September 29, 2004

Because we don’t have any extra Eno coverage besides the continuation of our Ambient article today (we’ll be back tomorrow with something, possibly two things if we’re lucky), I thought I’d share this link from the ever masterful Woebot (link).

Apparently, he even sent it to the man himself. Brian found it “intriguing”.

Todd Burns | 12:04 am | Comments Off

September 26, 2004

I’m sorry, I just don’t feel it. It’s boring and really doesn’t move me at all - unlike the spacy, psychadelic-ish R&B Timbaland did in the late 90s, which is some of the greatest music I’ve ever heard in my life.

So, I’m in this Contemporary African-American Literature class and it turns out the “bent” of the class is going to be how capitalism and obsession with grandeur have taken over hip-hop, so the real cats who play the street’s CNN are unable to break through. Well, ostensibly this is what the class will be about, when we get to it. Today we just discussed poetry. Kicked it off w/ Paul Lawrence Dunbar and how his poetry that imitated southern slave dialect was the most popular, particularly among whites. Note that I said this was an imitation of southern slave dialect; Dunbar was from Ohio.

but back to my point: so our prof talks about Dunbar, and how his articulate stuff didn’t sell to white audiences, but his southern “dialect” shit did - whites searching for authenticity etc. Which makes sense to me.

But then he tries to draw a parallel to hip-hop, arguing that “the hood” is a modern, urban plantation, where the only black artists that will sell to whites are the ones who, similar to Dunbar, will speak their own “dialect” of inarticulate, uneducated music. Why can’t the smart guys get a break?

Which is such a bizarre argument to me. First of all, in my high school, it was the self-christened “intelligent” rap artists that all the white people liked - the Roots, Common, Black Star etc., and most of the black people I knew liked Cash Money, Master P etc. - most of the white people called that music “ghetto” and preferred “intelligent” black music. So part of my reaction is - man, this is like the bourgoise response to the poor blacks etc…ties into Bill Cosby elitism and all that.

So, I’m sitting in my chair stewing about this whole “articulate” music thing and then our teacher and some other students start discussing neo-soul - why can’t ‘intelligent’ artists like Jill Scott et al make it to the top of the charts? The assumption: whites don’t want to see intelligent blacks on TV.

I raise my hand and ask “what about Aaliyah?” and I’m met with responses that like - “she doesn’t write her own music, she was commercial” etc. I’m not sure what authorship has to do with anything, it’s all about the context that the listener recieves the song that matters. If Aaliyah’s music addresses with themes that are just as “complex” as Jill Scott’s, then whether or not she wrote those words herself is irrelevent - it’s the listener’s context that matters.

So after being dismissed so out-of-hand and feeling unable to defend Aaliyah the way I should I brought up Missy Elliott - and I’m met with the accusation that she occasionally leans towards “minstrelsy” which is a new one to me. Andre 3000 MAYbe leans that way, but Missy?! Also my prof argues that she seems entirely asexual to him, and for a time he thought she was a lesbian. At this point my mind is blown and I’m not really sure what to say.

Basically - is Jill Scott unable to make a hit because she’s smarter than your average popular black popular artist, or is she unable to have a hit because she SUCKS?! I’m going to go with the latter - why can’t Mos Def have a hit? Well, for one thing he was on Rawkus the last time he released an album and certainly wasn’t getting some ridiculous distro and exposure. And for another thing, he just hasn’t been recording. Talib Kweli DID get a big hit, and it was because he recorded a song that DESERVED to be a hit! (”Get By”)

Anyway, Neo-Soul is boring music, not intelligent music, and I don’t care what college Jill Scott went to, nor do I understand what makes her smarter than Aaliyah; but I do know that Aaliyah makes me feel something as an artists and that ultimately that’s why she connected with so many people - black people included, judging by her popularity at my high school. It certainly wasn’t the white kids who walked down the halls all “baby girl…can y’all really feel me.” Feel me?

