Monday, December 31, 2007

"Cuz I won't be coming back around here...?"

There were two albums I didn't get a chance to write about with the constraints provided by my moving. Both of them are international pop artists who will see a domestic release this year, so to that end if I'm willing to write anymore, there will be a time for them. I'm wrapping up the 2007 retrospective though with a a band that put out my first favorite song of the year, the then ironic and now all too fitting "Goodbye." There was a lot of buzz building around this band heading into the then new year and with comparisons to Ivy, I was quick to take the plunge. Indie pop laden with airy sighs, to my excitement several people decided to ride the buzz with remixes of which I'd recommend seeking out the Cassettes Won't Listen mix. For the blog though I thought it best to give you the original and it's sugary bounce to wrap up the mix.

the Postmarks - download "Goodbye"

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Because i could use some sunshine....

Now without internet at home, I'm blogging from a sports bar in my new neighborhood, which seems very unfitting for such a classy sounding band. The Clientele are no doubt an acquired taste. They'd be somewhere between twee pop and dream pop if they didn't sound so sophisticated and debonair. This year saw the release of God Save the Clientele, which doesn't sound all too different from their prior releases and it continues to appeal to me because it screams of the nostalgia that is the Zombies at their most proper. Curiously though, there were some changes as the trio added a new member to handle violin and backing vocals and God Save... was recorded stateside in Nashville with the fellow from Lambchop who's taken to the boards for the likes of Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Silver Jews. The lack of what you might expect from that is perhaps the only letdown as far as this record goes. On the other hand, once again the eloquent string arrangements are handled by Louis Phillippe and there's the familiar mixtape-worthy songwriting. This might be the group's cheeriest album to date, which is why I picked the track I did. it may not be as good as Strange Geometry or some of their singles, but it is still one of this year's best releases.

the Clientele - download "These Days Nothing But Sunshine"

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

"When you love someone, but the thrill is gone"

One of the most amazing debut albums I've heard and like yesterday's music, an album I considered at length to call my favorite of the year. Others tended to agree as Fur & Gold by Brighton, England's Bat for Lashes was even nominated for a Mercury Prize. Bat for Lashes is essentially a moniker for songwriter Natasha Khan, a former nursery school teacher who studied music and visual arts, citing influences such as Steve Reich and Susan Hiller and who thankfully eventually went the music route. A lot has been made of her resurrecting England's "druid rock" with her tales of wizards and horses and others have dubbed her the Brits first notable entry to the US-dominated, so-called freak folk movement. The fantasy world entwined in some songs and Khan's obvious interest in mysticism has also solicited worthy comparisons to Bjork and Kate Bush (especially the formers ability to conjure up a beautiful otherworldliness). "What's A Girl to Do" was actually my favorite music video this year, though the song itself may be the most conventional on the album. While simply shot, I was just entranced by the costume-headed bike riders doing bunny hops. Her voice and the piano is enough to pull me in, but there's so much interesting instrumentation throughout the album, from harpsichord to marching cymbals and handclaps contrasted by a mini-orchestra. Khan has already penned a follow-up that could be dude late next year.

Bat for Lashes - download "What's A Girl to Do"

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Friday, December 28, 2007

"Satisfy me"

Probably a safe bet that this is the only time in my life that I will openly claim that a musical was my favorite movie of the year. Like many good things, my brother had recommended this one to me. In short, I'm a firm believer that the most important person you cross paths with in life will not likely be someone you know long and it's not always someone you fall into bed with. Once basically covered that notion while providing a soundtrack so good the album is also close to the top of my list this year. Both the movie and the album are emotionally satisfying in their display of virtue and verisimilitude, which is odd considering that there's so little dialogue and so much music for something that feels so true to life. It's a non-pretentious movie that portrays how critical music is in some peoples life's.

Marketa Iglóva & Glen Hansard - download "If You Want Me"

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

"Time was running out. I had to make a move."

With only one mis-step in my attempt to post every day this month, I've at the least impressed myself just given the time commitment right in the middle of the holidays, a new job and moving. In fact, with my internet possibly being shut off before the new year, I'm going to double up on some entries to my favorite songs this year to make sure I get to them all. It works out well for today's piece, which is about two incredibly consistent musicians who do the guitar-based indierock thing and who have found more success for their music overseas, but whose records I know I will always buy the day it comes out. Another things that both artists have in common is their nomadic, having challenged the notion of building a supportive local fanbase by moving around frequently. If you're able to pull together both their catalogs, I think you'll predictively find this may have caused some pleasing non-conformity and nuanced changes in their sounds.

Cass McCombs debut album, titled A still remains one of my favorite and most listened to albums of the past several years and in 2007 he very quietly released Dropping the Writ to the usual praise and unfortunate lack of hoopala. Meanwhile, when I last wrote in this blog I declared Josh Rouse's Nashville my favorite record of the year. Rouse has been putting out albums on an annual basis for some time and his latest opus of hipster soft rock was called Country Mouse City House.

Cass McCombs in many respects defies music cliches. He doesn't come off as a conventional singer-songwriter type, which is not to say he isn't introspective, but there is a certain lack of ego. Perhaps it's that he's not painfully expressive like most songwriters. His music can simultaneously come off as dark and moving while dropping some creative humor, but I also wouldn't peg him as art-pop. His crooning style may be most akin to certain British pop stars of the eighties. The chameleon thing has suited him well, leading to successful touring stints with the folksy Palace, the more abrasive Blonde Redhead and the consumer-friendly indierock of Modest Mouse. If forced into a comparison though I'd say the left-field lyrics and artistic fancy might suggest a modern-day Donovan. "That's That" is the lead single off of Writ and is one of the most accessible pop ditties he's put out there.

