Friday, December 19, 2008

Year End Lists: Ooh...That's My Song!

As the new year approaches and the year end lists start multiplying, it's time for us at Two Day Old Shit to take a look at our iTunes' play count and decide which songs truly made '08 so musically great. You may find that many of these songs come from records featured on our top albums of the year lists, but since we are equal opportunists here at 2DOS, some of these picks were the solitary bright spots on otherwise disappointing and embarrassing records. That's just how we roll.

So, here are our Top 5 Songs of 2008; the jams that we played repeatedly, considered using as ring tones (but didn't because we didn't want the magic to wear off and wanted to pretend that we are adults) and listened to so much that they drove roommates, family and friends completely up the wall (my number one pick led my sister to call me "thirsty").
Enjoy! And please, let us know what your favorite songs from the past year were.

Isabelle's picks:

5. 88-Keys f. Bilal "M.I.L.F."
My favorite part of Adam's saga, this second to last track on the brilliant Death of Adam (a "punani concept" album) has the magical and totally weird Bilal (I swear he is an alien) cooing about baby mama drama and the ins and outs of unplanned parenthood over twinkly piano. Getting baby trapped NEVER sounded this good before.

4. Erykah Badu "Honey"
The last song on her spectacular New Amerykah, Part One (4th World War), "Honey" doesn't exactly fit with the rest of the albums tone, but that's why it was placed last on the track list; it's a bouncy palette cleanser to a record heavy with politics, death and reflection. And the video is hilarious.

3. Jazmine Sullivan "Bust Your Windows"
This tangoish scorned woman lament is way more interesting once you consider that she admits to feeling worse after she destroyed her cheating man's shit. I like a little bit of emotional struggle in an angry relationship song. 'Cause let's be real: no one feels 110% great about spray painting their man's Basquiat painting.

2. Al Green f. Anthony Hamilton "You've Got the Love I Need Babe" All the elements of this tune are amazing on their own, and together, they make Southern soul greatness: Al Green. ?uestlove. James Poyser. Anthony Hamilton. Dap-Kings. Spanky Alford. The fluttering guitar arpeggios Spanky plays are just beautiful (especially the one that fades out at the song's end, where Green goes "won't you play that one more time?") and the punchy horn soaked chorus is so Hi Records.

1. Estelle f. Kanye West "American Boy" Holy shit, do I love this song. So catchy, so breezy, so R&B disco charming. It's the ONE thing did right all year (will the Brazilian consulate PLEASE take away this man's visa?). The sample for "American Boy" comes from's terrible song "Impatient" (which incidentally, makes me feel like I am shopping in a Zara in Ibizia) but with Estelle's sexy and coy vocals (and Kanye's amusing little rap) it got turned into one of the best club tracks ever.

Ben's picks:
5. Los Campesinos! “We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed”
This band’s first album (also released this year) was a much more fun release, but their best song lies in the second package of songs they gave us this year. The band coasts on Gareth Campesinos!’s verbal stops and starts until he goes into full-on, over-caffeinated threats: “You said he got his teeth fixed/I’m gonna break them.” The best part? He sounds fucking delighted at this prospect. This song gets extra points for featuring the ultra rare indie rock spoken breakdown.

4. Santogold “Say Aha”
Surf-techno-hip hop? Yes please.

3. Black Kids – "I’m Not Going To Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You"
This song, all gawky synth lines and Robert Smith-aping vocals, boils down all the best synth pop tricks into one of those indie jams that you can’t tell if you’re supposed to dance to or not. I think you are. Too bad this is the only thing worth listening to by this band (so far).

2. MIA – "Paper Planes"
The best, most innovative, banging beat to come out all year. Kala (which actually dropped in 2007, though the “Paper Planes” single was released this February) is nowhere near as strong as 2005’s Arular, but this track stands as the greatest of MIA’s career thus far. “Straight to Hell” + MIA’s swagger = unfuckwithable jam.

