Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hmm Pt. 3

Hmm, I don't know about this one. I was a big fan of Wavves' last album. He delivered punchy, catchy, noisy, and surprisingly heartfelt songs pretty consistently. The noise and the ennui really went well together. A lot of that, however, is gone with this new record. The terrific falsetto, the ambience, the pain, and a lot of the rather unique shitgaze sound is not present here. Also, it has a little bit of a pop punk vibe to it. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy this song as of yet, but I'm not sure how long that will last.

Compare to this from his last album. That solid, bassy jangle really gets to me:

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I think once you have a certain amount of gun, having more gun is less useful. I think Gucci Mane might want to calm down in that regard. Also, I love the ball covering part of his vest, especially because his balls are clearly out of his pants.


I've talked before about obvious talent being directed towards a specific goal, and I think this song really exemplifies that again. Everything happening here is directed towards making the record move like nobody's business, through both the contrast of the beginning and the spoken word breaks and energy of the surprisingly restrained individual musicians. Its very clear that the drummer is putting all he's got into this, only so he can make the song sound like an idling Ford Pinto, at least at first. Way to go, Van Halen.

And yes, David Lee Roth is annoying. Oh well.


If only I could be this handsome and carefree. Keep it up Updike. Sorry you died.

Monday, June 28, 2010


The Great Curve – Talking Heads

MP3 search on MP3hunting

"Born Under Punches"

Sometimes I feel like Remain in Light is just a giant phallus, a monumental middle finger directed to the rest of Talking Heads' catalog. While it sounds distinctly like Talking Heads, it is clear from the very beginning that something extremely unique is going on. Bruce Springsteen is often quoted as having said that the first time he heard Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" the beginning snare crack was like someone "kicking in the door to his mind". The bubble drums and Byrne's pained cry that begin "Born Under Punches" similarly introduce us to a musical world, the separateness of which is so complete that it takes quite a while to realize what's going on. The track utilizes the listener's pop sensibility only to reorganize it to better enjoy the album. Each long repeated phrase ends with four snare hits, as if to move to a bridge or chorus, only to move right back into another of the same. Thus the group elliptically points our attention to the foundation of the record: the groove, in which it seems they have understood they can completely rely. In another sense, the solo, if you can call what quickly becomes 56K modem a solo, encompasses a magnificent comic sense, saying "this isn't what you expected, but its great right?"

"The Great Curve" in some ways is a much more conventional song. Vocally its a basic pop song, with sung verses and choruses, a bridge, and even a conventional (and amazing) guitar solo. But it took me a while to realize this, simply because anything added to the never ending groove, the skull shaking bass and the scattering African drums, compliments rather than changes it. At the point where Byrne sings "the world moves on a woman's hips", its not a surprise, but an extremely logical fulfillment of what is already going on.

Regardless of my stupid attempts to talk eloquently about this record, its just plain terrific. It however, must be listened to loudly, so turn up those speakers.

Friday, June 25, 2010

An Ethos

Warning: I'm about to get a little snobby. I realize that a lot of what I write on this blog is criticism, so I've decided that I really should establish criteria. As I have hinted at in the past, one of my major peeves is a lack of solid established criteria in critical journalism, so I'd like to establish what problems I have with the implied criteria of a lot of journalism and the criteria I would like to use.

The question that I think people often forget is this: what is the purpose of criticism? Academic criticism generally aims for a clarity of understanding, but when you open up a Rolling Stone magazine and read an album review, what do you expect to get out of it. The answer, quite simply, is the evaluation of a potentially enjoyable experience. I read reviews so that I can better know what to listen to, read, look at etc. I am attempting to increase the amount of enjoyment I get out of my art experience. Now, by enjoyment I don't necessarily mean immediacy, such a catchyness or popular sensability. Enjoyment, as I see it, is rather an effect in which one is attracted to revisit an object from which they have had a positive, memorable experience.

