Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mixtape of the Week - 7.25.10

This week’s mixtape has nothing to do with what is currently on my mind. For a change, I’m digging back through the past few months of my favorites because that’s all I have access to on this computer. You see, I'm in Arizona after a week of work, sitting in my Uncle and Aunt's house, on my work computer. After spending a week in the wild, wild west, I'm not even sure what kind of music is appropriate to listen to out here. Beachy stuff like Dr. Dog and Best Coast seems too sugary for the desert heat. All my electronic things - Phantogram, LCD Soundsystem - sound too harsh. What do people listen to for mood music in the west? I just don't get it!

Click to download from Mediafire.
Mixtape of the Week - 7.25.10

1. Broken Bells – The High Road
When I first heard this collaboration between James Mercer and Danger Mouse, I wondered if pop music could get a better flavor than this. It’s like eating three packs of Gushers at once. I’m sugar pop high.
2. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Some Trees
I still need to hear this whole album! But, seriously, I cannot get over how much this song jacks me up. I’ll never need creatine. This song makes me run faster than a coyote.
3. Frightened Rabbit – Swim Until You Can’t See Land
Just plain good emotive rock. I don’t know what to say. If you don’t feel emotionally moved after hearing his voice quake, you probably don’t have a functioning brain.
4. Julian Casablancas – 11th Dimension
The Strokes will have a new album and a new tour soon, but can any of that top Julian Casablanca’s toss-back to the ‘80s? Nothing has felt this cheesy and this absolutely on-target all at once. I die of happiness.
5. Josh Ritter – The Curse
I think I’ve written about this song before because it made me cry the first three times I listened to it. I was driving to work at 7:30am, and this tragic story about a mummy and a historian who falls in love with him only to fall under his deathly curse… it’s so real. In a not-real-at-all way, of course, but Ritter makes these characters come to life.
6. Tokyo Police Club – Bambi
Pretty sure I missed the best concert of summer when TPC came to Cleveland and I was halfway across the country.
7. Phantogram – As Far As I Can See
A friend and I were discussing how Phantogram’s album was the one we were most blindsided and pleasantly surprised by. I keep going back to this song over and over.
8. Yeasayer – Love Me Girl
All I hear here is funky Justin Timberlake, and I’m in love.
9. Avi Buffalo – Remember Last Time
Most people will not agree with me, but Avi’s s/t debut is one of the most enjoyable albums of the year. He captures the whimsical nature of the guitar so well here.
10. Deer Tick – Spend the Night
This is not a new song, but it’s new to me. I’m not sure how I missed out on Deer Tick earlier, but the evoke the harmless hedonism of a rock band better than most these days.
11. The Black Keys – Never Give You Up
The Black Keys get classy! This song feels like a Motown gem, and it’s by two men I’m proud to say came from Ohio.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Fond Memories of Blitzen Trapper

Really smart scientists have proven that our taste in music mostly comes from our memories. Daniel J. Levitin says in his book This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession that we lump things into categories (or genres) to help distinguish what something sounds like. We also have a distinct ability to pull together the melody of a song from our past, regardless if it's in the right key. All these memories help determine what we grow to like over time.

So when artists create, they're actually grasping at the sounds of their pasts. Eric Earley — the frontman for Portland, Oregon's Blitzen Trapper — probably doesn't think about how or why his brain's synapses react to certain sounds. But one listen to his band's music, and it's obvious that years of musical influences drive his songs.

Bob Dylan, John Denver, and Creedence Clearwater Revival are some of Earley's childhood favorites. He didn't have many records growing up, so instead of huddling around a record player, he spent a lot of time playing music with his dad, learning to play the banjo when he was six.

Read the rest here at the Cleveland Scene.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Music of Travel

So I've been doing too much traveling altogether, and it's not conducive to new music listening. I'm supposed to be doing this whole thing called "being a music director" at WJCU but the fact that I don't have a walkman and can't carry around stacks of like 80 CDs in my carry on don't really help me get that job done. Suitcases and briefcases don't make much room for hipsters. Can't somebody invent a bag with built in space for CDs?

