Monday, June 04, 2007
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Video Mondays! Mistah FAB - Ghost Ride It
I'll admit it upfront: I have shitty taste in hip-hop. Could it be worse? Probably. Is it so narrow and predictable that it becomes sort of embarrassing? You bet. My likes read like the dorky, white, Midwestern, "I listen mostly to 'indie' stuff but like some hip-hop too" checklist. "Underground" stuff (ie: Def Jux)? Check. "Artsy" stuff (ie: Anticon)? Yep. My favorite album of the genre? GZA/Genius' Liquid Swords. Do I own a copy of it, or even listen to it very often? Ashamedly, no. All that said, I probably don't have any credibility for this post. But here it is.
I love this. This song is great, the video is great, and, to my limited understanding, I warmly welcome hyphy to its future dominance of American airwaves. In keeping the gritty beats and adventurous production of crunk, but ditching the adolescent rage, self-importance, mindless consumerism and misogyny that dominates its lyrics, I think we can hope for a sonically entertaining and all-around fun pop rap. It might lack the social/political awareness of other acts, and it may not be "smart," but it makes up for it in infectiousness and clever wit. Yes, horrendous bling and over the top antics are dumb, but that doesn't mean they can't be fun as well. Admitting that straight away and reveling in it without the pretense that these are Important Things defangs critics. Smart move.
I like this in a similar way to the way I like things like, say, The Unicorns. It has a way of getting past your defenses and going straight to enjoyment, something that current pop rap is completely unable to do (F-E-R-G-A-L-I-C-I-oh jesus christ someone give me a lobotomy). I may be completely late to the [ghost] boat, but I'm happy to climb aboard.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Video Mondays! - The Arcade Fire - Guns of Brixton
I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I read that The Arcade Fire did a cover of The Clash's classic Bad. Ass. Monster. Groove. "The Guns of Brixton," and was even more skeptical when I found out that it was an acoustic performance in the foyer, rather than a full on, percussive rocker. But the result fucking slays. My only qualm is the poor sound quality, and that I have yet to witness it in person. It starts out a little rough, but by the end, the Fire really start to nail the groove, and Win's bullhorn delivery suits the track very well. Like the last video post, this clip is evidence of that elusive beast: unlikely cover songs done incredibly well.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Given my often stated but little indulged love of music videos, I thought it would be beneficial for all of us to take some time each week to appreciate them. This week, I'm spotlighting my current favorite, Susanna and the Magic Orchestra's cover of "Love Will Tear Us Apart." Yes, I know I linked it in the year end list, LAY OFF ME ITS GREAT.
The combination of band name and song selection should provide a laugh. The actual product certainly does not. An amazing cover of an untouchable song, which is incredibly rare. Also rare is a video that basically amounts to a performance shot being so appropriate and beautiful. The sparse set and fluid cinematics fit the song perfectly.
Nico would be proud.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Hydra Head, 2006
Sounds Like: A wasteland.
For: Fans of desperation. And shoegaze.
Jesu is headed by Justin K. Broderick, best known for his work in early industrial sludge metal outfit Godflesh, as well as involvement in Napalm Death, Techno Animal, and Ice. Speaking even as a relatively longtime fan of Godflesh (Streetcleaner is still an absolutely sick record), Jesu stands as his best work to date. Many reviewers like to toss about words like "soundscape" and "atmosphere" when discussing music (especially anything with an electronic tint of any sort), but few musicians, even masters of their crafts, can create environments as tangible, and nearly visible as Broderick in this outfit. Even relatively upbeat tracks (which comprise most of this EP) carry a sense of post-apocalyptic doom.
Yet, this record is still heavy. Sped up 50%, most of these tracks would sound like frenzied, noisy rockers (note to self: play The Locust on half speed sometime), and, while it does not sound like a hard rock record in any way, Broderick's pedigree is still clear. Which is inspirational in and of itself -- most bands have a hard time showing their immediate influences without sounding derivative and lacking in voice, to say nothing of moving on from things they themselves have created. Synths chirp and squeal over rattling bass, thudding drums and guitars aching to drone but forced to rock, periodically giving way to Broderick's now understated, soft, man voice. It is hard to believe that this is the same voice that could spew the gallons of bile as on, say, "Like Rats."
