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December 18, 2008 |

By TK Burton | Music | December 18, 2008 |

We’re mixing things up a bit today — unlike the first two entries in our year-end series, these aren’t albums released in 2008. Rather, they’re bands or records we discovered in 2008. Some of you may know them, some of you may not. But they’re new to us, and we love them. Hope you do too.

rino.jpgRinôçérôse: Rinôçérôse

One of my favorite albums in 2008 was not an album of 2008. It’s an album by a band which features the best use of diacritics I have seen in the world of contemporary music. Why isn’t there a Grammy award category pertaining to diacritical marks and punctuation? We would see an upsurge of grammar-play the likes of which we haven’t seen since Mötley Crüe inappropriately umlaut-ed themselves. The runner up would be the incredibly clever Interrobang by George Hrab. (Another favorite in 2008, but I’ll leave you to discover that one for yourselves.)

But anyway, we are not here to talk about punctuation. We’re here for the music. But even if we were talking about linguistics, we’d still be here to talk about Rinôçérôse, the French electronica-rock band founded by the extremely hot Patrice Carrié (female bass players are awesome) and Jean-Phillippe Freu. These two bill themselves as “psychologists by day, musicians by night” - but that may be more gimmick than reality, judging from their touring schedule for the last few years.

At any rate, Rinôçérôse is their eponymous greatest hits compilation, released in 2006, and it’s completely, totally awesome. They keep their rock and their electronica separate, by and large, and do both extraordinarily well. The only thing that could have kept me from discovering it for so long is my own personal inability to keep up with the cool.

Some of you will have heard at least one Rinôçérôse single, “Cubicle,” by way of an iPod commercial. I am (not really entirely) ashamed to admit that I’ve had more than one band brought into my life in that manner. In my defense, the good folks at Apple really know their stuff. Also in my defense, even though it was so featured, this band was actually brought to my attention by one of our fellow music writers, The Ursine Calamity, who also really knows his stuff - and who is not a ridiculously large corporation. So for that reason, primarily, I feel comfortable passing this gem on to you all.


So what about the music? Well. “Bitch” is an upbeat, rock-inspired number that reminds me a little bit of Jet but, well, better. (Sorry, Jet fans, if you’re still out there. If you are, please explain yourselves.) They make good use of their hot female bassist, and the guitar is pretty ripping through all of the rock songs. But despite this, it’s not guitar rock. It’s simply rock in its purest sense.

As far as the electronic tracks, “Le Rock Summer” is the kind of cut best played around 2 a.m. at that club you really like after you’ve, ah, dedicated yourself to an evening of dancing. (Read: are tripping balls like you’re still in college.) It’s a spacious vibe that’s created here, all lights and colors and smooth, flowing groove that quits too soon. (Extended remix, please!) In fact, most of the electronica on this album is of the chill-out, deep groove variety. I admit that I’m a sucker for this style of music (Weekend Players! Jazzanova!,) and honestly? It’s nearly as fulfilling to listen to while making dinner as it is pulsing through club speakers. Especially now that I’m pushing 30 and no longer have the strength and courage for going out that I once had.


Part of the delight of Rinôçérôse is that for every lovely, danceable cut (see also: “Lost Love,” “Music Kills Me,” my personal favorite “Inacceptable,” or even the breathe of samba infused into “Mes Vacances a Rio,”) the album has the rockin’ “Bitch” and “Cubicle” and the delicious, slightly Outkast-flavored “My Demons.” “Get Ready Now” features some ripping fuzz bass that makes me giddy with the beat and some Trent Reznor-esque lyrics (“I want you down on your knees / For the sake of your soul.”) My music tastes run to the extremely eclectic, so albums like this are ultimately appealing because they address such a range of styles and intentions, and keep me fulfilled on several fronts. Many times, when artists attempt to embrace several styles, they fall terribly short in one, but this doesn’t happen with Rinôçérôse. They move fluidly back and forth between influences, keeping the songs cleanly of a style, and not drifting into any unholy fusions. And while I do love unholy fusions in some situations, this album is completely perfect without them.

Mickey-Avalon.jpgMickey Avalon
My favorite musical discovery of the year is my ultimate guilty pleasure - an artist utterly lacking in any redeeming social quality, with lyrics so deeply offensive and appalling, that I simply cannot. stop. shaking. my booty. when any of his tracks come on. Putting his album on makes my apartment feel like the trashiest club in Hollywood.

I live in rural Ohio. This is a major accomplishment.

His name? Mickey Avalon (born Yeshe Perl) - the ultimate club-kid pleasure that I listen to in the wilds of Ohio to feel like I am a hopeless, tragic, Hollywood Boulevard trust-fund nightmare. He is like the unholy love-child created out of a drunken union of Iggy Pop, Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie, and Eminem. His beats are SICK. His rhymes are ludicrous. He bleeds Punk-Rock cred. And his delivery? Watch some youtube footage of his live shows in Hollywood and you’ll see what he does to the (coked-up, starving) ladies. He seems to be walking panty-remover.

