Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top 10 Albums of 2008

10. Ponytail- Ice Cream Spiritual
Less random than you might think at first listen, after you consider Molly Seigal's voice as just another piercing instrument.

9. Ra Ra Riot- The Rhumb Line
Beautiful strings and fun music- live and recorded. I liked them at first listen at the Wicker Park street festival this summer.

8. Mamiffer- Hirror Enniffer
Hauntingly beautiful instrumental music in the vein of Rachel's. If dreams were a movie, this could easily be the score.

7. The Cure- 4:13 Dream
Robert Smith does it again, and again, on this almost-double album. Dirty songs, love songs, and sad songs- diverse enough for fans and good for newcomers to The Cure (if there still are any).

6. British Sea Power- Do You Like Rock Music?
Though Pitchfork derides this album as a U2 ripoff, the only similarities I see are in the enormity of both bands' music with cutting guitars and worldly influence. I've never heard U2 reference Dylan Thomas, either.

5. Why?- Alopecia
Spanning genres between hip-hop and indie rock doesn't make Alopecia instantly more accessible. However, between abstract lyrics and live recorded instruments, the album unfolds in layers like an onion- and Jonathan Wolf's initially abrasive voice becomes endearing.

4. Wolf Parade- At Mount Zoomer
The intersection of many side projects worthy of praise in their own right, the follow-up to Apologies to the Queen Mary shows that frontmen Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner have a lot more sprawling, well-crafted music in them.

3. Portishead- Third
For a band that has been putting out releases for fourteen years, Portishead manages to stay ahead of the electronic crowd, forgoing new gadgets that create new hollow sounds for gizmos to enhance their musical capabilities. This translates well into their live show, as they are not standing statically behind a laptop, but interacting in and with the now.

2. The Wedding Present- El Rey
Contemporaries with The Smiths but less well-known, perhaps by design, UK's The Wedding Present still sold out of all its LP's of El Rey mighty quickly. This smart, Southern California eponymous punk album- recorded by Steve Albini- is as infectious as its fan base is loyal and hungry for anything they put out.

1. TV on the Radio- Dear Science
I know it isn't as good as Cookie Mountain, but Dear Science saw TVOTR take a new step in a more electronic-sounding direction- even with all the wind and brass instruments. As TVOTR is comprised of mostly former art students, they seem to know that artists always need to challenge their audience with new ideas, or become obsolete and irrelevant. Judging by the album's ultimate position on year end lists in Rolling Stone, Pitchfork's readers poll, and even Entertainment Weekly, TVOTR may know their audience better than previously thought.

Tip of the Hat: Oxford Collapse- Bits; Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks- Real Emotional Trash; ; The Walkmen- You + Me; Lucksmiths- First Frost; Lackthereof- Your Anchor; Love is All- A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night; Margot and the Nuclear So and So's- Animal; Crystal Stilts- s/t; Islands- Arm's Way; Calexico- Carried to Dust; Max Tundra- Parallax Error; Spiritualized- Songs in A&E;

Wag of the Finger: Margot and the Nuclear So and So's- Not Animal (they need to edit, live and recorded); Tapes 'n Tapes- Hang Them All; Does It Offend You, Yeah?- You Have No Idea What You Are Getting Yourself Into; Bloc Party- Intimacy; Of Montreal- Skeletal Lamping

Saturday, December 27, 2008

My Top* 5 EPs from 2008

In no particular order...

1. Miss TK and the Revenge- No Biterz

Miss TK and the Revenge are in a very small category of artists who had their music featured in a commercial and didn't achieve more commercial success as a result. (See also: Smog [Cadillac commercial] and Noah and the Whale [Saturn commercial]) Their title song in the background of a Clearasil commercial is catchy enough, but must not be tied to a cool enough product to garner large success. Which is fine enough anyway, since the band hardly plays outside their home state of New Jersey, and don't seem to write their fun, hook-filled dance rock for anyone but themselves or kids who like cowbell in their female-fronted dance music. They poke fun of the scene in "Nano U Didn't," depicting someone learning all the words to a song to show their friends how into it he or she is, but still acting removed.

Favorite song: "Future Power" Sounds like a forgotten track from their no-holds-barred debut album, XOXO, and leads into their newer material well.

