Friday, January 29, 2010

It's 2018. Do You Know Where Your Democracy Is?

Last week, the Supreme Court awarded an inanimate object—business—the rights of a human being. The upshot is that this entity now has the ability to exert unlimited influence on elections.

Taken to its logical extreme, last Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling could reduce the US to a corporate-run business state. Only the appearance of a democracy will remain. PR and image are still important, regardless of the truth. Or perhaps because of it.

The scene is 2018. The setting is the office of Tom Politician, incumbent senator. He has just received a visitor, a henchman from the Deity Group known as Jack Business.


TP: Jack.

JB: Tom.

TP: What can I do for you?

JB: You know what you can do for me, Tom.

Tom winces a bit, pauses.

TP: The public was on me. I had to throw ‘em a bone.

JB: Is that the best you can do?

TP: They were watching me. I had to do something.

JB: This is a very disturbing trend, Tom.

TP: It was just one vote.

JB: That’s not why we back you.

TP: I had no choice!

Jack says nothing, and circles Tom’s office slowly. He lets the silence weigh on Tom.

JB: You always have a choice.

Tom sighs, runs his hand through his hair.

JB: We require complete compliance. And now we feel like we didn’t get what we needed from you. And that makes us angry.

TP: I've removed labor statutes. I've dissolved regulatory agencies. Consumer protections don’t exist anymore. I've derailed greenhouse gases legislation and sidetracked clean energy initiatives. I’ve done everything you asked. Jesus Christ! You guys can sell poison and call it chocolate milk and no one can do a damn thing about it! What the hell do you want?

JB: You have done a good job for us, Tom. And that’s why we’re so disappointed.

TP: I can’t vote the way you want one-hundred percent of the time. I’m being watched.

JB: By who?

TP: The public!

JB: They’re nothing to worry about. You know that.

TP: You don’t understand. They know what’s going on.

JB: This isn’t a debate, Tom. Vote the way we tell you to or you’ll have a very well-funded opponent next election.

TP: You don’t get it, Jack. This isn’t 2010 anymore. The VR games, the five-hundred channels of 3D permeable video don’t mean anything to them. They know what happened, and they're angry. You forget that I hear them. Uncensored.

JB: This is a bad time to get a conscience Tom.

TP: Look, don’t listen to me. But I’m telling you—something’s going on. They’ve figured you out.

JB: Soft control would only last so long. We knew that. It’s evolution. It’s inevitable. And we’re prepared. Our social engineers are preparing new controls now.

TP: So everything’s fine, eh?

JB: The question you need to ask is what side you want to be on. Controlling or controlled?

TP: Every empire has its rise and fall.

JB: Been reading the history books again?

TP: Maybe you should take a look at one sometime. What goes up, must come down.

JB: I’m glad you understand that, Tom. We’ll be in touch.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Can I Tell You Something, Mr. President?

Dear Mr. President,

I have to confess—you are a mystery to me. A conundrum wrapped in an enigma. You ran one of the more inspiring campaigns in recent memory, yet your presidency thus far has been a confusing and contradictory one.

Following in the disastrous wake of the Bush administration, you have too-often sought Republican approval; even after the electorate made it clear they wanted a clean break from Republicans and Republican policies. Even after Republicans have repeatedly made it clear they had no intention whatsoever of siding with you on anything, you have continued to solicit their support.

The latest example is your tragically-flawed proposal of freezing government spending. Tell me Mr. President: Isn’t the spending freeze instituted by anxious consumers over the past sixteen months proof-enough this does not work? That this is a very bad idea? If not to appease Republican critics, exactly what is the reason for this?

The goal of bipartisanship you cited during your inauguration was a noble one. It is one likely beyond criticism. The ugly truth is this, Mr. President: You could have invented sex, and Republicans would only say they got screwed. Once and for all: Republicans are not your friends.

But that’s only the beginning.

There’s the wayward mess that are congressional Democrats. I’m wondering if they could agree on how many shoes human beings wear, much less on how to best govern a nation listing like a sinking ship. You’re the boss, Mr. President. You're the coach. Congressional Democrats are your team.

You need to grab your players by the scruff of the neck and tell them the facts of political life: “Listen up. You’re going to the sacrificial altar of re-election before I am. You want to come back to your cushy government job? Or do you want to go back to cranking out billable hours and negotiating settlements for people too stupid to know coffee is hot?