To be fair to Mr. Avalon, a lot of his misogynistic (TAKE A DRINK) shtick is clearly for show — or maybe that is just me rationalizing my love for a man whose tracks include a song called “My Dick” (a collaboration with none other than ex-MTV veejay Simon Rex, who now calls himself Dirt Natsy and who is absolutely hilarious behind a mic). But, in truth, for every track that talks about big bootys or taking down bulimic trust-funders in the bathroom, there’s a track like “Friends and Lovers,” which laments the consequences of the fast-and-loose life he’s lived (he’s pretty much seen it all, considering he was a male prostitute to serve his own narcotic habit for a while).

“Friends and Lovers”

In truth, I don’t even know how to describe this guy. He looks like the Emcee from Cabaret after a month-long coke bender. He’s this strange, skinny, androgynous hell demon whose power to work a crowd is cult-like. His bravado is beyond over-the-top - but there’s an underlying honesty that betrays just how much ugliness he has seen in a tragedy-filled life, which gives tracks that would be club-fluff serious teeth. And he makes me shake my moneymaker.

mando-film-01.jpgMando Diao
XM Radio has a nifty little station called XMU, which plays some pretty great indie music. My XM radio also has a nifty little button that allows me to save the artist and title of a song that really catches my ear. One of my favorite activities during slow work days is to go through whatever twenty song titles are saved on my radio, write them all down, and get myself a nice little group of potential new bands to not tell anyone else about. I’ve come across more than a few gems this year, but only one whose name I’ve been shouting at everyone I know: Mando Diao.

A five-piece outfit from Sweden, quite frankly, Mando Diao brings the rock. Their name apparently holds no particular meaning and appeared to one of them in a dream. (For the purposes of this piece, it will be assumed to mean “Thor’s Penis.”) Their music falls into what is called “garage rock,” though they hold a distinct advantage over other groups of the genre by having kick-ass Swedish names like Björn Dixgård and Mats Björke. They list The Beatles as their primary influence, and it’s no challenge to detect as much — their four-album catalog feels right out of the sixties, starting out gritty and raw with 2002’s Bring ‘Em In. The album delivers a dozen fast-paced tracks, with vocalists Björn and Gustaf switching between a distorted, nasal Lennon-ish voice and a deeper, clearer one. (I don’t know who’s which. Sorry.) In addition to the Beatles, the songs serve up large helpings of the Rolling Stones and the Kinks, and even a little Santana and the Zombies; they’re catchy, melodic, and make use of some great harmonies. They’re not breaking any new ground; in fact, they dig quite deep into well-established territory. But they do it well. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you rock the shit out of two chords:


Is the Beatles influence too obvious?

Their follow-up, 2004’s Hurricane Bar, offers much of the same; this is not a bad thing. In fact, they’ve done an admirable job of maintaining the 60’s British invasion sound throughout their career. Hurricane Bar is a touch more polished and adds a couple of slower tracks, but maintains the songwriting style that makes Mando Diao so damn good. Again, it’s not breaking any new ground. But some perfectly placed minor and seventh chords and a fantastic knack for melody take the material from pleasantly listenable to completely addicting.

“God Knows”

Their third album, Ode to Ochrasy, is my favorite of the four, and contains what is undoubtedly my favorite Mando Diao track. I’m not sure it’s possible to understate how much I love this song—The horns! The harmonies! It’s two and a half minutes of unrelenting, unabashed rock that you will listen to three times before moving on to the next track.

Also, it’s about the fucking Unabomber.

“Killer Kaczynski”

Go back and listen again. You know you want to.

Their latest release, Never Seen the Light of Day, feels just like it should: a continuation of a career that’s moving into the late sixties and early seventies. Like the previous three, it’s simple, catchy, well-written rock and roll that will make you remember why music players have a ‘repeat’ button.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s well worth two years’ satellite subscription fees to find a band that I dig this much. According to the infallible Wikipedia, they’ve got a new album coming out in February, entitled Give Me Fire. The first single, “Dance With Somebody,” is available on their MySpace page; it veers sharply into 70’s territory, and is quite unlike any of their previous material. Given the quality of their work thus far, though, I’ll maintain my optimism, and will undoubtedly fire up the iTunes when the new material is released. Mando Diao is exactly what great rock music should be: simple, sincere and impossible to ignore. You will tap your toe and bob your head. You will never be bored. And to those who might proclaim that “rock is over”: Mando Diao would ask you kindly to go fuck yourself.

In Swedish, even!
—Sean Kufel

Pajiba Music

Our Favorite Discoveries, Day 1
/ Pajiba Music Writers & The Eloquents

Music | December 18, 2008 |

TK Burton is the Editorial Director. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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