When I come home, I pretty much just cry. This life is sometimes too short to try so much new music. (I reread that sentence, and thought, the word trying sounds like I'm experimenting with hallucinogens or something. Which I kinda am. I'm in Arizona and I'm eating prickly pears, chollo buds (pieces of cactus), and all kinds of crazy Native American food.) Do you know what I mean? Music-wise, that is. It's so hard to keep up with everything being released in this internet age, and then when I do find something I really like, I start to feel guilty about listening to it for too long, too many times over, because I have priorities to listen to so much other music. It gets to be much to keep up with all this when the rest of my life also seems to have a mind of it's own, pulling me in 8 million directions and forcing me unto paths that I was never even meant for.

Speaking of 8 million directions, let's discuss why I currently feel like I belong in an insane asylum. I am sitting in a hallway, waiting for my main clients to arrive. As I write this post, I am listening to the music I've loaded onto my work computer on shuffle (currently Josh Ritter, previously Phantogram). I have a headset in my ear, where my co-workers are talking event-planning things in my ear concurrently. The hotel hallways echo of an eerie Native American tribal music that - wait, let me pause my music and take my headset out for a second - sounds like a (OMG THE CREEPIEST MAN EVER JUST WINKED AT ME AND ASKED ME WHEN AM I GOING TO THE POOL WITH HIM. BAAAARF. Also, this blog post just became a pre-pubescent girl's diary entry. I love caps lock and internet abbreviations as much as my 7th grade self did.) Anyway, the music the hotel is playing sounds like Bambi's death scene, if Bambi was an ancient tribal antelope and her death was laid upon her with the slow and repeated stabbing of an arrow.

Moving on, I finished reading my book. It's called This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession. Summary: Interesting at times, I'm glad I read it, but it was so dry at times that I felt like I was living an episode of The Big Bang Theory, and it took me 3 months to finish. The first chapter is a pretty good summary of what I learned in Intro to Audio Production, so I do think it could be a very good helper text for a class like that... maybe not the most pleasurable read, though.

I've moved on to a recent volume of Rolling Stone with Lady Gaga on the cover. It's the volume that got General McChrystal fired. I'll save my beef with RS for later, but let's leave it at this: how are liberal music magazines bringing more change than the mainstream media? Think about it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Best Coast, Best Part of My Day

Talk about buzz bands. Best Coast is it right now in the blog world. And I totally get it.

I'm feeling so miserable and discouraged in my life right now, but I put that album on after work today, and through the dredges of my mood, I felt its gooey, echoing wonderfulness.

Here's what this album makes me want to do:
-Sleep on the beach
-Eat burnt marshmallows
-Lay in the grass beneath a sprinkler
-Make out
-Take long showers
-Throw my computer and all technology out the window (except my ipod/headphones! geek)

I don't know much about Best Coast other than what I've read:
-Bethany Cosentino is 23, and Bobb Bruno plays with her
-She's dating Nathan of Wavves
-She writes all her songs about boys
-She smokes a crazy lot of weed (I gather that from her twitter)

If I were you, reading this blog, and that was all I knew about Best Coast, I'd be like, get out of here. I'm never listening to this girl. Like, ever.

But f'real, this girl is what other people like to call "the truth."

I don't remember the last time an album just called to me like hers. It's like she captured the same vintage vibes as She & Him, but she's not manufacturing a product. Rather, she's just into the music all the way, and having fun with it. You can sing along with a lot of these songs after hearing them once through (or even after hearing one chorus). Isn't that something that's lacking in a lot of modern indie music?

I turned my car stereo up to 30 on the freeway, rolled my windows down, and pounded on the steering wheel like I was playing the drums. I let my hair get all in my face, and I felt like I was feeling life for the first time all day.

I will know I'm successful at life when I feel like I do listening to Best Coast, all the time. It's openly nostalgic, airy and open, and full of the kind of feelings that I want back in my life again.

