Thursday, December 31, 2009

Drischord's Best of 2009

This was a wonderful year for "good" albums; I can't remember a year in which I genuinely liked so many new releases. In particular, it was way better than 2008. But it was also a year that would have been trumped by records that only made it to #2 or #3 on previous lists of mine. For me there was no Sky Blue Sky, In Rainbows or Modern Times to run away with 2009. Anyway, here's my list...

11. Mount Eerie Wind Poem- Back when Phil Elvrum was recording as The Microphones (and Pitchfork was letting him cum all over their collective tits), I found his music to be lacking in many ways. Mount Eerie is a different story. His sound collage experimentation is finally landing for me, and he's found new ways to sound exciting, challenging, and sometimes even scary.

10. Bonnie "Prince" Billy Beware- I liked this one just as much as Lie Down in the Light. A little less openly inviting, but the songs are great and his arrangements have never been better.

9. Polvo In Prism- This band's reunification was a gift from the indie rock gods. So happy they're back and making awesome music once again.

8. Slaid Cleaves Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away- My favorite country recording of the year. I first heard Slaid Cleaves when I got a free promo recording at the Daily Northwestern. He fell by the wayside for me a bit, but I rediscovered him this year and thought this record was excellent.

7. Built To Spill There Is No Enemy- Another return to form from a late '90s classic.

6. Dirty Projectors Bitte Orca- So glad Radiohead put out a new one this year.

5. Animal Collective Merriweather Post Pavillion- I want to react against Pitchfork and hate this album, but it's too good to deny. Still haven't uncovered everything it has to offer.

4. Sonic Youth The Eternal- If, on the heels of Experimental Jetset..., Washing Machine, and NYC Ghosts and Flowers, you had told me Sonic Youth would put out 4 of the best rock albums of the '00s, I would have laughed in your face. Good thing that conversation never happened. What a decade for this band.

3. Morrissey Years of Refusal- I'm repeating myself, but why did I have no idea that this guy's solo career was so good? This was the only album of this year that I played on constant repeat after buying it.

2. Phoenix Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix- I had no idea who these guys were a year ago and their (incorrect) categorization as French dance pop sounds miserable. But what can I say? This record is awesome.

1. Bill Callahan Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle- Moody, relaxing, scary, beautiful, sometimes all in the same song. I've really gotten into the whole span of his career, and this is my favorite record he's put out.

Other Categories:

Can't Offer Any Objective Opinion Because I Just Got It and He Just Tragically Died
Vic Chesnutt- At the Cut

Honorable Mention
Dinosaur Jr.- Farm
Neko Case- Middle Cyclone
Sunset Rubdown- Dragonslayer
Yo La Tengo- Popular Songs
Jeremy Enigk- OK Bear
Nels Cline- Coward

Good Enough, Yet Disappointing
Wilco- Wilco (the Album)
Bob Dylan- Together Through Life
Andrew Bird- Noble Beast
Antlers- Hospice

Resented Purchasing
Grizzly Bear- Veckatimest
Owen- New Leaves

Didn't Hear
Passion Pit
Modest Mouse
Flaming Lips
Wye Oak
Jim O'Rourke

Monday, December 28, 2009

VC's Personal Best of 2009

So there was a lot of music I liked this year from a lot of bands that I care about. But between a busy schedule and a very hectic (and crummy) year of life, those new albums just didn't fill my soul this year. I could definitely come up with a top 10 albums of 2009, but it seems arbitrary and not really that accurate - I mean, I haven't heard the Grizzly Bear, am still digesting Embryonic, never got that new Tortoise I really wanted - how fair can such a list be?

I also was really struck by a column in the Reader (which sadly I can not find online to link) talking about the weird way that pretty much all top 10 lists have some degree of same-ness, and asking if such a thing is really needed. It struck a chord with me, and for me, the answer is no. I am more intrigued to check out the top 10 of a more well-rounded, educated listener like Tex than to basically throw out my own random list.

That said, there was indeed stuff that spoke to me this year, and spoke to me in a profound way. So, at the risk of seeming very arrogant and self-serving, I present my own highly personalized Top 5 Music Highlights of 2009:

1. Phish: March 6, 2009, Hampton Coliseum – This was the first show back for Phish after their huge hiatus, and really, for me, the year never gets any better than the “Fluffhead” that opens this show. There is this amazing energy in the crowd that you can hear even through the recording, and the band is just playing their hearts out. It’s obvious they felt they had something to prove here, and they did it. Rest of the show is amazing too.

2. Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion – At the risk of getting all Pitchfork-y here, yeah this thing is incredible. I only got into AC relatively recently, so this is their first new album I’ve bought (from eMusic, naturally!) and it really is everything I like about this band. I’m not so into them that I enjoy things like “Bees” or “Here Comes the Indian” but if they want to be all “sold out” and mainstream and make things like this, that’s just fine by me.

3. Phish: Exile on Main Street – Phish Halloween costume this year, and the first one in 10 years. Man is it great. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings join them for the entire album, adding some great dynamics to an all around beautiful performance. Highlights are Phish staple “Loving Cup” along with “Torn and Frayed.”

4. Sunset Rubdown: Dragonslayer – My clear cut #2 album of the year, and just an all around good time. I get the dislike of Krug’s voice, but it doesn’t bother me, and the big, crazy guitars and all around epicness of the whole thing gets me in that sweet spot.

5. Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Pictures at an Exhibition – Not to get all snooty here, but Jen and I saw the CSO perform this fantastic piece of music early this year, and it was really beautiful. Tons of great segments to this that you know from all kinds of movies, TV shows, and more. I’m not such a classical music enthusiast that I love everything I see (we saw 2 other show this year that were fine but not remarkable) but this… THIS is the bomb.

Other traditional albums I really dug this year in no particular order (aka, the rest of my regular top 10): Flaming Lips - Embryonic; A.C. Newman - Get Guilty; Andrew Bird - Noble Beast; Sonic Youth - The Eternal; Zombi - Spirit Animal; Wilco - Wilco (The Album); Phish - Joy; The Pains of Being Pure at Heart; Sparklehorse & Danger Mouse - Dark Night of the Soul

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Rest In Peace, Vic Chesnutt

I'm sorry to break up what should be a series of happy posts about all the great music that came out this year. But Vic Chesnutt, a great singer and songwriter and one of my very favorite musicians, tragically died on Christmas Day.

It's not entirely clear what happened, but it sounds like a suicide. The guy had made previous attempts in the past, but it appears there hadn't been any in over a decade. What makes the timing of this news particularly upsetting is that he'd just released an album, At the Cut, where he directly addresses these suicide attempts in a song called "Flirted With You All My Life." The song treats suicide like a would-be lover with whom Chesnutt has had a series of near-misses. In the lyrics, he comes to the conclusion that for all of suicide's appeals, it isn't right for him...

