Friday, December 23, 2011

Top 5 Opening Sentences from Pitchfork's Top 50 Album Reviews

The other day I went meandering through the Pitchfork year-end lists, just to see what was there. And as you might expect, I was met with quite an overwhelming volume of words--so I decided to just read the first 2-3 sentences of any given review and then move on. Pretty soon, however, I started finding opening sentences that I found so amusing or confusing that I started cutting and pasting them to save for later. I therefore present to you: my Top 5 Opening Sentences from Pitchfork's Top 50 Album Reviews:

5."I don't give a fuck about you, you, her, him, that bitch, that nigga, y'all them," hisses DJ Quik on the very first line of his eighth album. To be fair, not many rappers will cop to "giving a fuck," but Quik is able to stay truer to his word than most.

4. On 2008's Saint Dymphna, Gang Gang Dance made their most succinct set of statements to date. Their desire to sift a broad range of pan-global signifiers through concise pop frameworks continued on this year's Eye Contact, but it also found them building bridges to their past.

3. Hymns are designed to unite a crowd of people in praise, aiming for a communal religious trance through the power of group vocalization. On Tomboy, Noah Lennox tests whether a congregational spirit can still be achieved by a single voice slathered with enough multi-tracked harmonies and reverb, a chorus of one worshipping secular matters.

2. There's a startling moment on Clams Casino's debut mixtape when a phlegm-soaked scream rises above the gorgeous murk before quickly being subsumed once again. It sounds like the last gasp of all the East Coast rap this New Jersey producer grew up on-- Dipset, Wu Tang, Mobb Deep-- making its presence known, handing the beat down.

And the #1 slot on this list goes to the review which came the closest to being 100% incomprehensible to me:

1. If you're a promising young artist partly responsible for turning a Hipster Runoff punchline into a viable (but still often maligned) subgenre, what do you do in order to stand out? Do you chart a course in a different direction, or hope that the wheat will eventually separate from the chaff? Chaz Bundick escaped the increasingly long shadow of chillwave by getting a synthesizer and an arpeggiator and (temporarily) throwing his computer out of the window.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Best Op-Ed of 2011

Instead of posting a single best-of list, I'll post a few things over the course of this week.  Here's my first one: My favorite op-ed of the year, written by Nicholas Kristof in June.  I'm guessing many of you read it when it first came out, but it's worth another look...

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Year-End Roundup

Blog's been pretty dead lately-- any interest in doing any year-end roundups? I know Tex dutifully filed his last year and no one else followed suit. Any interest this year? Mine will, as usual, probably be more focused on the non-2011 stuff that I spent the bulk of my time listening to, but there were some worthy/interesting things released this year that may be worth discussing. Anyone? Bueller?

Thursday, November 03, 2011

A Reunion to Celebrate

I never watched this show back in the day, but since I like everything else Mike Judge has done pretty well, I decided to give the premiere of the new Beavis and Butthead a shot. I have to say, it was pretty damn funny!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chuck Klosterman on LuLu

Because Drischord seems to be interested in all things LuLu, I wanted to make sure you saw this Chuck Klosterman musing on the album. It contains the usual Klostermanian excesses that can sometimes grate, including the fact that it inexplicably concludes with a set of typically broad pronouncements about the NFL quarterback, Tim Tebow (viz. "[N]o one who follows football thinks Tebow is anything other than who he is."). But I like how he ties the whole thing in to the collapse of the music industry, and his general takedown of the quality of the album is pretty great:

If these cagey tunesmiths had consciously tried to make a record this simultaneously dull and comedic, they'd never have succeeded; the closest artistic equivalent would be what might have happened if Vincent Gallo had been a script consultant for The Room. . . . Lulu is as appalling as logic demands. If the Red Hot Chili Peppers acoustically covered the 12 worst Primus songs for Starbucks, it would still be (slightly) better than this. "Loutallica" makes SuperHeavy seem like Big Star.

I had to google "SuperHeavy," and I was appalled by what I found out: "a supergroup consisting of Mick Jagger, Joss Stone, Dave Stewart, Damian Marley, and A. R. Rahman." Supergroups in general tend to be a bad idea, but supergroups with anonymous rhythm sections are completely unforgivable.[1] Say what you will about Chickenfoot-- at least it had Michael Anthony and Chad Smith. But either way, even putting aside that sin, this group is a pretty horrifying combination.

