Friday, December 31, 2010

Joanna Newsom - A Musical Grandma?

Ok, so I can see that this could potentially come off as a really weird, deranged blog entry. But I'm going to risk sounding insane and just get some ideas out there.

First of all, I have not really ever understood Joanna Newsom. The obsession with her strange voice and her strange, cryptic songs that have never taken me to a secret land. At least not one that I enjoy. I am sorta fascinated with her, though, after reading some extensive piece on her in the New York Times that I think is an amazing journalistic undertaking, and one of the most fascinating things I've read this year. (Jody Rosen - who are you?! Can I be you?!!)

Back to the point. I don't really get her music, and I certainly did not buy her three album undertaking. I've heard amazing things about her and it from friends whose musical tastes I certainly respect (Brett, that'd be you). Certainly. I'm a word repeater. Ugh sue me.

Well, I was going through one of the two music blogs that I follow regularly, and one of this dude's favorite songs of the year was Joanna Newsom's "Good Intentions Paving Company." And I have to admit, IT'S KIND OF BRILLIANT. It's brilliant in this totally cheesy, old grandma way. Like, seriously, I'm picturing the grandmother character in the musical Pippin, who goes around singing words of wisdom to the younger generation. Or I also imagine the older woman character in Harold and Maude (ugh, her name would be Maude, right? I'm and idiot). She's a free-spirited hippie who falls in love with a young man, and it's totally adorable-deranged. I love it. She's a quirky grandma, and that's kind of how I feel Joanna Newsome is - at least in this song.

I used to be quite the musical theater fan in my younger days. (I speak like I'm 50, right? I swear, I'm in my early 20s.) But I used to be in all kinds of musicals and go see them, and I still really enjoy them. I have lost my interest in listening to soundtracks outside of the theater though, so I really wouldn't be caught dead with musical songs on my ipod. (Ok, ok, I have a couple songs from Pippin and the entire West Side Story soundtrack. And my favorite is The Last Five Years. Please don't tell on me. I'm going to lose some serious street cred here.)

I'm going to conclude from this entry that I quite like "Good Intentions Paving Company," no matter how strangely maudlin I find it. Great melody. This could be the premise of a theatrical production. I would actually really like that. Screw U2's Spiderman on Broadway. Let's do a Joanna Newsom musical. She's not trying to be cool, and you know what? I think it's working for her...

Joanna Newsom - Good Intentions Paving Company

OMG I just saw this live video of her performing it. She's a stage freak. This needs to become a musical, or die.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Banjo or Freakout - 105

Banjo or Freakout is a guy who plays a billion instruments and lives in London. He made this nice pre-sleeptime song for you. It's got that nice don't-worry-about-a-thing vibe. Hug your pillow, your dog, or your lover. And watch out for his first full-length in February.

Banjo or Freakout - 105

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Music Quote of the Day

I love this because it's incredibly surprising given the huge difference in genre between the two bands, but also because I respect and love both of these guys' most recent albums so, so much. I love that people can have such wide-ranging taste in music.

"Another really great drumming record, even though it’s not incredibly complex, is... I really love the way the drums sound on the new National record, even though that’s a totally different kind of music from what we do. I just really like the sound of the drums technically, and just the way that the drums are played and the way that the drumbeats fit with the songs. But I don’t think we’re going to make a record that sounds like The National. No offense to The National – [Brian and I] really love that band.” -David Prowse of Japandroids in an interview I did with him last week

Generationals - Trust

Oh my gosh! Do you remember what it feels like to be dancing in circles in your backyard when the grass is green and the air is fresh and the sun is beating down on you? I mean, I know, I know, it's winter. But just think about it! It's pure joy, and you want to eat red popsicles and invite over all your best friends and talk about your favorite songs and then play fetch with your dog.

Ok, so listen to this song by Generationals, who are actually two members of the old band The Eames Era. If you didn't work in college radio, you probably don't know who they are/were. Let's leave it at this: totally cutesy, almost sickeningly sweet. (But not sick at all! So catchy great!) So now Generationals have come back with this song where guitars reverberate like sunshine, drums pop like bubble wrap, and the chorus is infinitely more catchy than whatever stupid thing Kanye is saying this week.

Gahhhhh happy holidays and go DANCE!

Generationals - Trust

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Deerhunter Hits the Target

I’ve been carelessly minding my own business in the music department lately. I am, number one, a big slacker, as of late. I will attribute my upcoming job transition and the fact that I am moving all my possessions to a small apartment in Louisville. The good news is that I’m starting my own life. The bad news is I’m not sure how much Cleveland events/music I’ll be covering. I’m going back to journalism, baby!

Once I’m settled, though, I plan to bring No Mistake in Mixtape to its former glory, posting more than once a month. Life gets in the way of blogging and hobbies sometimes, doesn’t it?

One thing I couldn’t avoid raving about is Deerhunter. I reviewed their Cleveland show on here a month or so back. That was before I listened to Halcyon Digest. Ok, I listened a couple times through. I know that sounds horrible. I was reviewing a concert. I barely knew the new material. Kids, it happens. Music writers don’t always know that much about everything. Sometimes I have to work solely off observations.

Halcyon Digest has been stuck on repeat in my brain and on my ipod and computer and work computer and grooveshark and any other way I consume music. It haunts me in the most alluring way. Bradford Cox’s vocals have a distant, ghosty atmosphere that I really couldn’t pick up in a live setting, where his guitar was shaking my body like a tornado circling closer to the trees, slowly beginning to crack the branches in pieces.

His guitar loops have these circular ways of getting back to THE POINT. There is always this one point that I think each song centers on. He squiggles around it, and then he floats off to another universe, slowly circling back, his guitar coming to that same point of concentration.

Some of these songs are horrendously depressing. I picture a room of babies crying in a science fiction novel, after some evil creature of the future shows them how terrifyingly hopeless their lives will be. Something straight out of Brave New World, where they hypnotize and teach the babies what they should think and believe while they sleep.

There is always light shining through the dark cracks of the songs, though. “Revival” has a tiny shivering chime sound that sneaks out of the guitar, adding a brightness.

Forget what I said about everything being depressing. Listen to “Memory Boy” and tell me you don’t feel so full of hope and dreams and opportunities that you could pee and it would come out as a rainbow.

“Desire Lines” is a really great Strokes/Interpol hybrid. Lockett Pundt sings like a Julian Casablancas duplicate, and the dark moody “let’s go to a club and sit in the corner and sulk” vibe is classic Interpol. Maybe I just make that comparison because those are the two main bands who got me into indie rock? I don’t know. This song has the best squiggling guitar lines, and you feel creepy cool when you listen.

And let’s not even get me started on “Helicopter,” which pretty much rules my universe. It has this hugeness to it that triggers an emotional breakdown. I don’t usually get this unexplainably touched and emotional by songs unless they’re by U2 or The National or Elliott Smith.

I feel like the purpose of the 7 and a half minute “He Would Have Laughed” is to serve really appreciative music fans at 2:45am after a long night of drinking. Cuz you can just sit on your couch – get out that ottoman to rest your legs, it’s been a long day – and sink in and enjoy. It’s minimal, and it’s got a relaxed, spaced out vibe. The real purpose of the song was to pay tribute to Jay Reatard. (That’s a lot better than my proposed purpose.)

The weirdest thing about this Deerhunter rave is that I don’t typically write disjointed album reviews where I make stupid baby nightmare and tornado comparisons on this blog. But the last time I did this, I’m pretty sure it was when I was writing about an Atlas Sound album (that’s Bradford Cox’s solo project). Something about his music just gets deep within my skin and makes me want to be a weirder person.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Year in Sum

I'm listening to Japandroids, and I'm reading things about them on the internet. I'm letting the simplicity seep into me, remembering the rash anger I felt a year and a half ago when I was listening to it for the first time. I was going through a transition from college back home, searching for a job and a future. More than anything, I was angry. I think I felt entitled. I felt like I deserved to get a job I wanted in my field. I thought all my hard work over the past four years should automatically yield to immediate results. I thought things were going to be easier, and I thought I'd have places to go and friends to live with. Instead, I was lonely and lost and really unlucky. The economy was bottoming out, and I was one of millions of casualties. A fresh graduate with nowhere to go.