Best Coast - This is Real

p.s. Best Coast and Male Bonding are playing on my birthday at the Grog Shop. When I turn 23 at midnight, I want it to be like this.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Rob Harvilla on The Dream

Holy rattlesnakes, this piece Harvilla wrote up on The Dream is ultimate steamy supreme.

Reason's why Harvilla is my hero:
1. He is a hilariously witty writer, whether through article form or twitter.
2. I love Village Voice, all it's affiliates, and the idea that I could someday work for them.
3. He is from Cleveland, and still sympathizes with us on the whole sports thing.

So now that I've publicly confessed my love, can you please just read the article?

Sleigh Bells @ Grog Shop Tonight

Rock bands and hip-hop artists alike often tout themselves as being beat-driven and hip shake-inducing. But listening to Brooklyn’s Sleigh Bells thrusts your body into a rhythmic shuffle so strong that every measure feels like a kick to the gut. The male-female duo’s debut album, Treats, is more tricky than it is sweet, with distortion cranked up to ear-shattering levels. Songs like “Crown on the Ground” combine the fiery, fuzzed-out blasts of Derek Miller’s guitar with Alexis Krauss’ lax half-spoken, half-sung vocals and intense, lashing beats. Their resemblance to M.I.A. is no surprise – they are getting support from her N.E.E.T. label. “Got my a machines on the table, got my b machines in the drawer,” Krauss repeats throughout the throbbing “A/B Machines,” which recalls the punchy refrain of “World Town,” where M.I.A. raps, “hands up, guns out, represent the world town.” Just two months ago, Sleigh Bells opened for Yeasayer at the Grog Shop; this time, they’re headlining. If they continue touring at this rate, you’ll see them again in September – but just in case, see them now before this buzz band starts selling out much larger venues. Nerve City and Po-Po open at 9 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216.321.5588). Tickets: $10 advance, $12 day of show.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mixtape of the Week - 7.11.10

So I was going to put a really happy sappy little introduction for this mixtape because - let's be honest - it reeks of summertime, and I have one hell of a dance/rock your face off parade waiting for you to download below. But today has been one of those days. Working 9 hours, coming home to work 3 more hours. Enough's enough, right?

Even rogue music-based dating sites can't help my mood today!

So do like I'm not doing, dance around the freakin' room, and just have a good time, ok? It is summer, and regardless of bummer days, sometimes you just have to listen to the right music that's feeling your mood at the moment. I think this list encompasses the state of mind I'm craving. What songs are you guys digging? (By the way, I'm at the library, and MAN can I upload quickly from here! Stealing library wireless, FTW!)