2. Mogwai- Batcat EP

Recorded in Scotland and Texas, Batcat came out a mere two weeks before Mogwai's full length, The Hawk is Howling. It seemed to be a smart move, as Mogwai's instrumental quality is still intact and expressive as ever, and the three track album only served to whet one's appetite for more. "Devil Rides" features Roky Erickson on vocals and is probably as much for the fans as for Mogwai.

Favorite song: "Batcat" This track also made it onto Hawk.

3. Vetiver-
More of the Past

Though mostly an addendum to their 2008 full length, Thing of the Past, the EP has its freak-folk roots planted strongly enough to stand alone. Well-chosen covers breathe a new life into the songs and fit as comfortably as your favorite worn-in sweater. Between just finishing opening for the Black Crowes on the Midwest leg of their tour, strangely, and a new release on Sub Pop due out in February, Vetiver is poised to explode.

Favorite song: "See You Tonight" Feat. singer/songwriter Johnathan Rice and fiddle accompaniment.

4. The Cool Kids- The Bake Sale EP

Usually when artists are too self-aware their art suffers, but The Cool Kids use their keenness to their advantage. Unmistakably from Chicago in their lyrics and Detroit in their production, they are refreshing in the face of the over-stylized Kanye and, concurrently, an homage to J Dilla. Cool Kids Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish utilize more storytelling than name calling, play easily off of one another, and use simple beats to showcase their true talent. The self-described "new black version of the Beastie Boys," are as good at being self-reflexive and adroit at nerdy name-dropping as they are at writing their own instructions for their brand of hip-hop - which they kindly give to you in "Bassment Party." Step one- move to Chicago.

Favorite song: "One Two" Nursery Rhymes evolve and set the tone for the next eight songs on the loosely defined EP.

5. Maps & Atlases- You and Me and the Mountain

In a newfound show of togetherness, Chicago's (loosely) Maps & Atlases, New York's The Walkmen, and Germany's The Notwist all have different incarnations of "You and Me" in their titles this year. All of their releases are also commendable, but Maps & Atlases may be the most exciting, as the sound of an eccentric band coming into their own weirdness is audible. Similar to Hella and Cex with high-range guitars that seem to mimic synthesizers, held together with strong drumming.

Favorite song: "Daily News" With rollicking drums and TV on the Radio-esque vocals, it truly sounds of this year.

Tip of the hat to:
Bon Iver- Blood Bank ; The National- The Virginia EP; Passion Pit- Chunk of Change; Minus the Bear- They Make Beer Commercials Like This (reissue); The Mountain Goats/ The Mountain Goats and Kaki King- Satanic Messiah EP/ Black Pear Tree EP

Wag of the finger toward: ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead- Festival Thyme; Minus the Bear- Acoustics EP

*Not the best, but favorite, as
I know there are many, many EPs I haven't heard.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Obligatory Christmas Mix

1) "Let's Techno For Christmas"- Single Frame Ashtray
2) "The Ice Storm"- The Go! Team
3) "No Christmas While I'm Talking"- The Walkmen
4) "Winter Must Be Cold"- Apples in Stereo
5) "No Christmas"- The Wedding Present
6) "Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto"- Belle and Sebastian
7) "Sister Winter"- Sufjan Stevens
8) "Christmas at the Zoo"- Flaming Lips
9) "Christmas Blues"- Saturday Looks Good to Me
10) "Listening to Otis Redding During Christmas"- Okkervil River
11) "Amen"- Otis Redding
12) "Hallelujah"- Leonard Cohen

Download here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blurbs: The Current Relevancy of the Smashing Pumpkins, Chicago Figureheads, Atomic Records, and Retro-styled Headphones

