Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wait ... You Forgot Bad Reviews and Worse Writing ...

Great article by Slate here about why so many music magazines are suffering. They saved us the time of writing it, since our writing is even worse than theirs, what with using 'awesome' to describe anything good and 'fucking horrible' to describe anything bad. And yet still we complain. At least we're not afraid to punch ourselves in our own balls, which is more than can be said for the pretentious d-bags writing reviews mentioning 'the preening relentless of The Butter Elves' latest album, 'Taste Fucker', as they pioneer the boundaries of the genre they helped invent, counter pigfuck strut.'


Sunday, July 26, 2009

94. “It Was Supposed To Be So Easy” by The Streets (2004)

“So I failed on the DVD, but I still had to get the money
Tell mum I couldn't make tea, get the savings and then hurry.
Rushing to the cash machine, still a bit mashed and lean
Then of course a mandatory car, drives by and splashes me.
Get there, the queue's outrageous, ladies taking ages
My rage is blowing gauges, how long’s it take to validate your wages?
At last my turn comes, press the 50 quid button,
Insufficient funds”

Last year, I commented elsewhere that I love Bobby Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings” because he takes you through a fleeting feeling -- something that came to him as a result of looking out the window, a 20 second portion of his day -- and relates how that feeling might last a life time. It’s what makes Dylan so brilliant.

Mike Skinner of The Streets does basically the opposite with this song – he demonstrates the life of a stoner / slacker / everyman bloke by taking you through a meaningless tale of his inability to do his daily chores and cancel a tea date with his mum. It’s not meant to be terribly profound, but it’s a really cool work of art. Skinner is the master of coupling his seemingly absurd thoughts and phrases with catchy beats to make little films of his amusing little world.

“I Was Supposed To Be So Easy” has an almost trippy psychedelic feel to it, but not in any traditional sense. The beats don’t put you in a trance, there are no wacky Hendrix guitars here, but the opening intro and the last outro is pretty damn inventive.

Some people love his earlier songs like “Geezers Need Excitement”, but this song always stood out to me as an incredibly unique marriage of hip hop and British bloke rock. Like Blur’s “Parklife” mixed with Danger Doom. It’s funny, inventive, unique, catchy and great to listen to.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Top 100, #95: Lily Allen, 'LDN'

“Riding through the city on my bike all day, ‘cause the filth took away my license.
It doesn't get me down and I feel OK, ‘cause the sights that I'm seeing are priceless.
Everything seems to look as it should, but I wonder what goes on behind doors.
A fella looking dapper, but he's sitting with a slapper, then I see it's a pimp and his crack whore.

You might laugh you might frown, walkin' round London town.
Sun is in the sky oh why, oh why, would I wanna be anywhere else?”

British pop music gets us to the best and worst of places and Lily Allen seems to originate from the weird place that sits right in the middle of Blur and Kylie Minogue. There’s a cheeky confessional British-ness to Ms. Allen that can make her intolerable at times, but this song is not one of them. In short, this is a great pop song, with a catchy chorus, a summery feel (thanks to calypso-driven Lord Kitchener sample looped throughout) and mostly amusing lyrics. I’ve read Rolling Stone interviews with her and I’ve seen enough absurd quotes from her that I didn’t think I’d be into anything she puts out. But this song is a huge winner, as is her great cover of The Clash’s “Straight To Hell”.

Full disclosure: if I lived in The UK or Ireland, there is strong possibility that I would not be able to endure anything that Lily Allen does, including her music.

Top 100, #96: The Aggrolites, 'Dirty Reggae'

I’d be lying if I told you that I owned a bunch of Aggrolites albums. Actually, I’d be lying if I told you that I owned even one Aggrolites album. Nevertheless, I heard of these guys while attending the 2008 WARPED Tour as a distinguished guest of The Lordz of Brooklyn. People kept telling us that we needed to check them out, but alas, they played at the same exact time as Against Me! (Side note: If you think the WARPED Tour is a laughable concept, then you have never stood on stage during an Against Me set, or spent a day running around the Nassau Coliseum Parking Lot while Pennywise rocked in the foreground.)

At some point, I will get around to buying a bunch of their albums, but in the mean time, I did spend $0.99 on “Dirty Reggae” and it did not disappoint. At a time when Sublime and No Doubt seemed to have effectively watered-down the old school ska sound, thus spawning a host of bad imitators, The Aggrolites go right to the source and rock some intense 1968-style reggae that hits hard and is so damn authentic that it puts the Slackers and Hepcat to shame. (The Insteps, it should be noted, pulled from this same old school time and place, but modernized their sound in a way that made it fresh and important for 1996. Damn, we’re getting old.)