You want this job back, we need to get to work. We need to pass meaningful health care reform. Not your reform, or your reform, or your reform. Our reform. We need to show the country we’re not Wall Street’s bitch. Or the bank’s. And we need to expose Republicans for the sorry, reality-TV rejects they are.

If we don’t, we’re all going home. Going home as losers who couldn’t cut it in DC. And we’ll leave the country to those circus freaks on the other side of the aisle. The ones who think leadership is acting like a six-year-old who's just been told he can't go out and play because he didn't finish his vegetables.

Gentlemen, the choice is yours. Which do you prefer?”

There’s an old expression that you dance with them that brung ya. Well Mr. President, it’s time to remember.


Best Regards,

La Piazza Gancio

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lost Causes

It’s no accident that I’m a Cub fan. Or a fan of bands like the Mekons, who with all the commercial appeal of sandpaper toothbrushes, were forced to nurture record deals like cavemen did embers in cold, dark caves.

I also cottoned enthusiastically to the Pepper Jack Doritos which were recently yanked from production by Frito-Lay, and to the Iguana Foods chile rellenos CostCo no longer sees fit to devote freezer space to.

I rooted for the Arizona Cardinals in last year’s Super Bowl. I voted for Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis. And in my youth, I wanted to start a record label called St. Jude Records.

In other words, I’m really good at finding lost causes. I gravitate to them. Or maybe it’s the other way ‘round. While disliking salmon, I instinctively swim upstream in my pursuit of embracing the unpopular and hoping for the impossible.

This would probably be a good time to announce I’m also a Democrat. It has finally dawned on me that this is the political equivalent of being a Cub fan. And a Mekons fan. And all that other stuff I mentioned. It is part of a pattern.

In 2006, Republicans threatened to kill the filibuster if Democrats didn't withdrawal their opposition to Bush Supreme Court appointee John Roberts. In exchange for letting the filibuster live, Democrats swallowed their opposition to Roberts and approved his nomination.

Seen through the lens of 2010, it is an irony of epic proportions. It’s on the scale of Michael Jackson’s 2009 CD sales. Or my employment gap. It's huge. Enormous. Titanic. It's staggering to realize both owe their existence to Democrats.

Imagine our current crop of congressional Republicans without the threat of the filibuster. Or the Supreme Court without John Roberts. Congressional Republicans would only be the noisy eunuchs they are, while John Roberts would be issuing his judgments in an arena where collateral damage was limited.

It’s sowing the seeds of your own destruction on par with the 1969 and 2003 Cubs. Or more appropriately, Tiger Woods. And I haven’t even heard Obama’s State of the Union speech.

Given a choice between inept Democrats and obstructionist Republicans, I’ll take the Pepper Jack Doritos.

Continuity

In a world that becomes more unrecognizable every day, there is a certain comfort in the realization that some things are as eternal as sunrise and Lego. I speak of the recently-announced Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) fare-hikes and service cuts (the latter of which was cunningly announced after the fare-hikes were approved).

One of the things I relished most about Chicago was its largely-functional network of buses and trains, which allowed you to navigate the city without the hassle and expense of finding a place to store your car at the end of a trip.

Even in the eighties and early-nineties, parking a car was an expensive and time-consuming proposition. The uncluttered ease of arriving at a destination sans automobile was one of life’s small joys. As was catching up on reading and sleep on the way home.

Sadly, the CTA is probably the best argument against government-run health care in the nation.

Here is a government entity with a virtual monopoly on public transportation in a metropolitan area of eight million people, yet one which seemingly needs an inhaler at the mere mention of black ink.

In the hyphen-happy language of the digital age, the CTA is profit-averse.

Unless you’re one of the unfortunate folks waiting at a slushy bus stop on a grey morning with a wind chill index of about ten, it’s almost the stuff of a Coen Brothers movie, with red ink replacing the blood.

It would be understandable if their monopoly were on curling equipment rentals. Or public appearances by nineties boy band 98 Degrees. But public transportation? In a metropolitan area recently named the third-most congested in the nation? Please.

I suspect the CTA is top-heavy, encrusted with dozens and dozen of politically-expedient appointees who draw six-figure salaries for being able to show up at the same address five days in a row, and not much more.

And like our domestic automobile manufacturers, the CTA has perhaps been a tad too generous to its unionized employees.

The CTA rolls out its bi-annual argument that ridership is declining. But to anyone who’s ever waited on a subway platform, or stood in line at a bus stop only to stand on a bus, this argument is unconvincing.