[1] Traveling Wilburys are the exception that proves the rule.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sonic Youth on the Ropes?

Today's Pitchfork headline:

I don't really know what to make of this.  Obviously on a personal level I'm sorry for them.  From a band level, it's hard to say what will happen.  Obviously 93% of Sonic Youth fans would just like Kim to leave and to have them continue on with Thurston, Lee, Steve, and Mark Ibold.  That would be an unspeakably awesome band.  But more likely will be the decision that there is no Sonic Youth without Thurston or Kim (or Lee or Steve, you could also argue) and they will thus break up.  That would suck.

I suppose they could also continue their professional relationship and keep things more or less status quo, although their press release was far from assuring in that regard.

Relationship aside, I'll say this:  From Murray Street through The Eternal, Sonic Youth has been on what's easily the best run of their career, and in the past decade, they've gone from being only an occasional listen for me to one of my favorite active rock bands.  It would suck if this spells the end of that run.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Rest in Peace, Bert Jansch

Several great people died this week.  Bert Jansch was one of them-- probably the one you heard least about.  I've posted about him before, and Dr. K has linked to some of his work with Pentangle.  Anyway, on the event of his death, a proper acknowledgement is in order.

As a folk guitar player, he reminded me more of Nick Drake than probably anyone else has.  He didn't have Drake's beautiful voice, and he strayed from genre more often, which probably limited his appeal.  (At least with this generation; I know he was fairly big in the '60s.)  I'm no folk music expert, but I think he remained pretty widely revered in today's folk community, both in England and the U.S.

As recordings go, "The Best of Bert Jansch" is a pretty good retrospective, although he put out a whole bunch of albums.  And I myself need to hear more Pentangle, especially after reading the NPR obituary linked to above.

I was more of a casual fan than any sort of expert on his work.  All I can say is he was a special musician, and he died much too young.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Wilco-Related Audio Complaint

No, it's not about The Whole Love, which I continue to find awesome.  It's this: This morning, Jeff Tweedy's solo acoustic album Sunken Treasure came up on my iTunes shuffle, and it confirmed something I've subconsciously thought for years now: Tweedy's live acoustic guitar tone SUCKS.  He's got such a great array of guitars, and he sticks some shit pickup into them-- or maybe it's the amp-- but it's terrible.  So obnoxiously treble-y with no natural decay.  It makes his guitars sound so cheap.  Hard to believe a tone freak like Nels Cline would let him get away with that.

Listen for yourself:

It's not like I feel "entitled" to a better acoustic tone from Tweedy, but I feel inspired to articulate something that's bugged/disappointed me for several years now.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Heavy Lifting

I've only listened to The Whole Love a few times so far, and as a super hard core Wilco fan I LOVE it. That said, I can accept the proposition that someone less devoted to the band could enjoy it less than I do. That said, the AV Club review really annoys me. Not because they give it a "B," but because of the condescending, "advice to the band" kind of approach the review takes. It's something nearly worthy of Pitchfork:

As enjoyable as The Whole Love is—and it’s an appreciable improvement over the wan Wilco—it still has some of its predecessor’s slight, low-stakes feel. The Whole Love is an album of reliable, occasionally exceptional, but mostly just solid pleasures from a very good band that doesn’t seem interested in doing the heavy lifting it takes to be great. Wilco’s early records seemed like the product of painful deliberation and unmitigated tension, a real life-or-death proposition; The Whole Love breezes by like a sunny Saturday afternoon among best friends. Now that Wilco has finally found its comfort zone, it might be time to venture elsewhere for a change.

I just have two comments:
1. Wilco "doesn't seem interested in doing the heavy lifting it takes to be great"? What does that mean? If they'd just worked a little harder and shown some dedication they could have written another Yankee Hotel Foxtrot? It's like saying: "what happened to the Martin Scorsese of Goodfellas? If only he'd been willing to do some more heavy lifting, The Aviator could have been just as good, but he lost his nerve."

