It's much too late, and most of you already know this. But I still have to emphatically recommend Mates of State's Bring It Back, which was released earlier this year. I picked it up while I was in Seattle this spring, along with a few other MoS albums, which I mistakenly listened to first. "Pretty good," I thought, but I was tired of keyboards by the time I got to BIB. Big mistake. Worried about burning out on the Karmella's Game CD but still craving synthesizers, I put the album on during a drive back from Charlottesville and have been enamored ever since. We've been through a few too many album-of-the-summer discussions, I think, to open up old wounds. But oh, what could have been.
Charles suggested that I listen to the I'm From Barcelona CD. "I think you'll like it," is what he said, which is what Charles says when he finds a CD that's slightly little too poppy for his own taste. And he's right, I do really like it. They're from one of those ex-Viking countries, and have way too many members, and make charming singalong-style music. It's pretty much right up my alley, and I'd recommend them. But not without reservations.
Generally speaking, I'm not very lyrics-focused. Mostly this is simply because I'm bad at picking them out. I value vocals for carrying the melody, for providing a percussive element, and — for what few snippets of meaning I can discern — for setting a mood. But it takes a lot of listens through an album before I start worrying about what the songs are actually about. I generally prefer for the lyrics to be clever, melancholy and/or impenetrable, but above all they have to be ignorable.
Sadly, IFB fails so spectacularly on the lyrical front that it demands your attention. I think it's mostly a matter of facility with English. Their American accents are flawless. But on the opening track they seem to have some difficulty distinguishing between gerunds and infinitives ("I could skip to wear clothes" probably ought to be "I could skip wearing clothes". I know, it sounds charming, but it kind of derails the song.). Other times they manage genuine sentences, but not good ones. Sample chorus: "I have built a treehouse / I have built a treehouse / No one else can see us / It's a you-and-me-house". Ugh. And let's not start talking about the track where the vocalist apes Dylan. It's admittedly not a lyrical miscue, but it's still deeply ill-advised.
Still, the instrumentation is great, and these guys are certainly capable of making wonderful music. In fact, the best track is the final one, which isn't in English. It does away with all the clumsiness and just makes something pretty. I'll have to see whether they've got any similarly unselfconscious releases.
I realize it's hot out, but tonight is probably the best Fort Reno lineup of the summer (and certainly the one with the most Unbuckled alumni): Georgie James, Hard Tomorrows, and The Fake Accents (who I'm not familiar with). Show starts at 7:15 and is free, as always. And it's within walking distance from the Tenleytown Metro. Who's in?
i'm swooping in, rescinding my earlier claim that phoenix was it, brushing off tommy's attempt to crown karmella's game (as lovely and brilliantly catchy as they are, and as well as they wear catholic schoolgirl outfits in concert), and saying that the album of the summer is definitively the pipettes "we are the pipettes." i know i talked about them briefly before, but after going through a bunch of their mp3s over at the hype machine, i am sure. they're it. they're giddy, infectious, happy, sassy, fabulously british, and sound like they're a girl-group right out of the 60s with an updated veneer of slick indie pop. true, their songs might be so upbeat and so catchy and so infectious that they may make some of you want to, um, blow your brains out, but not me! i love 'em. they're coming along to the beach with me this summer for sure.
I apologize for the inconvenience, but I'm going to have to insist that you all go give Karmella's Game a listen. Catherine and I saw them with Scott and Lori a couple of years ago — I think they were opening for Full Minute of Mercury at the Velvet Lounge. We were instantly charmed.
Squealing synths, endless energy and raucous harmonies — they're the greatest eighties band that never existed. I bought their EP, which was pretty good for listening and downright excellent for running, then occasionally checked in with their ridiculous/awesome/ridiculously awesome Flash website. But I didn't see any new recordings, and on the occasions when they came back to DC I was usually out of town. They're from Baltimore. It's a world away.
But hey, it appears that they've finally recorded a full-length (albeit one with only 9 songs). Looks like it's been out for about two months, but I just bought it a week or so ago. And it's pretty great. Maybe a little too relentlessly energetic to qualify as an album of the summer — but given what I now consider to be a deeply illegitimate Phoenix AoTS reign-by-default, I'm prepared to nominate it anyway.
Unfortunately, they haven't made any of the new LP available as mp3s. You can listen to two songs off of the EP here:
But you'll have to visit their Myspace page to hear stuff from their latest release ("Diversions", "A Lullabye"). And you really should: it's got better production, better songwriting, and hooks crammed into every available nook and cranny. If sugar-rush synth-pop isn't your thing, don't bother. If it is, enjoy.
i'm heading to the earl this sunday night to catch the clientele, with athens-based band snowden as the openers. i wrote about snowden for dcist at some point last year, and i recommend them. but i'm really excited about seeing clientele, though i have a sinking feeling they might put on a terrible live show. but their music is gorgeous - sleepy, lush, 60s-style pop - and dare i say that most overused indie musical adjective of all...SHIMMERY? yes, i think i will. because it is super apt. their music is beautiful and shimmery. i've been listening to the songs over at their merge page all morning. give 'em a listen.
after NPR's debacle of old-people programming yesterday, and wanting something upbeat, i turned off this radio this morning on the way to work and put on satellite rides by the old 97's. if you have never listened to them, i super duper recommend it. to be honest, i have never followed them after they released satellite rides except for purchasing the first of rhett miller's abominable solo albums. but satellite rides is such a gem. it races back between power pop and sweet, twangy alt-country rock.
they've got a couple of mp3s over at the band's site:
but the real star of the album, in my opinion, is "designs on you." unfortunately, the only audio i could find of the song was on youtube, where it is set...to a fan video of scenes of pam and jim from "the office." so, yeah. just play the video and click over to another tab so you don't have to watch this sad waste of fantasy tv editing effort.
unrelatedly, what is UP with those sorts of youtube tv relationship videos? in searches for certain clips of episodes of "veronica mars," i can't tell how many montages of veronica and logan set to terrible music that i came across. hundreds! and a disproportionate amount set to blink 182!
UPDATE: and to take this post even further off the original topic, the latest office webisode is up, and it's pretty great. i do love me some stanley.
Brighten The Corners is a bit more consistent, I think. And Stereogum is also totally, totally right in defending Malkmus's much-maligned eponymous debut — I really think it's the best of his solo efforts. I guess there are two camps of Pavement fans: those who liked the band for its scraggly pop, and those who prefer its ponderous low-fi noodling. I belong squarely in the first category, and so does that album.
Anyway, sorry for the lack of blogging recently (although Catherine's been picking up the slack admirably). We're moving into a new office, which has given me the opportunity to waste a lot of time playing with our new phone system and, uh, trying to make a company-themed skin for the softmodded xbox I'll be contributing to the new digs. Constructive uses of my time, as you can see.
did anybody else ever listen to pizzicato five back in the late 90s or whenever it was they were around? i haven't listened to them in years, i've lost track of their cds, but for some reason i woke up this morning thinking about them. they were a japanese group, but made some of the catchiest lounge-y music i've ever heard. plus they're just fun and campy. and i also realized their song "baby love child" was featured in one of my favorite scenes out of futurama - the montage where leela is growing up, presumably an orphan, but her parents are sneaking her presents and secretly tucking her into bed at night. aww.
anyway. this was a totally random post, but here are a few links to blogs where you can get a few pizzicato five mp3s to brighten your monday.
man. we are the number one google entry for wilco sucks - due to a comment. that seems spectacularly unfair - not to mention poor google readers who are looking for a blog with which to share their wilco hate! not here, buddies. sorry.
at least we're not as bad as this dude. i can understand feeling meh-y towards "a ghost is born," but not liking "yankee hotel foxtrot"? messed up.
much thanks to jon for pointing out this latest muse video, "knights of cydonia," to me in the comments on the gross retainer post. the video was actually so good that i had to elevate it from the comments to its own post. if you like tales of futuristic kung fu fighting cowboys and the ladies who love them, all set the to the overwrought queen-like stylings of a holographic british band (AND WHO DOESN'T) you will love this video.
additionally, cliptip has the latest new pr0n video for sing me spanish techno. cliptip says: "The video, which features a potential The Crying Game scenario cum Priscilla: Queen of the Desert twist is directed by Michael Palmieri. Lead singer Carl Newman is passed out in the Tiki bar throughout much of the narrative."
You probably won't be surprised to hear me say that the internet has made music better. Admittedly, I sort of think the internet has made everything better. But I think it's particularly true for music.
Filesharing has vastly expanded listeners' ability to sample music, allowing consumption decisions to be based more upon listening and less upon marketing than they were in the past. Major labels have been forced to adapt and produce a superior product — I like to use the example of Fallout Boy versus Good Charlotte. Same gimmick, vastly different levels of quality in terms of songwriting and musicianship (identical overproduction, sadly). I suspect that there's been a Long Tail effect, too, with top earners' share of revenue declining and more acts finding that they can make a living with regional touring and a decent website. And digital technology has made recording and marketing cheaper, letting us shift wealth away from the useless record company middlemen and into some combination of concert tickets, cheaper iTunes downloads, and/or our own pockets (thanks, filesharing).
I still think all of the above is true. But I let my optimism get away from me: I had also sort of started to believe that the recent increase in pop music's quality had led to a reduction in people being colossal dicks about it. Maybe it was just me and my friends getting older, but it seemed like I no longer had to hear as many complaints about bands selling out. When the Flaming Lips or Modest Mouse sold a song to sell a minivan, the reaction seemed to be "good for them!" rather than "Judas!"
It no longer takes as much effort to find and enjoy great music, so everyone was able to. Sure, tastes differed, but the lines between the mainstream "artists" and actual artists began to break down, and with it a lot of the antagonistic elitism surrounding the latter began to wane. I thought everyone was starting to get along.
yesterday evening i joined my coworker m. and a couple of his friends for a night full of georgie james and camera obscura at the earl in east atlanta. i was excited because 1) i haven't yet had a chance to catch georgie james, the toast of the d.c. blogosphere, live yet and 2) it was my first opportunity to observe atlanta hipsters in their natural environment.
what's up with pulp, anyways? i had kind of assumed they'd just broken up since i haven't heard about them in so long, but their web site says they're "in a dormant state." they still remain the #1 band i want to see live in concert. i did kind of, when they played three songs to open for radiohead's secret 9:30 club show, which was, holy shit, eight years ago? and where i witnessed the unholy pitt-aniston alliance and freaked the fuck out. good times.
anyway, jarvis cocker somehow still remains the height of skeevy sexiness. just listen to "seductive barry" and say it ain't so.
let's play a game: which of these reviews of the eraser sucks up to thom yorke harder? i'm partial to "The Eraser's title track reminds our rulers that their lies won't work and will come back to haunt them. Our movement needs more musicians prepared to stick their necks out and take risks like this" or "The Eraser is an album full of 'moments' some of them are familiar, some of them are brand new and exciting but they are all undeniably Thom Yorke and that is what he will be remembered for; constantly striving to go slightly left of the middle." yes, we're all going forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always striving, striving, striving slightly left of the middle.
my coworker t. just gave me a copy of the album (kriston had sent it to me a while back but it..disappeared? seriously, my desktop is an abyss) so maybe i can see what i think of it myself soon.
i recently downloaded season two of the office and am finally getting to see all the lovely hysterics. i'm kind of on a vmars-like-dvd-type-roll; i go through multiple episodes in stretches of time. hell, i had meant to start running with scissors tomorrow, having finished everything is illuminated, but maybe (since i have the day off) i will just finish the whole darn season. i'm craaazy like that.
while watching the email surveillance episode, i had a flash of genius. fountains of wayne should totally guest-band on the office. it would be the best musical tv appearance ever. new jersey power pop gods, writers of anthems for the weary office set - it's like a match made in heaven. "hey julie"? "bright future in sales"? C'MON. make it happen, steve carell. i have no conceivable idea of what the setup would be, but i'm sure they could do a good job.
"pull shapes" from the pipettes, via my brother. cute video and cute girl singers, too. everyone looks like they're on smiley acid and in the 60s, which is fun! some other fun songs at their myspace page. pretty much all of them are 60s-girl-group-inspired - not exactly orginal, but happy and fun and catchy, and what more do you want?
as for an official album of the summer, after having finally got the whole thing on my ipod, i'm going to have to go with charles on, SURPRISE, phoenix's "it's never been like that." it just does it for me.
woah, i had no idea guster had a new album coming out. i know it's not very cool to like them (though i don't know why), but i adore them, and uncle grambo's glowing review of their new lp has me excited. in addition to me about to put the new phoenix album, gnarls barkley and thom yorke (courtesy of the capps) on the ipod. it's looking to be a pretty good couple of weeks for music. time to start making a party mix!
Charles is right: the Post seems to be slowly buying up the DC music scene, no doubt for nefarious ends. Travis Morrison works for the post.com as a web developer (and consequently really ought to have permalinks in his excellent blog). Chuck Brown is doing commercials for them. Chris Richards is writing a weekly column for the Style section. And while you've probably heard that Henry Rollins is moving back to D.C., you may not know that he's doing so in order to take an office manager position in the Post classified department. In fact, I'm sure you didn't know that, since I just made it up. Still, I bet he could put a prompt and decisive end to office pen theft.
Charles is also right about this: the style section should have better music coverage. I haven't really kept up with their online chats since David Sedaris Segal (what is wrong with me?) left, but my memory of his regime is that he talked endlessly about Guided By Voices (because they let him come onstage and play a couple of times), and no other relevant bands, ever (relevant = bands I like, of course). And this was well after the world had internalized GBV's important life lessons and moved on to ignoring their ridiculously voluminous output. Perhaps the new critic(s) are better, but I haven't heard anyone saying that that's the case.
This Singles File column is a great start, however, and I wish I'd been paying attention when it started up. But now I will! And you should, too: I've gone ahead and created a scrubbed style section feed with Feed Rinse. So if you just want to get new Singles File entries in your RSS reader rather than the entire style section, subscribe to this URL.
It's already scored me a good summer album candidate — immediately after the beach, naturally: the Pink Spiders CD, which is catchy, poppy & good (although also fairly old, so you may already know and be sick of them).
Hearing it made me suddenly wonder what's become of Feable Weiner, a band that's funny, talented and exuberantly stupid, in addition to being responsible for the most fun I've ever had at the Grog & Tankard. I did the necessary five minutes of Google research, but the details remain a bit hazy (and I'm not prepared to sort through the messages left on their myspace page). They seem to currently be on tour with Cruiserweight and "local emocore band that sounds like My Chemical Romance"; they've got a newish single on iTunes and a definitely new one at their label's site ($5 for a song? no thanks, regardless of the extras); and they have a recording diary for the allegedly forthcoming 2FN HOT full length.
But they also seem to have left their old label for a smaller one, and the diary's last entry was in October '05, seemingly in the middle of the recording process (or at least before mixing & mastering). You'd think they'd want the current tour to be behind a new release, if possible. Here's hoping the album they've presumably got in the can comes out before the season's barbeque grills go back in.
cliptip's got a nice little phoenix video up that you should watch to get your friday started. the video itself is nothing too special, but i'm still obsessed wtih the band and the song is, as cliptip says "a perfect little pop song." they're just SO FRENCH.
It's on, people. Come see the excellent Deleted Scenes and Georgie James. And, as if that wasn't enough, there might — just might — be some temporary tattoos given away. I know!
I'll be there, although I'm afraid I won't be sticking around too long after Georgie James' set — there's morning news to be rounded up, chest colds to be fought and pre-beach packing to attend to. But although I won't be rock-and-rolling all night, it should still be a fun time. Hope to see you there.
Everyone says they're behind the curve on music (or at least running behind schedule on telling the rest of us what's good). Hah! You don't know from behind the curve. I just downloaded The National album last week — beat that! Anyway, I like it, although I'm not as enamored as others have been. Reminds me a lot of Emmett Swimming (remember those guys? I would be completely unsurprised if it turned out I knew one of their former members without realizing it). "Abel" and "Baby We'll Be Fine" are genuinely great tracks, but it hasn't really blown my mind as an album.
More 2005 releases that I'm just getting to now: the Animal Collective album seems pretty disappointing when compared to "Grass" as a single. Maybe I need to listen to it more.
