Posts By Lauren Harris

by

Top 20 Albums of the Year (11-15)

Thousands of discs were released this year, but only 20 could make the final cut. With the most scientific of instruments (headphones, and sometimes CD players) we whittled down this year?s releases, and for the past two Thursdays, we?ve delivered five of our faves. Let us know what we missed, and what you loved.

LCD Soundsystem, Sounds of Silver (DFA)

11_lcdsoundsystem.jpgJames Murphy is the patron saint of downtown cool, and anything he or his record label touches instantly becomes an indie treasure. What?s most extraordinary about his sophomore release is its accessibility — at its heart, this is a bubblegum pop record, and not the salty organic kind of gum you buy at the health food co-op, either. We?re talking Bubblicious here, people. Long renowned for long-playing dance-floor remixes and shoe-shopping house beats — his other record this year, 45:33, provides an excellent example of that — Murphy?s work on Sounds of Silver is discreet, short and frequently to the point. ?North American Scum? is precisely the kind of song you want with you at the gym, a self-deprecating slice of upbeat funk with lyrics that?ll never make the Republicans happy: ?New York?s the greatest if you get someone to pay the rent . . . and it?s the furthest you can live from the government.? Then there?s the new wavy ?Someone Great? and ?All My Friends,? a song so suffused with nostalgia and desire it sounds like it belongs in a John Hughes movie. It?s excellent, easy to listen to and innately underground, and it?s been a long time since those three elements intersected in a pop album. Yes, there?s a sense of unrequited longing here, but so much the better for Murphy if he keeps producing work like this.

M.I.A., Kala (INTERSCOPE)

12_mia.jpg For her second album, thinking-liberal’s pop star M.I.A. traded political sloganeering and an abundance of hooks for something much simpler: an album of bangers, bamboo and otherwise. Compared to her 2005 debut, Arular, Kala‘s beats are more propulsive, its messages are more opaque and its cultural mining is even stronger. The resulting album is all prowess and ire and recontextualized sound. It is, at heart, a hip-hop record, and because it’s so effective and singular and forward-thinking, it’s the heart of hip-hop in ’07, period. As always, M.I.A.’s speak-singy vocals turn charisma into a fine art. Her personality is so huge, she’d have Rihanna‘s career if the world were fair. But then, her whole point seems to lie in reminding us that it isn’t.

Band of Horses, Cease To Begin (SUB POP)

13_bandofhorses.jpg Let?s forgive them the fact that their songs are all about mood and aura, rather than ?feelings? or the problems that bring those ?feelings? about. And let?s forgive them the fact that the singer veers into Supertramp territory now and again. Let?s just bathe in the eerie pomp of the chiming guitars and the rhythm section?s splashy forward motion. Like U2 sleeping over at the Jayhawks? house, these guys make melancholy anthems that love to reverberate everywhere before they slink home with the echoes dissipating in the distance. Maybe it?s their recent move to North Carolina, but for a grandiose outfit there sure are quite a few moments where twang takes over. Dream pop disc of the year.

Radiohead, In Rainbows (ATO RECORDS)

14_radiohead.jpgIt was a David & Goliath tale, if David were a band of insanely talented mope rockers and Goliath was the desperately floundering record industry. In short, the band revolutionized the music industry in 42 minutes and 34 seconds, with 10 songs: The band would offer its newest effort, In Rainbows, and whatever folks felt fit to pay, well, that?s the price of the album. It would be considered an impressive move by a lesser band. That the band was one of the most popular, and simultaneously respected, outfits in music today only compounds the coup. But to concentrate solely on marketing techniques, the implications of morality and the free market economic discussions this generates would miss the point: the band has made a gorgeous album. From the glitchy snares and waltzing jazz guitar of ?15 Steps? to the stark, maker-meeting ?Videotape? that seems to take its percussion from a funeral march, the album shows a marked change in the four years its been since Hail to the Thief. Gone is the politically tinged rock invective, and the verse-chorus-verse songs. Radiohead has made an opus, difficult to splice into song, and utterly captivating throughout.

