Posts Tagged ‘Dandy Warhols’

Greatest Songs of the 21st Century… So Far: An Idiosyncratic List.

September 10, 2013

885Songs of New MilleniumThe thirteenth year of the 21st century doesn’t seem to be the right time to look back on the best of the millennium.  Those lists usually come on the decade and quarter century marks.  But I was asked to compile another Top Ten list for Echoes affiliate, WXPN in Philadelphia.  This time, the impossible assignment was picking the Top Ten Greatest Songs of the New Millennium for their 885 Greatest Songs of the New Millennium Countdown This is never an easy task but it made me think of the songs I keep coming back to, the songs that haven’t left my iPhone where music is constantly being cycled off to make room for new material.

One thing I like about this list is it takes classic rock, new wave, progressive rock and just about everything else I grew up with out of the equation.  In my 885 Best Rock Songs list I picked The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” as number one and wrote that “I think any of 10 tunes by The Rolling Stones could be on this list.”  On this  list, there aren’t any great new Rolling Stones tunes in this century.  Nor are there any great new Pink Floyd, The Who or Hendrix tunes to be found.   Six of my ten songs are from artists who began recording in the 2000’s

Because it is greatest “songs,” I left out instrumentals, except for one, which, in an admittedly idiosyncratic move, I made number 1.  For some reason, several of the tracks are from 2008.  It’s not much like the lists of other XPN hosts, and will certainly be nothing like the list that comes from their 885 Greatest Songs of the New Millennium Poll with listeners, but it’s my list.  Follow the link to vote for your own.  Voting ends September 16. At the bottom, I’ve got a Spotify Playlist of John Diliberto’s Top Ten Songs of the New Millennium, So Far.


1 Ulrich Schnauss “Clear Day”
StrangleyWhat a great way to start this list, a wash of white noise obliterating all that came before, then slowly a syncopated 4/4 snare groove rolls in, droning synth chords, a chilling melody and one of those classic Ulrich Schnauss choruses that hooks you on a train ride to ecstasy.  This is one of several tracks from Schnauss’ 2003 CD A Strangely Isolated Place that I could’ve picked. (See Five Best Ulrich Schnauss CDs).  Somebody should write lyrics for this. It’s waiting to be a hit.

2 Moby – Wait for Me
Wait for MeIn my review of this Echoes CD of the Month in July 2009 I wrote: “The title track is another song that seems to contemplate eternity of a lost soul.  It’s sung by Kelli Scarr, who has a fragility that breaks over the waves of Moby’s ghost rhythms, minimalist piano figure and sonic scrims.  She sings “I’m gonna ask you to look away, I lost my hands and it hurts to pray” like a half-remembered nursery rhyme, a paean to lost youth, a contemplation of the end.

It’s a heartbreaking song from an album that makes heartbreak beautiful and noble. (See Five Best Moby CDS) The video doesn’t quite fit the song, so just listen, or just watch.

3 Black Angels, “Yellow Elevator #2”
This is a song I often hit repeat on with my iPhone.  In fact, I just did again. Quoting the “Twilight Zone” theme and Pink Floyd’s “Lucifer Sam,” with Question Mark & the Mysterian’s organ, The Black Angels paint a psychedelic landscape of oblivion this song from their album, Phosphene Dream.  I usually don’t like codas, but the coda for “Yellow Elevator #2” is the most poignant theme this band has recorded.  It was great this year to hear them return it to their live performances after excising it the previous couple of tours.  Excuse me while I kiss these guys. (Review of Album & performance:

Western4 Loner – “Already Numb” Is heartbreak a theme of this list?  It doesn’t get more forlorn than Loner’s song of lost innocence sung in a beautiful alto over a spare, Satie-like piano theme backed by organ.  The line that gets me every time is

“Album covers, I don’t know how.  Could move me once, but cannot now.”

It’s from his album, Western Sci-Fi which is full of beautiful chamber pop.