  • Billy Corgan himself isn't an asshole, but the musician in him is an arrogant prick, he tells the Chicago Tribune, in essence. Other highlights: James Iha is "negative," and drove Corgan "literally insane," but he was invited to join the band again. Corgan also admits rock bands aren't supposed to last 20 years, however, he places the Pumpkins on a level comparable to Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen. The differences being that Young and (maybe) Springsteen were better artists, and wouldn't berate their fans, especially after subjecting them to songs with kazoos.
  • Arrogant Chicago figureheads apparently swear a lot. On why the Pumpkins still retain their name: "It’s my band. Anyone who doubts the legitimacy of this band can go [expletive] themselves," Billy Corgan, poet, 2004-never. Also, "I've got this thing and it's fucking golden," Rod Blagojevich, Governor of Illinois, 2002-2008.
  • Atomic Records, my favorite record store in Milwaukee, is closing for good. I will miss buying concert tickets and receiving a complimentary PBR, informative weekly newsletters, knowledgeable service, and its extremely accommodating owner, Rich Menning. I wrote an article for the Marquette Tribune extolling the virtues of vinyl, and he was one of the most helpful people I've ever interviewed. He e-mailed me a well-researched article on the surge in vinyl popularity to help me with my piece. His quotes were colorful, and hard to disagree with: "What satisfaction is there in stealing an MP3 vinyl off the Internet? I propose that labels release their music on vinyl and include a free CD of the content so that those who still give a damn about music - by paying for it - can have the best of both worlds. Atomic will be missed, but always still treasured.
  • The Pumpkins playing "Siva," acoustically, at Atomic
  • On my holiday wish list: retro headphones.

WeSC Oboe Headphones

I liked these better at first, for pure aesthetics. However, that silver grill is just for show, and the sound quality isn't that good all-around. They don't even carry volume that well, for being voluminous.

Panasonic RP HTX7

These aren't as colorful, but come in two other colors, and match my Nintendo DS lite, which I will be outfitting with an i-pod homebrew. Awesome lows, and decent midis and highs. These are selling at UrbanOutfitters, but look for them somewhere else for a better price.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Feature instrument: The recorder

photo: wikipedia

Whenever a band uses an unusual instrument like a saw or incorporates a banjo into their usual straightforward-rock lexicon, blogs take notice. They almost always lavish praise on the band for their uniqueness or musicality. But sometimes taking a pre-tuned instrument prone to squeaks and squeals and making it work for you is more of a feat than learning a more strange or complex instrument. Think of how good woodblocks sound in indie dance music. These three artists take a plastic, rudimentary instrument, and elevate it from a third grade music class instrument to a college radio instrument.

  • Oxford Collapse's "Molasses." They don't reproduce the recorder solo live, unfortunately. They also opened for GbV before. Coincidence?
  • Swedish expatriate Jens Lekman's "Into Eternity." When I saw him last fall, he found a local cellist, but must not have known I was available to play the recorder intro to this song. I actually did learn it, partly knowing his affinity for female accompaniment, partly because I am that nerdy.

Ranging from an F on the treble staff to a shrill high G four ledger lines above the staff, the recorder is ready tuned, inexpensive, and closer to my heart for making three songs more interesting.

Friday, November 7, 2008

"Obaaaama, Obaaaama."- Wesley Willis

Print courtesy of Obey Giant

The New York Times asked people to submit one word to describe how they were feeling after Barack Obama won the election. Most of the responses were "hopeful," "relieved," and variants of "ecstatic." A few people wrote "scared." I fall into the "relieved" camp, as I hardly knew anybody who voted for Bush the last two elections, and knew even fewer who were happy with the way things are right now. Knowing I was surrounded by ignorance, but not being able to see it to confront it, was an unsettling feeling.

While I wish the state of our country didn't have to become this terrible for things to get better, I'm extremely happy this change happened. Voters were able to look past rhetoric and residual prejudices still in our country to give Obama what was once a dream - a deserved chance at righting our ship's stern - and give the rest of us jaded Americans some hope.

Now for the less serious, but more relevant (at least to this blog's purposes) part. While watching Obama's rally in Chicago's Grant Park, seeing the city so united reminded me of the Bulls' three-peat so many years ago. I felt like the old Bulls' announcer needed to announce Obama in stretched syllables over the Bulls' theme music. "From Chicago, at 6 feet 1 inch and (~) 180 pounds... Baaarack Obaaaaaaaaama!"
Chicago Bulls Theme Song - Alan Parsons Project

Meanwhile, in reality, after Obama was projected as the President-elect, The National's somber "Fake Empire" played loudly and clearly. The song's lyrics "We're half-awake/ in a fake empire" hardly seemed appropriate in comparison with the magnitude of the event. But, the band's inclusion was not that out of left-field, as they raised $10,000 for the Obama campaign through selling t-shirts. They also and played a free show with The Breeders in the politically contentious city of Cincinnati, replete with buses to take people to vote early. Previously, at the Democratic National Convention, "Fake Empire" played during a film about Obama.

