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posted by Mike on September 18, 2009 6:56 AM in Music
Everything is better with some perspective. When I started my tenure as Music Editor for The Weekly Geek, it was 2006. Bird flu was still the most feared contagion, I had a steady job with a mortgage company (you can guess what happened to that in 2007), and Google had just purchased YouTube. Now we're nearing the close of the decade and I'm happy to say that many of my favorite picks are from the first half of it; namely, things I haven't had the chance to cover since coming on board here.
Much has happened in the audio realm and I'd like to culminate it with my Top 10 Albums of the 2000s.
I've tried to be judicious, definitive, and for the sake of my own sanity, not second guess myself (still, I'd have to expand the list to 25 to fit all my "honorable mentions"). And obviously, it wouldn't be fun if all these spots weren't up for vehement debate and thus, I welcome it.
List your choices, tear mine apart - take your pick. But make no mistake: the imprint this decade's music will leave on the world is rich and storied, undeniable in its merit and gravity.
posted by Chris on September 17, 2009 2:36 PM in Music
I've been listening to The XX's debut album approximately twice a day for a few weeks now, and there's no end in sight. I can't get their simple, elegant melodies out of my head. If anything, it's perfect mood music. I've been stressed out at work and my commute in the morning is more of a death march than anything. The XX serve as a relaxing respite before and after the hell that is a less-than ideal work environment.
Pay attention to the very last riff of Basic Space. I had a difficult time choosing just one song from their album (mainly because I believe you should listen to an album all the way through, just as the artist intended) but the riff at the end clinches it for me. Any other artist in the same vein would repeat that riff over and over again, drilling it into your head. By using it sparsely, building to it until one final release, it becomes more effective. It resonates and reverberates in your mind until you can't take it anymore and you set the track to repeat. Be sure to listen with headphones. There's an intricacy to the sound that can't be missed. It's spartan, detailed, precise and lovely.
The worst part is the band is comprised entirely of 19 year olds. It smacks of early Portishead and I can't wait to hear more from these talented youngsters. Now get off my lawn.
For all the railing against hipsters and the meta culture of the past few years, there are a few great things that have come from our current obsession with past aesthetics. "Retro" gaming has breathed new life into old gameplay tropes, games like bit.trip beat and Mega Man 9 show that just because it looks like it's from the 80's doesn't mean it's old or dated, it's just a different aesthetic. A chosen, purposeful aesthetic. I've heard complaints that there's no new ideas being generated in art these days; that we've done it all and now we're cannibalizing ourselves and perverting existing works. I blame the movie industry and the obsession with remakes and sequels. With music, it's a bit different. Many artists are just taking certain sounds and moods that make them happy, and shaping them into a new and refreshing product. Enter Passion Pit.
In 2008, Passion Pit released their first EP, Chunk of Change. The first four tracks on that album were made by lead vocalist Michael Angelakos as a gift to his girlfriend at the time, and it shows. The tracks are lovingly crafted and the EP showed great potential. Manners feels like a logical progression from Chunk of Change, building on the retro-synth and Angelakos' wailing vocals into a swirling vortex of pure joy, without ever feeling saccharine.
Manners is just that: a joyful album. Angelakos has obviously been influenced by sounds from his youth that made him happy. A little bit of Tears for Fears here, a little bit of Bee Gees there with a dash of... Mega Man? As a matter of fact, most of Manners feels like it could be from the lost Mega Man soundtrack with it's catchy hooks and driving melodies. It's bubbly and full of energy, while never feeling fake or put-on. In this current meta-culture - stinky with hipsters and their thick colorful sunglasses and co-opted (read: questionable) fashion choices - it's all about consumption. Chew up one trend, spit it out to prepare for the next one. Passion Pit transcends this perversion and becomes something entirely new.
Standout tracks like The Reeling (above) and Little Secrets show depth both in their lyrics and their production, without ever feeling manufactured. It's an authentic joy that Angelakos takes in his music, and history shows that if the artist puts his heart and soul into his work, the end product is better for it. Personally, I can't stop listening to it. I fall asleep with Passion Pit stuck in my head, and I wake up with Passion Pit stuck in my head. It's not often that an album comes along and inspires me to play it over and over and over again, usually I'm afraid of wearing it out. Manners reveals layers the more I listen to it, and the pure joy of Passion Pit inspires me in the way few albums do.
Sure, you could compare them to other recent synth-heavy indie pop bands like MGMT and just calling the sound a fad, but you'd be selling Passion Pit short. Railing against the current rash of hipster culture is one thing, but if you write them off just because they sound like a retro revival you'd be missing out on what is one of the best albums of 2009. Full of emotion and joy and brilliance.
look at me oh look at me is this the way i'll always be
oh no, oh no
posted by Chris on April 24, 2009 9:31 AM in Music
I went through a New Wave phase in High School, after listening to nothing but Portishead for about a year I needed a major pick-me-up. One of my friends introduced me to Depeche Mode and Pet Shop Boys, and it was all over. I went through each of their respective back catalogs and didn't listen to anything but New Wave until rainbows shot out of my eye sockets. The Pet Shop Boys, like any band who was once popular and then faded into obscurity, continue to release albums that frankly just aren't very good. Enter the recently released Yes, a fresh take on the Pet Shop Boys sound. Here's the first track (and first single) off of the album. It's bright and catchy and displays all the attributes that make the Pet Shop Boys great.