Cass McCombs - download "That's That"

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Josh Rouse sounds awfully calm on his songs for a guy that's been jumping some hurdles the past few years. After making the transition of emerging Nebraskan songwriter turned nomad to critically-acclaimed Nashville player whose records consistently collected "near-classic" tags, Rouse went through a divorce, kicked a drinking problem and moved to Spain, starting his own record label. Like McCombs, you can hear that Rouse spent his teens listening to some choice acts like the Smiths and the Cure and the twangy impact of the friendships he made in Tennessee are equally unavoidable. "Hollywood Bass Player" is a buoyant pop tune that brilliantly seems to make light of his bouncing around the world while playing music.

Josh Rouse - download "Hollywood Bass Player"

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"What am I gonna do when I run out of shirts to fold?"

I wore the hell out of the debut Wilco cd when I was in high school after picking it up for a paltry sum at Newbury Comics. Conversely, I can't say I spent much time with the last one and as a result I didn't exactly pounce on Sky Blue Sky earlier this year. I'm glad I did get around to it though because I was pleasantly surprised to hear the group fiddling around less with sonic progressions and returning to their roots. This one had a very soulful seventies rock vibe to it akin to Being There and has one of my new favorite Wilco songs ever, "Hate It Here." Most critics screamed everything from "flat and uninspired" to "straightforward" and "utterly boring," but that leaves me scratching my head as I'm pretty sure it was those same people championing the groups pop sensibilities before Wilco went all Yankee Foxtrot on everyone and skyrocketed into the greater consciousness of music listeners. Too weepy to be commercially viable, too conventional for the critics and hipsters and just right for the music lovers.

Wilco - download "Hate It Here"

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Some apparent musical genius said that we hate it when our friends become successful. Not that I needed yet another reason to scoff at Morrissey, but the emergence of the Hot IQs is easily one of my favorite outcomes of the clubhouse days at Radio 1190. Saturday night Eli, Brian and Elaine treated us to an Xmas Party show alongside locals The Knew, d.biddle, Cat-A-Tac and then took the stage themselves with an expanded line-up that insured that you'd be hearing them like you never have before. I just happened to have a pocket recorder with me and decided to try my best to capture the set. I'm far from being a pro at such things though was excited enough to share it. I contemplated spending some time editing and cleaning up the tracks using some sort of software, but I know there's someone out there that could do a far better job than I, so I'll just let you all have a go at. Merry Christmas. Your set list is up above and yes that's snow falling down on Denver on Christmas. This Christmas orphan will being Sputnik all evening, so if you want to talk music and have a drink don't be afraid to say hi. Happy holidays all of you.

the Hot IQs - download The Hot IQs Live @ the Bluebird 12.22.07

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"Waiting for the one I love, I've been forgetting you"

Pastoral pop in the tradition of the Essex Green and Ladybug Transistor, Chicago's The 1900s were one of the few new discoveries to grab my attention this past year that otherwise seemed to rely heavily on the familiar. Recorded by an ensemble with an obvious love of AM radio, Cold & Kind runs the gammit from Zombies-adoring psyche-pop to the compelling, seventies soft rock of Fleetwood Mac. Their debut here was kind of a great album without being spectacular. Well perhaps that's an unfair way to put. With arrangements that interchange between between warm and dour to upbeat and harmonic and with three singers swapping vocal duty effortlessly, it's quite an unassuming affair. It's a fine collection of pop music that doesn't go out of it's way to attract too much attention. Apparently the group saves that tactic for it's live shows and those between the windy city and NYC should be able to catch them next month.

1900s - download "When I Say Go"

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

"I wasn't someone they'd invite"

I'm writing today's entry from a bar and while decidedly drunk. It is kind of a wonderful world we live in when such things are possible. Well that and the subsequently much-needed spellcheck. I saw the band I want to cover today next door to where I'm having a handful of beers at the moment. One of the bigger regrets in my finally leaving Brooklyn was the amount of great bands that have surfaced from that area since I moved. It's hard to pick a favorite, but Bishop Allen would be near the top of the list. The only thing preventing The Broken String from holding up against the groups debut album is that many of the songs on it are recorded versions of tunes available via their EP a month project from the year prior. It's a claim of low writer value to point out that for a band whose debut was entitled Charm School that the group's strength is their simplistic, but charming song-writing. While the catchiest of mosst pop songs requires a certain low-common-denominator, Bishop Allen instead are simultaneously smart and funny with their songs, offering simple sentiments with universal appeal. So much so that I haven't been all too surprised to see some people peg the writing as a far less morose Magnetic Fields. I might even call them uplifting. It's a fairly interesting experiment that asks what it would sound like if a pair of Harvard intellects organized with some friends to piece together some compelling, sometimes folk-ish pop music. I'm quite excited to also include the video, which shows off great Bishop Allen is at being offbeat without being overtly weird. You should probably recognize this song from a recently circulating commercial.

Well that was the last person I expected to see in the bar tonight. Time for me to pack up and go home.

Bishop Allen - download "Click Click Click Click"

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

"What are you so scared of?"

I didn't have high hopes for the debut release from Everybody Else, primarily because the trio had been sitting on the songs and the buzz of their live shows for far too long with very little committed towards a proper release. The group is fronted by Carrick Moore Gerety formally of one my most beloved pop bands (and pretty much hated by...everybody else), that being the Push Kings. Considering Everybody Else sounds even more cleaner and produced than the rambunctious, feel-good Kings, it's safe to say you're not going to see this on many other peoples year end lists. There's just not much room for such bubblegum these days where pop music isn't given much consideration if it's not at least slightly cynical. This was just a great record to sing along with and as a result it was in my car most of the year.

Everybody Else - download "Makeup"

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Friday, December 21, 2007

"Don't pretend I could hold on forever"

I'm cheating, but being honest to "the best of 2007" with this one. It was released in late 2006 and to date still has no domestic release. I was able to finally get my hands on the album a few months after listening to the following single about this time last year. There is no other album I listened to more this past year. Every song on their self-titled debut is perfect in its own way. While "Release Me From My Love" tugged on those heartstrings first, there's the "you don't fall in love, you've got to throw yourself in" chorus of "Birds Are Singing" and the sublime "Parasite" featuring fellow Swedes Marit Bergman and Frida Hyvönen collectively accounting for some of the best pop music I've heard in forever. Best jumping off point I can offer you is Echo & the Bunnymen meet the Flaming Lips and I know that's a tall order, but I feel alright making it. I'm humbled by the music and still absolutely befuddled that this just didn't launch into some unfathomable stratosphere of the next big Swedish band that was a must-listen.

