The Magnolia Electric Co rolled through the upper altitudes last night, taking the stage at Denver’s Larimer Lounge on the second night of their tour of under-appreciated time zones. The Magnolia Party Posse, so dubbed by strangely intense touring mates Ladyhawk, followed his Great Midwestern-ness, Jason Molina, around a series of tunes from the upcoming Fading Trails and Nashville Moon albums.
Several years ago I had to pillow talk my friends into spinning Didn’t It Rain, but Molina’s making things much easier these days, coating his gloom ‘n’ doom in sweet tea and tartar sauce. The band, which now includes a full-time piano man, were still finding the reins, fumbling through the song choices, but they choogled downhill whenever Molina’s steely tenor warbled or guitarist Jason Groth gyrated jus’ a lil’ bit. A cover of the Classics IV, um, classic “Spooky” mingled with “I’ve Been Riding with the Ghost” and amped takes on “Hammer Down” and “Just Be Simple” out-ripped their recorded kin. The formerly hostile Molina, ending songs with more than a few “thank you kindly”’s, has officially moved into the Neil Young Persona Assimilation Phase III – his live show offers few surprises but he makes hay with plenty of gritty, inspired tunes. Walk on.
Playing in a traveling band: Hit the link for the remaining MEC dates. Guitarist Groth is blogging about the gigs hereabouts. Fading Trails will drop September 12 on Secretly Canadian, while Molina’s solo joint, the decidedly autumnal Let Me Go Let Me Go Let Me Go, hits shelves August 22.
I’ve so far resisted posting anything from YouTube.com here at the Turntable, partially because I’m uncomfortable swiping external content and calling it a day’s work. Beyond that, though, YouTube embodies both the blessing and the curse of the Internet’s democratizing effect: that it gives everyone a voice. (Also, like democracy, the Internet is still largely reserved for above-lower-class citizens of developed nations, but that’s a whole other ball o’ wax.) The Internet has made good on its promise as an infinite receptacle of information, accessible to all. This is a very good thing. But what about the fact that it’s a forum for not only astute and credible observers, but also ignorant louts and downright morons? This is, at the very least, a lamentable side-effect – what Jon Stweart might call “the upset stomach and diarrhea of democracy.”
And not everyone’s so pleased about the ease of access to information. In a recent interview with the Village Voice, Hospital Records mayor domo, Dominick Fernow, explained his contempt for the Internet thusly:
It takes the sweat out of the underground. It just makes everything so fuckin’ easy. There’s no passion, no pursuit. You might as well be checking your fuckin’ account balance.
For those not old enough to still have boxes of VHS & cassette tapes collecting dust, this could just be sour grapes. But Fernow has a valid point. If music were coffee, the Internet would be Starbucks: sure, it’s ubiquitous, efficient, and the selection is endless… but who friggin’ cares? It’s the difference between complacently picking up a Grande Gut-rot-accino, and finding a superb local café tucked down an alleyway. Which will give you a greater sense of aesthetic satisfaction and personal intimacy?
Here’s where I become the very thing I’ve been railing against… I submit for your scrutiny the 18-year-old video for the anthemic “Teenage Riot” by Sonic Youth:
And therein we see the old means of cultural dissemination at work. In the four minutes spent listening to the song, there are more names dropped and influences winkingly acknowledged than in a week’s worth of Pitchfork. Iggy Pop, Sun Ra, Jad Fair, Patti Smith, the Fall, the Birthday Party, Einsturzende Neubauten, Black Flag, Tom Waits, Daniel Johnston – the video is a veritable Cliff Notes for ‘80s underground rock. Yet this isn’t calculated image construction. This is Sonic Youth establishing their lineage while smacking the future in the face with history—a Rosetta Stone of punk rock.
Et voila! What Sonic Youth could only throw into the ether of cable music television with vague hope of being absorbed, I’ve now served to you with the speed & plain understanding of a fast food fry cook. Sure, it’s convenient. But do you care?
But it’s a fruit plate Brett Sparks carries on stage. Offering it to the crowd before realizing there’s only enough for him.
It’s these tiny interactions that make The Handsome Family, husband and wife duo Brett and Rennie Sparks, as endearing as their songs are exponential.
They are a Johnny and June for the download generation; a seemingly sober Rennie (she’s drinking Diet Coke) keeps Brett, who downs three bottles of beer during the set, in check. But it’s Brett who counts off all the songs, songs that are full of suicide, ignorant automatic sinks, and sad milkmen. Songs, like the great Appalachian folks tales of yore, that tell stories of woe and betide, hope and beauty, liquor and everyday life.
