March 31, 2008

Things You Hear Walking Around Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart Radio offers the occasional diamond in the rough: I've heard New Order's "Regret" and "Bizarre Love Triangle". Often times, you get either older garbage I can't stand (the Eagles, Jimmy Buffet) or newer trash that I... can't stand. The worst is when they play new tracks in an attempt, in vain, to be the hip kids (read: Target). Two tracks and the entire system behind them have drawn my ire and I shall now flay them.

The marketing of mainstream women musicians, for the most part, is shit. It starts with this "woman as cool songstress", then morphs into "woman as sexual predator." Look at Jewel's career. She went from "Who Will Save Your Soul?" to "Intuition" in seven years.

Colbie Caillat? Holy shit. Terrible. That "Bubbly" song is everything wrong with most music. The acoustic guitar pickin', fun lovin' California gal shit gets pretty old... especially when that got played out by Jack Johnson as the acoustic guitar pickin', fun lovin' Hawaiian guy thing. It's what happens when people get told that the singers on American Idol are what is good and desirable, despite the obvious that there are singers in churches all over the country as good or better than the American Idol winners... and I can only take so much of that. And come on. Her album is called "Coco". We can smell a dead woodchuck from a mile away around Slamdunk Stalin.

Sara Bareilles isn't much better. How many American girwomen aged 16-30 have now typed into their Facebook status, "____ isn't going to write you a love song?" Innumerable amounts, that's how many. But it's ok! More people than myself see the impending career implosion. Bring me the head of James Blunt! But just because somebody else is hoping, praying, and prognosticating that she'll no longer to be a menace to society after this one song gets over-played, that doesn't diminish the fact that this damn song is still being played all the fucking time.

This isn't anything new to most people, I know. We all likely share the same feelings of disgust, dread, and, ultimately, resignation when we hear the opening refrain of "Head under water." It so infuriates me that I wanted to, nay, had to, post this up.

March 29, 2008

Where was I?

So, I'm going to try this new "segment" or what have you. Just a little something I've been thinking a lot about. I'm going to write about some kind of musical experience I've had in my life that sticks out or that I remember significantly and how, if at all, it relates to where I am now. Like I said, sometimes there won't be any huge relation between the two, other times it will be obvious and a few others may only make sense to a few people (regardless of if you know me or not). There may be times when I list the same artists or songs, but that's that and that's how this will work. Where I was and where I am now. Take one...

Where I was then: 6th grade, 1995-96’. We all had matching tank tops; every shade of blue that met in a ‘V’ down the center of the shirt…and it had spaghetti straps. Spaghetti straps only meant that you were some of the coolest people around in that time, you know. I was “Scary” because I had the curly hair. I didn’t mind much; she was probably my favorite anyway. Tracy was “Ginger” because she was skinny with big boobs and the most obvious reason? She had red hair. Mandy was “Baby” because she was the quietest person in our group of friends, and definitely the cutest. Jenn C. was “Posh” but to this day I can’t really explain why, other than to round out the group. The halls rung with calls of “GIRL POWER!” peace signs flew high around the jungle gym and learning dance steps whilst wearing matching outfits was the activity of choice out at recess. The British Invasion of “my time” came in the form of five women by the name of Spice. The Spice Girls “Wannabe” was the #1 hit of 1996 and every girl at Fairmount Elementary was all over it. The bouncy, harmonic, sticky pop was just what girls my age apparently needed to lift our spirits and deter us from following alternative radio, like the “down and out” Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins (which, strangely enough, I had a huge crush on Bill Corgan while I still sang songs from the Spice Girl album). Like all things too good to be true, the phase went out about as quickly as it came in. I listen to it now and I won’t deny its catchiness and quirkiness, but it really makes me laugh when I listen to the lyrics and when I vividly recall those sunny days on the playground.Where they were then...

Where I am now: When I went to trade in my Spice Girls albums, I had never intended on a delayed exchange over 10 years later and in the form of three different British women. Right now, I have my hand in a mush pot of choices ranging from the fun and flirty to the raucous and jazzy. First we had everyone’s favorite little rehab client, Amy Winehouse. While not necessarily tacky bubblegum pop, Winehouse’s sultry music and quaint dilemmas attach to us just like the Spice Girls antics did.