The rest of the album feels like returning home. It's the same PSB sound, but renewed. It's familiar yet unfamiliar and interesting at the same time. Even more incentive to check out this new wave of New Wave? Owen Pallett does the orchestral arrangements. Aww yeah.
Check Yes out on Amazon. It's worth your attention.
posted by Mike on March 23, 2009 10:40 PM in Music
Sometimes a concept can be bigger than the people who convey it. Since signing to major label Capitol, The Decemberists have brought two fanciful (and highly conceptual) folk tales to life.
Frontman Colin Meloy - much maligned for purveying "thesaurus rock" and much beloved for making it tastefully palatable - could care less about the classifications, petty or otherwise. He's only concerned with the story. On The Hazards of Love, Colin and his swarthy, seasoned shipmates have recklessly run ashore, found some friends, and are colonizing the forests.
Much akin to their past works, but drastically cross-hatched, Hazards incorporates elements of "California One/Youth & Beauty Brigade", the pastiche prog themes from The Tain, and the solemnity of preceding Crane Wife. It's unmistakably Decemberists, and undeniably new. With this record, unlike past Meloy-led expeditions - which upon repeated listening leaves a campy residue - is a maturation of sorts; a culmination.
Opening number "Prelude" bleeds with organs into a crisp, revealing "Hazards of Love 1" where Colin's character shape-shifts from a fawn into a suitor for the angelic Margaret (voiced by Lavender Diamond's Becky Stark). Their courtship is contested by the searing Forest Queen (played by My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden). Eventually, as in all their morbid tales, the couple succumbs; they're held captive by the angry river and they drown with a kiss. ("We Both Go Down Together" ring a bell?)
But the real glory is the insular drama of the centerpiece tracks in Hazards. Worden's Forest Queen reigns supreme with vocal strength such that her wrath is well remembered long after (see "The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid" and "The Queen's Rebuke/The Crossing"). A bitter widower kills his children to become a bachelor and the youngsters come back to haunt him in "Hazards of Love 3", recalling their own deaths like something out of an Edward Gorey illustration.
But the oak in the center of Hazard's woods is Margaret's "Won't Want for Love". It's the perfect example of what The Decemberists have become - Meloy and Chris Funk riffing like they're being measured against late-era Zeppelin, John Moen keeping an effectual, but even-tempered beat resembling Mick Fleetwood, and Jen Conlee hammering keys with a Pink Floyd-like precision.
It's ironic that with such a devoted fan base and such an unalienable, literary-obsessed style, that The Decemberists has arrived at what might be their career's magnum opus by loosening the resolutely-gripped reins on their sound and allowing guest performers to shape their destiny along with them.
Stark's recurring chorus "I may swoon from all this swaying/but I won't want for love" is the revelation here; you can't help but adore the strange path that The Decemberists have carved. And if Hazards of Love is but a landmark in their journey, the end point will be unimaginably grand.
posted by Chris on March 11, 2009 11:38 AM in Music
You might recognize the singer for The Handsome Furs as being one half of Wolf Parade. His expressionate and otherworldly voice provides a slightly unnerving compliment to the rough guitars and catchy melody in The Handsome Furs' latest single, I'm Confused. It's a great song, but that's not why I am posting it. See the first blond girl who gets puked on? That's my little sister. So proud. *sniff*
Zach Condon has a vast imagination. Its taken him to the far reaches of the globe. From his humble Santa Fe domicile he's been to Eastern Europe, Paris, and now, Oaxaca. With a horn in tow and a hired translator he ventured to the home of the Aztecs.
Beirut is a gateway to world culture in a universal language. And as such, Condon's rag-tag Mexican funeral band for March of the Zapotec doesn't just steep his songs in tequila and bake them in the hot Baja sun, it takes us all with him for the journey.
"La Llorona" (the Spanish legend of the weeping lady) maintains the street-band feel of Beirut's past efforts with a tale of a man who tries to buy a stubborn lover's affection. "The Akara" - probably where Condon got the inspiration for his March title - sways with rattling drums and crying trumpets as a mistress who, tired of waiting for her lover, cuts her "kite strings" free. The lovely "On a Bayonet" bleeds right in to thematic closer "The Shrew" that erupts with cymbal crashes in a cacophony of Latin madness.
After the closing number, Condon's secondary moniker Realpeople make its debut (Holland) with five tunes; some of which pre-date his Beirut experiments. It's a neat addition to see how far he's come in such a short time. "My Night With a Prostitute from Marseille" and "Venice", in particular, come off sounding like what might happen if Dntel's Jimmy Tamborello made a second Postal Service record using Zach's vocal talents instead of Ben Gibbard's.
Bottom line though: this short, 6-song glimpse into Mexico's rich traditions is glorious. But the remarkable part is that Condon has kept the Beirut experience fresh by incorporating the sounds of each passport stamp (Gulag Orkestar, The Flying Club Cup) and twining it into his study current location. The ghosts of his Russian and Parisian trips are resurrected in March of the Zapotec for the gigantic splendor of Dia de los Muertos.
I was moved this morning by the sheer creativity of humanity. In times like this it's easy to lose sight of just how good things can be in life. When faced with seemingly unending despair it is absolutely vital that you have moments like the ones that Thru-You can provide. This project, curated and produced by a man named Kutiman, is like if Gregg Gillis from Girl Talk got his hands on a bunch of random YouTube videos and mashed them all up into one cohesive album. It is stunning.
