart (MP3)
Best "heart" title ever. It's strange to hear pre-'Bird Now' Antony tracks such as Hitler In My Heart after being so familiar with that album; the music, which is still relatively sparse, seems totally excessive in comparisson - you know now that Antony's voice should be carrying the track, and all those sweeping strings are doing is distracted you from what's important. If you somehow managed to go without hearing I Am A Bird Now last year, this is probably a good track for easing you into Antony. It's dense and a bit overwhelming, but once you get into it you'll be hooked.

01. The Rapture - Open Up Your Heart (MP3)
Well, obviously. This is the first song I heard by The Rapture, and I loved it right away. It's an odd introduction, considering how different it is from the rest of their material. You'll find no traces of dance or rock here; no handclaps, no scratchy guitar - still, it's an excellent tune, in its smooth slow-burning way. Hopefully you can move past my bias and take my word that it's worth hearing - maybe this song will find a special place in your heart. Ha!

Deerhoof - Dummy Discards A Heart
...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead - Heart In The Hand Of The Matter
Annie - Heartbeat
Xiu Xiu - Crank Heart
Death Cab For Cutie - Your Heart Is An Empty Room
Stars - Heart (Radio Edit)
The Magnetic Fields - I Think I Need A New Heart
Four Tet - And They All Look Broken Hearted
The Arcade Fire - My Heart Is An Apple
Final Fantasy - Took You Two Years To Win My Heart
M83 - A Guitar And A Heart
Sufjan Stevens - The Man Of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts
Wolf Parade - This Heart's On Fire
Antony & The Johnsons - Hitler In My Heart
The Rapture - Open Up Your Heart

The Rapture - Echoes
The Arcade Fire - EP
Antony & The Johnsons - I Am A Bird Now
M83 - Before The Dawn Heals Us
Xiu Xiu - Fabulous Muscles
Four Tet - Rounds
Wolf Parade - Apologies To The Queen Mary