In an age where country music has become a commodity, much like milk, pasteurized and sterile, The Handsome Family are a welcome respite from the factory flavor of the commercialized soul pop country pap currently circumnavigating the charts.
On this tour, drummer, Jason Toth, and multi-instrumentalist Stephen Dorocke have joined the two-some, providing intricate inter-play on several slower songs, and a backdrop of sound for others.
“My Sisters Tiny Hands” cascades like a champagne fountain, crystal clear. “Weightless Again” loses its air organ intro, but not its appeal. “Bottomless Hole,” from 2003’s Singing Bones, is turned into a rollicking, rocking romp, with Brett enunciating his lyrics as if they’re stuck in his teeth. Spitting them out like shrapnel.
Other times his words drop like rotten apples from a tree – part country crooner, part Mark E. Smith.
Brett, with a baritone so low, you could run a river through it and call it a valley, steps aside on a couple of occasions to let Rennie take the reins. She also provides the in-between song banter. Comic fodder that doesn’t feel out of place in the World Café setting, which, with its table and seating setting, low lights and candles, is more akin with a comedy club than a music venue.
This doesn’t distract from the songs, which they pull from every album except 1996’s Milk and Scissors, showcasing a rich and varied back catalogue.
They finish, aptly, with “So Long,” a paean to dead pets, before returning for a two-song encore, fruit plate in hand. Launching into song, Brett wishes out loud for a napkin. You see; it’s not just the Rolling Stones who take country music to the masses and come back with sticky fingers.
As hip-hop fans and critics alike try to search for the Next Houston, focusing on San Francisco (nope) and Miami (nuh uh), Chicago is quietly positioning itself to take the crown. Though one of its star rookies, Rhymefest, caught one hell of a brick with his debut, the City of Wind still has everyone’s Next Big Thing (Lupe Fiasco), the game’s best comeback story (Common) and The Real Big Thing (Kanye West). So naturally they should be ranked in order of worst to best. Without further adieu:
Back in the day (like when I was in 7th grade) Twista was a relatively unknown MC who rapped a hundred miles a minute and showed up on random DTP tracks like Luda’s “Freaky Thangs” with lyrics like “I’m feelin’ you Luda / Smoking my Buddha / Coochie recruit-a / Coming at the fatty in a platinum Caddy.” Then he hooked up with Kanye and started making exclusively R&B-hop like “Overnight Celebrity,” instantly turning himself into one of the most grating and annoying people in music. Twista’s career is/was really a tragedy.
The best (only?) thing that Rhymefest had done up until Blue Collar was co-write “Jesus Walks.” “Jesus Walks” is a damn good song with damn good writing, which would indicate that ‘Fest could put together a few hit singles and a rather successful album. So far, preliminary reports on his debut Blue Collar indicate otherwise. The album’s best tracks are that in spite of ‘Fest rather than because of him. Don’t get it twisted, I still like Blue Collar, but lyrically nothing here compares to the writing on “Jesus Walks.”
Unless one wades the murky and dangerous waters of the mixtape game (or has snatched the leak of Food and Liquor), the only thing we have to go on regarding Lupe is his verse on Kanye’s “Touch the Sky” and one of the finest singles of the year “Kick, Push.” As a lyricist Lupe isn’t curing cancer, but on “Kick, Push” he shows a knack for not getting in the way of a great beat and the ability to tell a compelling story. His debut (the aforementioned Food and Liquor) is easily one of the most anticipated rap debuts of the past three/four years, and hopefully—for the northern half of the country—this thing ends up following through.
Last year’s Be was one of my favorite records of the year. I don’t buy into the whole notion of “seasonalalbums” but if, Be isn’t the album for breezy early fall than nothing is. Common is obviously the city’s best lyricist, but his career was in a coma until he started working with the next man on the list.
Haters will hate (myself definitely included) and Late Registration was wildly overrated, but when Kanye says that he is just important to rap as MJ was to the NBA, he is probably right. Everyone above him in this list would be either floundering or buried (not literally) without him. He gets knocked for not being a great lyricist but in a genre that is dominated by the three same themes, Kanye usually brings something new to the table, or least fresh (and usually hilarious) approaches to those same themes. As far as creative minds go, Kanye may have no equal in hip-hop right now as even a Late Registration hater like myself can admit that the album was beautifully arranged and composed (word to Jon Brion).