UNQOTSA5 Olivier Libaux “Go With the Flow” After that heartbreak, I need some joy.  “Go with the Flow” is easily one the most jubilant tracks on Olivier Libaux’s album Uncovered Queens of the Stone Age the Echoes CD of the Month in July 2013. It’s a rollicking party played over a bouncing groove, with vocals provided by Iceland’s Emiliana Torrini.  The sound effects of a cheering audience are used as a musical element that amps-up the elation in QOTSA writer Josh Homme’s story about trying for love despite it all.

Lobotomy Ses6 Alu – “Circus Cosmos”
Alu paints a soundtrack from Mr. Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival (“Something Wicked This Way Comes”).  It’s a three-ring psychosis with calliope organ spinning a tale of delirious love.  Rather than go gothic in tone, Alu’s is euphoric.  It also has an unforgettable chorus:

You are the photograph that I’ve never seen
You are my phantom, the fountain of dreams.
I’ve been living in a mortuary, my whole life long.

There’s more imagery in that one chorus than most musicians conjure for an entire CD and it’s delivered by Alu’s keening soprano with such aching and despair that I know there’s more behind this tune than Alu let on. It’s one of several great tunes from her underrated album, Lobotomy Sessions.

7 Agnes Obel – Riverside
The Danish born singer recorded a heartbreaking song about the ebb, flow and emotional turmoil of life’s currents. Obel brings her lilting, slightly slurred soprano to bear on lyrics of memory and loss.  Singing over a spare cyclical piano riff, she deftly layers her voice into plaintive harmonies that will have you swimming in her bittersweet stream.  Her debut, Philharmonics,  was the Echoes CD of the Month in January of 2012.

Gnarls-Odd-Couple8 Gnarls Barkley “Going On”
This may be the most anomalous track on this list. Gnarls Barkley made some crazed R&B that was retro-soul in its melodies, sung by Cee Lo Green, and futuristic in its arrangements from Danger Mouse.  “Crazy” is their massive hit, but I always loved this hyper-kinetic leaving song from The Odd Couple album with Cee Lo’s manic rap-inflected melody, the stop time rhythm and the gothic freak-out at the end.

Dandys-Earth9 Dandy Warhols – “The Legend of the Last of the Outlaw Truckers A.K.A. the Ballad of Sheriff Shorty”
This is a hyped-up mix of Country-Jitterbug-New Orleans Voodoo psychedelia from Earth to Dandy Warhols. Courtney Taylor-Taylor rips it up in this hipster-jiving ode to speed and trucking, “jacked up on java and nicotine.”  I can’t get it out of my head. Check out this great video and it will be embedded in your head as well.

Beck-Modern10 Beck – “Chemtrails
Beck’s “Chemtrails” from his 2008 album Modern Guilt has one of those Pachelbel-style hooks that could go on forever. The song starts as a lament and turns in to an anthem of deep despair for humanity, while still somehow maintaining hope using chemtrail conspiracy theories as a metaphor.  I saw him do a great version of it with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra at the Bowl that year and it stayed in my head thereafter despite the assholes sitting behind me. Even the pointless coda doesn’t ruin it.

John Diliberto’s 10 Best Songs of the New Millennium Spotify Playlist

John Diliberto (((echoes)))

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10 Greatest Rock Songs

August 7, 2012

Every year Echoes affiliate WXPN, 88.5FM has listeners vote on their list of the Best885 whatever, albums, road songs, artists, etc.   And every year they ask hosts to submit their top ten choices.  This year, they’ve made the impossible task of listing the 885 Greatest Rock Songs.   I mean, come on!  This list could go on forever and the ten I finally selected for the list could change, and did, the minute after I submitted it.  And what does “Greatest” mean?  Am I making an objective evaluation of the songs I think have the most significance, impact, influence?  Or am I simply picking the ten that rocked my socks?