As I mentioned in my last post, this is easily the best EP of the year, and, in terms of quality, more than holds its own with any of this year's top long players. It represents a noticeable growth over last year's self-titled debut, and holds great, great promise for February's Conqueror. Highest recommendation, especially as our wayward winter is finding its way back to us.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Top 10 Albums:
1.Rock Plaza Central – Are We Not Horses Alright, maybe the Neutral Milk Hotel worship is a little too obvious, and maybe Chris Eaton too often sounds like Isaac Brock's nerdy little brother, but when the album comes together this well, it just doesn't matter. Beautiful songs, harrowing violin and a perfect atmosphere.
2.Joanna Newsom – Ys At parts, the most beautiful, moving and awe-inspiring album in years. The string arrangements can sometimes sound a little too stale, but never enough to be its detriment. Only #2 on this list because I favor underdogs.
3.Boris – Pink Amazing balance between noise and rock. Above all else, this album is full of great moments. A great introduction, fantastic transitions, the drums dropping out in “Just Abandoned Myself.”
4.Beirut – Gulag Orkestar Effortlessly conjures images of nostalgia and locales this 20 year old one-man-band could not possibly yet know. A brilliant start to what should be a great career.
5.Xiu Xiu – The Air Force Xiu Xiu keeps growing, and becomes more intriguing than on last year's somewhat misstep La Foret. Becoming more traditional art-rock, but, as Trent Reznor has shown, relying on emotional torture can only keep one afloat for so long.
6.Man Man – Six Demon Bag Tom Waits is a schizophrenic band leader putting on the written-in-house musical at a soon to be condemned asylum. In the best way possible.
7.Islands – Return to the Sea Don't call it a Unicorns comeback; the best quirky lo-fi-cum-hi-fi pop album in a year flooded by them. Still the most creative pop song structures around.
8.Kind of Like Spitting – Thrill of the Hunt Hearing a favorite musician getting a second wind and taking full advantage of it is a beautiful thing. Ben Barnett sounds refreshed and more creative here than he has in years.
9.Micah P Hinson – The Opera Circuit Folksy Texan with an amazing voice and vision nails it. Eric Bachmann's saxophone playing and horn arrangements are merely the icing on the cake. The delicious, delicious icing.
10.The Thermals – The Blood, The Body, and the Machine An album of irresistible power hooks, nearly unlimited energy, and one of the few overtly religious albums in recent years to not be lyrically embarrassing (far from it, at that).
Swan Lake – Beast Moans Starts off straddling the line between disjointed and aimless, falls after the halfway mark in an altogether disappointing manner. At least the half that works more than lives up the supergroup potential.
1.Jesu – Silver [Also one of this year's best releases, period.]
2.Micah P Hinson – The Baby and the Satellite
3.Okkervil River – The President's Dead
4.Xiu Xiu – Tu Mi Piaci
5.Sigur Ros - Saeglaopur
25 Best Songs (In no order whatsoever):
Swan Lake – All Fires
The Knife – Neverland
Micah P Hinson - Jackeyed
Islands – Where There's A Will, There's A Whalebone
Asobi Sesku – Exotic Animal Paradise
Alias & Tarsier (ft. Doseone) – Luck & Fear
The Thermals – Here's Your Future
Boris – Just Abandoned Myself
The Lovely Feathers – Photo Corners
Band of Horses – The Funeral
Rock Plaza Central – My Children, Be Joyful
Gnarls Barkley – Crazy
TV on the Radio – Wolf Like Me
The Decemberists – Sons and Daughters
STAR – Switchblade Heart
Belle + Sebastian – Suki in the Graveyard
Beirut – Postcards from Italy
Man Man – Black Mission Goggles
Liars – It Fit When I Was A Kid
Xiu Xiu – Vulture Piano
Joanna Newsom – Sawdust and Diamonds
The Black Heart Procession – Not Just Words
Jesu - Silver
Kind of Like Spitting – Thrill of the Hunt
Human Television – 10 Minutes
Best Pop Single – Gnarls Barkley - “Crazy”
Best Cover Song – Susanna and the Magical Orchestra - "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (Joy Division)
Worst Cover Song – Rascall Flats - “Life Is A Highway” (Tom Cochrane)
Best Album Artwork – Beirut – Gulag Orkestar
Best Opening Track – The Thermals - “Here's Your Future”
