's blog

It's that time of year when a young man's (or even slightly aging hipster's) fancy turns to thoughts of picking the best releases of the year. This list could change hourly, but here it is and I'm sticking with it.

1) What Made Milwaukee Famous / What Doesn’t Kill Us / Barsuk

Hook-laden and sometimes challenging, the sophomore release from the Austin band mixes New Wave and classic pop influences. It gets better upon repeated listening.


2) Paul Weller / 22 Dreams / Yep Roc

Weller’s most diverse solo album to date. A mix of songs and styles that most artists—and labels—wouldn’t dare to release.


3) Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings / 100 Days, 100 Nights / Dap Tone

A great ’70s style soul singer with one of the tightest backing bands around—an unforgettable mix


4) Richard Hawley / Lady’s Bridge / Mute

The Sheffield crooner is back with another can’t-miss collection of velvety ballads


5) Joe Jackson / Rain / Rykodisc

His voice has never sounded better and his trio is sparse but powerful


6) The Last Shadow Puppets / Age of the Understatement / Domino

When the Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner and The Rascals’ Miles Kane collaborate everything is cool—down to the CD jacket. Hopefully it will lead people to discover earlier arbiters of cool David Axelrod and Scott Walker whose vibes flow through the disc.


7) Matthew Sweet / Sunshine Lies / Shout Factory

It’s not quite Girlfriend, but it’s pretty damn close


8) Portishead / Third / Mercury

A great return that moves beyond the whole trip-hop trap.


9) Mgmt / Oracular Spectacular / Sony

Psychedelic indie pop that out Flaming Lips the Flaming Lips


10) Jim Noir / Jim Noir / Barsuk

Second album from worshipper of Brian Wilson. More electronic and experimental but just as melodic as his first.



10) Oasis / Dig Out Your Soul / Reprise

Oasis likes The Beatles. Who knew? The influence is there but with a new spin. And there’s even a sitar!


Also deserving attention: Billy Bragg / Mr. Love And Justice; Fleet Foxes / Fleet Foxes; Vampire Weekend / Vampire Weekend; David Ford / Songs For The Road; R.E.M / Accelerate; James / Hey Me; Duffy / Rockferry; Jeremy / Pop Explosion; Band of Horses / Cease to Exist; Glen Campbell / Meet Glen Campbell; Crosby Tyler / 10 Songs of America Today; Old 97s / Blame it On Gravity; Michael Carpenter & The Cuban Heels / EP



Best reissue: The Jesus And Mary Chain / The Power of Negative Thinking: B-Sides and Rarities


Best tribute CD: Beautiful Escape: The Songs of the Posies

Chris Fletcher


Best series: BBC live recordings




I love the summer edition of the Olympic Games. Granted, it’s lost some of the luster of the Cold War days when you would root for the U.S. team to bury the Commies and curse those evil East German judges for bringing down the scores. Now, the only thing to root against is any event that includes the word “synchronized,” which apparently translates universally to “beer run.” We are indeed one world.

But here we are in Beijing, and the Cold War/Bamboo Curtain days are gone in the Olympics, particularly as it relates to the music blaring during the events. Watching the men’s beach volleyball competition I was struck by the snippets of music that played in the venues after each point. Very Western, to say the least. There was “Ballroom Blitz” by Sweet; “Song No. 2” by Blur; “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones. It felt very American, almost like being at a Steelers game minus the annoying “Here We Go.”

It also got me to thinking (and to the alleged point of this post) of how much power the person choosing the music could have on the psyche of the competitors. Imagine the heckling possibilities of Elvis Costello’s “The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes,” if after a spiker drills one in the net, he hears “I used to be disgusted, but now I try to be amused.” Or Beck’s “Loser.” Picture Madness’ Suggs shouting “One Step Beyond” to rattle a gymnast who doesn’t stick the dismount.

Music could also help with the healing process. Billy Bragg could sing, “We’re both going to have to accept that this might be as good as it gets” (from “Rule Nor Reason”). It could implore, thanks to Joe Jackson and “Look Sharp!” And it could remind sprinters of how hard they’ve trained to get to this competition, thanks to the Clash’s “Police on My Back” and its chorus of “been running Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.” And imagine the power of surf music or the soundtrack to those classic NFL Films videos (combined with the voice of John Facenda). World records would fall faster than ice melting on a hot Beijing sidewalk.

