Monday, November 30, 2009

Casually Encountering a Feature

I'm writing a feature on this local Cleveland band. And they rock.



Casual Encounters, folks. You heard it here first.

Gaga For Crazy Future Cat Ladies

Another thing: I don't claim to like Lady Gaga. But I'm into this song, and totally loving that she stole the Alexander McQueen alien shoes and incorporated them into her freakish circus show.

WATCH IT IF YOU HAVE NOT.

It's Me, Miley.

Back to popular music.

There are things in popular media today that I have found deep interest in. Well, let's not call it deep. But Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A." is awesomely bad and I want that 16-year-old girl's legs. Ok? Maybe I'll just go to Wal-Mart and buy some of her clothes and look young and stupid again. This song is the best thing I've heard by a girl who doesn't write her own music in a long time. She sounds like she's 20. I don't know how to compliment her because I don't think she's particularly talented. I guess I'll give the credit to the writers: Lukasz Gottwald, Claude Kelly and Jessica Cornish.

Miley Cyrus - Party in the U.S.A.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Never Be as Cool as You

The Thermals: You make it cool to be reckless. When I listen to you, I want to drink so much I pass out. Nobody has ever made getting high sound so damn fun. And your attitude is just plain badass. You know why? You aren’t trying to be all “hello, we are the representation of punk rock and we are badass kids.” You’re just, “hey dudes, let’s be young and drunk and stupid, and let’s have a hell of a time in the process.”

“We were high, we were alive, we were sick.” Some of my favorite dumb lyrics ever. It reminds me of all the kids at ACRN that I used to look up to. I never really could be that reckless or cool, but I know for a fact that you were. You would spend your last $10 on PBR, even if the only other thing in your fridge was ketchup. I SAW THAT HAPPEN, people. I felt cool by association. I was eating fresh fruit, and these kids were sweet enough to survive on alcoholism!

I never quite got the whole alcoholism thing down.

Beside the whole image/we don’t give a shit attitude thing, The Thermals make good music. (Wouldn’t it be funny if I didn’t elaborate and just called the music, “good”?) There are excellent punk riffs, half-yelled/half-sung lyrics, and really clever, basic chord progressions that sound simple enough for a drunken asshole to play. The feedback on “When We Were Alive” is so extreme at :52 that I used to think I was about to get hit by a car. It’s at the weirdest frequency. Did you know this when you recorded it?

“Yeah we were fools. But I still had my friends.” Damn straight.

And there’s the whole thing about how their albums are “concept albums.” I never really saw them for their depth and “concept usage,” but apparently this is the case as well.

All I know is that I love it to death, and I want to be young forever.

Acceptance

This post is a few days late due to bad internet connection. But I'm doing this thing where I try to embrace music I wouldn't normally allow into my eardrums.

Now, Christmas music... I don't think I'll ever get to a point where any form of merry seasonal music will pass into my body without giving me violent urges and inducing mad eye rolling. I'm sorry, ok? I'M SORRY. I'M A GRINCH. A SCROOGE.

But that's really beside the point. What this post represents is a general curiosity with all things foreign to my interest. Today, for example. My little, "gangster-thug/Top 40/whiny-boy-band/diva" loving sister (that is how I dub her, and she will never be able to reject that label because she doesn't read my fantabulous indie-rific blog, ha! nor does my cousin know about this side of me. tonight, she told me that whenever she and her roommate saw hipsters on the Upper East Side (yes, folks, that's Gossip Girl NYC territory we're talking about) she chuckles 'why don't they just go back to Brooklyn?'. ahem. i am friends with brooklyn people. at least i'd like to be. especially langhorne slim. and eugene mirman.)

Anyway, my sister. She likes horrifyingly embarrassing music. T-Pain regularly makes it onto her playlist. She enjoys, I dunno, Kelly Clarkson. She listens to songs where hoarse men croak about the cocaine. It's, frankly, an embarrassment to the family. I mean, who wants a sister who self-admittedly embraces the life of a down-and-out bling-wearing rapper who brags about his magnificent life in the ghetto? (Note to all: We are spoiled white girls who grew up in a suburb where the racial make-up was 3/4 white (usually Italian and Russian) and 1/4 Asian. Perhaps I exaggerate about the Asians. I had/have a LOT of awesome Asian friends.)