1. Estelle f. Kanye West – “American Boy”
Looks like Isabelle and I are on the same page here. Much as I thought I’d be sick of this one, somehow I never tired of the grinding synth pulse of this new classic., who I will go on record as saying I think is one of the best producers working today (though I concede this is only true half the time) takes one of the most terrible tracks from his truly awful solo record and makes lemonade.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Soul America

Tonight wrapped up Nelson George's Soul Cities, an excellent Vh1 Soul production, which showcases a different soul steeped American city each week. It debuted in November with Philly (here George chatted with ?uestlove, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff) and it's finale found us across the country in L.A., (on the way there were stops in Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans and the Bay area) where George ate Roscoe's House of Chicken 'n Waffles with Angie Stone, shopped the aisles of Amoeba and caught up with Babyface. If you haven't seen this delightful half hour show, do check it out On Demand (or just tune into Vh1 Soul, they repeat like crazy). Nelson George (pictured above with Goapele from the Bay episode) is awkward on camera, but extremely enthused, and watching him take a trip down memory lane while he digs through vinyl and eats delicious soul food is very enjoyable. And very enviable, may I add. Hosting this show would be my dream gig as it allows a platform for spotlighting my three loves: soul music, meat and record stores.

My only complaint? I wish it was longer.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Growing Pains

I was planning on coming in this morning and penning a post about how ridiculous, how truly beyond disappointing, the Kanye performance on SNL was. It was baffling. But then I saw the fine folks at the Vulture blog beat me to the punch:
Standing in front of a huge plasma screen that made him look like Coldplay's iTunes commercial, he dispensed with the Auto-Tune, improvised new lyrics for "Heartless," and generally sang in a way that would turn even the most well-behaved household pet into an ungovernable killer.
Surf on over there for a clip, if you must. I don't hate the album, but if this is Kanye's new sound (turns out that 808s & Heartbreak is NOT an elaborate practical joke, as I originally assumed), he needs to find a new approach to the live performance.

Kanye Responsible for Funniest SNL Moment in Weeks

Friday, December 12, 2008

Year End Lists: The Two Day Old Specials

Here at 2DOS, we respect the fact that what's newest isn't always best, and that sometimes coming to a record or an artist after their buzz has had some time to wear off a bit can be more rewarding than being the first on the block to rep the latest buzz band. Sometimes the two day old shit is just the hardest stuff out there. Sometimes you have to go as far back as the '50s.

It is with that in mind that we bring you our first in a series of year end lists, this one focusing on albums and songs that returned to heavy rotation after extended time apart this year, or things we discovered behind the curve. Enjoy, and please let us know what you rediscovered during 2008 in the comments.

Isabelle's Picks:
5. Tony! Toni! Toné!'s House of Music
New Jack Swing favorites Tony! Toni! Toné! supply three of my favorite '90s jams on this superb album: "Thinking of You," "Let's Get Down" and "Lovin' You." And DJ Quik's collabo with the Oakland trio is still the blueprint of how R&B/rap duets should roll.

4. Ray Charles' Modern Sounds in Country and Western, Volume Two
Unlike the first installment of Modern Sounds, this volume offers two sides: one gives us schmaltzy string ballads and the other brings the swinging up tempo magic of Brother Ray's take on "You Are My Sunshine" (the fantastic duet with growling powerhouse and Raelette, Margie Hendrix). Although this was never released on CD, the tunes can be found on The Complete Country & Western Recordings: 1959-1986 an awesome Ray box set.

3. D'Angelo's Live at the Cirkus, Stockholm, Sweden
OK, if you are lucky enough to locate this via torrent, eBay (sup Sweden!) or a sketchy Berklee College of Music connection, then thank your lucky lucky lucky stars 'cause this is one of the BEST live albums ever captured. The year is 2000, the tour is the Voodoo extravaganza, ?uestlove is the band leader/musical director, and Pino Palladino is the bass man. Oh, Anthony Hamilton (pre-fame) sings fierce background vocals and the star of the show, D'Angelo, is a force of nature; part James Brown, part Marvin Gaye, a dash of Sly Stone and a shit load of gritty and sexy funk.

2. Camp Lo's Uptown Saturday Night
Look, anybody who has the balls to use Dynasty's "Adventures in the Land of Music" successfully gets my vote. "Luchini AKA This Is It" is a classic and the rest of the blaxploitation love letter album follows suit: "Black Nostaljack AKA Come On" and "Coolie High" feel as if they are straight out of a Pam Grier film, and kudos go to producer Ski (he contributed to Reasonable Doubt). Even the cover is a nod to that special musical time and place, the '70s: it's a direct homage to Marvin Gaye's I Want You album art.