The Shins, Wincing the Night Away (SUB POP)

15_theshins.jpg It?s amazing James Mercer can get a word out, let alone an album, without choking altogether. Following the release of Oh, Inverted World, indie director Zach Braff latched on to it, using the majority of the album as the soundtrack to his movie, and even having his protagonist Natalie Portman utter the phrase: ?This band will change your life.? That the band went on to make two records improving on the home-recording-honed formulae James Mercer devised for their debut is a feat. With their melodic base well-established, the band appeared to move outward from that point; experimenting with sound (?Sea Legs,? with its plastic bags popping as percussion) as well as perspective (?Phantom Limb? tells the story of two teenage lesbians alienated at their school).

by

Top 20 Singles of the Year (11-15)

As 2007 dwindles down, we?re taking a look back at our favorite tracks. Each Tuesday through the end of the month, we?ll sing the praises of the 20 songs that made our year. See what made the cut, and let us know what you think of our choices. Check out the last two posts to see what else is on our list.

Avril Lavigne, ?Girlfriend,? from The Best Damn Thing (RCA)

11_avril.jpgTake the infectious cheer-squad shout of Toni Basil‘s “Mickey,” add some glean from chart-topping uber-producer Dr. Luke, and write lyrics directed at the most tech-savvy market in the country (14-year-old girls) and you?ll understand why Avril Lavigne‘s “Girlfriend” was her highest ranking single to date. Avril?s fans forgave her her newly wedded status and bought her barbed entreaties to an already attached guy to ditch his girlfriend (never has ?She?s like, so whatever,? sounded like such a compelling argument). During the verse she rarely deviates into tune, sticking with her bratty schoolyard chants and marrying mall punk guitars with positively jubilant pop. All handclaps and sass, the video has Avril pulling triple-duty, playing her blonde self, a boyfriend-stealing brunette and a red-headed prude. While the message of the song is far from female empowerment, it seems she?s finally embraced a less abrasive side, making the unabashed pop music she?s faulted others for in the past.

Soulja Boy, ?Crank That,? from Souljaboytellem.com (INTERSCOPE)

12_souljaboy.jpgYa gots ta be multi-format these days, and there was no better example of video aiding and abetting audio than this ATL kiddo?s uber-ubiquitous, ultra-catchy dance anthem. His MySpace page was thick with how-to clips (please, don?t mess up the Superman section) and messages from trillions of fans. YouTube was loaded with tributes and satires, from yarmulke doo-rags to Santa?s elves gliding to the groove. So, yeah, DeAndre Ramone Way wasn?t fibbing when he said his reach stretched ?from the Internet to Main Street.? There?s glory in one-hit-wonderville, and even though one Web commenter rightly declared that Soulja Boy blabbered ?on the mic like he just woke up,? the song of the summer (sorry, Rihanna) proved to be a bubblecrunk gem.

Read more…

by

A Simpson Family Christmas: Now With 100% More Guyliner

simpson_familyA few weeks ago, we reported that Pete Wentz was banned from the Simpson family Christmas, due to an interview wherein he stated he sometimes “wishes he were gay.” Not so, said Pete, in an email to MTV. “[Ashlee's father Joe] even called me to let me know he expects me to show up for Xmas. So there’s no truth to that,” the guy-lined bassist said.

So just how will this Christmas play out? The Video Hits 1 Players decided to create a dramatization of the scene, complete with Papa Joe, Jessica, the Black Widow of Men and Movies alike, her quarterback boyfriend Tony Romo, and Ashlee and Pete.

Joe: Ashlee, honey, no. We’re not going back to a size six. Put the fork down.

Pete: So, Tony…I’ve often thought about playing football. Guys rolling around with other guys in tights — sounds like my kind of thing.

Tony: I don’t know. You kind of….wear eyeliner.

Joe: Ashlee, baby, push the plate away. I know you agree with a lot of what Tyra says, but that doesn’t mean you have to be able to share clothes.

Jessica: [Open-mouthed, staring off into space.]

Tony: So, Pete, Drop In Man. I’m a big fan of the band. I think it’s great how you and Ashlee have been able to keep it together for so long in the face of all the pressure. [whispers] Particularly Joe. Does he stay in the same room with you when you and Ash share a bed?