More likely, the CTA is one of the city’s few remaining profit centers, and CTA patrons are paying-off Mayor Daley’s civic excesses, which include his bungled (and very expensive) Olympic bid.

Just when it's needed most, Chicago's public transportation is disappearing. And like so much else, this impacts the poor disproportionately. At the current rate, you have to wonder how much CTA riders will be paying to go nowhere at all.

Which, when you think about it, sounds like the CTA itself.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It's 2010. And 1984.

The legacy of the Bush administration—its Supreme Court appointees—reared its ugly head today and removed the final barrier standing between corporations and complete control of the United States of America.

By declaring that limits on the amount of money corporations could spend on political campaigns were a violation of their first amendment rights, all limits were removed in a five to four decision announced this afternoon by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Tea-baggers should be dancing in the street. The government they despise will soon exist in name only. The government that so rudely butted into their lives by regulating greedy and irresponsible corporations, establishing schools that educated their children, and which provided state-funded care for their elderly and ill is gone.

To say nothing of that which maintained the pesky inconvenience known as democracy.

In its place will be a corporate state revolving around the pure and unfettered free-market capitalism Republicans—tea-stained or not—have been ruining mattresses over for decades.

I stand in awe.

But I have questions. That is, if it’s still okay to ask them.

Number one: Exactly when did corporations become people? And in this world of no-holds-barred corporate rule, how long it will be before corporations decide that paid vacations are an unnecessary intrusion into their profit margins?

How long it will be before corporations opine that health insurance is a waste of valuable capital? And tell me how long it will be before wages are deemed a needless extravagance now that a glutinous, self-centered entity like business wields utter and complete control?

How long will it be before corporations tell you who to vote for? And that what remains of your job depends on your compliance? Do you really believe business wouldn't go that far?

Why?

Say hello to 1984, my friends. Only big brother will be Halliburton—not the Party.

I am made speechless by this decision.

Have we learned nothing by the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which let the slobbering pigs in our financial and banking sectors free to do whatever they wished, with our gutted carcass of an economy the result?

Left unchallenged, this is the beginning of the end.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Acting White

If nothing else, Milwaukee is rich in racial tension. The divide between blacks and whites is palpable. I’ve encountered hostile clerks in stores who plainly resent waiting on white folk. I’ve felt the heat of their glares and been the object of their contempt.

Likewise, I’ve seen the withering looks whites cast upon blacks. I've listened to whites complain bitterly about blacks and their effects on crime and housing and employment. But neither side has a monopoly. Like checkers and war, racial divides take two.

I wish I were an exception. But I struggle hourly to resist tagging an entire population with an unpleasant epithet based on the actions of a few. I live behind a multi-family housing unit seemingly bent on living down to every negative stereotype whites hold towards blacks.

The incessant rumble of hip-hop from car stereos, drunken parking lot pugilists and four AM rides who announces their presence with a car horn over and over again do little to foster a good night’s sleep, much less understanding and tolerance.

Yet I feel empathy when I read that unemployment among inner-city black males stands at fifty-percent. Or of another fatal shooting between warring gangs. Or the pathetic story of a desperate single mother with no alternative but to leave her infant in the care of an addict because she had to go to work or lose her job.

2009 has given me a great big taste of what it’s like to be black. As an over-forty male, I belong to a group that has absorbed more than its share of job loss. I have been marginalized. I am invisible. The frustration and the rage are incessant. The world’s primary interest in me is monetary. And if I don’t have any, I should just fuck off.

It is a struggle to keep hope alive. It is a struggle to resist mood-altering substances. (Never mind Spicy Nacho Doritos.) It is a struggle to believe there’s a difference between looking for work and not looking for work, despite the abundant evidence to the contrary.

Being poor and unemployed is hard.

So when I hear the worst elements of black society dictating behavior and beliefs, it saddens me. It saddens me because I'm beginning to understand downtrodden. I'm beginning to understand being kicked when you're down.

Gangsters call getting an education acting white. As they do anything beyond being a street thug or a dealer. Success is white. Unless of course you play professional basketball or football or your name is Jay Z, Beyonce or Lil’ Wayne. That kind of success apparently isn't too threatening to gangsters.

Imagine the fall-out if I—as a white man—had condemned an entire population to such a narrow and unflattering definition. We would have needed bomb shelters—and rightly so. It’s demeaning and pathetic and a cultural death sentence the Klu Klux Klan itself would applaud. Wildly.