When you touched a friend of mine I thought I would lose my mind

But I found out with time that really, I was not ready, no no, cold death

Oh death, I’m really not ready

But Chesnutt's death is not as simple as a routine suicide (as if there was such a thing). The other issue at hand is-- get ready-- America's totally Fucked Up health care system. The quick back-story is that for the past several years, Vic Chesnutt couldn't pay his obscenely scary hospital bills, and that this may have driven him over the edge. He'd been paralyzed at age 18 after a drunk driving accident, suffering from medical complications ever since. It recently had reached a point beyond anything he could control. From his obit:

However, Chesnutt had recently struggled with a lawsuit filed by a Georgia hospital after he racked up surgery bills totaling some $70,000, the Athens newspaper reported. He said he couldn't afford more than hospitalization insurance and couldn't keep up with the payments.

The problems baffled his Canadian bandmates, Chesnutt said.

"There's nowhere else in the world that I'd be facing the situation I'm in right now. They cannot understand what kind of society would inflict that on their population," he said. "It's terrifying."

This entire ordeal was documented on an episode of "Fresh Air" with Terri Gross that aired at the beginning of this very month. Vic talked about his medical bills, overcoming his suicidal depression and the new record. It's crazy that this all came to a head so soon after that interview was taped. Listen to the full episode if you get the chance. It's long but it's great radio, and it's so revealing in the wake of all this. (It also features Chesnutt's collaborator, Guy Picciotto, who is best known as the lead guitarist of Fugazi. All the more reason for a certain Drischord to love the album.)

To be succinct, this is really sad news. A huge loss for American folk music. I'd like to write more at a later date, but for now I'm going to re-post a track that I included in a blog entry a few months back. It's called "Aunt Avis", and it shows Vic Chesnutt at his most penetrating and haunting. Listen to this in a dark room on a good stereo and you'll shudder.

This is an insufficient tribute to a great musician and a casualty of our awful, awful healthcare system. The world is better for the 15 albums Vic Chesnutt gave it but worse off for being a place where people like him die way before their time.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Tex Plush's Favorite Albums of 2009

13. God Help The Girl
Belle and Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch has made an album with all female singers, fantastic vocal and string arrangements, and a slight musical theater bent. In addition to some great new songs, this album includes reimaginings of a couple tracks off of The Life Pursuit - a B&S album with fantastic songwriting that was fatally wounded by poor production values (I literally can't listen to TLP anymore because of the way the snare drum sounds). Thanks, Stuart, for saving this song in particular from the rubbish bin:

12. Grizzly Bear - Vecatamist
11. Volcano Choir - Unmap
Bon Iver teamed up with a noise/glitch rock outfit called A Collection of Colonies of Bees. This track is one of the most song-oriented tracks off the album - the rest is often formless and instrumental, but always beautiful and worth listening to while you stare out the window at the snow. Not for nothing, this album also proves to me that To Emma, Forever Ago wasn't a fluke, even if he does sound more and more like Chris Martin every time I hear him.

10. The xx - xx
Super hypnotic, late, late, late-night, indie rock booty call music. Don't laugh until you try it at 3am with your lady.

9. Rick Ross - Deeper Than Rap
My favorite rap album of the year. Solid front to back and smoove RnB hooks aplenty:

8. Them Crooked Vultures - S/T
7. Vetiver - Tight Knit

A more calming record did not exist for me this year. Here's one of the more upbeat tracks:

6. Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs
Yo La Tengo really does get better with age. I like their earlier albums for sure, but on their last two they've hit on a mixtape strategy that really plays to their strengths - every song sounds totally different from the last. It was hard to pick one song that represented the record because, well, NO song represents the entire record. From 15 minute long noise rock epics to motown love anthems, everything you want is here. And it is never redundant.

5. Fruit Bats - The Ruminant Band
4. Dinosaur Jr. - Farm
3. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

2. Jim O'Rourke - The Visitor
Get it. Love it. It's all instrumental and a return to a semi-pop direction (even if the album is a single track), recorded in Jim's apartment in Japan with him playing all the instruments. It sounds amazing on vinyl. You should come over and listen to it.

1. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
I don't know what else I can say about this band. They are quite simply the most innovative and exciting rock band making records today. If they remain on the trajectory of their last two albums, I would not be surprised to see them get as big as Radiohead or Wilco. I've always understood that an eccentric vocalist can sink a band for people - and Dirty Projectors certainly has one of those, even if Longstreth has all but eliminated the more divisive elements of his singing on their latest masterpiece. I also understand reticence to bow to the alter of hipster pretension. But go see these guys live while they're still playing rooms small enough for you to see fingers on the fretboards. You'll come away believing that these guys are the real deal, and humble enough to take what they're doing to the next stage. They can play the shit out of their instruments, and the singing must be seen to be believed. Bitte Orca is not perfect, but it comes close enough to be absolutely jaw-dropping. They don't make 'em like this anymore, kids.

Monday, December 21, 2009

For Your Consideration: Them Crooked Vultures

This is mostly for Via Chicago I suspect, but I am solidly in favor of the debut album from supergroup Them Crooked Vultures. Josh Homme, Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones. Come for the Zeppelin rehash, stay for the Queens of the Stone Age. I don't get sound on this computer, so let me know if these links don't work right.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

For Your Consideration

I must entirely unironically call this my favorite video of the year.

Also, a topic for discussion: against all odds, will Christmas in the Heart turn out to be the best Bob Dylan release of 2009? The more I hear it (and I actually don't yet own it in its entirety) the more hypnotic it becomes.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Well, they're already at it

Looks like music list-making season is underway. Does it get earlier every year, like the just post-Halloween Christmas decorations at Macy's?

I'm afraid I'm going to have a hard time keeping up this year. I'm pretty sure I haven't heard even one of the albums on the AV Club's list all the way through.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

You Know What Band I Take For Granted?

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Listening to some of the songs on their new live anthology reminded me how impressed I was with them as Johnny Cash's backing band on American Recordings 2. And then it reminded me how I periodically get impressed with them again, and then forget about them, taking them for granted as just another stitch in the FM radio quilt of sound that has surrounded me for as long as I can remember.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Top Ten Lists

Are we doing Best of the Decade as well as Best of the Year? I'm pretty sure we have to. Do we want to do year first, then decade or decade first, and then year? I liked all of the "for your considerations" last year -- I can't remember how early that started, but it's already almost Thanksgiving.

Jon Stewart blows my mind yet again...

This clip is fairly amusing all the way through, but it's around 3:45 that it becomes truly transcendent.

For some reason it won't embed. Here's the link:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


For all you Townes Van Zandt fans, check out the beginning of this video for his utterly unexpected commentary on the origins of the song "Nothin'"

"Good ol' Nikos". I think it actually adds an interesting new dimension to the song...or maybe it's just weird as hell. Either way, every insight you get into the man just makes him that much more complicated and fascinating.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

That Sound You Heard Was Tex Plush Creaming His Jeans

Solange covers the Dirty Projectors!

A strong argument could be made that it's way better like this.

Did anyone else read the incredibly irritating New York Magazine cover article on the "Brooklyn Scene," and how it's taking over music (even though the only people who care about the music being made in Williamsburg right now are the same hipsters who always cared about the music being made in Williamsburg), and how "at its center is one of the most risk-taking groups of all— Dirty Projectors," which doesn't make sense in a variety of ways. Anyway, read the article in all of its cloying glory here:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Revisiting My 2008 Top 10

Well friends, we're within 2 months of Top 10 season, and I decided there was no time like the present to revisit what I submitted for 2008 and see how everything holds up. Was I astute? Pretentious? Drunk? Let's find out...