Consequences - download "Release Me From My Love"

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

"Rumours say that you're very sorry"

Combining Swedish pop music and Merge records (two of my most favorite things) will immediately make my ears perk up. With acts like Camera Obscura, Essex Green, Crooked Fingers and Spoon it's no surprise why I currently think of Merge as the most reliable label for my particular tastes. Merge snatched up Shout Out Louds after their critically lauded, but under-marketed one-off, major-label debut here in the States and this year released Our Ill Wills. I've been playing a lot of songs from my year-end list at my late-night gig and this one has received the most positive feedback, with most people noting it sounds like a sad, but Robert Smith of the Cure fronting a tweepop band. The obvious comparison had likely been the biggest criticism thrown at the band, but I grew up listening to hip-hop and never will fault one for stealing in music. Produced by Bjorn of Peter, John and Bjorn, who brings in his band-mates and a slew of guests for some amazing arrangements, this one has a much more intentional and grandiose sound to it. Old flames appeared to be the most frequent topic at hand and so you'll receive no complaints from me. I'd venture to say it's a big step forward from the buzz that landed them on a major from the get-go. This one definitely cracks my top-ten with my missing this live show in Denver a huge regret.

*And as a quick sidebar, I'd also recommend looking for the single that included a b-side of the group collaborating with the Essex Green on a cover of my favorite Pogues song, "Streams of Whiskey." All

Shout Out Louds - download "Tonight I Have to Leave It"

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"You ain't getting no younger and you've got nothing to show"

This is another tricky album to include for 2007 because it technically came out late last year (in the UK) and two of the better songs were originally recorded for a 2004 Nancy Sinatra record that Jarvis Cover collaborated on. Nonetheless, I listened to it quite a bit and it was actually difficult to choose which song to represent, so I imagine it merits some amount of attention. Well there's that and my long-standing man-crush. For all the love in the world I have for Pulp, they no doubt peaked in the nineties. For whatever reasons the adoring music fans got tired of the seedy, working-class laureate of trashy thrills, sending Jarvis on a wayward curiosity was sure to seep from this long-overdue solo attempt appropriately titled Jarvis.

Somehow Cocker manages to successfully continue to sing about a youthful discontent and mischief despite that fact that he is now in his mid-forties. No surprise that Cocker has decided to not change simply to grow with the changing times and with a voice and mantra that screams pornographic Leonard Cohen, it don't think he will ever have to. While I mean no disrespect to the other members of Pulp, you could drop this album into their discography right before the release of This Is Hardcore and the result would lend little suspicion. There's really only been one notable change: Considering that the time he has spent passing the years since Pulps "hiatus" find Cocker collaborating with and writing for others while contributing to tributes, it's become easier to accept him as one who does what he does because he has a passion for a certain kind of music and less because he seemed interested with being eternally being sexy and hip.

Jarvis Cocker - download "Don't Let Him Waste Your Time"

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"We lost it long ago, you and me"

So I totally have to cheat and be brief tonight because I picked up a fill-in gig this evening and am super behind on other stuff I should be doing. I actually wrestled with whether or not to include a song from the new Spoon album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. The group has become so consistent I sometimes actually feel that half-disappointment that's like already knowing what you're getting for Christmas weeks ahead of time. One way to really witness this would be to examine the group's arguably stiff live performance. I saw them twice this year (and countless times in years prior) and the experience is more less them delivering one memorable and catchy tune after another without injecting much personality into stage banter. It's almost puzzling considering the quality of some of the song-writing that that element would be missing. While it sounds like Ga Ga... featured some of the bands most commercial sounding pop songs to date, we recall that's this has come after the Stranger Than Fiction and Veronica Mars stints. Spoon's songs have been this crisp and user-friendly since Girls Can Tell and it's just been a matter of everyone else catching on.

While I'm fairly sure Britt Daniel's favorite band is still Wire, I'm going to say Spoon has kind of turned into the Cars. It's black-tie pop rock that despite entering the mainstream, remains lively and hip. It's layered instrumentation that deceivingly sounds simple given an obvious stand-up job in the studio. And it's ironic because the turning point really seems to be when the group's former major label gave up on them that they became this sure thing of agreeable, memorable songs. Eventually these guys are going to have a killer anthology album with no bad songs on it.

Spoon - download "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb"

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Monday, December 17, 2007

"Here comes the really good bit"

Idiosyncratic proved to be the case rather than claims of this UK act being a one-trick pony. Art Brut will succeed where others fail because they wear their passion for pop music on their sleeves. It's A Bit Complicated is of course not very complicated at all. Once again the lyrics are clever and easy to memorize and while Eddie Argos lacks range, he is filled with spoken exuberance that is too charming for it's own good. I'm not sure if I'd call the group brilliant yet, but they've set the table well thusfar and it's going to be interesting to see where they go next. And I have to add they are a complete act in that they were one of the standout live acts from my trip to the Monolith Festival this summer. Like their first Denver gig at a much smaller venue, people rightfully went crazy for em, lining up in the front row sporting fake 'staches.

Every time someone tries to knock on this band I like to look them in the eye and ask if they've ever heard of this simplistic yet utterly compelling band from NYC called the Ramones. I don't honestly believe they're on that level, but it does, I hope, prove the point that critics who are underscoring Art Brut's style of music have no fucking place writing about music.