Pete: Yeah. You’ll get used to it. It’s the blinking light from the camcorder that keeps me from sleeping.

by

Superhead To Give You Record, Head

superheadAs though it wasn’t news enough that Eddie Murphy is starting a record label, check out his roster of talent: Karrine “Superhead” Steffans. The self-proclaimed video vixen has already put out a book of her sexual exploits with the rap world’s biggest (and, um…not biggest) stars, and now she’s working on an album for Eddie’s Murphy Entertainment, due out in March. We can hardly contain our excitement! Here are a few tracks we hope made the cut:

1. Bobby Brown, I Love You But Get Off My Couch
2. I Went Down On Eddie Murphy And All I Got Was This Record Deal
3. My Boyfriend (The Guy From Family Matters)
4. Whitney, I Got Your Man
5. My Homie-Lover-Friend (f. Lil Wayne)
6. Your Blue Dress [For Monica Lewinsky]
7. The Hot Dog Song
8. It Ain’t Gonna Suck Itself (I Know, I Know)

Our very own Irv Gotti had a little to say on the topic of Superhead and her favorite pastime. Check out the link to hear Mr. Gotti extolling the merits of fellatio [NSFW or children].

by

Madge & Mellencamp: Hall of Fame

It’s hard to define rock and roll these days. Punk pissiness, hard-hitting blues, disco fever? It’s all got an attitude that suits the music’s essence. This year the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is all over the place with its inductees list ? and that’s good. Pop’s agent provocateur Madonna, the punchy denim rocker John Mellencamp, the sophisticated poet Leonard Cohen; each will be on board at the Hall’s annual ceremony at New York’s Waldorf Astoria. This time around it’s scheduled for March 10, 2008. VH1 Classic will show the event live. Here’s the entire list.

MadonnaMadonna
She’s been blowing minds ever since she wore underwear as outerwear, back in the early ’80s. The Material Girl is the ultimate changeling, moving from dance pop to trance pop, reinvigorating the art of spectacle along the way.

John MellencampJohn Mellencamp
His began as a chart-topping tough guy, fighting authority and singing ditties about Jack and Diane. He became a dedicated man of the people, rocking political moves with Farm Aid and his recent Jena Six track.

Leonard CohenLeonard Cohen
A soft-spoken lyricist who worked in Dylan’s shadow and created cinematic tracks about the anxiety of love, the Canadian bard has always worked the philosophical angle. His miniatures ask big questions.

The Dave Clark FiveThe Dave Clark Five
They rode the coat tails of the Beatles, but give it up: the Brit-Pop wonders dropped a string of great, frenzied songs between ’64 ? ’66. From “Can’t You See That She’s Mine” to “Catch Us If You Can,” they were a blast.

The VenturesThe Ventures
Car tunes, surf tunes, riff tunes ? the instrumental combo cornered the market on cool, oddball ditties in the early ’60s with classics such as “Walk, Don?t Run,” “Telstar,” and “Apache.” Every garage band has played one of their tunes at least once.

Little WalterLittle Walter
A master of the blues harp, the rough and tumble band leader helped Muddy Waters build his fierce and sexy Chicago blues before breaking off on his own to cut an array of gnarled little gems such as “Juke” and “Off the Wall.”

Gamble & HuffGamble & Huff
Writers and producers both, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff hooked up to concoct one of R&B most durable sounds: Philly Soul. They’re responsible for the perfection that is Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes‘ “Back Stabbers” and The O’Jays‘ “Love Train.”

Which artist are you most hot to see at the Hall of Fame show?

Related Content
Box Set: Madonna

by

Ashlee Simpson Is The Emo Yoko

ash_peteThis year’s Grammy announcements have been made, and Fall Out Boy is pissed. At Ashlee Simpson, that is. According to a report in the New York Daily News, a source says that the band is blaming Ashlee and Pete’s relationship for the lack of nominations the band received for this year’s Infinity on High.

“Grammy voters are fed up with Ashlee after she was caught lip-synching. Her relationship with Pete has definitely affected public opinion of the band,” a source told OK! magazine. “They think everything Ashlee touches is poison, and they really want her to stop touching Pete!” It’s not the first time a Simpson sister has ruined an artist’s career — has anyone seen Nick Lachey doing anything other than chugging beers and opening presents on the cover of People?

by

Top 20 Albums of the Year (6-10)

Thousands of discs were released this year, but only 20 could make the final cut. With the most scientific of instruments (headphones, and sometimes CD players) we whittled down this year?s releases, and each Thursday until the end of ’07 we?ll deliver five of our faves. Let us know what we missed, and what you loved.