Downloaded the Bell Orchestre album on the strength of their status as an Arcade Fire side project. First: no vocals. Do you like the sound of an orchestra tuning up? Do you wish you could listen to it for 53 minutes? Then this might be for you. There's one or two pretty tracks, but it's fairly repetitive. Not a huge number of ideas are on display. For AF-affiliated pop violin, you're better off with Final Fantasy.
Speaking of side projects, Sunset Rubdown is a part of Wolf Parade Enterprises. If you really, really like Wolf Parade (and I do), you might like this. If not, you probably won't.
On DCeiver's recommendation I'm listening to the new Rainer Maria, which also seems to have the National's "sounds like a particular unremarkable rock band from the late 90s, only somewhat better" thing going. K's Choice, in this case. Or perhaps Rilo Kiley (although I really like Rilo Kiley).
Really, the only genuinely great thing I've been listening to is the Figurines album, which has now taken over large parts of my frontal lobe. "All Night", "Silver Ponds" and "Other Plans" are particularly good. Who knew Danes could sound so Canadian? Anyway, you probably ought to download it.
ahh, one more post. i'm all into the radiohead youtube today. via greenplastic, here is a sweet 13-year-old video of radiohead's performance at the mtv beach house, performing "anyone can play guitar." check out ed's awesome pirate shirt. and thom's hair. the horror. still a pretty great song.
getting set up to buy radiohead tickets (ie, opening 32 billion different tabs in firefox and preparing myself to refresh them constantly; hey, it worked before!) while so hungover that my eyes can barely focus is perhaps not the most fun thing i've done on a saturday morning. curse you, radiohead. the things i do!
UPDATE: well, that went as expected. the biggest piece of bullshit? ticketmaster telling me that i could only have one browser window open to request tickets. what. the. fuck. on the other hand, it's nice to know that radiohead is still the only band capable of making me so giddy/nervous at even the possibility of seeing them that i want to throw up.
goddammit, i knew it. the limited amount of waste tickets on sale for the US radiohead shows are already all gone. i guess i'll have to try my luck with ticketmaster like the rest of the rubes. even then, it's likely i won't be able to get a ticket, and then i have to weigh how much i actually want to see them. tickets are approximately $50 as it is; is $100 worth it to me? $200? i guess, it's sad to say, at this point, that's doubtful. it seems likely to me that there will be three distinct radiohead periods in my life: my youth and theirs as a band, where i saw them a dozen times for minimal amounts of money; their inevitable popularity and acclaim where tickets are still somewhat reasonable but always sell out too fast too buy and my income doesn't allow me buy scalped ones from evil folks so i won't see them live for years at a time; and their slow decline where they'll start doing stadium shows for hundreds of dollars (face value, mind you!) but i will be old and rich and eager to relive my rock glory days that i will pony up. it seems we are currently in the second period.
well, well. i was strolling along this morning towards the journalism building, coffee in hand, when one of many of the taped-to-the-ground fliers advertising various student activities caught my eye.
"STEPHEN MALKMUS" it read, in huge block letters. in smaller type it went on, kind of weirdly i thought, "acclaimed singer, songwriter, formerly of pavement."
hmm. i would go see malkmus again, i thought. i've seen him twice, once in charlottesville and once in milan, and he put on a pretty decent show both times.
then, in even smaller letters at the bottom, it read: "with new pornographers and my morning jacket."
$10. the best part? they're playing in northwestern's crappy ancient gym that can't hold more than 1,000 people on a good day. i'm so going saturday night, after an excursion with classmates to a brewers game in milwaukee. first minneapolis, now milwaukee. that's right. when will my midwestern adventures end?
The Figurines album: pretty good. UPDATE: Especially "Other Plans", which is the album's standout track. Between this and "Rough Gem" (mentioned below), I think we've got a solid start to a summer '06 mix CD.
The Islands CD, I'm sad to say, is not. I was pretty excited about it when I first got it. I've been slavishly devoted to the Unicorns from the moment I saw that their press photos were a set of shots of them being brutally murdered (as seen here). Plus, you know, the music is great. But then they broke up. Based on the also-excellent NAHPI one-off and some early tracks, it looked like Islands, the Nick Diamonds/J'aime Tambeur half of the Unicorns diaspora, would be the (horned) pony to bet on.
But their debut album — meh. "Rough Gem" is a great song (although once you realize it's a pun on Nick's name, it gets considerably more irritating), but it's the only undeniable highlight. "Swans", for instance, is one of the better songs, but it's too long and rips off an Arcade Fire melody (forgivable, since AF members play on the album). So yeah: disappointing. This Pitchfork review, which gave it an 8.something/10, is wrong in just about every possible respect. The album does not simultaneously "present a more linear approach in their arrangements" and "[enjoy] the freedoms of exploration and discovery", for example. Sure, it's more linear, but it feels boxed-in and boring compared to the rest of Diamonds' work. And "Volcanoes" isn't "ridiculous but fun" — it's about the motherfucking Yellowstone supervolcano, and when it blows, Mr. Pitchfork, you and your stupid haircut are going to be entombed in burning hot ash.
The album's okay, and I wouldn't want to rule out the possibility of a musical revelation on my part. But right now it simple doesn't appear to be a great an album, no matter how much I wish it was.
There was controversy today on the DCist core list, and later via IM with Catherine, as we debated whether to include a contributor's Christian Rock pick in the week's music agenda. Catherine thinks I/we am/are being unfairly biased in jumping all over an act because they're faith-based, when we might allow any number of sucky secular acts to pass by without the type of detailed vetting that this Christian band received. She might be right. My personal feeling is that CR is an inherently flawed genre whose participants should be considered guilty until proven innocent, and that a bands inclusion in the category naturally and justifiably provokes skepticism. A few of the genre's more obvious problems:
Despite its musicians' protestations, the genre's raison d'etre is clearly non-artistic — the tunes are meant for proselytizing or worship. Putting artistic quality second or third behind other aims leads to naturally worse music (in rock music, at least).
In most cases Christian Rock is lyrically confined to explorations of one kind of relationship: the one the artist (or song protagonist) has with god. Real rock and roll is about drugs and sex — that's twice the variety!
Based on some long-past Youth Group experiences, CR fans are among the most musically insular people I've ever met. Most haven't been exposed to much variety, so they don't demand much quality. The music serves a social function for all of them and a religious function for some of them, but that seems to be about it. It's not art that provokes emotions of its own — instead it just helps its listeners recollect emotions evoked by other works.
I feel that I've given CR at least somewhat of a chance — in the past, people have tried to push DC Talk and Newsboys on me, but were hindered by those acts' innate awfulness. But those are the cream of the Christian crop — Charles assures me that it gets much, much worse. Pedro the Lion is the closest I've come to a messiah-oriented rock act that I genuinely enjoy (although I do get the feeling that the Polyphonic Spree could accidentally begin falling into that category at any moment).
But I'll admit that I haven't checked in with the state of the art in devout pop in quite a while. I'm sure a lot has changed — I can only imagine the travesties that occurred when the CR world internalized emo, for instance. So if any CR adherents can suggest an act that approaches the depth of PtL, maybe I'll adjust my opinions. Until then, I'm remaining happily closed-minded.
I've mostly been listening to this CD and the Wolf Parade album this week, and although they don't sound much alike, it's occurred to me that both bands have a willingness to let a song reach its bridge/transformation/crescendo, then continue to explore that new state for another 60 or 90 seconds before wrapping things up — and to do it without descending into the jammy noodling that characterizes every Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction performance. I like that.
it's a beautiful sunny day up here in fabulous evanston, and i'm spending the day in the computer lab thinking about what women aged 18-24 who live in minneapolis really, really want to do and see on the internet. (um, any ideas? i'm struggling here, folks.) but all is well when you've got some pretty music. 3hive has got a bunch of pretty, poppy mp3s up, and npr has a few songs from the new flaming lips album. go forth and listen.
All due respect to DCeiver — who, in addition to being America's greatest living playwright is also an insightful rock critic — but the Wolf Parade doubters are dead wrong. I'll admit I'm biased: in the midst of the dark days of fall '05 I'd put on Apologies To The Queen Mary during my daily escape from Crystal City, and feel myself begin to thaw. It was the soundtrack of feeling returning. So I'm inclined to cut them a lot of slack.
But that wasn't necessary tonight. They played a beautifully loose, powerful, and faithful-but-not-slavish set. If these guys come to your town, go see them. I don't really have much more to say than that.
That is, unless we're talking about the opening act, the optimistically-named Holy Fuck. I don't really mean to pick on them — they weren't unique in their sound or level of suckiness. It's just that I've finally hit my breaking point for this kind of shit: I am officially done tolerating bands who spend their live shows trying to replicate the work of a sampler. "Hey!" they say to themselves, "We've got six people up on stage and at our disposal. Surely that's enough to authentically recreate the experience of listening to a 14 year-old learn how to use GarageBand."
To which I reply: you're right. It is. But why would you want to do that? I know, I know: my middlebrow, bourgeois notions of things like "song structure" bore avante gardists such as yourself. You're deconstructing pop music, man. Barbershop is in danger of growing stale. You're taking it to strange new places.
Except that after you spend all that time deconstructing it, the only part you bother to put back together is the three chord progression — and maybe, maybe a hook-y riff. Then you proceed through variations on that underlying structure for 6 or 7 minutes per song.
I have bad news for you. There's a word for people in this line of work: it's "jam band". Your audience might take different drugs than the Disco Biscuits' key demo, but the principle is the same. The only real difference is that jam band musicians can play their instruments. Rather than developing chops, you spent your time figuring out how to look musically ardent while tapping a MIDI controller trigger extra-fast, or waving your hands around a theremin, or, as in tonight's particulary ludicrous case, manually threading film stock through a device that presumably was supposed to read its audio track, but in practice seemed to have no effect on the speakers' output at all. So when it's your turn to solo, you generally rise to the challenge by playing your instrument slightly louder or faster or more frenetically. It's simply not that interesting.
So there it is. You have better facial hair, but otherwise you're just a shitty jam band. And when you consider that jam bands are really just shitty jazz bands, your case starts to look pretty weak. So c'mon — humor me. Sink to my level. Write a goddamn verse, chorus and bridge, then play them in less than five minutes. Then draw a crowd. I dare you.
for those interested, you can find out what songs are featured in various veronic mars episodes at this here blog. it helped me figure out the song playing at the end of the last episode, when the stadium was being demolished. i was obsessed with that song for days, but couldn't find it until i came across that site. the song was "gravity" by alejandro escovedo, who i've always heard about but never really listened to. any recommendations about any of his cds in particular?
anyways, don't forget: veronica mars switches to 9/8 central tonight. watch it!
well, i had meant to do a more detailed, full-blown review of this show earlier, but i succumbed to that disease that affects so many of us bloggers: laziness. or was it wine? either way, here are my much abridged thoughts:
new porngraphers - just should not tour without neko case. carl newman sounded great, but kathryn calder, sick or not, does not have the interesting or full sounding vocals to carry her songs. additionally, the mix sounded strangely tinny, and the band seemed weary and determined on tearing through the set with business-like speed. i believe i remember exactly one line of in-between song banter from newman. which is sad, because he's quite funny.
belle and sebastian: it sure SOUNDED like they put on a great show. however, in between the two bands, dcsobloop and i opted for a trip to the bathroom and another beer, which meant we ended up on the slightly-raised second level platform. you'd think "slightly-raised" would mean "with a view of the stage," but that is exactly the opposite of what it meant. we couldn't see a bloody thing. additionally, stuart was crazy with the stories in between songs; unfortunately, apparently when not singing, he can only manage incomprehensible scottish mumbles. and, as i mentioned previously, i was frustrated that they only played one song off of "if you're feeling sinister." oh well. i guess i got my fill of IYFS songs when i saw them back in 1998 at the black cat. that's right, i'm cooler than you. i'm also old. that was eight years ago. christ.
So: New Pornographers/Belle & Sebastian. I was ready to reaffirm my love for the band, but tonight's effort doesn't really merit it. I've seen them three times now — once at the Black Cat, once at 9:30 back in October, and then again at 9:30 tonight. They've never managed to wow me with their live act, but in the past I've been pretty happy with the show. Not tonight — this was by far the weakest of the three outings.
Neko Case is off touring behind her latest solo album, so the set was doomed to mediocrity from the start. Topping that off, the lone remaining female vocalist, Kathryn Calder, had laryngitis. That effectively cuts out a third or more of the band's material. Not a good start.
Throw in too-long transitions between songs, an oddly anemic sound mix and an apathetic start and you end up with a pretty poor set. There were some bright spots: Newman's singing was mostly strong and he exuded less contempt for the audience this go-round. More importantly, the band actually switched up the arrangements in some minor ways — something I've been complaining about since the first time I saw them. But overall it was not a good show.
Belle & Sebastian! I have to admit: B&S are not really my thing. I'm not that familiar with their stuff, having only been exposed to them via Catherine's occasional efforts to get me to listen to them at the start of our relationship. That, and listening to the Avalanches remix of I'm a Cuckoo about a million times. But everything I know and that I think I need to know about the band is summed up in the following two paraphrased statements, both of which were made tonight by frontman Stuart Murdoch:
"When I was growing up I used to go to some discos where people would bring their knitting and just do it at the show."
"We've got the spirit of Fugazi."
See what I mean? They seem like they mean well, but some sort of serious misunderstanding must have happened somewhere along the way. At one point Stuart said he didn't know what a song was about and an audience member helpfully yelled, "It's about modern rock!" But no, it pretty clearly isn't. Rock music is about catharsis, whether it's melodic or lyrical — that's what it's about for me, anyway. B&S's stuff doesn't have that payoff. It's not that I'm opposed to tweeness — I like the Decemberists, after all. It's that B&S songs don't establish tension, so there's never any resolution. They write ditties, not rock songs.
But as I mentioned, I'm speaking from a position of ignorance. A live show is no place to learn a band's lyrics, so perhaps that's where I would locate the depth that I perceive to be missing. From what I could make out they seem to have a lot of songs about lesbians. That seems like a decent start.
Another reason I'm probably wrong about the band: the crowd was way into them. Not dancing into-them — don't be silly! — but certainly enthusiastic and loud. Maybe a little too loud: they were prone to yelling out requests, a bad habit that the NP encouraged early on (they used the same tactic last time I saw them, wherein Carl asks for requests until someone yells the next song on the setlist).
But the band bore the idiots well, playing to the audience in clever ways but without becoming tiresome. Despite their best efforts, the music stubbornly refused to trigger my brain's rocking out nucleus, and I was pretty deathly bored by the end of their set.
Still, even a B&S skeptic like myself has to admit that they're a great live band. They're good instrumentalists and vocalists; Stuart's stage banter was endearing; and they played a nice, long set. Their material is fundamentally unexciting to me — but if I were a fan, I'd be very happy fan right now.
NPR recorded the whole thing. I mostly think this is great because it meant that the bands started their sets on time. But I guess it also means that you can listen to the whole concert here.
tommy's got a bunch of great photos up. unfortunately, my flight was delayed so i missed all of olivia mancini and the housemates' set. i would like to say i had an opinion of the hard tomorrows, but frankly, i was too busy being one of those annoying people who talks at concerts because i was so eager to catch up with everybody. so i didn't really pay attention. but everyone else thought they were excellent. hooray!
The Governess says she feels like the Jenny Lewis album is a retread. I can't really speak to that, having not heard the album (although I haven't heard anyone say they really love it, aside from RCR). But I, too, have been trying and failing to find a new album to love.
The Subways? Too hard a sell. It's The Killers all over again. Also, there's the fact that the album is just OK.
How about the much-hyped Arctic Monkeys? I'd like to think that I'm past the point in my life where I have to dump on Next Big Things in order to make myself feel better about my own occasionally deeply suspect musical taste. Maybe I'm not. But the AM album just doesn't do it for me. It sounds like Dischord-influenced high school bands. If I lived in the UK and had an email address ending in @nme.com, I could see why that'd sound like the fifth best English album of all time to me.
Okay, actually, no. I can't possibly conceive of that. But I can understand the enthusiasm. And I've only listened through the thing once. Maybe it's a grower. It seemed pretty boring on the first listen. It struck me as a less-catchy Bloc Party done in self-satisfied keys. To be fair, I said similar things about the Wolf Parade album after the first couple of listens, and now I'm deeply, deeply sorry. But for now: pass.