So why is it when gangsters tell blacks not to snitch, they comply? Why is it when gangsters point a finger at an office manager or an accountant or even a president and say they’re not black-enough, they’re listened to?

What isn’t black about being a doctor? What isn't black about being a department manager? Isn’t that uncomfortably close to what the good folk of Mississippi and Alabama and Georgia used to believe? That black people just weren’t good for much?

I’ve got more problems than an arithmetic text, and more issues than National Geographic. But in the music of black culture I found a mirror of my own struggles as a misfit. It was medicine, and it helped me. So when I see the culture responsible for that music embrace this destructive lowest common denomenator, it bothers me.

It’s a troubling irony that those who most need to look up are looking down.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fighting Back

I’ve been waiting to see the money shoveled into the yawning orifices of America’s corporate banks returned to taxpayers in the form of increased lending.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the recovery: it hasn’t happened.

Those gosh-darn banks kept the money for themselves. Can you imagine?

God knows there’s not enough to go around. Even Wells-Fargo CEO John Stumpf indicated as much through his observation that the minimum wage is just too high, and needs to be lowered. How’s a poor CEO supposed to feed his family when he’s paying the rabble manning his counters nine-dollars an hour?

I mean, where are our priorities?

Since our fine and upstanding corporate banks have decided to follow the lead of our just-say-no congressional Republicans, it’s time we make the ultimate bank withdrawal and move our money to banks that care.

Those would be neighborhood banks, whose first priority is usually re-investing in the community, rather than in their CEOs and executive boards.

If you’re any kind of lover, you know it’s only right to take care of your partner. To pleasure him or her as you’ve been pleasured. And as lovers, American consumers have been woefully negligent. We have selfishly and wantonly stolen our bank's love without so much as lifting a finger in reciprocation.

And that needs to change.

With this in mind, I suggest we respond in kind. That we love our corporate banks as they have loved us. Vigorously. Thoroughly. Passionately.

We took care of Wall Street. We took care of our behemoth banks. Then we took care of our automakers. Now it’s time to take care of ourselves.

If we don't, no one else will.

Visit moveyourmoney.info for more information.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Profiling

Liberals are upset that proposed security measures for people boarding flights in the Middle East will subject them to ‘profiling’. In other words, these policies could victimize Middle Eastern populations by making them the objects of racism.

One-hundred percent of airplane-related terrorist acts have originated in the Middle East. Yet applying more-stringent security measures there and no where else is racist. Is that correct?

Presumably, the answer is to apply our boundless financial and physical resources equally throughout the globe, if only to avoid the appearance of profiling. Heighten our presence in al Qaeda hot spots like New Zealand, Mongolia and Switzerland.

Okay. Got it. And yes, I’d like fries with that.

If a woman has her purse ripped from her shoulder by a male of a certain appearance, is she sexist or racist if she holds her purse a little tighter when approached by individuals matching the description of the thief, or is she a sentient human being applying the knowledge of experience?

If a store clerk apprehends half-a-dozen people for shoplifting, is he biased if he watches people matching their description more-closely, or is he applying what he has learned through past events?

Terrorism and war are ugly. They are humanity at its worst. Life's sad constant. But to suggest we're racist in our pursuit of a threat that originates in a specific part of the world amongst a specific population is insane.

And in 1944, I suppose these same critics would have pursued Nazis in Bangladesh.

Please. Spare me.

There’s enough genuine racism in the world. We don't need to manufacture it.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My Favorite Songs of 2009

If choosing your favorite albums from the year just ended is difficult, imagine choosing your favorite songs. Figure ten songs a disc, multiply that by two or three dozen and kaboom! You’ve several hundred songs to somehow pare down.

On the other hand, what else am I going to do? Go to work?

1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs—Zero Nothing like a dance floor thumper, is there? “Zero” features a beat so large and a strutting synth line so insistent even the most-inhibited wallflower can’t help but be drawn to the dance floor. Karen O’s idiosyncratic vocals are just a bonus. I didn’t dance nearly enough in 2009, yet I shared the planet with this. Go figure.

2. Now—Song This propulsive epic gets The Hepadaboo off to a flying start. It’s the sound of Kraftwerk hitting the dance floor. Robo-vocals ride a metronomic beat as synth lines weave in and out, driving “Song” to its satisfying—if somewhat subdued—climax. You’ll want to revel in this Teutonic-inspired tuneage in the hushed confines of a Mercedes doing one-fifty on an empty Interstate.