More fun, flirty and funky is Ms. Lily Allen with her own brand of commercial “indie-pop”. I was especially drawn to Mark Ronson’s production and use of old reggae songs to create more vivacious songs and lyrical patterns. Just like everyone else, I enjoyed hearing the snarky comments, childish setbacks and sometimes whiny approach coming from Lily. Lastly, and most recently, Kate Nash has come on to the scene to take Lily’s place, but with a more developed sound and modus operandi.

Unlike Lily, Kate plays her own instrument (piano) while singing. Even in the process of complaining Kate Nash gives the impression that she is more mature and experienced in her ways. Just like I sang along with the Spice Girls, I sing along with these three ladies. Just like I truly felt that “girl power” was and could be a true notion, I feel like these ladies have real problems that speak to all girls of our age and scene. When I sing along I have a tendency to get way too into it, clapping along, playing air drums, fingering my own imaginary piano and singing (at times screaming) along and truly feeling what these girls are feeling. Anyway, I’d much rather listen to these three beautiful British women than what the 6th grade me listened to. Do I regret being a Spice Girl in my own little world and my own little time? No, because that’s what helped bring me to where I am now. No Kate, Lily or Amy, but where the Spice Ladies are now. Top notch, ladies.

March 22, 2008

Make That Three...

Well, I suppose it's time for me to weigh in my favorites from 2007. There's a fair amount of overlap in my list and the others, so I'll try to stick to elaboration that hasn't been covered yet. Sound good?

  • Field Music, Tones of Town:
This album gladly joins the ranks of No Dice, Radio City, Heaven Tonight, and Bandwagonesque a A Document of Pristine Power Pop without sounding derivative or stale. It's just off-kilter enough to really seem like an innovative statement without losing the joy or approachability of the aforementioned records. Field Music play around with phrase lengths, rhythms, textures (they even sample the drum machine track from "Beat It", tastefully, and it's SEAMLESS), and vocal harmony but at the same time stick to the stuff that made rock into great art: songs that are more emotionally complicated than their three chords would have you believe. Plus, the video for "In Context" is pretty awesomely badass.
  • The Clientele, God Save The Clientele
If Belle and Sebastian are this generation's Fairport Convention, The Clientele are this generation's Chad and Jeremy + Left Banke + Zombies. Okay, so that sets the bar a little high in terms of homage. But The Clientele have really matured their sound since 1997 and the cleaner production of this album, in contrast with their reverb-drenched earlier efforts, helps reveal a breathtaking sophistication in the simplest things they do. "The Queen of Seville" wins mad props because its steel guitar line is beautiful, it's about being lonely, and the title character sends the singer roses from Spain. Full disclosure: This song is, weirdly, about me. Or at least coincides neatly with the fact that my girlfriend is spending the semester in Spain.
  • Georgie James, Places
You gotta believe a drummer can write/play/sing a great record after leaving his band! Easily the strongest Saddle Creek offering in a year that gave the world Help Wanted Nights from The Good Life and a fairly strong full-length debut from Two Gallants. The way John Davis and Laura Burhenn play with genre influences without resorting to outright form-exercise is really quite fascinating to me. Plus they rock ass.
  • John Vanderslice, Emerald City
I initially thought this record was a step backward from the note-perfect, lush songcraft of Pixel Revolt. Then I saw the songs live and realized that they may be some of the most emotionally charged story-songs put out so far this decade. Even if the fuzzy, overdriven acoustic guitars blow out your speakers, it's worth the price of Vanderslice's gift very forcefully arriving at your brain. As a social comment on the way we cope with the War in Iraq and what motivations make people do absolutely appalling things, it's a supremely apt statement. "White Dove," "Tablespoon of Codeine," and "The Tower" all impress with their lush lyrical detail and subtle musical flourishes.
  • Ryan Adams, Easy Tiger
While I respect Georgie James for their style-hopping syncretism, I likewise totally bow down to Ryan Adams for so adeptly making genre exercises his own. Where Cold Roses showed his classic rock-jam-flag at full mast, Jacksonville City Nights revelled in the quaint grandeur of countrypolitan retroism, and Rock n' Roll made a fairly convincing modern rock turn, Easy Tiger manages to incorporate the splintered elements of the Ryan Adams catalogue into a defiantly varied and accomplished album. "Two," "Everybody Knows," and "The Sun Also Sets" abide by the "original" R.A. sound in their touched, rustic folk-rock and "Pearls on a String" throws a bluegrass curveball, but I find "Rip Off" to be the album's most staggering track: three and a half minutes of restrained, stately, and emotionally bare-knuckled songcraft that combines elements of chamber pop, earnest folk, aching throwback country, spare lyricism, and gorgeous detail. That's enough gushing from me. This album is simply excellent.