So much has changed in the past year. I went through so many uncertainties and made choices I wasn't sure about. I spent a lot of time with my parents and my dog. And I made some friends. Some really great ones. I got pretty darn good at my job. I did my best to keep up with music, even though college radio was no longer keeping me hip. I bordered on depression, I had some amazing victories, but mostly I changed my entire outlook.

Instead of entitlement, I got appreciative. I'm not always going to understand the purpose of what life throws at me. I'll probably sob to Elliott Smith and sing really loudly to The Joshua Tree. I'll probably jump around my room to M.I.A and Matt & Kim, and I'll cry to Deerhunter. (I'm really freakin emotional, ok? Just accept me!) Life is just what you make it. And I'm totally about the small accomplishments and the small joys.

I'm moving again. Starting a new job, starting a new life. Starting from scratch. This time, Japandroids' Post-Nothing doesn't resonate with me. I'm not angry. I don't miss a reckless life or insane late-night adventures. I don't care about hot musicians with shaggy hair (k that might be a lie). I'm growing up a little. I love this album still. But I love it for different reasons. It brings back memories for a very specific time in my life. I don't have this same sense of rebellion.

I don't have a soundtrack for this transition yet. (Although, with a move to Louisville, I'm thinking about getting back on the My Morning Jacket train really quickly.) I'm ready for the journey.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Songs that Make you Long

I have a thing for songs that make me want to live in other places.

Today, let's do Los Angeles.


First, quaint and beautiful.


Next, spicy and exhilarating.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

John Vanderslice - White Wilderness

The breathtaking clarity of sound on John Vanderslice’s seventh full-length album is less surprising than the twisted chord progressions and ominous overtones. After all, his production talents have always been one of his strengths. Vanderslice’s San Francisco recording studio, Tiny Telephone, is a haven for musicians like Beulah, who recorded When Your Heartstrings Break there. Instead of turning to his usual hyperperfected digital tinkering, however, Vanderslice finished the album with the Magik*Magik Orchestra, Tiny Telephone’s resident musicians, in three days. Under the direction of Minna Choi, the orchestra helps Vanderslice shape his most lush record. The swelling strings of “Convict Lake” are so overwhelming, if you played it underwater, it might make dolphins cry.

Though lyrically intimate, White Wilderness is a grand affair. Verses are separated by gentle bursts of piano, horns, and chimes. Trombones menacingly huff atop “The Piano Lesson.” The effect isn’t necessarily a pretty one. Pieces of the record challenge listeners with instrumental combinations that come off as troublesome when layered together. The title track details a trip through what sounds like a contemporary interpretation a Lord of the Rings-type journey—snowy, dark, and difficult. “Overcoat” splashes around with a squiggly woodwind introduction, embracing a more upbeat rhythm that might be familiar to fans of Vanderslice’s jumpier 2007 release, Emerald City. Most of White Wilderness, though, shows his softer side. It’s a welcome development in his long and diverse career, which continues to reveal Vanderslice’s remarkable creativity and willingness to evolve.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Slacker Nostalgia


There are so many things that are wrong with this video.

First of all, it is a horrifying remake of Grease, with a poor Sandy transformation that is just downright degrading. Instead of going from sweet to sassy, the girl goes from geeky adorable to slutty.

Second, Jordan Knight, you have the worst style of all time. Turtleneck/leather jacket/baggy pants? This was not cool in 1999, when this video came out, or ever!

Third, this guy was about 30 years old when he made this video. 30! A little old to be doing bad high school cliche movie-music video remakes.

Fourth, I think the guy who did Darrin's Dance Grooves (also known as the best infomercial of my late childhood) - I guess his name would be Darrin, right? - choreographed this. And it shows. The little finger wiggles? Laughable, and so very admirable in their own self-importance.

YET. BUT. HOWEVER.

This is also one of the most catchy songs of the '90s! I forget about it for years, but when I hear it again, it has not lost any of it's amazingly cheezy-fabulous aura! Plus, a 30-year-old Jordan Knight seducing me with a turtleneck and really embarrassing dance moves still gets me going... and I think that's a testament to his vocal crooning power. Long live the '90s. I mean, yeah riot grrl. Yeah grunge. But let's not forget where I spent most of my time - in my friends' basements dancing to the Backstreet Boys. This is important history.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bear Hands - What a Drag

So I was minding my own business, listening to some Beach House as I watched the Cleveland Browns dominate. All of a sudden, Teen Dream ended, and this great catchy song came on, and I had to leave my facebook conversation, stop trying to stalk Tapes 'n Tapes' publicist, and click on to iTunes to figure out what wonderful new band was coming through my headphones.

I have this thing called download compulsive disorder. I read two music blogs, I listen to the songs they post, and then if I like them, I download them. I often leave those songs hidden somewhere on my external hard drive, where they often rot and expire while I listen to other new things.

Every once in a while, however, these miscellaneous downloads lead to a magnificent discovery, months or years later!

Thus, I present you with Bear Hands, who Pitchfork says (I couldn't find any other internet happenings with this band) chugs Coronas between songs and has a beastly bass player. I can hear Modest Mouse and some of the raw guitar I'm liking from Ted Leo and So Cow. Can't believe they're coming to Cincinnati over Cleveland. Come on Flowerbooking! Get with the program. Send the lame bands to Cinci, and the good ones up to Cleveland.

Bear Hands // "What A Drag" from Cantora Records on Vimeo.



Bear Hands - What a Drag

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mixtape of the Week - 11.5.10

It's been FOREVER since I posted a mixtape, and it's time. The theme is Home vs. the World. My life feels like a tug-of-war between my mellow home life and my insane travel schedule. We start at home, travel to beaches, cities, and new adventures, and end at home.

Mixtape of the Week 11.5.10 - Take me Home - Click here to download on Mediafire.

1. Glasser - Home

Obsessed with the tribal time signatures and the harmonies that float through the air like a thousand veils in the wind.
2. Dale Earnheart Jr. Jr. - Vocal Chords
The band with the worst name makes up for it with laid back pipes and a beach cookout vibe.
3. Jenny & Johnny - Big Wave
Girlfriend & Boyfriend, writing the songs I might write, you know, if I played an instrument and had a boyfriend.
4. Matt & Kim - Red Paint
This brings Hot Chip to mind because the geeky synths sliver around all the other great parts of this song like an epidemic.
5. The Chap - We Work in Bars
Almost as thrilling as Earlimart's "We Drink on the Job" was to my 18-year-old self. But this one feels whimsical. And is the first song that makes me consider moving to Europe and becoming a bartender.
6. Belle & Sebastian - I Want the World to Stop
I'm sorry, but how do you not love this song the minute you hear it? Pure pop glory.
7. Kelly Stoltz - Pinecone
I listened to this song on repeat for an entire week when Sub Pop first sent it to me. I gave it a break. I came back to it. Not sure if this is possible, but I love it more. It's kinda Beatles/60s, and it's kind of cheesy (jazz flute), and I'm ok with that. I'm more than ok. I'm great.
8. Sun Airway - Waiting on You
How many people am I going to have to brag about Philadelphia's Sun Airway to until they become huge? This song floats on air, hovering above all other songs. It is on a higher plane. It is my dog, if she sprouted wings and lost her attitude and became graceful. Actually, on second thought, it's nothing like my dog.
9. Motorifik - Ghosts
Everyone compares everyone to U2, but I'm going to compare this to U2. I own every U2 album, listened to them every day of my childhood, and went to see them when I was 10 at the stadium in Columbus. Therefore I can sort of legitimately claim to know and love U2, thus making my comparison of Motorifik to U2 only slightly superficial. This song just has a bigness and a greater purpose. It has a profundity.
10. Deerhunter - Helicopter
Music to be blissful to. I just want to lay down and think about the significance of the world.
11. Phantogram - As Far as I Can See
Did any album in 2010 have more amazing singles than Phantogram's Eyelid Moves? Maybe. But these sound so original and really special. This song is quiet, and it's on the edge, a lethal combination.
12. Cloud Nothings - Hey Cool Kids
Lo-fi, amazing melody, play-on-repeat caliber.
13. Sufjan Stevens - Futile Devices
Good ol' Sufjan left us this peaceful, gorgeous folk tune. It was the calm before the storm of The Age of Adz , which twisted our minds in ways we didn't know it could.
14. The Tallest Man on Earth - I Won't Be Found (Daytrotter Session from '09)