Sort of ridiculous, when you consider that "Mr. November" would have been much more appropriate and inspiring, minus the swearing and the white part. "I'm the new blue blood/ I'm the great white hope/...I won't fuck us over, I'm Mr. November."
Mr. November - The National

Even more ridiculously, this Wesley Willis song implanted itself in my head, because i could see "O-bam-a" easily replaced over "Nir-van-a."
Nirvana - Wesley Willis

Willis, also a Chicagoan, unfortunately died in 2003, so he (obvs) wasn't able to pull for his song's inclusion at the rally. Maybe someone will cover it in four years. Hopefully.

Pitchfork's 500 Greatest Songs?

Photo courtesy

On Nov 11, the Pitchfork-curated book The Pitchfork 500: Our Guide to the Greatest Songs from Punk to the Present hits bookshelves. Someone already chronologically transcribed all the songs in the book here, if you are interested.

While mostly comprehensive, some songs and artists are conspicuously absent. Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart"is a huge oversight. Also, how do you make a compilation of songs partially entitled "From Punk to the Present" and not include the Descendents (RIP Frank Navetta [-2008])? As much as I dislike U2, the influence of Joshua Tree was huge, even though Bono singing mostly about America while his country hardly had widespread electricity is a little off putting. Its absence is glaring.

The inclusion of Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" suggests that popularity was a factor in choosing songs, but the exclusion of George Michael's "Faith" negates this idea.

Also perplexing is that the entire lexicon of R&B was purposefully ignored, despite is popularity, radio play on 'pop' radio stations, and genre-shifting. While P4K stated its focus for the book lied on hip-hop, electronic, indie-rock, metal, experimental underground music, and pop, the complete omission of artists like The Fugees, Mary J. Blige, and Erykah Badu- makes the any "best of" list seem incomplete. I'm not saying P4K had to include everything- I wouldn't expect them to have a recording of Leonard Bernstein with the New York Philharmonic, for instance- but music with guitar, bass, musical singing, and drums shouldn't be ignored.

And including only one song by The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, and Smashing Pumpkins? No Calexico? All these groups that were around for 10 years- plus- deserve a little more recognition. With the trouble they went to compiling this list (only including one song per album, and no more than four songs per artist), it could have been a little more inclusive.

However, I realize the best 500 songs over 19 years is difficult to determine, and most of the songs deserve their spots on the list. But for some of the artists in the 2003-2006 category, it is difficult to understand their importance: Kelly Clarkson (even though her drummer is the drummer from +/-)? The incredibly angular sounds of Johnny Boy and Fiery Furnaces? The cheesy R. Kelly? Time will judge these artists more harshly than the compilers of this list.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Politics isn't the only thing that makes for strange bedfellows

Back in seventh grade, one of my friends loved eating Cheese Whiz on Oreos. I knew she was being sincere because I saw her eat this bastardization of an Oreo on multiple occasions. Eventually I gave in to her persuasions, tried it, and it tasted like… cheese whiz on an Oreo, gross. Lately I’ve been seeing unusual pairings like this, and not only in the political arena. Some of them work and some of them don’t, but hey, you have to try to see if they work for you.

Norah Jones and Wilco’s "Jesus, Etc."
Maybe I am biased toward Jones because her soulful voice and authentic lady-like demeanor. She seems to tell crass women like Pink to shut up about being a strong woman without actually saying so, rather, showing them how it is done. I am probably biased because her father is Ravi Shankar, the famed sitar player. I am definitely biased because she bowled a few games a few years back at Landmark Lanes, my favorite dive bar and bowling establishment in Milwaukee. Anyway, I don't usually like artists that have 13 Grammy wins, but Jones is special. She handles “Jesus, Etc.” very well in Mountain View, California, singing more sweetly than Jeff Tweedy.

This is all well and good, but Wilco also played this same concert, and already played this song in their set. So going back to my previous post about covers, I don’t know what she was trying to accomplish with the song. An instance of good idea - even good execution - but poor timing.

Built to Spill and M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes”

Now this combination works, even though BTS and M.I.A. are much further apart on the musical spectrum than Jones and Wilco. However, by aggregating many musical factors and then averaging them out, both artists rate about the same on a cool scale. M.I.A. is cool for her originality and world music influences, and BTS for their immeasurable contribution to indie rock- being actually musical around all the Pavements of the time. Plus, all the while in the video, BTS looks like they are having fun, a key component of doing covers. They know they will never be a neon-clad pregnant woman, and they aren’t pretending to be- they are more like a cool uncle.