2. Does he think Wilco needs more "unmitigated tension" to get back to its old self? It reminds me of an interview I once heard with Joni Mitchell from the mid 1970s, in which the interviewer said that lots of her fans thought she'd lost the sense of "vulnerability" that she'd had in her earlier work. She said something to the effect of "maybe I don't want to be so damn vulnerable anymore." Hard to argue with that.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Who Needs This To Work More?

Lou Reed + Metallica.  Two artists on the back end of their relevance, who have been increasingly pigeonholed in recent years.  Metallica still sells out stadiums and plays really well, but nearly all of their fans agree that they peaked 25 years ago, with Master of Puppets.  (Mayyybee ...And Justice For All is better, albeit with terrible production, but even that's 23 years old.)

And then you have Lou Reed, who quite possibly peaked 40 years ago, and who some (ahem, me) would argue was overrated at all stages of his career.  And most of his recent career lies in the realm of performing shitty faux-beat poetry for yuppies who paid $175 a pop to be there.

And now they're collaborating, which frankly seems to fit in the general narrative of Metallica post-Hetfield Rehab, where the guy is all about exploring his feelings and embracing the same '60s music he used to openly despise.

Here's the preview track, and I have to say, while it starts pretty badly, it ends up in a pretty cool place.  It's enough to make me interested in the record as a whole.

  The View by Lou Reed & Metallica

 Also note how the promotional website continues in the Lou Reed tradition of describing Metal Machine Music as though it were actually a pre-conceived work of art, as opposed to a stream-of-consciousness piece of crap motivated by disdain for the music industry and fans that had written him off.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Why You Should Avoid Watching Your Adolescent Artistic Heroes Be Interviewed

He was a great songwriter, but I have to admit I'm no longer mesmerized by his interviews. 20 years later, Kurt Cobain just reminds me of the somewhat pretentious goth kid who lived down the hall from me in college.

Get More: Nirvana, Music News

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

R.I.P. R.E.M.

You knew the day was coming, but it's always a little jarring when it actually happens.

On the one hand, you could argue that they had long since peaked and weren't doing anything particularly 'important' these days.  On the other hand, you could argue that they survived their creative valley of Reveal and Around the Sun and had just made two solid records in a row.

But the fact that R.E.M. made it 31 years is pretty cool.  They were never the most superlative band in any category, but they challenged themselves and their audiences and they definitely tried a lot of things over the course of their career.  I never saw them live, although I was supposed to-- festival got rained/lightning-ed out before they came on stage-- and I never heard the greatest things about their shows.  But I do know they put out 5 or 6 of the best records in my lifetime.  (Which also raises the point that since we're all about the same exact age as R.E.M., it's weird to think about the end of a band that's existed for basically your entire life but not before.)

I'm saddened by this news, yet I can also see why now was the time for it to end.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Wilco Streams Live Shows On Their Website

Did you guys realize this? Here's the link:!/roadcase/

I'm currently listening to a New Orleans show, which has a local horn section on about half the tracks. Not the greatest sound quality, but certainly great playing.

And in other news, I pre-ordered the deluxe edition of The Whole Love. Anyone shelling out for the vinyl? (And by anyone, I mean Tex and possibly Dr. K.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tears on the mausoleum floor/ Blood stains on the colosseum doors

I haven't had much time to listen to Watch the Throne yet, but the very least you can say is that Jay-Z and Kanye definitely know how to come out swinging.

Human beings in a mob
What's a mob to a king? What's a king to a God?
What's a God to a non-believer who don't believe in anything?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I guess somebody should post this

To paraphrase Kurt Cobain's mom, someone else just joined the stupid club.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

You know what else is great?

All things considered, I think Figure 8 has turned out to be my favorite Elliott Smith album. I think the critical consensus is that this one doesn't quite measure up to Either/Or and XO, but these days I listen to Figure 8 far more often than either of those. It's still got all the bitterness and sarcasm that you expect from an Elliott Smith album, but it's not nearly as mopey: there are lots of upbeat rock songs, and even a definite theme of a man who is determined to get his life together and not succumb to his darker impulses. It's a shame that that obviously didn't work out.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

There WILL Be a Post This Month

... and since it falls on me to choose what it will be, I'll choose: "my biggest clients... Hall & Oates!"