Sweden's Kristian Matsson has a voice that knocks me down on my knees. I can't help but completely melt every time I hear this. Not sure why Grey's Anatomy hasn't caught on to this yet.
15. Villagers - Home
Conor O'Brien is my songwriting hero. My next post will be an in-depth interview I did with him for Under the Radar, where he reveals to me how he makes his magic.

What songs am I missing? What do you love?

Share the love.

Glasser - Home

Are we in heaven or what?

Happy weekend. Bliss out.

Best Coast vs. Jenny & Johnny

It could be 31 degrees, icicles dripping down the sides of my gutters and hanging off my eyebrows. I could be struggling to breathe, the wind catching in my lungs like a trap, suctioning all life from my chest.

It could be the kind of day where your arms feel sticky, as if they were traps for mosquitoes. The zipper on your top burns marks into your chest. Sweat drips from your hair.

I don't care what it is. I don't care how cold or how hot or if I'm on a business trip in Arizona or I'm hibernating under my covers. I could be in France, I could be in Zimbabwe. I might be stepping onto a plane, I might be digging a hole in the sand.

I don't care.

Best Coast makes the kind of music that just makes me feel good. It's the kind of carefree whimsy that I want my every action to reflect. It's 60's and it's modern, it's the past and it's so very right now. It's edgy and it's sugary. It's everything at once, and it's brutal and honest, and sometimes you get this unmistakable urge to blurt out the lyrics at the top of your lungs.

I don't care that you say it's simple and vacant and that Bethany Cosentino makes shallow, shallow songs about her selfish life. Don't pretend like you aren't selfish and self-righteous and indulgent sometimes. You are probably selfish all the time. (Unless you have kids. I've heard that changes things.) And don't pretend like her music has less worth than some more snobbish high art form.

Don't put her on a list of "overrated albums of the year." Just don't even make those lists. Those lists are worthless and hurtful and aren't contributing anything productive to our society. I talk about bands that bug me all day long, but I'm not going to waste my time or anyone else's writing it down.

Best Coast is relatable and it's easy, and sometimes I don't want to have to try that hard to like music. We're not talking Ne-Yo here. We're talking real songs and real instruments and real talent. But it's not challenging. For a change, that's nice.

Jenny & Johnny: I haven't listened to you much. I enjoy a does of Rilo Kiley every now and then, and I have been championing Johnathan Rice since he released Further North in 2007. And let me tell you: nobody cared about Rice in 2007. I couldn't even convince my mom to listen to him, let alone my college radio pals. But I never was the kind of fiend that sat like a really drool-y dog waiting for a denta-bone as I anticipated the next Jenny Lewis album.

That said, with my limited knowledge of Jenny & Johnny separately and collectively, I must say, I love the song, "Big Wave." It's airy - some badass guitars cut through big huge passages of sunshine and openness. Lewis' vocals are the perfect mix of whiny and strong, and the chorus is as glorious as any pop song released in 2010.

Still, all I can think of is Best Coast.

How is this song even a little bit different than Best Coast's "Crazy For You"? Same woozy oohs and ahhs, same summer glory. West coast, best coast, best couple, couple of hits. I'm all over the sound. It's not original, nor is it new or special.

Yet it's wonderful.
Crazy For You by Best Coast by Pam Ribbeck

Big Wave by Jenny And Johnny

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mark Ronson - Catchiest Song of the Year?

I mean, really. I have not been this psyched up after listening to a song since Estelle and Kanye West did "American Girl." Mark Ronson's latest work - "Bang Bang Bang" - off his debut, Record Collection, is to die for. I want to bounce, I want to shuffle, I want to swagger. (I'm not really much of a swagger-er. I probably look like I'm faking a bad limp. Once, when I was a junior in high school, they cast me as the Artful Dodger in the school musical. He's Oliver Twist's best friend, and I was supposed to teach him how to be a pickpocket. The directors of the play spent about 3 weeks trying to teach me how to walk more like a little boy. I think I really just ended up looking like I was limping and sticking my crotch out. I mean, can I really help that I walk like a lady? These are things that take lifetimes to change. I'm not Halle Berry or anything. I can't just be a Monster's Ball or get fat immediately or go all Hilary Swank and win awards for playing a man. I am just not that talented.)

Anyway, this video is pretty great. Without further ado, I present to you, the catchiest song of 2010. I didn't say the best - I said the catchiest.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Matt & Kim - Sidewalks

The energy that Matt & Kim draw forth in their music is equivalent to an army of 10 year olds riding on pogo sticks with a sugar high. Like their raucous live show, the Brooklyn-based duo’s third album continues their music tenure with the kind of sprightly joy that could make even the most jaded cynic crack a smile. Sidewalk’s beats bounce side to side with a structured rhythmic power that never feels too anxious. The secret lies in pure simplicity; you can hear every single layer of each song. While the recipe seems simple—squiggly synths and catchy keyboard earworms mixed with an all-over-the-place beat—Matt & Kim throw magic dust into their drinking water. Nerdy electronics zip through “Red Paint” like bolts of lightning, heightening the song to exhilarating levels of adrenaline. Matt’s vocals are easy to sing along with, especially in the hooky first single, “Cameras,” where they declare to the Facebook generation, “no time for cameras/we’ll use our eyes instead.” It might be the most genuine anthem the duo has ever written. After all, Matt & Kim’s lyrics are often a collection of specific observations of life around them, citing specific examples of everyday life, like “sleeping on the ground/grass is much greener from down here” in “Ice Melts” and “notebooks filled with lines/and the clocks filled with good times” in “Where You’re Coming From.” Who to better explore the delight of capturing life through memories instead of digital images? “Silver Tiles” builds up slowly, opening up to the ultimate party jam, with talks of hopes and friends amidst spazzy synth buzzing and warm melodies. While many of us gave up childhood bliss long ago, selling our pogo sticks and switching our candy addictions to coffee, Matt & Kim are still around to bring the fun back into life.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On Cloud 9 with Cloud Nothings

Find the original article below in the Cleveland Scene. I love this paper and the city it lives in. Oh, and check out Cloud Nothings Monday at the Beachland Ballroom because I cannot and I guarantee it's going to be amazing.

Dylan Baldi is a music digger, one of those kids who searches obsessively on websites and at record stores for new tunes. He's vague about his actual sources, but you get the impression that he gets his favorite new low-fi records from an obscure noise blog written by some kid in Idaho or maybe from a friend of a friend who runs a tiny record label outside of Seattle.

Most people probably never heard of the bands Baldi says are his current faves: Julian Lynch, Big Trouble, Ducktails. But Baldi — who records as Cloud Nothings — doesn't care how big they are, and he certainly isn't paying attention to their production values. What matters most to him are the melodies at the core of the songs.

But don't mistake him for one of those cooler-than-you PBR-sippin' music snobs you want to slap silly. The Westlake native laughs as he confesses that his favorite melody right now can be heard in a Top 10 song: Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream."

