Tuesday, November 30, 2010

RIP emusic

Congratulations, emusic. Having toiled over the past 7 years to build up an indie-centric, DRM-free alternative to iTunes-- a go-to site for the frugal but savvy underground music connoisseur-- you've finally reached the mountaintop...

And not just that. Xtina's friends Brittney Spears, NSYNC, Ricky Martin, Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys are also finally available on emusic. Praise the lord and pass the roofies!

Of course, nothing comes without a price, but fortunately in emusic's case it was only Matador Records, Merge Records, XL Records, 4AD Records and Domino Records. They're gone now, but that's okay because now emusic has Shania Twain!!

Sure, you'll no longer be able to download music from Yo La Tengo, Pavement, Arcade Fire, Caribou, Sigur Ros, Animal Collective, Spoon, Polvo, and all the other bands that made emusic what it is, but let's be realistic. Having done the heavy lifting to lay the foundation, it's time to send those artists out to pasture to clear room for the real jewels of recorded music...

The cast of FOX's Glee! (all exclusive trademarks apply)

Nice going, fellas.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Predictably Appalled by Pusha T

One of the verses that immediately stood out to me on the new Kanye album was Pusha T's verse on "So Appalled". Mostly, it stood out because it has some of the most openly, unabashedly misogynist lines in the entire album, although I must confess a weird kind of admiration for it. Throughout all his time with The Clipse, Pusha T has really gotten his flow down to a science, and I'm actually stunned by how efficiently he crams all of his usual talking points into such a short amount of time.

Take a look below, where I've reprinted the verse as I found it on a lyrics website. Over the course of about a minute he manages to:
1. Weave in an astonishing number of references to cocaine. ("Still move a bird like I'm in bed with mother goose, etc.)
2. Assert his superiority to women. ("I never met a bitch who didn't need a little guidance.")
3. Mention an expensive car he owns. (Range Rove, leather roof.)
4. Rhyme that mention of a car with some gangsta bravado. (Love war, fuck a truce.)
5. Make the kind of unexpected, oddball references that make him somewhat more interesting than your average gangsta rapper. (Flow similar to the Legend of the Falls.)
6. Get close enough to something approaching social commentary for the Pitchfork crowd to swoon over him all the more. (CNN said I'd be dead by 21.)

All of which definitely takes a certain level of craftsmanship, even if it ends up being so predictable that I personally find it unendurably boring. Listening to The Clipse is like talking to somebody at a party who is only capable of discussing the minute details of their job, or the expensive vacation they just went on. Ok, Ok, I get it, you used to be a drug dealer. If you're to be believed, maybe you even still are a drug dealer. You made a lot of money doing that. Can we move on now?

Success is what you make it
Take it how it comes
A half a mill in twenties is like a bill where I’m from
An arrogant drug dealer the legend I’ve become
CNN said I’d be dead by 21
Black jack I just pulled in aces
You looking at the king in his face
Everything I dream muthaf-ckers Im watching it take shape
While to you I’m just a young rich n-gga that lacks faith
Range Rove leather roof
Love war f-ck a truce
Still move a bird like I’m in bed with mother goose
Them hoes come in a bakers dozen
Claiming they was with me when they know they really wasn’t
I keep the city’s best never said she was the brightest
So if you had it too, it don’t affect me in the slightest
I never met a b-tch that didn’t need a little guidance
So I dismiss her past until she disappoint your highness

I speak the gospel, hostel
Tony doing time for what he did to nostrils
Paranoid mind I’m still under the watchful
Eye of the law, aspire for more
Them kilo’s came we gave you bobby brown jaw
Flaws aint flaws when it’s you that makes the call
Flow similar to the legend of the falls
Spillin’ I own you all, yeah

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rabin on West

I'm sure that in the coming month we'll all get in on the discussion of the new Kanye West album (which I am officially obsessed with, even if I have some mixed feelings about it). I just wanted to point everybody to Nathan Rabin's review over at the AV Club. It's the only review I've seen that spends some real time addressing what to me is the most remarkable aspect of the album: the debt it owes to rock songwriting, instrumentation, and production. This album is crawling with electric guitars, keyboards, and driving drums that often owe as much to indie-rock as they do to hip hop. There of course have been rock-rap crossover acts for decades, from Run-DMC and Aerosmith's famous collaboration, to Lil' Wayne's recent, less successful efforts. But I actually think that in the last few years there's been growing interest from the hip hop community in cross pollinating traditional hip hop sounds with electric guitars and rock sensibilities (perhaps on another day when I have more time I'll offer a few more specific examples), and it's been interesting to watch it happen, even if up to now there have been a lot of sonic missteps.

Whatever else you can say about My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, I think that Kanye has blown the door open on rock/hip-hop crossover, and has created something that could (and hopefully does) serve as the blueprint for a lot of new music going forward. He has successfully fused elements of both styles, and made something thoroughly rock-oriented, without losing the hip-hop underpinnings that made his music so great in the first place, resulting in a mind-bending sonic landscape that I can't stop playing over and over again.

Does he also share some archaic and/or stupid views about women and relationships in the process? You bet he does! But when the music is this good, and the self-examination this intense (there are moments that almost remind me of Blue era Joni Mitchell...maybe I've just been listening to a lot of Joni Mitchell, but I think there are actually similarities) it makes you want to overlook all that. Kind of like the way everybody overlooks the noxious antisemitism in The Merchant of Venice, because the author certainly has a way with words.

But I'm sure I'll post more on that when I've had time to wrap my head around this album a little bit more. In the meantime, I hope everybody is listening!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Springsteen + The Roots

Awesome jam at the end.

My apologies for embedding a Hulu video-- nothing but ads. I hate them, but what can you do?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Christian-Era Bob Dylan

I recently decided to start exploring the Christian period of Bob Dylan's career, since it's a pretty sizable gap in my knowledge of the guy.

Stop one is the record Slow Train Coming. Two things stand out immediately: One, it is definitely Christian. Two, it is definitely a Bob Dylan record. Check out the track "Precious Angel" and try to tell me one bad thing about the music. For that matter, try to tell me how you'd write greater Christian rock lyrics, if you were setting out to do such a thing.

I particularly love the horns on this record. I can't think of any other Bob Dylan album where horns factor in at all. Also coming up huge is Mark Knopfler, who produced and plays lead guitar.

But the funniest thing about Knopfler's involvement is that Dylan never actually told him they were making a Christian record, and it didn't become apparent until he started laying down vocal tracks. Knopfler says he called his wife from the studio and said something to the effect of: "Sessions are going well. But... and I'm not sure about this... but I think we're making a Christian record." Classic.

(It also brings to mind one of my favorite Onion articles ever-- "Bassist Unaware Rock Band Christian.")

Patriotic Embarrassment

Is anyone else as obsessed as I am with following stories on the insane new TSA procedures for airport security, which involve either taking naked pictures, or doing an "enhanced" feel-up, of every single passenger to pass through American airports?

Some of the bloggers over at theatlantic.com are writing about it almost daily, and this post in particular, in which James Fallows compares airport security here to airport security in China, really gets at the embarrassment (I would call it a patriotic embarrassment) I feel as an American, thinking about how incredibly scared and stupid we must look to anyone from any other country in the world who is unfortunate enough to have to pass through one of the airports in which these new radioactive naked-picture machines are located.

I was especially disturbed by this footage of the new head of Homeland Security. The relevant portion begins around the 1:00 mark.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Bottomless Pit in New York

New York Kittybrains... go see them. This Saturday at the Knitting Factory. (Which is apparently now in Brooklyn?)