Art Brut - download "Direct Hit"

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

"I will wait I will hope and pray that you'll be there"

My brother actually turned me on to this band a few years ago and I was finally able to see them live alongside an equally enjoyable indie super-group side-project they participate in by the name of Brakes Brakes Brakes. It was a fairly memorable show for me, partly because it was covered by the Spin website and I managed to get my mug up on one of their profiles and partly because I solicited a few chuckles from the band for requesting songs they hadn't played in years. One song they did play though was the excellent "Cold World," which I hesitated to include because it showed up on an EP last year before landing on brother's Tom and Alex White's latest album entitled No Need to Be Downhearted. Their third release of hook-filled pop music, P continue to find it rather ironic because they haven't garnered much success here despite sounding quite American (they are native to Brighton, UK). It reminds me of the nineties alternative my brother and I listened to so I'm pretty thrilled have them be a band we both dig.

Electric Soft Parade - download "Cold World / Starry Night #1"

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

"I see you, always struggling"

Every year my list contains at least one guilty pleasure. This has included everything from Kelly to Kylie. This year it's not at all what you'd expect, especially considering they've been on this list before with a handful of mind-blowing EPs that preceded this full-length, one that landed with a bit of a thud amidst the blog community that had championed them. The self-titled album from Austin's Voxtrot included an uncharacteristically hushed, but equally addictive tune called "Real Life Version" that sounds so much like a Coldplay song that I've dubbed it this year's guilty pleasure.

Unfortunately when I went and saw the group last week in what will probably be my last concert of the year, they did not play the song and pretty much stuck by the punchier pop tunes that have paved the road for their burgeoning success. Many people pointed out the real possibility that Voxtrot could cross over to mainstream success and it didn't happen, probably because this song was tucked down at the bottom of the album rather ever considered single-worthy,

The album as a whole was correctly pegged by many as being enjoyable, but terribly inconsistent littered with a handful of missteps. The end result was the cliche phenomenon of a "good, but not great album." A year ago I would not have hesitated to suggest this would be a sure thing to make my top ten before I even heard it. The Smiths with a sharper "oomph" and jumpier progressions, their reputation after each EP skyrocketed upward to an atmosphere that eventually would have to meet its limitations. It was a case of nearly impossible expectations considering it's five-year lead-in. If the self-titled has anything going for it, it's a very contemplative record you'd expect later in the career of a band and depending on what follows for Voxtrot, this one might be able to gain some newfound appreciation over time. For now though, people want an album with "Raised by Wolves" several times over and a few "Your Biggest Fans" for good measure.

Ramesh Srivastava and crew had been touring non-stop since May and the many who've seen Voxtrot live know they're such unabashedly down to earth, nice and sincere guys that I have a sneaking suspicion most people will in fact forgive the flaws of the album in time. But as you've seen here, I long ago already began embracing the biggest departure on

Voxtrot - download "Real Life Version"

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This, by the way, marks the end of Disc 1 if you're feelings so inclined to recreated the two discs I made to shape this month

Friday, December 14, 2007

"Just go and leave me if you wish to"

Dear Companion was the solo album released this year by singer Meg Baird. She is perhaps best knows for her contributions to the pastoral output of Philly neo-folk trio Espers. On the album she primarily handles traditional folk songs such as the titular track I've included. There's also two originals and a handful of semi-obscure psyche covers given an airy acoustic makeover. Reportedly recorded in just under twenty-four hours in an attic with just a guitar (or mountain dulcimer), it's simple, but genuine and intimately wrought folk music. As much as I wanted to like the new Marissa Nadler release this year, with an overwhelming feel of authenticity in it's sparse, but emotional delivery, this felt far more personal and was easily the best folk album this year.

Meg Baird - download "Dear Companion"

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

"It's a nice day to start again"

Portland's Jason Merritt writes songs for his band Timesbold, but also performs solo as Whip. It was on Bridging the Gap: A Portland, OR Covers Compilation that I first heard him and I was just blown away with how he transformed Billy Idol's "White Wedding." The original romp was just utterly stripped bare and given a sparse folk voice with some gentle banjo picking and surprisingly it emerged at last as a heartfelt song and easily the standout track of the non-profit benefiting compilation that included a number of the city's better known standouts. Thereafter I sought out some more Whip albums, slowly realizing the majority of those releases were being handled overseas. That included this year's Belgium record label release Blues for Losers and what I was able to hear lived up to the excitement the cover tune had instilled in me. In a music environment that's been so kind to Portland and willing to fill venues for Iron & Wine I have no idea why their hasn't been a wellspring of attention paid to this hidden gem.

It's not a coincidence that this follows Great Lake Swimmers on my mix as musically they make great companions and unsurprisingly they played some dates in Europe together. Here's hoping Merritt, who has described his music as "avant blues," gets some much deserved attention and some domestic releases sometime in the coming future.

Whip - download "White Wedding"

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"Like purity against resolve"

I know, I know. Eventually. I mean in all honestly I'm not sure I can explain what it was like finally hearing "Moving Pictures, Silent Films" live. Their music is how I feel inside.

Great Lake Swimmers - download "Your Rocky Spine"

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"I waited for an hour and finally gave up"

It's been an incredibly long day filled with a light but never-ending snowfall and an excess of people who have no business driving in such icy streets due to overwhelming timidness or a complete lack of fear and brains. Nonetheless, I'm trying not to break the planned streak of posts here and so while I sleep on the job tomorrow, I hope you're listening to this one.

The Village Voice said of In Our Bedroom After the War, "only a great fool would be satisfied with just a track or two" and well I guess I was quite foolish because there are only a pair of songs I unquestionably loved on this one. I've been in devoted to Stars for some time, but I'm still unsure where I want to weigh this album against their previous works (and that's further fueled by my frustration that most fans will choose the wonderful Nightsongs as their least favorite). For me I think it might eventually have to be this one, but there is a reason it made the cut for the blog. I'm still undecided and my final call is clouded by two factors:

Firstly, while Torquil Campbell's hard-on for the Smith's and the bands inclination towards pointless theatrics are overstated and wearing on me, Amy Millan could sing me the morning newspaper and I'd be absolutely beside myself, enamored by her voice. Even when I'm bored with the song I want to keep hearing her.