Click to download from mediafire.
Mixtape of the Week - 7.11.10

1. !!! - Jamie, My Intentions are Bass

This is the best song title of the year, easily, and a reminder that !!! is still bringing the dance party. Groove, baby, groove.
2. Wavves - Post Acid
I am really not joking when I reveal the following facts of life. a) This is the first Wavves song I've ever listened to, and I'm kinda really ashamed to admit that. b) I've played this song - no joke - about 75 times on repeat these past two weeks. To say I'm in love would be an understatement. I love it more than I loved all my past boyfriends combined. Is that harsh? It captures the whole simple, messy 'let's just have a good time' vibe that I crave at all hours of the day and night.
3. Jay Reatard - See/Saw
Um, is it possible to NOT follow a Wavves song with a Jay Reatard song? Nuh uh. I don't think so. I contemplated writing an entire blog post devoted to their similarities: both douchebags, both write thrashingly cool punky lo-fi rock, both throw fits when they don't get what they want, both fight with their bandmates. As much as I hated Reatard when he demanded $60 extra for playing Lobsterfest because we didn't give him as much Red Bull as his rider requested, his loss is significant. His songs are precious (and by precious, I mean not at all precious).
4. Wolf Parade - Little Golden Age
The new Wolf Parade album is great as always, and I get to see these dudes thrash around the Beachland Ballroom tomorrow, so expect rave reviews. The guitars here really stab through you like knives. It hurts so good.
5. Walking Sleep - In a Dream
Not sure if many people have heard of this band, but they are the next chimey-belled twee superstars. The male/female dual vocals sound like A Weather's - another band you've never heard but really should.
6. Villagers - Becoming a Jackal
Dude's name is Conor O'Brien. A combination of Conor Oberst and Conan O'Brien? Not quite. This is some of the most heartfelt folk I've heard in a long time, and it has a shimmery 60's harmonic chorus that is to die for. If you make one music discovery this week, let it be this.
7. CocoColumbo - Only Child
The first single from Los Angeles-by-way-of-Cleveland's Will Schulz. If you love big choruses, sweet electronic touches, and pure happiness, you're going to love everything this guy releases.
8. Coconut Records - West Coast
Speaking of Los Angeles, this song makes me want to go there. Jason Schwartzman amazes me with his uncanny ability to make everything sound like he mixed concentrated Tropicana orange juice into a blender with rays of sunshine, slivers of gold, and 90 degree heat. It melts you.
9. The Beauties - Fashion Blues
This is a song for the road if I've ever heard one. Next time I drive down south, this is going first on the list. It breaks down into all kinds of little segues, and your head will bop side to side like a freakin' Teletubby.
10. The Good Life - Keely Aimee
Who doesn't love Tim Kasher? This is probably the most poppy (thus mood-fitting) song on Help Wanted Nights.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Still City - We Will Explain Everything

Listening to music coldly - that's to say, without any preconceived notions of what I should think of it - is fairly new to me. After all, the way that I get new music is after liking something that artist/band has done in the past or through recommendations by my friends or itunes or lastfm, or someone who describes why I'd like it. I used to review albums for ACRN, and that was often cold listening, but that was a couple albums a week.

Now that I'm the music director at WJCU, I have to listen to dozens a week (if I am doing a good job, which I'm not... really). I find it a little scary to judge what should go on the radio without knowing anything other than my feelings about the songs. It's strange to evaluate bands who barely anyone has listened to, and decide whether radio listeners would like it.

Much of the music blends together, and I get the sense that it's because nothing is really distinguishably GOOD. Every once in a while, though, there is an album like We Will Explain Everything, by The Still City.

I know I like the album because it brings with it a rush of nostalgic feelings. It may or not be a concept album, or really more of a themed album, centered around what seems to me to be a break-up and a disenchantment with a city and an apartment and a specific space in a couple's life.

It's the middle of summer, and it's been a long time since I've needed a break up album to relate to (those feelings seem so far away), but it still strikes that familiar chord. Just as Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago felt so right, so perfectly melancholy, We Will Explain Everything hurts in the ways you want music to ache. Tears seem locked in the album, along with rage, fear, and a deep sadness. It achieves primal emotion.

I hear the rage of Frightened Rabbit, along with the complicated melodic interplay of Matt Pond PA. Maybe a little bit of Tim Kasher's lyrical brilliance is at hand.

"I remember an assembly line path to a dark dark room
The dust on the machinery
And how we slept down in the gloom
And then walking in that neighborhood
To the bus stop in the rain in June
To watch the way the rain attaches to electric wires
The way it slightly alters the view."

I hear some of the frenetic howling that I'm familiar with from all those nights I listened to Tim Race front one of my favorite Athens bands, Russenorsk.

"It could be so beautiful to make a mess of things."

Most of all, I hear a slightly pop-punk/emo-pop element that made me question if this album was too immature for its audience. But decidedly, it doesn't change or demerit the album. It draws from its youthful influences much like Manchester Orchestra, who I think balance the screaming passion that might be most relate-able for a young teen audience with something deeper and more thought-out. Plus, I can't deny my embarrassing past, the nights full of Dashboard Confessional, The Juliana Theory, Saves the Day, and The Get Up Kids.

"And the sadder parts of suburban sprawl will reveal themselves as merely a consequence of the best intentions."