Even the more genteel events like the gymnastic floor exercises could get a boost with songs like James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” or Paul Weller’s “You Do Something to Me.” One thing is for certain, though. There isn’t a song on earth that could save any of the synchronized events…although Fear’s “More Beer” might be appropriate.

--Chris Fletcher, Friday Evening Mix Host



It was perhaps the album that most influenced my musical tastes, the one that opened up a whole new world—new wave, pub rock, power pop and old-school punk. And it’s all on one soundtrack from an obscure movie that I doubt anyone—including myself—has ever seen.

The movie is That Summer, a 1979 British flick starring Ray Winstone and Tony London (who? Exactly). But the real star is the music. Take a listen with me.  


Track one: “Sex & Drugs and Rock & Roll” by Ian Dury and the Blockheads.  It was like nothing I had ever heard before. Distinctively British but with a very accessible rhythm section—already I knew something was up. 

Track two: “Spanish Stroll” by Mink Deville. The ultimate expression of cool. 

Track three: “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea” by Elvis Costello. Literate rock and the best backing band in rock history. 

Track four: “She’s So Modern” by The Boomtown Rats. Sir Bob may be best known for trying to save the world and for “I Don’t Like Mondays,” but for me, this is the Rats’ finest moment. 

Track five: “New Life” by Zones. I’ve never heard another song by this band. But who needs to? It’s the perfect power pop song, filled with just the right amount of teenage angst. 

Track six: “Another Girl, Another Planet” by The Only Ones. The ultimate one-hit wonder band. My favorite line: “Space travel’s in my blood and there ain’t nothing I can do about it. Long journeys wear me out, but I can’t live without it.” Only later did I learn the song was an ode to heroin. 

Track seven: “Whole Wide World” by Wreckless Eric. One of my top 10 favorite songs ever. Great lyrics and an understated vocal performance. And he went on to marry Amy Rigby. The song also appears in another soundtrack, “Stranger Than Fiction.”

Track eight: “Because the Night” by The Patti Smith Group. I was never a huge Patti Smith fan, but this is one of the rare moments when someone out-Bruces Bruce.

 SIDE 2:

Track one: “Kicks” by The Boomtown Rats. You know it’s a good album when this is the weakest song.

Track two: “Rockaway Beach” by The Ramones. Gabba Gabba Hey. Who needs more than three chords? Sparse but perfect.

Track three: “Teenage Kicks” by The Undertones. Influential DJ John Peel calls this his favorite track of all time. It’s hard to argue with that assessment. Plus, who can dislike a band whose lead singer is named Feargal Sharkey? It’s one of rock’s great names and one of the best riffs of the punk era.

Track four: “Do Anything You Wanna Do” by Eddie & The Hot Rods. Great pub rock and a song that would be my personal anthem for my twenties. “Tired of doing day jobs with no thanks for what I do, I know I must be something, now I’m gonna find out who.”

Track five: “What a Waste” by Ian Drury and the Blockheads. More evidence that the cockney rebel was a great songwriter—even if he’s not a great singer.

Track six: “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass” by Nick Lowe. I knew “Cruel to Be Kind” was a great song, but this track made me investigate the Jesus of Cool in greater depth. I never regretted that decision.

Track seven: “Watching the Detectives” By Elvis Costello. Hands-down my favorite Elvis song. Elements of reggae combined with one of the great writers of the rock/punk era. Again, The Attractions shine.

Track eight: “Blank Generation” by Richard Hell & The Voidoids. The song that introduced me to American punk. Richard Hell was a poet, who unfortunately never got attention from the mainstream. But then again, would he have been as cool had he reached a larger audience?

Taken together, the songs on this album paint a rich tapestry of late ‘70s/early ‘80s music. For me, it opened up possibilities and was the origin of many a mix tape—and Friday evening mixes. Maybe one day I’ll even see the movie.



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