First, a confession: I’ve almost entirely missed the Broken Social Scene boat. Nothing personal, mind you, but for one reason or another, I’ve made it this far without hearing much of this Canuck collective. Does this fact automatically disqualify me from reviewing solo releases from BSS members? I sure hope not, because—caution thrown to the wind—I’m about to do it. Wish me luck.
First up is Feist’s remix album, Open Season. Let’s not beat around the bush about this one—it’s a stopgap release, designed to capitalize on the success of 2005’s (or 2004’s, depending on where you live) Let It Die. But despite the slightly crass nature of such a product, there’s enough good stuff here to make it worth Feist-fans’ hard earned cash, including a stripped-down rendition of the formerly disco-fied “Inside & Out,” One Room One Hour’s bossa nova rendition of “Gatekeeper” and Frisbee’d’s chilled out remake of “Lonely Lonely.” And the Postal Service version of “Mushaboom” would be a great slice of bubbly electro-pop—if only we could erase Ben Gibbard from the proceedings. Alas. Some of the re-imaginings of Let It Die’s tracks aren’t quite as successful, and there’s probably one “Mushaboom” remix too many here. Is Open Season essential? Nah. Will it tide you over until Feist’s next release (currently slated for early 2007)? Yup.
Next we’ve got Amy Millan’s long in the making Honey From The Tombs, a slightly schizo release that flits between slightly old-timey folk and big, lush pop songs. The combination doesn’t always work—while listening, you get the feeling that the album is the result of a bunch of different disparate projects that don’t quite hold together. That quibble aside, there are plenty of great songs on Honey, including the wonderfully melancholy opener “Losin You” and harmony drenched “Baby I.” And Millan’s vocals are lovely throughout.
Hmm, so Broken Social Scene has both Feist and Millan in its ranks, huh? Maybe I should check that band out.
So are the Jayhawks broken up? On hiatus? Or what? The truth is, it doesn’t look like even the long-running Minneapolis band’s members know for sure. But said members are keeping busy with various projects.
Golden Smog, the so-called “alt-country super-group” that has at various times in its on-again-off-again existence included members of the Jayhawks, Wilco, the Replacements, Soul Asylum, Run Westy Run and probably a dozen other bands, recently unleashed Another Fine Day, which is another fine addition to their infrequent catalog. As with so many other bands pigeonholed in this genre, “alt-country” is for the most part a misnomer when it comes to classifying Golden Smog. From the Revolver-esque opener “You Make It Easy,” to the sunny harmonies and infectious chorus of “5-22-02” to the “Sunday Morning”-ish vibe of “Cure For This,” the Smog is nothing if not a pop-rock band in the mode of Cheap Trick, Big Star and the Kinks. And despite the fact that they only get together once every eight years or so, (their last release, Weird Tales, dropped in ’98), they do sound surprisingly like a band, a cohesive collection of players. While there are a few missteps (the overwrought power ballad “A Beautiful Mind” and the revved up rawker “Corvette”), the bulk of Another Fine Day is solid enough to make one wish Golden Smog wasn’t a just a side-project for those involved. Check it out here.
Meanwhile, Jayhawks drummer Tim O’Reagan has filled the void left by his band’s uncertain status by recording his pleasantly mellow self-titled solo debut. Tim O’Reagan features contributions from former ‘Hawks Gary Louris and Mark Olson, as well as guest spots by Son Volt bassist Jim Boquist and even the drummer’s parents, though most of the playing is handled by O’Reagan himself. The bittersweet results would’ve been right at home alongside the work of the best 70s-era singer songwriters, like Neil Young, John Prine and Jackson Browne. And if I’m not mistaken, there’s even an altogether welcome whiff of Bread floating through the eleven tuneful tracks here. Listen and buy here.
In this age of wan vocalizing and introspective frontmen backlit with a diffuse, inoffensive white bulb, the young Brazilian groups CSS and Bonde Do Role represent the sheer latex glide and punk-rock sugar shock of everything contrapuntal to Coldplay. The yang to their yin is the shamelessly party-rocking Diplo, enough of a cheeseball to drop the beat out and ask the crowd how they’re feeling tonight, enough of a seasoned showman to already know the answer. Put the three together, and you’re in for some nasty weather on the dancefloor - Bonde Do Role spark the night off, Marina and Pedro putting Bowie and Ronson to shame in the suggestive onstage antics category, while still reserving enough energy to inflame even the most tepid of crowds. Nobody in B-more is speaking a whiff of Portuguese, but it’s hardly an obstacle - the chunky bass and relentless energy of the singers speak for themselves.