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Difference

This song really holds up. (Better, I might add, than Jakob Dylan's voice does at the end of what sounds like a long tour.)

Saturday, June 04, 2011

This Rules

Blondie is awesome, and this proves it. That is all.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Now you know I'm only human, instead of all the things I'd like to be

Just wanted to post one of my favorite Gil Scott-Heron songs. He was one of the great ones.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rest in Peace, Gil Scott-Heron

Was surprised and saddened to learn that he died today. I always respected him, although I rarely cued up his music. I do recall listening to a few of his records with Quinapalus-- quite possibly with a beer in one hand, a joint in the other, and bull-riding silently airing on the TV. I suppose Gil deserved better-- especially given the political and emotional weight behind so many of his songs-- but I'll always enjoy those memories.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Two Crazy Links

Ta-Nehisi Coates kicks back with Moby Dick, then goes into a weird, Star Trek-and-Marvel-Comics-infused reverie on the greatness of Melville. Very entertaining.

And on an unrelated note, Outdoor Life has an extensive interview with Vladimir Putin about hunting and conservation, among other things. Very weird.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Disappearing Pleasures of Used CD Browsing

Yesterday I spent a good hour or so browsing in what may be, for all I know, the last great used CD store in Manhattan: Academy Music on 18th st. It's been so long since I had a used CD shopping spree that I went a little bit crazy. Academy Music is primarily a classical music store, so to start with I picked up a number of classical CDs. The one which has made the biggest immediate impression on me is Wagner's opera Siegfried. I'm not particularly familiar with Wagner, and didn't bother trying to listen to him for a long time, partly from the casual prejudice that I was dubious about somebody that the Nazis liked so much. But as with so many of the artistic discoveries I've made over the past year, Proust liked him, so I decided to give him a shot. On listening to Siegfried once all the way through, I'm too overwhelmed with it to say anything besides the fact that it's very good.

Academy also has a small but decent popular music section, and I picked up some old Bruce Springsteen albums that I'd never gotten around to owning, as well as Metallica's so called "Black Album"...which is exactly the kind of CD which I'd never seek out on my own, but stumbling upon it used for $2.99, I was more than happy to pick it up.

I'm pretty well a convert to the convenience and available variety of online music shopping, but I do miss the congenial atmosphere of a crowded record store, and the surprises and discoveries you can make flipping through the used music stacks.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

One Rapper's Take on Obama

At first I thought it might be a stretch to put a Cornel West piece on a music blog, but then I realized that the man is a noted MC, so I guess it's okay to post about him on here.

I assume some of you already read about his Obama critiques, most notably that he's a "black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.”

This Washington Post article touches on the fact that West also said: "As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white. He is just as human as I am, but that is his cultural formation."

The article then goes on to brilliantly quote this piece in The Nation, wherein the author notes that West "has spent the bulk of his adulthood living in those deeply rooted, culturally rich, historically important black communities of Cambridge, MA and Princeton, NJ."

I certainly think West has some interesting things to say, but he made a total fool of himself with the Obama comments. He seems to completely disregard any component to Washington politics other than Obama himself. It's almost a teenage perspective on government. West is always a good interview subject, but he'd be about as good a president as he is a rapper.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

O'Reilly/Stewart Video

Eric mentioned this in the comments section and I just watched it for the first time tonight. Stewart definitely waits for just the right moment to unload his arsenal.

Game of Thrones

Is anybody else watching this?

I've found it pretty entertaining from the beginning: a medieval themed political and social drama, with just a touch of fantasy around the edges, is exactly the kind of television likely to appeal to me. It was a little bit slow in laying out all the necessary exposition, but this week's episode really sealed the deal for me. I am totally hooked.

I don't suppose any of you guys have ever read the books this is based on? I haven't, and as much as I like the show I probably don't plan to. While I'm relishing this show as an hour long TV drama, I don't think I'd be able to deal with a whole dense fantasy novel cycle. Still, if anyone has ever read it I'd be curious to hear what you think.