The 19-year-old Baldi's low-fi recordings are a long way from Perry's mass-produced pop dreams — he plugged a microphone into his computer to make every single instrument heard on his debut album, Turning On — but they feature the same catchy hooks that make them just as irresistible. "It's definitely the way the melody works over everything else," he says.

That's no more evident than in the first song Baldi wrote under the Cloud Nothings moniker, "Hey Cool Kid." At the time, he was a Case Western Reserve University student. And as he had done before with other songs, he posted "Hey Cool Kid" on his MySpace page.

But there was something special about this one. Otherwise, the song would have simply rotted in cyberspace like so many other cuts posted by kids making music in their parents' basements. But "Hey Cool Kid" caught on, thanks to a familiar-sounding intro groove that eventually settles into a big, catchy, and super-clean melody.

It's hard to make out a lot of the track's nuances. For one thing, the highs and lows are pretty much nonexistent. For another, Baldi's voice is mostly hidden inside a repeating guitar riff. The casual nature of Baldi's songs gives them a sense of coolness and whimsy — a happy medium between toe-tapping dance rock and sleepytime indie rock.

But Cloud Nothings' music is also scruffy, loaded with charisma, and down-to-earth fun. You can't understand what Baldi is singing about most of the time, but that's not the point. "It's not about the lyrics," he says. "I write about imaginary scenarios that could happen to people."

The music's charm comes from the low-fi sound of the homemade recordings. Baldi says he made the record in his parents' basement out of necessity, but it ended up becoming a badge of honor. "Luckily, [low-fi recording is] a cool thing to do right now," he laughs. "It happened to work out for me."

After hearing some of Cloud Nothing's music, Bridgetown Records — a small label in La Puente, California — contacted Baldi about releasing Turning On at the end of 2009. The album was recently reissued by Carpark, a bigger indie label that will put out Cloud Nothings' second album during the first couple months of 2011. Baldi is working on that record now.

In March, Baldi gathered a few local musicians and went on his first tour as Cloud Nothings. He booked the entire run himself, asking bands around the country if Cloud Nothings could open for them. They now have someone to do that kind of stuff for them, which is a huge weight off Baldi's shoulders — especially since the group will soon be heading overseas for its first European tour.

Famous landmarks (Baldi says he's pumped to see the Eiffel Tower), sold-out shows (Cloud Nothings have opened for buzz band Wavves), and a booming blogosphere fan base — not bad for a kid who was making music in his parents' basement not so long ago.

The biggest problem these days is keeping sane during long van rides from city to city. So Baldi and his bandmates listen to Jock Jam mixes, fret over their haircuts, and talk about their favorite Cleveland restaurants. Sure beats wondering if the washer and dryer are going to mess up that song you're working on.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Deerhunter - Live Review - Beachland Ballroom

At a Deerhunter show, you live and die by Bradford Cox’s guitar. While the remaining three members hold each song steady, Cox submerges the atmosphere in rushing distortion and sporadic soloing, all laced with incredible technical skill.

When the Atlanta-based band stopped through Cleveland last night in support of their fourth album, Halcyon Digest, they played a set list heavy on their new tunes, mixing in older audience favorites like “Don’t Stop.” As they ripped through their opening song, “Desire Lines,” Cox lifted his guitar straight up into the air, deliberately picking a soaring riff while rhythm guitarist Lockett Pundt held the vocals. Cox took over the mic for most of the set, with Pundt reappearing later in the night with “Fountain Stairs.”

Halfway through the set, “Memory Boy” and “Rainwater Cassette Exchange” were rendered short, punchy, and rhythmic-based, striking a contrast to “Don’t Cry,” where the pace changes several times and crescendos hit the crowd like sledgehammers. At the end of the song, Cox proudly told the audience he wrote it as a tribute to Cleveland’s own Pere Ubu.

At times, the guitars felt like weapons, Cox moving his hand impossibly fast across the bridge and rendering a ‘60s surf vibe into something scarier and more ambient. Yet Deerhunter also released the crowd into a relaxed trance, closing with an extended version of “He Would Have Laughed,” the last song on Halcyon Digest.

The contrast between clean and dirty sounds, both in terms of feedback levels and melodic succinctness, was a constant reminder that Deerhunter cannot be pinned down. While most of the crowd walked out of the ballroom dazed with the show’s intensity, Cox remained on the stage, his ax aside, to talk with fans.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Avi Buffalo Interview

I did this interview back in March, and another last week. I'm totally obsessed with the thought that Avi puts behind his answers, and his quiet insight. More in-depth article to come!

Avi Buffalo Interview by nomistakeinmixtape

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Avi Buffalo Dispels Rumors

NME did an interview with Avi Buffalo last week, making a big deal that his sophomore album is influenced by Dr. Dre. As I suspected, the whole thing was exaggerated.

As told to me by Avi,

“That was just terrible, evil music journalists. The line the guy asked me was what I was interested in making as a record, and I used The Chronic as an example that kind of takes the listener on a journey or an adventure. It has things like sound effects between songs, and I thought that was neat, and I’d like to learn how to organically produce something like that in the studio. And of course I hear that the headline is ‘Avi Buffalo Draws Influence from Dr. Dre for His Next Record,’ which is totally and completely blown out of proportion and not one example of something. All sorts of sounds, songs we’ve been listening to on the road from Arthur Russell to The Chronic to The Band, and John Lennon, and just good old music is what we’re probably going to want to be drawing from.”


Photo from OC Weekly

I Want:

a table made of disco balls.


When I was little, I used to dance around the family room table with my dad and sister to Hall & Oates and even U2. All the time. This activity would be so much livelier with three disco balls in the middle of the table!

Image from Fashion Toast.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Someone Please Remind Me

to write a long blog post about my sincere love for Dashboard Confessional, and how I think it shaped my entire adolescence within the short period of two years.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Solid Gold

Every day should feel like this. Make it happen for yourself.


I'm going to hire the Eagles of Death Metal to follow me everywhere I go, playing this song.

SWEAT!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz

Sufjan Stevens is not above using a vocoder – the same digital technology that gives Kanye West and T-Pain their signature alien-smooth vocals. In fact, on his first original album since 2005’s Illinois, a collection of acoustic and banjo tracks backed by an orchestra, Stevens doesn’t shy away from the extraterrestrial or bizarre. You wouldn’t expect it from The Age of Adz’s sweet-as-a-cherry opener, “Futile Devices,” but the album swirls with complex, spastic electronic material. Three minutes into Adz, you hear the spaceships landing and laser guns hitting wall after wall of psychedelic, ominous synthesizers. The Michigan native adds tormented vocals, a brass section, choirs, and string instruments to his electronic compositions. It’s not his first time Stevens has gone beat-crazy; his second album, released 9 years ago, showcased his interest in electronic music in an even more extreme setting – without vocals. On Adz, he pushes artistic boundaries, at times challenging his listeners to open their minds to a style that stretches far from the quiet beauty of religious songs like “To Be Alone With You,” or the detailed storytelling of “John Wayne Gacy, Jr,” which both contain little more than an acoustic guitar. Stevens spends 25 minutes closing the album with the mind-bending “Impossible Soul.” It encapsulates everything the enigmatic songwriter has been striving for: beauty, manic musicianship, creative fusion, and most importantly, a sort of alienation – both sonic and literal.

Sufjan and Vegas Nightclubs

I can't say I'm happy to be back in Cleveland, but I can't say I'm unhappy. I feel like I've had months worth of experiences in the past week. Things are moving at breakneck speed, and I mean that in more serious terms than Tokyo Police Club on their last album. I'm floating in and out of my own understanding of myself. What is my identity? Who in the world am I? Do any other 23 year olds feel so puzzled by the constantly changing nature of their lives?

I don't know whether to write about Sufjan Stevens and his new incomprehensible album, or about the nightclub scene in Las Vegas. For some reason, neither of them feels real to me.

-----------

We stepped into Tao, a club in the Venitian. We went through the red ropes, insisting that Javier at the Red Rock put us on the VIP list.