I think perhaps the project is made stunning not just by the catchy melodies and incredibly talented instrumentation Kutiman found, but by the different elements all together. It's a symphony of sight and sound and it will charm the shit out of you. From the woman sitting in her living room singing softly to her baby, to the man freestyle rapping on the street, to the kids performing in a school quartet on stage in front of their parents, this is humanity at its best. This is life-affirming stuff here. These are ordinary people doing what they do. I get the same feeling listening to this music as I do listening to the music of The Books. The Books include samples in their music in a very similar fashion, evoking the same sense of humanity.
You can even delve deeper into Kutiman's creative process. Most of the videos have video responses and urls linking to the original videos, which is incredibly fascinating. It turned me on to a whole new world of creativity out there. People making videos of whatever talent they have. Kutiman just spliced it together, almost as if it was always meant to be that way.
I get the sense from projects like this that as a society we have no more usefulness for celebrity. Why should we? We are all talented. We are all awesome.
Her catalog has been about shooting the gap. Finding a perfect middle ground between a gloomy Tacoma past and a gleaming Nashville present. With Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, Neko Case found the right mixture; a merging of independent rock edge with dusty country ramblings.
After the excellent building-blocks Furnace Room Lullaby and Blacklisted, 2006's Fox Confessor was haunting, desolate, and it won my nod for Album of the Year. Though, with any artist, and with Case in particular - whose work solo and with The New Pornographers is superb - following greatness time after time becomes increasingly difficult.
And indeed Middle Cyclone, on first and second listens, seems like a group of average songs tethered together by fleeting moments of brilliance. Tracks like "Vengeance is Sleeping", "Magpie to the Morning", and "The Pharaohs" all suffer from a lumbering repetition musically that bogs down otherwise amazing vocal performances. "The Next Time You Say Forever" and "I'm An Animal" seem short and underdeveloped, but with glowingly awesome potential.
Fortunately, further dedication to Cyclone brings the realization that these brief little 15 to 30 second flashes are the true payoff. Like real twisters, they're here and gone in an instant, but the effects are permanent and dramatic. "This Tornado Loves You" describes the wreckage:
"My love, I am the speed of sound/ I left the motherless, fatherless/ their souls dangling inside-out from their mouths/ but it's never enough, I want you..."
Other golden grains are sifted out of the chaff. "Polar Nettles" ties descending piano lines and a rattling snare march to Case displaying the shocking new "Sistine Chapel painted with a Gatling gun." The title track has her humming a soft nocturne above a preciously off-kilter music box. Closing cut "Red Tide" brings smoky saxophones as Neko recalls the "smell here of gravel and cigarettes lit/ when the match made them sweet/ when the engine turned over and beat up our street." The bridge of first single "People Got a Lot of Nerve" pushes her voice to precise new heights with a lack of restraint that's refreshingly vulnerable.
On the album's promotional video, Case admitted that some of Middle Cyclone's audio takes had her balancing on the edge, knowing she was either on to something amazing or the whole thing could fall apart with a gust of wind in her Vermont-based barn/studio. Really, aside from the high expectations and any perceivable letdowns here, it's that she's walking (and reveling in) that fine line between failure and glory that makes this record great.
It's not quite there, but the various apps and the sheer ubiquity of the iPhone makes it an interesting musical tool. Here's a video of a band called The Mentalists performing MGMT's Kids on their various devices. Clever little proof-of-concept, if you ask me.
posted by Mike on February 24, 2009 8:34 PM in Music
More often than not, the compilation is an afterthought now. A group of people (usually a record label) pick a chic charity, gather a slap-dash bunch of artists willing to re-package their latest b-sides and voilà! A comp that not only sounds boring, but is.
If you will, re-imagine this lackluster institution, with me, as something else entirely. Start with a truly worthwhile cause (AIDS awareness), take two musicians (the Dessner brothers from The National) rallying their friends around that cause to commit new and interesting material to the project, and there you have it: Dark Was The Night.
From the get-go, this compilation is anything but ordinary; David Byrne joins The Dirty Projectors for the harmonious "Knotty Pine". Disc one also features performances coupling the sibling curators with other independent celebrities for fresh performances - Bryce with Antony Hegarty and Aaron with Justin Vernon. Other highlights include Ben Gibbard and Feist on a dreamy acoustic duet "Train Song", The National taping "So Far Around the Bend", Sufjan Stevens covering The Castanets' tune "You Are The Blood", and the best Decemberists song I've heard in a while, "Sleepless".
Disc two starts with a calculated effort from Spoon's Britt Daniel and the quality of Dark Was The Night never relents. Arcade Fire's "Lenin" recalls an warmer, fuzzier period in their early career. Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio makes an appearance for "With A Girl Like You". Even Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, who add some soul to the rock-laced album are completely on point. And Bright Eyes rehashing his own "Lua" seems fresh, as Gillian Welsh joins him to make it a duet.
The crowning point (for me, at least) on Dark Was The Night is The New Pornographers covering the Destroyer song "Hey, Snow White". It's solemn, clear, building, and triumphant; encapsulating the feel of the entire project, both from a musical and human standpoint.
I can't remember the last time a joint effort by this many artists sounded so well-meshed. If nothing else, Dark proves that a compilation, done right, is still a beautiful thing.
posted by Mike on February 3, 2009 8:51 PM in Music
My girlfriend favorite independent songstress, Neko Case, is done with her latest record. Due March 3 on Anti- Records, Middle Cyclone will play successor to my 2006 Album of the Year selection, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood.