Back to The Aggrolites. If you like Toots and The Maytals or any old style reggae from the late 60 / early 70s, please buy this song and get on with it. If Oasis stole “Wonderwall” from The Beatles’ back catalogue, then The Aggrolites stole this from Toots, and it’s all good.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Set The Controls For The Heart of the ... Moon?

Great odd find here: Pink Floyd jamming on the BBC to the moon landing. There are few things that will ever be as totally fucking cool as having sent guys to the moon. Since then, I think we can agree that the future has been a complete disappointment to everyone unfortunate enough to have stuck around. There are no jetpacks, no T-1000s, no HAL, no Skynet, no Monolith, no Yamato ... things have been pretty goddamn lame and we all know it if we're honest.

We have not even been to Mars, which is a huge joke, and which, should it ever happen, should most definitely feature The Flaming Lips jamming on CNN. Deal?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wilco & Yo La Tengo, Keyspan Park, Coney Island, Brooklyn, July 13, 2009

At some point on Monday night, Jeff Tweedy mentioned that he was really excited to have Yo La Tengo in the house and that we all got our money’s worth by just hearing their opening set. Similarly, when the Yo La’s set ended, me and my friends all agreed that we felt bad that Wilco would have to follow them. So what did Wilco do? If Pete Townsend is gonna smash his guitar, Hendrix has to light it on fire, right? Wilco went nuclear and brought themselves into the awesome, yet strange world of arena rock. It was a lot to wrap your head around, but for all its…how you say…overindulgences, you’d have to be a pretty miserable person to not have enjoyed the rebirth of Wilco Mach III.

That said, the real story for me was the head-exploding Yo La Tengo set – an excellent mix of songs both new and old, some absolute classics (”Julie Christie, the rumors are true!”), and most of all, Ira Kaplan’s insane guitar freak outs that put to shame anything I have seen done by any of the other like-minded noise-rock godfathers of my youth, including Sonic Youth. Yo La managed to bring their best, sounding melodic, tuneful, adventurous and interesting all at the same time. This was most evident on the extended 20 minute guitar epic, (aptly named “The Story of Yo La Tengo”) that closed their set just exploded the shit out of the place and reminded everyone that, yes, Wilco’s own noisy freak-out might actually pale in comparison.

A couple of years ago when we saw The Arcade Fire play before a similarly huge outdoor crowd exceeding 10,000 people, we were completely blindsided by their opening act, LCD Soundsystem. The Yo La set was not as surprising as LCD’s, but it was equally awe-inspiring. Both bands made you take notice, and every time you thought you wanted to talk to your friend or run to the john, you were either (1) blindsided by a confused Britt Daniel on his perpetual quest for brew (2) assaulted with awesomeness and / or (3) mets-morized by Kaplan’s virtuosity (yes, that was a Mr. Met t-shirt he was wearing). It was an impressive performance and seeing this in front of a huge festival crowd on a perfect summer night made it all come together perfectly.

That same backdrop was a large part of the enjoyment of Wilco’s whopping two and a half hour set as well. Everyone at Coney Island, including Jeff Tweedy (“you guys look great tonight! No, really, this is a very attractive crowd”) seemed happy to be outside, by the beach, hot dogs and caviar in their stomach, Cyclone pics in their pocket, Russian Baltika brews in their cabbage. A wise man once said, “You can’t do a free form jazz improvisation in front of a festival crowd!” and though the rebirth of Wilco, Mach III was very much evident on Monday, they took Derek Smalls’ advice and went in the opposite direction: a HUGE sound for a huge crowd.

It was impressive, the show went on and on, Feist came out and sang “You and I” and apparently Mr. Grizzly Bear was there as well, offering nothing, which is better than offering what he normally offers. Yo La came out and joined Wilco for “Spiders (Kidsmoke)”, and Wilco somehow managed to not really pay homage to Mermaid Ave, which was a bit odd, except that this band has nothing to do with the band that recorded those records. Wilco is either going for the big time or simply just evolving into that band that loves showing their chops. Either way, they are clearly more than capable of doing both. And while this new version of the band makes me feel like something else has died, leave it to a perfect summer night to make me forget about any of that stuff and just enjoy it for what it was – a great day at the beach.