Also enjoyed profoundly: Bishop Allen, The Broken String; Ted Leo and The Pharmacists, Living with the Living; Polyphonic Spree, The Fragile Army; Modest Mouse, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank; Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, 100 Days, 100 Nights.

So yeah, the trinity is complete.

March 20, 2008

I'm such a slacker

I promised one of those non-exhaustive best of 2007 wank fests and I didn't deliver.

So here we go, without order, rhyme, or reason.

  • Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
    When you're riddled with depression, sometimes you have to put on a face and move on: stiff upper lip and all that. I don't usually dig when artists create an artificial artifice... a facade... to sell their songs to their audience (I'll halfway lump Bowie's Ziggy Stardust into this catagory and will toss the entire Coheed and Cambria catalog and the whole sci-fi story they've created into it). Tony Montana said, "I always tell the truth. Even when I lie." Kevin Barnes was probably more in Oscar Wilde territory than Scarface when he crafted Hissing Fauna, the first half of which includes some great tracks. It suffers a similar fate of many albums and is too front loaded, but none of the tracks would I consider skippable. Many of you have probably already heard this album.

  • LCD Soundsystem - Sounds of Silver
    "All My Friends" is possibly one of the best songs I've ever heard. That's not blogger hyperbole that totes Vampire Weekend, Tapes and Tapes, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah as the second coming of the messiah: that's honesty. I'm still a young pup at 24, but when I go to shows, I feel like old man winter. Listening to LCD Soundsystem doesn't make me feel so bad.

  • Radiohead - In Rainbows
    I'm not going to pull our leg. I thought Hail to the Thief was a bland album by Radiohead standards and even though I had a prerelease of it, I chucked it. I feared more of the same on In Rainbows and sincerely hoped that it wouldn't follow in the footsteps of its predecessor. Especially with the added pressure of the "set your own price" gimmick that cost them money when I downloaded their album for free from their own webpage. Seriously, this is in OK Computer territory. It's a fantastic album that gets overshawdowed by the aforementioned pricing scheme. "House of Cards" is probably my favorite track. It's a headphone album, like many previous Radiohead albums have been.

  • M.I.A. - Kala
    There are parts of Kala when you want to yell at M.I.A. for being halfway between the western world and this unknown, unseen that most Americans will never know or see... and because it's absolutely ludicrous to be decrying some of this shit while living on the cusp of the world in which causes such atrocities to occur. Maybe it's that kind of bravado that makes Kala work. It's all over the map in a way that usually bugs the life out of me. "Paper Planes" is the hot track, but I've been digging "$20". It's got New Order's "Blue Monday" as the base (but not annoying like Orgy's cover) and informs that an AK-47 in Africa will only cost me Andrew Jackson... which is pretty sweet, if I wanted an AK.

  • Battles - Mirrored
    I saw Battles live in Denton, Texas on June 25, 2007. I saw four men play electronic rock to absolute, pitch perfect perfection. Having seen the monstrosity live, I saw their album in a different light. "These guys can play these tracks LIVE, without studio trickery." Mirrored has effected me in ways that most albums don't. I went and got a copy of Reason for my Mac, downloaded a keyboard emulator, and have tried to write my own music. It's like when the Sex Pistols played Manchester and almost everybody in attendance started a band; from the one show, you ended up with the Smiths, the Buzzcocks, Joy Division (later New Order), the Fall... and Tony Wilson was there, who started that Factory Records label. It was like that for me. So yeah.