This first single from Cyclone brings all of Case's typical charm to the table - that trademark strong vocal delivery over a bed of not-quite-country jangly guitars and shuffling drums. But the highlight here is a soaring falsetto bridge part.
Neko, as the lyrics suggest, really is a "man eater" - and Middle Cyclone's uber-awesome album art certainly supports that sentiment.
posted by Chris on February 2, 2009 10:53 AM in Music
We've already recorded the top albums of 2008 podcast, but I've been neglecting my editing duties as of late. It will be available soonish. I only say this because I think you guys are really going to like this one. 2008 was an incredible year for great music, and during the podcast Mike turned me on to MGMT and their debut album Oracular Spectacular. Lately it's taken repeat listens for me to really dig an album, the ones that grow on me have a special place in my heart. But every so often an album comes along that just clicks on first listen, and knocks me flat on my ass. That's Oracular Spectacular. MGMT has opened for Of Montreal, Radiohead and MIA... and if that's not a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is.
"A bloated, uncomfortable, saturated throwback to no genre, time period, or movement in particular." - Dom Sinacola, Cokemachineglow
I love the bloat. I love the uncomfortableness and the saturation. It's dismantled and dissected music. Oracular Spectacular is music created by an alternative future Rolling Stones who reveal themselves to have been robots all along and are now malfunctioning as their drug-addled systems create a soundtrack for the post-apocalypse.
This is my favorite track, Kids. Something about it just sends chills up my spine on every listen. I enjoy the meta-strangeness of a YouTube video made out of a... YouTube video, as well.
If you're a fan of 8-bit and chiptune music, have we got a giveaway for you. We've got a pair of 4-day festival passes for Blip Festival in New York from December 4-7th valued at $120. Who all is playing at the Blip Festival? Well I'm glad you asked.
Personally, I'd be excited just to see Unicorn Dream Attack based on their name alone. Since this is a giveaway for something location-specific, we're lowering the threshold of entry on this one. In fact, all you have to do to win these tickets is post a comment on this entry stating why you deserve them. Then, on Friday, November 21st we'll choose a winner at random. It's that easy.
posted by Chris on November 14, 2008 10:44 AM in Music
Yep. An actual music video for the 15 minute long masterpiece that is The Decemberists' The Tain, via Pitchfork TV. I've seen The Decemberists in concert numerous times and they've never played this song live. Every time I sit in the theater, looking up at the stage while waiting for them to come on I hope for The Tain. Maybe one day.
On the subject of things that sound stupid but will probably end up awesome: Dance Dance Revolution The Musical was announced today. Put on by theater company Les Freres Corbusier, this is so bad the laws of space and time demand it to be inversely incredible. Plus it has a character named Moonbeam Funk. To directly quote the SLOG's direct quote:
Les Freres transforms the Ohio Theater into a fully immersive, bombed-out discothèque as it fuses unmerciful Japanese rave music with deeply regrettable sophomoric comedy in the futuristic dance spectacular, Dance Dance Revolution.
Riffing on fizzy dance musicals like Flashdance and death sport movies such as Rollerball, Dance Dance Revolution is set in an Orwellian society where dance is illegal. A group of local street toughs harbor no hope of overthrowing the fascistic no-fun government--until a mysterious dance prophet named Moonbeam Funk arrives.
I never thought I'd live to see the day. The day when that dude who is always dancing in place while waiting in line to play DDR at the mall finally gets his own musical. Yes we can, indeed.
Everybody's waiting for you! Dance Dance Revolution the Musical opens December 3rd at the Ohio Theater in New York.
posted by Mike on October 17, 2008 9:03 AM in Music
"Everything that happens will happen today/nothing has changed and nothing's the same/every tomorrow will be yesterday/everything that happens will happen today."
Two travelers, lost in time - kindred souls separated for years by nothing but being busy.
A match made in heaven. David Byrne: innovative songwriter, front man of the defunct legends Talking Heads. Brian Eno: ambient mastermind, producer of more amazing records than some labels have even released.
And in their first collaboration in twenty five years, they meld their legacies into something entirely new and brilliant.
posted by Chris on October 1, 2008 12:38 PM in Music
Perennial Weekly Geek favorite Final Fantasy (really just Owen Pallett) released a preview of his new track "The Butcher" from the brand new EP Spectrum, 14th Century, out now. His loop mastery is as polished as ever, with a song that almost seems to weave itself. The video evokes childhood drawings and innocence. Or something. Really looking forward to more from Mr. Pallett.
posted by Mike on September 26, 2008 9:07 AM in Music
Last Wednesday at the Showbox, I was treated to Austin, TX band Okkervil River - a group on the precipice of going beyond their cult following to full blown indie stardom.
Opener Zykos, also from Austin, played 45 minutes of straightforward, yet pleasant rock; their success will depend largely on the strengthening of singer Mike Booher's raspy vocal delivery which, at its strongest, reminded me of Wilco's Jeff Tweedy.
Second band Sea Wolf was a real treat. Hailing from L.A., and having found their way into a few big television commercial spots, they played a nice variety of tunes. Half the jams were relentless - with an onslaught of crisp drums, well-strummed acoustic guitars and synthesizer/cello interplay (see "I'm a Wolf"). The other half were slower and heartfelt like the disarming mid-set highlight "Middle Distance Runner".
