Monday, August 30, 2010


In my opinion, all post-punk/new wave revivalists should sound like this. Why James Murphy can't make a song this fun, groovin', and ominous I have no idea. New Order was somehow capable of incorporating a high amount of organic depth and spirit into a pretty robotic genre without being morose or whiney. I feel like that's what many of today's late-70s inspired artists are missing. This is close though.

1000 Umbrellas

This just takes me back to my days playing cello for the Freedom High School Theater Company. Can't you just picture a charismatic male lead throwing himself all over the stage while the cast, complete with prop-umbrellas, does some cool choreographed shit? I usually don't enjoy musical theater or things that resemble it, but somehow this song's complete lack of subtlety doesn't bother me. I have yet to figure out why. Maybe its because there's a hint of sincerity behind the theatricality of it all.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Revolutionary Generation

This track's bass line is somehow as manic as it is repetitive. It's also terrifying.

Man, I wish a had a reason to wear a blazer.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Inspiring Enthusiasm

I read on the back cover of a book today that it exhibited "inspiring enthusiasm". This is what our generation needs more of. It's certainly worked on me before. Get to it guys.

Being an Enthusiast

About a year ago I had a conversation with my friend Chris, who I always talk to about my opinions. I had a problem: I liked too much stuff. I had entered the aesthetic world really through progressive rock, a genre of music that exists almost exclusively to be high brow, to be complicated, to be an effort to listen to. This was my base. Any music, and any art in general, that did not fit these criteria, was bad. As simple as that. I later entered other musical worlds by translating these opinions to fit the common elements of those genres: I liked Bob Dylan because his lyrics were confusing and his songs were long, I liked Nas because his lyrics were nuanced and his rapping was intricate, I liked the Incredible String Band because its songs were purposefully grating and out of tune etc. This policy, however, had only gotten me so far. I reached to limits of my rationalization. I was liking more music than I could find I reason for. I can really like anything, I complained. I worried that I had lost my critical faculties all together. I could find something I liked in almost any song.

I've realized now that I was making a very elemental mistake. I had assumed that being a enthusiast means to hate things, to declare things as low, boring, and worthless, when it really means the opposite. Enthusiasts are enthusiastic about things. I love music. There's no question about it. It's hard to realize in this culture of Top 100 lists and critical pannings, but most music is good music. I don't have to hate music to be a music critic. You probably have to love it.

For example, some weeks ago I posted a link to a song called "Any Girl" by Lloyd Banks. This song is not a song of the year, you could easily hear it on the radio and not even think twice. That said, I LOVE this song. I love the bass, I love the synth line, I love the twang, I love Lloyd's singing, I love the loud-quiet-loud aesthetic, and I especially love Lloyd Banks' first verse. Now, liking songs from the "halls of banality" is not a new thing and I realize that. Every person with opinions has their guilty pleasures. But this is where I have a problem. Fuck guilty pleasures. Calling something a guilty pleasure is basically another way of refusing to accept it on its own terms. Its an insult to everyone involved in creating the music. Pleasure is pleasure. If you have to hang up your critical faculties in order to rationalize something you like, maybe you should consider changing the way you evaluate art.

That said, I have vaguely the same music tastes as any music nerd. Any strong opinions I have are minute and specific enough that most people would not notice the differences. But I heavily support giving everything the benefit of the doubt, and not just for novelty's sake. More importantly, I'm not going to assume something has no quality just because I don't like it. It may not have as much to love as things I respect more highly, but that doesn't mean its worthless. Being a lover of something is much more about exploration then it is about possession. If the key were to make a list of the best of 100 of everything and stop there because everything else is below us, we probably wouldn't listen to music anymore. It would be pretty boring.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Never wear a vest with a t-shirt, even if you are a werewolf and back-flipping off of a Corvette, but especially if you're balding and have a ponytail.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Bun B's verse (2:17) is magical.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Crystals

Shit, can you imagine this blowing out of your AM radio in 1963? We live in a pop future so effected by Crystals producer Phil Spector that it takes quite a while to realize, but instruments just don't sound like this. Those looking for the unique and weird in popular music may feel that 60's girl groups are the last place to look, but these songs are deeply strange. Where else do cavernous studios reverberate rapid fire clavas and timpanis? Where else do drum kits built like tanks back up the most bubblegum piano lines and haunted staccato choruses about delinquent boyfriends? Where else can maracas (or whatever those are) carry the solemn weight of human emotion on their tiny shoulders with near apocalyptic urgency? Nowhere, that's where. Too bad Phil Spector murdered someone recently.