So, the rating stamped upon a review or evaluation and the focus of that writing should reflect the enjoyment of the author and what specifically created that enjoyment, thus establishing the predicted enjoyment of the reader. As simple as this seems, this is hardly ever the case with journalistic criticism. Take, for example, the recent reissue of Exile on Main Street by the Rolling Stones. I've heard enough people talk about how great this record is that, though I have not given it an honest listen, I do not deny that it can be a wonderful, worthwhile experience. But most reviews and revisits aren't about that. They talk about Altamonte, the end of the 60's, the American blues legacy. In other words, context, context, context. And that's where I think the problem lies. The reissue of a record, I think, is the perfect time to divorce it from context. When it was released, it was immersed in a specific time period, culture etc. Instead of forcing it back into this frame, the reviewer should consider whether it is a worthwhile listen outside of it. But they don't. Instead of focusing on the sound coming out of the speakers, they talk about the stuff that surrounds the record historically: influence, trends, and breaking new ground. All these things are fine subjects for an academic, but for someone just trying to find good music to listen to they can get in the way if they don't eventually lead to an enjoyable experience. Granted, influential records are usually good records, but influence and quality are not synonyms.

Let me present a scenario. For a long time a single trend has dominated the music industry. All of the sudden someone releases a record that is completely different, and its pretty good too. It gets rave reviews, five out of five, ten out of ten, 99% on Metacritic or whatever. A year later, the same group releases an almost identical record. It has new songs and everything, but an almost identical sound. Should this album get worse ratings? It certainly will, but in my opinion it certainly shouldn't. Lets say that I am a reader unaware of this group and their two records. I want a good listen. Which record should I buy? The ratings would suggest buying the first, but the listener would really get the exact same experience out of buying either.

Defiance of context and quality are often confused. In 2003 a favorite duo of mine, OutKast, released their most recent record, Speakerboxx/The Love Below. One half, Speakerboxx, was a very solid and rather subtle Southern Hip-Hop style album. The other half, The Love Below, was an iffy yet very experimental album drawing influence from sources as diverse as Funkadelic and the Smiths, producing a few amazing songs, but a number of misfires. The double album was highly acclaimed. Why? Not because of its solid, enjoyable segments but its ambitious, exploratory ones. Do not get me wrong, the best art, as Harold Bloom often says, is strange, deeply, deeply strange, so much so that you may have to dig through layers of banality to find it. But ambition and exploration can easily fail to excite and they often do. They are not accurate primary criteria for evaluating the quality of art.

What I am trying to get at is this: what goes on outside of art can point to greatness inside of art, but where history and art do not match, history tends to break down. Some of the greatest records are the most influential and groundbreaking, or created by the greatest guitar players, rappers, producers, and singers of all time. Think of Van Halen's "Eruption" or Hendrix's "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)". These are, pure and simple, expressions of extreme musical ability. And they are certainly extremely enjoyable. But after repeated listenings, no amount of technical prowess, musical development, influence, crate digging, obscurity or anything else matters. What matters is enjoyment, plain and simple. This is my ethos. Let's hope that I can stick to it.

PS: What makes things enjoyable and to what degree, however, is a question for a later post or another person, I'm not quite sure.

Pink Moon

There is a pink moon tonight, at least in the Lehigh Valley area, so I thought this was appropriate:

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I find it very intriguing that you can get a piece of leather such as the one on the right and have it eventually be the one on the left. Preeety sweet. Leather kills animals though. Hmm.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I just watched this really interesting documentary about the Pixies' 2004 reunion tour. If you have Netflix you can watch it online. What's really interesting about it is that it conveys the fact that these are mindblowingly normal people. In an early scene, right after their first show, Kim Deal talks about how shocked she was when the audience went nuts. Are you kidding me, Kim? Do you know who you are? Its very encouraging that people who create such good music can be so clueless. Throughout the entire movie, Kim comes off as basically the least self-aware child you've ever met. I don't think she takes a shower during the entire tour. David the drummer is a creepy weirdo. Frank Black is the most banal fat nerdy guy, going to band photos wearing basketball shorts. The only well adjusted guy is Joe the lead guitarist, but it doesn't seem like he really cares. My dad has Led Zeppelin concert DVDs that I used to watch all the time in high school. They have a very clear grasp on who they are and what's happening. Here it seems like the audience knows more about the band than the band is willing to know or is capable of knowing about itself.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Love - A House Is Not A Motel