When Okkervil River finally took the stage, they showed how comfortable they are and how big their fan base has ballooned in the last few years.
With charming southern influenced ballads to hard rocking feedback fests, frontman Will Sheff has obviously surrounded himself with enough veterans and friends to accomplish anything.
Most impressive were Lauren Gurgiolo's guitar work and Justin Sherburn's exploits on keyboards. Both seemed effortless and capable of queuing dynamics through the whole night.
Yet singer and ringleader of the night Sheff was rightly the center of attention. His tortured wails and growls, especially on older tracks "The Latest Toughs" and "For Real" from Black Sheep Boy, were eaten up by the crowd.
I couldn't help but notice their newest songs from The Stand Ins haven't quite cemented in the minds of their audience yet.
Still, between Will's charisma and the band (for the most part) being on point, Okkervil River seems destined for great things. They remind me of fellow indie darlings The Decemberists a couple years ago - like they're one more exceptional record and a couple bigger shows away from being massive.
posted by Chris on September 23, 2008 8:06 AM in Music
Every once in a while I'll run across an album that is so great I just keep it on repeat. I want to absorb them and pick them apart. The best albums reveal layers the more you listen to them, and Shugo Tokumaru's album Exit has revealed itself to be a gorgeous musical tapestry. He's been likened to a Japanese Sufjan Stevens, which is fairly accurate. Both Shugo and Sufjan feature plucky banjos and twinkling bells in their captivating melodies, and certainly both of their names start with S. Shugo stands on his own, however, without having to compare him to other artists. Check out this video for the first track off of Exit, Parachute.
posted by Mike on September 18, 2008 7:57 PM in Music
Kevin Barnes has finally cracked. He's lobotomized himself and let his rainbow colored brain fluid flow out for everyone to see. It's ugly, beautiful, insane, logical - Skeletal Lamping is an extension of his work laid naked and unapologetic, for the critics to pick apart.
If there was one flaw to last year's Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? it's that it was too calculated, too choreographed. For all its exposure into his personal problems, Barnes didn't challenge the listener very much. Skeletal Lamping, however, is vibrantly dissonant, uncomfortably sexual, stripping away any security the audience might have.
posted by Chris on September 5, 2008 3:58 PM in Music
It's not often that music and video games come together in a fashion other than the occasional "I'm Addicted to Nintendo" novelty song. Music from video games is fantastic but doesn't ever really see any mainstream appeal. For whatever reason I had never really listened to Kaki King until just last night, when Jinny played the album Dreaming of Revenge for me. The lead-off track "Bone Chaos in the Castle" could very well have been a song straight out of a Metroid game. Kaki King has a stunning sense of melody, obviously inspired by video games.
Pitchfork premiered a brand new track from Miss King and The Mountain Goats today titled "Thank You Mario But Our Princess Is In Another Castle", a nice little track told from the perspective of a frightened Toad, as he waits in the castle for Mario to come. There are many lovingly mentioned bits of Mario lore, and it makes me kind of yearn for an album of story songs told from the perspective of minor video game characters, sitting in the background and quietly composing. Click the link below and check it out.
One of the highlights of PAX was seeing the adorable Felicia Day in person. She is so spritely and cute! You may remember her from Dr. Horrible. Miss Day took the stage during the Jonathan Coulton concert to sing a duet of Still Alive from Portal. Totally. Freaking. Awesome. Thanks to Mack for the video!
posted by Mike on August 25, 2008 8:22 PM in Music
Anybody who knows me can verify my unswerving dedication to a Chicago band accused most recently (on Sky Blue Sky) of making dad rock. I was a tad critical of that record last year, a release that has since grown on me quite a bit. Here's why: Wilco has always made dad rock - and they're damn good at it.
They've taken the bands our fathers grew up on and fulfilled their promise to a new and more demanding generation with the help of some technology, and just some sheer grit. I've had their earlier albums Being There and Summerteeth on a loop this past week and I just found out why. Wilco is everything I wish the Rolling Stones would've become. Crunchy guitars, swagger, and some crazy keyboard work to glue it all together.
posted by Mike on August 19, 2008 8:14 AM in Music
Since I got my iPod Touch, I've been obsessively looking for ways to utilize the small bits of WiFi bandwidth I'm able to siphon away from the great city of Seattle.
So when I can manage to pry myself away from Social Networking and Gaming, I turn to my first love: Music. There are several iPhone and iPod options available to supplement the meager music collection you are limited to hold with an 8gb to 32gb device.
The two obvious choices are Pandora and Last.fm, and both are great in their own ways.
posted by Chris on August 12, 2008 9:48 AM in Music
I sometimes marvel at the strange path that new music discovery takes me on. I was listening to a new episode of the podcast All Songs Considered this morning when they played a track by Petra Haden and Miss Murgatroid. Petra Haden is most likely best known for once being the violin player for The Decemberists, and is apparently quite prolific on her own. In addition to solo projects she also records with her family; Petra is actually one of three incredibly talented triplets. There wasn't much that was entertaining on YouTube with Petra and Miss Murgatroid and their Rasputina-esque collage of violin and accordion - but I stumbled upon this gem from the Guilt By Association album project from 2007. The compilation featured a group of artists doing their own versions of guilty pleasure pop hits, and this version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" by miss Haden was accompanied by this awesome video, submitted for a contest. Enjoy.