And check out this even more terrifying re-recording of "Then He Kissed Me". Ahhh:

Maggot Brain

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

50 Great Voices

There's about as much bullshit as there is content here, but its good to see this type of thing on NPR.


For most late career artists, an album with a concept like this would be a bad sign. Making a record almost solely with the human voice somehow reeks of both fan service and overextension almost as much as a triple album loosely based on the Armenian genocide. But not so with Bjork. First of all, this album shows actual development, rather than blind exploration. Clear yet subtle influences from friend Aphex Twin pop up all over, as well as more beatboxing than a Timberlake/Timbaland collaboration. Most importantly, however, these are still Bjork songs, and all show her ability to create songs that are somehow both classic and undeniably foreign, even with these slightly-out-of-her-wheelhouse additions. And in the end this is why she doesn't fall victim to the common pitfalls of artistic excess: she never lets fancy experimentation cover her own voice, vocal or otherwise.

Björk - Oceania
Found at

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


It's funny that people criticize hip-hop for excess and posturing when its so full of self-loathing as well.


Although Donuts has quickly risen into my top ten over this past year, I've always been a little reluctant to write about it. For one thing, J Dilla is probably the most talked about and overpraised hip-hop artist on the internet. There's nothing worse than rushing out the get a heavily lauded record only to be confronted with a wall of unfamiliar, difficult, and underwhelming sound, and I will admit that my first listen to Dilla's masterwork was less than a religious experience. More importantly, however, I haven't yet felt that I have discovered all the gifts that the album has to offer, nor have I understood the ones I have. These are things, however, that I think at this point will not happen for a long while. So I'd better just put in my two cents.

We've heard quite a few definitions of the producer's genius. An off kilter style, out-of-this-world drum patterns, left-field timescale manipulation, deceptively simplistic repetition etc. All of these things are amazing qualities that definitely make J Dilla unique and I am absolutely not against attempting to pin down even the most idolized artist's style. All of these things already make Donuts an amazing album. But I'm not comfortable with the idea of attempting to find Dilla's essence in a specific sound, when he was known for changing his sound so often. If you're looking for an overarching quality that makes a Dilla track a Dilla track, "time stretching" would be an oversimplification. Heck, any stylistic description would be an oversimplification.

I think, rather, that what makes Donuts Dilla's magnum opus is that it best showcases his unheard of ability to express personality through his beats. At this point, he is the only non-vocal pop artist I know of that can really do that. And Donuts is his self-portrait, a deliriously complex and subtle one at that. The Dilla of Donuts is a romantic ("Time: The Donuts of the Heart", "Light My Fire"), a neurotic ("Airworks", "The Twister", "Thunder"), a manic-depressive ("Walkinonit") and most of all a prankster (every song). Many times he's all of these at once ("Don't Cry", "One Eleven", "Anti-American Graffiti"). All of these qualities are expressed through his unique and surprising stylistic methods, but by no means are they tied to them. A stifled vocal in "Time: The Donuts of the Heart" can mean utter desperation while a similar effect adds a self-conscious smirk to a voice on "One Eleven". Regardless, it is pressingly true in this case that any attempt to describe his expressions of personality would pale in comparison to the way that the album shows them itself.

Because of which I'm reluctant to post tracks from the album. It would be hard, and rather incomplete, to not to post them all. But I'm going to do it anyway. Here are as many of my favorites as I can find and rationalize fitting into one post:

Monday, August 16, 2010


Joy Division - Ceremony

Found at

New Order - Ceremony

Found at

Galaxie 500 - Ceremony

Found at

Radiohead - Ceremony (Joy Division cover)

Found at

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Critical Beatdown

The beat sounds like Hell Hath No Fury in 1988. The lyrics are like an enjambment exercise in poetry class. The song is terrific.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Goodie Mob

Traditional jazz-rap indicators tend to lean towards the obvious: Bebop samples and a generally mellow feel. I would argue, however, that this track is jazz oriented, if only because of its relative lack of complete tonal specificity, lending it a generally meandering feel. That the emcees and producers are capable of giving the track such a sense of urgency despite this is rather impressive and the result is such that the lyrics seem to hover in air, melodically driven only by themselves. It reminds me a lot of Amerie's "1 Thing", which accomplishes a very similar end by different means.

Regardless, a great track and group. You may recognize Cee-Lo Green from his later Gnarls Barkley project with Danger Mouse.