10. The Tallest Man on Earth- Shallow Grave
I discovered this days before making my list (props to Quinapalus) and impulsively put it on my list based on lust alone. Well, I still like it, but the lust has worn off. Great guitar/banjo playing and the best pseudo-Bob Dylan persona Sweden could ever hope to produce, but ultimately most of the songs sound the same. Verdict: CUT

9. The Week That Was- The Week That Was
Another record I learned about via a fellow kittybrain. This time it was Tex Plush. This album has aged strangely for me. It has my single favorite song of 2008, "Scratch the Surface," but this album is no longer my 9th favorite of last year. Verdict: CUT

8. Vampire Weekend- Vampire Weekend
I still don't understand what business I have liking this band, given their hype and cutesy songs about summering in the Vineyard. They also rip off Paul Simon. But they do all this stuff so well! Still, 10+ months later, they don't hold up as #8. Verdict: CUT

7. Wye Oak- If Children
Loved this record, which I discovered randomly on eMusic. (Anyone still a member?) They quickly released a follow-up, and that one is in contention for this year's list. It sounds a lot like this one, but that's a good thing. Verdict: KEEP

6. Sun Kil Moon- April
This one holds up well. I haven't listened to it as much as I'd like to, but when I put it on, the songs nonetheless sound immediate and familiar. And I'm certain I haven't even played it 10 times. Not the zenith of Kozelek's career, but very good and was still among the best I actually heard last year. That said, I've since heard more stuff from last year... Verdict: CUT

5. Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago
This record is still really good, although I think half of its merit lies in its last song alone. To clarify, however, that last song is amazing. Verdict: KEEP, but drop further down the list.

4. REM- Accelerate
Not top-tier REM, but easily in their second tier along with Life's Rich Pageant and Out of Time. And as their "hard rock" albums go, it's superior to Monster, (which itself is underrated.) Verdict: KEEP but drop further down.

3. Bob Dylan- Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8
Someday Baby, Dreamin' of You, God Knows, Series of Dreams and the live version of Ring Them Bells have haunted me all year. It compensates for his merely pretty good new album plus the bizarro Christmas disc he just put out. This record has really held up. Verdict: KEEP and move up.

2. School of Language- Sea From Shore
Still the discovery of last year for me. Again, thank you eMusic. A totally random find and a great one! Verdict: KEEP

1. Guns N' Roses- Chinese Democracy
At the risk of pulling a Jay Bennett, I'm going to quote myself here: "Out of 14 songs, it had zero duds, 2 tracks that didn't hold up (Scraped and Sorry), 2 tracks that were interesting but overwrought (Madagascar and This I Love) and 10 fucking amazing songs that are going to join Axl Rose's canon. Yes, he is a ridiculous individual who screwed himself over by refusing to publicly promote the album, but he's a very gifted musician. Time will be kind to this record."

I stand by that review. Verdict: KEEP

So what got left off? I had given honorable mentions to
Deerhunter, Deerhoof, American Music Club, the Hold Steady, Shearwater, Drive-By Truckers, Andrew Bird (Soldier On EP), Gutter Twins, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks. I also never heard Sea and Cake, Pavement (Brighten the Corners reissue), Calexico, Ryan Adams, TV on the Radio, the Roots and Dr. Dog.

Since 4 slots opened up on my list, I get to pick replacements from this list (because I said so) and the first 3 are Sea and Cake, Dr. Dog, and TV on the Radio. I hadn't heard any of these when I made my list last year, and I feel the desire to edit to reflect their greatness.

The last record I'll add is Bonnie "Prince" Billy's Lie Down in the Light, which didn't affect me the way it did Tex and others, but it has held up well during 2009. And Beware, which really feels like a companion piece, is definitely in contention for this year's list.

So, with that said, here is my revised list:

10. Dr. Dog- Fate
9. Wye Oak- If Children
8. Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago
7. Sea and Cake- Car Alarm
6. Bonnie "Prince" Billy- Lie Down in the Light
5. REM- Accelerate
4. TV on the Radio- Dear Science
3. School of Language- Sea From Shore
2. Bob Dylan- Tell Tale Signs
1. Guns N' Roses- Chinese Democracy

Top honorable mentions to Sun Kil Moon and Stephen Malkmus (whose album has also held up well over the past year).

Saturday, November 07, 2009

You Know What Album Is Great? Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

I did a quick search of our archives and was surprised to learn that the only mention of Phoenix on this blog was a first quarter Top 10 that Tex posted back in March.

Anyway, it took me the better part of the year to finally listen to this, but it's kind of totally awesome. So fun and catchy-- and not even remotely as techno as I'd assumed. I don't know why I hadn't bothered to formally check these guys out prior to a month ago, but better late than never.

This album is truly great and will certainly make my Top 10 list this year. With the exception of the one true techno track on here, I enjoy everything about it.

Viva la France!

Thursday, November 05, 2009


I guess this was inevitable.

Well, maybe not inevitable...but strangely unsurprising. Actually, one thing I really like about it is that it mashes Sufjan up with a bunch of hippie/indie rappers who sort of fit his music. In many ways, the spirit of the music meshes really well with the spirit of the raps, which isn't always the case on these mash-up things.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert

Um, I went to this ridiculous concert:

yes, my seats were behind the stage, and I didn't technically SEE the whole show (or most of it, unless you count a screen by my seat), but it was pretty awesome anyway.

1. Simon and Garfunkel. So nice to see them together in my lifetime. I didn't think it would happen. From my seat, I had a perfect view of the bands that were coming up next setting up (it was a rotating stage so each band was completely set up as the previous band was completing their set) and I got to watch Stevie Wonder absolutely JAMMING to The Boxer from backstage. What a moment.
2. Stevie Wonder breaking down during The Way You Make Me Feel. He also led the audience in the following chant at the end of Superstition: "Death, where is your sting? Long live Michael Jackson!". Just awesome.
3. John Fogerty and Springsteen playing together with the E Street Band. Such power. And Fogerty's voice is in SUCH good shape. He was belting Fortunate Son like he was still in his twenties, and then they did Pretty Woman and he was beautifully crooning without any grit in his voice.
4. Billy Joel playing with Springsteen. They did You May Be Right, Only The Good Die Young, New York State Of Mind and Born To Run. They totally messed up the end of Die Young, and then went back and replayed the ending. I bet the edit is seamless.
5. The special guests were unstoppable: B.B. King, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Smokey Robinson, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Rait, Sting and so so so many more.
6. Sam, from Sam and Dave, backed by the E Street Band was also really really great sounding.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Waiting for Luscious Left Foot

Big Boi (of Outkast) has been talking for some time about the upcoming release of his first solo album, supposedly titled Sir Luscious Left Foot...the Son of Chico Dusty. The release has been repeatedly delayed by record label troubles (the great ones always are, aren't they?), and depending on what you read, it seems he has now moved to Def Jam, and hopefully it will be out soon.