CSS prove to be a bit of a surprise - the synth trappings of their debut album have been excised in favor of three (!) guitars and a boisterous live rawk sound, but by mid-set we’ve all been too seduced by their unabashed gleefulness to give a damn about expectations. By the time Diplo gets behind the wheels, the party is lubricated enough to slide on sandpaper. Not that this makes our boy play it safe - dropping up-to-the-minute acappellas (”Hustlin,” “Me and You,” “What You Know”) over breakbeats and samples from the Cure to Cashmere, it gets funkier and rowdier minute by minute. By night’s end the kids from Bonde Do Role and CSS have climbed back onstage, exhorting the crowd, pouring beer on each other, just generally making a mess and filming the whole damn thing (I’m checking Youtube as we speak). Plan on missing out on this circus? Consider yourself clowned.
Ok, so “Trapped in the Closet” has come, seen, and conquered, but we really should have seen this on the horizon. Kells cut his hip-hopera teeth with idol-turned-collaborator Ron Isley in a series of videos stretching back 10 years. Isley plays Mr. Biggs, a gangster kingpin whose lavish homes and comely women are continually penetrated by the occasionally remorseful Kelly.
Mr. Biggs is introduced in the “Float On” remix as a rather unassuming pony-tailed crooner. Lil Kim steals the spotlight in this video.
Not content to ruin only Mr. Biggs’ relationships with his pure animal magnetism, Kelly moved on to hurt those closest to Biggs. Kelly Price plays Isley’s goddaughter in 1998’s “Friend of Mine,” a woman scorned by — who else? — R. Kelly. Unfortunately, no bursting-into-the-bedroom scene, although there is a very odd phone conversation with Kells in bed and Isley in what looks like a hotel lobby.
Perhaps on the defensive after repeated humiliations, Mr. Biggs goes after his daughter’s paramour in B2K’s “Girlfriend.” As if teen romance needed more drama! Will Smith appears as “The Godfather,” a role that might have gone to R. Kelly if his reputation with teenage girl love hadn’t already preceded him.
2006 is more than half over and bloggers have been frantically compiling “half year” best-of lists. But we’ve been going back EVEN FURTHER, to those long gone days of 2005, checking out a number of releases from that year that for one reason or another, we didn’t give the proper attention. Don’t be afraid–2005 is alive.
First up is the Speakers‘ perfectly lovely Yeats Is Greats. As the cheeky title suggests, the album consists (mainly) of legendary poet William Butler Yeats‘ poems set to music. The Speakers (a San Francisco-based duo consisting of Brian Miller and Peter Musselman) do a fine job of creating a hushed, country-blues vibe to match the melancholy of Yeats’ words—the closest analogue I can think of is early Palace Brothers. But with better lyrics, obviously. Try as he might, Will Oldham is no William Butler Yeats! Miller also supplies the lead guitar for Jolie Holland, so if you dig her, definitely check out the Speakers. Order the CD and check out samples here.
Next in our overlooked 2005 series is the Double’s muy excelente Matador debut, Loose In The Air, which sees the Brooklyn band expanding upon the experimental, dark sound of their earlier releases (including the much raved over Palm Fronds), and exploring slightly more straightforward songcraft on songs like the snappy “Idiocy.” Interpol comparisons have been rife, but we see them more in the heavy, exploratory vein of their other Matador labelmates Mission of Burma. Download “Idiocy”.
2005 also saw the sophomore release from Charlemagne, Detour Allure, which saw mastermind Carl Johns mostly eschewing the dusky country rock of his debut for a more power pop groove. And he’s mostly successful in this switch-over–songs like “(We Are) Making Light” and “Fave Unknown” are cool and catchy blasts of poppy goodness. Listen and buy here.
Last but certainly not least, we’re finally getting around to listening to Neil Young’s Prairie Wind. The recently released political screed Living With War might’ve gained more headlines, but Prairie Wind is probably the album that will have more staying power. Sure, there’s a bit of cheesiness here, and a few melodies we’re fairly certain Uncle Neil has used at least three or four times before, but the bulk of the album is great—especially the yearning “Falling Off the Face of the Earth” and the gorgeously meandering “It’s A Dream.” Song samples here.
Hip-hop blogs and message boards have been inafrenzy for the past few weeks over who Ludacris was taking shots at (I’m not buying this) on his new diss track “War With God”. The popular pick seems to be T.I. (who he’s had previous beef with), with Lil’ Wayne and Young Jeezy in a close second and Rick Ross in a laughable fourth. Also, a few months back the same blogs/message boards were discussing whether or not T.I./Jeezy/Wayne were the South’s equivalentof Biggie, Jay-Z, and Nas. They’re on their way, but to take this whole thing full circle, I think that, at the top of his game, Luda is actually better than the south’s three. The past few years definitely haven’t lent any proof to that theory, but “Southern Hospitality” is better than pretty much anything that either of the three has ever done.