Long Red

Ok, so after the previous post, I feel that I have to do a little retrospective on this song that I seem to see sampled in every hip-hop track ever recorded: "Long Red" by Mountain. I, for one, had never heard of the band before, but it seems they were a relatively marginal, early 70's rock band. Using such a song is strange, first because it wasn't one of their hits and second because its rare to see rock music sampled in hip-hop when the artist isn't attempting a rap-rock crossover. Third, and most importantly, all of the songs only sample the intro of a single live version of "Long Red". So why? What's the deal? Well first of all, its a really sweet and unique beat. It has a sort of funky, syncopated feel and I imagine its rare to have bass kicks coupled with an audience of thousands clapping along. Second of all, once one producer uses it, that opens up the gates to all those who hear it and want to use it in their own way. I love how such a small, inconsequencial snippet of sound has become so pervasive just because of this style of music culture. It's incredibly organic, in a way, and it really adds a lot of depth to the genre. When J Dilla used it as the main sample on "Stepson of the Clapper", he wasn't only making an amazing track but he was making a comment, a homage to a long tradition.

I would really like to know who used it first. The earliest I can seem to see is 1986's "Eric B is President" from Eric B. and Rakim's Paid in Full. Anyways, here are all the songs I've heard that sample this track, in my best chronological order. I've written where the sample is located under the video. If I don't list it, it should be pretty obvious:

1:19 and drums





A healthy DJ Premier beat here. This almost reminds me of "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag", in the sense that its silence defines the beat more than its muddy bass. Unlike Brown, however, this beat is not smooth, defining the head-bobbing hook with stutters rather than just off-beats.

The beat and lyrics may also remind you of these:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Its hard to sample orchestral sounds in hip-hop, especially those not from R&B or Soul tracks, without the track pigeon-holing itself. Too many artists have used operas and the like to make themselves sound "epic", often sounding cartoonish instead. So when I hear a track that uses strings well, with a light hand, I tend to appreciate it. Freddie Gibbs' first mix tape has a track that fit this bill incredibly. It smartly avoids the fullness that an orchestra can produce, sampling a single violin run in such a way that it seems strange, rather than classical. Compare to Gucci's "Classical", a good song, but not nearly as thematically subtle as the first.

See Me Now

New Kanye West track HERE.

This track is a major reason why Kanye is great. The song is not necessarily weird or groundbreaking, but what it is is intricate, nuanced, and clever. Keep it up bud.

El Chupacabra

Lovin' it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Listen to this 1,000,000 Times

Lovely cymbals among 6,000 other things.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Sweet Look, Dude

Byrne and Eno

Now I love both of these artists, but how much does this sound like "Theme from Shaft"? A lot, is all I'm saying.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Mecca and the Soul Brother

Once upon a time, MC CL Smooth and his friend now mega-producer Pete Rock teamed up and created probably one of the most comfortable hip-hop records ever, Mecca and the Soul Brother. I say comfortable not because the music isn't heavy hitting or focused, but because the record exudes nothing if not the impression that both artists know exactly what they are doing, and are really having a good time doing it. Which is why its even more surprising that this album is so forward looking, the seeds of Illmatic and J Dilla, among others things, being very apparent. This is an oft over looked classic, the apotheosis of so-called "Jazz Hip-Hop" in my opinion. Please listen.

Oh and also, suck it The Low End Theory. Ok, don't suck it but this album is better than you.

A couple of selections:

Friday, August 6, 2010


Shit video, good good song. Really weird and DIY to the max.

Also this:


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Now Now Now

This is the best song I've heard in a long, long, long time.

Melody Nelson

Living in the Postmodern era is a real pain in the rear, isn't it? Despite my best efforts, most of the cultural knowledge I have acquired over the course of my life has been obtained not through experience but parody. My memory is clouded, not with an appreciation for original material, but an inherent mockery reinforced by a thousand Simpsons episodes and Tarantino movies. It is for this reason that I could categorize this song as trite in one knee-jerk swoop without having ever heard any sincere pieces like it. Fortunately this experience highlights the pitfalls of this manner of experiencing culture quite well. Parody, while capable of conveying material in such a way that it is recognizable, is not necessarily capable of conveying the essence of the material's quality. Nor should it be. Thus, despite possessing what seems to be an understanding of this song's style, I have not been given the opportunity to enjoy it. Now that I have gotten past my initial reaction, more due to my own biases than its actual content, I can.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Bowie + Pop = Love

Iggy Pop - The Passenger

Found at

As far as I know this song is pretty well known but I don't think I can risk not telling people about it regardless.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Big Star

Power pop really seems to be a lost art. What was once the realm of the Beatles, the Who, The Zombies and apparently Big Star has been relegated to Weezer and Ok Go. Lame, in my opinion.

The first song is a new favorite. The second is good too.