Found at

This song has wheels. Or its on wheels. Or something. Everything is on edge, a little off kilter, always sounding like its going to topple forward. The beginning sounds like you're on a jet ski, down beats dipping us right before the crest of the riff, with elliptical drums rolling all over the top. The vocal runs start on an off beat, seeming unfinished even with every successive word. When they end to solo its just as startling. I've talked about momentum with Dylan in a past post, but this song achieves a similar feeling in a much more forceful manner. Dylan surprises us with small, unexpected changes from chorus to chorus, verse to verse. This song surprises us with every beat, subverting our sense of expected resolution, not keeping us on our feet, but moving the ground altogether.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights

Found at

Why isn't this song another "Total Eclipse of the Heart"? TEOTH is a wonderful song, but there's something about "Wuthering Heights" that reminds me of David Bowie, in the sense that it doesn't sound all that abnormal, with its glass-shattering vocalist, melodramatic piano and string production, and monstrous snare hits; and yet its very clear that it is somehow setting itself apart. Is it that never ending chorus? Is it the elfish edges of Kate's voice? Is it the harpsichord? I just don't know. Its great nevertheless. Not a fan of the book though.

PS: Big Boi is apparently a huge Kate Bush fan.

Update: I've just discovered that I've been listening to a later, rerecorded version of this song. Here is the original:

It's a much more affected version, but also a little more nuanced. The chorus is so lovely. I don't know which I like better. Oh well.

[via Nerd Boyfriend]

Galaxie 500

Galaxie 500 - Tell Me

Found at

I could only find a snippet of the actual studio recording. Live one is pretty good too, if different. If you can get actual song, awesome.

Nothing really to say about this one. Its just pretty great, even if there isn't much to it. It feels like Will Oldham went all fuzzy and falsetto ten years in the past:

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Rolling Boners

The Rolling Stones - 19th Nervous Breakdown

Found at

I've always had trouble with the Rolling Stones. I first came to their era, and pop music in general, through my early high school love and quest for technical proficiency (and boy did I find it), first through the blues-rock guitar solo and then through the things that normally surrounded it. The Stones, however, weren't one of those groups. Keith Richards wasn't giving us five minute solos bent into the stratosphere, Charlie Watts wasn't drilling fills into every nook and cranny like Keith Moon etc. I thought that all their efforts were meant to simply convey Mick Jagger's attitude (granted, they partly are). Since then, however, I've realized that, first, good music really is not as connected to proficiency as I once thought, and second, proficiency isn't all about the narcissistic (albeit sometimes brilliant) bombast of an individual musician. Take this song. Every bit of talent, most notably that of Bill Wyman and the late Brian Jones, is channeled specifically into giving this song a complete and complex feel. Wyman's bass isn't for brooding, its for butt shaking. A closer look, however, will not see it crumble. You will only be more amazed that this song didn't turn into "Moby Dick" (the Zeppelin one not the Melville one). I'll have to try to stomach more Stones in the future.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dear Tolstoy,

If only you were a twenty one year old woman who wasn't old, very religious, and crazy.