Rilo Kiley, Under the Blacklight (WARNER BROTHERS)

06_rilokiley.jpg Indie rock likes to dodge refinement, so there were some grimaces when Rilo Kiley?s rather glossy third disc spilled open. A couple of years ago, singer Jenny Lewis and her buds were underground royalty, but they?ve always wanted their day in the sun, and Blacklight?s motley songs are proud enough of their mainstream aura to carry themselves with an enviable swagger. Like its model, Fleetwood Mac?s Tusk, this is a disc about craft and breadth. White soul, punk-disco, sunny twang ? each new track is just as dapper as it is daring. Believable, too. As Lewis injects coos and come-ons into her sex-centric lyrics, all the genre-jumping feels natural, a flurry of ways to express the feelings at hand, and a cool strategy for dodging stasis.

Amy Winehouse, Back to Black (ISLAND)

08_amywinehouse.jpg The beehive hairdo, nude lady tattoos and odd fashion sense marked Amy Winehouse an outsider from the get-go, a retro soul-singer who could sing like it was still 1968 and she lived in Detroit, not London. The collection of songs on her second record produced an impressive five singles including ?Rehab,? which has our nomination for song of the year, and the album?s title track, a hauntingly recorded lament about love gone wrong?as with Winehouse it so often seems to do. Back to Black garnered her six Grammy Award nominations; her 2003 debut, Frank, earned her a Mercury Prize nomination in the U.K. and the attention of New York DJ and party-boy Mark Ronson. His production work on her second album (not to mention the work he did with the year?s other famous Brit, Lily Allen) ushered Winehouse into the limelight and also created a neo-retro movement in pop. Everyone seems to have gotten the point: Back to Black features the contributions of everyone from Ghostface Killah to Ashford and Simpson.
Coconut Records, Nighttiming (YOUNG BABY)

07_coconut_records.jpgJason Schwartzman is a man of many talents. The former Phantom Planet drummer has enjoyed a successful and offbeat film career, starring in Wes Anderson?s The Darjeeling Limited this year and appearing as Ringo in Walk Hard. But he never gave up the music, as this latest project attests to. Self-recorded and produced, Schwartzman released Nighttiming on his own record label, so it didn?t get much play in the press. But it is one of the finest collections of pop music released in 2007, from the folksy humor of ?The Thanks I Get? to the disco-trills of the title track. ?West Coast? is one of the most wistful songs in recent memory, as Schwartzman sings: ?For a second there I thought you disappeared/ It rains a lot this time of year/ We both go together if one falls down/ I talk out loud like you?re still around.? It?s a sweet, sad number that recalls sunshine delays in California and New York City in the rain, and if you?re ever in need of an album you can drive to?without having to skip around tracks?Schwartzman?s got you covered.

Modest Mouse, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (EPIC)

09_modestmouse.jpgBands break-up and artists go crazy attempting what Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock accomplished by accident. That’s not to say We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank is a tossed-off affair — it means only that Brock and his band sacrificed none of the hallmarks of their sound on their way to the top of the charts. After two decades of work, the trailer park philosopher has hit his stride, finally fusing the harsh-quiet extremes he?s spent his career bouncing between. With the addition of former Smiths? guitarist Johnny Marr (and help from Shins frontman James Mercer) the band?s fifth album is a nautically themed endeavor — sailors traveling the globe, doomed to die at every port. The songs alternate between spiked guitars and barking vocals (?Florida,? ?Dashboard?) and lilting guitars and lisping whispers (?Little Motel,? ?Missed the Boat?). The band?s most inclusive, technically impressive album easily drowns out the indie faction?s cries of mainstream foul.

Jay-Z, American Gangster (ROC-A-FELLA)

10_jayz.jpgProving that there is life after, “I’m too old for this s***,” a post-post retirement Jay-Z turns out his most compulsively listenable album with American Gangster. Inspired by the film of the same name, Jay-Z’s chronicle of his life’s work (i.e. the hustle, in its legal and not-so-legal forms) offers a humble sense of nuance that was nowhere to be found in Ridley Scott‘s brutish picture. A slap in the face to hip-hop’s pervasive ageism, it’s the kind of album that could only be released now, at this point in the 38-year-old’s storied career. Maturity, patience, taste and humility are unfortunately not really associated with hip-hop, and yet Jay-Z offers an album rich in those elements. Sadly, the album has pretty much flopped. The kids just don’t get it. Not that they even had a chance in the first place.

HERE ARE OUR FIRST FIVE ALBUMS OF THE YEAR (LAST WEEK’S INSTALLMENT).