"Or, go to YouTube. You'll see videos of teens experimenting with digital drugs. You can decide for yourself if binaural beats induce drug-like effects."
That's right, parents. Press your legislators to outlaw something that YOU CAN DECIDE FOR YOURSELF IF IT ACTUALLY WORKS. While you're at it, let's get placebos outlawed, since sugar pills are made out of sugar and might actually give you cavities.
Seriously, ABC News has really reached the bottom of the barrel with this one. Not only do Binaurals not work, but they're not even an illegal commodity. I suspect this might be an RIAA-plant article, since they haven't had a good "Illegal downloading supports Al-Quaeda" article in some time.
Seriously, d00ds. Try harder or we'll slip some Heroin Binaurals into the overhead music they play at K-Mart, just to see what happens. We can do that, you know. We are Anonymous.
I am just mad about The Real Tuesday Weld. The brainchild of a Brit named Stephen Coates, aka "The Clerkenwell Kid", and the sound is a cross between The Propellerheads style of beat-booty mixing and the retro-futuristic-noir style of bands like The Decemberists, The Tiger-Lillies, Marc Almond in his campiest mood, and, yes, my hero, Vic Mizzy. In fact, they start out their album Les Aperitifs et les Digestifs with a jazzy, 1920s speakeasy version of the Addams Family theme, which segues into a melancholy torch song about a wasted life in the fast lane.
Martin Jacques, the operatic falsetto of The Tiger-Lillies, makes a guest appearance on "Someday", and it's really lovely to hear him outside of his evil clown/Edward Gorey persona.
Anyway, if you're looking for the musical equivalent of Lovecraftian steampunk, you could do worse than The Real Tuesday Weld.
Not many of us here at the Weekly Geek pay attention to the Olympics... that period of time every four years where we elect a Bush or a Clinton to office. Generally, the Olympics are a tedious bore, and we look forward to getting some good reading time in while the television is inundated with boring sports that were invented to kill people thousands of years ago. The shot put and the caber toss, sports that started out as training exercises for very large and cumbersome assassins during the First Crusade, particularly bore us.
Still, the minds behind Gorillaz (Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn), that wonderfully artificial band, has given us something, well, truly special. Their first video not starring themselves, basically just an advert for BBC Sport's coverage of the dismal boredom that is the Olympics. They have given us a brief, one minute run down of the ancient Chinese text, A Journey to the West, also known as MONKEY QUEST, also known as Dragon Ball Z.
Enjoy, and know that this is all the pleasure you'll get for the next month.
After years of strong production from funky, white-boy word twister Beck, The Information given to us in 2006 felt like maybe he was losing a bit of steam. An effort pushed along at times by Nigel Godrich's production, it was lacking in that constant rhythmic propulsion usually found in Beck's work.
And now, for the second release in a row, Modern Guilt feels more like a vehicle for its producer, Danger Mouse, than it does for Mr. Hansen.
Guided By Voices was a band surrounded by some nontarnishable legend of repute. No matter how many times I heard the name, even along side bands I admired, I ignored them. The years passed, and now they're gone, and I'm just getting into them.
Known for their insanely rigorous live act, Guided By Voices had a swagger that was unnatural for the Indie bands of the time. The studio albums in the latter part of their career were more or less attempted documentations of the group's live sound - their second to last record, Earthquake Glue, being no exception.
Lead-off track "My Kind of Soldier" shows clips of the band playing with their famed drunken front man Robert Pollard serving as curator to both the crunching guitars of his cohorts and the story of "Beatle Bob." All the while, Pollard's melodies are as effortless as the wind that will carry his music on to generations of listeners to come.
Bitmaster hyper-god Tettix (formerly Cicada, AKA Judson Cowan) is currently rockin' my iPhone, it's the perfect music for sitting on the bus and staring out into space. You may be familiar with this chiptune artist already, as his track "Earth's Assault on the Central AI" is currently being used as the Weekly Geek Theme song. I've found in my nerdy search of nostalgic beats that the quality of chiptune artists varies as much as the quality of old school NES games, they are all fun in their own right, but only a few are true classics. Tettix has skills. Mad skills.
He's even created tracks for Nike, Diesel and Cartoon Network. But with his albums Technology Crisis I and II he has painted a landscape for a non-existent game from the 80's. His albums take on their own narrative depending on your interpretation, much like an artist like Sigur Ros, Mogwai or Explosions in the Sky. He perfectly encapsulates what made NES music classic: catchy melodies, cohesive flow and a striking sense of mood. The best part? He has offered all his tracks online, gratis. There's even a sweet album of Metroid covers.
I'd love to commission him to do a real theme song some day. And hey! Check this out, he's also a great graphic designer. High fives all around.
I've been beaten to the punch on this by just about every music enthusiast with a blog, but I won't let that stop me.
Girl Talk, stage name for master mash bandit Gregg Gillis, just released Feed the Animals (some of which was featured in the last podcast) online. Plainly stated, it's art by juxtaposition. Effortlessly he blends samples from a 3+ decade, genre-hopping selection. With little to no reverence, but with an uncanny rhythmic intuition, artists like Busta Rhymes & The Police merge with dramatically awesome results.
This video delves into Gillis' creative process (however glancingly), and shows him butchering Elvis Costello to bits and using him as a small tile in a larger mosaic.