3. Girls—Summertime The thing about rock music is that it’s the great leveler. It doesn’t matter if you’re some adenoidal dude with really thick glasses who’s allergic to sunlight and who makes twenty-something actresses look muscular. If you can come up with the kind of licks Christopher Owens did for “Summertime”, you’re John Holmes in everything but name.

4. The Avett Brothers—I and Love and You Poignant lyrics are best-served by a poignant melody, and the Avett Brothers succeed on both counts here. The song rises and falls like the protagonist’s confidence, underscored by some truly nifty organ playing. I’d wager many of you reading this would put it at number one. It’s that good.

5. The Veils—Sit Down By the Fire When I heard this in a Big Lots or the supermarket (I don’t remember which), I wondered if the world could actually be cool-enough to serenade me with the Veils while I shopped for kitty litter. Then a cashier got on the PA and asked for a price check.

6. Camera Obscura—Honey In the Sun This bittersweet album-closer pretty much sums up all that is good about Camera Obscura and My Maudlin Career. Sunny musically with partly-cloudy lyrics expected to pass by mid-song. This is Duffy after she’s been ‘round the block a time or two.

7. Crocodiles—I Wanna Kill Remember the Knickerbockers’ mid-sixties Beatles cop “Lies”? How it was so good it was almost better than the real thing? Same thing here, only the names have changed to Crocodiles and the Jesus & Mary Chain. Pretty damn cool—in an inspired copycat kinda way.

8. The Noisettes—24 Hours Ignore the misleading band name and concentrate on Shingai Shoniwa’s voice, and its peculiar resemblance to Billie Holiday’s. She puts it to good use in this story of a hook-up with separation issues. After hearing this, I dare suggest you’ll have separation issues, too.

9. Built to Spill—Good Ol’ Boredom Sometimes? I just want to rock. And that means guitar-driven songs. Built to Spill’s Brett Nelson is nothing if not indie rock’s leading guitar-epic architect. His riff-driven yet stately fretboard excursions are the stuff of dreams for guys too young to remember Neil Young and Crazy Horse. And even for some that do.

10. Camera Obscura—French Navy This is a percolating and buoyant ode to here today, gone tomorrow lovers. At the risk of being redundant and obnoxious, I once again pay homage to Ms. Tracyanne Campbell and quote her forthwith: “You make me go woo with the thing that you do.” Indeed.

Friday, January 1, 2010

My Favorite CDs of 2009

I shouted it from the rooftops. “2009 is OVER!” The joy and the relief were tangible. I survived. Nothing like the promise of a new year, is there?

For reasons that are obvious, I wasn’t as familiar with pop music as I should have (and wanted to be) in 2009. But a couple of dozen releases still found their way into my hands, many of them quite good.

Unlike years past, there wasn’t a clear-cut list-topper. Nothing like Solomon Burke’s Don’t Give Up on Me or Cat Power's The Greatest. It was more of a log-jam, really.

But I was out there in my flannel shirt nimbly stepping from log to log with my trusty log harpoon (what are those long pointy things lumberjacks use, anyway?) and have successfully unclogged the logs. The cold, wet feet are only a small price to pay for bringing order to my (and perhaps your) world.

1. Now—The Hepadaboo I’m an all day sucker for synth pop. The sort practiced in the early-eighties by OMD and Depeche Mode. Ten years later, Stereolab elevated the form, integrating elements from German bands like Can and Kraftwerk. But after Stereolab’s decent into lounge music hell, the genre was essentially DOA.

So when I hit upon this, and the eleven-minute opener “Song”, I nearly wet myself. Despite being together since 1998, Now have just two albums to their credit. But this London-based collective makes them count. The Hepadaboo was the freshest-sounding music of 2009.

Check the pulsating “Song” and the charmingly off-kilter “Last”, which strangely enough, is the album’s closer.

2. Built to Spill—There Is No Enemy The title is a seeming benediction, coming as it did, post-Bush. And the music within often reflects that relief, drifting contentedly like a tube raft down a river on a steaming summer afternoon as Idaho-based Built to Spill work fiddle, brass and pedal steel guitar into their oeuvre.

But that doesn’t mean Built to Spill have gone soft. There Is No Enemy boasts several barbed-wire confections that will have you reaching for the volume knob. There’s more to dig in Idaho than just potatoes.