Yet! I'm hopeful that salvation is at hand. The Islands album drops in not too long (or, here on the internets, not too long ago), and not only features prominent ex-Unicorns, but also cameos from Wolf Parade and Arcade Fire members. Canadag, yo.
Anyway, I've secured through the (in)appropriate channels. So far, not an Abominable Snow level of catchiness. But it's definitely interesting and definitely good. And Nick Diamond has earned multiple listens on the strength of this alone. March 9, people. With Metric, who I am assured are good, or at least attractive.
fun stalkable moment: i (along with dcsobloop) will be at chicagoist's first local concert event, ctrl-alt-rock, on thursday evening. the assembly, may or may not and the alphabet will be playing. 8 p.m., $8, schuba's. if you all remember correctly, i was involved in dcist's concert last year, unbuckled, so i'm all about supporting this show.
and guess what? i'll be at the second coming of unbuckled as well! you should be there. thursday, february 23, dc9. excellent d.c. groups the hard tomorrows and olivia mancini and the housemates will be playing. come on out!
as noted in comments below, i stayed home sick today and have been using my ass-on-couch time to actually be productive and work on a number of assignments i have due for next week. unfortunately, my plan has been somewhat thwarted by, you guessed it, the Noisy Upstairs Neighbor. apparently he holds a job wherein he is required to a) stay at home all day b) do jumping jacks to a soundtrack of third eye blind for 7 hours straight.
my retaliation plan, put in effect 15 minutes ago?
playing belle and sebastian, really, really loud.
that's right, don't fuck with the motherfucking stuart murdoch. he will blow your ears out with pure cuteness.
turns out abc was glad to have put a five-second delay on the rolling stone's performance tonight, because...
In "Start Me Up," ABC's editors silenced one word, a reference to a woman's sexual sway over a dead man. The lyrics for "Rough Justice" included a synonym for rooster that the network also deemed worth cutting out.
that is some creative rewriting by the AP reporter right there. i had no idea what in the world they could be talking about when they cited the "sexual sway over a dead man." turns out the lyric is actually (and i did not know this myself) "you make a dead man come."
thank god abc was thinking of the children!
anyway, both the rolling stones and the game sucked. on the other hand, how awesome was grey's anatomy?!
I had three different people ask me what this shirt meant at Cue Bar tonight. Normally I'd spin this into a generic "kids these days" sort of complaint, but one of the questioners was a fucking bartender. Really now — bartenders should be able to do better than that. It's only been, what, half a year?
Last night's Hold Steady show: good! Also, blog-heavy — it was fun hanging out with the Pygmalii, Leafblower and DCeiver*. The actual show was very good, if not quite the religious experience I'd been hoping for. But if you wish that Springsteen was actually relevant for your generation (and you should — I'm looking at you, Capps), you probably ought to check out a HS tour date.
UPDATE 2: * and Drew! Shit. Sorry about that, man. Without a pre-show gmail correspondence to prime me for it, my beer-soaked neurons simply aren't up to the task of composing an accurate roll call. Also, I'm a jerk.
I'm planning to go to the Hold Steady show tonight, which has gotten me thinking about the band, which has gotten me thinking about its music, which has made me realize that it's a real tragedy that their latest album's final track didn't exist when the title for this article was being composed.
Yeah, I know. I can't believe I'm this immature, either.
alright, my hipster friends. let's face facts: i'm going to be a lonely girl this summer. most of my friends will be in the d.c. headquarters of medill, doing a reporting quarter that i've opted out of because a) i am a sucky reporter and b) i plan on doing an as-yet-to-be-determined new media independent study. chicago is supposed to be lovely in the summer, but i am afraid i will be spending it sipping solitary gin and tonics on my balcony, staring wistfully off into the sunset.
It's been a while since I paid attention to music, but upcoming shows promise to change that. On the schedule: New Pornographers/Belle & Sebastian (if Matt still has a spare ticket for me); Hold Steady, maybe (sold out?); and Islands/Metric, apparently. The Tegan & Sara/Gogol Bordello show would've been attended but, well, I just learned about it today.
At the moment I'm most excited about Islands, the ex-Unicorns outfit. I loved the Unicorns, and the early Islands mp3s I've heard (particularly "Abominable Snowman" — although the Unicorns wrote that) seem promising. Plus Nick Diamonds did this, my enthusiasm for which you may already know. So I'm prepared to dub him "the good Unicorn" (there can be only one). You can find some Islands mp3s here. Also: I have just learned that the Unicorns' debut release is available for free here. Neat.
Back on track! The other enblogged act coming to town seems to be Stars. I've only started listening to that CD this week. Good songs, but I'm not sure I'm sold on them yet — their rhythm section is pretty weak when they're not using a drum machine. "Reunion" could've been great, but instead it only ends up being good. Maybe I'm projecting my crass predilection for Andrew WK-style cock rock onto the fully rendered craft of a sensitive auteur with no taste for bass. Or maybe they should hire a new drummer. Either way, the prospects for live rocking don't seem that great to me. But hey, I could be and probably am totally wrong. I'll be curious to hear folks' reactions.
Dante from the Black Cat was just on the usually banal Metro Connection outlining a consequence of the coming smoking ban that I hadn't thought about: crowds of smokers spilling onto the street between sets at his club. That seems likely to cause problems with the neighbors, who seem likely to raise a fuss, which seems likely to make DC an even more hostile place for our already scant rock club population. Drat.
It was nice to meet folks at the DCist happy hour last night. New blogger acquaintance A: Mari of In Shaw, who was very pleasant to talk to and whose blog I like a lot. I suspect she thinks I am a nice guy but also the type of person who's the problem with something. If so, she's probably right.
New blogger acquaintance B: Alex, who, at my prompting, explained to me what a NOP sled is. Awesome. If I'm going to have friends giving me irresponsibly large amounts of tech cred (terminologically, anyway), I'd better cultivate some contacts who actually know what the hell they're talking about. So I'm glad to have Alex in my RSS folder.
Also: Jacques newly-of-DCist, Wayan from DCMetblogs, and almost certainly a bunch of other new and charming and wonderful people whose names I can't remember. Plus, some usualsuspects. Always nice to see you guys.
The night ended confusingly, as Kriston, the Nabob and I talked about the old drink-a-gallon-of-milk-in-an-hour thing. I know it's impossible. We've all seen that episode of Jackass, and the N had conducted the experimental work himself in college. Kriston seemed to think that we east-coast types just don't know how to drink milk hard enough. And I wondered whether Lactaid could help someone win that bet.
So somehow we're now all supposed to try drinking a gallon of Gatorade in half an hour, some time. It doesn't make much sense to me — I think it's to remove the problematic milk from the equation. Too many independent variables! Remove the lactose! We're testing the effect of volume on drinking stuff. Hypothesis: regret.
It isn't really about competion, except perhaps against the dreary world that gave man such a pathetically weak digestive system. But it must be done. I guess.
i'm sorry: i know chicago is a culturally aware town, and the orchestra is very important, etc, etc, etc. BUT. the orchestra's REHERSAL is NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN RADIOHEAD PLAYING TWO DATES AT MILLENIUM PARK. not to think of the sort of revenue that it would bring in.
i've got a compromise: let the orchestra back radiohead on those two dates. they're getting into all sorts of bizarre classical shit, and the orchestra could learn some new tunes. fun times all around!
Like Catherine, I worry that musical lameness is overtaking me. And, also like Catherine, I think that this is Catherine's fault. This whole move-to-Chicago business has wreaked havoc with my capacity for indie rock snobbery. For years now I've been relying on my lovely girlfriend for news of the Hot New Thing in music. In return I stood ready to update her on the most important developments in first person shooters, should she ask. It was a good arrangement.
But now I'm hopelessly behind the times. In fact, it was only yesterday that I started listening to Stylus's fifty best singles of 2005 (despite having already inflicted it on our party guests). To my surprise, a lot of it is surprisingly blah. Some of the tracks are embarassingly awful (that Juelz Santana track has a nice sample, but the rapping makes me think K-Fed's got a future). Some tracks (Helen Love) feel like placeholders, waiting for the arrival of the real subgenre smash that they represent. And I still don't understand the heaps of praise that LCD Soundsystem receives — it's all very proficient, but the hooks just don't hook me. It wasn't that great a year for singles, I guess (Since U Been Gone and Backstreet Boys' triumphantly melodramatic return notwithstanding).
But there are a few things on the list that are worth checking out that I hadn't heard before. All of which is my circuitous way of saying that Imogen Heap's Hide And Seek is pretty astounding, the first virtuoso vocoder performance that I've ever heard. You can listen to it here.
everybody's doing it. unfortunately, and pathetically, i don't think i even LISTENED to enough records this year to make a top ten list out of them, even if i had hated some of them. this is what you get for turning 25 (almost 26! holy cripes!). you get old; you get lame; you pass the torch to the littlestandrews who, for the past few years, have been asking you to buy them cds for christmas by bands who names have never even skimmed your consciousness. sigh. oh well. at least i can claim a peak of music coolness from 1995-1999, MAYBE 2000, and that's a pretty good run. anyway, here are the records i can claim to have really enjoyed in the past year. i present, with much fanfare, my TOP FOUR ALBUMS LIST. yes, i liked four albums over the whole past year. but that also may have to do with the fact that i am old and can't remember anything anymore. maybe i liked six. but i forgot 'em.
1. new pornographers - twin cinema
i can't tell you how initially disappointed i was with this record. WHY ARE NOT ALL THE SONGS HUMMABLE, was my primary thought. but i knew what carl newman was capable of, so i stuck with it, and i'm super glad i did. there are classic pop gems on this album (obviously sing me spanish techno and bleeding heart show), but most of the reward comes from the layers and lushness of the more dramatic and serious songs. and now i must go be executed because i just said layers and lushness when talking about indie rock and that means immediate death by smothering of rolling stone magazines.
2. spoon - gimme fiction
frankly, i also thought this record kind of sucked at first. it seemed too pensive and, um, like, a little melodramatic? or something. they were always so brilliantly spare before, making it work with the basics, and there seemed to be too much production stuff going on on a lot of the songs here. and many of the songs were not immediately catchy (aka catherine not willing to work hard enough to appreciate non earworms). but, lo and behold, the album is one of those "grower" things, and thus it grew. into my cold, black heart. it's got sass. and it's totally sexy. somehow weird coming from britt daniel who perpetually looks and sounds like he's going to sneeze a sheet of snot all over you, but it works.
3. brendan benson - alternative to love
kyle says he immediately thought of sloan when listening to this record, and i totally agree. the sheer popiness of it all is likely to make your ears bleed from the catchiness. it's got some depth to it too, but mostly i like it because it hurts my head if i have to listen to too much music that doesn't immediately present itself as accessible. i am easy for the pop.
4. nada surf - the weight is a gift
i always feel a little guilty for saying i like nada surf so much because i am pretty sure most of the indie rock hawtness people think they are thorougly mediocre, but, oh well. beautiful pop music for the over-25-easy-listening set. and gorgeous harmonies. i'm a sucker for those.
UPDATE: oh yeah! i forgot bloc party's silent alarm. that's a good'un too.
pause to reflect on the stupid-headedness of this. 1) there are approximately 2 billion awesome music venues in chicago proper. 2) northwestern undergraduates, the main chunk of the people who will actually be attending this concert, seeing as the rest of evanston is made up of retirees and no one from chicago will want to take the el for 30 minutes up to evanston in fricking february, do not know how to have fun. 3) the closest approximation to the norris center is newcomb hall at uva, or any other student center at any other university ever - that is, there is a. a food court b. a bank c. a post office d. a bookstore e. that is all (ok, i am exaggerating, there is probably a room around there somewhere large enough to accommodate a concert, but still).
as much as i love the wrens, i do not think i will choose to pay money to watch them play next to the sbarro stand.
yay for two of my favorite things being smushed together: britt daniel of spoon will be making an appearance on an upcoming episode of "veronica mars," singing elvis costello's "veronica." nice. rob thomas must be a fan, seeing as earlier this season he used my proclaimed Sexiest Song of 2005, spoon's "i turn my camera on," in a segment where veronica was following around charisma carpenter and taking photographs.
did anyone watch last week's episode? the baby - there's no way it's actually duncan's, right?
Catherine and I contributed pieces to this week's Three Stars feature on DCist. I can't say that I can recommend the Lucky Bastards, but the guys in Lejeune, about whom I wrote, are quite good. They're not a band that Pitchfork is going to be swooning over any time soon, but they're a solid live act with a classic college rock sound. Their 8 song LP is proficient but not mind-blowing. However, if you have the chance to catch them live, you should.
Oof. I want to want to write a good blog post. Something's wrong, though, and large amounts of coffee are strangely unable to fix it. Is this seasonal affective disorder? Belated single sad-sack-ism? Or just the mind-numbing awfulness of my current work situation? Right now I'm leaning toward option C — it's relatively easy to take steps to remedy that problem, at least (and I am — take that, career!). Well, snappy prose be damned. Last night's show at Iota was good enough to be written about, even lifelessly.
Despite Charles loaning me the car, I was late to meet Julie and Brian for dinner in Clarendon. What can I say — I was still in the throes of what I took for inspiration on last night's Metro ride home, furiously scribbling a backstory to contribute to the Penny Arcade wiki I mentioned last night. Afraid of losing momentum, I hastily wrote it up before leaving the house — the page is here, but in my hurry I didn't really make it very funny. But folks have already begun contributing to it, and I feel it's a solid shell on which the community can build the legend of an insane children's cartoon auteur. The novelty of the medium's thrilling, even if the content isn't.
Anyway, dinner was good, and we headed to Galaxy Hut for a beer afterward. Larry's changed some things. It's a lot more silvery inside than I remember. I miss the little blacklit planets in the window. And though the smirking, cartoony art is nice, it's going to get tiresome if Larry follows through on his promise not to rotate it. Still, the Hut is the Hut, and I love it. Also, the new bartendress has the same birthday as me, which surely must mean something (although apparently not that I ought to be given free beer).
Julie and Brian opted not to go to the show. I got there a couple of songs into Charles Bissell's set. The club was packed. Iota is a great place to see an okay show, but a lousy place to see a great show: there are just too many bodies. And they really, really ought to knock down that island wall of brick — I could only see half the stage for most of the show. Things thinned out a little as the evening progressed, but Sommer was stuck outside until Okkervil's set due to the room reaching capacity.
Anyway, the music: god damn but I love the Wrens. Bissell did a good job of the now-classic looping layering thing, putting that just-perfect level of distortion of his to good use. But the live Wrens get by on sloppy rock energy more than anything else, and as a lone performer, Charles didn't wow the crowd. I still enjoyed his set, though.
Man Man came on next. At first I was enthusiastic. "If I ever get hired to score a punk-rock remake of The Nightmare Before Christmas, I am totally calling these guys," I thought. But their later songs devolved, or maybe I just got tired, until it seemed like they weren't doing anything but making a huge racket — and doing so for their benefit more than the audience's. Also, nonsense lyrics do not endear me to bands. Screaming "mustache! mustache!" probably seems hilarious in rehearsal, but if you guys can't be bothered to give a shit, why should I?
Ah well. What do I know? The G is ready to join their travelling circus, apparently, and she's got much better taste in these sorts of things than I do. Probably an extra cup of coffee or pint of beer would have radically altered my opinion of Man Man.
Speaking of the Pygmalii, I only really spotted the Nabob. He was on his way back from the bathroom, and I waved, and he peered out from around the corner and gave a guarded wave back, perhaps nervous (appropriately) about internet-related acquaintances. I decided to wait until the wind had shifted in my favor to approach, the same way you would try not to spook a rhino when sneaking up on it on the African plain. But the crowd was too dense, and I lost track of him and the rest of the PIIAB crew (despite their flowing Victorian garb). This was probably for the best, as my weekday-evening conversational skills are usually limited to "argh my knee hurts" and "where do I get more beer".
I did run into Kyle, though, through some small miracle of convergent drink-finding paths. I stupidly forgot to bring my camera, but he looked like he was doing a pretty good job of flaunting the club's ridiculous no-photo rule. Head to his site and you'll probably find some pictures by and by. I also ran into Drew earlier in the evening, although sadly for the internet he wasn't taking any pictures.