David Drake | 10:59 am | Comments (5)

September 21, 2004

The joys of it all. Anyway, I recently made a mix CD for a friend of mine returning to university. It looks like this:

1. White Town- Your Woman
2. T.I.- Rubber Band Man
3. Isnasakenai Douji- Sticklebrick
4. The Buzzcocks- What Do I Get?
5. Courtney Love- Zeplin Song
6. Half Man Half Biscuit- Tending The Wrong Grave For 23 Years
7. Lisa Loeb- Garden of Delights
8. Flying Pickets- Only You
9. Innell Young- The Next Ball Game
10. Elliot Smith- Needle In The Hay
11. Dr John- Mama Roux
12. Rodriguez- Sugarman
13. Stacie Orrico- (There’s Gotta Be) More To Life
14. Santa Esmerelda- Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
15. Phoenix- If I Ever Feel Better
16. Isley Brothers- Summer Breeze
17. Tori Amos- Concertina
18. Adam Green- Jessica
19. Sixpence None The Richer- Kiss Me
20. Giorgio Moroder and Phil Oakey- Together In Electric Dreams

Yes, I’m trying to simultaneously raise the cache of Sixpence None The Richer and the Flying Pickets. Listen to me people, I am sense.

Dom Passantino | 5:49 pm | Comments (11)

September 13, 2004

Having listened to the album about 20 times since buying it, I can’t say I’m blown away. I’m reading too many reviews in which the critics praise Bjork’s arrangements and technique at the expense of the songs, which are, with a few exceptions, non-descript and amelodic. It’s a trend I’ve lamented since “Vespertine,” the first time Ms. Gudmonsdottir’s songwriting and vocal affectations started to irritate the hell out of me.

In other words, folks, it’s the Radiohead Syndrome again. We admire the artists’ studio prowess, attack the Big Bad Industry for its conservatism, pour a glass of red wine, put on the album, and wonder whether the pain that gnaws away at our attention span is a result of boredom or that ham sandwich we ate for lunch. I mean, what the hell else are we supposed to make of “Where Is The Line” and “řoll Birtan”? We listen and think, “Why, how nice, how INNOVATIVE” and hit fast forward.

I certainly encourage Bjork to continue these hirstute experiments - with the caveat that she program some funk beats in b/w the Icelandic Vocal Choir, Robert Wyatt, et al. Arguably her most lasting work rests on that sequence of albums from “Debut” to “Homogenic”; on “Medulla” maybe “Triumph of the Heart” and “Oceania” and the lovely e.e. cummings-indebted “Sonnets” will join them.

Alfred Soto | 10:06 am | Comments (15)

September 10, 2004

From Billboard
By Chris Morris

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Mississippi blues label Fat Possum Records and its owner Matthew Johnson have sued former joint-venture partner Epitaph Records, alleging that Epitaph hatched “a malicious plot … to financially destroy Johnson and Fat Possum.”

The suit, filed Tuesday in California Superior Court in L.A., charges Epitaph with breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, interference with contractual relations and a host of other abuses.

According to the suit, Oxford, Miss.-based Fat Possum — home to R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and other contemporary bluesmen — was being funded by L.A.-based Epitaph under the terms of a joint-venture agreement reached in July 1997. From that time until 2003, Fat Possum operated at a loss.

However, the action maintains that in October 2003, as it appeared Fat Possum was about to move into profitability, Epitaph told the label it would no longer fund operations or pay Johnson’s salary.

The suit maintains that under financial duress, Johnson agreed to buy back Epitaph’s interest in Fat Possum for an unstated price. The action claims that after Epitaph increased pressure on Johnson by delaying the signing of the redemption agreement, it was amended to add $50,000 to the redemption price.

It also alleges that under further pressure from Epitaph, Fat Possum gave up rights to distribute Solomon Burke’s successful 2002 album and the forthcoming album by the Black Keys. Fat Possum also claims that immediately before the effective redemption date of June 1, 2004, Epitaph instructed its distributors in the U.S. and abroad to sell off Fat Possum product at “fire sale” prices. It alleges that product returned to Fat Possum by Epitaph and its distributor, Koch, was far short of the amounts stated by those companies in inventories conducted in early June.

Fat Possum seeks damages in an amount to be determined.