Yo La Tengo Setlist

Mr. Tough
We’re An American Band
Little Eyes
Autumn Sweater
Periodically Double Or Triple (new one)
From A Motel 6
Nothing To Hide (new one)
Tom Courtenay
The Story of Yo La Tengo

Wilco Setlist

Wilco (the song)
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
Shot in the Arm
At Least That’s What You Said
Bull Black Nova
You Are My Face
One Wing
Handshake Drugs
Deeper Down
Impossible Germany
Jesus Etc.
Sonny Feeling
I’m Always in Love
Can’t Stand It
Hate it Here
I’m the Man Who Loves You

1st Encore:
Heavy Metal Drummer
You And I@
California Stars*
You Never Know*
Spiders (Kidsmoke)#

2nd Encore:
The Late Greats
Hoodoo Voodoo*

@-Feist on vocals
*-Feist and Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear on backup vocals and percussion
#- Yo La Tengo played

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sorry, It's Just That Everything Has Sucked Shit Lately

Seriously. Things have really sucked shit. I wanted to post more record reviews, but I also hate completely dumping on artists that I like, and a lot of them have been releasing some real donkey dust lately. So writing long-winded diatribes about how bad their latest albums are sort of kills me. Is it because I am so sensitive and caring, yet thoughtful? Probably.

No, really, I just don't feel like unleashing streams of vituperation and negativity, because I feel like nothing will break this funk if I do that. I'll just start hating everything in my 'To Be Reviewed' playlist, I'll have cursed myself to be doomed to a life of hating every single new release I come across. That said, I will keep this short: I am going to start reviewing albums again, you can all release that huge breath you took and stop contemplating suicide.

Forthwith a list of things I have not enjoyed so far this year (aside from a few songs here and there): Wilco's 'Wilco (the Album)', Spoon's 'Got Nuffin', Bruce Springsteen's 'Working On A Dream', Bob Dylan's 'Together Through Life', Andrew Bird's 'Noble Beast', ... And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead's 'The Century of Self', Animal Collective's 'Merriweather Post Pavilion', God Help the Girl (self-titled), The Decemberists 'The Hazards of Love', Patterson Hood's 'Murdering Oscar', Dirty Projector's 'Bitte Orca' ... need I go on?

OK, upon looking at that, they weren't all shit. Some of them were just fucking mediocre. Congratulations.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Live Review: Mystic Valley Band, July 4th, Battery Park, NYC

There's a new guest columnist in town, he goes by the name of Bucky and this is his first contribution. I know, it's a ridiculous fucking name. Here it is:

Excellent show. Jenny Lewis came out on stage wearing an American Flag. Her voice is so good live. Every time I have seen her voice is just as good, if not better than on her records. Does she ever lose her voice? Her band was tight, rocking and fun. She did a cover of Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park (feels like the 4th of July)” which was so cool and appropriate. She also invited Conor Oberst and a few others on stage for a version of “Handle Me with Care”.

Oberst and the MVB were great. The setlist was perfect. I got to hear every song by them that I wanted to. Each member got to sing their respective song from the new album which broke up the set nicely. That ‘Air Mattress’ song is fun live, they noted that this was the first time they played the song during the day. Conor was in a funny mood, making jokes about the Statue of Liberty: “Hey what’s that huge statue out there, it’s really pretty”. Wishing everyone to have a Happy 4th and to get “fucking festive!”. The one member from Alabama just kept on talking about how overwhelming it is to be in a huge city like NY. They didn’t play any covers but that is okay since they played many songs. They ended the show with Roosevelt Room which was appropriate for the day. That Hospital song got the whole park dancing.

General notes Battery Park: was a great place to see a show. Statue of Liberty in the background with boats constantly driving by. No beer but that was OK as people seemed to be smuggling in bottles pretty easily. The park was packed with lots of families and lots of children. The park was also filled with lots of random older people that must just go around to all of the free shows. There were also tourists in there that I guess just wanted to see what was going on. It was a great way to spend the 4th.

One other note, I was telling my wife about how Conor Oberst is on Merge now etc. She had not known that. She asked if the Saddle Creek gang was angry with him etc. When Oberst was introducing the band he referred to Nate Walcott as his best friend and the only person in the world that he trusts. He went on to say that over the past couple of years he has burned lots of bridges and lost many friends and that Nate is the only person that ever stood by him. Molly turned to me and said, “Well, that answers that question.”