Friday, June 18, 2010

Kung Fu Shoes

Apparently I have started a trend among my acquaintances here at home of wearing kung fu shoes. When I originally found out about them way back when through Put This On, I just thought they looked cool. And they do. But now I know they're a pretty terrific warm weather shoe for the summer, easily and comfortably worn without socks. They are also a inexpensive alternative to other canvas shoes that one would wear these days (Chucks, Purcells, Vans etc.), a ridiculously cheap 15 dollars compared to their ever rising 50 or 60. Don't expect them to last very long: I've had mine for about seven months and they're already dying, but fifteen bucks for a summer of sweet shoes is a good deal. Also, James Murphy (and Orlando Bloom apparently) wears them because they're good for his back.

Love it, Love it, Love it

Fascinating documentary about Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt. Its a little strange at times but its very worth it for the interviews, especially those with the man himself. A particular highlight for me is the sequence, beginning at about minute eight, featuring spectacular interviews with Irv Gotti, DJ Premier, and Jay-Z going through three of my favorite songs ever: "Can I Live", "Dead Presidents II", and "D'Evils". That these three records appear on the same LP is pretty mindblowing. There's nothing I can really say about why I love these tracks that isn't said here. Please give it a look.

[via Maximum Fun dot org]


Just relaxin'.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I think Shoegaze is usually my alt subgenre of choice because the music could so easily be much worse. My Bloody Valentine could so easily become a boring drone, Ride could so easily become super radio friendly anthem dribble, and Slowdive could easily become airy Coldplay-esque nonsense. It, however, most definitely isn't. The song begins off key and from then on, something is always a little bit wrong. The guitars don't come in quite as clear as you expect, the whispery vocals become load, yet unintelligible sibilant gibberish, and just as the lead, if there is one, sounds like he's about to squeal into a "Time" style solo (2:52), he rockets himself, and the song, farther and farther into space. Rarely can a band sound so normal and yet still keep me so consistently on my toes.

Strong McQueen

LL Bean Signature is selling this Barracuta-esque jacket for a mere fifty dollars or so. I own one and I payed about eighty. It was still worth it. It has a nice fit, but its not tight (you can fit at least two layers underneath), plus a great pattern on the inside flannel lining. Classic, understated, and simple.

Monday, June 14, 2010


The Sound of Young America

Great interview. I like Hanson more and more every time I hear something about them.

My Opinion

I recently had a friendly argument with some people about Jurassic 5, because of which I have taken the time to listen to this song, recommended to me as pretty likeable. I have to say my opinion about the group has not changed. There's nothing really wrong with any of the formal pieces of this track. The beat is easy and laid back and the emcees are good at the sort of down-beat heavy rap they specialize in. Some of the lyrical passages are actually pretty nice, I enjoyed them. The problem I have with this song, however, is that its just not compelling for me. The song, in my opinion, is a claim of authenticity, of purity, that the group isn't about violence and money, but about music, "beats and lyrics". This is just as good a premise for a song as any, but they go about getting this point across in the very same way as the hip-hop that they are criticizing. They talk about sucka mcs, they talk about taking it back to the streets, they talk about their lyrical prowess etc. In addition, they address these subjects in a a tone that just doesn't contribute much to the general mood of the song. Lyrically, the song is generally proud and aggressive, but in terms of sound it fails to present this theme, or any other, successfully. All that comes across is that they are very vaguely having fun. I'm all for someone trying to revive an old school sound, but this song just comes off as non-committal, trying to represent itself as an alternative to aggression in hip-hop without presenting an alternative that's actually compelling. To me at least.

Just to present an alternative, have a listen to this gem, a similar song that I like much better. It does for me what the above song does not, it communicates a believable and bittersweet mood of nostalgia through both its beat and lyrics:

Fuck a Mixtape

So I just found out that T.I. has released a mixtape in preparation for his new album. I haven't had any time to listen to it yet, but if this track he released about a month ago (days after he got out of jail) is any indication of its quality, I should be reasonably excited. While its nothing groundbreaking, it succeeds at one important task: pumping me up. He's definitely ready to go, so busy in the studio that he has to count his money while he drives.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hmm pt. 2

I think this is self-explanitory.