I'm reading a book I borrowed from my friend Chris, where the author proves that we like the kind of music that we grow accustomed to. It actually is a science, and it has to do with the way our memory processes things. The connection we draw between music and memories is real. So very probably, the way that this album blends the music I used to listen to (and mostly can't stand anymore) with music that inspires me today, it has found a place in my brain to harvest itself.

Or maybe, I'm overthinking it.

The Still City - We Will Explain Everything

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Money Better Left in the Bank?

People spend $80 to see a show by the worst band on the planet?

I just don't get it.

I even would have a hard time justifying this price for, like, a U2 concert.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Olde Times

Twitter isn't working, so I'll post this here:

my 20 year old (baby) sister is downstairs making up a dance to Hilary Duff's "Coming Clean."

So I've been reading too much Pitchfork Reviews Reviews, which I really do love. I love it, primarily, because the guy who writes it is not a writer. And I really love that I can read about raw thoughts and feelings without them being burdened with big words, proper sentence structures, and tightly-edited points of view.

Not that I'm saying that all writing today (especially music writing) is tied down by these creativity-suppressing conventions, but I do think that I sometimes spend too much time having to think about the proper way to word things, when I really should be focusing and distilling my thoughts in the most fluid, stream-of-consciousness kind of way.

I struggle between two types of writing - my professional writing, which sometimes seems to me stiff and unforgiving, and my for fun writing, which I would not let see the published light of day (in a legitimate, reputable journal/magazine/newspaper). I prefer writing more fluidly, but that isn't really acceptable in the journalism world. And I truly hate reading spelling and sentence structure mistakes, like the ones I'm making now with all these run-on sentences.

Anyway, with the PRR blog that I was talking about, the great thing is that the guy who writes it knows that he's writing terribly. In fact, in his reviews of Pitchfork's reviews (get the title? pretty straightforward stuff there), he notices all kinds of typos and misspellings, and picks those things apart. So I know he could be a better editor of his own work.

But that's not the point of the monster. He's distilling his thoughts and emotions in a way that I find so captivating. I can't figure out why it doesn't bother me to no end, reading this "amateur" guy dissecting some pretty well-respected music writers when he can't even put periods on his own sentences.

I think it's the fact that what he's doing is genuine, and he is a true fan of music and DIY culture, and all the things he's writing about. I left a very liberal college town a year ago, moved into the suburbs with my parents. Away from many of my weird-culture-loving friends, and with other great friends, most of whom just wouldn't really get my obsession with this song by Tallest Man on Earth or wouldn't waste a minute of their time checking out local shows and artsy things that you kinda have to seek out if you're living in the suburbs.

I miss the discussion, and I miss the weirdos involved in it. And through his blog, I almost feel reconnected with an old friend. He's not a close friend - he was probably one of the guys I worked with at the radio station, or a guy who was at all the same parties as me. But he's one of many in the my sphere of friends who likes to have the conversation.

Maybe I'm just a freaking hipster starving herself off from the SE Ohio hipster congregation, or maybe this PRR guy is really onto something.

The way he writes about music actually makes me excited to listen to it, and although I haven't tried anything he suggested, I did download the new Wavves album for when I get a hot second, just because he loves it so much. He's practically calling it that that guy is going to be the next movement or something. I'm willing to try. (And I love "Post-Acid," a great little flashy tune that found it's way into my inbox a few weeks back (thanks music publicist gods).

Another thing that I really enjoy is reading reviews of music writers' writings. (Not to, you know, make that sentence as redundant as possible, or anything.) I never really do hear feedback from people who actually read the things that people like me post on websites and in magazines, and it's kinda fantastic to see that there is an appreciation for the skill.

I know I endlessly worship some of the writers who I think are great, but it's good to know that people who aren't writers can still appreciate the craft. I guess that's what is keeping journalism afloat. I hope it lasts.

I want to work a more informal sense of feeling into my reviews and features, but oftentimes it seems to break the mold of the publication(s) for which I write. And I forget that I have a blog, where I can express these feelings to everyone in the world - not that anyone would really actually care about my feelings on issues, but maybe I can use it as a personal exercise for myself, to test my limits and see what I can get away with while still calling it journalism.