On a related note, I've only watched 2 episodes of the latest season of Treme, but that remains a very good show as well. It's not flashy, and there aren't a lot of nailbiting cliffhangers, but once you wade a few episodes in it will really sneak up on you.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Steve Albini Blogs About Food

I don't know how many of you are Steve Albini fans, but I used to worship the guy. Not so much for his ascetic recording techniques, but just because I admired the array of bands he took on, his non-gouging flat-rate business model, and the meticulous degree of care he seems to put into all his projects. I also like the bands he's been in-- particularly Shellac.

Anyway, it turns out he also writes a comprehensive blog about meals he cooks for his wife. I could never put in the effort he does in his preparations-- for one thing, I'd probably eat everything as I was making it-- but I actually really enjoyed reading these entries.

Albini is a funny guy. I met him once, and I can't say he was particularly friendly, but his intelligence is instantly evident-- in a snide sort of way. I asked him to autograph a Shellac record and he signed a fake name. Which, in retrospect, is probably the best possible verification of its authenticity.

Anyway, read his blog and check out this video of Shellac live.

(via Pitchfork)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Noted Music Critics Sarah Palin and Karl Rove...

... apparently did not approve of Common's inclusion at the recent White House poetry night.

Mostly for Quinapalus, although he probably already heard.

Stay classy, Turdblossom.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Another Domino Falls!

As predicted here about two weeks ago, we have yet another Kittybrain tied up in the yarn of pending marriage. Congrats to Eric, who is marrying his high school sweetheart (although not before cycling through a few other ladieeez in between). The wedding will be at either Amoeba Records in California or Bull Moose Records in Maine, and Eric will be cued when it's time to leave a compelling selection of Zombies bootlegs in order to recite his vows.

Congratulations Eric! We're now down to just TexPlush and me. I don't know who will fall first, but considering one of us is in a multi-year serious relationship and the other one is waiting on his 5th date from some girl he met on the internet, we can probably establish some odds.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

On A Last Waltz Kick

I feel like we all owe it to ourselves to revisit great works of art from time to time, no matter how exposed we may have been to them in the past. Recently I've gone through such a journey with The Last Waltz. I'm not going to definitively argue that it was the greatest rock concert of all time, but I will certainly listen to someone who does claim as much.

Here are my personal highlights:



Acadian Driftwood (no video footage!)

The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show (again, no footage)

What a concert. What a band.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Congrats to the Doctor!

Congratulations, Dr. Kittybrains, on your nuptials this past weekend! I hope your first dance was Jack Logan. Wait, actually that would be a really bad idea. But maybe one day the two of you can dance to Jack Logan.

Eric and I attended a wedding as well-- that of my brother. (Let's call him Erischord.) It was a great weekend! (And their first dance, by the way, was George Harrison's version of "If Not for You.")

And with Quinapalus already engaged, I look forward to the world's first honky-hop first dance! And as I've already predicted, Eric will follow close behind. Really the only question is which British rocker will have the honor of serenading his first dance.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

The New Lucinda Williams is Really Good

If you're like me, you'd lost interest in her after two meh albums (World Without Tears and Little Honey) surrounding a genuine clunker (West).

But this new album is quite good actually. It's not quite on the level of Car Wheels... but it's probably up there with Sweet Old World and Essence on that next tier. Here's a track...

The fact that her new guitarist sounds like Stevie Ray Vaughan doesn't hurt either!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Just a Damn Catchy Song

This song came out in 2000, and it has been stuck in my head for basically all of that time. The band is called the Rockfords, which was Mike McCready's band pre-Pearl Jam. He then revived it as a side project once Pearl Jam got famous. The singer is Carrie Akre, who was in Hammerbox. (I believe that reference might be for me only.)

Anyway, listen to this song and tell me how catchy it is. Just downloaded it today since I can't find the CD.

Monday, March 21, 2011

You'd Think That People Would Have Had Enough of Silly Love Songs

Preamble: Someone gave me Red House Painters' Songs for a Blue Guitar during a hard drive swap, but I haven't ever listened to it all the way through.

Anyway, I had my iTunes on shuffle while I was doing things around my apartment, and I heard this song come on that I assumed was some obscure Neil Young live jam-- acquired during a different hard drive exchange. :)

Turns out it was Red House Painters covering Paul McCartney's "Silly Love Songs." Duh!