1. Willie Hutch's The Mack: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Speaking of blaxploitation, here is my number one rediscovery. I would like to start off by saying I first saw this legendary 1973 film at the age of 8 (great parenting Deb and James). It's about a pimp and stars Max Julian and Richard Pryor and is set in Oakland. Besides a killer score and soundtrack by Willie Hutch, this film has given us so much culturally: not only did UGK sample the brilliant "I Choose You" for my favorite song "International Players Anthem (I Choose You)" BUT thanks to the classic Annual Players Ball scene in the flick, we got the title for OutKast's first tune and this, the greatest sketch of all time:

Ben's Picks:
5. Voxtrot's self-titled LP
This was one of the buzziest bands of 2007, right? I don’t know, I wasn’t really paying attention. I first heard them at the end of ’07, when the buzz was already starting to subside. But this year, I could not stop listening to the band’s debut self-titled LP. Their early EPs are also very good.

4. Sonic Youth's body of work
This was always a band I was more interested in as a cultural force than musicians. That’s how I came to read Goodbye 20th Century, David Browne's excellent biography of the band that convinced me to give some of their records another chance. The seemingly inevitable drop-off in quality as the band hits their 20-year anniversary is virtually nonexistent: in retrospect, their 2004 LP Sonic Nurse is as great a record as the middle period breakthrough Sister (1987) was. This music is some of the most rewarding in all of alt rock, if you have the discipline to listen to it. That sounds obnoxious, but SY can be like homework in that way.

3. Cloud Cult's Advice From the Happy Hippopotamus and The Meaning of 8
Alright, I had 2006’s Advice From the Happy Hippopotamus on my iTunes for a long time long before I fell in love with Feel Good Ghosts, their latest LP. That new one inspired me to go back and retry both Happy Hippo and 2007’s The Meaning of 8, and now Cloud Cult are truly one of my favorite bands of all time—they strike the fine line between emotionally confessional and totally obnoxious, and between being adventurous and getting lost up your own ass. Also their show this November was the best one I saw all year.

2. The Rentals' Return of the Rentals
Matt Sharp, original bassist for Weezer, recorded debut The Return of The Rentals as a side project, and I never listened to it much til this year. Is it better than the Blue Album? The Blue Album wins by a hair. Is it better than everything Rivers Cuomo and co. have put out since Sharp left the band (after 1996’s Pinkerton)? Most definitely.

1. George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass
So this dropped practically the minute the Beatles called it quits for good, and yet it still remains the greatest solo work by any former Beatle. It didn’t hurt that George had the largest catalog of solo tunes to choose from when the band disbanded, and it definitely doesn’t hurt that the band backing up George on these songs is essentially Derek and the Dominoes, not to mention Billy Preston, and a young Phil Collins (wtf). Okay, Phil Spector’s production is at its most treacly and overdone here, but the songs and the playing are more than strong enough to overcome that fact. Bonus points for “Wah Wah,” one of the greatest shut-up-you-fucking-baby songs of all time.

So, readers, what was it that you came (back) around to over the last year?

This One's a Two Parter

Has anyone been watching Spectacle, the new show on the Sundance Channel hosted by Elvis Costello? To tell you the truth, from the outset I thought it sounded kind of lame, and the ads I see for it on the subway look cheesy and thrown together. I'm not sure why I was worried though, as nearly everything Costello involves himself with is interesting, smart, and intensely enjoyable. Spectacle is no exception. It's like Inside The Actor's Studio, but with established musicians instead of movie stars.

Also, instead of wanting to murder the host, he is one of your personal idols. Okay, maybe not everyone is as stoked on Costello as I am, but he seems to get great interviews out of his guests and the interviews are broken up with plenty of jamming to keep things moving. The Lou Reed episode was especially enlightening; Costello really got the usually closed off artist to open up; the two men really got into the ins and outs of their creative processes, sharing more than a few fascinating stories. At one point Julian Schnabel came out (he directed Lou Reed’s Berlin concert film), but that’s why they invented DVR. I can't wait until next week: guest Bill Clinton. God I hope they jam!

Also: the commercials on Sundance are weird, and long (there's usually only one per break) but they can be kind of good. I know that Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Audioslave) and Timbaland make me want to scream, and the news that they are now collaborating on an album together just sounds completely misguided, but it's kind of interesting seeing them in the studio together during one such ad:

A few random thoughts: first off, those guys are in shape. They totally go to the gym together. And they're working on an hourlong music piece? And now Timbo thinks he is a composer and will be calling himself such. Alright dudes, whatever you say.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Can I get a bottle of fucking gin?!"