When we stepped inside, what we saw looked a lot like what some dude captured on his blog. Nearly nude Asians washing each other in a bathtub. Glasses of $1100 champagne, passed into our hands without questions asked or money exchanged. Girls in thongs that glimmered with the same kind of string lights you might hang up in an overly cheesy dorm room. Men in loose ties. Waitresses with four pens in their cutoff jean short pockets.

Sitting on the couch, this Ohio girl repeatedly tried to shut her jaw, which seemed to drop open at the slightest happening.

But who am I kidding? This was ridiculous, but the reason I write about Tao is the music. The DJ was changing songs at 30 second intervals - not in a manner that he messed up or picked the wrong song - rather, it was a dance party for the perennially ADD tourists and Vegas regulars. Songs melded together, from LL Cool J's "Phenomenon" to Katy Perry's "California Gurls." Pinging between rap songs that I'll never know the titles to but will always know the words to and pop hits that were somehow turned trendier and skankier in the surroundings, it was an absolutely immersive experience.

The speakers were glowing. We were yelling to understand each other, or whispering in one another's ears. It was living a dream in the sense that this wasn't real - or was it real? Vegas runs on appearances, on the image, on making something into something that it's not. The glamour and the talent and the beauty and the richness and the grandeur are what meets the eye, yet not what you go to sleep understanding.

------------------

What can we go to sleep understanding about Sufjan Stevens' The Age of Adz? Reality and surreality flutter in and out of these songs, colored by a mechanical, technical chamber choir. The songs are real, but much like Vegas, they feel strangely out of place in my life, and they reek of that same sort of overwhelming expansiveness. It is difficult to see myself in this music; the difficulty lies in finding a point of reference that I can relate to myself.

Listenability. I don't think it was a factor in Stevens' writing or recording process. If he is making art for the sake of being artistic, that's fine. However, as of my 3rd listen, I don't have anything to grasp onto. It's like providing me with an obstacle course that involves full body strength and skill, then taking away my legs and refusing me prosthetic ones. How can I appreciate it if the tools are not provided? I can try to cultivate those tools on my own, but by the end of my experience, will it be gratifying? Will I enjoy the very difficult ride?

Individual songs are beautiful. I step inside "Futile Devices" like I step inside layers of plush blankets on the first cold day of winter. The sparse quality, hushed vocals, and stomach-pit-creating acoustic guitar plucking is the stuff of dreams.

"Get Real Get Right" stands in the middle of the album, a totem pole of impossibly confusing faces and symbols that don't make sense if you don't have an oral history of the tribe who carved it. Noises, effects, new ideas, multimedia, digital sound, haunting choirs, grating synthesizers, beeps, uneven percussion that replicates the unstable innerworkings of an MRI machine. All of these ideas and more are layered and layered into a musical piece that takes some real determination to appreciate. It's not impossible to enjoy, but Stevens is really making it a challenge.

My friend Will said that many of the songs, upon further listen, seem to be nearly impossible to recall, or, rather, he doesn't remember which ones he wants to hear again. That might be the worst thing a real music fan can say about an album. What is an album that initially sounds good but holds no place in your memory? Not all music has to be sticky. But I think it should draw you in and keep you there on its own merits.

---------------

I guess I go to sleep wondering about merits. What is real, and what can we believe in? If our music changes in rapid succession, and our focus isn't held on any one thing long enough, and we are overridden in life by distraction, how can we develop deeper connections? And what makes it all worth it?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Young Studs in Love - Band of Horses


Not too long ago, Creighton Barrett took his mother to see Eclipse, the third movie in the Twilight series. A theater full of screaming Jacob and Edward fans isn't where you might expect to see a 32-year-old rock dude. But the Band of Horses drummer had something special to share with his mom: One of his band's songs is on the movie's soundtrack.

But most of the time, says Barrett, he cringes when he hears his music. It's not that he isn't proud of what his band is doing; it's just that he'd rather be listening to Kid Cudi, Gayngs' bedroom R&B, or some kind of Turkish psychedelic rock — all of which are the furthest thing from Band of Horses' sweet, sprawling ballads and colorful Americana indie rock.

Barrett joined Band of Horses shortly after frontman Ben Bridwell encouraged his old friend to move to Seattle. Barrett and Bridwell met as teens in South Carolina, but moved to Washington in the early part of the millennium because of the city's fruitful music scene. While Bridwell was playing with Carissa's Wierd, Barrett spent his time drumming for punk, metal, and math-rock bands.

In 2004, Bridwell formed Horses (the "Band of" part came a little later), and Barrett had to relearn how to play this new music. "[It was difficult] coming from the background I'm used to, which is like retarded, whatever-you-want [drumming]," says Barrett. "Just being able to smash things behind the kit is a lot easier for me than being the anchor and really locking down on it and being the guy who's driving the bus."

An anchor is exactly what Band of Horses' songs need. The title track to their third and latest album, Infinite Arms, sounds like rushing waves crashing on the shore before they gently recede. The tug and pull comes from Bridwell's sweet-as-honey vocals and Tyler Ramsey's gooey guitar droplets. Creighton ties these airy melodies together with slight and subtle cymbal crashes.

The five-piece band — whose current lineup came together after the release of 2007's Cease to Begin — excels at creating delicate love songs and the kind of harmonies that make you tip your head back at the end of a long day and sigh. "I've always been enamored with harmonies, but I've never been in a band with anyone who could sing," says Barrett. Now that he is, his perspective has shifted. "I really learned melody and harmony from these guys, and it's really changed my mind about everything."

New songs like "Blue Beard" show off the group's quiet balladry, as do favorites from the first two albums. Cease to Begin's "Detlef Schrempf" — named after a German-born pro basketball player who spent time with Seattle's former team, the Supersonics — floats on intricate finger-picking and an all-encompassing wash of keys. "The Funeral," from the band's 2006 debut, Everything All the Time, swells from reverb-tossed acoustics to a full-on rocker.

Infinite Arms features more sonically huge and upbeat numbers than the first two Band of Horses albums. Barrett says they were going through a lot of changes during the writing and recording of the record. They left Seattle and returned to sunnier Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, to be closer to their families. Plus, Bridwell wrote several songs while he was preparing to become a father for the first time.

And sometimes, simply enough, an album just calls for some upbeat songs. "You just kinda need a faster song just to make the record flow or to make some songs stick out from the others," says Barrett. "You kinda just need some pop in there."

"Dilly," which Ramsey wrote, pops to life with a hooky chorus. And "NW Apt." is a sharp turn from Infinite Arms' slower songs, with guitars growling as Barrett thrillingly speeds over his percussion fills.

The album took two years to record, while the group was flying to Europe to play festival shows, pouring the money they made back into studio costs. Phil Ek produced parts of Infinite Arms, but by the time the record was in the can, the band was working almost entirely by itself. Barrett says they found this somewhat spontaneous process helpful.

"We would come home at night after spending a long day in the studio, and we would listen to everyone's demos, and we'd be like, 'Oh my God, we need to work on that — it's rad!'" he recalls. "So the next day we'd go in there and work on that song from scratch. It was like a living will or something. It was crazy.

"But it's hard to say what we were set on making," he adds. "We were changing it all the time. What we knew is that we had the chance to showcase this lineup, which is a solid lineup for the first time."