Of course, Ludacris’ problem is that “Southern Hospitality” was his second single, off an album six years old. Lately he’s become a parody of his old self, doing repulsive sex jams like “Splash Waterfalls” (froggy style?) or ridiculous self-promotion shit like “#1 Spot.” What I’m getting at here is that hopefully whatever has pissed Luda off enough to put out a (reasonably biting) diss track will push him into making music like he was making four, five, six years ago.
Along the same lines: the other day, I heard Eminem’s “Without Me” on the radio in a cafeteria where I couldn’t demand that it be turned off. It followed Yung Joc’s “It’s Going Down” (a really good song) and some robotic R&B track that I didn’t recognize, and when “Without Me” came on it sounded like a breath of fresh air. By all means the song is average at best, but Em’s presence and charisma blew away the previous two songs, one of which is/was the country’s number one single. Point here is that Eminem and Ludacris have loosely followed the same career path. Early in their careers they were both critically and commercially acclaimed, then both became shells of what they used to be, putting out singles and albums that were mediocre money-grabbers.
In Eminem’s case, maybe the death of his best friend will keep him from making more tracks impersonating Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, but we have nothing but this as any evidence that that might actually happen. As for Ludacris, tracks have been floating around the internet from his forthcoming LP. With one we get two steps forward, but with the other we get two steps back.
I’ve got no heart-wrenching ending paragraph here, just hope that two of my favorite rappers become just that again.
I spent a lovely weekend in Turku. The organization was horrible, transportation was bad, and the weather was too hot. But then people were wonderful, bands were good, and the whiskey worked. One of the stages was wonderfully located on the beach: you could go swimming and listen to bands at the same time.
I think Phoenix would have been better if they had played while the sun was still up. But they were still good on Friday night. The new songs sounded good and when they started “If I Ever Feel Better” the crowd really got going. “Too Young” as the encore was the cherry on the cake for me.
I didn’t expect much, but this gig was really good. The lead singer cracked jokes, and they even played some short and punchy rock songs in between.
Disco Ensemble is a up-and-coming Finnish punk-rock band. They’ve recently released their second album and toured Europe and the US in the spring. I got to see them almost accidentally while I was looking for my friends, but I was really surprised at their skill and enthusiasm.
The front row was crowded with hysterical teenage girls and boys jumping and shouting from the very first sound the band made. At which time the band announced that they had some technical problems. To top it off, the singer seemed to forgot the lyrics. But the fans gave him such a cheer that it didn’t matter. Mew’s shows are always as much visual experience as a traditional rock shows. They have a video screen that shows animated films from their songs and these short films are really beautiful and fit the mood of the music perfectly. I almost started crying when the singer sat over the keyboards and started “Saliva.”
Mozzer started the gig by telling everyone that Italy is going to win the World Cup (he appeared on Sunday and that was the day of the final). Then someone in the audience shouted: “Wanker!” Mozzer grinned. And then “Panic” kicked off. He could have played more old hits and “Life Is a Pigsty” sounded awful in such heat, but you can’t say a bad thing about Morrissey. Seeing that man live is enough. It doesn’t matter which of his classics he chooses to play. Gig of the year for me so far.
Really good and energetic Swedish rock band. They had a bad slot, because Tool was playing at the same time on another stage and The World Cup final was going on screens all over the festival. I went to see them, because their singer is really beautiful. The gig was good, too.
It’s easy to feel obscenely out-of-touch when my only frame of reference for the U.K./Amer-Indie scene is the 12″ screen on my laptop. Even so, it took barely six months of living abroad before I started looking across the internet aghast at what my former colleagues and contemporaries were up to back West. Since then, I’ve severed the cultural umbilical cord enough that I’m no longer shocked by the bad decisions - artistic, critical, and other - being made by the people I used to play/chat/drink with. However, being shocked and being pleased are often mutually exclusive, and I’ll bite my tongue right off if I don’t voice some dissent from the following conventional wisdom…
The New Futureheads Album Is Flabby and Overcooked
There isn’t a single ‘Heads fan that isn’t a bigger XTC fan. At least there ought not to be. For those exempt from this rule, allow me to play armchair psychologist: if the first PiL album doesn’t get one off way harder than anything Paul Epworth has produced, then one is actually a closet emo kid with an aversion to afros,eyeliner, and head-to-toe black. But seriously, folks, the contrapuntal guitar play and anthemic singalongs that first earned the Futureheads our love are all still there; dig respectively on “Cope” and “Back To the Sea” for the hard copy. A simple down-shift in average tempo does not a sophomore slump make. I dare you to find one person who would argue that Drums & Wires is musically superior to English Settlement. It’s evolution, baby.