Check the speeding ticket invitation that is “Good Ol’ Boredom” and the questioning “Hindsight”.

3. Camera Obscura—My Maudlin Career This winsome Scottish quintet followed-up their 2006 breakthrough Let’s Get Out of This Country with another winning effort. It might take several listens for My Maudlin Career to sink in, but once it does it nearly requires a court order to evict.

Tracyanne Campbell’s vocal delivery is fetching, and the band’s understated playing makes this a textbook of all that is good about Scottish pop. To quote the estimable Ms. Campbell, “You make me go woo with the thing that you do.”

Check “Honey in the Sun”, "French Navy" and the should-have-been hit single “Swans”.

4. The Avett Brothers—I and Love and You The Avett Brothers have been at it for some time, which if nothing else proves they mean it. Like the Band, the Avett Brothers ooze a sort of plain-spoken sincerity that is tough not to like. Scott and Seth Avett’s voices sound like letters that have been read and re-read many times; they're creased and a little worn.

The piano-based compositions are sparingly adorned with guitars, drums, horns and fiddle, which only adds to their resonance. Hard to understand how they’ve remained under radar so long.

Check the haunting title track and “Incomplete and Insecure”.

5. Booker T.—Potato Hole I was suspicious, too. Another sixties relic trying to recapture the glory of a long-ago prime. But that opinion dissolved about half-way through “Native New Yorker”. This is the sort of groove-based, in-the-pocket music that makes a perfect soundtrack for a party. It’s not pretty, glossy, or fashionable. It’s just good.

Potato Hole will have you bobbing your head and smiling in surrender to its undeniable mojo. And the recast of Outkast’s “Hey Ya” is a ball.

Check either of the aforementioned. Now.

6. The Veils—Sun Gangs I don’t know why Finn Andrews’ voice isn’t on the list of World Heritage sites, but it should be. Like all great voices, it’s a place. And to hear it ride the rising tide of “Sit down by the Fire” is a treat. Sun Gangs would’ve made a brilliant EP as it bogs down a bit in spots.

But if “Begin Again’s” chorus of “We’re just following the light of long dead stars” isn’t the sound of 2009, I don’t know what is.

Check the fervor of “Sit down by the Fire” and the solemn contemplation of the title track.

7. Deer Tick—Born on Flag Day At their best, Deer Tick infuse their roadhouse C&W with a Lynyrd Skynyrd-sized dose of rawk guitar and all the right rough edges. The line between inspired rough edges and annoying ones is very fine, and Deer Tick mostly stay on the inspired side. Which is why Born on Flag Day appears here.

Check the fiery album-opener “Easy” and the fiddle-fired sway of “Smith Hill”.

8. Girls—Album When Album is good, it’s very, very good. And when it’s not, it’s not. Songs like “Summertime”, “Ghost Mouth” and “Lust for Life” (which isn’t that “Lust for Life”) are among the year’s best tuneage.

But some of what’s left veers dangerously close to generic nerdy geek Jesus & Mary Chain-sourced indie rock. Wait. Can I do that over?

Anyway, check the pale-virgin-on-a-beach laments of “Summertime” and “Laura” and anything else mentioned here by name.

9. The Noisettes—Wild Young Hearts Not the all-girl band of atonal thrashers their name suggests, London’s Noisettes bring a little something extra to the party—melody, texture and stylistic variety. There was a hint of it on their 2007 debut What’s the Time Mr. Wolf?, and it explodes on Wild Young Hearts.

The jazz-folk of “Atticus”, the cinematic breadth of album-closer "Cheap Kicks" and the pure pop of “24 Hours” makes it clear there’s more than one color on the Noisettes palate.

Check “Atticus” and “24 Hours”.

10. The Flaming Lips—Embryonic It’s been a really long time since I listened to a Flaming Lips album. Ever since they polished away the quirk and the inspired weirdness for 1999’s The Soft Bulletin. I know fans and expectations can be straitjackets, and I’m likely one for saying I’m glad the quirk and the inspired weirdness are back.

It’s just that the Lips are so damn good at it. Embryonic is the best thing to come out of Oklahoma since Laura’s blog about her Dad.

Check “Convinced Of the Hex” and “Watching the Planets”.


Honorable Mentions:

Moon Soundtrack
The Dirty Projectors—Bitte Orca
Yeah Yeah Yeahs—It’s Blitz!
XX—XX
The Dead Weather—Horehound
Papercuts—You Can Have What You Want