At the end of the day, Mark Kozelek will probably be best remembered for his covers... AC/DC, Modest Mouse, and apparently also McCartney. Hearing this also reminded me of what might be my favorite cover of his. This is Red House Painters doing "I Am a Rock" by Simon & Garfunkel.

Good stuff.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

WTF Podcast

Have any of you guys ever listened to the "WTF with Marc Maron" podcast? I've been getting into them recently: most episodes are interviews with comedians, but they're especially worth listening to because of Maron's interview style. He brings a lot of himself and his own complicated psyche into the interview, and while in other hands this could be self-serving, it has a way of making his guests feel comfortable and able to reveal parts of themselves that they might not have expected to reveal.

If you haven't listened to it before, a great place to start might be his interview with Louis CK, which was recent enough that it's still available to download free on iTunes. I was also very entertained by his interviews with Gallagher and Ira Glass.

I was prompted to write this post, however, because of how unbelievable his two interviews with Carlos Mencia are (Part 1 and Part 2 here). These episodes are older and cost $2 each, but they're some of the most fascinating celebrity interviews I have ever heard. I've never been much of a Mencia fan, but the conflicted, complicated, angry human being that Maron coaxes Mencia to reveal himself as in these interviews is absolutely fascinating. Part 2 is by far the most intense and interesting (and might qualify as much as an "intervention" as an "interview"), but Part 1 is probably necessary listening as a set up.

Monday, March 14, 2011

J Mascis Solo Album is very nice

And it's all acoustic! And I love the cover art. There's a full stream going on here.
It's also worth noting that J looks a lot better with a beard.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

New REM Album...!...?

I've been taking a brief break from listening to golden age hip hop to listen to middle period REM. I've probably written about this before here, but I have a kind of funny relationship with REM. They were the first contemporary band I got into (before that it was all Beatles and Broadway) back in the Out of Time / Automatic for the People days. I remember being shocked that the "Losing My Religion" band had released SIX albums before that one. Anyway, then in college, when I got more into "indie" rock, I gravitated back to the early IRS albums. And I'd still say that their best album is Murmur. But listening to those peak-era Warner Brothers albums brings back more vivid memories of my youth, which is always nice.
I was inspired to pull this stuff out in part by this:

I was particularly struck by the high ranking of Monster, which is probably their most maligned album (and is probably the number 1 Used CD of all time). I had always thought it was seriously sub-par, especially because it was a total 180 from Automatic, which was my favorite album at the time. But listening to it now, totally out of context, it's actually fantastic! Every song is interesting and good, and the ones that, at the time, seemed like pale rewrites of their hits totally stand on their own. (Check Strange Currencies, which I always thought of as an Everybody Hurts rip, but is actually the much better song).

The other separately interesting thing is that a new REM album came out yesterday. I heard a bit of the stream from NPR and it seems reasonably solid, though not terribly exciting. But what I'm most excited about is that the REM Record Review Pattern seems to be holding strong.

I posted about this before, but this post did some great research on the phenomenon:

It's really a must-read illustration of the absurdity of mainstream rock criticism.

The pattern is, basically, that every REM that comes out is an improvement upon the last album, which was, for one reason or another, problematic. Thus, the new album becomes their best album since [an older album, usually from the Bill Berry era]. I would have thought that, since Accelerate was such a self-conscious throwback/comeback album, and it got such good reviews, that the pattern would break. It actually seems like the pattern did break, though, Pitchfork, of all things, sticks with the script:


After releasing the plodding Around the Sun, the band attempted a "return to rock" with 2008's Accelerate, barreling through a forceful but generic set and grasping at a raw, aggressive sound that was never really R.E.M.'s to begin with. So, it comes as something of a relief that Collapse Into Now sounds unmistakably like an R.E.M. album. At its best, Collapse Into Now evokes R.E.M.'s best work while capitalizing on the energy conjured during Accelerate.

To Rolling Stone's credit, they seem to have finally broken the streak:

Collapse Into Now is the first truly messy album R.E.M. have made in 10 years, since their underrated 2001 gem, Reveal. Their recent albums have focused on one musical approach at a time: 2004's Around the Sun was all slow-motion torpor, and 2008's excellent Accelerate went for spiky rockers. But Collapse Into Now touches on all their favorite tricks: punk raves, stately ballads, piano, accordion and the most mandolin they've put in one place since "Losing My Religion."