With these best of lists, the tendency is always to go with the music that shaped you in your youth. The latest Alt-rock tune has a lot of trouble competing with a song that’s been in your DNA for 40 years or so.  So I’ve tried, not very successfully to step back from that.  The criterion I’ve wound up with is music that makes you stomp your feet, shake your head and flail your arms like the most embarrassing looking air-guitarist.  It’s the sound screaming out the window of my mother’s 1970 yellow Comet riding up Rte 93 to Hampton Beach in the summer.  It’s the songs that I still turn up whenever they come on the radio, even though some of them never come on the radio, but you know what I mean.  In other words, when I think “Greatest Rock Songs” I think songs that rock.  There’s no ballads, no heart-felt anthems.  I’ve excluded much of the music that’s at the core of my existence, and I’ve left out artists like Siouxsie & the Banshees, Levitation, IAMX, The Horrors, Arcade Fire and The Black Angels, all of whom have gotten me through more cardio workouts than I care to mention,  for no real good reason at all.  And as I write this, I’m definitely having second thoughts about leaving out the Black Angels.

More than that, I think any of 10 tunes by The Rolling Stones could be on this list:   “Satisfaction,” “Get off of My Cloud,” “Mothers Little Helper,” Street Fighting Man,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Citadel,” “19th Nervous Breakdown,” “The Last Time,” “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”  Done.  But as lists go, that would be boring .  Nevertheless, the Stones are at the top with a predictable selection, but one that I think is unassailable.

John Diliberto’s Greatest Rock Songs
(At Least for Today)

The Rolling Stones – “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”
There is no doubt about this one.  One of the greatest riffs in rock., ever.  It’s the perfect encapsulation of angst, aggravation and frustration.

2 The Beach Boys – “Good Vibrations”
No doubt about this one either.  A miniature symphony chorale.  If you don’t feel good at the end of this song, you need your meds adjusted immediately.

3 The Kinks – “You Really Got Me”
Someone recently put forth this question, The Kinks or The Clash.  My answer was, the Kinks created the greatest rock riff ever in this song and there is no Clash without the Kinks.

4 Steppenwolf – “Born to Be Wild”
I do like those tunes with heavy riffs and here’s another one. But it’s also a song that crystallized the wild abandon of the late 60s and coined the term, “heavy metal.”  We are all “easy riders” with our minds blown when you hear this song.

5 Jimi Hendrix – “Purple Haze”
Another seminal riff and a song that screamed freedom of the mind.  ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky.” Hendrix’s guitar attack alone changed rock forever.  And it changed me as well.

6 Electric Prunes – “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)”
Another great psychedelic pop excursion from 1966 and an early introduction for me to electronic music with something called a Bigsby wiggle stick combined with massive fuzz tone and feedback going backwards to create that vibrating drone.  There’s a reason why it’s the first track on Nuggets.  And it wasn’t until  years later that I realized they were emulating the sound of dragging on a joint on the fadeout.

7 Nirvana – “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
The apotheosis of grunge.  This is the “I’m Eighteen” of the grunge generation, a timeless song of angst that will resonate for generations.

8 Ultravox – “Fear in the Western World”
I could’ve picked the Sex Pistol’s “Holiday in the Sun” but I went with this paranoid high-octane rocket-to-oblivion screed from Ultravox which should rightfully be paired with “Distant Smile,” the song it segues into on the album, Ha-Ha-Ha.

9 Guns ‘n’ Roses – “Welcome to the Jungle”
In many ways, Guns ‘n’ Roses isn’t my thing, but like Ultravox and Nirvana, this always seemed to be the perfect dystopian hellride, like Clockwork Orange on a Harley.

10 The Dandy Warhols – “Not If you Were the Last Junkie On Earth”
So many Dandy’s tunes could be on this list, but I picked this crank-up-the- volume ode to Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

These are my picks and I’m not stickin’ to ’em.  Ask me tomorrow and except for the Top 4, everything could change.  You make your own choices for XPN’s 885 Greatest Rock Songs.

You can see videos for all my selections at the end

~© 2012 John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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The Dandy Warhols and The Black Angels Trip Out in Philly.

November 8, 2010

Two retro-Psychedelic Bands Rewire an Era.