Epitaph president Andy Kaulkin could not be reached for comment

R. S. Ross | 11:17 am | Comments Off

September 9, 2004

Despite the fact that some people at Stylus don’t have nice things to say about him and this month’s The Wire STILL hasn’t come to my doorstep, I have to recommend this page on their website, which has an enlightening mp3 of Jim O’Rourke during his Invisible Jukebox session, in which he guesses the tracks that a Wire writer plays for him.

I, for one, still play Insignificance a lot.

Todd Burns | 2:18 am | Comments (4)

I just wanted to give everyone the heads up about the article in the most recent NY Times Magazine about Pedro Almodovar. Talk to Her cracks my top ten all time in films, and I would be overwhelmed if someone could give me a cogent argument as to why it shouldn’t be viewed as one of the best films of the last 10 years (let alone all time). He is a god outside the states, especially in Europe, so check out a little back story and examine his personality profile.

I recently saw All About My Mother, which I found very good but slightly dissapointing, only because Talk to Her was THAT great. If All About My Mother is not his best effort, that’s one director you need to know.

Kevin Worrall | 1:04 am | Comments (4)

September 3, 2004

The non-release of this album is a crime, pretty much. Easily the best work Timbaland’s done lately, along with Deliverence. Apparently the first single, “Make Me a Song,” wasn’t a big enough hit for the label and so Simple Girl hovers in this sort of industry stasis. It’s really a pity because this is one of the best R&B albums I’ve heard in ages.

Comparisons to Aaliyah are not particularly fair - Kiley Dean is no Aaliyah (though who is, really?). But what IS reminiscent of Aaliyah’s work (and Missy’s, for that matter) is the incredible relationship between producer and vocalist that seems to transcend the normal he’s-the-MC-I’m-the-DJ aesthetic of modern hip-hop and R&B. The beats are perfectly tailored to Kiley’s honey-dripped voice. Apparently Kiley was a back-up singer for Britney when Timbo overheard her singing and the two began to work together almost immediately. (You’ve probably heard her voice on “Nowhere,” the climax of Deliverence.

It’s interesting then that the first single would be “Make Me A Song,” a meta-style pop song that has Kiley requesting Timbaland for a song “like Rock Da Boat … that you and Missy wrote” - an interesting concept made stranger by the fact that Timbaland did not actually produce ‘Rock Da Boat’ in da first place. But still it bumps, overall a nice cut.

But it pales in comparison to the highlights of this album - most notably, “Keep It Movin,” which Tim Finney has expounded on elsewhere (see the Skykicking blog to the left), a track so elegent and evocative that it redefines any preconcieved notion of what a Timbaland track sounds like - its no club banger to be certain. Another favorite cut of mine is “Kiss Me Like That,” which starts off somewhat slowly but hits its beautiful stride in the chorus, where the texture of Kiley’s vocal harmonies (and there must be at least five different overdubs in her voice during the chorus) sounds absolutely heavenly, a transcendently beautiful moment that melts my heart. “Cross the Line” is a reworking of “It’s Hot (Some Like it Hot)” from Jay-Z’s Life and Times … Vol 3 but the mood of the original is entirely redefined - the entire track is an inner dialogue, Kiley trying to resist temptation - “I know you wanna cross the line/ but I can’t letcha” could be spoken to her man, but it almost sounds like she’s speaking to herself.

At 18 tracks there is suprisingly little filler, and although the lyrics are occasionally a bit inane (”War Song”) it never sounds anything less than genuine. Timbaland’s production is strikingly creative. Here’s hoping he continues to astound us, even as his output slows. And here’s hoping that the label releases this damn album.

David Drake | 8:02 pm | Comments Off

There was something strange and illuminating about watching the classic-because-it’s-crappy 1985 comedy Spies Like Us immediately before watching the President’s acceptance speech last night. True, the former made me immensely happy, and the latter made me sick. But without getting too, too wrapped up in the politics of it all, I think it’s fair to note how dramatically our world has changed in just two decades.

Then: cold war.
Now: war on terror.

Then: Communists.
Now: Islamic Fundamentalists.

Then: Chevy Chase, funny.
Now: Chevy Chase, catastrophically unfunny.

Rob Lott | 5:10 pm | Comments (2)

 
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UNDER THE STYLUS

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