Or for a less quality version with a transition from my (probably, this week) favorite song ever “Car

Jaguar Love
(One part Pretty Girls Make Graves and two parts The Blood Brothers)
Photo via Blush Photo

The former guitarist for PGMG, J Clark, is now Jaguar Love’s drummer, multi-instrumentalist and producer. His influence comes through in that the guitars still sound dance-y, often hitting on the offbeats. However, this isn't enough, as it sounds like he recorded separately from ex-Blood Brothers Johnny Whitney (singer) and Cody Votolato (guitarist). The result sounds more like a mash-up of the two bands than a collaboration. Votolato describes "Jaguar Pirates" as "Almost Beefheart-ish [as in Cap’n] inspired.” That he describes the previous track, “Georgia” as “Baby Huey” inspired - and I’m not sure if he is referring to the ginormous duck or the soul singer- shows how scattered their sound is.
Vagabond Ballroom - Jaguar Love

Extra trivia: Rocky Votolato, folk singer, is Cody’s older brother, and he subscribes to a completely different sound from his brother. I saw Rocky perform at Mad Planet about two years back with Lucero and the very awesomely old-school William E. Whitmore, and Rocky’s performance was incredibly sedate, almost too much so. It seems like both Votolato’s could learn about a happy medium from each other. Sonny Votolato, also of some relation, is in Slender Means, another indie-rock outfit and, of course, also from Seattle.

Guys and skirts

Photo via wardrobe_remix

To pull off the man-skirt, it has to be simple, which the denim accomplishes. His monochromatic stylings also don't confuse, and make him look so well put-together that i didn't even notice the skirt at first. Also, he looks like he could kick your ass in this skirt; I think that is why I like him in it. I also appreciate that he doesn't try to compensate with 'manly' elements in this outfit either. A female could easily wear this outfit, playing with a few different fittings/proportions and look as equally fashionable.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Project Runway predictions and critique from best to worst- starting with Korto

said she wanted to show some of her ethnicity in her final collection, and she not only did that, but she gave it a Japanese flair with an American sensibility. Her fantastic, very spring-like color choice highlights her heritage as well as her large (but not clunky) bead work. Her collection left me wanting to see more from her, whereas with Leann's I feel like she exhausted the thread of her idea. She is my pick to win, with Leann a close second. Kenley can go home at the beginning of the episode and save us all some drama.

Korto's collection @ Bryant Park

Leann was reportedly the crowd favorite of the show, I think because there would be little translation needed from the runway to retail, making it easy to picture yourself in each piece. Every piece is well-executed and fits in with her collection seamlessly, especially since her color palette is so limited. It really seems like she got everything she could have from her inspiration- waves and the water- and if she made one more piece the look would have been overdone. However, do her clothes give enough of a show? Are they imaginative enough and not simply commercial? The judges usually look for a different look, which she nails here, but is it high-fashion enough? I don't know, but I think Korto has a better chance of winning. Leann works great with cotton in her Etsy store, and a lot of these dresses seem like they could be made with some cotton and interfacing (minus the blue flowing one). We shall find out tonight.

Leann's collection @ Bryant Park.

Kenley's collection @ Bryant Park


As of two weeks ago, I had Jarell pegged to win. He does his own thing, which is more than Kenley can say, was more consistent than Korto, and was less arts and crafts than Leann. Based on the wedding dress challenge last week he should have gone on to compete for the money at fashion week. But the judges must have seen his and Korto's final collections, and decided that Korto's was better. I think they made the right decision- he has a few beautiful pieces, but he attempts too much. He still has a lot of promise, as soon as he learns not to throw all of your ideas into one dress.
Jarell's collection @ Bryant Park

As with Suede's collection, you can tell that a man designed these clothes. And in Joe's case, a straight man. His idea of what women would wear includes lots of midriff showing, zippers going too near to nipples, and very obvious ideas of American fashion. He does have one pretty dress though, earning him billing above Suede. However, he starts the show with denim and a rustic brown leather and ends up with organza and what looks to be pleather, causing his models (one being the very pretty Naima from America's Next Top Model) to look like they are hardly at Fashion Week in the same geographical areas, let alone the same time.