In the meanwhile, a couple of tracks have made it to the internet, and as I mentioned to Tex last night, they are very very promising. I think Royal Flush is my personal favorite, though Shine Blockas sounds more likely to (rightfully) be a huge hit whenever it sees release.

Here's hoping this sees the light of day soon, in part because Big Boi has promised in interviews that the new Outkast album will be on the way sometime thereafter...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Who Knew Morrissey's Solo Career Was So Awesome, and If So, Why Didn't You Tell Me?

As someone who likes the Smiths but is not obsessed with them, I figured Morrissey's solo work was largely skip-able, but boy was I wrong.

Have you guys heard this new album? It was released in February, and I'll be damned if it doesn't rock harder than any Smiths album. Really tight band, with Moz's vocals in peak form and great songwriting to boot. I honestly had no idea the guy's solo output was this good.

Also got Your Arsenal on high recommendation from All Music Guide. Really great albums... and to think I hadn't heard any of his solo stuff until about a month ago.

Monday, October 19, 2009


In light of my earlier praise of the new Bill Callahan album, it's time I tried getting this group into his erstwhile alter ego, Smog... or as it later became spelled, (Smog).

Let's put it this way: If you love Bonnie "Prince" Billy, there is no reason you aren't going to love Smog. The owners of Drag City Records would presumably argue the same thing.

The deal with this guy is that he's moody, sometimes unpredictable, often emotionally arresting, and he wields a wonderfully dark sense of humor. And his music is beautiful.

There are many sides to Smog, and I'll give you a few examples here. First is "Dress Sexy at My Funeral," which is representative of his dark humor:

Next is "Our Anniversary" which represents the more dark, meditative, intimate Smog:

Then "I Break Horses" which is raw and naked, just him, an acoustic guitar, and a horse/women metaphor. (He loves singing about both horses and women.)

And finally, "Bathysphere," which is more weird and experimental. This is representative of his early period but not the late (Smog) era. And not the Bill Callahan era either.

There you have it. There's a lot of material to cover with the guy, but I'd recommend starting with either the album Red Apple Falls or Knock Knock, which came out in succession. (Although oddly enough, I didn't include a track from either one on here.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Jim O'Rourke - The Visitor

Wanted to give a shout out to the new Jim O'Rourke album. Drischord turned me onto him in the late nineties, and he has become one of the most enduring favorite musicians I've ever had. The Visitor, his new one is absolutely spectacular - a single track (unless you have it on vinyl, like me), and unavailable for download (unless it's been ripped by now, which i'm sure it has been).
No vocals, every instrument played by Jim in his apartment in Japan. It's been 8 years since his last record and I am ecstatic that the new one is not laptop improvisation (though I have been known to like those albums of his too). It is absolutely beautiful - fans of Bad Timing will not be disappointed.
I dare say this is the rare album the entire Collective can agree on.

Here's a nytimes article on The Visitor that the good Dr. turned me onto

And a trip down memory lane to hear Drischord's thoughts in the Daily Northwestern circa 2002!

Bob Dylan's Christmas in the Heart

Bob Dylan's Christmas album comes out on Tuesday and--if I may be so bold--JESUS CHRIST, everyone has got to give a listen to the song samples currently available at Amazon. You'll hear Bob Dylan's aged voice growling over traditional Christmas songs, as competently played by his band with a few extra strings, bells, and Christmasy Drummer-Boy drums thrown in...and being assisted by incredibly jarring back-up singers who sound like they're right off of a Gene Autry album from 60 years ago. Also, the album cover is amazing. I don't know where to being analyzing this one.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Built To Spill Is BACK

I'm guessing a few of you guys have gotten the new Built To Spill record, There Is No Enemy. If you haven't, and are a BTS fan, then wait no longer. The record is fantastic-- instantly rates as their third best behind the bona fide classics Perfect From Now On and Keep It Like a Secret.

And this is coming from a guy who thought Ancient Melodies of the Future totally bit and has spoken disparagingly of the band's live shows for over a decade. I think I've got an objective viewpoint on Built To Spill, and I'm here to say the new album is great.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The New Yorker Taps Into Our Brains

Q&A on the Concept / Qualities of a Band Reunion. Gets into some serious Type A/B/C Band shit.

New York, I Love You, But You're Bringing Me Down...

Believe it or not, I actually only saw Taxi Driver in the past few months, but, of course, absolutely loved it (watched it twice in a row). One of my favorite things was the images of New York in the 70s, which was such a weird yet alien
place that was still oddly familiar. (I think I've written about this here
before in connection with The French Connection / The Warriors / Taking of
Pelham 1-2-3). After watching the movie, I actually used Google Maps street
view to try and figure out the location of the Belmore cafeteria, where the cab
drivers hang out late at night (There's a picture here: But the block
looks so different I couldn't even figure out where it used to be even once
I found out the intersection.

Anyway, someone has gone one step better and documented the current state of
every location in the movie. It's insanely thorough and incredibly awesome
(and only partially complete). This, for me, is as if they put porn on the
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Was This Song Created in a Lab?

This is not an endorsement but simply a query.

I heard this song, "Compulsion" by the Doves, on satellite radio today and all I could think was that some rock producer sat down in a studio and decided he would make a carefully calibrated synthesis of Pink Floyd and U2. And this is what came out:

Now I love me some (good) Floyd and can palette a small handful of U2 songs, so therefore I sorta like this. But I don't really like it because the song itself doesn't necessarily speak to me. But points for style I guess.

Anyway, just wanted to share.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The A.V. Club taps into our brains

One of our longest running and most greatly contested music-dork debates has gone public:,33870/


I had to cut into the music discussion for a second to gasp in disbelief: Obama the Nobel Laureate??

If he's smart about this, he'll politely decline the prize, for all the reasons listed here, among (I'm sure) many more good reasons.

UPDATE: My favorite internet reaction to the news thus far:


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

What Do You Think of the New Flaming Lips Album?

I had fallen off of listening to the Lips as they decided to just become a children's novelty band (with occasional same-sounding spacey ballads), but this new one sounds like the non-poppy songs off of In a Priest Driven Ambulance. Not sure if that's a good thing or not. Midway through and this one sounds like a grower at best.

Full Album Stream from NPR:

Monday, October 05, 2009

Chris Rock on Roman Polanski

Chris Rock tells it like it is!

Most consistently funny comedian working today?? I think he's up there.

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Olympic word from Chicago

Allow me to break from the Pitchfork-y-nessfor a moment of political discourse:

So, my fair city lost the Olympics, and I must say, I could not be happier. There has been much debate around these parts lately about the value of the Olympics, if we should have them and all that noise, but the fact is, this is a city in dire need of money for schools, public transportation, and numerous other infrastructure needs. The Olympics was a huge potential money-drain (HUGE) and, even if they would bring in more than they cost, and there’s no proof that they do, we can’t afford to rack up debt for 7 years with the hope of fixing it later. Students who are now in 5th grade will graduate high school in the time, and without some money going into CPS, the number of those students is going to dwindle. Many of the pro-Olympics crowd either argues that they will help the city financial or just fall into a “Hey that would be fun!” stance. The latter is not very well thought out, and the former has been argued a bunch lately. Read some articles on how Vancouver is getting completely screwed by the 2010 games and is in serious financial crisis because of them. As a whole, I’m not sure what the games offer a city, aside from the short-term prestige they bring to a mayor and his camp, and hope for Rio’s sake they have a strong plan in place.