Is what I do considered "criticism"? I don't like that thought, and I prefer to think that I am more interested in the stories behind an album or an artist, but sometimes that story can be so hard to crack through indecipherable lyrics and shady phone interviews. I was really thinking about just the ability to find a journalism job where I can explore these things in-depth, where I can contribute days upon days to finding more out about people and situations and ideas in this world around me, and learn about the most efficient and interesting way to communicate these things back to the world.

I guess I'm in the mood for dialogue tonight.

What do you guys think? Are you non-writers with huge talent-crushes on writers? Does informality kill creative journalism, or does it make it thrive? Where do the lines fall on what constitutes of interesting writing? Does it have to be edited? What is legitimate, anyway? Who can we trust? And in this creative arts arena, do we need to trust? How much of what we're writing is real, and how much is contrived through perception, opinion, bias, and past experience? Who is your favorite writer? Do you know any other blogs that address these issues, or feel extra passionate?

I'm sick of reading music blogs with literal reviews and lofty descriptions that don't mean anything, and don't have relevance to my life. I'm ready for the real. I want someone to make the comparison between the struggle of climbing mountains and the sound of an album. I want things to relate to my everyday life. I want the M.I.A album to remind me of that time I got an MRI.

I want realness. I want discussion. I want the olde times to be the current times.

Your 33 Black Angels @ Grog Shop tonight

I got an email, based on my meanie post, and I had to share it with you. The title was "Totally UNpretentious, non epic or shrinelike Brooklyn Psych band." Good to know bands are taking my criticisms so seriously in their image construction. (ok, ha ha ha. i'm joking.)

The band is Your 33 Black Angels. They are from Brooklyn. They consider themselves psych-rockers. But they also have a sense of humor.

And their songs are pretty swell. It's a little lo-fi, it's a little trippy, and it's a little bit rock and roll.

They play the Grog Shop tonight with Craig Ramsey, who is pretty much one of my favorite Cleveland musicians. So cheers to that! See you guys there?

Your 33 Black Angels - If Loving You is Wrong I Don't Wanna Be Wrong
Your 33 Black Angels - I Want Something I Can Hold in my Hand
By the way, here's an interview I did with Dan Rosato. He's, y'know, in the band.

* How did Your 33 Black Angels form?

Seems like we're still in the process of forming...adding new members all the time.

* I always imagine that the Brooklyn music scene is so ridiculously competitive and cutthroat, but maybe that's just my misconception of the city in general. What is it like being part of that scene?

Sure there are tons of bands, but there are tons of clubs and plenty of people who want to go out and see shows. We're playing music, not football, you know?

* What can we look forward to when you perform live in Cleveland?

Besides the show at the Grog Shop, we're trying to set up a game of HORSE with the Cavs. W's been working on his 360 dunk and JR has perfected the half court backwards granny shot.

* Can you share the story of when you decided on the song title "If Loving You is Wrong I Don't Wanna Be Wrong"?

Oh shit then I'd end up like that guy who reveals the magician's secrets on those TV specials. You know the guy with that freaky mask? Yeah you haven't seen him in a while, have you?

Down to business:

* Has anyone ever told you that Y33BA looks like an airline confirmation code?

We haven't flown commercial in a long time...

* Why 33 Black Angels? Why not 34 Purple Angels?

No 34 purple on a roulette wheel.

* Please share the most embarrassing thing you've ever done onstage.

I ended up in an old bumper car once in Texas. It wasn't embarrassing, but maybe it should have been.

* What's your favorite knock-knock joke?


Me: Knock Knock
You: Who's there?
Me: September 11th
You: September 11th who?
Me: I thought you said you'd never forget...

* If you had to play a show after only eating one specific food for an entire week, which food would you choose?

Shrimp. And white wine.

* What's your best dance move?

I call this one "What? Another night alone? After that sweet ass dance shit?!"