It was a psychedelic weekend in Philadelphia with two bands who are steeped in the sound and imagery of the late 60s,The Dandy Warhols and The Black Angels.  The Dandy Warhols, formed in 1993, are the veterans and at the Electric Factory on November 8, they took a stage adorned with giant hanging spherical rice lamps like you’d find at Ikea only their’s are stoked with colored lights and strobes.  Touring behind their recent Best of album, The Capitol Years 1995-2007, they pretty much played the hits from that era and wailed through them with abandon. “The Last High” was altered from a smooth synth-laden pop tune into a descent into hell with snarling guitars, drums of doom, and time-ticking synthesizer while “We Used to Be Friends” was revamped into a metal-edged charge.  Throughout, frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor and Peter Holmström laid down sheets of guitar noise with serrated distortion, feedback squalls and jangling harmonics. They played 24 songs in about 90 minutes so they didn’t stretch out much, but they did turn “I Love You” into a raving improvised screamer.

The Dandys have always been a group who wore their references on their sleeves:  60s psychedelia, 80s New Wave, Krautrock, and that’s still the case although they make them all their own, whether it’s the modal drone of “Lou Weed,” the 60s psych-punk of “Boys Better” or the hyped-up mix of Country-Jitterbug-New Orleans Voodoo on “The Legend of the Last of the Outlaw Truckers A.K.A. the Ballad of Sheriff Shorty.”

This was a less synthesizer oriented show than I expected. Zia McCabe stood in a small cockpit of synthesizers usually playing bass lines on a Korg with one hand while the other rattled a tambourine or maracas or was just planted sexily on her hip.  McCabe cuts such a cool stage presence, she could’ve just stood their snapping gum and made it work.  But she and drummer Brent DeBoer were in sync, laying down rock solid grooves, with DeBoer’s Hendrix-style freak-out haircut wreathed by his own cigarette smoke most of the night.  His drumming is simple and brutal and a contrast to his choir boy-pure vocal harmonies.

The Dandy’s pulled a lot of songs out of the closet, including “Genius” which they claimed not to have played in years.  You wouldn’t believe that to hear them lock into it, but perusing set lists from previous shows on the tour,  it’s not there.  You can see a lot of night-to-night variation like that as this band celebrates their career.  It wasn’t perfect.  Taylor-Taylor seemed to be struggling a bit vocally and on tracks like “Last of the Outlaw Truckers” he didn’t really get into the vocal character that makes that song such a psychotic trip.    But I’d never seen The Dandy Warhols before and this greatest hits pilgrimage tapped all the right buttons.

The night before was more retro psychedelia as The Black Angels skipped right past 80s new wave and 70s rock and plugged their guitars into the early psychedelic era represented in Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets collection.  From the surf drumming to the reverb drenched guitars,  this band sounds like they ingested all of Nuggets and the hallucinogens that inspired it.  Songs like “Sunday Afternoon” could’ve been on a 13th Floor Elevator album, including an “electric jug” effect, which makes sense since they backed up Roky Erickson for a while.  Taking the stage of the TLA in Philadelphia amidst strobe lights and an optical illusion backdrop, I felt tossed back to psychedelic ballrooms like the original Electric Factory, The Boston Tea Party and the Fillmore.  They twanged and screamed feedback through music drawn from their three albums, especially their latest CD, Phosphene Dream.

The Black Angels pour their 60s garage psychedelics through Velvet Underground drone and Jesus and Mary Chain angst.  Both guitarists used old style reverb that conjured up strobe-lit echoes of bands past but also created an enveloping cocoon of sound that was lanced by feedback and massaged with more tremolo than you’ll hear in a yodeling contest.  Through it all, Stephanie Bailey sits, pounding out big beat rhythms.

Their set was marred by an atrocious mix, with instruments buried and overdriven to unintended distortion.  Vocal harmonies were smeared and forced to shout, Alex Maas’s vocals lacked the subtlety and nuance you’ll find on the albums. Instead he drove home the lyrics in a tone that recalled an especially tense Question Mark, of ? and the Mysterians.   They even whipped out a bit of “96 Tears” organ on a song which is standard operating procedure for a group that quotes the “Twilight Zone” theme and early Pink Floyd all in one tune, “Yellow Elevator#2. ”

The Dandy Warhols and The Black Angels are groups that look back to a time when music was an experience of consciousness.  But they are reinventing it for a generation with different ears.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

John Diliberto’s Top Ten Songs for 2008: Alu to Gnarls Barkley

December 4, 2008

When WXPN, our Philadelphia Echoes affiliate, asked me to submit my Top Ten Albums and songs list, Program Director Bruce Warren said “send us your top ten albums and songs (if you have songs).” I knew what he meant by that parenthetical on a couple of levels.