Friday, June 11, 2010


It is important to realize that despite all of our attempts to rationalize our artistic tastes, what we enjoy is really not under our conscious control. Guided By Voices is the type of Lo-Fi I would like to hate. They don't just use analog equipment because it sounds better or use older instruments because they are higher quality. These are practices I can agree with. Instead, they purposefully record their records badly, in basements with home recording equipment. Why? I've often heard it explained that it replicates the intimacy of demo tapes and bootlegs. That is precisely my problem: these are LPs, not demo tapes or bootlegs.

This song, however, is great. Why? Precisely because of the way its recorded. While my rational self says, "Hey, they're faking it!", my subconscious says, "Damn, this song rocks. Its full yet hollow, close yet removed." The Lo-Fi aesthetic creates a sense of intimacy because of its down-to-earth feel while at the same time creating distance through inferior recording practices. GBV excels in this category, not because their recordings are the shittiest, but rather because they are capable of recording in this manner while still allowing the grooves to come through. Everything about this song that I need to hear I can: the bouncy guitar and bass combo, the high pitched and pained vocals, the raucous drum fills, the expertly crafted hooks. They have essentially distilled and cataloged what makes the best demos and bootlegs good. I just have to ignore that voice in me that cries for authenticity. When I do that, I can really love this record.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


If only my boots could one day look like these. Most likely they won't, because I don't do any actual work.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Yes Yes Yes Pt. 2

(better quality track here)

From the solo tracks he's given us recently, you can tell Big Boi has been waiting to put out this upcoming record for two years. Not only is each song meticulously crafted, Big Boi being one of few emcees who admits to writing his verses down, but they are intense. He clearly wants to show us what he can do.

In my opinion, however, what makes this song unique amongst the four terrific tracks that we've gotten our hands on already is its effortless changes of mood. It starts with "Hail to the Chief" style fanfare only to immediately knock us on our feet with an accusatory sneer ("try another route paper boy"), periodically bringing the fanfare back just to let us catch our breath. As if that wasn't enough, the track ends with an ominous spoken word verse, transforming the same sample from exaltation and accusation to partially ironic terror. I'm very excited for this album to come out.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Yes Yes Yes

This is exciting. Kanye hasn't been this emotionally volatile and had this much to say vocally since "Jesus Walks". Some of my favorite things:

1. The beat is almost louder then Kanye himself. This could symbolically mean a number of things, but it also just turns the emotion of the song up about a thousand notchs.

2. The harmonized refrain with an terrifically unintelligable King Crimson sample right behind it (1:16).

3. The ominous Apocalypse Now-esque helicopter thing going on at the beginning.

4. The weird "99 Problems" allusion (1:30).

5. When he goes, "You n*ggas got drrrruuuuuuuuugs".

6. The high hat sounds like its a gunshot in a black and white movie or something.

7. Dwele.

Terrif, keep it up bud.

Sorry for the hypem link. No youtube or skreemr available yet.


Bob Dylan - 4th Time Around

Found at

I'm a partially strange person in that I don't normally listen to song lyrics. If I like a song particularly well, I will eventually absorb the lyrics after double digit listens, but even then, I don't really care what they are. For me, good lyrics make a good song better, but bad lyrics don't ever made a good song worse.

This is why I have a hard time figuring out why I like Bob Dylan so much. The man is a lyrical titan, but what else does he have? He's famously bad at singing (at least classically), as well as guitar and harmonica. To me, however, its all about his understanding of momentum. Take this song for example. Multiple instruments gradually enter at the beginning, eventually coming together to form a spiraling cloud, slowing swirling upward while slight changes in Dylan's voice and instrumentation keep our attention. This song could go on for a half hour in all its bridge-less splender and I wouldn't notice. Its strange to use such contemporary pop language on him, but Dylan really knows how to ride a good hook for as long as he wants without making it boring.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


This isn't groundbreaking, I'm really impressed with this man's finesse for these reasons:

1. That shirt is great. Not only is the small amount of pattern we see very distinctive, its heavy enough to really hold its own at the collar and sleeves.