Yes, Darnell Martin's Chess Records biopic is riddled with flaws and oversights (like um, mentioning Phil Chess' existence, but the story of the blues is shrouded in mystery and mythic tales, right?) but the good news, and in my opinion, the most important element to any music bio flick REGARDLESS of script, plot and Hollywood romanticism, is that the music is fantastic. Jeffrey Wright (Muddy Waters) gets my "panties off" vote for his rendition of "Hoochie Coochie Man" and Mos Def's duck walk and twangified lilt pay Chuck Berry his proper dues. Columbus Short (Stomp the Yard) goes toe to toe with Wright for the film's best performance, playing the troubled and destined for tragedy harmonica man Little Walter. Do I think Cadillac Records is a good movie? Not really. But is the music worth the fictitious bullshit? Definitely.

Normally, I would be pissed that they had Little Walter die in Muddy Waters' girlfriend's arms, the only woman who ever cared (when in reality he died in his sleep at the home of one of his own girlfriends), but that's movie magic at it's heart string tugging best. Leonard Chess was NEVER as big of a babe as Adrian Brody played him and his never consummated (except for a passionate make out post an OD) deep love for Etta has never been substantiated. Trite and trumped up for story sake, but who knows, maybe there is an ounce of truth to the romantic notion; after all, Chess really did deed Etta's house back to her right before he died of a heart attack (he had it put in his name so she wouldn't lose it). But nevertheless, when he is holding a heroin addled Etta in his arms in her empty house (which was about to get repo'd) you can cut the sexual tension with a large imaginary knife (side note: Beyoncé's performance as a drug addicted Etta is great, nervous junkie sway and everything. When she mumbles "he fucked up my hair" after Muddy shoves her under the bathtub faucet to wake up, I realized that B's chance of being a real actress is greater than most give her credit for).

I mean, if you want to know the real story of Chess, check out the BBC's The Chess Records Story, which is narrated by Marshall Chess, Leonard's son. Did I feel Q-Tip's cameo as a contemporary rapper who uses the blues as the foundation for his music necessary? No. But then again, neither was the choice to cast the doe eyed and painfully boring Emmanuelle Chriqui as Revetta Chess, Leonard's long suffering wife (bummed that Etta gets all her hubby's attention AND he leaves mid-anniversary love making session to rush to OD'd Etta's side).

Some people are annoyed that the film doesn't use original recordings and the criticism is often aimed at Beyoncé Knowles, who co-executive produced the film (she donated her entire paycheck to a rehab center) because people are cry babies and are offended on Etta's behalf or something. A lot of "but Angela didn't sing Tina's songs when she played her" comments are floating around, but guess what? Angela Bassett can't sing the way Beyoncé can, and this next bit came as a shock even to me, who loves and respects Ms. Knowles: not only are her versions of "I'd Rather Go Blind" and "At Last," the number one wedding song of all time, chill inducing, but I like them BETTER than the originals. Blasphemy, you say! Get the villagers and the torches! Meet me in the internets' town square with those torches and I will tell you to fuck off because if you don't feel the grit and genuine blues in Beyoncé's voice when she snarls the line "something deep down in my soul said cry girl, when I saw you and that girl walking around" then you don't get the blues. The blues, the mother tongue of all popular American music, is about interpretation. Stories and emotions handed down orally. And Beyoncé's version of James' classics do more than honor and respect the originals, they become their own in the most organic and emotive way possible. So. Go for the explosive musical performances, stay for Beyoncé screaming "can I get a bottle of fucking gin?!" in an empty restaurant after her (white and supposedly, pool player Rudolph "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone), birth father refuses to admit paternity.

And guess what? A.O. Scott agrees:

“Cadillac Records” would be worth seeing for the music alone. Mr. Wright’s renditions of Muddy Waters’s signature songs are more than respectable, while Ms. Knowles’s interpretations of Ms. James’s hits — “At Last” and “I’d Rather Go Blind,” in particular — are downright revelatory.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Scrub It Clean, Spit It Back Out

"I happen to know for a fact that she was an American version of me. She was signed by my label in America as, 'We need to find something controversial and kooky like Lily Allen.'" —Lily Allen on Katy Perry

This explains a lot. I don't see the similarity all that much, unless I put on my major label executive goggles, in which case it makes perfect sense. Those are also the goggles that make Duffy look like Amy Winehouse.