Be Your Own Pet Is Worth Caring About
Finally, the world has a band to play the Monkees to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Beatles. (Before I continue, take a minute to chew on the comparative legacies of the YYYs and the Beatles.) None of the oft-cited talking points really do BYOP any good, either. They’re from Nashville - which is exactly the cultural axis of MY perfect world. They’re being back by Thurston Moore - because Hair Police, Last Days, and appearances on Gilmore Girls are also all totally rad. They’re teenagers - because a curmudgeon like me, with a beard as salty as Wayne Coyne’s, can learn so much from eighteen-year-olds. Finally, their firebrand singer is a sexually predatory female - because, again, a nineteen-year-old singing about “stealing your virginity” is the height, the very APEX of depravity. How utterly fresh.
Spank Rock Is a Mysogynist
So everyone’s kind of upset about how ass-centric Naeem Juan’s rhymes are, even though it’s unanimous that Purple Haze was, like, totally classic, eh? Again I venture into the murky waters of overanalysis, but I’m going to say this is an awkward example of how the largely white, collegiate indieground still fetishizes black culture from afar. Let’s face it, the daily existence of the likes of 50 Cent and Mobb Deep are so utterly remote from anyone who went to Barnard or RISD that their cartoonish nouveau-noir narratives can only be taken at face value. But Spank Rock and XXXchange - these are cats who hung around the Talking Head, where our roommates’ bands play and all the art-school girlfriends are first encountered. These guys’ orbit is concentric to our own, so we can’t have them giving all of us a bad name with their repeated references to “pussy” and “bitch,” can we? Heavens no!
You’d think that being the “hottest” (get it?) city in the United States would make my hometown of Miami a rather attractive city for indie bands to come and play. Well it turns out that it isn’t. So, with a few exceptions (thank you Bloc Party, Interpol and Kings of Leon), I’m usually reduced to perusing YouTube to see live performances of my favorite bands. Thankfully for me, YouTube is the greatest invention of the decade and I can therefore usually find some pretty good footage of said bands. So here are my ten favorite YouTube clips of live performances by bands that I’ve never seen live, listed alphabetically.
Note: I stretch the rules here a little by including a few performances from television shows and/or ones that I wouldn’t have been alive to see.
The Beach Boys - “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” - TV Show 1971 -
This was recorded in 1971 at the height of Beach Boys turmoil and it’s as funny as it is awesome. And it is very awesome. The playing is as tight as could be expected; the melodies come across beautifully (I mean it is the Beach Boys). And oh yeah they fuck up the lyrics. Enjoy.
This one has been an Internet legend for a while now and, prewritten or not, this easily the greatest thing that Cam has ever done (honorable mention to Killa Season the movie). I usually can’t listen to Cam because Dipset beat/production is just atrocious and this version is a hundred times better then the recorded version (“It’s Nothin’). “Owe 28/Old school/I topped mine/Cop mine/The block’s fine/Yahtzee/Yacht time”. Yahtzee is right.
Franz Ferdinand - Outsiders (Live Jools Holland) -
As far as a Franz performance goes, this one has it all: Paul Thompson playing the drums with one stick and one tambourine, a man frantically dashing from the keyboards to play with Thompson on his drums, and then another guy playing with those two on Thompson’s drums. And then four more drummers. Yes, seven drummers. This would make even the Boredoms orgasm.
When Hendrix really gets into it, it looks like he does some really, really intense yawning, which leads me to believe that Dave Chapelle could’ve done a number on this. Oh, and the solo is not from this planet.
I happen to think that any rap show with a live band beats any rap show with a DJ and six hypemen and Weezy proves my point here. Wayne could’ve just done phoned this one in like 80% of performers of his caliber probably would on a show with Kimmel’s status, but the passion in this performance is tangible. When the guitars gently weep it’s seems as if Wayne might too. If you aren’t a believer you will be after this.