Ok, back to my sister. We were cooking all afternoon with my mother on this lovely Thanksgiving. Nicole saw fit to blast some blatantly inappropriate music. Cooking with mom is a good time for some CSN. Maybe Fleet Foxes. Paul Simon if you're feeling extra dangerous. She gets utterly stressed out when the volume goes above 5. Seriously. She had a slight panic attack about the sweet potatoes, until I pointed out that she was only freaking out about the obscenely loud Lil' Wayne song my sister was blasting. She nodded and chuckled. I turned down the music, and the sweet potatoes lived to a good ripe age. Until we ate them all.

I do, however, try my best to learn about popular music when my sister is home. I say, 'Nicole, educate me.' Yet, the funny thing is (and I don't know if this applies to all young children with questionable taste in Top 40 music or just her) she never really knows artists' names. I did manage, however, to extract tiny particles of information today. We were listening to Beyonce's "Diva."

ADMITTEDLY, that is a great song. Nicole, I give it up to you.

The next several posts will be dedications to embracing music I would normally brush aside.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

May 27, 2007

An entry I just found from my old blog, which was mostly personal. But even then, music seeped in:

so let me just talk about regina spektor for a second. she makes these crazy sounds out of her mouth like she's an angel one moment and then she can just scream things and they sound just as cool. when i see her this summer, i might have to get on my knees while witnessing her incredibleness. she is just too cool. i want to be a regina spektor. i will just be regina for a day and i will walk around and just sing to people on the street and walk around and whip out a keyboard and start banging on it. and then i will dance up a storm because i'm just so awesome. and the world will be so good just then.

"people are just people like you"

that's true. i think sometimes we lose sight of that. like me, for instance. i'm losing sight of the fact that regina is just a person, just like me. she's just a person who is damn good at making music.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Atlas Sound - Logos

I dedicate this blog post to my good friend Evan, who opened my eyes to Atlas Sound. I do not think I would have spent one second of my time listening to this project, which is an insanely good one by Bradford Cox of Deerhunter. Cox loves music, and he is all over the spectrum, making it with gusto. Noise, dreamy atmospherics, clean 60s pop, and the list goes on.

I don't think I'm really qualified to give a full review of the album, considering I've never heard other Atlas Sound recordings, and I don't even own a full Deerhunter album. (Which one should I get, guys?) I will, however, rant about the things about Logos that I love.

The first time I heard this album was on a bike ride near my grandmother's house. I nearly fell off my bike when I heard "Walkabout." You see, I recognized the song he loops in the background. It's by the Dovers, an unknown band from the 60s that should NEVER have been unknown. I put this band on the level of the Byrds and the Beach Boys and every other 60s surf/psychedelic/pop group that I love. (Read a hostile fan's rant about why they should have been famous on their fake myspace.) Anyway, the Dover's song, "What Am I Gonna Do" is pure sunshine and golden retrievers. Cox makes it into a dreamlike utopia of perfect harmony. I could cry when I hear it with all it's strange electronic blips that make it weirder and alien-like. When I say I could cry, I should specify. I mean a good cry, like the kind you have after you have a dream that you are madly in love with someone. You can't see their face. And then you wake up alone. But, I mean, it's a happy/sad cry!

Another song that almost kills me is "Sheila," and I'm not saying that just because the lyrics entail some sort of "marriage-proposal/suicide-pact" (according to Rolling Stone mag). It is just a fine ass pop song. If I was still a DJ, I might subject my listeners to a half hour of this song on repeat. Just because it's that good! You hear this hooky three-chord beginning with simple vocals and guitars and lyrics like "we will grow old/and when we die we'll bury ourselves." Then the bridge comes - "cuz no one wants to die alone." And it gets all spooky, in a totally non-Halloween way. In a tragic love story kind of way. I want to dance, I want to curl up in the fetal position, I want to shout the lyrics from the top of my house, I want to hug my dog. This song makes me want to do something, I just don't know what it is. The conflicting message and the amazing musical structure confuse me, in such a good way.

And the rest of the album floats together in a way that strangely connects all the oddities and specialness into a bundle of marshmallow. Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier and Panda Bear both add vocals. There are creepy things going on throughout. "My halo burned a hold in the sky. My halo burned a hole in the ground." What do those lyrics mean? I have no idea, but I dig them. I like the echoey reverb throughout, and the alien-ified vocals on "Kid Klimax." I like how sometimes it sounds like the album is raining, and sometimes you feel the sun shining through. I just can't describe the many things you feel when you listen to Logos because it's too much. And too much analyzing would ruin the beauty I think.

What do you guys think about this album?

Atlas Sound - Sheila

Buy the album here.

Half Price Shopping

Apparently the Half Price Book Store near my house also sells Half Price records. This was recently brought to my attention.

Two days ago, I had what I would like to call a VERY SUCCESSFUL shopping spree.