Sorry for the rant, but I am a happy man over this news and felt the need to share.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Maybe this is the thing about Pitchfork:

In reading their Top 200 albums of the 2000s list (half of which is now out), I'm annoyed at the way some of the reviews are purposefully written with important pieces of information left out. For instance, this line from the summary of Ryan Adam's Heartbreaker (#122): "Emmylou Harris' harmony on the soul-draining "Oh My Sweet Carolina" recalls her chemistry with Adams' icon". It would be easy enough for the writer to include the words "Graham Parsons" in this sentence, so that the uninitiated could look this Parsons fellow up and see what the fuss was about...but he keeps it purposefully oblique, purposefully keeping YOU in the dark, if you aren't already cool enough to know who "Adam's icon" is. (Besides which, one could argue that Adam's icon at that point in his career could just as easily have been Jeff Tweedy as anybody else).

Or in perennial favorite Pitchfork writer Tom Breihan's review of Mastodon's Leviathon (#126), where he says that it's "a concept album about a Herman Melville novel". Why doesn't he just come out and say Moby Dick? Is he just bored with that straightforward style of writing? Is he hedging his bets because it's equally plausible that this album was about Billy Budd? Or is he just concerned with trying to sound a little bit cooler than you?

I just feel like reviews or criticism should help guide you, and open you up to more possibilities, not hold it above your head that the reviewer knows more than you. Of course they do, they're supposed to, but they're also supposed to help educate you about areas in which you'd like to know more. Maybe these reviews are even doing that, in their own way. Maybe after reading the Heartbreaker review some kid is doing google searches trying to figure out who Adam's icon is...but I'm still annoyed by the fact that such a person would have to put in the effort.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Geek-Out Time!


I was watching some South Park clips over at to rev myself up for the new season (which starts October 7th). As some of you know, my South Park geek-factor is pretty much through the roof, (it's probably the only television show which I can speak about using the actual names of episodes), and my geektastic knowledge of the show is probably only rivaled by my geektastic knowledge of the minor characters and subplots of the original Star Wars movies.

So in celebration of that, and of the new upcoming season, I present for you a connection I discovered this morning, involving a minor character named "Kevin", who before today I had only ever noticed appear in a single scene of a 6th season episode. But as the below clips show, he actually appears again in the final episode from last season, and Kevin's love of Star Wars remains unabated. If you can cite any further instances where Kevin appears (Via Chicago, I'm looking at you) I would love to hear about them.

Monday, September 21, 2009

My Favorite Album of the Year So Far

For all the great albums that have come out this year (including many by perennial Drischord favorites like Wilco, Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth, Polvo, Bob Dylan, Yo La Tengo, etc.), my favorite record has been Bill Callahan's latest: Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle.

Some hipster at Berklee loaded up our media center with a whole bunch of Smog albums, and through those I got really into Callahan's music about 3 years ago. I continue to listen to Smog with regularity, but it wasn't until this year that I ventured into Callahan solo territory. (Which, for the record, is the same thing, but it's said that records bearing the Bill Callahan name are generally more upbeat and ornate than those bearing the Smog name. But both are a single man's vision.)

Anyway this track isn't particularly "upbeat" in the grand scheme of things, but it's damn good nonetheless. In fact this album has sat so well with me that I recently went out and bought the first Callahan solo album, Woke on a Whaleheart, which is also awesome.

I'll try to issue a few posts about Smog before too long, but in the meantime enjoy this stuff and go out and get this album. You'll hear about it again when my end-of-year list rolls around.

"Babies get fairies to do things. You know that."

Not sure how many of you guys are watching Mad Men, but that show is really great, and last night's episode was maybe my favorite so far this season, if for no other reason than that it contained the above line about fairies and babies. That is all.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Andrew W.K. String Quartet

So, it's time to admit it. I am somewhat of a closeted Andrew W.K. fan. I don't have a lot of his stuff, but his first two albums are just really well crafted pop, provided you don't mind some crazy excess in your rock, and, well, clearly I don't. For everyone let down that Bat Out of Hell III sucked so bad, Andrew W.K.'s "The Wolf" is the album for you. I doubt my appreciation for Mr. W.K. comes as a great shock.

Anyway, why post this now? Because he's embarking on this very odd new tour that's just him on piano and a string quartet. Weird, but sounds kind of glorious to me. It brings me back to seeing Ben Folds Five years (YEARS) ago at HORDE (or was it Lollapalooza) with a string quartet backing them, and it was awesome. So I am intrigued. Intrigued enough to spend $20? Probably, provided I can find another Andrew W.K. fan amongst my friends here in Chicago, which might be a tall order...

A new Jim O'Rourke album?!?!

I didn't even realize til I saw Pitchfork this morning! I'm so excited!! Has anyone heard it yet? My vinyl copy (and I sprung for an LP of Insignificance while I was at it) is now in the mail...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fruit Bats

This band is perennially underrated. Their new album, The Ruminant Band, was my favorite of the summer and it's going to be pretty huge in the fall too. I saw them play last night and they absolutely KILLED. Best show i've seen in awhile.

Monday, September 14, 2009

One Thing We Can All Agree On...

Whatever our differing opinions of his musical output of late, I think we can all agree that Kanye West is a total douchebag.

UPDATE: I just heard about what happened later on the same night. My first reaction to this is that Beyonce continues to grow in my admiration. My second reaction is that THIS part did seem strangely staged...

UPDATE 2: This is silly, but somehow I couldn't resist posting it as well. The best part is when Obama says "It's not true".

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Wilco Will Love You More Than I Love Wilco (the Album)

Eric and I attended the same wedding over Labor Day weekend (it didn't involve either one of us; you're welcome, Ladies!), and Wilco (the Album) came up at our table. Suffice it to say, no one involved in the discussion will be ranking it on the top tier of Wilco (the Trophy Case).

My assessment: After 2 months with this album, I rank it as their second-worst. This is a relative statement obviously. Someone at the wedding asked me what I thought was Wilco's worst album and I said "A.M." And she replied, "But I love A.M." And I was like: "Yes, so do I! All these rankings are completely relative."

But that said, my tiers are as follows...
(no sub-ranking within tiers)

Tier One: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, A Ghost Is Born, Sky Blue Sky
Tier Two: Being There, Summerteeth
Tier Three: Wilco (the Album), A.M.

But since this is mostly a post about Wilco (the Album), here are my prevailing thoughts after 2 months:

1. I feel little compulsion to drop everything and put this record on. This is particularly striking when I compare it to Sky Blue Sky which I could not stop listening to for the first 2 weeks-- and almost to that level for several months.

2. There aren't any songs on here that I'd skip, although some are weaker than others. But there's nothing bad on here. That said, I do have a least favorite song on this album, and that is "You and I."