Joe's collection @ Bryant Park

Remember the episode where Suede said: "Suede doesn't do pants?" Apparently Suede doesn't do taste, sleeves, or colors not found at an amusement park either. I hope he didn't get as large of a budget as the other designers, because that is the only excuse. His wedding dress 'finale' piece is just the tacky cherry on a tasteless sundae.

Suede's collection @ Bryant Park

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wtf Wednesday- songs butchered on kids' shows

After being out of school for a year, I am still working on unlearning things I was taught. Pluto isn't a planet anymore, the "rocket's red glare" in the anthem wasn't from fireworks but from canons, Christopher Columbus wasn't really a hero but a slave trader, and I never did need to use some of that math later in life.

And no wonder I was filled with all this false information- look at this crap we have kids watch.

Tim Finn of Split Endz wrote "Six Months in a Leaky Boat," a song cool enough for Ted Leo to cover- probably because of its references to a mental breakdown. But when Finn performed it on the Australian kids' show, The Wiggles, the producers threw in some pirate stuff (not even cool pirate stuff) and some Irish dancing at the end and hoped the kiddies didn't ask too many questions.

Finn performing "Six Months..." amidst a foreground of pirate vomit.

Feist's altered performance of "1,2,3,4," on Sesame Street is little better. The single-take is nice and reflects the style of her music videos, but again, dumbing her song down gives it an empty feeling. She also went wrong with her high-waisted pant. They almost fall into Sesame-street style mom-jean territory, until the inseam somehow enhances her, well, camel toe. Not a muppet we need to see on the 'Street. See the video in high quality here. (For the right way on how to do Sesame street- see Ray Charles, Ellen, Patrick Stewart, and others sing the alphabet song. The key is they all stay true to form)

Finn and Leo also share another connection: Leo named his album The Tyranny of Distance after a lyric in Finn's song. However, Leo's choices in educational programming are better attuned to what is actually entertaining and not just sickeningly saccharine. In this clip from the Washington D.C. cable access show Pancake Mountain, he shows Finn and Feist how to play a kids' show - exactly like you would for some adults.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sex-fueled dance rock mix

Like the fortune cookie game where each prophecy is easily appended with "in bed," it isn't hard to find sexual subtext in rock music. For some of these songs the references are glaringly obvious while others are open to interpretation, as always. But most have an undeniably danceable backbone- the first step to having fun whether you are "dancing with yourself,*" dancing with a partner, or simply need some party music.

Between the brothers of The Jesus and Mary Chain playing and singing about a blow job from a girl's perspective and Le Tigre asking for "more, more, more" (while still keeping their feminist lenses firmly on their faces), there is a little something for everybody on this mix.

Download the first 10 tracks here.
And the last 10 tracks here.

