Monday, July 26, 2010

A First Listen

The first listen is a real asshole to music listeners. He never wants to try any new restaurants, he refuses to wear that shirt you bought him, and he thinks that the movie Waiting is the best thing ever. Moving on from my first listen has been quite an experience, to say the least. He's so necessary, so inviting, so easy, and yet he cares about nothing but himself.

One can almost look at a first listen as a fulfillment of Meno's paradox: it is impossible to look for something if you don't know what it is. When you first listen to a song, what more can you expect from it but the things that you already enjoy? If I like walking bass-lines, any song without one will not attract my attention with a single listen. While there is no inherent problem in looking for and getting what you like, taken to the extreme, this attitude results in your ability to only enjoy a single song that you somehow listened to before you were born. In reality, this tendency pretty much results in a search for catchy hooks, and where they are absent, something that could become a catchy hook.

For me, this problem presents itself most with post-rock and it satellites. For a long time my favorite song by people like Boredoms, Slint, Brian Eno, Lightning Bolt, Can, Sunn O))), and to a lesser extent Animal Collective and even Public Enemy, was the first I'd heard, mostly through either coincidence or force. I could recite "Bring the Noise" word for word but ask me for even the name of another song on It Takes a Nation of Millions and you would come up empty handed. The trouble was, my first listen would hear something he didn't like (ambiance, dissonance, minimalism, density, uniformity, drone, a lack of chord changes) and say, "Wait for it...wait for it". Five, ten, or fifteen minutes later, his patience not rewarded, he would be slamming the front door in a fit of rage, leaving me with almost nothing to work with. It seems that the common denominator amongst these bands is that they all ignore a normal understanding of development. Heck, some even intentionally subvert it. What is a first listen to Boredoms' "Super You" but eight minutes of Yamantaka Eye flipping off your pop sensibility with fake buildup. But despite what you may think, the goal of these groups isn't solely to piss you off. Most of them aren't even trying to do that. But it's only once you can ignore you craving for more of the same that you can understand that there is heaps of something else right under your nose. Just put it on and ignore it for a while. Your second listen will reward you.

J. L. Powell Map Case - On Sale: $358

It would be a real faux pas to have to put your maps in your territory case. I recommend just shelling out the $400.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010


Probably the best song by a decidedly mediocre group of guys trying way too hard to be avant-garde. But it meant something to me once and because of that it still does. The studio version lets an opera singer take a stab at a verse. Ick.

I Don't Want No Scrubs

APHEX TWIN - Ventolin [video version]

Found at


Ok, so this song comes from probably the most indie-derivative album I've heard in a while. I hear traces of Noah Lennox and the Animal Collective, Isaac Brock, Neutral MilkHotel, theShins,BelleandSebastianbleaaeeeeeeh. We could continue but really, whats the use? No amount of deconstruction will make this track any less enjoyable. While derivation can often lead a listener to find inspiration lacking where influence is abundant, it can also point to a simple love of sound. These "kids" aren't trying to create anything new, their love of this musical style just makes them want to immerse themselves in it, to give birth to more. Entire subcultures of middle-agers revolve around communities of blues, jazz, and folk musicians who have no intention of creating anything new. Indie rock just might be the next step. But the more to hear, the more to love I say. Go for it guys.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Put This On:

This blog is for men, not “guys.”

If so, Put this On certainly isn't for me. I'm almost always a supporter of anything that Jesse Thorn does, as is evinced by the link in my sidebar. But aggressive statements like this pretty much sum up everything that makes me uncomfortable about today's menswear community/blogosphere.

I would probably need a PhD in Gender Studies to express myself fully on this matter, but this tendency to attempt to "redefine the American male" delves into delicate gender politics issues that either the supporters of this ethos have chosen to ignore or are simply unaware of. To define oneself as a "man" as opposed to a "guy" is really a softer way to define oneself as a "man" as opposed to a "woman". While the word "guy" has many specific and exclusive connotations, "man" is the most encompassing and in some ways the most undefined term, in the sense that it refers most strongly to a binary between the sexs. But, the word "man" has grown over the past couple centuries to represent specific roles that males are expected to play, in a way that "guy" has not, as in the sayings "be a man" or "it's a man's world". You cannot aspire to be a "guy". You an aspire to be a "man". This, it seems, is what Thorn is trying to get across. However, what's implied because of this movement to redefine us males is that there are specific areas lacking fulfillment in modern American culture that can only be fulfilled by "men".