Find it at Cleveland Scene.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vegas, Baby

My slow down in posting is due to this:


I'm in this wild city, working 15 hour days, still trying to make it to the strip. Live on Elvis!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Beat Connection

Trust me on this one. "Sunburn" is my end of summer jam.
<a href="http://beatconnection.bandcamp.com/album/surf-noir-ep">Surf Noir EP by Beat Connection</a>

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Matt & Kim Tonight @ Grog Shop

Matt & Kim are two Brooklyn pals — Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino — who also happen to be the happiest and most carefree dance-punk duo touring the country right now. Whenever they’re onstage, they break out huge smiles and get real goofy — a perfect complement to their ecstatic music. Matt & Kim write giddy and assertive songs for kids who just want to let loose and dance their guts out. “Gardens and trashcans/Hoodies and Chuck Ts/Arms, fingers, and hands/Don’t slow down,” goes one tune. Drummer Schifino crafts hooky beat patterns and sings backup; Johnson takes lead vocals and adds spastic synth and keyboard riffs to his arsenal. They make a lot of noise, pounding and jumping on their instruments, and engaging audiences in singalong dance parties. You’ve probably heard “Daylight” in commercials for candy bars, Bacardi, and the Xbox over the past few months. Matt & Kim’s new single, “Cameras,” previews their upcoming album, Sidewalks. You can hear the whole record a couple of months before it comes out if you show up to the show early. They’re hosting pre-concert listening parties at each stop on their current tour.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Other California Girl


When you listen to Best Coast's debut album, Crazy for You, you're hearing singer Bethany Cosentino's life. Piles of reverb coat the Los Angeles native's songs about love, longing, and regret. There's also occasional giddiness thrown in there for good measure. Surf-pop guitars brush over her insecurities, while Bobb Bruno's scuzzy bass lines blare beneath it all.

Crazy for You is one of the most direct and honest albums of the year, laying out the life of a 23-year-old woman making her way through the best and worst of uncertain times. She deals with present-day concerns by looking back on a simpler part of her life. But Cosentino doesn't hide from her anxieties; instead, she proudly shares her emotions with anyone who wants to listen.

Not so surprisingly, many of Cosentino's mixed-up feelings have to do with boys — the ones she loves, the ones she longs for, the ones who left her behind, and the ones who'll break her heart. "You're the one for me/You make me happy," she sings in the garage rocker "Happy." Twenty seconds later, in the next song, she's pleading, "I just wish that you would tell me/Is this real, or are we through?"

But Cosentino also sings about her cat, weed, and fighting laziness. Throughout Crazy for You, her voice — a mix of sweetness and rebellion — makes her lyrics sound painfully real. In "When I'm With You," she repeats, "When I'm with you I have fun" more than 20 times. It's as straightforward as a Ke$ha song, encouraging fans to sing along. But it also prompts them to....

Read the rest at Cleveland Scene.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Common Grackle - The Great Depression

The press release describes this song by comparing it to "the somber confessionals of Elliott Smith, re-worked by Dangermouse."

I don't think that's necessarily pinning it at all, but it's a great song!

Common Grackle - The Great Depression

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin @ Grog Shop Tonight

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin released Let it Sway, their third album, a few weeks ago. Despite the laid-back, reggae-implying album title, the Springfield, Missouri foursome is sticking to the same playful, exuberant indie pop they introduced us to on their 2005 debut, Broom. Now they are swaying in addition to sweeping, twisting their bedroom pop beginnings into songs that are full, melodic, and beautiful. “Stuart Gets Lost Dans Le Metro” slowly explores gently crafted acoustic guitar and impassioned memory-filled lyrics, while “Sink/Let it Sway” kicks with as much as energy as early SSLYBY favorites like “Oregon Girl.” The band gets away with its saccharine harmonies and overall peppiness with a little sense of humor. “Dead Right” taunts us with warnings like, “You’re gonna lose it/If you don’t choose it,” playing off the old saying “if you don’t use it, you…” – you get the point. The band named itself after a favorite Russian president, and continues to jest us with tracks like “All Hail Dracula” (“All Hail Dracula/I really think we could be friends/I’ll let you suck my blood/If you wanna know how I taste”). They have the kind of relationship with fans that recently helped them raise enough money to buy a new tour bus, and the new donation brings them back to Ohio.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Jess Harvell on The Thermals

Two great lines, one review!

"Hope when all evidence suggests you should despair, honest confusion offered in place of stock rhetoric, music that sounds like it's fueled as much by joy as rage: The Thermals' moral indignation is never a bummer."

I think I just like this quote because one of my friends who I worked with at the radio station used to play The Thermals all the time, so I associate them with him a little. And he always called stuff a bummer. Harvell is using one very average, everyman word to sum up what The Thermals are NOT - that makes the intelligent point he's making relatable on a very basic level. And I like when writing is relatable. We're all just big music geeks, right?

Also, this one:

"You sure as hell can't imagine them writing a grand concept album kvetching about suburban sprawl."

Anyone who uses Yiddush and finds a way to mock Arcade Fire's new album in the same sentence just cracks me up, regardless of my fandom for Arcade Fire.

With his concluding paragraph, I think he's spot on:

"I have to admit that I do miss the messy, noisy, get-it-done-in-under-two-minutes Thermals. They were just so good at the ramshackle thing, the feeling that they were racing toward the finish line before one or all of their amps exploded. Personal Life is hardly a failure; much of it is excellent. But it's also missing that anger-meets-energy urgency that made the Thermals' early albums so undeniable."

I still think the album deserves a higher rating, though.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New Japandroids Song!

I hate everything in life at this specific moment (i.e. a publicist screwed me over, my great aunt hit my car tonight), but I'm pretty stoked about this new Japandroids song!

So let's say it together, "I. LOVE. JAPANDROIDS. I. LOVE. JAPANDROIDS."

They make the bad go away. This is the best therapy you can get without paying a psychiatrist, trust me.

Japandroids - Heavenward Grand Prix

Buy lots of their stuff here, and I mean it.

I've ranted so much on this blog about how I love these two guys, and I mean it from the bottom of my heart. I don't know what kind of people they are - they could be horrible people - but I don't really care because I will blatently ignore all their bad characteristics in favor of embracing my love for them as a collective group. Their bromance interaction is just about the best thing I've seen on stage in a crappy punk club, and their careless enthusiasm (GUSTO, I tell you, GUSTO) has won me over twice now.

I would stand on my roof for 20 hours in the middle of an awful winter day to get tickets to their concert, if I had to.

I'd probably jump of somebody's balcony onto a trampoline (if the conditions were right and I wasn't going to die) to see their faces.

I would listen to their music for a week straight, without stopping, if that was what I needed to do to prove my love.

That said, this new song is probably not their best song ever. So don't listen to this one first and be like, 'that blogger is totally unreliable and reckless and she's a complete moron for jumping off balconies,' you know? Like, give them more of a chance than this song.

And then when you fall in love with them too, maybe we can start a fan club. We won't do geeky fan club things like make buttons (ok maybe we'll make buttons) or send out postcards with their pictures. We'll just, like, sit on my carpet and play their music really loud, and then we'll bring it to the living room and just jump around a little bit (but we won't mosh because I hate moshing), and then we'll just have a good meal and talk about the merit of being a member of Japandroids, and then we can toast to Brian King and David Prowse, and talk about how much fun it is to eat an entire bag of twizzlers in one sitting, because that is irrelevant to the subject of Japandroids, and by that time I think we'll probably need to mix things up a little bit. And then we can buy bags of twizzlers....

Ok, you get the point.

Just have a good night. Don't let your family members back into your car. Don't let publicists push you into a 3-month long waiting game and then give you an interview with the wrong band member and make you do it 12 hours later when your deadline is next week. Don't do those things!

Just listen to this song, ok?

If you read this whole post, which I might later subtitle 'Rant of a Crazy Girl,' I feel bad for you. You obviously have nothing better to do than read a bunch of chicken scratch on the internet.

If you made it this far in the post, I love you always forever near and far closer together (that was a bad phrasing of The Cardigans' "Lovefool." I also want to mention their great song "For What It's Worth," which might be better than "Lovefool," and I think I want to write my next blog post about this.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Music, Undergroundism, Iran, Prison

So I'm reading this article in the last issue of Paste ever (hypothetical tears are running down my cheek as i slowly savor and dread the end of this magazine) about the movie Persian Cats, and its subject, the underground rock scene in Iran. I'm just thinking about the fact that the whole world is so big and so culturally different that there are literally places where people go to jail for playing concerts. And at first, I thought, 'man, rock and roll would be SO much more badass if you went to jail for playing it.' And then I thought about it seriously, and how really messed up the whole idea is. The backwards idea that music and culture and style in the middle east is wrong, and one should be refined to traditionalism, anti-creativity, and the standards.

