Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ten Albums I Liked This Year

I know I know I know, I already said I hate top ten lists and I do! But I was one of 1,500 i*l*l*u*s*t*r*i*o*u*s music journalists asked to submit a top ten for the Village Voice's poll, so I bit the bullet and put one together in hopes that Rob Harvilla who I think is probably the music editor at the Voice (and if not is at least someone important) will see my picks and go, "Oh my God, Jason Simms, you have such amazing taste! Would you like to write a weekly column about the best underground bands in the country, for, say, $1000 dollars a week?"

OK before you can stomp all over my dreams, I'm going to deafen you with the sound of my amazing top ten!

10. These Arms Are Snakes - Tail Swallower and Dove.

9. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Real Emotional Trash. Honestly, I really didn't know the first thing about Malkmus until I was assigned to write about him. I'm glad that happened though because I like this album and when I listen to it, it sort of feels like an album that I made, which I gather is the appeal for a lot of people.

8. Jaguar Love - Take Me to the Sea. I know several critics who hate this album and this band. Fuck 'em. Johnny Whitney is a genius with a unique and bizarre world view. This album is pure fun and a great way to follow up his more seriously strange career with Blood Brothers.

7. Dirty Mittens - Pinky Swear

6. The Rainy States - In Basement Air. I really wish the lyrics were intelligible on this album. I would know them all now if they were. Instead I just hum along this sweet and tuneful Portland indie band which sounds like Elliott Smith when the clouds part and it's raining and sunny at the same time.

5. Blue Giant - Target Heart. Two things happened in 2008 that made me proud to be an American for the first time ever. Barack Obama and this band.

4. White Fang - Pure Evil. I feel like this is one of those albums that people are going to look back on and realize it founded a new kind of core.

3. PWRFL POWER - PWRFL POWER. This album is so self-conscious and hilarious that Pitchfork hated it. They had to--it somehow manages to call out everything they represent with sweet, awkward love songs. But the reason this album is great is its frequent and innovative use of noise in a singer-songwriter format.

2. Mr. Gnome - Deliver This Creature. Versatile, emotional drumming, and an elemental female voice are just two reasons this Cleveland two piece got some decent media attention this year. 2009 is going to be their year.

1. Trees - Lights Bane. This album is all punishment, no reward. There is no rhythm. There is no melody. The most structured element is the unforgettable witch's growl. Yet, it is probably my most listened to album of the year. I have it on both CD and vinyl.

Image: Lenny from Trees.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Evelyn Benson's 90th Birthday Party

On Thursday, when it becomes '09, Evelyn Benson will hit the big 9-0. I interviewed this skydiving, waitressing great-grandmother for
this story earlier this year, so she invited me to her birthday party today at the Refectory in outer Northeast Portland (which is oddly where I first saw this GNR tribute that I wrote about in 2006).

I stood out a little as the youngest person there by a about 30 years. But I had a good time and got to visit with a couple of sources from this story I wrote last year about the neighborhood where Evelyn lives. Apparently the area has gotten a little better over the last year.

Before we had lunch there were a few speeches about Evelyn and one of them mentioned that she likes to come to the Refectory and flirt with guys and then take them out to see her car. I thought it was a joke, but by the time I left I gathered it wasn't--apparently she removes some magnets that say how old she is before brings the boys out!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tail Swallower and Dove

Tomorrow's Oregonian will have a story I wrote on These Arms Are Snakes, a story which jumps through several hoops not to use the phrase "post hardcore," a term that I think sells the band short, but is certainly convenient.

I was very qualified to write this story because I've been following the band since their inception. But it also made it tough to write, since I wouldn't let myself get away with anything I didn't think was totally accurate.

As always with A&E, the edit was really gentle and smooth. I had thought about ending it where it does, but sent in another couple of sentences that didn't make print. It takes the edge off that last quote in case you were rolling your eyes or considering suicide: "That almost sounds like something Marilyn Manson would say, but it means more coming from Snere, whose performances and music are in no way a caricature, but rather, an honest, complete expression."

Photo by Christine Unten from TAASpace.

Monday, December 1, 2008

In Praise of Lord Stephen the Marquis de Colbert

The Colbert Report website has a call for bands to submit covers of the show's theme song featuring the sweet graphic seen above. So far there are only two (2, count 'em) legitimate entries. Probably because you have to register to see the contest page and you have to submit through an obscure video portal called Viddler. Anyway, it seems the odds of this video or at least a split second of it appearing on Comedy Central are pretty good, but you saw it here first!