Secondly, there is that aforementioned pair of exceedingly good songs on the album. Today I'm offering up "Personal," a song that stands out for the same reason everyone's favorite song on Set Yourself On Fire was ""Your Ex-Lover Is Dead." Amy and Torquil interact rather than simply share vocals and it makes the tale they spin that much more real for the listener. For me it was also a suitable song to have at my disposal because I spent a fare share of unsuccessful time dedicated to the personals this year. *Shrug*

Anyway, I'm going to end abruptly and you can chime in with your arguments about this album. Meanwhile, stay tuned for more Canadians tomorrow. Additionally, if you're in the Denver area, I'll be at this potentially fun charity event tomorrow.

Stars - download "Personal"

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

American Pastoral

Insomuch as many readers of the former Audio For Drinking blog were longtime friends whom had grown accustomed to having me nudge them in the direction of music they might enjoy, I often found myself standing in person, face-to-face and toe-to-toe, with some rather unhappy folks . They weren't much unlike junkies whose favorite dealer had just skipped town. This was a problem and I needed a solution. So, although a little voice inside me (sounding suspiciously like John Cusack) said that a 30 year-old making mix CDs was kind of pathetic, I started a CD Club. It was also a financial decision, as I had at the time become unemployed and was without the funds to buy anyone a proper birthday or holiday gift. Ah, but the gift of music! 

I decided I'd distribute 4 CDs, one for each season. It started off simply- I mostly included new songs that I really liked, not unlike what I did on the blog.  Over time I came around to reaching into my back catalog. I later tried to set rules such as limiting the number of cover songs I included (a particular weakness of mine). I also tried to make sure there was at least one song that had some meaning for each person in the club, as while I was now making the same mix for 6-7 people, I still wanted it to seem somewhat personal. 

My latest innovation has been taking the CD completely out of the equation, saving both time and money burning and mailing out materials. Now I have a server that each club member can log onto using a secret password and download an entire mix along with its album cover and track listing.

I've enjoyed doing this very much. It's certainly more manageable then trying to find something to write about everyday and I've always been most comfortable just playing the song and letting it speak for itself anyway. Today I'd like to share with you my favorite mixes that has come out of this little club. I call it "American Pastoral." It's got many of my favorite songs from this year including a wonderful track taken from one of the few music blogs I still read everyday. Let's take a peak:

Download American Pastoral

01. A House Is Not A Home by Field Music

02. Into Brooklyn, Early in the Morning by Innocence Mission

03. The Village Green Preservation Society by The Kinks

04. Kid Gloves by Voxtrot

05. Your Rocky Spine by Great Lake Swimmers

06. It Ain't No Crime by Keren Ann

07. The Songs of National Freedom (Daytrotter recording) by Richard Swift^

08. Diamond Ring by Joseph Arthur & The Lonely Astronauts

09. Woman Made the Devil by Bongos Ikwue*

10. You're a Wolf by Sea Wolf

11. Black Magic by Jarvis Cocker

12. Dress Me Like A Clown by Margot & The Nuclear So and So's

13. Chick Habit by April March

14. Still You Don't Know Me by Heikki

15. Dark Matter by Andrew Bird

16. Rabbit by The Essex Green

17. Start A War by The National

18. Strapped For Cash by Fountains of Wayne

19. The Right to Love You by The Mighty Hannibal

20. The Year of Our Demise by Jon Auer

21. Be Your Man by De Novo Dahl

22. Silent Movies by Peter & The Wolf

*I got this gem from over at Aquarium Drunkard, seriously the only music blog I still read regularly. Where else can I find out-takes from Neil Young's Dead Man soundtrack? Harry Nilsson worship? Donald Fagen sympathy? All sorts of stuff I love actually, so thank-you. But you already know all this I assume. After-all, he's nominated for a PLUG award in 08!

^Daytrotter also deserves a mention in any best of 2007 discussion. The site, the interviews, the illustrations  and of course the music tracks only keep getting better and better. this Richard Swift recording was vastly superior to the album version in my opinion. David Vandervelde's cover of the Rolling Stone's "Cocksucker Blues" is a revelation.

Coming to an iPod Near You

So is it too early to get excited for 2008's impending releases? Perhaps a little tease from I AM KLOOT might help stir you? I for one look forward to a new album from the idol of my teenage years, Mr. Bob Mould. Seriously, I saw him wear a cardigan in a video so I bought one...and wore it everywhere for 10 years! District Line arrives in February. Cat Power comes purring with 2 discs of covers in time to make a great birthday presents for your writer. That same week brings some Hey Willpower to the party as well as the stateside release of the lastest Super Furry Animals album (which is actually already available over at the iTunes store). 

Eels has a greatest hits album (but who doesn't already own each of their brilliant albums?) as well as Useless Trinkets, a collection of B-Sides, soundtrack stuff, rarities and unreleased material spread over 2 CDs and a dvd! Hey, we all know E writes the B-Sides that make a small portion of the world cry, right? The final season of The Wire on HBO also comes knocking with a CD of all the wonderful songs from the best show on TV. There's got to be some Steve Earle on there somewhere. 

Then there are the M's: Man Man, Magnetic Fields, Mars Volta, & Margot and the Nuclear So and So's! That new Man Man album is coming out on Anti by the way, as is the Bob Mould disc- huge props to them for releasing such great stuff. They recently re-issued a few Neko Case albums with bonus tracks as well as the excellent Joe Henry album Civilians which I will touch upon later this month. 

Oh yeah- Portishead. Enough said, right? Supergrass has something called Diamon Hoo Ha. British Sea Power also should coming floating across the Atlantic. October 08 seems far off but I believe that's when we'll get the next album from the wonderful Kills. OK, I'l stop there but feel free to add your own two cents in the comments section below.

I AM KLOOT: "Hey Little Bird" (MySpace rip?)