3. Several of the songs are incomplete. "Bull Black Nova" is pretty darn good, but I really feel like there was more to be done with that song. Certainly there was more you could do with a 6-piece all-star band! "Everlasting Everything" is also not finished and I don't like the constant tubular bell on every chorus. I think they'll regret that choice in the long run. (BTW, that's not the first time they've taken an idea that was good in moderation and pushed it way too far. See the "oooh yeah" backing vox on Heavy Metal Drummer for Example A.)

4. Getting back to the 6-piece all-star band thing... what a waste of a 6-piece all-star band. I'm not advocating that everything needs to be a prog-style epic chops-fest, but seriously: Why is Nels Cline on this album? Why is Mikael Jorgensen on this album? Hyperbole, to be sure, but at the core of this remark, I am serious. I'm not advocating that Nels go off into free jazz shred-land, but they could do a lot more with him within the Wilco aesthetic. For instance, listen to how great his guitar sounds on "Deeper Down." But there's so little of that on the album, and I think a lot of that arises because you're dealing with a lot of unfinished songs.

In conclusion, I return to the caveat that all my Wilco criticisms are relative. I still listen to this album with some regularity, and I do genuinely like it. I expect it'll make my year-end Top 10. But it's a huge downgrade from Sky Blue Sky (or any of the past 3 albums), and it seems like it was rushed out before it was fully realized. It plays more like a Jeff Tweedy solo album to me, which is fine. But I do get frustrated because the guy is leading a totally kick-ass rock sextet that puts on the finest live show today's money can buy. I wish more of that had made it onto (the album).

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Alleged Stupidity of R. Kelly

Pitchfork has their list of the top 50 videos of the 2000s up, which is actually worth a look--there was quite a bit of cool stuff I had never seen before (like this amazing Michel Gondry video at #28). But I want to throw a question out there: when they get to R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet" video, they give it a very high place on their list, but they nonetheless demean it as "a feat of audacity and batshit-crazy lack of self-awareness."

I'm sorry, but do any of you guys think that "Trapped in the Closet" suffers from a "lack of self-awareness"? If anything, I would say that it positively oozes self-awareness, and that, perhaps, no other video this side of Snakes on a Plane could be said to be so intrinsically, entirely, ironically self-aware. Am I possibly wrong about that? Is R. Kelly as stupid as Pitchfork would have us believe?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Sunset Rubdown

So, it took me until last year to discover the existence of Wolf Parade and until this year to become really obsessed with them and the assorted Spencer Krug side projects. I'm still not fully versed, and honestly couldn't tell you what makes a Sunset Rubdown album inherently different from a Wolf Parade album, but man, these guys are awesome. I remember posting in praise of At Mt. Zoomer last year and Drischord correctly identifying me as the psoter just from the topic, and I know that this is music which speaks very strongly to my ideals of music - perhaps more so than some of the rest of you. But man, THESE GUYS RULE.

I give you the lead track from the newest Sunset Rubdown album:

There's something about the marriage between the feedback squall and the elegant vocal style that really gets me. I'm also a sucker for the LOUDsoftLOUD dynamic, which they execute numerous times on many songs.

So yeah, rambly post, but just an excuse to say that this album is the bomb.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Grizzly Bear Harness the Power of Really Smooth Music

(I listened to a thirty second sample on iTunes. It sounds pretty much exactly how you'd think it sounds).

Monday, August 10, 2009

It begins: Best of the 2000s

Just the other day I was actually thinking about how excited I was for the inevitable Best of 2000s coverage. While I am certainly a child of the 80s and 90s, the 2000s is the first decade where I was fully culturally aware from the beginning all the way through. I was almost going to post something about how we should start thinking about it and submitting "For your considerations," but then realized, neh-- it's only the beginning of August. Looks like I wasn't being so premature because Pitchfork is about to start the party:

Get pumped.

Sunday, August 09, 2009


I'll continue my series of odd little video posts with this clip from a Simpsons episode I had never seen before stumbling upon it on Hulu. The appearance of "Marvin Cobain" is what really sells it for me.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

I can't believe there's a band called "Antlers" and a different band called "Crystal Antlers" (to say nothing of the Crystal Castles or Crystal Stilts. Or the "Wolf" bands. I mean, come ON bands, AmIright??).

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Sophomoric...but hilarious?

After about the first minute, you kind of get the idea, but at least for that first minute I thought this was pretty hilarious.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Michael Jackson: The Forgotten Era

I was considering posting about this a while ago, and almost didn't bother because the Michael Jackson moment is kind of passing (though he still dominates the top ten albums on Amazon), but a rare in-person conversation with Tex convinced me it was worth doing because it seems that this time in Michael Jackson's history is completely overlooked and should really get its due.

Last month, while I was obsessively listening to Off the Wall, I was trying to figure out if anyone else in R&B was doing anything with a similar sound at that time. I noticed that, in fact, the Jacksons (the Jackson 5 name was owned by Motown so they had to give it up when they moved to CBS in 1976) had released an album in 1978, just before Off the Wall, and then an album in 1980, between Off the Wall and Thriller. Now, the basic narrative of Michael Jackson has him as a cute little kid singing "ABC," and then a few years later, emerges full formed singing "Rock With You" on Off the Wall. But not only was he still a member of the Jackson 5/Jacksons right up through the Off the Wall era, he actually was a member all the way through Thriller. In fact, MJ's first solo tour was for Bad-- the live shows he played during the Thriller era were with his brothers (though they increasingly featured his solo material).

Anyway, not only was he fully the lead singer on the Jacksons albums released during that time, he also wrote or co-wrote the vast majority of the songs (which can't be said for his early solo albums, though the songs he wrote actually did tend to be the best ones (Billie Jean, Don't Stop Till You Get Enough, Beat It, Wanna Be Startin Somethin)). So, basically, the two albums from 1978 and 1980, Destiny and Triumph, are totally forgotten Michael Jackson albums, released while he was at the absolute peak of his powers as a musician and songwriter.

PS Before Drischord weighs in, I'll just assure everyone-- these are pretty unambiguously "disco," though I can't remember the context of that argument so I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing.

Both are absolutely worth getting. I tend to like Triumph a bit better (you have to overlook the chintzy jheri-curl-filled cover), but they're both great. Here's a sampling of a couple of the key tracks from each. None of these would have sounded out of place on Off the Wall, and though they don't benefit from the impeccable crispness of a Quincy Jones production, they used a lot of the same session players, so it's the same feel.

Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground), from Destiny (Shockingly, this is a TV appearance and not a creepy fan montage. I'm pretty sure it's the studio version playing though):

Bless His Soul, from Destiny (This one's a little cheesy, but listen at least through the two minute mark or so when the arrangement totally takes off) (Just a still image of the album cover for this one):

This Place Hotel, from Triumph (Originally "Heartbreak Hotel," but changed to avoid confusion. This is an MJ solo composition and it absolutely kills)(and don't worry, this one is TOTALLY a creepy fan montage):

Can You Feel It, from Triumph (This is the actual video for the song and it's INSANE. I almost didn't include this one because the song itself is almost totally obscured by the Star Wars sound effects and random bits of orchestral scoring. It's worth watching though, if only to see that he was making over the top videos well before Thriller):

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Queen of the Hook

I can't get over how brilliant The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is. I recently put it on again and was re-blown away, the way I seem to be every 3 years or so ever since 1998. Did I just say 1998??? damn.