Alright, finally: Okkervil River took the stage. I'll keep it short. These guys are rock stars and they should be playing the 9:30, right now. Despite some excellent singles, Black Sheep Boy spends a little too much time down-tempo for it to become my new religion. But their live show is fantastic. Now they just have to wait for the audience's size to catch up with their talent. It won't be long. Keep an eye on the Black Cat — I suspect their next trip through town will be the last show you can go to without having heard somebody's little sister tell you how cute Will Sheff is.
Oh, and PS: they covered the Wrens' "Ex-Girl Collection" straight into "For Real". Ten dollar shows don't get a lot better than this one was. I was lame, though, and split before the encore.
First: Okkervil River and the Wrens' Charles Bissell. Tonight, IOTA, $10. Who's in? And are any of you interested in meeting up for a late-ish pre-show dinner in Clarendon?
Second, and much more depressingly: WWE wrestler Eddie Guerrerois dead. What can you say about something so sadly predictable? He was a talented guy, but that business chews people up at an alarming rate. It's pretty much the same as the carney lifestyle would be if it paid a little better and somebody wailed on you with a baseball bat every night between the tilt-a-whirl and your trailer. It sounds like Eddie died sometime shortly after breakfast on Sunday, but despite the morning hour I'd say the smart money is still on an overdose. Like a lot of wrestlers, Eddie had a history of problems with painkillers.
Sigh. Well, Tivo can watch RAW for the memorial package. The rest of us will go get rocked. Come join me — we'll invent a drink and call it the Frog Splash in Eddie's honor. I'm thinking tequila and creme de menthe.
Allow me to direct you to Charles' post about our new favorite weekday morning music video act, Coheed & Cambria. They've been around for a while, I guess, but this is my first encounter with them. "The Suffering" is a genuinely great metallish pop song, but the rest of the album seems pretty lackluster. Still, check out Charles' recounting of their backstory. These guys don't make concept albums — they're a concept band. When their lyrics say "until the stars go out", it's meant literally — the stars going out is a plot point in their bizarre scifi epic.
I'm sure it will end with one or more band members on a rooftop screaming at the assembled police below, but at the moment their multimedia spectacle is pretty damn entertaining — even if most of the music isn't.
ALSO: speaking of good pop songs embedded in otherwise regrettable albums, I heard Liz Phair's "Why Can't I" over a box-store PA last weekend, and you know what? It's a pretty good song. We were all too busy (justifiably) yelling "Judas!" when it came out to notice. But if Kelly Clarkson had released that track, we'd all have revelled in its ironic catchiness.
UPDATE: A dozen or so listens later, "The Suffering" is still pretty great. You can listen to it here. But listen to it on a decent set of headphones — there's a surprising number of backing vocal lines that are easy to miss.
I know, I know, I'm ridiculously late on this one. But I can't help reemphasizing my love for this Do They Know It's Halloween supergroup single. It works as satire, it works as pop, it works as a halloween party soundtrack. You should really go give it a listen. If you decide to buy it off of iTunes, though, I'd suggest avoiding any of the remixes other than MAYBE the one authored by ex-Unicorns Tha Corn Gangg.
We're not throwing a party this year, but this has still gotten me thinking about a Halloween mix CD. It's harder to come up with one than you'd think (assuming, of course, that you avoid awful and obvious choices like The Monster Mash). Striking a balance between campiness and spookiness is difficult.
Here's what I've got. Suggestions?
NAHPI - Do They Know It's Halloween?
Southern Culture On The Skids - Werewolf [taken from a Halloween compilation; it shouldn't really count]
Bloc Party - Helicopter (Whitey Remix)
Jeff Buckley - Witches' Rave
Unicorns - Ghost Mountain
Flaming Lips - Halloween on the Barbary Coast
Michael Jackson - Thriller [obviously]
And that's it. Well, okay, if you've got video capabilities, you should really throw "Backstreet's Back" on there, too. But I still I feel like I'm missing something obvious.
i want to have ten million of carl newman's babies
i want those ten million babies to have neko case's voice. i thought tommy was being a little orgasmic about her voice in this review (if you like her voice so much WHY DON'T YOU MARRY IT) but he was pretty dead on.
testament to youth in verse is much, MUCH better live than bleeding heart show...sadly. bleeding heart show felt totally rushed.
how does carl newman's niece manage to look...15 years older than him?
i thought dan bejar's band, destroyer, kind of sucked. but when he rolled on stage for his 4-5 songs with the new pornographers, he was totally awesome. he looked like a drunk hobo, and every time he came out he had a new drink in hand and sung with his eyes closed, almost spitting out the words. fun times.
the band is playing the metro for new year's eve, for the low low price of $60, and if i'm in chicago then, i would totally go, and stalk carl newman.
i forgot to mention that i went to see nada surf's show on friday at the metro. the show overall was pretty good - it was actually quite good the first 2/3, then lost all steam when the band decided to play all its incredibly slow, lullaby-ish songs for the last part. but it was still a good time, especially since matthew caws is adorable, and the bassist, though he is rocking terrible, terrible disgusting dreads, was fun to watch as well.
anyway, since i went to the show on my own i had the experience of eavesdropping on absolutely everybody around me, which was kind of fun. and what i discovered that many, many people seemed to be there solely in hopes of hearing "popular," nada surf's hit single from, like 1998. you know the song - the video got heavy rotation on MTV, and the song consists of spoken lyrics about rules for breaking up with your boyfriend with a chorus of "i'm a quarterback/my mom says i'm a catch," etc. it's a fun song, but the thing is, it's TOTALLY misrepresentative of all of nada surf's sound. nada surf is just good, solid polished pop with thoughtful lyrics and pretty harmonies. pretty straightforward guitar-driven stuff.
so anyway, a lot of people that i was listening to were seriously pissed that nada surf didn't play "popular." which, well, i don't understand. one, the song is like 7 years old. two, pretty much all of their other songs are better. three, are you seriously paying like $20 to hear one song that you liked when you were 17 and you're pissed the band doesn't play it? but i was wondering if in general bands like nada surf purposefully don't play their one hit single and if they should feel obligated to, especially if they have a catalog of material that excels far beyond the hit single. i've seen radiohead play "creep" twice in my times seeing the band, but most of the times they don't play it, not that they have to any longer - i mean, they're effing radiohead. but when i saw them in the years like '96-'98, people around me would be pissed if they didn't play "creep"/utterly ecstatic if they did. not that nada surf is radiohead. not at all. but judging by some of the audience's reaction, they were 'bout ready to riot because they didn't get to hear "popular." just, what is up with that? why do people feel like they deserve an old hit single that's not at all the kind of music that the band is really about?
I've got a review of last night's show up at DCist. To be honest, it wasn't a particularly review-worthy show — good but not great, with nothing particularly unusual happening. But I went to the trouble of bringing a pad and pen and jotting down notes throughout the show like a complete dork. So it's getting a review, goddamn it.
Also, it was nice to run into Sommer, Natalya and Audrey at the show (as promised in comments!). So let's try this again: Architecture in Helsinki on Friday. Who's going?
Pitchfork loved it. I was skeptical — not too long ago it seemed like Montreal could do no musical wrong, so I downloaded Wolf Parade's last two EPs and was unimpressed.
But Apologies to the Queen Mary is good, and you should get it. Two things, though:
Who mixed the drums? You guys should probably fire him. Also, the guy who miked the drums. And the guy who sold you the kit. It sounds like somebody's pounding on an unusually flimsy cardboard box. And do you even own a bass drum? On some songs this works out fine, but on the uptempo numbers you could really use a driving rhythm section. Maybe I've just been prejudiced by all these recent dance rock albums; I donno. But the album frequently sounds anemic.
We need to set up some sort of background-check system for young men buying Modest Mouse albums, so that it can be determined prior to purchase that they're not planning to pursue careers as rock vocalists. Cause this shit has gotten out of hand: approximately every new front man in indie rock now apes either Isaac Brock or David Byrne. Oddly, with Wolf Parade it's not to conceal an inability to actually sing. But they still do it. It's not super-irritating, it's just a little more boring than it could be.
crapola. when i went to the dreaded ticketmaster to buy new pornographer tickets, i found out the show was sold. out. nearly three weeks in advance. and i thought i was being clever, buying tickets this early. THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN IN D.C.! mostly because chicago has about 10 billion times the hipsters that d.c. does, but still.
I know Harvey Danger has some fans around these parts. You might be interested to hear that the band is giving its latest album away. Not streaming, not samples — the whole thing. Here are their reasons why; here's the download. I hope this pays off for them.
i haven't watched the o.c. this season (i know, what the hell is wrong with me?) but they're still going strong on their music selections, at least. stereogum has matt pond pa's cover of neutral milk hotel's "in the aeroplane over the sea."in the aeroplane over the sea is one of those albums i never recommend to anyone solely because i assume everybody must already have it, but if you don't, get on it. it's one of the most heartbreakingly gorgeous works of music out there. also, it contains probably the only song about anne frank and world war II that will make you want to dance your ass off. anyway, matt pond pa's cover captures the sound nicely.
I just got back from Operation Ceasefire and... eh. Heading to Charles' mom's tailgate thingamajig at the Nats game was definitely the right call: free food beats free Green Party literature any day.
The concert seemed very well-run. Not too many detestable hippies in the crowd, and everyone behaved themselves. The politics expressed on stage were predictably silly. The bands mostly avoided embarassment, sticking to "Fuck George Bush" and "Let's Party!" But the inter-set haranguing veered wildly from general, sane opposition to the Iraq War, to incitements to interfere with all forms of military recruitment, to broad anticorporate diatribes that, while up my alley, seemed a bit far afield from the show's stated purpose. I think Yglesias' prediction was correct, and that the whole shindig will ultimately be counterproductive. Despite organizer Adam Eidinger's thoroughly sane explication of the concert's aims on Friday's Kojo Nnamdi Show, these kinds of things have a way of making utterly reasonable political ideas as unpalatable to the mainstream as possible. Bad things happen when you send true believers on stage between sets to kill time ad libbing.
Anyway, I caught the end of Thievery Corporation's set, some belly dancers, the Bouncing Souls and Le Tigre. TC did their thing, but it's hard to have a big finale when descriptions of your music frequently include the word "downtempo". The belly dancing seemed to feature some above-average bellies, but I was off getting a bottle of water during their performance. The Bouncing Souls seemed good, pretty much a perfect fit for anyone who wants melodic pop punk that's one step too hard for MTV (which includes me).
I was most interested in seeing Le Tigre, though, having heard from friends that they put on a great live show. Prior to tonight I didn't really have much exposure to the band besides a rough sketch of their history and hearing a couple of singles.
Maybe it's just my suddenly-threatened phallocentric worldview speaking, but I wasn't that impressed. It seems like it's probably pretty easy to be a great live band when half of your sound is canned. The drums and synths I can understand... but vocals? C'mon now. Also, some of their "message" songs come perilously close to that most dreaded of musical genres: socially conscious rap performed by white people, AKA Christian Rock for Atheists.
Oh well. I have to admit that when the guitar came out they rocked pretty hard; at their best, they sound like Patti Smith with a sampler, which is pretty good. And their sorta choreographed, video-integrated show is certainly well-done — it's just not the kind of thing I'm that interested in seeing.
nada surf's new album, "the weight is a gift," is, much like the new pornographers' "twin cinema," a slower, more melancholy and more nuanced album than its predecessor, but still impressive and likeable. it doesn't ever really reach the incredible poppy highs of "let go", and many of the melodies aren't as memorable, but i think it'll make a pretty good autumn cd.
of course, the mp3 i'm posting is incredibly poppy and catchy, but not necessarily reflective of the rest of the album. but still awesome.
quick report from the bloc party show at the congress theater:
it's official: i am in love with bloc party drummer matt tong and want to bear 10 million of his drumming babies (even though without his shirt he looks like a shrunken-chested 12 year-old asian kid from middle school with a TS-82 [and i can make fun of asians because i'm a little bit asian, fo real]). the man is a force of nature. or else he is an alient robot, sent to earth to be a drumming machine. and TO RAWK.
kele wore a michael jordan bulls jersey, proving that even though he may be kind of an asshole, he's still adorable.
and finally, the truth about concert audiences: i'd been dying to know if it was a fact that d.c. crowds suck, or if people just make that up and every crowd acts the same. well...i hate to say it, d.c., but in comparison to this particular chicagoan crowd: you got your ass kicked to the moon and back. it's just nice to be able to dance and sing along to a band and not feel like a complete idiot and instead feel like you're one of many people having a great time.
maybe a more detailed review tomorrow, depending on how many cardboard boxes i feel like demolishing or not.
I'm sure it will surprise you to learn that Ticketmaster is run by dicks. I just got some Depeche Mode spam from them after buying Bloc Party tickets last week. You can be sure that when I made that purchase, I didn't intend to give them permission to spam me. Here's the privacy notice that was attached to their message.
Please do not reply to this email. Replies to this email will NOT be responded to or read. If you have any questions or comments, contact us by email or postal mail: Ticketmaster-Optout Request, 4445 Corporation, Virginia Beach, VA 23462.
So you don't have an option to avoid getting these marketing emails when you buy tickets online. You can opt out after you begin receiving them, but this is just a formality: it won't actually stop them from selling your email address to whoever they'd like. And you can't register your displeasure with this policy without tracking down their email address or mailing a letter.
This type of bullshit should be illegal. Thank goodness I used a spamgourmet address.
I just picked up tickets at the Black Cat, and from the sound of the guy that sold them to me, it's about to sell out. If you want to see this show — and you should — get yourself to 14th or ticketmaster quick-like.
UPDATE: Uh... the Wrens. I'm talking about the Wrens. Man I'm dumb.
I've been listening to the Bloc Party remix album, and it's pretty good. "Bluest Light" and "This Modern Love" get new arrangements and end up sounding like what you'd hope to hear at a show: interesting and different — but basically faithful — variations on the originals. Death From Above's remix of "Luno" uses a previously unreleased vocal track and fuzzed out guitars to fairly rockin' effect. And the wolf-howl enabled version of "Helicopter" should be on every Halloween playlist this year. So it's a pretty good album, despite a few real clunkers (the remixed "She's Hearing Voices" sounds like a five year old methodically banging on a MIDI keyboard full of Bloc Party samples, for instance).
But the motivation for this post isn't to provide a review. It's much more boring — I just want to bitch about something Pitchfork said. The most prosaic form of internetery, I know.
But here's the thing. The review is highly positive. I don't object to any of its broad conclusions. The problem is that it's suffused with the assumption that the original Silent Alarm was somehow boringly conventional, and that this new, more techno-heavy version is more intellectually inspiring. The final sentence pretty well sums it up:
"...the band makes a rock-solid professional-sounding pop/rock record, and here come some folks with their computers to make it a bit more formally interesting as well: not a bad deal at all, right?"
What a fucking idiot. In contexts like this, electronic music is to rock and roll as Hooked on Phonics is to literature. Drums and bass and guitars and vocals makes... sound it out now... rock and roll, that's right! I guess I can see how having a song deconstructed and rebuilt with kindergarten clarity could make it more formally interesting — but only if you were too dumb to hear the individual pieces to begin with. This is especially true when the original is as precisely-constructed as Silent Alarm is. For all but the most musically retarded, electronic remixology's dully reliable layering — bass drum, then high hat, then bass line, then guitar riff, then vocal samples, each on the quarter beat with a few measures between the introduction of each — quickly becomes boring as hell.
Okay, okay. I'll stop now. I know I'm not really qualified to bitch about this stuff. Maybe Charles can provide a explanation of why Nitsuh Abebe is dumb that's better-grounded in music theory. But I can say with confidence that while this remix album is worthwhile, it's not more interesting than the original. Unless you weren't interested in well-constructed rock & roll songs to begin with, that is.
another mp3 for you: i'd never heard of the caribbean, a d.c.-based band, but some random msnbc article pointed me towards them. this song, "siamese sons," is kind of lazy, lofi, glitchy pop. i like it. their web site is clever, too.
don't forget bluestate tomorrow night at saint-ex! i will be there, though fortunately it won't be the last bluestate i attend. that'll come at the black cat september 10th, the night before i leave. i already made NM promise to play a request of mine that night. mwahaha. y'all best be ready to break it down to "like a prayer." or "since u been gone." too tough to call.
okay, one more post before the weekend. can't help myself. i was putting on makeup to go out tonight, and listening to twin cinema, as i am wont to do lately. "the bleeding heart show" came on, and i was like, as i am wont to be, what an effing great song. they do anthems so well. and then i remembered "a testament to youth in verse" from electric version, and was like, huh. that was great, too. which one is better? i cannot decide. so i thought i'd post versions of both songs and let the readers go for it. i am pretty sure i know which one'll take it, but you never know. leave your winner in the comments, per favore.