I mean, we're constantly pushing the boundaries in life - all the time. Countries are competing for the best inventions, which will make them the most money. They want the most educated, brilliant people, so those people can bring ideas and make them flourish, and people will live happier, healthier, and possibly more satisfying lives. (Then again, that's only SOME countries. Some are anti-progress.)

So what's this thing in the Middle East (and let's talk Iran specifically) that is so against "progress" that a band cannot create Western music without it being controversial? I guess this argument could take a lot longer to develop than I'm doing, and I've never been a very good logical arguer because my thoughts are sporadic and out of order, but I guess what I'm trying to say is: ok, Iran isn't really trying to invent a new way of living (although I'm sure they're working on some pretty sophisticated bombs and weapons, and that counts as inventiveness), and progress can be seen as extreme evil (which, to some extent, in certain contexts, I understand), but the extent to which they are able to block any artistic expression of the younger generation is just exacerbating. They can quell politics and certain religions and oppress women and make people wear a certain type of clothing, but then even have to take away the most (or one of the most) elemental forms of art experimentation - music. How does a young person, in the internet age, live in a world where they are so restricted and so closed off - unless they are completely sheltered from what they could have?

I don't know what I'm trying to say. I'm not trying to sound like an American brat who can't comprehend a 22-year-old Iranian's situation, but in all reality, I can't comprehend it.

The article in Paste talks about how the internet is the one thing that opens up a new world to the youth generation in Iran, and for this, I think we need to be thankful. They can find different music and explore different worlds and step outside of their box. And of course, there are so much more important things than music that the internet can teach us. Like I said earlier, I'm just thinking on this very specific music level here, and I'm not trying to make it sounds like I think musical freedom is more important than social or political freedom or so many other types of freedom. It's just one very specific restriction that I bring up after reading this article.

My blog has readers in 36 countries, and I was just thinking of how amazing it is that I - a 22-year-old girl from a cluster of suburbs in Northeast Ohio - can share my thoughts, experiences, and songs with so many people of different cultures and backgrounds.

What do you guys think about people going to jail for listening to/playing rock music?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Happy Birthday - Girls FM

In the words of the great Andrew WK:

Make every day a party.
Happy Birthday - Girls FM by musicmule

Monday, September 6, 2010

Villagers Interview

Yo! Click on the title of this post to hear my interview with Conor O'Brien of Villagers. The dude might win the UK's Mercury Prize tomorrow.

On top of that, he's just generally interesting, witty, and he knows damn well how to write the perfect song. Maybe if you listen, you'll learn the secret to his success.

Or, if you're like me, you'll fall over sighing, and wishing he would just come to town and sweep you off your feet. (This comment applies to males or females. Males, I think he's probably worth going gay for.)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Why Paste is Like Cheap Beer and How it Affects Me

I wasn’t going to say anything about the demise of Paste. I was just going to let others do the talking, and there’s a lot of talking being done. But then I came home to eat dinner with my family, and all of these words just started flowing out of my mouth. I couldn’t believe it, while at the same time I could. We knew the magazine wasn't doing so well, but how could something so treasured and so special and so, ugh, just vital to my music culture just end?

I had to explain to my parents what had happened. I spent the entire meal doing so. They all see me daily, obsessing over new albums that come in the mail, and music magazine subscriptions. They know how I covet a job in music journalism, and I get morose about not having one almost every day. And my dream job of all dream jobs… that would be working at Paste. I didn’t and still don’t think that any publication was doing what Paste was doing. I can’t even fathom that that will never happen – I will never write for Paste. It. Is. Gone.

I love blogs, and I love being all viral and internet-y, but despite what the numbers and subscribers and state of journalism and economy all say, there is NOTHING like holding a fantastically-crafted magazine in your hands. I was a broadcast journalism major, and I see the value in video, audio, and multimedia. I still hold magazines on some kind of pedestal. In my childhood, getting something like Highlights in the mail was the best feeling in the world. Wasn't it for you? It’s like getting a really entertaining present every month. I might have grown out of play-doh and barbies, but holding a magazine in my hands, I get the same kind of thrill that I did when I was opening a new bead-making kit.

Paste had some of my favorite music writers out there. Rachael Maddux, Bart Blasengame, and the list goes on... to the point that I don’t even know their names, I just know I loved their work. I had friends who used to find every single piece of new music they listened to from Paste. I gather my tastes from such a range of things (friends, music writing I'm assigned, radio stations I work for, random side gigs as music director, blogs, itunes, hype machine, friends, friends, and oh yeah, magazines), but if you were just going by one source, Paste would be a pretty good one.

It gets scarier and scarier as journalism continues to crumble away and die a sickly death. Arts journalism is a special case, and now that I’ve started reading ARTicles, I get even more scared for the future of culture/art journalism. How will great writers develop when they don’t have any publications left to write for? What will we have to read instead – US Weekly? I gag at the thought.

So many people blame Pitchfork for adding to the demise of magazines. You can’t blame Pitchfork. They are great at what they do (and what they “do” can be defined in several ways – positive AND negative), but people aren’t like “oh I’m only going to go to one source for music journalism.” It’s like saying you like Blue Moon, and you’re not going to drink any other beer for that reason. You’re going to drink different beers in different situations. Yet if Blue Moon gets way cheaper (ok free), and you still have to pay for your PBRs, the model will certainly shift. And that’s when PBR has to just keep on pushing and remind people of why they are so loved. PBR has to become free, in a way, or it better make itself a lot better than it already is. I mean, seriously, journalism is like beer. You can drink for free online (Blue Moon), but you have to pay to drink magazines (PBR). And people just want to get drunk as fast as possible. So, the change really must be in the culture. Let’s figure out a way to get people to realize, it’s not about getting drunk – it’s about enjoying the experience, and maybe spending a little bit of money to engage in an activity that is worthwhile.

So everybody, stand on your platforms, and start rallying for the end of binge drinking! I’m all about the slow and steady, enjoy-the-ride drinking. I'll even pay for it.

Because we don’t want to lose any more Pastes.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Some Snarky Kid...

said really evil things about a video review I posted on youtube.

I just wanted to see who it was, and what they were up to on youtube, so maybe I could justify my dislike. Yet, when I clicked on their youtube channel, I saw the most recently "favorited" video. I clicked play; it looked mysterious.



I fell in love immediately. Why, this Memoryhouse (from Ontario) went right ahead and sampled Jon Brion's "Phone Call." It's one of the most beautiful songs off the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind soundtrack. Not only is that one of my favorite movies of ever, but it has one of my favorite soundtracks (thank you God Brion).

So Memoryhouse comes along and drags the Jon Brion sample so slowly, making it into a putty of sorts, bending and stretching, and expanding its gorgeousness into one of those songs you want to listen to at bedtime but then can't fall asleep because you keep hitting the repeat button to hear it over and over again.

I am seriously dying right now because I have like 500 words to write about this other equally wonderful band that I'm going to share with you guys soon... but anyway, I just want to, like, submerge myself into a really hot bath and play this Memoryhouse song on repeat about 45 times, until my hands shrivel into prunes and the water turns cold.

I mean, this is just IT.

Here's the song.
Memoryhouse - Lately (Deuxieme)

Here's a slower, acoustic version.
Memoryhouse - Lately (Troisieme)

Here's Jon Brion, genius man's original.
Jon Brion - Phone Call

Love you all. Goodnight to you, top of the evening to me.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Writing for Too Long

I've spent about 7 hours today writing about music and researching, and this is the end result:

I end up going absolutely insane and trying to incorporate lines like this into my album reviews!

