By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
The holidays are a time of family, schmaltzy Christmas commercials that somehow make you cry and, for music journalists, list-making. Lots and lots of list-making.
Over the past few years, the availability of year-end critics' lists has multiplied faster than the worry lines on Ben Bernanke's brow. Just look: The Internet and your local Barnes & Noble's magazine rack are brimming over with head-spinning, eye-glazing permutations of praise for the following albums: Arcade Fire's Neon Bible, the National's Boxer, Spoon's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, M.I.A.'s Kala, Radiohead's In Rainbows, LCD Soundsystem's Sound of Silver and Battles' Mirrored.
If you want to parse the exact sequence of those records in your favorite publication or blog, feel free. We're going in a different direction.
In 11 cities from Miami to San Francisco, we asked musicians, MCs, DJs, athletes and, in one case, a Michael Stipe-impersonating electrician to tell us what music they loved most this year. It could be albums, songs, or an artist's collected works, and it need not be dated 2007. We just wanted to know what was moving our interviewees right now. Interviews with OC and LA celebs are included below, and you can find the rest online at www.houstonpress.com.
This just seems more like the way we listen to music now-with everything available to everyone, free and on demand, the old days of anticipating the release dates of and then treasuring new albums seem to be seriously on the wane.
—John Nova Lomax, executive music editor, Village Voice Media
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Christian Jacobs lives in a world of boldfaced, DayGlo images. He dwells in a realm in which all sentences end in exclamation marks and fun is as common as oxygen. A founding member of OC's legendary synth/pop/punk/ska band the Aquabats! and co-creator (with Scott Schultz) of the new children's television show Yo Gabba Gabba!, Jacobs (a.k.a. the MC Bat Commander) assumes cartoonish personae with earnestness and revels in goofiness with as much gusto as Jay-Z and 50 Cent luxuriate in their self-perpetuated, overblown mythologies.
As front man for the Aquabats!, Jacobs dons superhero garb (as do his band mates) and acts out a comic-book-style story line in which the group combats evil through its damn-catchy and ludicrously peppy songs that fall somewhere between Oingo Boingo and Devo at their most accessible. This they've been doing since 1994 over four studio albums and several international tours. The Aquabats! have weathered several personnel changes and continue to soldier on in their quest to subdue nefarious nemeses; to that end, they're currently recording a new album and touring sporadically.
Recently, however, Jacobs' time and creative energy also have been channeled into Yo Gabba Gabba!, which debuted on Nick Jr. in August and will air on the Noggin cable channel starting Monday. One of those rare kids' shows that appeals to adults, Yo Gabba Gabba! has become a cult favorite, garnering much YouTube synergy. It appears destined to launch its on-air talent-including DJ Lance Rock; Ricky Fitness; the toy monsters Brobee, Foofa, Muno, Plex and Toodee; and Jacobs himself, reprising his MC Bat Commander character-into something verging on mainstream stardom.
Yo Gabba Gabba! has drawn comparisons to such programs as H.R. Pufnstuf, Pee-wee's Playhouse, The Muppet Show and Banana Splits Adventure Hour. The regular appearance of music groups-including the Shins, the Aggrolites, Mya, Supernova, Rahzel of the Roots and Biz Markie-also harks back to MTV's golden age. If that weren't enough, Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh provides graphics for the show.
Alternadad author Neal Pollack has declared his love for Yo Gabba Gabba! on his blog: "This will be the TV show around which our movement rallies. Not that we have a movement, mind you, but if we did, this would be the TV show around which it . . . You get the idea."
On top of all of this Yo Gabba Gabba! success, the Aquabats! finally secured a production deal for their long-germinating superhero show. Amid increasing time constraints in his life, Jacobs (a father himself) miraculously found a few minutes to share "the songs I listened to the most, over and over, this past year."
Jerry Reed, "East Bound and Down.""C'mon! Haven't you ever been under the gun and had to drop the hammer down! I know I was all year. We would play this super-loud in the office when things were getting pretty bleak. And, you know, when Smokey's got his ears on and he's hot on yer trail, he aint gonna rest till yer in jail! So, bring it, Jerry, bring it! I'm not at all a country fan, but this song brings the goods . . . literally!"
The Killers, "When You Were Young (Jaques Lu Cont's Thin White Duke Radio Edit).""I thought the album cut was okay, but this remix is way better. Say what you want about the Killers, but I think they're really good, and with a little help, they're way better."
M.I.A., "XR2" and "Jimmy.""This whole album [Kala] is crazy, and I love it. Wow! 'Where were you in '92?' This song is such a mind-blower. It's so frantic and slamming, but somehow super-smooth, like a ninja knife hit at the 1985 Video Game Olympics. The beat is insane. It pumps so many crazy feelings it goes off like a bomb. I guess M.I.A., being no stranger to bombs going off, really has a knack for blowing things apart while still somehow looking fresh in pink '80s stretch pants. Then her track 'Jimmy' takes us to the sixth-grade Bollywood disco party and doesn't disappoint. M.I.A. is way more gangsta than anything on MTV. Sorry, all ya Fergie dawgs."