On Echoes, we usually don’t play songs, right? Instrumental pieces are usually called compositions. Songs are something you hear on pop radio and have singers. And even if they were songs, we don’t think of the music here in a “song” sort of way. They’re more like parts of albums, atmospheres, moods and sonic architecture.

But we do actually play songs on Echoes. In the last year, you’ve heard tunes by Goldfrapp, Alu, M83, All India Radio and many more. So I approached this list like my Top Ten CDs for 2008. I didn’t limit it to Echoes materiel only, but they’ve all been in heavy rotation on my iPod.

Topping my list is Alu, someone not well known outside the Echoesphere, but she should be. Her album, Lobotomy Sessions is the Never Forever (Kate Bush) of the 21st Century, and this song in particular, “Circus Cosmos,” haunted me for months with its refrain:

You are the photograph that I’ve never seen
You are my phantom, the fountain of dreams.
I’ve been living in a mortuary, my whole life long.

There’s more imagery in that one chorus than most musicians conjure for an entire CD and it’s delivered by Alu’s keening soprano with such aching and despair that I know there’s more behind this tune than Alu let on.

Digitonal’s “93 Years On” is equally haunting. A masterpiece of ambient chamber music, Andy Dobson’s tortured clarinet solo, reputedly performed in a drunken haze over a lost girlfriend, is a blistering, pained cry of luxurious anguish set in an electronic cocoon.

Beck has one of the non-Echoes pieces here. But “Chemtrails” has one of those Pachelbel-style hooks that could go on forever. He did a great version of it with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra at the Bowl in September that stayed in my head thereafter.

“The Legend of the Last of the Outlaw Truckers A.K.A. the Ballad Of Sheriff Shorty” by The Dandy Warhols is worthy of its over-long title. It’s a hyped-up mix of Country-Jitterbug-New Orleans Voodoo psychedelia. Courtney Taylor-Taylor rips it up in this hipster-talking ode to speed and trucking. I can’t get it out of my head. Check out this great video and it will be embedded in your head as well.

The electronica band Goldfrapp took a pastoral, nearly acoustic turn on their Seventh Tree album. I loved “Little Bird” for its wistful tone that ends in a psychedelic crescendo that reminded me of Magical Mystery era Beatles. Alison Goldfrapp’s voice is the kind you want to sleep with.

My youngest teenaged daughter, Grace hipped me to MGMT and  “Time to Pretend.”  It’s a tongue in cheek parody of the rock lifestyle with a surprisingly poignant undertone, delivered with driving synthesizers.

Lights Out Asia‘s “Radars Over the Ghosts of Chernobyl” is about as epic as they get, starting with Gothic chords and Latin voices that sound like an oblivion mass before slowly emerging into surging guitars, hell bound rhythms and Chris Schafer’s anguished vocal.

Mariee Sioux is a partly Native American singer who uses Native themes and imagery in her music. Her song “Buried in Teeth” is part children’s song and part lament with a fragile voice that breaks over her finger-style guitar playing with some nice Native flute by Gentle Thunder.

Another catch from my daughter is Gnarls Barkley.  Every time she’d throw a mix CD in the car and I asked her what that track was, it would be something by this electro-soul duo.  Their album, The Odd Couple is brilliant and “Surprise,” with its mix of chorus harmonies redolent of The Association coupled with surf grooves doesn’t stop.

Finally Sumner McKane’s “After the Fireworks we walked to the Rope Swing,” is the least song-like of anything here, but the epic, almost operatic electric orchestration always sends a buzz up my spine and the guitar solo is sublime.