"testament to youth in verse" is uploaded to the yousendit page here. (that link expires in 7 days and is subject to a limited number of downloads - not sure how many - but if it's broken just let me know and i will repost it.)
i've seen a meme going around in ye olde 'sphere, asking people to name the top 10 songs they're currently obsessed with. nobody tagged me to do it, but that's never stopped me before!
i've included mp3s where i could find them, and i highly encourage you to downoad them. so, in no particular order...
1. "use it," new pornographers
2. "bleeding heart show," new pornographers (i can't help it. those two songs are a mad one-two punch on twin cinema. i listen to them on repeat constantly.)
3. "don't i hold you," wheat
4. "coming going leaving," karmella's game. if you're running, and need a kick, just put this song on, and you will be be going at 7.5 in no time. it is crazy catchy.
5. "syracuse," pinback. unfortunately the only mp3 i could find was a 30-second clip, but it's still worth a listen.
6. "exodus damange," john vanderslice. all my friends should love this song because he namechecks dance dance revolution. what what.
7. "munich," editors. it can be streamed here. editors are so hot right now.
8. "please stand up," british sea power. pretty, ambitious pop.
9. "quelqu'un m'a dit," carla bruni. i've been obsessed with this gently beautiful french song ever since rae posted it months ago. mp3 courtesy of her.
10. "oh mandy," the spinto band. gonna have to go with miss seeking irony on this one.
i tag...anyone who wants to do this! if you do, just trackback to this post, because i'd love to see what you're listening to.
the new pornographers' twin cinema gets a 9.0 from pitchfork today, an assessment that i agree much more with now than i would have when i first listened to it. as i said, it's definitely a grower, but i still think mass romantic and electric version are better. but i can't decide if that's because they're poppier and more accessible, and i'm just a slut for poppy, accessible music.
anyway, you can catch them at the 9:30 club on october 15. i'll be seeing them at the metro october 20.
holy crap. i just signed up for ohmyrockness chicago, an email listing of indie rock shows happening in chitown. and i love you d.c., and i'll miss you, but lordy, chicago gets a lot of bands. i feel my already-puny student loans slipping away towards tickets upon tickets...
unrelated, but i've been streaming "gimme fiction" all day, after having not listened to it in ages, and it's still true: spoon is so best, and i love me some britt daniel.
there's a thread on the 9:30 club forum about your top five favorite belle and sebastian songs. i was only recently reminded of how much twee ass this band still kicks (when i randomly put on dear catasrophe waitress) so i thought i'd jump in...though it's oh so hard. they have so many good songs.
in no particular order (except maybe the first)...
seeing other people
judy and the dream of horses
the boy with the arab strap
the state i am in
if you're feeling sinister
though i could easily probably pick 15 that i thought were excellent.
for kicks, i'm going to do this with radiohead too, except top 10 cause i can't just pick 5. don't fault me for my lack of post-okc songs. you know it's true in your heart.
stop whispering (the live version)
how to disappear
my iron lung
That's Carl "A.C." Newman of the New Pornographers, discussing his approach to their new album Twin Cinema. Someday we will have the technology to send powerful electrical shocks to his nether regions whenever someone clicks on that link. Sadly, that day is not today.
And as a result, the new album is only okay. Carl wanted more dynamics, he says. I'm not sure I hear that exactly, but he certainly does more with tempo changes than he did on past NP releases. The thing is, the results just aren't that pleasing. It's very nice that he's got 5 time signatures in a song, and they're all numerologically derived from the kaballah. But usually they're separated by clumsy all-percussion transitions. And really, I just want a rolling singalong melody that's so impossibly fun and catchy that it makes me want to run down the street screaming.
Despite a few exceptional songs, Carl's solo album didn't wow me. That's pretty much the situation here. "The Bleeding Heart Show" is great. So is "Spanish Techno". I'm sure the rest will grow on me, but they aren't as immediately great as those on the NP's last two albums. That's Newman's prerogative though, I guess. At this point he can write his own ticket.
I just wish that he would realize that Neko Case is still the one that punches it. Newman's got a fine rock voice, but it really can't compare with Neko's almost husky, almost flat, and almost screaming timbre. It must be frustrating to slave over the songs and then have someone otherwise unconnected to the creative process (she's referred to herself as Carl's "puppet") come in and completely steal the show. I imagine it like this: Newman's bleary eyed from rewriting a bridge until 4am in order to have it ready for today's session; Neko walks in thirty minutes late, in a fur coat and a bad mood, and belts out the last 90 seconds of "The Bleeding Heart Show" without taking off her sunglasses. Then she asks for some time off and a raise.
So it's understandable that Carl wants to make sure he's the one in the spotlight. I'm sure that after the first album he saw Case getting most of the headlines and didn't like the way things seemed to be going. But although Neko gets to do more on this record than the last, I still hear a lot more Carl Newman vocals than I'm really interested in listening to. Which would be fine, except Newman seems to have decided that serious musicians don't do hooks. If he keeps systematically disassembling the things that make the New Pornographers great, I'll be pretty disappointed.
UPDATE: The ghost has a better review up here. I completely agree about "Jackie Dressed in Cobras" -- it's probably the best example of the album's tendency to stich song parts together with stuttering, awkward drum transitions. Oh, and one other thing: according to the link that starts this post, the payoff to album highlight "The Bleeding Heart Show" is apparently a recycled bit of unused melody from the Electric Version sessions. Draw what conclusions you will.
i know it's completely passe (not to mention useless) to complain about ticketmaster charges, but this has gotten TOTALLY OUT OF HAND! i haven't used TM in a while, but i've been raging since i just bought a single ticket to see bloc party in chicago come september 14, and this is how it broke down:
Full Price Ticket
Total Building Facility Charge(s)
Total Convenience Charge(s)
Order Processing Charge(s)
TOTAL CHARGES US $38.37
and this is how a ~$20 ticket gets turned into a ~$40 one.
kids, it's time for a revolucion! i dunno what, but...this cannot go on.
anybody looking for a good, moderately-priced olive oil should try trader joe's extra virgin california estate olive oil. tommy bought a bottle the other day on one of our semi-frequent trips to the suburbs, and it is delicious! personally, it is the best olive oil i've had outside of italy. (imagine i just said that last sentence in a truly obnoxious, high-pitched voice.)
speaking of italy, and, er, stuff, i've been meaning to write more about the cooking class at galileo. it was pretty great, and the pasta we "made" for lunch was amazing. but the best part happened like this: when we are all sitting around before the class started, a youngish, very indie-looking guy (be-bearded, wearing a canyon tshirt (somewhat popular d.c. band that broke up a year or two ago), etc) came in and sat down next to us. throughout the entire class, we all chatted, but no one introduced themselves or said what they did or anything. that came later on, as we were eating. tommy and i were chatting with indie guy dave, and earthy motorcycle-riding nasa-worker andy (i think that was his name), and since we were about, oh, SEVENTEEN glasses of wine in at this point, everybod was a bit talky. we asked dave what he did, and he said he was in a band. (of COURSE he is, i judged mentally.) andy asked what kind of music they played, and he said, oh, kinda country-rock. what band, i, vaguely curious, wondered.
oh, he said, son volt.
oh, i said, and went back to gorging myself on pasta.
then i looked up. excuse me, what did you say the name of your band was, i asked again.
i looked over at tommy and, i hate to say this, but i kind of snorted. not because i wanted to be rude - not at all - but because, um, holy hell, son volt! what the fuck, band dude, what...er, the fuck. craziness.
have you heard of us? dave asked us.
dur. no. i have been living in a black hole void of outerspace since i was 11 and am allergic to music. of course i have heard of son volt! anyone with even a PASSING interest in alt-rock has heard of son volt. DUDE. SON VOLT!
turns out dave is in the reformed, new-member version of son volt, since they broke up a while back and everything. but DROWN! and JAY FARRAR! the album drops today, it turns out. i have no idea if it's any good, but i'm pasta-friends with DAVE. drummer dave! who was very nice, to boot. so now i have a responsibility to check it out.
(additionally, dave was wearing that canyon t-shirt and everything, so i took a stab in the dark and asked if he used to be in canyon. the way he explained why he was wearing his old band's tshirt: uh, i got stuck with all the merchandise after we broke up, so, you know...uh huh, drummer dave, uh huh. in his defense, he WAS going to a cooking class, so he could have reasonably expected the average age to be 7900 and no one would have inquisitioned him about his band. i know i thought the whole class would be full of old people putting pasta dough in their hair. but rock n roll people like to cook too!)
So: the Architecture in Helsinki CD. It sounds like somebody snuck a Talking Heads CD and a bottle of schnapps along on the overnight trip to the state band competition. I'm starting to think this is (occasionally) a pretty great thing, but Catherine remains unconvinced. What say you?
(Do the Whirlwind kind of sucks, tho)
UPDATE: Also, I forgot to mention that the opening notes sounds exactly like The Undertaker's entrance music. But that's an impossibly awesome standard to live up to.
holy moly. last night's unbuckled was more of a success than i had hoped for. i, being guardedly optimistic, thought we might bring out 75-100 people - but we ended up with over 200! mad money was made (most of it going to the deserving bands, and a bit of it covering our flyer and giveaway expenses), and, despite the stifling heat in the backstage, i think everybody had a great time. thank you SO MUCH to everybody who came out - it meant a lot to see you there. and big ups to all the great people i got to meet - wes, michael, amanda, (update; john from prodandponder.com who is a great photographer) lots of cool DCist readers, and anyone else i'm forgetting. both the bands, cartel and bicycle thieves, were lovely and nice and talented and put on amazing shows, so i highly recommend you check out their sites and download some mp3s. it's all about the local music love.
due to the success of the show, i'm in an unreasonably good mood today, so i will forgo my normal bitter recriminations and wish everybody a very happy fourth of july! go america!
UPDATE: forgot to mention that a bunch of photos of the concert are here.
one last reminder: please come out to unbuckled tonight. black cat backstage, $7, 9 p.m., chances to win lots of concert tickets, all in addition to pure unbridled awesomeness. the bloggerati will be there; great bands will be there; and it'll be a roaring good time. also i will punch you in the face if you don't come.
now leave me alone while i attempt to get over a wonderland-induced hangover. damn you, alcohol. you win again.
so, last night, ted leo concert. it was pretty good, but i have to say that i think i enjoy seeing him more at the black cat than the 9:30 club. the more intimate venue seems to suit him and his performance better, i think. he just looked so tiny on the big old stage. he's got massive presence, to be sure (even though his bandmates act about as excited in concert as sloths on quaaludes), but the whole thing felt a little less energetic and a little more sterile than times past. in my opinion. the crowd was semi-dead - who were all those people, anyway? - but i do have to give props to the group of kids in front of me who i thought were adorable. they were singing along to every word and dancing excitedly, but not with flailing elbows or anything. they made me smile.
biomusicology and timorous me were the best songs of the night, i thought. c'mon, listen to those mp3s. if you don't like them, something's wrong with your brain. how can you not get a little buzz when, in timorous me, he sings, "Now me and Jodi spend a lot of our time/
Just sitting in silence, driving late at night/And maybe even wondering what’s on each other’s mind/This time" and the drums and bass kick in - buh duh duh bud duh duh - and it's TOTALLY AWESOME. timorous me is one of about three songs in the universe i could listen to on repeat all day and be still be pleased as punch.
and i do have to admit that i thought it would have been nice if he covered "since u been gone" instead of "suspect device," like always. but still. good show, and i do love the ted leo. he's probably one act i'll never get sick of seeing.
i have to say that i've been really into salon's audiofile summer soundtrack contest. i'm even clicking through the ads daily to get to it. the deal is simple: you have to create a summer soundtrack mixtape type thing by selecting a bunch of awesome and uberindie mp3s - but the downloads all have to be legal and free. there's been three or four of the soundtracks posted so far, and they're all pretty good. it's like getting interesting mixtapes for free from ubercool people who'd probably spit on your music taste in real life. except we're on the internet now, and you get to download their soundtracks, and all is harmonious.
i think today should be a national holiday. two reasons: 1) it is too effing gorgeous outside to be at work today, no? 2) ted leo is playing a sold out show at the 9:30 club tonight and i'm a-going! and i'm super psyched.
ted and i have had many special times together. there was the time we locked eyes across the patio of guapo's when i was there with kriston pre-fort reno show, and i proceeded to act like a complete ass (with photographic documentation). there was a time when we had a serious spiritual connection over our love for "since u been gone." and there was...well, that's about it. but obviously, ted and i are just about as close to soul mates as you can get, so in celebration of national pretty-day-outside/ted-leo-concert day, here are some mp3s of my favorite songs of his that you should all listen to. ain't nothing nicer than listening to catchy ted leo tunes on a beautiful summer day.
unbuckled is next thursday, june 30th. black cat backstage, 9pm. we've put a lot of work into prepping this show, so it would mean a lot to me if you came out. tickets are only $7, there'll be giveaways, and good live music. plus drunk catherine. frankly, i should charge for drunk catherine alone. so come on out, or i'll stay sober for the rest of my life.
don't forget to come out to bluestate tonight at saint-ex! it's kyle's birthday (well, technically yesterday it was) and we can expect to hear several hours of OASIS. joy! (just kidding. happy birthday dj leafblower!)
just today i published a DCist.com interview with local band The Alphabetical Order. unfortunately, the entirety of the piece was too long to post on DCist, so i decided that i'd put the whole thing here for anybody else interested in checking it out. they're a smart, good local band and i highly recommend checking out their web site. the interview is behind the cut...
i have to say, as much as i love the song, the video for spoon's "i turn my camera on" is effin' ridiculous. what the hell is going on? the legs? the crawling on the lawn? the cat on the bed? THE SHOE COMING OUT OF BRITT'S MOUTH? please. try again.
Check out the concluding paragraph from this article on Coldplay:
It's strange for a man as morally outspoken and well-meaning as Martin to defer to such generically pop instincts—to retreat to the ambiguous power of crying "Aaahhh." But it's almost stranger for him to offer a collection of songs infected with the same low spirits as 2000. The State of Coldplay has never been stronger and Martin, with his celebrity wife and new child, has cobbled together a pretty good life. If it's not the sadness of worldly affairs that gnaw at the aching heart of Coldplay's songs—and the lyrics suggest not—it can't possibly be his own life, either. Maybe it's those bastard shareholders. Worse yet: Maybe it's nothing at all.
It's just... stupefyingly banal. How can successful bands write sad songs? Why does Randy Newman hate short people? How can the tiny actors on CSI live in all of our TV sets at once?
i just want to note that i wouldn't have a problem with a review of coldplay's newest cd that said "this cd sucks because of x" or "the arrangements on this album are a bunch of hokey bullshit." what i can't stand are the articles that level criticism at coldplay because they are successful. they're only insufferable because they've made millions of dollars. nobody would be bothering writing about coldplay in the nytimes if they were toiling away at the level of relative obscurity (in the US) as a band like travis (which, by the way, mr. pareles cited as having been spawned by coldplay when in fact they were around well before coldplay).
i mean, come on. if you're going to hate on coldplay, do it because martin makes annoying political statements or wears stuff like this on his hands.
i just wanted to say that this article is completely insufferable. people who think they are superior for vocally hating on a band, a movie, or whatever that has recently become very popular - spare me. coldplay isn't going to save the world with their music, but what's wrong with a band that has a mass appeal?
and not only is the article completely insufferable in its self-appreciation, it's also terrible. his main problem with coldplay? they write trite lyrics, are sometimes hokily mournful, and are often influenced by older bands like U2 and the beatles. well, jeez. none of that shit has ever happened before!