Relatedly, I was glad to see the AV Club's Steven Hyden partially acknowledge the ridiculousness of his article saying that REM was never all that good to begin with:,52852/

Perhaps more than anything else I’ve written in my four and a half years with The A.V. Club, “R.E.M.’s Incredible Shrinking Legacy” left an indelible impression on readers. And by “indelible,” I mean “negative.” Very negative. Countless pieces with my byline have come and gone, but this particular essay has followed me around like an especially unseemly sex scandal. From time to time, whenever commenters wanted to cite an example of my writing that proved incontrovertibly that I was a buffoon, “R.E.M.’s Incredible Shrinking Legacy” was what they pointed to.

It's a pretty good read, and it grapples with the strange place REM occupies in the rock canon. For a long time they were sort of parallel to U2 as huge, mega-selling bands that had their roots in the postpunk/college rock scene in the early 80s. But whereas U2 keep making hits, REM have sort of returned to just having a cult audience (albeit a very, very large one). It's hard to imagine them having the kind of profile that U2 still have. (Though U2 are doing their best to tarnish it with the Spiderman musical).

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Lupe Fiasco: "I hate this album"

This has got to be the most negative interview I've ever read from an artist about his own album, especially considering that said album was still a month away from being released at the time this article was written. An excerpt:

"There’s nothing really to tell about that record, to be honest. I didn’t have nothing to do with that record. That was the label’s record. That wasn’t like I knew the producer or knew the writer or anything like that. That was one of those records the record company gave me, [they even gave me] stuff they wanted me to rap about. It wasn’t like, ‘Hey I did this and I went to a mountain and found inspiration and it was this.’ [Last April] I was backstage at a show at the House of Blues in L.A. and the president of [Atlantic Records] came to me and said, ‘Hey check this out, I got this song.’ He played ‘Show Goes On’ for me on the iPod. I was used to it because they presented me like ten other songs in the same fashion or via email. So for me, at that point, it was just another record like, ‘Is this a song you want me to do?’ There was nothing special about it for me at that point. It was like, ‘You know we still want off the label, right?’ That was the conversations we were having."

I guess I'll probably still hear it, because at his best I love this guy...but this does not sound promising at all.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

If You Haven't Heard the New Superchunk...

... you should. Now it isn't exactly "new" anymore; it came out almost 6 months ago. But I think it might be the most satisfying album I've heard from last year. In fairness, I thought last year by and large sucked for new albums. (Which is one reason why I still haven't written up a Top 10 list.)

That aside, everyone should still check it out. I think it's Superchunk's best ever. Great melodies, great production and Mascis-like lead guitar. What's not to like?

Dr. Dre Started Burning Man

If this is a hoax, it's a hilarious hoax. Make sure you scroll down far enough to see the handwritten letter.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sharp Dressed Man on Drums

Eric's brother posted this on his Facebook wall. I think it might be old, but I'd never seen it before.

Note the similarities to a certain dead SNL alum.

Friday, February 18, 2011

So King of Limbs Is Already Out?

A day early! Anyone got it yet? Honestly, I'm torn. I know I'm going to want to buy the CD later and I don't want to pay twice. But I also want to hear it... legally if possible. Streaming site?

Here's the video in case you haven't seen it:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Overdue Pitchfork Criticism

I was just looking through some old files I'd downloaded, and I came across this screenshot from Pitchfork that I'd meant to share with you guys. It's an American Express ad starring John Legend. (Click on the image for a better view.)

I don't have much to say other than one of the following things is off base with the others: Pitchfork's current identity, advertisers' concept of Pitchfork's identity, or my concept of Pitchfork's identity (or at least what it should be.)

Now having posted that, it's actually my opinion that Pitchfork criticisms are kind of passé at this point. I've been the most guilty member of this collective in railing at them every couple months on schedule, but in truth I hardly care anymore. Short of going the Rolling Stone route (i.e. multi-page puff pieces on Kei$ha), they're not really going to surprise me. We all know their script and it doesn't merit much further analysis. Personally, I barely read the site at all these days.