Monday, December 10, 2007

"You make me want to measure stars in the backyard with a calculator and a ruler"

I became absolutely smitten with this band after hearing the very line that serves as the title for this entry. Least one forgets, once upon a time I did DJ a twee pop show at 1190, so it should not be surprising that I'd fall so hard for such a silly sentiment. Au Revoir Simone sometimes seems overwhelmingly catered to the nonsensical things that can win me over. I like, pretty music, especially sung by bookish looking girls and I love pop music with keyboards, organs and synthesizers. Additionally, the trio formed just as I was putting further Brooklyn aspirations behind me to come back to Colorado and I think I spent a great deal of time building it up, greatly anticipating recorded material after hearing about them.

The Bird of Music is their second album and of all the albums I've fallen for this year, this one has admittedly been the hardest sell to friends. Early adopters of their self-released first album miss the thrift-shop appeal of the debut while others are either filled with anti-Casio sentiments or are appalled that any band would sound like a less sophisticated version of their beloved Stereolab. Apparently I was, at least in my small circle, alone in being swept away by the genuine sweetness of such a doe-eyed delivery of love-songs. Though naturally I was also accused, as a lovelorn and very single pop music fan, of being drawn to the angelic voices of the mythical Sirens regardless of substance.

Initially I conceded that Au Revoir Simone's music is simplistic sounding and some aspects are imperfect. I'm simultaneously endeared to and nonplussed about vocals that sometimes sound android-ish. I, however, eventually turned to making my case by calling upon one of my all-time favorite bands: Young Marble Giants. They made minimal instrumentation, deceptively naive lyrics and untrained vocals into something wonderful. Basically, less can be more when it is done exceptionally well. And to make sure I give the appropriate accreditation for this realization, it was after listening to the trio's even more bare-bones session with the always wonderful Daytrotter that I thought to make the comparison. I'll also glibly add that indierockers some day need to get off their never-ending need for mopey-ness and occasionally partake in something so delightful and laid-back.

Here at year's end I've inserted the album into my top ten of 2007, not in spite of mixed reviews, but because I can see myself going back to this one and using it for mix cds for some time. Give this one a try.

Au Revoir Simone- download "Stars"

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buy the album

Sunday, December 09, 2007

"I could never leave and come to comfort you"

An early frontrunner for my song of the year, "My Punishment for Fighting" is on the the new album from North Carolina duo The Rosebuds. That album, Night of the Furies, is a much different beast than their previous and should illicit some arguments about which is the truer breakthrough for the pair. Whereas Birds Make Good Neighbors was downright cynical in its alignment with the Rosebuds peppy power-pop roots, this one has traveled further down that road in the Southern evening, taking a turn to something topically darker. Even at it's most optimistic, the sentiments of love seem fragile as ever and so it's all too appropriate that the group tosses aside the sharp twang found on Birds for a throwback, synth-heavy pop sound that owes more to the early eighties. Thanks to the superior song-writing though, Furies won't be mistaken for the post-new wave electro-pop clones out there. While the mood is far more seductive and enchanting here, I'm not ready to definitively declare which album was better yet. I have spoke to a lot of people that feel betrayed by this album, but of course it's simultaneously true that you can't expect a band to release the same record over and over and that people sometimes connect to an album on such an intimate level that change can and will obscure something good. I was able to catch the tour following this album, where they seamlessly interchanged songs from previous works, but the live presentation also made tunes like "My Punishment..." that much more sirenic in comparison.

The Rosebuds- download "My Punishment for Fighting"

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buy the album

Saturday, December 08, 2007

"Ain't it a shame how a word can tell you more than words can say"

Reawakening the debate of how much a bad band name effects peoples willingness to check out an album, Dr. Dog built upon the buzz of 2005's Easy Beat with the recognizably less lo-fi We All Belong. With a handful of exceptions, Dr. Dog have been one of those rare breed who have been able to shamelessly take queues from the Beatles and Beach Boys and not immediately be met by critics with the neutrality that is often directed to bands doing the sixties pop thing. Like yesterday's entry, it's very much comfort-music, with a laid back playfulness and charm and this young Philly quintet unsurprisingly put on memorable live shows that have made believers out of many. The only criticism I could make is that several songs on the album (including the one I'm posting) had been available on an assortment of EPs released the year prior. It's not a mind-blowing album, but it is mind-blowingly enjoyable and worth the modest hype.

Dr. Dog - download "Ain't It Strange"

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buy the album

Friday, December 07, 2007

"Who cares what the question is when all your love's in messages?"

Both today and tomorrows entries contain unabashed sixties retro revival as enthusiastic as it is lackadaisical in it's kicked-back, hippy shuffling. Octopus, which was released in the UK last year, was finally given a proper stateside rollout this year, albeit as Band of Bees. The group from the smallish Isle of Wight recorded their sophomore release in the too-fabled-to-be-fabled anymore Abbey Road studio. The Bees have in fact been appropriately dubbed a hippy tribe by their native media for channeling the psych-era Beatles with a side-dish of weary, sun-battered Byrds. The diversified record shows that this six-piece is just as at home playing with reggae, jazz, classic soul and even a little vaudevillian camp. The end result is an album that sounds like it was recorded by a group of friends who don't take much seriously aside from just having some fun. Sort of a breath of fresh air considering how high-concept most critically lauded records tend to be these days. While I went with the first single here, you'd be doing yourself a great disservice if you didn't track down and also watch their humorous videos for the songs "Chicken Payback" and "Listening Man."

the Bees - download "Who Cares What the Question Is"

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buy the album

Thursday, December 06, 2007

"boom-dadadadadadada boom-dadadada"

Sometimes all it takes is one song. Sure Architecture In Helsinki had a disappointing new full-length album that came out this year (Places Like This), but what I did agreeably put in my player over and over again was the "Heart It Races" single that preceded the lively group's third album. It took the Australian pop ensemble's organic sound in several directions allowing others to completely re-imagine the tune. The result included an amazing DJ Rupture mix feat. Trinidadian vocalist Mr. Lee G and a dancehall spin, an electro-pop meets calypso remix by YACHT and wholly unique cover versions, one rock by Hey Willpower! and one stripped down by Dr. Dog. It's AiH's at their best, moving from their twee beginnings to something far more danceable and less predictable in it's madcap instrument arrangements. It's just unfortunate more of the proper album itself didn't sound like this.