Clearly, Coldplay is beloved: by moony high school girls and their solace-seeking parents, by hip-hop producers who sample its rich instrumental sounds and by emo rockers who admire Chris Martin's heart-on-sleeve lyrics. The band emanates good intentions, from Mr. Martin's political statements to lyrics insisting on its own benevolence. Coldplay is admired by everyone - everyone except me.
well, congratulations buddy. you must be very proud.
...to brian, who presumably read my plea for spoon tickets and came through with a pair at - GET THIS - face value! i do love me some blogging. now, come friday, i can go drool on britt daniel like he deserves. thanks, brian!
What with all the fun, sun, and combinations thereof, I nearly forgot: Catherine and I saw the Bright Eyes / Faint show at the 9:30 club on Friday. I hadn't seen Bright Eyes live before, or heard anything by The Faint.
Well, in the case of the latter, I don't intend to hear much more. Catherine disagrees with me about this -- she says she thought they were a lot of fun. Personally, I think this band is what happens when hipsters eschew their responsibilities and refuse to euthanize a faithful trend. Fad-ownership is a big responsibility, you know. We had some good times with new-wave dancerock, I admit, and I'll always treasure it in my heart. But now it's just suffering. If you ever really cared for it, you would say goodbye, take it out back and put it out of its misery, presumably by purchasing some devastatingly sarcastic t-shirt.
The Faint had a bunch of cool lasers, and a strobe light that they seemed very enthusiastic about. They were also extremely tight musically. But the songs were just godawful. I can't tell you much about the lyrics, although one involved screaming "PARANOIA!" in the middle, and one was called "Agenda: Suicide", I think. But I can tell you that whatever song it might have been, you or I or anyone else without any musical talent could pick its single melodic line (always bass or synths, and never lasting more than one measure) out on a piano with one finger. That mind-numbingly simple melody was always surrounded by an impressively full and textured clatter of instrumentation and percussion (part of it prerecorded), but the songs tended to get very boring very quickly. The crowd was really into it, though -- well, by DC standards, anyway (the band still made a crack about everyone seeming bored).
So this wasn't up my alley, but it may be (ahem) up yours. But even if you love the albums, I'd warn against seeing them more than once. From the tightly syncopated light and video show, it was very clear that the arrangements are pretty well set. I doubt that the show varies much between performances.
Between sets was when I started to get worried. It was pretty obvious that the college kids in front of us had come to see The Faint (they kept referring to Bright Eyes as "they"). It also rapidly became apparent that they were kind of dumb (they endlessly repeated the same now-years-old jokes from Chappelle's Show and Best in Show) and, with the arrival of the evening's first round of Lemon Drops, likely to get dumber. Sure enough, they commenced screaming at each other as soon as Bright Eyes' set began. But after politely asking them to shut up I was able to enjoy the show, despite a steady stream of oblique (but quiet!) insults directed my way.
Alright. Enough bitterness. Bright Eyes played an expansive and impressive show, with fully ten people on stage performing material primarily from Digital Ash in a Digital Urn. Ten was perhaps a bit too many -- despite a desensitizingly loud set from The Faint, Bright Eyes' crescendos tended to partially dissolve into ringing white noise. I don't know whether the acoustic problem was happening in the rafters or the bones of my skull, but either way a slight volume reduction probably would've made everything sound a lot better. That's right, I am a million years old: besides those damn kids and their stupidly simple rock music, everything was too loud! Why can't those punks just list to some nice Artie Shaw in front of the wireless instead of all this concert hoopla?
Ah well. The performance itself was great: energetic, nicely arranged and earnest. At first I was convinced by the critics' consensus that I'm Wide Awake It's Morning was the better of Oberst's two recent albums, but now I'm not so sure. His songs about relationships and wanderlust are good all right, but so are lots of other people's. Not that many folks can pull off songs about consciousness and death. But Oberst can.
Maybe it's just that Oberst's probably-actually-silly philosophical impulses line up pretty well with my own. But when he added and dropped a couple of words from Easy/Lucky/Free and suddenly turned it from a peaceful coming-to-terms with death and into a distinct (but related!) half-frightening catharsis about meaninglessness and self-determination -- well, that kind of stuff impresses the hell out of me.
So, to summarize: Bright Eyes is good, The Faint is bad, and the state of America's Youth is, as always, deeply troubling.
instapundit likes the new pornographers? aren't there laws against this sort of thing? in any case, you can get an mp3 off their upcoming album, twin cinema, here. since carl newman has yet to put out something unlikeable, i'm very excited. just as long as he lets neko case sing lead more...
other cds i've been enjoying: as you know, i can't get enough of the spoon, and while we were doing deck-related repairs last night, charles put on the french kicks' "the trial of the century," which i hadn't heard before and which is very, very pretty. at least the first half - the second kind of loses momentum.
mike and i went to catch snowden (of atlanta) and cartel (of d.c.) at the black cat backstage last night, and both were lovely. they both play the kind of pretty, guitar-driven rock music that i so enjoy. check out cartel's fleets here, and snowden's kill the power here.
in other music notes, i believe his ghostness may have said something to this effect a while back, but holy hell, spoon's "i turn my camera on" is one unbelievably sexy song. in fact, the whole new album is sexy. of course, i'm an idiot and didn't buy tickets before their 9:30 club show sold out, so if you want to help a girl out, shoot me an email.
Pitchfork's assessment of the new Weezer album is up, and it's pretty rough. Don't take their word for it, though -- you can stream the album here.
Catherine played a lot of the album from her laptop yesterday. I was pretty busy capitalizing on my recent investment in new Halo maps at the time, but what little impression it left wasn't particularly good.
For some reason I'll still hold out hope for Weezer to eventually return to form -- although it was criminally short, I didn't think the Green album was bad. But I imagine that for a lot of folks, Make Believe will count as strike 3.
For me, at least, live rock music should be cathartic. A catchy melody and a few neat turns of phrase are good, but a show won't be great unless I know the people on stage are confessing, lamenting or raging at something. Until I feel an emotional connection, the songs are just ditties, the performance a play with extremely poor blocking.
That emotive challenge is more acute for the Decemberists than for most bands. A quick listen to any of their albums will reveal that Colin Meloy can write a melody, and pens lyrics that are too clever by at least several halves. But four minutes isn't enough time to connect with any of the chimney sweeps or seafarers' widows from the Herman-Melville-via-Wes-Anderson tableau filling Meloy's fevered English Major brain. The Decemberists have extra ground to make up if they want an audience to relate to their songs in any meaningful way.
They're not entirely successful in the effort. Everyone in the band is a good musician, and they faithfully perform the songs as they appear on the album. A little too faithfully, in fact. What few differences in arrangement there are consist mostly of strange and somewhat arbitrary pauses.
But the overall live sound is their biggest hindrance: it's bright and crisp, with nothing ever vying with Meloy's vocal's for control of the melody. The string noise from an consistent overdeployment of acoustic guitars doesn't help matters. The result is all trebly texture with no substance; the organ, accordion and bass provide decoration rather than an enveloping core.
Maybe the Decemberists just aren't a wall-of-sound kind of band -- but in the cacophonous breakdowns of songs like The Bagman's Gambit and The Mariner's Revenge Song, it seems like they aspire to be. But even these examples are ultimately underwhelming. In those moments, when the band is furiously hammering at their instruments, Meloy ought to be straining to be heard over a noise you can feel in every part of your body. Sadly, they never quite get there.
So the live renditions of the songs provide little more than what's on the album, and I'm left trying to figure out what these weird narratives about alien times and places mean to me, if anything. As much as I like tracks like The Legionnaire's Lament, it's hard to convince myself that they're anything more than catchy curios. And if that's the case, I might as well just grab a thesaurus, put on the Wiggles and dream about pirate ships.
I'm not saying that every song has to be about the girl you'd like to have but can't. But if you're going to write a track about a legionnaire pining for home, convince me that you're interested in the pining, not just looking an excuse to rhyme "fecund" with "laudanum".
I guess what I'm trying to say boils down to this: Colin, go buy some louder guitars.
Alright, it's time to admit it: I'm fixated on Ratatat's Seventeen Years. Catherine got it on a CD sampler; I subsequently downloaded it from iTunes when I was frantically larding my iPod for the plane flight.
Yes, it's the song from those Hummer H2 commercials. But I can't help that. Don't blame Ratatat for creating music that's so perfectly congruous with a hated artifact. The song sounds like the soundtrack to Optimus Prime having sex, then falling asleep. Clearly, this is an artistic statement that deserved to be made, and one that's necessarily compatible with the promotion of monstrous SUVs. Blame the Hummer people who don't understand that the appropriate outlet for machine fetishism is Bjork videos (and trips to Microcenter). You don't have to commit a goddamn truck out of it.
Anyway, Seventeen Years is great, but has anyone heard the rest of the album? Pitchfork seems to have liked it, but the review's awfully written, and not in the usual Pitchfork way. So what's the verdict?
I'm getting worried about this summer. Kriston, Jeff and I have all expressed the same concern: there's no clear candidate for Album of the Summer.
I'm sure you know what I mean. It's the CD that ends up being played at the most cookouts, the most road trips. It's great to have in the background on a sunny day, but still works as the evening descends and you decide to put on some shoes. It's probably breezy pop, but not something so sugary sweet that you'll be sick of it by mid-July.
These things usually happen by accident, but I still think it's worth worrying about. We've got some candidates, but they're of dubious strength: the new Malkmus, Weezer and the Fountains of Wayne B-sides collection all have some promise, but I'll be surprised if any one of them turns out to be a home run.
So, two things. First: suggestions? What have been good summer albums for you, and what are you looking forward to?
And second: why don't we put together a playlist here, in comments. If you've got 1-3 songs you think would go well on a mix CD for the uses described above, list them briefly. It doesn't have to be new stuff. It doesn't have to impress the world with your astounding indie cred. It just has to be something that you can drink beer to. I'll get the ball rolling:
Stephen Malkmus - Jo Jo's Jacket
Rilo Kiley - Portions For Foxes
Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
What do you do when you like money and elitism, but don't have enough money to be really elitist? Do the indie self-identification shuffle: cyclical self-loathing and self-deprecation. Alternately, if your monetary or indie cred prospects aren't looking good, take a preemptive turn to vitriol (joke's on their subtitle: my blogging sucks and they don't seem to know about it).
It's all pretty predictable and tiresome -- but why wait for affluence and middle age to wipe it from your troubled mind? Oddly enough, Pitchfork offers the wisest solution to the unsustainability of the scenester psyche.
rob just added a neat new feature to DCist.com (i know, how could it get EVEN NEATER?) - flickr photos that automatically post themselves to www.dcist.com/photos.php. just upload your photo, tag it with "dcist", or email it to fact18working at photos.flickr.com with a title and description. it's purty cool.
also purty cool was phoenix last night at the 9:30 club - i've got a brief review up here. they were indescribably slick and french, and first thing kyle said to me when their set was finished was, "all six of them are totally getting laid tonight." and even though they all probably weighed about 105 pounds soaking wet, had greasy hair and skinny, skinny pants, it was true. they were sorta like maroon 5, if maroon 5 was french and awesome. or maybe like jameraquai, except minus all the annoying crap. i recommend you check out some of their videos here.
if you are in the mood for some evocative, lovely french music to listen to while you sip your cappuccino at your desk, head on over to shesbitter for a selection of very pretty mp3s. i've been listening to them over and over again this morning, and along with the fresh cut daffodils one of my bosses gave me this morning, spring is feeling pretty awesome.
by the way - if anyone can find me an mp3 of "l'appuntamento" by ornella vanoni (it's that italian song from the ocean's 12 soundtrack) i will name my firstborn goldfish after you. sbagliato tante volte ormai che lo so giï¿½, che oggi quasi certamente, sto sbagliando su di te.....
UPDATE (by Tom): We're not going to be posting the mp3, so please stop asking.
UPDATE 2 (also by Tom): Seriously, we don't distribute copyrighted works to strangers on the internet just because they ask. You all could be RIAA goons for all we know. Besides, we don't have the mp3 anymore. So really, you lot need to stop asking. If you want the song, you can buy the CD from Amazon — from what I can tell, it's on this album and this one... although be forewarned: if the Ocean's 12 soundtrack is like the Ocean's 11 soundtrack, they overlay irritating snippets of dialogue on top of most of the songs. I have no idea whether that's true for the O12 ST or not, but don't want to convey the impression that I'm making any guarantees.
Now seriously: please don't spam us with comments and emails asking for an mp3 we don't have and wouldn't give out if we did.
say you were planning a concert to do with your -ist blog. just, you know, hypothetically. and say it were taking place at the black cat backstage, featuring a couple of good, local bands. say you had NO FREAKING IDEA what to name this concert. the name should be brief, funny, and maybe punny on DC and/or the music scene. any ideas? anything involving capitol, district, and/or blog puns should be acceptable.
First up: the internet. Going through my daily work-avoidance kata, I found myself ambling through this blog's archives after going looking for something and getting lost. Eventually I stumbled across a review of a Polyphonic Spree show that I wrote a while ago.
That put me into a mood to listen to their latest CD, so on the walk home from work I started playing it through piece of technology number two: the Etymotic earphones that Catherine gave me for my birthday. Then a curious thing happened. Thanks to those little wonders, I heard something I had never heard before. On the final track of the CD (the title track -- "Together We're Heavy"), around the 2:36 mark a woman's voice starts whispering into your left ear. It's very quiet. Too quiet to make out the words.
So after getting home I fired up my copy of Goldwave, grabbed the MP3 off of our music server and started trying to extract the whisper.
Turns out it's a lot harder than they make it look on Alias. I tried a bunch of things, but the most successful seemed to be to throw out the right channel, run a bandpass filter to only keep frequencies within a range that (mostly) included the whispering, then normalize the track to bring the volume back up. Whispering is a nasty thing to extract, though. It's all sibilant and high frequency, with a broad frequency profile and (so far as I no) no one fundamental frequency. It also features occasional bursts of low-end that can't be chopped off without losing a lot of information. If a friendly audio engineer is passing by internet way I'd love to hear what the proper way to do this.
But, for now, this is all that I could come up with. By way of comparison, here's a snippet of the original. The whispering is more isolated, but it's still damn hard to tell what the hell is being said. I can't really make much of it out. I think it begins with "before anybody began ... created a giant banana ... the joint was filled with ...". Yes, I'm perfectly serious. Sounds like a Polyphonic creation myth to me, but I'd love to hear other theories.
I haven't forced my addled ears to listen to much more of this considerable segment of whispering, but if anyone feel like giving it a try, help yourselves.
fyi - decemberist tickets are on sale this thursday at 10 a.m. the show is may 6. anybody interested? if their live act is anything as enjoyable as a) colin meloy's soloshow or b) their adorable video for 16 military wives, it'll be fun.
update: CMJ has a feature/interview/review thingy with the decemberists here. (via chromewaves)
I imagine Catherine or Kyle will have a full review up on DCist later today, but last night's Ash/Bravery show didn't disappoint. Kyle already has some thoughts on the show posted -- he was a little let down by the lack of new material.
For a more casual fan like myself, though, the setlist was dead on. Sorry to say, I haven't kept up with Ash since Nu-Clear Sounds and had never seen them live. This was their first DC show in two years, so perhaps that figured into their decision to play a wide selection from their catalog. Whatever the reason, I appreciated hearing material I knew in addition to their new stuff.
The performance was proficient and professional -- loud, in tune, melodic and energetic. All I can say is, "That's how it's done." If there's any justice, Jet will spend the afterlife carrying an infinite pile of Ash amps to a club at the top of a mountain. (Across the valley, instruments perpetually recede from the grasp of the members of Rush -- I've got this all figured out.)
Oh, and bonus points for their unintentional rock & roll psychic act, which went like this:
ASH: We're going to play an older song or two for you...
ME: I hope it's gonna be "A Life Less Ordinary"
ASH: This one's called "A Life Less Ordinary"
And then they pulled a quarter out of my ear! Amazing.
On to The Bravery: I wanted to hate these guys, blind and uninformed as I was. My experience of them was limited to having seen a single underwhelming video, and I was harboring a grudge from a lack of Ash encores. I couldn't deny them, though -- they're a very good live band. But Catherine and I still opted for a mid-set ride home.
