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 www.southparkstudios.com 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).