Related Content
Rilo Kiley Artist Info
Amy Winehouse Artist Info
Coconut Records Artist Info
Modest Mouse Artist Info
Jay-Z Artist Info

by

Top 20 Singles of the Year (6-10)

As 2007 dwindles down, we’re taking a look back at our favorite tracks. Each Tuesday through the end of the month, we?ll sing the praises of the 20 songs that made our year. See what made the cut, and let us know what you think of our choices.

Amy Winehouse, ?Rehab,? from Back to Black (Island)

06_amywinehouse.jpgHere’s the track that will probably be remembered as the year?s most portentous song. Belting out her rejection of medical care (for what, as it turns out, was a slew of emotional and mental problems, including drug addiction, bulimia and cutting), the petite British soul star established herself as a crossover hipster with urban appeal. She wooed both the Hot 97 crew and the American Apparel kids vying for face time on the Cobra Snake. Her unfortunate biography aside, the song?s meld of R&B, punk attitude and references to another ill-fated star, Donny Hathaway, marked the arrival of an exciting pop voice. Winehouse’s sound was so radically different than the soft-soul competition, she united disparate elements of the culture — everyone from Jay-Z to Nas, say. Ostensibly, the song?s about a girl abusing liquor to cope with a bad break-up. In the lyrics at least, she knows better: ?Didn?t get a lot in class/ but I know it don?t come in a shot glass.? It?s an honest ode to the virtues of being headstrong. It?s too bad, of course, that it turned out Amy herself needed rehab after all.

Mims, ?This Is I?m Hot,? Music Is My Savior (Capitol)

07_mims.jpgCan a simple lyric come off like a profound declaration? In hip-hop it can, and out of the blue this mediocre MC dropped a chest-thumping boast that was utterly confident about its one-note message: ?I could sell a mil saying nothing on the track,? drawled the New Yorker. That?s not necessarily the artistic crime it sounds like; give it up to Mims ? this baby was one of the summer?s early smashes. A key reason: the rich atmosphere created by that ghostly synth setting and that sidewalk-shaking boom. It?s the kind of space dub stuff that sticks in your mind. And it enhances his arrogance. Out to cut the competition (?I?m hot cuz I?m fly/you ain?t cuz you?re not?) a guy who?ll probably never equal this success again came up with a masterpiece of contention.

Read more…

by

Simpson May Get Naked For Her “Art”

jessica_simpsonJessica Simpson‘s acting career has long been the subject of ridicule, but apparently she’s looking to change that by taking off her clothes for a role. After starring in such bombs as The Dukes of Hazzard and Employee of the Month (as well as the straight to video Blonde Ambition), the box office black widow is considering taking a role that would feature some graphic nudity in order to get her acting career on track.

According to Dlisted, this is the second time Simpson’s been offered a role that required nudity. Simpson’s father (and former Baptist minister) Joe said, “The last script that came to us was for Jessica to be a porn star. We were promised we would win an Oscar with that. I told them, ‘I think we’ll just buy a statue of a little man and keep our clothse on.’” First of all, it appears that Joe’s getting his pronouns mixed up — Oscars are awarded to the actors, not their parents. Secondly, this is from the man who once stated, “She’s got double D’s! you can’t cover those suckers up!”

Related Content
Jessica Simpson Artist Page
The Best of Jessica Simpson’s Bad Movies
Jessica Coincidentally Breaks Her Nose
Papa Simpson: Still Rockin’ the Creepiness

by

Amy’s Mum Makes A Tabloid Plea

amy_winehouseIn a desperate attempt to reach her daughter, Amy Winehouse‘s mother has written an 1,100-word open letter, asking her daughter to get help. In the plea, appearing in The News Of The World (the American equivalent of The National Enquirer), Janis Winehouse explains she felt compelled to write to her daughter after seeing pictures of Winehouse wandering the streets in the early morning hours wearing a bra and jeans.

“All I wanted to do was rush into those pictures and wrap you up in a big,warm blanket,” said Janis. With pledges of home-cooking to fatten the emaciated Winehouse up and a request for her to pick up the phone, Winehouse’s mother made no reference to her daughter’s possible drug addiction. She did, however, mention she hopes Winehouse’s recently-incarcerated husband Blake Fielder-Civil turns his life around. In the past week, Winehouse has canceled several tour dates, been photographed wandering the streets in her underwear and kept the company of one of England’s most notorious drug addicts, Pete Doherty.