Like I said, it's not that The Bravery aren't a good band. It's just that we seem to have segued smoothly from electroclash to dance rock to Cure-dependent new wave without a break, and my tolerance for synths and eye makeup is fading pretty quickly. I get that the garage rock craze couldn't go the distance, but I'd be very happy if our next musical fad came from somewhere besides New York. The ball's in your court, Canada! Or rink. Whatever. Hell, I don't know.
Catherine posted a link to Ted Leo doing a "Since U Been Gone / Maps" medley yesterday, but it was just a streaming video with a badly compressed audio track. Stereogum's got an at-least-better quality mp3 up today, though -- go have a look.
Second, that Kidz Bop version of "Float On" that had been pulled from the internet before my lame ass heard about it? You can find it here, but who knows for how long. It's mostly just "eh", but if you're like much of the rest of the blogosphere and hearing kids sing about hitting cop cars TOTALLY BLOWS YOUR MIND, MAN then you might enjoy it.
i'm having a hard time out-hipstering myself, so give a girl a hand: should i go to ipod DJ night at saint-ex on wednesday, or indie rock karaoke at dc9? decisions, decisions. suggestions for setlists/karaoke choices are also welcome.
Thank goodness we have the Washington Post's cultural critics to keep us all on the cutting edge. This weekend's edition brings us news of a fascinating new musical phenomenon -- "britpop", I think it's called? Staff writer Sean Daly clues us in:
The tortured blokes of Brit-pop -- your Coldplays, your Radioheads, your Keanes -- are friends to the friendless, lovers of the loveless, sad-sack salves for the brokenhearted. These pasty-faced dealers in shimmering soundscapes, chiming guitars and big, bittersweet hooks are in desperate need of a shrink, and yet, at the same time, they adore their goopy vulnerability and unshakable malaise. When Travis's Fran Healy lamented "Why Does It Always Rain on Me?," the 2001 hit song that best typifies the genre, the wee wuss wasn't looking for an answer; he was simply searching for like-minded Eeyores to join him in the puddles.
And it doesn't stop there. In fact, playing up britpop's woe-is-meism is the framing device for the entire article (which is imaginatively entitled "The Life of the Pity Party"). Jesus, Sean. Did you make a bet with cousin Carson at the Daly Family Reunion to see who could bring the most musical shame to the family?
Come on now. You can enjoy music bearing heavy emotional content without being a mopey navel-gazer. It's kind of like how you can watch and appreciate a performance of Hamlet without stabbing and/or poisoning everyone around you. If that's too difficult a concept for you to grasp and approach with a modicum of respect, I suggest you stick to your Smashmouth box sets.
i have been harboring a dirty secret for some time now. i know i come off as a true indie poseur, spouting my unsolicited opinions on everything and everyone from the wrens to wilco to the arcade fire to the state of indie music coverage in the D.C. area. well, i hate to reveal it, but this is all apparently a weak ass facade. because i am in love with a song - have been in love with it for weeks now, ever since i heard it on z104 - deeply in love with this fantastic, catchy, uplifting, totally rockin' song.
it's a song by kelly clarkson. and to add insult to injury, it's called "Since U Been Gone." god. with the U for the You and everything.
i thought for sure i was on my way to clear channel music hell for feeling this way, but browsing around some other music sites today i see that i am not alone! my hero, ted leo, has come to my rescue:
I just don't know, man. I'm falling apart. The new Kelly Clarkson single, "Since U Been Gone" (which I first thought was going to be a Prince cover, which I then thought would be a smart move on her part, but which thought I was quickly then disabused of, but which disabusing I was not upset by, because I sucked into the damn hook immediately), is unarguably good. No -- stop it -- don't even try! It's unarguable. I see early retirement staring back at me from the reflection in the pickups on my guitar. :(
totally true. it's the best mainstream pop diva song to come along since britney's "toxic" - and that's saying something.
too much work today. technically, i should be at home now, or at the gym running my butt off, because the federal government, god bless their weak, fear-filled little souls, has closed two hours early due to the sprinkling of snow that we have. and we technically follow the federal government's schedule. but no one has actually gone home, and i can't really just grab my purse and coat and sweep off in full of view of everybody. even though i'm allowed. sigh.
anyway, i wrote a review of the wilco show last night, which is up at DCist. the show was a treat, even though i thought it went on too long, which is a sure sign that i am getting ancient, because if i had been at any other wilco show that was two+ hours long, i would have had my head rocked off. but it was all good, except A Ghost Is Born Stuff. sorry, but those songs kind of suck. you know it in your heart.
one of my favorite parts was "i am trying to break your heart." i really just love that song, and it sounded gorgeous. they also had a projector running during the show showing various drawings or nature scenes, and during that particular song they had flickery, stilted black and white images of an octopus rolling along the ocean floor, and somehow it was TOTALLY PERFECT.
so overall, good show. wilco basically makes me want to move to a cabin in the blue ridge mountains, wear a tight button-down flannel shirt drink some beer, and make out with jeff tweedy.
Scott Moschella's conducting an interesting experiment. He bought and downloaded a track from the iTunes Music Store, violated the DMCA by using JHymn to remove its copy protection, then placed it on his website and invited visitors to download it. The catch: the song, from Sonic Youth side-project Ciccone Youth, consists of 1:03 of silence.
Will Sonic Youth come after Moschella? Will the RIAA? Will John Cage's estate sue everybody? Stay tuned.
I called Napster a "bad brand" a few days ago, but I've got to admit that there seems to be a certain magic to it. In the past couple of days I've had a lot of friends IMing and emailing me about the various ways of turning Napster's DRM'ed WMA files into other, unprotected formats.
Well, yes, you can do that. As I noted in the original post, you can use Winamp's out_lame plugin to encode to MP3. The Napster trick making the rounds uses the Output Stacker plugin (which has since been pulled from AOL-owned Winamp's website), but the principle is the same -- I haven't tried it, but I imagine Output Stacker might let you transfer ID3 information so you don't have to retag your music, but there is very little difference from the out_lame solution, technically speaking.
A web-only album won a Grammy last night. No label, no distributor, just fans financing the production of a recording by an artist they liked. That's cool and all, but how did the recording industry let this happen? The Grammies aren't exactly a rigorously objective measure of musical value. So why validate a business model that's going to make you obsolete? Could I be wrong about the record companies being fundamentally evil?
Of course not. This one must have just fallen through the cracks -- music industry execs are very busy fulfilling their vital role in society, you know. I'm sure they'll be on top of this next year with an ad campaign explaining how downloading music from the internet can give you herpes.
Did anybody else watch the Grammies? I always enjoy complaining bitterly about things I freely choose to watch on TV, and the Grammies make for some prime whining. I particularly enjoyed the tribute to southern rock and the academy president's annual confirmation of his organization's irrelevance. Sweet-lookin' beard, though.
Catherine beat me to a full review, but I feel like disgorging my impressions anyway. In short, nobody came to the Black Cat last night with the sort of professional attitude necessary for a night of efficient rocking -- not the band, not the venue staff and not the crowd. Half-assing your defined concert duties might provide a less tense evening, but it doesn't make for a very compelling musical experience.
Army of Me's Vince Scheuerman did manage to secure DC's coveted number two androgenous male rockstar slot, right being WSC's Martin Royle. But AoM didn't take their status as openers seriously enough: when you're the second of three bands, you need to play a shortened set. Their Interpolish antics at times seemed interminable -- seriously guys, multiple guitar solos? Still, on the whole they were fairly pleasant.
The same couldn't be said of the sound -- there was something wrong with the bass clipping, and the mics for the backup vocals weren't on at all. These problems seemed to be fixed by the time the Wrens came on, but count the evening as another example of the Black Cat technicians not taking their jobs very seriously.
They weren't the only ones who failed to play their part. The sold-out crowd, swollen with Friday's Express readers, provided a constant buzz from the back of the room. The Wrens' live arrangements rely heavily on a whisper-quiet-intro-and-first-verse-to-rocking-chorus dynamic. A little cliched, I guess, but I still dig it -- unfortunately it's hard to pull off "elegiac" when some dipshit is screaming into his cellphone that YEAH, THEY'RE JUST AIGHT.
Also not helping: some apparent Wren peergroup members. A nuclear family trundled through the crowd, its middleaged matron shouting "WE WORSHIP YOU!" and other my-friend's-in-a-band!-isms. Lady, look, I'm glad to see you out at the show and I know this'll make a cute story at the PTA potluck. But that shit belongs at the Grog -- and even then you're going to need about eight more Bud Ices under your belt to be credible. This is a sold-out show at the second biggest rock club in what I have been assured is a perfectly nice city, if you like that sort of thing. Those poor old men on stage have driven all the way down 95 just to rock for us. Don't embarass them.
On to the Wrens themselves. To be honest, I was expecting a tighter performance from a band that's been playing together for fifteen years. Writing this now, the checklist seems more impressive than it was in aggregate: the arrangements were frequently interesting, particularly a glitch-rock version of The House That Guilt Built; Kevin Whelan injected enough energy to buoy the entire band; and everyone on stage was an impressive instrumentalist.
But as I mentioned, the arrangements didn't match well with the less-than-reverential crowd; they stuck almost exclusively to material from The Meadowlands; the transitions were slow and jammy; and the harmonies didn't gel as well as they could have, particularly Greg Whelan's (although I'm prepared to blame this on the BC sound crew as well -- maybe his monitor was too quiet). Most galling was the band's complete inability to control the energy of the crowd -- the pauses between songs were too long, and the main set was abruptly concluded, seemingly on a whim, after a downtempo number. Combined with a short and lackluster encore, a show that started strong left me scratching my head. It just felt off.
Exactly what it was struck me on the way home: these guys were all talented musicians, but they just didn't seem to play like a cohesive rock band. Instead the performance felt a little like that of a talented tribute band with unusually good taste in material. How often do Wrens practices happen, I wonder?
All in all, I'm glad to have gone to the show -- I've been wanting to see the Wrens for a long time, and it's nice at least to check them off the list. But the performance itself left me cold. It's strange to watch a song performed by its authors and feel like they connect to it less than you do.
the wrens. black cat. 2/11/05. this is going to be long and pointless, so you've been warned.
we started off the night by meeting my brother and his friend zach at dc9 and getting a couple of drinks. they were duly impressed by the bar and i once again felt like Hip Older Sister instead of Irrelevant 25 Year-Old Who is So Out of The Loop. by the time we got over to the black cat, around 10:15 or so, the line stretched down the block and we heard that the show had already sold out.
we got inside in time to hear three or four songs from a brooklyn band called the upwelling (who carl had been pimping), and they were surprisingly pleasant. a little U2ish, a little bombastic, not incredibly catchy and powerful but nice for a first opener. a LOT of screaming fangirls. apparently they are heartthrobbish. (and my brother liked their music enough to buy their cd). the second opener was local group army of me, by whom i was also pleasantly surprised. they had three or four distinctly good songs that came off as kind of interpolish. the rest of their stuff more or less blended together for me, but they at least had a charismatic lead singer, so it wasn't a totally boring performance. but they played way too long, at least ten songs, which came off to me as due to arrogance and an overestimation of how much the crowd was enjoying their show. you weren't that awesome, buddies.
around midnight the wrens finally came on. to be honest, i had no idea what to expect from their live performance. on one hand, i was kind of prepping myself to be disappointed, because they are like 50 years old, and maybe they would be geriatric, and sitting in wheelchairs, and playing guitars with their dentures or something. i also tried to lower my expectations because i just love the meadowlands to death, and i figured there was no way a live rendering of those songs could please me. on the other hand, i had heard good things about their concerts, and as tommy pointed out, they have been together for like 15 years, and a band who's been in existence that long probably can play pretty tight.
but overall, my reaction to the show was somewhere in between ecstasy and indifference. the concert started off really promising, with the guitarist and bassist noodling around, tweaking some knobs and making all sorts of crazy spacey sounds; it sounded more like the start of a radiohead show than anything i had heard from the wrens before. but it eventually built up into an amazing version of "this boy's exhausted", with bassist and one of the vocalists kevin whalen leaping around up on amps and screaming like he was 16 again. really, i was amazed at the level of energy throughout the entire show. i couldn't tell if it was sincere or not - like, were they just rocking this hard just to prove that they are not old fuddy duddies, or did they really feel it? did i care? not really. it was fun to watch.
the first half of the set was generally pretty exhilarating. if you've never listened to the wrens before, they have this way with a lot of their songs where they start off totally quiet and intense and restrained and build up into pure pop rock awesomeness and all of a sudden you're jumping up and down and screaming along and have just slammed the person next to you with an elbow to the face. those parts of the concert were just a lot of pure joy, which is interesting because the lyrics of all these songs are so fucking depressing. but you could tell the band was really feeling it - i definitely got the sense that they were just awed that they were playing a sold-out show, maybe grateful. anyway, during the first half of the peformance, i was about to explode out of my head with joy and music love and everything good and pure in the universe. it was lovely.
unfortunately, the later part of the show sucked donkey balls, due both to the band's performance and several factors beyond their control. these external circumstances included, surprise surprise, the SHITZEN sound at the black cat. everything was fuzzy, vocals were muddled, blah blah blah. who the fuck is running the sound there? let's kill him?
the crowd also played a part in affecting the show negatively. like i said, the show was sold out and packed. i like to think this is due to the fact that i pushed it so hard on DCist and DCist is such a bastion of TOTAL HIPNESS and trendsetting that everybody read about the band and became my army of music clones and decided to come out. hmm. probably not. however, the washington post's express had written a piece on the band on thursday, thus most likely ensuring the total awfulness of the crowd. gah. several thousand exurban yuppies probably read about the band on their metro commute, decided it would be cool to check out the show, and naturally, when they got there, couldn't be bothered to play a lick of attention to the actual music because they'd never once listened to a wrens' record and didn't in fact care about watching the performance. this resulted in so much crowd chatter over the softer parts of the wrens' songs that you often couldn't even hear the vocals. several times, you actually had people throughout the crowd yelling at everyone to shut up. normally i would find this nannyish and annoying, but really - if you're going to come to a show and not even fake listening to the band, go the fuck downstairs to the red room and leave the fans alone, assholes. so this was a rare instance in which i think the concert would have been much better if there were about half the people there, because then you know they were just coming out because they really like and know the band.
however. the wrens themselves honestly had a lot to do with the fact that the show lost all momentum come the second half. their setlist seemed off, they were playing around a lot with feedback and knob-twiddling instead of the insane rocking that i expected, they took way too much time in between songs, and really, i just got the feeling that they were being utterly self-indulgent. i suppose i can't blame them too much for that - it's not that often that you achieve indie god status only after 15 years of being together and going through label hell - but still, you owe it to the fans to play straight up music and not fuck around too much with lame reinterpretations and weird vocal stylings.
ah well. even though the show wasn't as mind-blowing as i had hoped, it still felt nice to see the wrens up there having a great time and playing to a full house, because god knows that if any band deserves it, they do. i just hope that next time i see them, they're more concerned about pleasing the audience instead of themselves.
maybe i'm just being paranoid, but i feel like the following comments from the post's going out gurus chat today were aimed at DCist music coverage as well as several other music blogs i enjoy:
Logan Circle, Washington, D.C.: Do you guys read the D.C. music blogs that are out there about the "scene"? There are a bunch and they all seem to contradict each other. Are there any you recommend for either good information, good taste or pure humor whether intentional or not? Links please!!!
Rhome: You know, I've never really read them. Care to toss out any specific ones? The few I've seen smelled faintly of being driven by an agenda, that clique'ish type vibe. I'm a big fan of staying up on the calendars of the local venues and going out regularly to check out stuff you've never heard. Most bands have websites with mp3's, or you can always preview material at washingtonpost.com/mp3. And if you stay tuned to this space, you might just see a new blog. Hmmmm...