Architecture In Helsinki - download "Heart It Races"

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buy the album

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"I got more records than the KGB"

I'm actually going to waste today's post by spending time to make a brief and obvious comparison between two artists rather than give you a proper review. In 1982 the Clash released Combat Rock, an album that featured songs such as "Straight to Hell," where the group regularly condemned the wrongs that they saw in the world. It was here where they began to experiment more regularly with rap, funk and reggae while coming off as borderline danceable and coincidentally it's on this album that the group reached their widest audience. In 2007 M.I.A. sampled the group's "Straight to Hell" in her song "Paper Planes" and it seems all too entirely fitting a marriage of musical agendas and sounds. Self-describing her album Kala as "shapes, colours, Africa, street, power, bitch, nu world, and brave" you'll be hard pressed to find many artists these days that are able reach the public consciousness with anything this socially conscious...and not shallow (i.e. fuck all that patriotic country bullshit). Tracks from her second release landed in places like Entourage, CSI and even Heroes...a surprising amount of coverage from a woman unafraid of subversive lyrics and who regularly will make obscure regional references (mapping the entirety of nations) presumably lost of those consuming the music. Not all too unlike people twenty-five years who likely couldn't tell you what they meant when singing along to "Rock the Casbah."

That said, Diplo also infused this track with a healthy dose of the classic "Rump Shaker" so maybe the choice of samples means nothing and it all comes down to simply concocting a wholly original and chaotic pop sound as exotic as the multitude of geographic spots on the map that it samples in it's inspired sound. While I don't think it's necessarily intended, M.I.A.'s music without borders and honesty is making me think that a world without borders would not be as enlightened (or safe) as the idealists out there think.

While I obviously agree with the numerous writers citing this as one of the year's best albums, I will wrap up by admitting that I'm not entirely confident that M.I.A. is the activist that critics want to paint her as. Instead I give her the benefit of the doubt. It's all a compelling headjerk, but while I felt the sincerity on Arular and it's direct ties to her personal biography, this time around I tended to feel as if she's using politics to fuel the music rather than using music to expose politics.

M.I.A. - download "Paper Planes"

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buy the album

Pass Me the Mic (2007)

So, first off, let me freely admit that I'm not going to give this the effort I would have back when A4d was running on all cylinders, pumping out recommendations and adorations. It's not because I'm lazy either. It's because it was a bad year for pop music. That's right. Top 40 was really horrible this year. Even the hip-hop sucked. But the music you and I prefer to digest good friend stood at the top of a mighty apex in the year 2007. The bands and musicians making this "indie music", the kind that is  blogged about across this great Internet was everywhere compadres! It was on your television and in your movies. It was in commercials, selling iPods, jeans, cars and Outback steak dinners! It was selling out clubs (The National sold out four consecutive nights here in NYC at a fairly big venue) and it was being whistled out on the streets (Peter, Bjorn and John- I am looking at you)! 

All this being said though, it just means making the end all 2007 list all the more nerve-racking. There's more music to shuffle through then I could have imagined in January. Poor me! Then it hit me- let's arrange that little iTunes app and see what songs I played to death in the last 12 months. 

Anyway, without further adieu, here are the list of poor souls whacked off of my top 6 albums and 16 songs. Great effort all- You get a gold star!

17- 35: sharon jones & the dap kings "100 days"apples in stereo "energy" (link goes to free mp3 download), feist "the limit to your love", fountains of wayne "strapped for cash", robert plant and alison krauss "rich woman", blonde redhead "23", the cave singers "seeds of night", dean & britta "wait for me", dinosaur jr. "we're not alone", lewis and clarke "be the air we breathe", super furry animals "show your hand", new pornographers "our rights vs yours", high llamas "clan cladders", voxtrot "kid gloves", steve earle "tennessee blues", 1990's "you're supposed to be my friend"earlimart "gonna break into your heart"

07. Andrew Bird: Armchair Apocrypha

08. John Vanderslice: Emerald City

09. Jens LekmanNight Falls Over Kortedala

10. PJ Harvey: White Chalk

P.S. There are a few things I hope to touch upon in the A4D 1 month Holiday Special. I'd like to take a peak at my 05 and 06 lists and see how I feel about them now. I'm also hoping to try to post on the 10 year anniversary of my favorite music year (1997, duh) during my 30 walking this planet. I'd also like to talk about a CD club I ran these last two years since Audio For Drinking closed shop. Hope I find time. It's almost 2008!

Tickle the Vote 2007

Hello. So I guess it's about time I should chime in on the easy-as-pie end-of-year festival of lists. Before I get started on that though, I'd like to point everyone's attention in the direction of NPR Music's very democratic "Best CD's of 2007" survey. If I could be a dork for a moment, let me suggest that perhaps you lend one of your five votes to my good friend Mocean Worker and his excellent album Cinco de Mowo!. There are more than enough rock and roller kids in skinny jeans on the list so why not spend one vote on the nice Jewish boy wearing purple pants (and trying to make everyone shake their rumps).

Later on tonight I'm hoping to post my Honorable Mentions. That is, the great songs and albums that didn't make the cut for individual posting treatment. Hey, it was a good year! Just don't expect me to go into as much detail as Jason- he's killin em with tracks and video and all sorts of verbiage this week.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"Stick to the B.E.A.T."