Incidentally, does anyone know why Lily Allen talks so much shit on her label? I love her first record, and her second one should be pretty good (I like the first video), but as far as I'm concerned she should be thanking her lucky stars (and MySpace, and Mark Ronson) that she got signed to a deal in the first place.

via [Vulture]

Gho$tface Releases... Something

Can we take a moment to talk about this album title and cover artwork?

GhostDeini the Great. And you will note that Ghost is now spelling his name with a dollar sign.


(Seriously though, you know I love you, Ghost. I have a poster of you cutting open an enormous fish in my cubicle, after all. And I have nothing but respect for an artist who has put out something like a half dozen records in the last five years while some of his peers struggle to get out even one.)

Audio: Ghostface Killah "Slept On Tony" [okayplayer.]

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Getting Down in London and Paris

Otis Redding was one of the greatest soul singers who ever lived, and his untimely death (he was only 26 years old when his plane crashed) is one of the tragedies of popular music. With such a short recording career, there are not too many albums of Redding's work to be had, although there are at least a dozen greatest hits collections. Well, there's a new record to add to the essential Redding listening, released this month by the Concord Music Group's recently revived Stax imprint. Live in London and Paris is a CD containing two sets from the spring of 1967, when Otis was on the road in Europe as part of the Stax/Volt Revue tour. His backing bands here are none other than Booker T. and the MG's and the Mar-Keys, another fantastic Stax backing band. The first set, from London, comprises 8 tunes with originals ("Respect," "Try A Little Tenderness") and some key covers ("(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," "Day Tripper") thrown in for good measure. The songs differ greatly from their studio versions, with the energy level amped up to 11, but what is truly amazing is how the Paris set, comprising the same 8 tunes plus 3 extras, also differ greatly from the previous versions on the same album. Just hearing the Booker T. Jones play behind Redding's introduction to "Try A Little Tenderness" is worth the price of admission alone. All in all, this could be the best reissue I've heard all year. If you have any interest in the man, pick up a copy of Otis Redding: Live in London and Paris. Giving us half the album, just one of these sets, would be short but worth it; the fact that they're both on there is not only added value but also ups the historical value of the release to nerds like me. Even better, you can get it from the link below at eMusic, the preferred online music retailer of 2DOS.

Otis Redding: Live in London and Paris [eMusic]

Grammy Nominations announced, I continue watching Top Chef reruns

The 2009 Grammy Awards Nominations list was announced today. Not that it really matters or anything, because getting a Grammy is now the equivalent of getting the "Most Unique" award in junior high: pointless, slightly embarrassing and about as special as a gold star on your social studies essay on hunter gatherers. Say what you will about the film industry and their award shows, at least they have certain accolades that still mean something. I mean, I know there is no point in getting my panties in a twist about Lil' Wayne's eight (yes, you read that correctly) nods, but I think it's epically fucked up that the Jonas Brothers and fucking Duffy are in the Best New Artist category and Estelle (who is nominated for "American Boy") is not. And Best Album of the Year is like a slap in the face to good taste: Coldplay, Weezy and Ne-Yo all earned a spot while the Rev. Al Green, who had quite possibly one of the greatest albums ever, gets a conciliatory Best R&B Album bone thrown in his legendary and magnificent direction. And forget about ?uestlove's Producer of the Year wish. That honor will probably go to or Nigel Godrich (interestingly enough, Godrich has one produced album he is considered for, In Rainbows, while all the other nominees in that category have at least three) and maybe the engineers who worked on Lay It Down can get the Best Engineered Album award, which is an honor; but only a handful of music nerds (Hi, nice to meet you, my name is Isabelle and my favorite guitar arpeggio this year came from the late Spanky Alford) and audio engineers actually pay attention to that category. And if I'm not mistaken, it probably gets the rolling credit style mention that the Best Tejano Album gets. Oh, and by the way, Katy Perry was nominated, because it's really funny to pretend you're a little bit gay.

Well, the good news is that my new favorite Philly jawn Jazmine Sullivan got a few kudos and veteran producer and singer Raphael Saadiq got some respect for his very good album, The Way I See It. Also, Janelle Monae's dope tune, "Many Moons" was shown some love.

But I think the real underdog story of the 51st Annual Grammy Awards is Wayne Brady. I mean, his cover of "A Change is Gonna Come" is just SO soulful. And thanks for nominating Nas' song "Nigger (The Slave and the Master)." It's always good to reward once decent artists for being boringly provocative for the sake of attention/the opportunity to argue with Bill O'Reilly.