2. That sweater is not a sweater. I don't know what to call it (knit? jumper?), but whatever it is, it has a wonderful fit and heft. A thicker sweater would really cramp this guy's style.

3. The watch and belt are perfectly understated additions that frame, but don't draw attention away from everything else, also perfectly understated.

All this creates a terrific sense of modesty. The one eye catching feature, the crisp pattern on that shirt, stands out just enough to distinguish this guy without being flashy. Love it.


I know that all the "one hundred best _____ of the decade" buzz subsided months ago, but I just recently stumbled upon, via wikipedia, this list by Resident Advisor, a electronic and dance music journal. I have to say I am intrigued. Seeing this list really allows a level of transparency about the whole idea of such a project. I say this because, while I'm sure the staff of RA whole-heartedly voted for what they thought was the decade's best, very, very obvious biases show through.

First of all, its not clear whether these are supposed to be the best overall albums or the best electronic and dance albums. Such a distinction should make a really big difference and as you make your way up from the top rated albums this questions looms larger and larger. Sound of Silver presents a good example: Murphy was well known as a DJ before he started his "band" and his first album is his danciest output. Sound of Silver, his second album, is a quite obvious move away from both dance and electronic media (see "All My Friends", "New York I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down"). It is, however, almost universally excepted as an improvement over the first. So when his first album ranks higher than SOS, its hard to know what's being said. The staff could simply like it better, but is that because they work for a dance oriented journal? Or even worse, are they simply ranking it higher because it better fits their criteria?

Secondly, the staff of RA does not seem to take kindly to outsiders. While I am amongst those who are a little confused about basically every publication ranking Radiohead's Kid A in their top five, RA basically gives it a giant kick in the balls by placing it all the way up at number 38, calling it simply "[a]n album that influenced countless DJs and producers, and was an electronic gateway drug for thousands of rock kids." Panda Bear's Person Pitch, an album I would much rather have take Kid A's place at exalted number 1, is dismissed to number 84 as a "beat driven" side project.

So what do we do with all this obvious positionality? Well, it seems that these sorts of lists say much more about the writers picking the albums than the albums being picked: see a much more obvious example in Rolling Stone, who placed a Bob Dylan album in their top ten. On the bright side, I feel like albums that share top spots on various lists deserve even more attention. Universal appeal has to mean something right? These are the albums that manage to show worth to people with distinctly different tastes. I'm very happy to see albums I adore (Since I Left You, Silent Shout) take top spots on multiple lists, and I have to say that I really would like to check out Burial's Untrue and revisit Daft Punk's Discovery for doing the same. In addition, left field picks (my left field, not theirs) are worth a listen simply because exaltation by anyone deserves at least a little attention. I've already started with their number 1, Villalobos' Alcachofa, and its very apparent that I will enjoy myself if I continue.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


If only I had three more jobs.


My Bloody Valentine - To Here Knows When

Found at

If you asked me right now what my favorite song of all time was I'd probably say this one. Why? Because it barely is a song. You've got drums. You've got repetitive, up and down tweets. You've got whispery vocals. And then you have that thing(s) in the back. Whether its singular or plural is not clear. What is clear is that it makes this track coverproof: without it the song would cease to exist. At the beginning its out of place, a grinding whine that hides the song's potential sweetness. By the end, it has become the whole, even though you have no idea whether the song has developed at all. It floats on a spectrum between a piercing wail and the sound of God screaming through a wind tunnel (3:43), continually building a wall between itself and rest of the song, while simultaneously following its rhythm and chord progression. It teeters on the edge of pure noise, while never quite falling in. This song could so easily be unbearable or uninteresting, yet its neither and it will always bring me back.