The most telling quote Gillis makes is the last; perhaps letting on that mashing isn't as simple as this short YouTube clip makes it seem: "If you spend a few hours or years doing that you can kinda go places with it."
I found out about Art of Noise today, just moments ago. After watching this video, they remind me of a cross between The Knife and Justice. It's hard to believe that this song was originally released in 1987. When I realized Trevor Horn was involved, my disbelief was suspended somewhat, but I'm still inclined to agree with my friend John, who introduced me to the song, that they were creating music way ahead of their time. As for the video, I have no clue as to why they are hacking at a grand piano with chainsaws, electric sanders, and what appears to be a lamp stand, among other things, but it seems to go with the song somehow. Perhaps the piano was too grand to exist?
I remember hearing My Brightest Diamond for the first time. My collection isn't exactly chock full of bands that I've discovered live. So it was remarkable that she, as an opening act for Sufjan Stevens, was able to capture my attention so immediately.
Let's settle one thing: Shara Worden is probably the most captivating live performer on the indie rock circuit - spellbinding voice, flowing sets with well-chosen cover songs - she's incredible.
Naturally, the studio tends to kill the focus and (more surprisingly) the dynamic of her songs, but the freshness of her debut Bring Me the Workhorse was able to overcome that dampening.
Now, on her second studio attempt, it's becoming painfully clear that she's at home on the road. And more frighteningly, her creativity is starting to suffer as a result.
Age hasn't often been an obstacle for burgeoning music acts, but artists in their late 20s to early 30s tend to make their most fully-fleshed, fully-mature creations. But 21 year-old Robin Pecknold has the perfectly weathered voice of someone double his years, and the honed story-telling capacities of somebody triple his years. Combine those rare talents with Pecknold's youthful vigor and it makes for some magical moments.
Another in a long line of fantastic Sub Pop releases, Fleet Foxes, the band's first full-length, builds and expands on the promise of their first two rousing EPs - including the overwhelmingly great Sun Giant EP.
You may not believe it, and when I heard it I scarcely believed it myself, but there's more to being a geek than just video games. What! Crazy! I know! The thirst for new stimulation isn't limited to just the digital realm of "veedoo games"! Music is what we crave, and the newest Weekly Geek Music Podcast is just the thing to satiate even the most ravenous of melody fiends. Mike and Chris present to you their top albums for this period in the space-time continuum, with artists like Portishead, Wolf Parade, Death Cab For Cutie and Nine Inch Nails. Perhaps, in listening, you will discover your new favorite band. These things are known to happen.
Full set list and links to purchase tracks after the jump.
Wolf Parade's debut LP, Apologies to the Queen Mary, from a few years ago was a raw, unhinged explosion of guitars and keyboards - a work that evoked post-punk anger as much as it did peppy bounce. As genius a first album as it was, with Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner's trade-off songwriting, the group was slightly overshadowed by the barrage of good music being exported from Canada at the time - Arcade Fire, The New Pornographers, and the like.
After successful side project excursions for both Krug (Sunset Rubdown) and Boeckner (Handsome Furs), the duo reunites with a renewed formidableness. At Mount Zoomer is refreshingly different. They've kept the angularity and intensity, but Wolf Parade adds a welcome dose of subtlety and complexity in this succinct 9-song set.
You know those booths at comic book or anime conventions selling game soundtracks? Yeah, those are usually dirty pirated bootleg knockoffs. Same goes with soundtracks you buy on eBay or from *most* websites. Square Enix bootlegs are notorious, considering they have such a vast library of hard to find soundtracks. The official SE store has a sale going on right now, so you have absolutely no excuse not to purchase the official Chrono Trigger Soundtrack for $16.99. Also on sale are soundtracks for Final Fantasy VII, VIII, IX, X, XI and The World Ends With You. Sweet!
Some music we associate with a certain nostalgic era in our lives, and for the longest time, I thought The Get Up Kids would fall in that category for me. Most music I reminisce about blankly after 5 years is unceremoniously banished from my music collection never to be seen again. But On A Wire, the 2002 record from the aforementioned post-punk group has endured quiet nicely.
"Overdue" with its sincerity and mellow, bittersweet chorus harmonies opens the album with a certain gravity that's hard to deny a place in your heart. Along with the odd video that accompanies it, The Get Up Kids have ridden the angry wave of my fickle memories and come out on the other side almost better than they looked going in.
Listening now, I believe James Mercer must've heard this record quite a few times while writing the calmer cuts on The Shins' albums - even if he'll never admit it to anyone.
posted by Chris on April 21, 2008 1:59 PM in Music
Being into indie rock is dangerous territory. You're often called elitist even though everyone knows you just have better taste than everyone else. I read Pitchfork often, and while I don't always (or usually at all) agree with their album reviews, I decided to give Vampire Weekend a chance. Pitchfork has been nutso about this band, who fuse indie rock sensabilities with an African influence. It's almost classic high life music and instantly addictive. I've had this song stuck in my head all day and put "who gives a fuck about an Oxford Comma" as my IM status message.
Of course everyone IMs me all like "I actually like serial commas". It's a good thing I have such great music taste so I can enlighten you guys. *sticks nose up and swishes ascot authoritatively*
We've been speculating for a while about when the first full albums will be released for Rock Band, sources said Nirvana Nevermind and The Who's Who's Next were slated to be the first (to much excitement!), but today it was announced that full albums are coming April 22nd, with Judas Priest's Screaming For Vengeance, followed in May by The Cars (that's just what I needed!) and in June by The Pixies' Dolittle.