The Decline of Western Literature

I came across this article recently, from 2007 in the New Yorker, and it got me thinking about the argument Drischord and I started having a couple of months back in the comments sections about the decline of intellectualism, (an argument which Drischord waged too well for me to put in the necessary time to try to refute him, in the middle of what was a very busy month for me.) I don't want to try to resurrect that whole discussion--at least not right now--but this article raised a lot of questions in my mind, and I wanted to throw some of those questions out there.

The New Yorker references an NEA study that Drischord referred to, discussing the decline in reading among American adults. It goes into a lot of questions about the relative merits of reading vs. television viewing, and the different effects each activity has on your brain, and though I won't summarize it here it's pretty interesting reading. I don't necessarily disagree with anything in the article, and as an almost pathologically voracious reader, I probably wouldn't even want to. I agree that reading is a unique and powerful activity that allows you to process knowledge and weigh opposing viewpoints to form a personal opinion in a way that television doesn't allow.

But I also think that fighting this trend in the decline of reading--at least the decline of the reading of traditional novels and books--is in some ways swimming against the tide of history. For me, the most powerful expression of this fact is the quality of the contemporary literary scene in America. This may simply reveal my status as a very particular type of snob, but while I'm an incredibly voracious reader, I rarely have any interest in novels written after about 1960. There are exceptions, but on the whole I feel that the quality of contemporary fiction has gone down measurably, at the same time that contemporary television has, by many measures, skyrocketed up. We are at this point a deeply visual and digital culture, and by far the most vital, interesting, complicated, and culturally significant art of the past 20 years has been in movies and television. Maybe being inundated with television since childhood has simply made our brains function in a different way, and made us incapable of producing the kind of literature that we used to. Or maybe I'm just completely wrong, but I present for your consideration:

1. What serious novel of the last 20 years is as well wrought, resonant, and culturally relevant as either The Sopranos or The Wire?

2. What satiric novel of the last 20 years has been as scathing, genuinely hilarious, and culturally relevant as The Simpsons, South Park, or much of the work of Ricky Gervais?

3. What English language novel of the last 20 years approaches the brilliance of the English language writing going on earlier in the 20th century, by such authors as Hemingway, Faulkner, Ellison, and Fitzgerald, to say nothing of James Joyce.

I'm seriously asking those questions, because if there is a recent satiric novel nearly as good as The Simpsons, I would desperately like to read it. Point me towards it!

And for question number 3, I'll just add that I know the usual response. From a slightly older crowd the answer tends to be: Roth, Delillo, Updike, Morrison. (Maybe this is just personal taste, but I would argue that with the possible exception of Toni Morrison, none of those writers are in a class with the previous generation.) Sometimes they'll also bring up Cormac McCarthy, whom in many ways I like, but who is just simply no William Faulkner. And perhaps more tellingly, all those above writers are in their 70s or dead, and in the search for younger talent the answer tends to be: David Foster Wallace, David Foster Wallace, David Foster Wallace...and if somebody really wants to go out on a limb, David Foster Wallace. Maybe one of these days I'll work up the gumption to read Infinite Jest, and then I can really comment on him in detail. But since nothing in his shorter work has ever led me to think I'd enjoy it...that may be one of those things that goes unread.

Anyway, that's my rant for the day. Please let me know where I've gone wrong!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sly & The Family Stone

This is a band who I've just recently become kind of obsessed with. I mean, I've appreciated them and considered myself a fan for a long time, but I just started digging deeper into their catalog and really beginning to "get" them in a way I never did before. And all I have to say is... this band is incredible. Listen to the bass, the drums, the horns, the way it all comes together to just become this crazy dance party with an intelligence behind the groove. Great stuff.

Here's one of my new favorites - "Life" performed on Ed McMahon. At first I found the horns kind of cheesy, but tell me that horn riff doesn't stick in your head and bring a smile to your face.

And my favorite = "Stand"

"There's a midget standing tall, and a giant beside him about to fall." That's one great lyric for my money.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Cosmic American Music

Eric's recent mention of Gram Parsons got me going back through the Flying Burrito et al. catalog, and there is some great, great stuff in there! For my money though, the most entertaining/fascinating song of the whole bunch may be a very early one called "Blue Eyes", from back when Parsons was recording with the International Submarine Band, before he joined The Byrds. It seems to encapsulate all the themes of his later career in one hopping little country song: a romanticisation of simple country family life, a probably self-conscious inference that the singer is a "poor boy", and a wandering, drug using, hippie mentality tying it all together. I'm tempted to see this song as the seed of the whole "Cosmic American/Hippie/Alt-Country" movement that continues to this day, though there may well be an earlier example somewhere.

At any rate, back when I was a drug-addled 19-year-old and full on superfan of alt-country (to a degree that I may never again be a superfan of anything), music didn't get much better for me than "I've got chores to keep me busy/A clock to keep my time/A pretty girl to love me/With the same last name as mine". And quite frankly, even though I now have some ironic distance from it, deep down that chorus still gets me every single time. It's a little like that last scene in Field of Dreams: I can see exactly the way I'm being emotionally manipulated, but I'm helpless all the same. In fact, if I may continue: "And when the flowers wilt/A big old quilt/To keep us warm/I've got the sun to see your blue eyes/And tonight you're in my arms."

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Synthesizer Patel

Q asked about Synthesizer Patel in the Wilco comments, and I got curious. Of course, the internet being what it is, my question was solved... kind of.

Apparently he's a British, what? Comedian? Performance Artist? Synthesizer Enthusiast? Who knows, but you owe it to yourself to watch this:

Monday, July 06, 2009

Is Gorillaz the future after all?

As the former leader of an extraordinarily short lived country/hip hop ensemble, I've long been interested in the possibilities offered by crossing hip hop over with other forms of mainstream music. This is not to say I've long been a fan of rock/hip hop mashups, as for much of the time I've been aware of pop music such mashups have often had an unholy quality: either an obnoxious cash-in like Jay-Z with Linkin' Park, or Fred Durst...being Fred Durst, or even Rage Against the Machine, which, let's face it, is best left these days as a fond remembrance of pseudo-political adolescent rage, and almost never makes it into my music rotation.

But lately there's been more and more rap/rock mashing up, and I'm finding it absolutely fascinating to see the direction it's taking. Some of it involves projects such as Boots Riley's (of the Coup), who got together with an ex-Rage guitarist recently for some guitar soaked communist ranting. But a lot of it is more pop centered, and is being driven by rappers who are huge fans of...really unexpected stuff. There is of course The Roots' love of Fall Out Boy (which I don't understand, but have to respect, The Roots being The Roots). But the most fascinating thing I've come across in awhile is the below video for a guy named Kevin Rudolph, who sounds like a lost disciple of Blur and Coldplay, singing "Let it Rock" as Lil' Wayne spends most of the video singing along, at least pretending to play a guitar (which we've of course seen him do in videos even for songs featuring no discernible guitar track), and finally even rapping for a minute. And God help me, I actually kind of like the song. Maybe Gorillaz was more ahead of it's time than I ever gave it credit for.