    Narrowly missing the cut:
  • Band of Horses - Cease to Begin
  • Panda Bear - Person Pitch
  • The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
  • Les Savy Fav - Let's Stay Friends

  • March 17, 2008

    Second hand tales

    Perez Hilton is stroking himself off and saying he had one of the biggest baddest shows at SXSW. And as we've learned from Hillary Clinton's campaign, if you say enough bullshit loud enough, enough times, somebody is bound to believe it.

    The highlight act was N.E.R.D. Who are basically worthless. And don't get me started on Robyn.


    And don't get me started on invite only parties.


    You know who does a great U2 impersonation? U2.


    Blogs that talk about SXSW are usually a lot more interesting when one or more of the contributors are there. We're sorry. We're just kind of dreaming that we had been able to go, get accosted for trying to enter an invite only parties, swilling shitty Texas beer (and your Shiner and Lone Star ARE shitty, no matter how many fucking times you tell yourselves its alright or even good), and maybe seeing somebody famous standing outside of Schlotzky's. I saw the dude from Queens of the Stone Age two years ago!

    March 15, 2008

    Students for Concealed Carry on Campus

    Somebody started a group on Facebook with the premise that if more students carried firearms of their own, less tragedies like those at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois would occur.

    Because seriously, a student who is at wits end and has concluded that killing a handful of their peers and then themselves will be deterred by the idea of SOMEBODY ELSE shooting them. That will solve the woes that plague the university system; instead of just unstable students carrying weapons, uninformed students will be carrying them as well.

    God bless America, because we certainly aren't helping ourselves.

    March 14, 2008

    Friday... do what you want

    SXSWers (Jenn heard Moby call it "South By"; apparently this is a verbal buzzword among hip folks in the know. Because speaking full, proper nouns is impossible) take note of my opinion of potentially expensive showcase shows:

    Joan of Arc at 8 at Habana Calle 6 Patio
    Paint It Black at 9:40 at the Scoot Inn
    Rogue Wave at 10pm at Cedar Door
    X at 10pm at the Bat Bar in the Convention Center
    We Versus the Shark at 10pm at the Light Bar
    Brian Posehn at 10:30pm at Esther's Follies and 11:30 at the Velveeta Room
    Vampire Weekend at 11pm at Antone's
    Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin at 12:45am at Habana Calle 6
    Tech N9ne at 1am at Volume

    Again, if time, space, and myself could be altered and melded into some mélange of science fiction and pure fantasy, I would be at those.

    March 13, 2008

    SXSW Watch

    Jenn and I were going to go to SXSW as our honeymoon. It's short on the romantic and long on the rock, sweat, and the holy cluster fuck, to be sure, but it's generally a grand old time. We went in 2006, caught a free Velvet Teen show at some little outdoor stage at a bar, saw the Saddle Creek/Barsuk Showcase at the Parish, mildly schmoozed at some weird bar-in-a-parking garage, and ran out of money. I think we saw Rogue Wave at the Urban Outfitters on Guadalupe, though. God I hate that boho bullshit.

    Needless to say, we are short on funds again so pulling the typical blogger vacation to Austin is out. For at least a year.

    Our homeboys in So Many Dynamos (link on the side) are playing something like four shows. There's the Billiken Club Day Party at Jovitas Mexican Restaurant (aside: You cannot get decent Mexican food in St. Louis. If anybody knows exceptions to this generalizations, leave a message.) They bomb a house party at 3102 Robinson on the 14th, then play Saturday at Parts and Labour (1604 S Congress Ave). Go. Enjoy. If you're label affiliated, sign them. I think Griffin owes me a ride home when I'm drunk.

    Other than that, big-time sanctioned shows I'd be at if I could afford it and could bend time and space today would be:
    Talib Kweli (5:30) and Del the Funky Homosapien (7) at the Auditorium Shores Stage
    Octopus Project at 1am at Emo's (Maybe they can redeem themselves)
    The Evangelicals at 10pm at Mohawk Patio
    Dizzee Rascal at 1:15am at the Scoot Inn
    The English Beat at 11:45 at whatevers at 504 Trinity

    Since I am stuck in the 'Lou, I'm going to go grab dinner at my in-laws house. Hey, there's a bonus!