It seems to me that the recent menswear revival, specifically that focused upon traditional and "classic" items drags along with it this blurry and often unnoticed tail of antiquated and rather sexist ideas about gender roles. Let me remind you, for example, that one of the relatively recent lauded icons of this revival, Don Draper of AMC's Mad Men, is an undoubtedly sexist character. Of course, to imitate him does not mean to imitate everything involved with him, but these issues cannot be cleanly removed. A "mystique" is not easily deconstructed.

The problem seems to be, at least partly, that these so-called classic items are almost always associated with activities specifically considered to be done by "men". The denim and workwear revival is associated with old-school blue-collar manual labor, the trad revival with 1960's ivy league academia, the outdoorsy plaid revival with Northeastern hunting and hiking culture, and finally the bespoke revival with pre-1970's business and Hollywood culture.

While women are hardly mentioned in these spheres, one cannot pride oneself in wearing, for example, what one would look good in while digging a ditch (this issue has come up I assure you), without creating an uncomfortable implied negative space. A specific item of clothing cannot be argued to be "classic" because it is the most practical or the most aesthetically pleasing, but rather because it is the most proper. Menswear, in other words, has not become a culture of or but a culture of only. And this, I do not like.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Yes Yes Yes Pt. 3

The worthily acclaimed Panda Bear has released a new track from his upcoming album Tomboy. As expected it sounds, at least initially, nothing like anything he or his band has ever done. He seems to be drawing more from a dull and dank, Burial-esque sampling style here. Retained, however, is his brilliantly elliptical sense of melody, which I think is most vital to the quality of his music and what makes such a meandering artist so distinctive and consistent. I, for one, approve.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Freddie Gibbs has a way of making you take him very seriously, for better or for worse. I feel for him, I feel for his women, I respect him, I dislike him. His raps cannot be brushed off with ease: nothing remotely "fun" is going on.

"County Bounce", my favorite of these two, is almost grime but with a softer edge, serving, in turn, to soften the emotional openings that the song provides. It's hard to know where control lies, whether the voices of the chorus are human or machine, where the line between necessity and excess falls. And on that line, I think, is where Gibbs thrives.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lloyd times Two

This song could easily be a sappy anthem a la Nas' "Hero", but its grounded by LB's wondrous monotone, spine-shaking bass, and a very off-key twang. Love it.

track here

Any Girl - Lloyd Banks feat. Lloyd by user7183165

Monday, July 12, 2010

Lightning Bolt

Among noise rockers Lightning Bolt distinguish themselves through their excellent ability to use contrast throughout the characteristic drone. In some ways this song shares qualities with classical tradition, in that establishes a specific theme and subsequently presents repetitive and contrasting variations of that theme. In other ways, it toys with us like an elementary school bully, letting us think we can climb out of the ditch that they see we are clearly too muddy to get out of. Dull bass tones hit us whenever we try to get a hand hold and just at the climbing release the song moves quickly again out of reach.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


I've talked about the importance of a "groove". Here its interesting to see the craft in the hands of the guy who invented it: James Brown. By the time this record was cut in the early seventies, Brown had narrowed down his tracks, almost against the pop standard, to a long and simple one chord groove. Out of this era and with a new band of prodigies, including "Bootsy" Collins of later P-Funk fame, emerged the well-known "Sex Machine" as well as this track. Why such minimalism? Something in me wants to say it was one part lazyness and one part bragadaccio, as if Brown knew he didn't need to work very hard to be great. This is certainly apparent at the breakdown (5:24), where he is clearly and daringly improvising in the middle of the take. But I think its really that Brown knew what this track shows, that a good groove in the hands of a talented and tight group is best left unpampered.

Friday, July 9, 2010


For those of you who complain about the general tightness of jeans and use it as an excuse for a general dumpyness of attire, I present these:

High quality, selvedge, reinforced, relaxed, durable, dark, rigid, and last but not least, subtly distinctive with easily accessible pockets. I really like the contrast stitching on the bottoms of the pockets. Definitely worth the cost of three pairs of dumpy pants. Plus always has a coupon code.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Beyonce Knowles - Work It Out