Track listing and notes:
  1. MGMT- "Electric Feel"
  2. !!!- "Must Be the Moon" Live, these guys and girl exude sexual energy. I learned some new pelvic thrust dance moves from Nic at his Pitchfork performance this year.
  3. Fischerspooner- "Just Let Go"
  4. Enon- "Disposable Parts" Sung from the voice of a girl who will take what she wants from you but won't give you a piece of her never sounded so dance-y. Toko Yasuda sings like she knows you don't need a partner in order to be lasciviously awesome.
  5. Oxford Collapse- "For the Winter Coats" All the verses speed up just to slow down for the pleading chorus. Favorite verse lyric: "You got so excited for the coming of cold/that you blew your load on your winter coat."
  6. Violent Femmes- "36-24-36" Discovered outside the Oriental Theater in Milwaukee by The Pretenders, the Femmes' Gordon Gano sings about ideally proportioned woman over a suggestive upright bass line.
  7. Spank Rock- "Bump" Rhymes as dirty as blunt weed are layered over a beat and cowbell reminiscent of War's "Lowrider."
  8. The Jesus and Mary Chain- "Just Like Honey" JMC slow it down here with airy vocals and fuzzy guitars that hardly sound like they were produced in 1984.
  9. Interpol- "Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down" Is Stella a prostitute? A beautiful woman who can detach sex from emotion, causing much pain to the narrator? Just a pretty name to put in a song?
  10. Daft Punk- "Digital Love" If Johnny 5 and R2D2 ever got down to business, this is what it would sound like.
  11. Le Tigre- "Eau D'Bedroom Dancing" The softer side of Le Tigre.
  12. TV on the Radio- "Wolf like Me" Unabashed and animalistic. Two consenting, one with a powerful lustiness.
  13. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah- "Satan Said Dance" As with the Bloc Party's "Halo,"this is also the only song I could stand on CYHSY's latest.
  14. Charlotte Gainsbourg- "The Operation" The musical menage a trois of Gainsbourg, Air and Jarvis Cocker produces a hauntingly beautiful result.
  15. VHS or Beta- "Night on Fire"
  16. Bloc Party- "Halo"
  17. Pretty Girls Make Graves - "This is Our Emergency" Creation and inspiration can be sexy as something outside of yourself, but especially when shared and felt with others.
  18. CSS- "Let's Make Love and Listen to Death From Above" For super-duper scene points, look up Spank Rock's remix of this song.
  19. Death From Above 1979- "Sexy Results" Sebastian Grainger's solo project and MSTRKRFT sound nothing like DFA 1979, suggesting the lightning in a bottle that was the chemistry of DFA 1979.
  20. MGMT- "Electric Feel (JUSTICE Remix)"
* Billy Idol is either a complete liar or has a good sense of humor for denying that "Dancing With Myself" isn't about what everybody knows it is.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wtf Wednesday- ShowBros: Not just for Lollapalooza anymore

Photo of Sunset Rubdown by my dear friend Andy P.

Usually at indie-rock shows, the attendees are a smattering of different - but not disparate - arty types: music nerds, hipsters, coat hanger girlfriends and boyfriends, and other musicians. However, this show-attendee paradigm was shattered at the later Sunset Rubdown show at the Empty Bottle last weekend. Enter a new sub-genre of concert-attending males: the ShowBro.

The ShowBro differs from Hipster Runoff's classifications of an AltBro or an AltBag in that the ShowBro has not incorporated anything alternative into his lifestyle. He does not try to acclimate his bro-ness with his surroundings, at all. Allow me to illustrate through my experience.

Sunset Rubdown lived in relative musical obscurity, I thought. To get into them you would probably like the more popular Wolf Parade first, and then research its multiple side projects. Eventually you would stumble upon the more experimental SR. So when a group of clean-cut boys who looked like they missed their El stop back in Wrigleyville appeared in front of me at the show, I was a little perplexed.

Even with their Old Styles in hand and blond girls in tow, I still managed to withhold my judgment. Until the show started. And it wasn't just me who was befuddled by ShowBros presence.

Lead singer and keyboardist Spencer Krug was giving ShowBros weird looks when they were jumping up and down and high-fiving one another like teenage girls at a Plain White T's show. With Krug being a Canadian, this suggests that the emergence of ShowBros is of international concern. (Usage note: It is always ShowBros, never ShowBro- they are a pack species). Krug also had to take time out of the show to admonish ShowBros for leering at the so not-their-type Camilla Wynne Ingr, multi-instrumentalist. Like she would sleep with them and their syphilgonnaherpes crusty penises anyway.

It is great if you are not a usual show-goer; really, more people should expand their musical horizons. But please, don't act like a jackass when you are there. You wouldn't go to Italy and tell the Italians how to make wine, would you? Then don't go to a show and tackle football your way up to the front only to ogle girls, high-five one another, and act like you are in a cheesy nightclub.

Most of the show was really good though. I thought the music would be more tangential, but it sounded mostly like it does on the albums. It was a typical straightforward bar show, replete with Krug citing intoxication as a reason for the lack of an encore.

The crowd became most exuberant when Sunset Rubdown played "I'll Believe in Anything," originally a SR song but more commonly known as a WP song. ShowBros shared in this exuberance, further proving my Wolf Parade as a gateway to SR point. The ShowBros could have benefited from listening to themselves sing-scream the closing lyrics: "No body knows you and nobody gives a damn either way."