THE STROKES- TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT (SUMMER SONIC FESTIVAL, TOKYO)
If you don’t share my affinity for listening to way too much “post-punk” (quotations used to mock) then you may not know that super producer/remixer extraordinaire Paul Epworth (aka Phones) has produced some of the finest work of the “genre” and is therefore responsible for 60% of every NMEwet dream of the past 3 years. It may not be a good sign that the bands with his two most critically acclaimed albums (Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm and the Futureheads self-titled debut) have chosen to work with two different producers on their post-Epworth releases, but here are the best Epworth produced albums ordered worst to best.
Note: I actually love all of these albums (save the first one mentioned).
WHITE ROSE MOVEMENT KICK
I never got the fuss over “Love is a Number” in the first place and the rest of this is just trash. I happen to actually like the Bravery and even I think that this is a little much.
THE FUTUREHEADS THE FUTUREHEADS
This was an album that took me about six months to actually like. Despite the fact it has one of my favorite all-time riffs (“Decent Days and Nights”) and songs (“Hounds of Love” duh) this album isn’t as consistent as it could be. Much like Cam’ron, I like the Futureheads’ writing much better when I read it on paper then when I actually listen to it, but it is stellar nonetheless. Their decision to go for a more, ahem, “ambitious” sound on their second album turned out for the worst and usually after I listen to News & Tributes I’ll just turn on “Meantime” in hopes that they’ll one day again churn out such brilliance.
THE RAKES CAPTURE/RELEASE
A whole lot of people write these guys off as Franz Ferdinand Jr. but I think that the Rakes actually beat Franz at their own game. “Strasbourg” may be the “genre’s” finest moment as the Rakes were actually doing the whole “music for the working lad” way before Alex Turner though you looked good on the dance floor. I think this album got written off by critic types as “yet another post-punk release” when in actuality it carves its own niche in an admittedly crowded field. At least Rob Sheffield likes it.
MAXIMO PARK A CERTAIN TRIGGER
Much to my surprise (and dismay) this album got hatedon by damn near everyone butPitchfork because really, this is one of my favorite releases of the past two or three years. Paul Smith writes both deliciously great and somber love songs and has one of the best vocal deliveries in rock music. There are too many really, really great moments on this album to mention so I won’t get into how many times I’ve sung “The Coast is Always Changing” at the top of my lungs, but if you wrote these guys off too or didn’t really listen to what was being said on this album you’re an idiot.
BLOC PARTY SILENT ALARM
Being that I just gushed over the album above this one, you can imagine how much I actually love these guys. Not only was Silent Alarmmy favorite album of last year, it’s one of my favorite albums ever. Like a lot of people I first fell in love with this band when heard “Banquet” on their self-titled EP, but to only mention how great that song is would really be a disservice to all other amazing tracks on this album. There is the 90 mph paranoia of “Like Eating Glass” and the heart-breakingly beautiful “This Modern Love” and so on and so forth. 10 years from now, I think this is the album out of this whole set (including Franz, Kaisers, Monkeys etc.) that actually stands the test of time.
P.S. Feel free to debate and curse each other out in the comment section like people do at other blogs.
“Dazz” is short for “disco-jazz,” which in practice sounds a lot like funk. Good funk, albeit with an unfortunate sax solo that sounds right out of G.E. Smith and the SNL Band (is that the jazz part?). I can forgive that small transgression for a song that so effortlessly oozes groove that it’s made a compilation or soundtrack appearance practically every year since it’s initial release.
I used to think that Sweden produces only horrible pop groups like Roxette or Ace of Base. But I have to admit: I was wrong. In the 90’s Sweden had a couple of good indie bands (The Cardigans, Atomic Swing, Soundtrack of Our Lives, Broder Daniel, etc.). After the breakthrough of the Hives, there have been even more good indie bands and artists coming from Sweden.
Dungen, The Sounds, Concretes, Hellacopters, The Knife, Love is All, Moneybrother, and Shout Out Louds are all making fresh and exciting new music. And, of course, where would we be without Jens Lekman? Allmusic credited him as “one of the true pop geniuses of the early 2000s”.
My personal swedish favourite is a band with a lovely name: Peter Bjorn and John. I heard their song “Teen Love” on the radio and I immediately fell in love. Somehow “Teen Love” catches perfectly the feeling when you’re young, alone and the hope that there’s someone out there. They have just released a new single “Young Folks” in Scandinavia, it’s from their upcoming third album. You can hear the song and watch the video on MySpace.