Found at

It's always disappointing to me when the early works of an artist or genre get pegged as "gestation periods", because it always taints how people look at these works. I've read and heard people dismiss all pre-Merriweather Post Pavilion Animal Collective as simply prep work for that tight, poppy record. But does an artist look at things this way? Did AnCo always know they would produce MPP, but just needed about seven albums to get there? No. That's clearly stupid. And its falsely essentializing about a lot of wonderful, distinctive music. Consider this song. We have Beyonce post-Destiny's Child but pre-larger-than-life, funk sample, Rich Harrison-produced sassy diva. We also have The Neptunes pre-hip-hop chic. Admittedly, both of these future distinctions are present here, at least a little bit. The sparse and quirky guitar riff is very much the Pharrell of today. And the funky, attitude filled Beyonce with which we are so familiar is present. But notice, there are no samples here. The song is clearly funky, but slow, almost plodding, nothing like the aggressive waves of the monumental "Crazy in Love" or sass standards of B'day like "Suga Mama" and "Ring the Alarm". And last but not least, all of Beyonce's sass is channeled through a rather strange James Brown impression. To peg this as gestation would simply be not true, an applied narrative. And it would be missing a great song.

[via Maximum Fun dot org]

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Get it Get it Get it

Nothing to say at this point. Just get it, its great.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Romantic Comedies

For a long time I had trouble with the idea of a romantic comedy. I'd seen loads of comedies and I'd seen loads of romantic comedies, but I couldn't name a single romance that I had seen. If romantic comedy was a hybrid of two themes, why weren't there that many straight romances? The trouble, I found, was that a movie can't just be straight romance. Two people meeting, falling in love, and getting married is not something anyone really wants to see. It is part of the reason NBC's the Office isn't as exciting as it used to be. While many people like to point out that movies are in no way realistic, because of which people cannot possible truly "relate" to them, I think that in this case, this is a fantasy to which people do not respond well. Not because relationships don't often work out easily and without conflict, but because, in general, no one is really having an easy time with everything. Why, for example, do people cry at weddings? I think its a simplification to say that they are weeping with joy, the emotion is much more complex. They're not crying because of the present event, but rather the events that led up to it and the events that will follow, moments of struggle, anxiety, etc. They feel, in some ways, life's unfairness, that things aren't as easy as they "should" be. When I mother cries when she finds her lost son, its not because she has found her son, but because she had lost him. Thus, I see beauty as understanding, in the sense that people respond well to representations of the general way in which they experience life, often as a struggle for happiness that is all too rare. A piece of art that can represent that in a unique and revealing manner is, I think, the best and most enduring.

So it seems to me that sadness is often beautiful, or that the things I like most are representations of both awe and pain, joy and doubt, where beauty only exists because of sadness, as a representation of contrast and rarity. The title "Brokedown Palace" and the song itself, from my previous post, show this idea wonderfully. Life is worth living in: its a castle, a temple, a palace, but one can only reap its benefits through a struggle to connect the dots, to fix his or her broken down home. The narrator in the song, notice, explains his ideal life not as one of enjoyment and happiness, but rather as one of leaving home to finally rest, where he will lie down his tired head. Life is beautiful, but it is also exhaustion.

Here are a few more songs that I think represent this feeling, either lyrically, musically, or both. Needless to say these are some of my favorites:

Neutral Milk Hotel - Holland, 1945

Found at

ignore stupid video

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - You Want That Picture

Found at

Panda Bear - Bros

Found at

The Avalanches - Since I Left You

Found at

David Bowie - Heroes

Found at

Sunday, July 4, 2010


They know what's going on. Sounds like going home.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Dane Cook and Marc Maron

Marc Maron's What the Fuck podcast began as a vehicle for him to express his personality. He would talk to other comedians about the experiences they have had together and how their other experiences have been like his. It has now developed, however, into almost a bi-weekly psychoanalysis of comedians that he brings on the program. He has become an expert at hiding his intentions in an interview format: he can circle a guest like nobody's business, asking the most revealing and personal questions while it sounds like he's talking about what he ate for breakfast.

This interview he does with Dane Cook is phenomenal (it begins at minute 14). Like everyone my age, I started out loving Dane Cook in high school, thinking he was the shit. More recently, I became jaded about his popularity and decided that he was a terrible comedian who used cheap and trite tactics to get laughs. In truth he is very much somewhere in between. By the end of his interview with Marc, he comes off pretty well, as a complicated guy attempting to appreciate the great life he has while really feeling quite miserable about it. Marc slowing peals his guard off like the layers of an onion, causing him to eventually contradict himself quite a bit. He doesn't come off as a liar, but rather just a guy trying to make the most of who he is, being both fueled and destroyed by negative energy. Pretty great.