Mint condition pressings of Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run and Fleetwood Mac's Rumours.
Greatest hits collections of The Byrds, The Four Tops, and (fine, I admit this purchase) Cat Stevens.

$22. Unbeatable?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Blakroc - S/T

Let’s be honest: when the Black Keys echo through a big set of speakers, hip-hop is the farthest thing from your mind. Their soulful rock has helped defined the sound of the modern blues. Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach capitalize on the framework of rock and roll. Their fierce rhythms and wildly unrestrained, rip-roaring guitars are timeless. That’s because the Keys stick with what works, whether it be straight whisky or a solid blues chord. The new collaboration between the Akron duo and 11 hip-hop and R&B artists – called BlakRoc – may come as a surprise to casual listeners. Yet Carney says he and Auerbach have been huge hip-hop fans since they started making music. For 11 days, the two shared a studio with some of their heroes – RZA, Mos Def, Q-Tip, Ludacris, Nicole Wray, and Raekwon, among others. Instead of taking the driver’s seat, they let the MCs front the show. The eerie reverb of the Keys’ blues creeps through the spaces between Wray’s lamenting howls and Raekwon’s smart prose. It’s fun to hear Ludacris and ‘Ol Dirty Bastard rap about what they know best on “Coochie,” especially when fuzzy guitar and exploding horns resonate behind them. This is the rap-rock record Lil’ Wayne has been promising us for a year, but it sounds like this crew had a lot more fun.

BlakRoc - Stay Off the F%^&$# Flowers (ft. Raekwon)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

Teach Me Your Ways


Yeah, a private guitar lesson with Aaron Dessner of The National sounds like a pretty rad idea.

Q TV also has lessons with Vampire Weekend, Tegan & Sara, and Sondre Lerche here. But Dessner's definitely the coolest.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Matthew Perryman Jones, Ingrid Michaelson - Live Review

Singer-songwriters tend to be the bane of any rock critic’s existence. We are bored of hearing about their petty little romance problems. We cannot bear another note of simple, unoriginal guitar strumming. And we hate, let’s emphasize hate, getting stuck behind mushy couples making out all over the place. It’s pretty much the least cool way to spend a Saturday night.

But there are always exceptions, and if Bob Dylan isn’t coming to the local venue and Elliott Smith (RIP) isn’t coming back to life, we just have to hope that some true talent still exists. Matthew Perryman Jones and Ingrid Michaelson proved that it does to a sold-out show at the Beachland Ballroom on Halloween Eve. Fans didn’t want to miss a great show – or holiday – so they came dressed up and ready to hear some deeply meditative songs.

A few songs into his set, Jones pointed to the crowd, asking a fan “Are you Waldo?” “Yes,” the guy responded, to which Jones replied, “Found you! Dude, you are being way too obvious.” What wasn’t so clear is Jones’ style. The Nashville-based artist has said that he loves melodramatic love songs, but his voice doesn’t come off as overly sentimental. He balanced his tenor somewhere between rugged and smooth, between strong and overbearing, and between pop and country. Instead of sticking with one genre, Jones fills in the holes that link several together.

Fans screamed when he covered Patty Griffin’s “Top of the World,” and cracked up when he stopped a song in the middle to help the rhythmically-challenged crowd clap along with “When It Falls Apart.”

The fun didn’t end when Jones left the stage. Michaelson integrated candy throwing, singing contests (one half of the crowd was dubbed “stallions” and the other “hairy mammoths”), audience choreography, and sarcastic storytelling into her set of bouncy love/ex-love songs. Accompanied by a 5-piece band, the spitfire sang her heart out, her voice dipping and twisting at all the right times during songs like “The Hat” and “Be Ok.”

She improvised a new song on her keyboard, playing with one of the tootsie rolls she hadn’t yet thrown into the crowd. It was moments like this, the utterly spontaneous and spunky, that set Michaelson apart from some of her dull singer-songwriter counterparts.

While group sing-a-longs brought a piece of childhood into her live show, Michaelson also joked about four year olds smoking pot and got the girls in her band together to chant a ladies anthem under the moniker “Vag Force.”

We may be too old for trick-or-treating, but rock critics and fans alike are never too old for some good old-fashioned fun.

New Beach House

I need to listen to the whole thing. I am doing that as I type this. But I'm just going to throw this out there:

THE NEW BEACH HOUSE ALBUM, TEEN DREAM, IS HEAVENLY.

Holy crap, I'm so excited about this. Creaky organs, analog recording, ghostly harmonies, warming sensibilities... Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand have done it again! They are geniuses! I bow at their feet.