Still an amusingly misplaced ad though.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Meanwhile, New Radiohead Album? New Radiohead Album.

Looks like I'm going to have to pay cash money for a digital album for what may be the first time ever! (I don't count emusic, because that was more of a subscription fee, and I quit long before they started listing album prices in dollars).

Clear 10" vinyl sounds cool but I don't think I need to spend fifty bucks on one album. Either way, this is pretty fucking badass and exciting. The cool thing about In Rainbows for me, more than the Met Museum style "suggested donation" thing, was the fact that they controlled when their music got out so that everyone could hear it at the same time. I really miss that experience. (I realize that makes me a dinosaur, but at this point I'm embracing it. After all, I still purchase CDs.) I was traveling in Peru when it came out, so I couldn't hear it for a few days, but this Dutch guy who I was on a hiking trip with had left after it came out, so he had it on his iPod and I listened to it on the van while we drove around the rim of the Colca Canyon. That was a good day.

Grammys Post!

I'm still working on my epic post about the RZA's production style and the brilliance of Inspectah Deck's wordplay on Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), but in the meantime, a couple of quick comments about the Grammys and the shocking (!) upset by the Arcade Fire, Texplush's most hated of bands.

I actually watched the whole show last night for the first time in years. The Grammys are kind of hilarious. They go out of their way to make themselves as irrelevant as possible, starting with the idiosyncratic eligibility period of September - September. So you get Grammys in 2011 for Lady Gaga's album from 2009.

Then there's the fact that the nominations/winners have very little correllation to either critical acclaim (ie, music publications' year-end best-of lists, etc) or sales/popularity. No knock against Steely Dan, but Two Against Nature was far from the best album from 2000-1, but neither was it the best selling. So then what was it? I'm not saying it was bad, but what does it mean to have an "Album of the Year" that's neither critically acclaimed nor popular.

Anyway, Arcade Fire's win is a rare nod to the critical community-- it might not have been the critical consensus favorite of the year (Kanye will have to wait until next year's awards, because his album came out in November), but it definitely appeared on all of the usual lists. I liked how genuinely surprised they were-- they even *gasp* smiled!

And the thing is, despite Arcade Fire selling out MSG, having a number 1 album (which at this point, seems like one of the less impressive achievements out there), and now Album of the Year, most people still don't know who they are!:

Rosie O'Donnell!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

J.S. Bach: Total Badass

Well, I guess I'll just keep posting even if nobody else is.

I've been listening to a lot of Bach recently...for whatever reason, he's a composer that I've never delved into very deeply before. I think when I was younger I was turned off by how orderly (and thus conservative) he sounded, but listening to him now it's exactly the order and precision that I'm especially astounded by. There's something almost contemporary in the deliberateness of his structure, something which fell out of fashion with some of the great European composers who followed him. There's no mistaking a Bach composition for the lyricism of Mozart or the mysticism of Beethoven; the structure is always right out in front in Bach, like he's communing with the laws of mathematics.

Plus, sometimes he gets astonishingly weird. Check out the below clip, especially the harpsichord breakdown that starts around the 50 second mark. If I didn't know it was Bach, I might have thought Phillip Glass or Frank Zappa wrote it in the 1970s:

In some ways it gets even weirder in the following movement.

Also, just to point it out, these particular clips come from his concerto for four fucking harpsichords. Maybe that was more common than I realize, but on the surface I have to say it sounds kind of insane. It sounds like a Trey Anastasio side project or something: "Dude, on Trey's latest album, he's ditching that guy who only plays the washboard, and is bringing on four harpsichord players! I hope they do 'The Squirming Coil!'"

Monday, January 03, 2011

Coates on Kanye

One of my favorite bloggers has some really intelligent analysis of the new Kanye West album. He cuts to some of the problems I also have with the album, but phrases them in a way I never could. For example: "I'm tired of rappers who deploy slut-shame to smoke-screen their near total fear of pussy."

This guy writes all kinds of great stuff on all kinds of topics, so while I'm at it, here's another recent post of his I loved about the nexus of comic books, hip hop, and Faulkner.