Here are the setlists:

Jenny Lewis - 4th of July, 2009 - setlist

Saturday In The Park

See Fernando

The Charging Sky

You Are What You Love


Acid Tongue 

Silver Lining


Rise Up With Fists

Just Like Zeus

Handle With Care

The Next Messiah

(((Big Wave)))

Born Secular

Conor Oberst - 4th of July, 2009 - setlist


Souled Out 



Air Mattress

Eagle (CO)


Ten Women




Cape Canaveral

Get Well Cards

Big Black Nothing

One of My Kind

Reason #2

Lenders in the Temple

Difference is Time

Danny Callahan


Roosevelt Room

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Top 100 of the Decade: #97 Fiery Furnaces 'Here Comes the Summer'

(Yes, the attached you tube video plays the album track of “Here Comes The Summer” along with some random person’s home video of their kids. Strangely, it works.)

“October damp on down the street: remember?
The sodden leaves stuck to your feet: remember?
You knew it wouldn’t be too soon; we’ll have to wait until its June.
I’ve been waiting since I don’t know when and now it finally seems about to start.
I swear, I swear, that I will do my part.”

The Furnaces’ spiraling, open-ended, organ-driven sound is not everybody’s cup of tea, but for those that grasp it, it really hits as a band that can incorporate a timeless song and melody and stretch it out to become something different and captivating. It’s not experimental in a noise-rock sense, but their whole approach is slightly off-kilter and it keeps the songs really fresh. Think of this as experimental in the same way that Wilco expanded their sound on “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” -- I guess that’s not much of a far-off comparison, as this duo did opened for Wilco on their “A Ghost is Born” tour.

Anyway, “Here Comes The Summer” is a song that just has a really nice feel to it, one that fits the lyrics perfectly. It is off of their B-Sides compilation, strangely called “EP”, despite its 10 songs. This album was a huge revelation to me when my friend burned it for me, along with Van Halen’s “1984”. I love this album (EP, not 1984), and though I am far from a Friedberger family historian, I think this is their best and most listenable record and I guess that’s no coincidence, as some of these songs are poppier takes on more experimental album tracks. (That sounds backwards, but that’s how it is). “Tropical Ice-Land” blows away the “Gallowsbird” version, for instance.

It’s strange that the EP is basically a compilation, because it plays through so seamlessly. “Single Again” is a fractured tale of death and betrayal, but I always loved the line “when I was single, my pockets did jingle, oh I wish I was single again”. When the song breaks out, it is exactly the same as when Wilco’s “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” breaks out of the electronic trance and into the big guitar riff. Coincidence? “Evergreen” might be my second favorite Furnaces song, with a bunch of lines that grab me, like this one: “I was wielding my axe, drunk whisky at the bar. Every night coming home, out the windshield of my car, I would look through the boughs and think I saw my lucky star.” And the closer, “Sullivan’s Social Slub” is the recipient of the prestigious TAGTOE alliteration award. Not a small thing.

Lastly, Eleanor Friedberger is a great name.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

NY Times Article on WILCO

He'd like to thank you all for nothing at all. Check it out.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Oh, and no ...

We don't have anything to say about the death of Michael Jackson, and not even because we're too lazy to post anything.

OK, we'll post this, as it says it better than we ever could. We are not sad.

Top 100 of the Decade: #98 'Time to Pretend', MGMT

“We’ll choke on our vomit, that will be the end, we were fated to pretend.”

An insanely catchy and cheeky song about getting the major label deal and blowing it all on models and drugs and trips to Paris. If you caught their debut on Letterman with them wearing capes and rocking the dark blue light, you knew this song was going to make a splash – it was instantly obvious during that performance that this was more than just a little indie band, even though they sounded not unlike most of the stuff that came out on Saddle Creek from 2000-2009. This song overshadowed the fact that their debut record is not just a catchy pop album, but more of a psychedelic take on early 70s Pink Floyd and 80s rock, disco and 90s indie rock and…The Flaming Lips.

“I’ll miss the playgrounds and the animals and the digging up worms

I’ll miss the boredom and the freedom and the time spent alone.”

It has to be mentioned that “Kids” and its accompanying video is the “98a” entry here. There actually may well be more depth and legs to this song than “Time To Pretend”, but we’ll keep things where they are for the sake of keeping things where they are.Lastly, I have to say, I thought of this band as a bit of flash in the pan at first. The Letterman clip turned me forward, but seeing “Electric Feel” on one of those “Live at Abbey Road” Sundance Channel shows made me realize that these guys are real. That song sounds old and yet familiar at the same time, a nice little winner.