Finally, this is a video from the same night but the earlier show. They played "The Mending of the Gown" again at the later show, but they seem looser with this crowd than they did with our crowd. It looks good on hi-res.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Deconstructing Radiohead: Because we separate like ripples on a blank shore (in rainbows)

Radiohead - Reckoner - by Clement Picon

Radiohead offering up its material for free, and then encouraging interpretations of it is nothing new (see:

Clement Picon, a French Radiohead fan, made the video for "Reckoner" in his free evenings. After his video was voted on by fans worldwide, Picon was one of four grand prize winners penultimately chosen by Radiohead and, and, ultimately to be the "official" video by because "it goes with the song so well." Yes, yes it does Thom. It perhaps even speaks for the song.

After reading about Derrida's hermetic view of language recently, I've come to agree with him that words, like the lyrics in this song, can only refer to other words. The lyrics aren't really an expression of some thought in Thom's mind, since no one can grasp the full meaning of their words alone. Words stand only in relation to other words- In Rainbows is not Out Rainbows, as much as it isn't any other word. So words can't point to any greater Truth or essence, even though they are sometimes our greatest tools in which to ascribe meaning. But, as in many instances, what we don't say is often as important as what we do say. If all of the cuts for the album made it on In Rainbows, it would frankly suck. Because Radiohead chose not to include these, it enhanced what they did say and play.

However, what we know empirically: The sounds of the guitars traveling through amplifiers into recording equipment, lyrics sung at an audible wavelength, and a video created out of an inspiration to and then eventually blending with the song lend themselves to the fullness of a moment. And that moment may feel differently to everybody, since it is then not only open to, but expectant of, the inevitable interpretation.

Does this seem like a vapid existentialist conclusion? Can meaning never be tacked down because of an endless chain of signifiers and symbols? Perhaps, but if many moments could look, sound and feel like you are in a song, the resulting peaceful -not staid- placidity would not be such a terrible existence.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

WTF? Wednesday

Katy Perry kissed a girl and liked it, which is great for her. But then she defied gender norms again and butt-raped this MGMT song. The result isn't good for anybody.

Please, musicians, don't attempt to cover a song unless:

  • You really like the original and can unmistakably have fun with a cover.
  • You are pretentious and think you can do the song better.
  • You can add a new sound or musical interpretation to the song. Or,
  • You are Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash, or the Detroit Cobras. (Note: Do not go see the Cobras live, it is really disappointing.)

And please, don't just sing over the existing song blatantly coming out of one speaker and post it on youtube.

Friday, September 19, 2008

"... and the Chicago Cubs will beat every team in the league"- The Mountain Goats

I love Cubs fans. Say what you will about their fickle flightiness, but what other team's fans start making World Series championship claims before the playoffs have even begun? Cubs fans have season aspirations higher than Alfonso Soriano's paycheck, even though they are oft accused of drinking the "this year is the year" Kool-aid too fervently.

Great art is sometimes born out of frustration, and the Cubbie's 100-year drought serves as perfect fodder for musicians. Hopefully artists have some positive inspiration after this week's events. After Lee helped push the Milwaukee Brewers further back in the division during the 12-inning showdown yesterday, the Cubs stand a chance to clinch the division (for the second year in a row!) if they beat the Cardinals today, and if the Brewers lose.

Derrick Lee, 1st baseman for the Cubs,
1st place in my heart

Thankfully, I have two songs to listen to depending on the outcome of the season.

If the Cubs do well, I will listen to Eddie Vedder's wistful "Go All the Way," which he wrote per Ernie Bank's request. Vedder's narcissism aside, that's pretty cool he listened to Bank's request and created this sing-along.

Chicago Cubs Song - Pearl Jam

Vedder's pretentiousness still seeps through in that he wants to release a recorded version of this song on "souvenir 45's." Can something be a souvenir before a historic event has happened? I guess if he says so.

If the Cubs lose, being a typical fan, I will blame it on some outside, probably mystical force, and then listen to The Mountain Goats' melancholy and sarcastic "Cubs in Five."

Cubs In Five - The Mountain Goats

Though I much prefer the Goats' song to Vedder's, I hope to be singing "Go, Cubs, Go" followed by "Go All the Way" in October.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

First installment of WTF Wednesday!

In TV on the Radio's video for "Golden Age," TVOTR step into a Polyphonic Spree video, hide Care Bears under their robes, and have a dance-off with the Hot Cops from Arrested Development.

Sorry, it won't let me embed the video.

Formally due out next Tuesday, Dear Science (Interscope) is a lot less wacky than this video, but just as fun for the listen. More then.