Here's a short list of artists I've been listening to over the last week or so. Click for additional stats on what else I like lately.

On the upstairs porch, at the Mansion on Judges Hill, Austin, TX, 11/9/07. Lonestar beer is the local swill, and is comparable to a Pabst, Stroh's, etc.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Year-End: Best Songs

So far, LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends" has claimed the coveted indie-site crowns, winning best song on Pitchfork's poll, as well as Stylus (may the latter site rest in peace). I have to agree with both -- "All My Friends" is the best song I've heard all year, hands down. Click play to the right, and listen.

This could perhaps be the only "Song of the Year" candidate to ever feature a single piano chord throughout. Most critics concentrate on the lyrics, and they are incredible, but I found the piano to be the most noticeable component. At first the consistency of the instrument is quite bothersome. Forty-five seconds in you wonder if it will ever stop. By the end, you've accepted it and actually grown to love the way the piano leads the charge in to the climactic final verses.

Elsewhere, Slate is all over M.I.A.. Hell, Christgau loves the whole album. Is it that good? I really didn't love her first record and so I naturally overlooked this one. The first disc was a little sophomoric and immature in terms of musical ideas (not so much lyrically). It reminded me of Licensed to Ill in that respect.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Popped Off

Ok, I've been saving this track, because its one of my favorites so far, and its a little more upbeat, has more instrumentation, etc. But first, I want to set it up a little bit ...

So, in my estimation, maybe only 5%-10% of rock lyrics are well conceived and carried-out ideas. The rest are just a series of words that sound good enough. All songs have a skeleton of chord progression, melody and rhythm. Within that skeleton -- and particularly when recording -- lasting variations are born and become a collection of permanent fixtures that form the final "song". Sometimes songwriters know exactly what they want, but often they don't.

An interesting case study here is Van Morrison's Astral Weeks album. The album is essentially a collection of improvisations, particularly in terms of the way it was recorded, with Van giving his backing musicians room to play whatever they happened to feel at the time. The great thing is that it works. The players take hold of the moment, and even more than improvisation its the urgency and finality that make the songs work in such a loose context.

So this song tries to work off that idea of immediacy. The song starts with a weak attempt at ripping off the feel of "Mr. Blue Sky" by ELO, and then sort of veers off. I tried sitting down to pen some lyrics for this one and kept getting frustration, so I just decided to hit record and sing whatever came out. The result is a lot of nonsense, but that's OK by me, because I think the melody and context of the song still find their place. Then again, maybe its just good enough.


A.V. Club's Worst Bandname Feature

This has to be the year-end list I've read so far. So many classic band names. I hate to just reprint, but here are a few personal favorites. You really should read the whole article.
  • Baboon Torture Division
  • Gay Witch Abortion
  • Neil Diamond Phillips -- "Part Neil Diamond, Part Lou Diamond Phillips, 100% Rock!" Sadly, the band doesn't sound like Lou Diamond Phillips singing Neil Diamond songs.
  • Capitalist Hippie Complex -- What's the recipe for the Capitalist Hippie Complex? They'll tell you: 1.5 oz top shelf Funk, 2.0 oz conscious Hip Hop, 1.0 oz underground Jazz, Mix with anything, add High Energy Twist, Serve Chill as a Motha Fucka
  • With Blood Comes Cleansing
  • Cocktards
  • Killgasm -- First line of their bio: "Started in 2002 to try and end Christianity. Instead we spent the years just drinking, doing drugs, and fucking a lot of whores. All while trying to rip off Carcass and Darkthrone."
  • Algebro
  • Jewsus


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Just a completely tasteless headline from the NY Post. I know they'll print anything, but come on.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Zeppelin re-Cometh

Man, I love this response from the Onion today. The question is: After years apart, the three original members of Led Zeppelin reunited in a triumphant concert in London on Monday. What do you think?

Zep is still my favorite band of all time, but I'm not sure what to think of this reunion tour.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I Told a Lie to My Heart

Thanks to everyone for checking back and listening to these tunes when they have time.

Here's another offering, this one is a cover of a relatively obscure Hank Williams Sr. song. In fact, the only recording I know of this tune is a posthumous one where Willie Nelson recorded his accompaniment over the top of the track (a la "Unforgettable" with Nat and Natalie King Cole). Some quick research reveals that the original is available on the Complete Hank Williams set. If you don't own any Hank Williams, then shame on you. I would put him in the Top 3 American songwriters of all time (with Bob Dylan and Duke Ellington).

Anyway, I love this song a lot, and here's the version I recorded tonight.


Monday, December 03, 2007

Free Karaoke mp3s at Amazon

Amazon has over 5,000 free karaoke tracks available for download in their new online music store. May I suggest you go straight for the Bolton. Twenty bucks to the first person who records them self covering "How am I supposed to live without you"*


This blog hosts original music and recordings by Mike Hicks.
Click here to access all of the the songs that have been posted thus far. Please feel free to comment, or email me.

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