You can see the list along with other host and staff picks at WXPN
or just go right here:

John Diliberto’s Top 10 SONGS




  Alu Circus Cosmos/Lobotomy Sessions


  Digitonal 93 Years On/Save Your Light for Darker Days
  Beck Chemtrails/Modern Guilt
  Dandy Warhols The Legend of the Last of the Outlaw Truckers/Earth to Dandy Warhols

  Goldfrapp Little Bird/Seventh Tree
  MGMT Time To Pretend/Oracular Spectacular
  Lights Out Asia Radars Over the Ghosts of Chernobyl/Eyes Like Brontide
  Gnarls Barkeley Surprise/The Odd Couple
  Mariee Sioux Buried In Teeth/Faces in the Rocks

  Sumner McKane After the Fireworks We Walked to the Ropeswing/What A Great Place to Be

Copyright 2008 Pennsylvania Public Radio Associates,
































John Diliberto’s Top 10 CDs for 2008

November 28, 2008

From Digitonal to the Dandy Warhols, John Diliberto’s Top Ten CDs for 2008.

While you’re pondering the Echoes 2008 Listener Poll, I’ve already been solicited for a few year-end lists. I usually give a different list to different outlets. My (uncredited) list is pretty strictly New Age and limited to  titles that are actually on, although as you’ll see, I stretch the definition of New Age quite a bit. The 25 Essential Echoes CDs for 2008 is limited to what I play on Echoes (Look for that in a week or so). But when WXPN solicited lists for my 10 Top CDs and songs for 2008, there were no limitations. So there are a couple of things here that I wouldn’t be playing on Echoes. This is my personal Top Ten.  

A lot of my top ten albums will be appearing right on top of the 25 Essential Echoes CDs for 2008. I’ve written about many of them already. Digitonal’s Save Your Light For Darker Days remains my favorite disc of the year and I say why in my  September CD of the Month review. Sumner McKane’s right up there and my paean to his psychamericana on What A Great Place to Be is in my October CD of the Month review. Saul Stokes’ entrancing electronic cycles on Villa Galaxia probably should have been a CD of the Month. I wrote about that in an Echo Location. The Persian fusion group, Niyaz  topped their debut with the double CD, Nine Heavens.  It could’ve been a CD of the month as well, but it came out in the midst of CDs we’d already selected by Jamshied Sharifi and Biomusique with similar exotic female singers.   We try and spread a little variety among CD of the Month Selections.  But I am intoxicated by Azam Ali’s  voice which taps into something beyond this world, while still living sensually in this world. Alu is a relatively new singer who made me think of early Kate Bush with her electronica cabaret on Lobotomy Sessions. I wrote about her in an Echo Location. Nik Bärtch’s Ronin has been making a cerebral brand of minimalist jazz for years and Holon spins like a melodic meeting of Dave Brubeck and Steve Reich. Lights Out Asia orchestrated a perfect mix of shoegazer rock and ambient electronics but on an epic scale on their enigmatically titled CD, Eyes Like Brontide.   You can also read about them and hear their music in an Echo Location.  Now we get to the two non-Echoes titles here. Beck‘s Modern Guilt, is another great album of insightfully poetic and ironic lyrics set in new variations of organic quirk, much of it provided by Danger Mouse from Gnarls Barkley who made my Top Ten Songs.    Earth to the Dandy Warhols is a brilliant pastiche of styles from jive-talking  jump-blues to Can, all distilled through their psychedelic sensibilities.   The German group, Qntal rounds out the list with Lucidia, a definitive example of their Medieval Electronica fronted by the haunting, imperious voice of Sigrid Hausen. The Top Ten list is below. I’ll have My Top Ten songs later, or you can just go to WXPN and see it there, sans sage commentary. While you’re in the neighborhood , vote in their year end poll, but while you’re here, vote in ours, The Echoes 2008 Listener Poll.  You might even win the Top 25 Echoes CDs for 2008.
John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

John Diliberto’s Top 10

1 Digitonal Save Your Light for Darker Days
2 Sumner McKane What A Great Place to Be
3 Saul Stokes Villa Galaxia
4 Niyaz Nine Heavens
5 Alu Lobotomy Sessions
6 Nik Bartsch’s Ronin Holon
7 Lights Out Asia Eyes Like Brontide

8 Beck Modern Guilt
9 Dandy Warhols Earth to Dandy Warhols

10 Qntal Qntal VI: Translucida

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