Saturday, July 3, 2010

!!! - Strange Weather, Isn't It?

!!! is the Phish of the nightclub scene, jamming mercilessly on dance grooves that seem to go on forever. Instead of making an album for hippie kids lighting up bongs in spacious fields, the band has crafted one for those who prefer dusk-to-dawn raves in dimly lit basements. Frontman Nic Offer likes to joke that he can leave band practice for a couple hours, returning only to find everyone in the same spot as when he left—jamming.

For Stranger Weather, Isn’t It?, the Brooklyn-based band, who has recorded everywhere from Nashville to Sacramento, took on Berlin. With Brian Eno and all-night techno clubs as inspirations, !!! built an album where layer upon layer produces a slick, club-like feel. The bass pops in all the right places, other-worldy synthesizer effects swoop atop the pulsing disco rhythm, and Offer sticks with iniquitous half-sung, half-spoken lyrics, like “Jamie, my intentions are bass.”

On their fourth album, the four members of !!!—pronounced “chk chk chk” or as any three consecutive syllables—champion Talking Heads and the danceable bounce of the ’70s without making it sounding like a throwback. The chorus of album opener, “AM/FM,” contains the kind of echoing vocals that recall quintessential Vogue-era Madonna, and the “don’t stop” refrain of “The Hammer” is the perfect hooky reminder that fatigue is not an excuse to quit dancing.

Stranger Weather flows nicely, keeping a consistent pace from start to finish. Yet nothing stands out like their noteworthy grooves from 2007’s Myth Takes, where “All My Heroes Are Weirdos” explodes with vibrancy, and the title track gains momentum with spaghetti western guitar licks. This time through, !!! remembered to bring the party, but they forgot the favors that fans have come to expect—grooves that make the body explode into dance spasms.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

M.I.A - Maya - /\/\/\Y/\

Maya Arulpragasam—better known as M.I.A—successfully assembled the title of her third album into a series of lines and dashes, spelling out her first name. She also collided every sound she’s ever heard onto its sixteen tracks. The over-the-top clatter could be interpreted as a consequence of a generation with no attention span, but it could also be a sign that Maya doesn’t measure up to the rest of M.I.A’s arsenal. The jabbing of computer keys starts off album opener, “The Message,” a short blast of rhythmic candy that somewhat calmly leads to the storm of Maya.

M.I.A likes garnering attention; one of her latest media controversies includes the viral music video she released for “Born Free.” Its visual statement makes us associate brash guitars and liberated refrains with machine guns and warfare. All over Maya, though, it seems like the outspoken London native went out of her way to keep the spotlight on herself. Problem is, she doesn’t always know where to draw the line between sonic creativity and overexertion. The polyrhythmic beat of “Teqkilla” makes it as danceable as anything on 2007’s Kala, but squalling bursts of synth feedback flood the song with frequencies that’ll make a dog cringe.

Despite some of its missteps, Maya has treasures to explore. Nothing screams ‘next big thing’ like “XXXO,” where M.I.A croons (yes, she sings on Maya), “You’re tweeting me like Tweety Bird on your iPhone.” She borrows a growling metal riff from label-mates Sleigh Bells for “Meds and Feds,” and it serves as a playful backdrop for her magnetic spitfire wordplay. “It Takes a Muscle” finds M.I.A mastering Auto-tuned vocals in a laid-back dub groove.

M.I.A stays true to her genre-hopping ways, changing styles drastically between songs. One minute, she raps over a punchy electro-beat about computers crashing in “Internet Connection,” and the next, she’s rhyming ‘Springsteen’ with ‘tight jeans’ in “Illygirl,” fast-paced dance number for club-goers. Listening to Maya, we travel around the world and back, crossing time periods, cultures, and lifestyles. All we need now is a translator for M.I.A’s disparate ideas.


Nothing screams big hit like “XXXO,” where she croons (yes, she sings on Maya), “you’re tweeting me like Tweety Bird on your iPhone.”

Gossip Girl
is gonna be all over that s#$% when it starts up in the fall.