While I am incredibly excited to be able to play these albums, I'm saddened that we are apparently only getting one per month. In addition, I'd like to see a better way to make a playlist in the game proper, such as being able to select an album and play it all the way through without shupp shupp shupp-ing through the entire giant playlist every time we want to rock out to Judas Priest.
Probably the most depressing break-up in the 90s occurred when Portishead fell off the face of the earth. In their prime they were robbed from us. Beth Gibbons went off to work in the garden, Geoff Barrow reallocated his production talents, and Adrian Utley wept softly into his beer in the dark corner of a pub.
Then, as if a divine musical presence summoned them from their inactive decade, they return to us with Third. Lazily named, but meticulously scripted, this album is the materialization of thousands of hushed rumors spread since Gibbons appeared to sing "Wandering Star" with her band mates at a small club in Bristol back in February 2007.
They didn't have anything to prove, but Portishead delivers a bone-chilling paramount to their existing catalog.
posted by Chris on April 2, 2008 11:23 AM in Music
It took me a while to actually get into Of Montreal, despite music editor Mike's drooling obsession over Kevin Barnes. I had listened to Hissing Fauna... a couple times and just wasn't convinced of their brilliance. It took a certain mood and about the 10th listen to really dig the groove, and now here I am a staunch Of Montreal fan. This video for Gromlandic Edit features art drawn by Kevin's brother David, proving crazy brilliance runs in the family.
Björk has been in my music library since Post. Here was a woman who literally did her own thing. When trying to label my MP3s, I always have a hard time putting her into a specific genre. Is she electronic? Is she Icelandic pop? I ended up just filing her under "Björk".
While I wasn't too impressed with 2007's Volta, here is one of the tracks that stood out to me. Lucky for us it also comes with an incredible video.
I showed this video to Jinny earlier who responded "I wonder if she's lonely."
posted by Chris on March 24, 2008 1:53 PM in Music
This weekend Sexcab came by to play some board games. As these board game sessions go, not only do I subject my guests to poorly mixed drinks and slightly manhandled snacks, I force them to listen to my music. Luckily The Flaming Lips came on to which Sexcab remarked "I love robot music from the future." Then I kicked his ass thoroughly at Carcassonné. Enjoy this epic theme which accompanied said ass-kicking.
posted by Chris on March 19, 2008 5:39 PM in Music
Oh how I have waited for this day. Ten years since the last Portishead album. Ten years we have had to wait to hear anything from the brilliant trio that is Beth Gibbons, Adrian Utley and Geoff Barrow. Ten freakin' years. I'd like to say that you will have to wait till April to hear their newest album, Third, but you know what? Fuck it. It's out right now on the internets and I urge you to find it. Third is epic life-changing music filled with sounds that literally I have never heard before. Listen to the first single off the album, Machine Gun, and enjoy being filled with the beauty that is Portishead once again. The beats sound like two robots fighting, and watching the loops being drummed live is remarkable. Delicious.
Every now and again a band comes along that feels like the first summer wind after a long winter - you know, the kind that gives you the warm fuzzy feeling inside. Bands that can easily give you the goosebumps whether you want them to or not. Fleet Foxes definitely fall under that category.
A call back to the pastoral pop of Brian Wilson and Simon & Garfunkel, while in keeping with contemporaries like Midlake and Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes have an amazingly timeless sound and the tools to deliver it flawlessly. Their harmonies are the obvious draw, and after watching several live videos where boisterous club crowds are silenced in awe of their talents, I have to believe these guys will be sticking around for quite a while in independent music circles.
Who is Asthmatic Kitty, you ask? You mean, besides the home of Sufjan Stevens? Well it's also a music label that has seemed to collectively obsess over Audiosurf. Audiosurf is of course the Steam-based PC music mashup that all the kids are raving about these days. Pitchfork is reporting that Sufjan along with a bunch of other artists that you have never heard of (but should listen to!), has released this free album to the world wide internets.
I love it when you can get glimpses into creative inspiration like this. It seems like games like Rock Band, Guitar Hero and Audiosurf are hearkening a new awakening in artistic expression. People are sharing their successes on YouTube, creating hacked versions for Commodore 64, integrating the peripherals into actual music-making instruments, adapting the peripherals to better resemble playing an actual instrument, and now artists are contributing massively in droves to this new way to experience music. It's exciting times for gamers and music lovers.
posted by Mike on March 17, 2008 11:05 AM in Music
You could say that for half this decade Trent Reznor has been lost. After writing probably the most fitting funeral piece for the dying 90s - The Fragile - he has struggled to stay relevant. The music of the young century has caught up with and surpassed the industrial sounds he popularized in the late 80s. Perhaps more unnerving for Nine Inch Nails fans, Reznor's lyrics have hardly grown past the angst-ridden, teen-aimed themes he preferred when he was younger.
But something strange happened with Year Zero last April. Almost as if he was taking the title literally, the album signaled a personal and musical revolution for Reznor. Nothing was particularly innovative about the record's content, but the way it was marketed and distributed gave Nine Inch Nails fans a reason to clamor. Now, less than a year later, Ghosts purposely rids the lengthy pre-production that plagued his early releases. And more significantly, the lyrics that shackled his past work to an immature audience have vanished too.
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