Biggest Letdown – Thom Yourke – The Eraser
Biggest Most Awesomest Sugar Rush of Pure Glee – I'm From Barcelona – Let Me Introduce My Friends
Why. - Lady Sovereign
Highest Catchiness to Terribleness Ratio – Chamillionaire (ft Krazie Bone) - “Ridin'”
Most Horrifically Insufferable Rock Single – Hinder - “Lips of an Angel”
OH DEAR GOD WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME – Gwen Stefani - “Wind It Up”
Most Likely To Give Kevin Shields A Gigantic Erection – Asobi Sesku - “Exotic Animal Paradise”
We Read The Stats And We've Settled For Less - Death Cab For Cutie
2006 was a pretty good year for music, 99% of which was not discussed here. 2007 is already shaping up to be a great year, with new releases by Jesu, Explosions in the Sky, and the Arcade Fire in the next three months, to name a few.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
This is the first of a couple new recurring categories for me to masturbate over songs while secretly getting extra off over the thought of people watching. The focus: guilty pleasures. Now, this is far from original (because, you know, the rest of this music blog is grade-A, groundbreaking music journalism), but I do think I tend to have a skewed idea of what this entails. For most, a "guilty pleasure" is usually some cheap pop song (93% of the time from the 80's) that people think they should be above. I'm [generally] pretty upfront about the pop songs I love -- its part of pop's nature, after all. It is admitting love of things that posit themselves as (or actually are) at a higher level of "respectability" than, say, "Toxic" or "Since U Been Gone" Which is why I have no trepidations about Kelly Clarkson showing up on my iPod artist list, but feel a twinge of shame about Mineral.
So, why am I doing this? Fuck if I know. In part to share songs that I think are worth the time in spite of their downfalls, in part to get a better understanding of why I like and/or feel bad about liking them, and in large part to publicly embarrass myself and keep my weight as a blogger (that is to say, my critical mass) to a minimum. So then, to start with this new feature's namesake:
Say Anything - "Admit It!!!"
Doghouse Records, 2004
Well, this really isn't so bad. I mean, for all their embarrassing Blink-182 emulating early days, being signed to MTV whore record label Doghouse, touring with Dashboard Confessional, and post-post-emo trappings, Say Anything really isn't contemptible like label-mates The All-American Rejects. Maybe this is more a case of guilt by association, or its the fact that this album only has two songs that don't make me paranoid that someone can hear me listening to it. But, this song, surpasses that.
This song is by far the most vitriolic critique of hipster, pseudo-hipster, and not-at-all-hipster-but-containing-many-watered-down-concepts-and-pretensions-of-such teenage culture I have ever heard, and put to a tune, to boot. True to form, it admirably points the finger in every direction - us (the listeners and our friends, most likely, at least to an extent), them, and himself (while half of the song is Mr. Bemis extolling his virtues, you can't say that the "I" statements aren't autobiographical to at least some degree -- this John Mayer looking bastard clearly spends his share of time preening. And getting laid.). Many of these critiques may be cliched, but most of them are accurate enough and stated earnestly enough to give them more weight than they would normally have.
Similarly, the music serves as a great accompaniment to the ranted vocals, even if it borrows its best parts from scenes the band was never really a part of. The gang vocals (lifted from basement hardcore), fist pumping riffs (lifted from skate videos), and all the "my car and my guitar" imagery (lifted from folk-punk kids) that carry and sustain the song fit together great, even if the band seems to lack the proper claim to them. The riff change following the "go!" command is just a great moment.
Which is what it comes down to: something about this song as a whole manages to transcend the limitations of its parts to become something grand, an outsider's indictment that comes across as powerful and valid, rather than full of whiny "yeah, fuck those guys"-isms. But not enough that I can stop the pangs of shame whenever I hear this song.