If the song was the delightfully delicate body of a turtle, the sweet lyrical murmurs encase its inner beauty with a protective shell.


Holy crap, who the hell compares chillwave to a turtle?

This is some seriously demented brain work, even for me.

Stop me before I publish this junk!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Pitchfork vs. Paste

It's seriously like a game of bad cop - good cop. All the damn time.

Pitchfork's take on Chief's new album, Modern Rituals:

"The transcontinental breadth of the band's influences keeps Chief from coming across as pallid piggybackers of any one scene, but for a group that hasn't yet demonstrated an ability to nail down a particular sound, keeping so many balls in the air could be stretching its talents too thin. Perhaps that explains why Chief are rarely better than competent at anything they try to do here." -Joshua Love

Paste's take on Chief's new album, Modern Rituals:

"The members of Chief have great pipes and each song on their debut LP Modern Rituals is centered on a soaring explosion of vocal euphony that could melt the heart of even the most jaded music fan. [...] with the power of their harmony and a few well-arranged standout tracks, Chief have managed to assemble a respectable record, and escape being written off as yet another batch of copycat folkies." -Luke Winkie

I find it mildly funny that Winkie thinks Modern Rituals could melt the heart of "even the most jaded music fan" because he must think Joshua Love is a strange man hanging to a thin piece of earth, dangling into the clutches of hell.

I mean, the contrast in writing here is a jump between intelligent pretentiousness and slightly fluffy fanboyish praise. I definitely enjoy reading praise more than rejection, but then again, I understand that we need to filter the crap out of the music released today (as Pitchfork handily does) to know what's worth our time, and what's just... not.

Guess we'd better just judge for ourselves.

Beach House - White Moon


Beach House - White Moon (Itunes Session) by subpop
Even stripped down to its very core, Beach House is the essence of beauty. That may sound like a quote from Zoolander, but I really do mean it genuinely. I don't think this group could produce any material I wouldn't want to wrap my arms around and squeeze so tightly I suffocate it.

Listening to Beach House is like taking a warm bath, playing in a room full of bubbles, cuddling with your big, furry dog, and then running through fields of sunflowers, only to crash on the grass giggling with giddy joy.

If you went back to your childhood, and peeked at all your best memories, and then made a little collage of them in one section of your brain to keep on reserve for later, well, I don't know the point I was trying to make here. But think about how happy those great memories make you, and then think about how joyous Beach House songs make you, and compare. I don't think it's really that similar or dissimilar. It's actually a terrible comparison. But I'll sum it up by saying: good memories and Beach House both create happiness, and it's the kind that tingles through your entire body.

There's something to be said about things that affect us that way. And I think it's called love.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Thermals - Personal Life

While the music has been straightforward on The Thermals’ four prior releases – fleshy power chords, wiry bass, and the kind of sing-talking that encourages yelling along – the themes have been complex. The Body, The Blood, The Machine, for example, was a concept album about a couple fleeing from a fascist U.S. government. With Personal Life, the band is handling a topic that’s easier to grasp – the struggles and triumphs of a relationship. It’s a familiar theme, but the Portland-based trio’s infectious post-pop makes it impossible to ignore songs with even the simplest ideas or titles (“Never Listen to Me,” “Your Love is So Strong”). They immediately pull listeners into “I Don’t Believe You” with sing-along “Ohh ohhs,” spazzy drums, and hooky guitar that worms itself into every crevice of the brain like a rushing waterfall in a corn maze. Songs like “Power Lies” sprawl out on the straight-to-tape recording, allowing some space between the purring of the bass and intermittent guitar riffs. Personal Life starts with “I’m Gonna Change Your Life” and ends with “You Changed My Life.” The music in between is a hell of a journey that we’re lucky to take with them.

The Thermals - I Don't Believe You
The Thermals - Now We Can See

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Faves

My favorite albums of the summer:

-Tokyo Police Club's Champ
-Best Coast's Crazy For You

I won't say much here, except these haikus:

I like to listen
When songs make me happy
These saved my summer

Guitar whimsy feels
Alive in my ears and skin
Jams fill me with joy

Best Music Writing of 2009

I recently finished this book, which took me through the supposed best music writing of last year. I don't know who chose some of the pieces, which I openly acknowledge were well-written, but also openly acknowledge put me to sleep 5 times before I finished them.

Of course, there were some gems - reminders of the absolute mastery of the writing craft - that made me shiver with delight. Inspiration, folks. That's what it's all about.

I'd like you to take a look at my absolute favorite article included in the book:

Unauthorized! Axl Rose, Albert Goldman, and the renegade art of rock biography, by James Parker

This guy writes a 5-page article, and from my perspective, it must have taken 5 years of research. Goddammit dude! Those are what I call skills!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s - Buzzard

The lush chamber-pop magnificence that Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s built their fanbase on makes its first appearance halfway through Buzzard, an album that rarely finds the band in the wide-eyed wonderment that gives its songs heart. Richard Edwards’ falsetto crooning is replaced with Interpol-worthy bass lines and stabbing, fuzzed-out guitars. (http://margotandthenuclearsoandsos.net)

I give you permission to skip listening to this album, and instead listen to Margot's The Dust of Retreat on repeat.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Pershing

I found this old review I wrote for a website called realbuzz.com that subsequently decided it was only going to be a fitness website, taking down the first internet proof that I was a music writer. I have some of the documents I wrote for them saved on my computer, and I thought the one I wrote about SSLYBY is sort of funny. I thought the album was called Perishing, when it was really named Pershing after a WWI general. Also, my writing had an informality and unpretentiousness and naivete that I think I've fallen away from slightly. I sort of wish I heard music through the same ears as I used to. My writing today feels more forced.

Their next performance is in a middle school cafeteria. You know, preteens, French fries, and – an indie pop band? The situation is a bit atypical. Then again, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin isn’t exactly classifiable as your standard stuffy, snobbish pop stars. The four boys are a bunch of average joes from Springfield, Missouri. But little things, like the cafeteria performance and the fact that they named themselves after Russia’s first president on a whim, show a playfulness that sadly seems forgotten in circles of music elitists and in top 40 artists alike.

SSLYBY doesn’t want to be taken seriously. Nor do they take themselves seriously. They invoke a careless, fun-loving vibe in Perishing, watching the world as it changes before their eyes, but refusing to let it get them down. Why get bogged down by weighty issues when you can let the music distract you a little?

The songs on this album invoke lovely thoughts – those of sunshine, childhood, cheesy jokes, red popsicles, and, well, cheerful things. Every song has some kind of special touch of happiness throughout. Take “Oceanographer,” for example. Two alternating chords lead to a whimsical, but brief, “wooooo!” You know the “woo” was planned, but the group sneaks it in there so slyly, it sounds like a masterpiece of spontaneous creativity. In “Dead Right,” lyrics like “you’re gonna lose it/if you don’t choose it” mock the whole “you lose it if you don’t use it” myth that middle school health classes try to dispel.

SSLYBY have made an impeccable bunch of well-crafted pop tunes on this Polyvinyl Records release. Each song is a glittering gem, tying riffs and drum beats together in a pattern that radiates a kind of beauty that can only be found in music that carries a pure and unfettered simplicity. You might compare them to sunny folk like Nada Surf and Rogue Wave (they do sound incredibly similar to the latter). “Think I Wanna Die” may have morbid title, but the effervescent, jumpy track is one of the best on the album.

SSLYBY weave themes like young love and heartbreak through the album. Lines like “maybe if I lay low/ love will fall around my door,” in the album opener “Glue Girls” is one demonstration of the band’s youthful hopefulness and positivity.

A listen through Perishing is refreshing, easy, and, if you are a fan of plain old pop, guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Just remember to watch out. These four goofballs could soon be coming to a cafeteria near you. You might just be able to find a way to sneak in (and steal some tater tots while you’re at it).