Joe: Not a blog really, but I regularly amused by the discussions in the 9:30 club's forums page - especially when they are all bashing each other. The one problem I have with many of the local music blogs I've read (I won't name names) is the obsession with indie rock...and only indie rock. Gets boring pretty quickly.
hmm. i'm not sure what to say about rhome's comments - i don't understand why he would think any DC music blogs are being driven by agendas or being cliqueish. how can a blog be cliqueish, anyway? but i guess i should take this opportunity to say that no agenda drives DCist's music coverage except my personal taste - in order to do my picks, etc, i just browse though listings from several different sources and choose bands that i'm either sure will be good or that i've heard good things about. and as for any other music blogs besides the music coverage on DCist - well, they are personal blogs, done for fun. the authors aren't paid to write (neither am i, fyi) and aren't required to cover anything they don't want to cover or recommend diverse types of music. from the sites i read, i feel like their picks and recommendations are always very genuine.
joe's comment is, as far as i'm concerned, pretty true. the music blogs i'm aware of, including what i do on DCist, are always writing about indie rock except for a couple of exceptions here and there. i'm not sure exactly what to do about this in regards to DCist - i do want to expand the types of music we cover, but i don't want to do it just for the sake of trying to be more diverse. i wouldn't like to feel forced to include country or r&b listings every week or do one jazz show review a month, because a) i wouldn't really enjoy it and b) it wouldn't be very good as i'm not very well-informed on those kinds of music. that would be a concern for me if i wanted to be a music journalist-type for life, but i really really don't. this is just something i do for fun. additionally, i feel like the audience of blogs in general is, as of now anyway, the sort that really listens to an awful lot of indie rock. mid-twenties, hipster-ish urbanites. i don't think i have too many classical music fans checking in, and there aren't a ton of blogs out there writing exclusively about country music or what have you. but at the same time, i eventually would like to have people who enjoy non-indie-rock stuff looking to DCist for some musical information. we always want to expand the readership and all.
i suppose the answer right now is to try to find a co- or semi-regular music writer for DCist who is knowledgeable about music that is absolutely not indie stuff. i loathe the idea of turning to craigslist to get somebody, though - too many unreliable freakshows who think they are god's gift to terrible singing/songwriting. so, does anyone out there have a recommendation or think they are such a person? or does anybody have suggestions in general about DCist's music stuff? i am determined to be as non-cliquey and inclusive as possible. because that is what blogs are all about! right?
last night at the black cat, tommy and i went through something that, at the time, i thought was a trial sent down by god in order to determine if we should, like, be allowed to keep on living, or perhaps merely to see if we were the dedicated indie music fans that we often profess to be. you see, we had headed out to the club to catch exit clov, a much buzzed about local group that we were both interested in, me because from what i'd heard of their mp3s, they have great harmonies, airy vocals and interesting melodies; for tommy, because they are fronted by hot female asian twins. but now i realize it was not a trial or a test or a way for god to laugh mightily at our pain: it was something we were meant to go through so that we could WARN THE REST OF THE WORLD ABOUT AN UNHOLY TERRIBLE FREAKSHOW THAT COULD RUIN YOUR LIFE. through the power of our blog, i think.
there were two opening acts that night for exit clov: some group unfortunately named rude staircase, who we missed, and a duo called human marvels. luckily for us, after drinking a beer in the red room, we made it upstairs in time to catch human marvels. joy of joys. now, you may have heard of this group, if only because they have the fame and fortune of being the only people to ever perform at the black cat AND be on "ripley's believe it or not." this is because, simply put, they are tattooed freaks. katzen, the female bass player, is a woman who a) has tiger tattoo stripes all over her body and face b) has whiskers implanted on her upper lip and c) scares the living daylights out of me. enigma, the guitar/vocalist dude, has horns implanted under his forehead skin and is completely covered, head to face to stomach to toe, in a blue jigsaw puzzle tattoo.
The Enigma and Katzen with the Smothers Brothers. For some reason. Photo stolen from humanmarvels.com
apparently, in addition to being famous for their body tattoos, katzen and enigma also have the burning souls and poetic desires of "musicians." i put "musicians" in quotes because they played "music", and i put "music" in quotes because i really mean "honking terrible shit that made my brain melt into liquid and then set itself on fire." their songs were mostly composed of awful laptop drum beats that blared incessantly while katzen wiggled around playing guttural, unchanging bass and enigma abused his guitar until it cried tears of blood and begged him to just destroy it already.
i wondered about 2300 times during their show how exactly human marvels got paired with some normal indie pop group like exit clov; it must have been set up by black cat management, who were obviously on mind-addling drugs when they did it. but nevermind, i said to myself, this whole experience could at least be interesting, because in addition to playing "music", human marvels are also supposed to have sort of a sideshow aspect to their performance. apparently they used to travel around with an official freakshow carnival act of sorts, swallowing swords and doing freaky things to their bodies for voyeurs to drool over, and they've incorporated this into their "musical" performances. fine, i thought. let them do their little dance. it could be fun to watch, and for the love of god, maybe they'll set themselves on fire accidentally and put a stop to the show.
if only i'd been so lucky. one, they didn't set fire to themselves during the show, running off stage in a twisted mass of burning flesh while i laughed hysterically and rejoiced in the whole spectacle. two, i don't know how one can make using a toolsaw to create a shower of sparks from your bass, drilling nails up your nose, and swallowing vats of windex through a seven foot tube that's inserted into your stomach TOTALLY AND UTTERLY BORING, but human marvels managed to do it. by the time katzen was shoving a thick, seven-inch needle through her hand near the end of the show, i was yawning and thinking, just, like, for the love of the BABY JESUS do something original that doesn't result in me simultaneously wanting to kill myself AND fall asleep into a deep, deep dreamland where people aren't allowed to get on stage and charge money because they have tattoos and can sniff a condom up their nose. BORING. give me two hours and a bottle of red wine and *i* could do that, jackass.
so anyway, when i woke up today, i surfed around the internet for people who also hated human marvels and would validate my total hatred of the experience and we could all rejoice in being hate-y, hate-y people. but you know what? PEOPLE LOVE THEM. for example, i found an article from the austin chronicle that reviews human marvels' cd; it says, "The lead cut, "Human Marvels Theme," is steeped in carny lore, a marvel of musical composition that recalls the gentle lilts of Nino Rota and twisted turns of Kurt Weill. The lush, Eighties-tinged pop balladry of instrumental "Paper Hearts" could easily score one of those poignant Cirque du Soleil pieces about a sad clown, while "Iron" melds the ominous basso profundo of Cramps-era stomp with some creepy Angelo Badalamenti."
WHAT? the woman sounds like she's reviewing a CD that was put together by god, the dalai lama and thom yorke instead of the utter piece of crap that it is. to her credit, she gets slightly more critical later on, but not much more so. the worst she says is that the band can get "mired in gothic gloom."
that is not nearly enough of a warning to the poor souls out there that might be tempted to go see this unholy act of utterly mundane sideshow tricks and ear-bleeding music. so that is why i allowed myself to indulge in one of my favorite activities - hating - and wrote the above missive. it's all for you. please, don't ever go see human marvels. save your eardrums, your eyes and your sense of dignity for something more worthwhile. like, say, celine dion. do it for me; do it for humanity; do it for the simple fact that people who have absolutely no talent except the ability to permanently disfigure their bodies should never, ever be encouraged. trust me. the world will be a better place for it.
the post starts the official Arcade Fire Backlash with its lukewarm review of sunday night's show, complete with backbiting attempts at underhanded snark. i have to wonder, were they even at the same concert?
The 9:30 club stage seemed too small for the eight musicians of the Arcade Fire, whose Sunday night concert operated according to the formula that constant movement and shouting in unison create a powerful show.
...Despite the energy and chaos, the songs weren't very memorable, and Butler's vocals were murky and often unintelligible.
...While its simplistic musical style and histrionic vocals had little substance, the Arcade Fire is certainly to be admired for its extreme and unwavering physicality.
jeez. what is she, 98 years old? i feel like the entire thing was written very purposefully, because normally, whenever i read pop music reviews in the post, they are almost always universally falling all over themselves to write positive things.
anyway, she can latch herself on to the official Backlash Bandwagon if she likes. i'm not so far gone to believe that "funeral" is a life-changing album, or even album of the year, but you have to be a) deaf b) blind and c) apparently incapable of physical movement to find the only thing to appreciate about that concert was that the band can jump around admirably.
i'm sure tommy's probably working on an epic review about the arcade fire show, but for now, all i can say is GODDAMN. my DCist review is up over here. i'm too tired to put up pics, but you can browse a directory of the show (and the pre-show bbq at kriston and matt's) here.
bad news: the bravery canceled their black cat show on january 31. i was actually looking forward to that concert.
good news: wrens tickets for the black cat show on february 11 are officially on sale at ticketmaster.com.
also: i've got a review of the colin meloy show up at DCist.com. something i didn't say in the review, but wanted to: while other people were calling out their favorite songs, i was trying to restrain myself from calling out "I LOVE YOU AND WANT TO HAVE YOUR BABIES AND WE CAN NAME THEM WHATEVER RETARDED QUASI-VICTORIAN NAMES YOU PROBABLY WANT TO CALL THEM LIKE ELI AND DORIS MAE THAT'S HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU!" or something like that.
UPDATE: i see now browsing the black cat schedule that the bravery has merely pstponed and is instead playing with ash on march 10! seriously, february and march are already hosting some kickass concerts. maybe this winter won't be so terrible after all.
cute, innit he? the show was good - a mix of stuff from "castaways and cutouts," "her majesty the decemberists," a couple of new songs from the forthcoming album (out in march) and a couple of morrissey covers. he's also an excellent storyteller, turns out. i guess i could have gathered that much from his lyrics. i'll write a review for DCist next week.
so. it's been cold outside, huh? the kind of cold that freezes the interior contents of your nose into a crystallized fountain pouring down your upper lip; the kind of cold that makes you tear up, except you don't know you've teared up, because the liquid your eyes are emanating in response to the extreme polar weather has actually glued your eyelids together; the kind of cold that causes somebody who has never in fact lived above the mason-dixon line to whine unendingly on her blog.
and it was during the first real cold weekend of the year that i had an altogether wonderful time, despite the fact that i had to wear, like, sneakers and sweaters and scarves instead of flipflops and the slutty tank tops that i like to characterize my days off work. ah well. we all make sacrifices.
this is super-old news in the d.c. blogosphere by now, but i wanted to write about it anyway: as of yesterday around noon, local station 99.1, WHFS, was totally and unexpectedly turned into a salsa-carribean music station. yup.
this isn't really sad news for me, as i rarely listen to radio any more. i mean, i guess i'll have to fix the preset stations in my car, but that's about the biggest incovnenience it'll cause. but i do want to credit HFS for two great things it did for me:
1) it turned me on to radiohead. when "the bends" came out nearly a decade ago, i was hardly what you'd call a music fan. i owned no CDs, had never been to a live concert, and couldn't place half the bands shown on MTV. but when i heard "high and dry" one day on HFS during the winter of '95, i was immediately hooked. i bought "the bends," listened to it three times a day, and officially commenced my ten-year obsession with radiohead, which in turn has really affected my life in a lot of other positive ways (travels experienced, friends made, new music exposure, british musicians stalked, etc).
2) this is also radiohead-related, but so what: during the tibetan freedom festival at RFK stadium in 1998, radiohead's performance was canceled due to lightning. several friends and i were making a disappointed trip home, listening to HFS, when a cryptic announcement came on air; it announced something to the effect of a secret concert that night at the 9:30 club, featuring one of the bands that had been lightening'd out of the TFF. "karma police" then started playing, and the whole thing wasn't so cryptic anymore, and we hauled ass to the 9:30 club and just made it in the door. which in turn led to one of the greatest concert moments of my life: michael stipe and thom yorke singing "lucky" together. i assure you, it was totally orgasmic.
anyway, DCist has a post with a big ole comment thread here; frank ahrens, former resident of our apartment and go-to radio guy for the post has a chat here; some other post guy will have another chat about HFS here at 2pm; and Heres a Hint has a good post that reflects a lot of my feelings about HFS and radio in general here.
Oh hell yes. Pitchfork is reporting on an upcoming They Might Be Giants tribute album featuring acts like the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players and Frank Black.
But what's really got me bouncing off the walls is the news that one of my current favorite bands is considering a cover of my all-time favorite TMBG song, "Birdhouse In Your Soul". For those unfamiliar, BHIYS is an epic and uplifting existential rumination sung from the point of view of a canary-shaped nightlite. It's also a phenomenal pop song. Here's hoping everyone's favorite Jersey pharmaceutical clerks/rock gods have the good sense to keep their version true to the energetic original. Nothing's more disappointing than having a good band half-ass a cover by giving it the "sensitive" treatment with a few acoustic guitars and twenty minutes of studio time.
I'm pretty excited about the rest of the album, too. I can't think of another act band as perfectly suited to the tribute treatment as TMBG. It'd be silly to deny that the two Johns are great songwriters; unfortunately, the sad truth is that much of their best work is locked away behind their nasally voices and synthesizers-can-do-everything approach to production. TMBG eventually assembled a real band for John Henry, and while I love tracks like "Subliminal" and "AKA Driver", ever since the musicianship improved they've only rarely attained the combination of abstract cleverness and precise pop construction that characterized earlier songs like "Ana Ng". Having others revisit that earlier material might help these guys get the credit they deserve.
a couple of shows coming to the area that i'd be interested in going to if anyone wants to join me:
the bravery - black cat - jan 31
exit clov - black cat - feb 4 (i've never actually listened to them, but they're a local band that's gotten a lot of buzz, so i'd like to check them out)
low, pedro the lion - black cat - feb 7
the wrens - black cat - feb 11 (i am attending this show come hell or high water)
the futureheads - 9:30 - feb 21
ash - black cat - march 10
and, of course, wilco on feb 23 or 24, if the ticket gods should choose to bless me.
and some band named final fantasy is opening for the arcade fire on 1/30.
attn internet stalkers: i, and most likely every single blogger in the washington area, will be attending the bluestate DJ collective this saturday night at the black cat's backstage. there'll be beer, beats, and a bunch o' fucking bloggers. and what's more fun than a plethora of navel-gazing, meta-loving, alcoholic bloggers in one room who are all going to write about the event the next day? that's right: nothing. so. i'll see you there, right?
Catherine's going to write up last night's show for DCist later today -- but right now she's still in bed after calling in sick, and I'm free to steal her thunder. So here's a quick review:
Last night offered a good amount of rock for my dollar, although all of the bands seemed capable of better.
Mary Timony started things off. This is the first time I've seen Ms. Timony. I can't say that I walked away a fan. That's not to say the lady is without skill -- she just doesn't play the type of music I like. It's great to use the sorts of keys and scales that only theoretical physicists fully grasp, but I'm the kind of guy who's never understood how "power chord" can be pejorative. I suspect Charles would find a lot of things to like in her guitar work, but I'm too dumb for that; chalk it up to taste, or a lack thereof.
The one criticism I do feel comfortable levelling is that Timony primarily sings at the very bottom of her range. Having read this screed on her website, I suspect Mary feels that midrange singing in a major key is selling out -- and in fact, the only time I remember her doing so was in her closing number. Overall, her sound is somewhere between early Liz Phair, late Fugazi and PJ Harvey with a cold.
Washington Social Club played another great set. These guys are definitely on the rise, having just finished a stint as the house band on Carson Daly's late-night show. The middle of their set is still clogged with so-so songs, but I suspect that's mostly early material that will eventually be replaced. Martin is a talented frontman, and while not universally instrumental prodigies, every band member is a great performer, wringing every drop of rock & roll they can from their instruments. Their CD is worth a listen, too, although a band like this could use somewhat slicker production and a cleaner mix. They've got a few samples up on their website -- have a listen.
Finally, Ted Leo & the Pharmacists went on. Not the best TL show I've seen, but still a great show. The band seemed to be saving themselves to some extent. They're playing 9 shows in 12 days on this tour (including another show at the Black Cat tonight), so I can't say I blame them. Still, the new material is weaker than the stuff from Hearts of Oak, particularly since a lot of Shake the Sheets' political content is already becoming dated. Plus, a lot of his set was fleshed out with material that wasn't from HoO, StS or ToD -- I assume those songs were obscure covers or tracks from Leo's numerous EPs. Perhaps I'm just not sufficiently familiar with those songs, but they didn't grab me the way his best material does.
Still, the guy plays guitar with a frenetic energy that makes it seem like he's just barely able to keep up with his own fingers. And he writes some catchy-ass songs. A so-so Ted Leo show is still a pretty great rock concert.
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