The bane of my vernal existence is my northern Canadian upbringing. Sure, we had sunny, blue-sky-and-ice-cream summer days, but that’s all relative when you can’t see the ground through the snow for six months out of the year. (Don’t worry, I’m sure global warming has since rendered winter obsolete.) Besides, I never knew what to do with warm weather. You can’t very well make men, forts, or manual projectiles from dirt, can you? Yet for 13 of the past 16 years, I’ve lived in places that peak past 40 degrees Celsius (that’s ~100 degrees for you skeptics) during the summer. This is often accompanied by choking humidity, making the outdoors feel like an open-air sauna. It’s like swimming on dry land, and might as well be, given how soaked in sweat you get during a simple jaunt up to the corner store.
So as the number Summer Song posts here has risen faster than my monthly electricity bill, it’s hardly eased my suffering. Sweat shorts out my circuitry like pouring a pitcher of sangria into a television. Good thing I’ve got my CD collection to help me forget how bloody hot it is.
The Dismemberment Plan, “The Jitters”
The obvious cold-weather choice from these late, beloved post-harcore kids would have been “Spider In the Snow.” Skip one track later, though, and the chill in Travis Morrison’s voice freezes your spine (and youthful optimism) like an icicle. Close your eyes and the distant swells of slide-guitar sound like snow drifting across an open field. (Welcome to Unlocking Your Inner Inuit…)
Massive Attack, “Future Proof”
Could there be a subgenre more emotionally frigid than trip-hop? The opening track from the mostly-ignored 100th Window, this song boasts the kind of bass that cocoons and warms like the womb. Yes, I said “warms,” because Robert Del Naja’s reedy croak has all the icy sibilance of falling snow. It’s like listening to Old Man Winter whisper a lullabye. (Not that you’d want him anywhere near your kids…)
Meredith Monk, “Long Shadows II”
During a period of residence in a remote hotel in the Canadian Rockies, avant-garde vocalist Meredith Monk noticed her character mutating to mirror her frozen, rustic confines. She composed an album devoted to capturing her new vocal persona, Facing North, of which the closing track “Long Shadows II” is the riveting standout. Breathily cooed vocals have never ached with such tension. (Imagine if Björk and Eno had a baby.)
Nino Rota, “O Venezia Venaga Venusia”
From Rota’s crowning accomplishment, the flawlessly futurist score to Fellini’s Il Casanova, this haunting piece floats on the chinook whispers of a glass harmonica. As haunted, barren, and foreboding as Baffin Island. (No offense to the good people of Baffin Island, that is.)
During a cross-Canada roadtrip made in the latest weeks of winter, Drums and Wires was a fixture of our diurnal listening routine. Perhaps it’s just by association, then, but there was some synchronicity in the cool minimalism of the song and the surrounding fields of pure white void. (Spotted the pattern? High-shelf reverb, boys and girls.)
I’m fairly sure these guys could incite riots at will. But not those violent, punk-infused brawls of our past; the sheer joyfulness of Apes and Androids’ massive danceable madness would likely result in something different. Maybe a cross between Saturday Night Fever and a Sex Pistols gig. This thought didn’t occur to me until their last song Saturday night at Sin-č, “Creepy Girls.” The bandmates that had a free fist thrust it upwards during some particularly visceral a capella stabs. Many in the audience immediately joined in; most everyone else whooped and hollered enthusiastically at the impressive vocal feats. The atmosphere was a welcome change to the hands-at-the-sides protocol of many recent shows I’ve been to, and I’m confident that had Apes and Androids continued another 30 minutes, I would have had the dance riot I dreamed of.
The band has this great combination of deadly serious musicianship and whimsical style that doesn’t fail to entertain. The balloons, confetti, and bubbles that kicked off the gig made sure that no one took the night too seriously, while the tight arranging and commitment to furthering the art of rocking your ass were clear signs of the earnestness of their motives. Plus, the sheer numbers of instruments onstage were enough to instill a sense of respect. Each of the guitarists had a keyboard or synth in front of them as well, while the keyboardist had three, stacked like a rock tower of Babel. Add to that their collective voices (and extensive ear-training each possesses), and the simple amount of sound created was sufficient to boil the blood. But Apes and Androids aren’t noise rockers; the Queen comparisons they’ve drawn in the past are accurate. The glam get-up and hair certainly do nothing to discourage that, and neither does their propensity to make you severely and sincerely enjoy yourself.
And if they seem very polished for their age, it’s because they’ve been around longer than you realize. Most of their lineup has been carried over from Call Florence Pow, their original project that released a debut album in 2000. That song you were just raising your fist to, “Creepy Girls”? That’s technically a cover from Call Florence Pow’s 2002 EP, The Strange Situation. Make no mistake, they’re not noobs, and they definitely deserve the praise they’ve got coming. So go on, see them live! And you might want to wear some sweats; you’ll be participating.