The embedding was disabled for some reason. Watch it here!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Wilco (The Blog Post)

There hasn't been much discussion of the new Wilco album yet--how's it sitting with everybody? Personally, I'm not yet blown away by it as an entire album, but there are a few songs that I'm really loving. Highlights for me include:

"Wilco" As fun a little rock number as they've ever done.

"Bull Black Nova" Maybe the weirdest track on the album, and probably my favorite. Combines some of the loud freak-out stuff from Ghost is Born with the jammy, Sky Blue Sky style give and take between instruments. I really really like this one.

"You Never Know" Melodic, fun, awesome lyrics, I love it.

"Solitaire" I feel like my first 3 picks won't be that controversial, but I'm curious what others think of this song. I really love it. For some reason, when Tweedy sings "Once I thought the world was crazy/Everyone was sad and chasing/Happiness and love and/I was the only one above it" it cuts me to the fucking bone. And plus, after all this time, I'm still a sucker for a little understated steel guitar.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

More on Michael Jackson's best

I ran across this Michael Jackson obituary in the New Yorker, which was most interesting to me for the light it shed on the African origins of the "mamma say mamma sa..." lyrics.

And here is the link to the song "Soul Makossa" as mentioned in the article.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Michael Jackson's Best

Q's comments made me realize that maybe not everyone here is as super familiar with Michael Jackson's music, and so I present to you, in my humble opinion, Michael Jackson's bets song ever, again accompanied by a creepy fan montage:

Seriously, how is the end to that not one of the greatest things ever?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Wilco and Feist in LA

D, were you at this show?
Say what you want, haters, these two got chemistry...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fuck. Michael Jackson died.

It was insane to watch this go from a TMZ rumor passed to me via gchat to most-twittered about subject to confirmed by the LATimes in about ten minutes. As I write this, the NY Times still hasn't confirmed (they're saying "hospitalized"). But again, that isn't stopping literally (no, seriously, literally) tens of thousands of people per minute from tweeting "RIP Michael Jackson." I wonder what the death of John Lennon would have been like (since that was even more shocking) in the twitter era.

Anyway, that said, go listen to Off the Wall if you haven't in a while. It's a fucking awesome album. .(So is Thriller, of course-- I'm not being contrarian by picking the lesser known one. It's just that we all know all the songs (or at least 7 out of 9) from Thriller-- Off the Wall is more of a revelation). Check this out-- if you take away the lead vocal and just listen to the backing track it sounds like it could be off of Remain in Light:

(BTW, the video above is one of those creepy "tribute" videos that are mostly useful to get an embeddable version of a song. But, of note, it's from two years ago!)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Best Band in America Right Now

Forget your Dirty Projectors (although I have to say I'm fucking loving that album now) and your Grizzly Bears-- the best band right now is the PS22 Chorus. I first learned about them when this video of them covering "Eye of the Tiger" was posted on a bunch of blogs.

They're a fifth grade chorus in the Bronx apparently. Read more here:

Apparently Perez Hilton has been all over this and they've made various tv appearances and were part of American Idol 3 last year, so I'm late to the game on this. But recently their videos (esp. the one above and the Lady Gaga one) have been going semi-viral and making the rounds. And the're all amazing! Little Kids + Two Part Harmony + Passionate Singing + Cavernous Auditorium Reverb + Ponytail = Magic!

A selection of favorites:

Lady Gaga:

Viva La Vida

Don't Stop Believin'

And holy shit, I'll Be Your Mirror! Gorgeous!

I'll Be Your Mirror:

The Reunion Train Rolls On

I was never a huge Sunny Day Real Estate fan, though I appreciate their return, and most defintely will go see them if the opportunity comes my way. I'm more excited by the news of Living Colour's reunion, which is pretty exciting.

But neither of those hold a candle to the real reunion news - Faith No More. It's slightly old news by this point, but man am I happy about this. These guys were huge favorites of mine back in the day, and while I've liked some of Patton's solo/side stuff, none of it is up to FNM's catalogue. Purists will complain about the lack of Jim Martin, but the last two Martin-less FNM albums are great as well, so I'm fine with that. No news yet on a North American tour or album, which kind of sucks, but at least we get stuff like this piece of vintage Faith:

And this cover, which some may scoff at, but I think is totally amazing and actually quite powerful for the Faith No More, uh, faithful:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Breakfast at Sulimay's

If you want to know what the geezer set thinks about Wilco, Dirty Projectors, Common, Bon Iver... the list goes on, you have to watch Breakfast at Sulimay's on YouTube.

It's basically these 3 old-timers from Philadelphia who meet at a restaurant, listen to music provided by a hipster, and offer their American Idol-style criticism of it. Of the episodes I've seen, they haven't once been in consensus about liking a song. There are some songs they unanimously agree they don't like (Common's "Universal Mind Control" comes to mind), but the whole thing is pretty entertaining.

Here's the latest episode...

Phish and Prog Rock

A few nights ago I saw Phish. First time in 9 years since seeing them with Tex at the Allstate Arena and (to give some perspective on my Phish nerd-dom) my 23rd (!) Phish show. Not sure if any of you will ever take me seriously after that, but there you have it. Anyway, as I mentioned I’ve been listening to an awful lot of these guys in anticipation and have discovered an interesting new development in my appreciation for this band.

The way I see it, Phish’s songs break down into 3 basic groups: more traditional “pop” songs (think Farmhouse or Cavern); songs with minimal structure that are just excuses to jam away (Tweezer, David Bowie); and songs that have some room for jam, but are largely composed (You Enjoy Myself being the king here, but also Fluffhead, Divided Sky, Guyute, Reba…) On recent listens it’s these highly precise epics that I am drawn to. Tex and I not too long ago discussed the way Steely Dan is music that gets more appealing with age – and I think the same is true here. I have less of an inclination to hear Phish play a 45 minute Tweezer than to hear them play these, dare I say, prog rock pieces.

Because when you get right down to it, isn’t You Enjoy Myself an extension of prog rock? Phish always draws the Dead comparison (for understandable reasons), but these songs seem to be more from the catalog of a group like Yes or early Genesis. Evidence: complex time changes, super precise and high level playing, distinct segments. The best of these are highly composed pieces, where if there is a jam, it is built into one specific segment of the song. And like Steely Dan, as a slightly older Phish fan, and a fan of more complex prog type music than I used to be, this is what draws me in.

Of course, it’s a double edged sword where the live shows are concerned. Their 03/04 run was marred by brutally sloppy playing, and as a result any of these numbers sound absolutely terrible. On this run, from what I’ve heard (both live and from shows I’ve downloaded) they seem to be able to hit all of these complexities pretty well. Trey is not quite as skilled as he was in the band’s peak (93-95 by my watch), but he’s vastly improved from his 98-04 drugged out days.

My point? I guess just to say that if, like me, you have any appreciation for the complexities of this kind of sound, I think you should set aside 30 minutes and give You Enjoy Myself a whirl. Because really, when was the last time you listened to it?