    March 5, 2008

    "That Brett Fahv-ra Guy"

    For those of you who follow AMERICAN football (ahem, =p=...), an icon retired yesterday. Undoubtedly one of the top-five quarterbacks ever to play the game. This is like if Theirry Henry up and retired, in case you Slamdunkers miss the subtle nuances of the Violent Ballet while you watch your Beautiful Game and your cross-kicks and whatnot.

    I've always hated the Packers, their weird cheese cult, slavish media following, and irritating ability to startle and confound teams I wind up rooting for. In the '96 Super Bowl, after all, I rooted for the Patriots. The pre-Belicheck/Brady/Dark Side of the Force Patriots, who were a bunch of lovable losers playing behind laid-back Pacific Coaster Drew Bledsoe and riding on the back of the always-classy Curtis Martin. Then this stupid team from the boondocks with their ugly yellow helmets and unflappable efficiency came in and destroyed them, and that was mostly because of Brett Favre. [full disclosure: I was a Niners fan in the Nineties, having lived in the Bay Area during the Montana Era, but after about 1994 I watched exactly one football game a year, and it was the Super Bowl, and after the 1995 SF/SD slaughterfest, I just kind of picked the underdog in the Super Bowl as my "team for the year". I now consider myself an ambivalent Seahawks fan.]

    Favre played that game with an easy grace, always seeming a step ahead of the Pats' pass rush. He never needed to go to his third read. He stood tall in the pocket, while on Pats possessions, Bledsoe looked absolutely terrified that his protection was on the verge of yet another breakdown and that his overtaxed knees were big bullseyes for Reggie White and crew. I hated Brett Favre then, and much of what he appeared to be is much of why I hate Tom Brady now. There is an arrogance in excellence that always threatens to dwarf accomplishment, and Favre's methodical destruction of a hapless Patriots secondary on television, for all the world to see, struck me as profoundly arrogant. It did not help matters that he was throwing to Andre Rison and Sterling Sharpe.

    I look back at my youthful vitriol and I feel shocked that I could hate a man who, after his first touchdown pass, leapt joyfully in the air and bounded toward the sidelines like Mike Holmgren had just walked in with an armful of Christmas presents. A man who overcame vicodin addiction not just for the sake of football, but for the sake of his family. While Favre was holding out and mulling retirement in spring 2006, I followed his story and felt contempt for him the whole way. How could this washed-up, self-styled legend who led the league in interceptions that year hold an entire organization (Packers though they were) hostage after firing their coach and installing one on the recommendation of Favre (Mike Sherman ===> Mike McCarthy, a then-controversial move), and take so long to tell them 'yes' or 'no' that he'd be flagged for 76,896 delay-of-game penalties if he spent the whole decision-making period on the field? Yet I failed to account for his wife's public battle with breast cancer, the deaths of his father and cousin, and the immense respect Brett Favre had for the game. For the latter, he'd spend untold hours trying to decide whether he, and his aging arm, were good enough to fit into the same world as quarterbacking a contending team in the National Football League. It looks like Brett Favre has finally decided he just doesn't want to spend that much energy on deciding it again.

    Happy Trails, Brett Favre. Please don't ever come back to the Packers. Or *cringe* the Raiders.

    March 3, 2008

    Gear Grinder

    It's pretty easy to take pot shots at Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy. He's dating Ashley Simpson for fucks sake.

    He's gotten this idea that making a mall-punk mogul out of himself, styled after the branching out of empire done by hip hoppers, is a really great idea. It's the idea of striking while the iron is hot, before your fifteen minutes of fame come to a grinding halt.

    He's got a club in New York called Angels and Kings, a clothing company, and now he's opening a unisex hair salon in Chicago.

    It's 14:57 I guess.

    Oh, and my list is coming tonight after I do a little laundry and go to Bed Bath and Beyond. You know, cool married stuff.