"† " was the dance album of this past summer and "D.A.N.C.E." one of the finest crossover electro-pop jams in recent memory. I picked up their album on a whim after enjoying 2 Many DJs take on their 2005 single "Waters of Nazareth" and reading about them sampling Goblin (on "Phantom"). The album tends to recall either/or early Daft Punk (band groups are managed by the same fellow) and the electro-pop explosion that occurred during summer of 2001 in Brooklyn, but sometimes simple and derivative is most effective. There are actually a few abrasive sounds on the album that don't come off quite as interesting as they should and several tracks have long-since collected dust while the pair dragged their feet to get the debut album out. This single, however, seems to bail them out of any fault or mis-steps with the crucial Donna Summer sample (and at least five Michael Jackson references). The French duo's announcement of a 2008 Fabriclive contribution is already on the top of my list for next year's must-buys.

While the video was nominated for an MTV Music Video Award, I actually decided to instead include the now-famous appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel show. There's also a video-edit out there featuring the excellent MSTRKRFT remix if you want to do some more digging.

Justice - download "D.A.N.C.E."

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buy the album

Monday, December 03, 2007

"Come on mood shift, shift back to good again"

It seems unfortunate that today would be the day to recognize the deceptive silliness and truer scariness of one's personal demons displayed on Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? and the 2007 "clothing-optional" iteration of Of Montreal. You see today was the first day of my new job and I am laying here in an exhaustive haze that can barely put together sentences let alone touch off the deserved depth to explain just how depressing, alienating and intoxicating this record is. As a loving fan of the band and indiepop at large, I handled radio promotion for several of Of Montreal's albums and thus listening to a new album, my expectations should have been something not entirely incongruous. However, it appeared initially that the group had in fact transformed or grew up overnight, from the affable stars of the elementary school play to the playful college freshman who partakes in nude performance art. It made sense to think that Of Montreal really needed to do something different to remain relevant because cute wasn't cutting it with the continuing shift away from jovial pop. And while Kevin prancing around in a cape and make-up with a glam-ish sheen is amusing and quite easy to write about, it's the music that appeared to make a significant change or so I though. The more the year has pressed on and I've listened to the album, it came into that expected familiar focus. Whereas the group previously penned and performed earnest love songs through the lens of a quirky fantasy world, this was the lens of that whimsical place now set on some real life lows. And when you remove the pomp and performance, there's some real soul-biting moments reflected in the songwriting.

That said it could be argued that I have paid a great disservice by offering up one of the poppier songs on the record, but in all honesty I found the admission of drugs and desperation in such a catchy format so disturbing I never thought twice about posting anything else.

Of Montreal - download Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse

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buy the album

Sunday, December 02, 2007

"You drop the first ten years just as fast as you can"

If you haven't figured out from the previous post, I'll be posting these things in the order they appear on the mix I made. That should explain why on the second day of this endeavor we already have a track from my favorite album of the year. LCD Soundsystem's Sound of Silver was a huge jump forward from the already enjoyable self-titled 2005 debut. The leaps and bounds primarily took place in the vocal and lyrical output of the self-conscious, Brooklyn-based producer-artist, James Murphy. But first, let's briefly recognize what's still working in regards to the previous seeds planted by the danceable-punk master of the musical homage. The musical queues once again draw upon a man with an expansive record collection and an unquestionable knowledge in regards to it's contents. There's such an overwhelming love of New Order, Eno and Bowie in this offering, it wasn't entirely surprising that when Franz Ferdinand re-recorded "All My Friends," the comparisons went from obvious to blatant (download or watch it and at the 23 second mark enjoy the liberal re-imagining of an "Age of Consent" riff). But whereas many critics, always quick to try and be the first to pan a hyped musician, pinned the album as a grouchy, soulless retread, I really sensed growth.

What really made this album stand out was the recurring theme, intended or not, that emerges from Murphy's song-writing. That theme as much as I interpreted it, was the uneasy challenges of growing old and subsequently the double-edged sword of rewards and frustrations to be had of passions and identifiers that can grow with and away from you. The songs lend a voice to the man, saying something more than "I own a lot of records." Fame, friends, nightclub scenes are treated with truer wit rather the silly humor of the first album and the result is far more compelling.

One of my bigger regrets this year will have been turning down a free ticket to see LCD Soundsystem open for Arcade Fire at Red Rocks because I was so damned exhausted from Monolith the two days prior. I guess I'm finally struggling in regards to what I used to be able to pull off and the compromises I so easily make now.

LCD Soundsystem - download "All My Friends"
Franz Ferdinand - download "All My Friends"

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buy the album

Saturday, December 01, 2007

"People won't be people when they hear this sound"

As is the case at the end of each year, I slowly piece together a mix cd of my favorite tracks from the year. As you can imagine, with all genres fair game, it can be challenging trying to order the songs with an appropriate flow that those with a particular ear for such things seek. The only track that really proved troublesome was the tune I selected to kick of my year-end retrospective of the best songs of 2007. It's selection as the first entry may be because my solution was simply to make it the first song on the mix. Coincidently, it's from the first album I listened to this year that I immediately knew would make the list because it was unlikely I would hear anything else like it. The album is Mirrored by Battles.

Post-rock, math rock, prog-rock...whatever you choose to call it; with highly processed vocals and an overwhelmingly fun flair to it, I don't think you can say that Battles sound really fits into whatever expectations come with the utterances of those familiar sounds and their perceived cerebral intimidation. Heavy, rhythmic and unexpectedly melodic, the single off the album, entitled "Atlas," actually became my favorite work-out songs at the gym this year. Curiously drawing upon the gimmicks of glam, the music is bombastic and silly; the contrast between technical and non-sensical eliminating the capability of understanding and leaving only the desire to move and play. It left me imagining a parade of all things nerdy and abstract, a dream begotten by drugs and bad food.

Battles - download "Atlas"

visit the band
buy the album

and for the are the lyrics..

People won't be people when they hear this sound
That's been glowing in the dark at the edge of town
People won't be people, no
The people won't be people when they hear this sound
Won't you show me what begins at the edge of town

The singer is a crook
The singer is a crook
The singer is a crook
The singer is a crook
The kitchen is the cook
The scissors are the barbers
The singer is a crook
The chorus, full of actor