Archive for March, 2012
I have become completely enraptured by the new video for “Oblivion” by Grimes. I had never heard Claire Boucher’s earlier work from the past couple years, so this video was my direct stimuli overload intro of everything she represents. The tune starts off with an electronic beat similar to Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” while Claire stand in a men’s locker room full of towel-clad muscle-junkies. Upon first viewing, I stopped 20 seconds in – just as her voice starts. The beat, the visuals, and her soft-spoken voice just didn’t instinctually feel like a place I wanted to go. I felt uncomfortable, but then I remembered my vow to escape my comfort zones more often, so I reapplied myself to Grimes and now that shit is directly up my alley.
Her gentle lisp-ridden vocals bring to mind a few other acts, but she emits a quiet confidence that immediately rises her up and away from reference points. The video itself is a masterful vision of irony. Grimes rocks headphones and a boom-box so she can sing along to her tune in the midst of a high-school football game and a dirt-bike rally. The raging testosterone circling around her is a direct contrast to the music she’s making, but her comfort in the setting brings an eerie acceptance to the whole situation. I instantly realized where I had seen this trick used before, back in the 90′s on Pavement‘s video for “Major Leagues.”
Pavement actually made two videos for this song – perhaps because they thought the headphone concept wouldn’t work for everybody, they made a more straight forward, cliche 90′s video too. Personally though, this headphone one has always been one of my all-time favorite music videos. Filmed inside an amateur wrestling arena of some sort, the main character sings along while the rest of the crowd is completely oblivious to the fact that even a video is being filmed. For this song’s case, it highlighted the tune’s own pleading emotions of an outsider contemplating stepping up to another level of society. For the Grimes video, there is more of a focus on the periphery interactions of other people – highlighting her notion of being slightly outcast while yet not so isolated.
Anwyay, I think it’s a killer move for a music video, and frankly I think the whole concept should be considered as a regular alternative to the standard video. Couldn’t you picture a new video for Sleigh Bells coming out with Alexis Krauss singing by herself inside of a 100,000 person Nascar race? I could – it’d be fresh. They should do it. I’m telling them to right now… Do it. If anybody says you stole that idea from Grimes, you say fuck it – she stole that shit from Pavement.
Here’s Grimes in “Oblivion”
And here’s “Major Leagues”
And yeah – this kid’s got the right idea!
I’ve labeled this post as a part one, because I’m sure I will have much more lengthy commentary expansion on one of my most beloved topics of all time: FESTIQUETTE. Now for the unschooled, this term is a combination of FESTIVAL and ETIQUETTE – thus the word to properly describe the rules of human interaction at a summer music festival. (Or whatever season it may be, but as we are now approaching the start of the summer festival season, such a moniker seemed apropos.) Anyway, here’s my Top-5 essential rules of common decency when temporarily placed in a world of blissful debauchery.
Rule #1. Cocktails Must Always Be Offered
Now this doesn’t mean shelling out mad duckets for random beers for your neighbor, but rather refers to when an empty-handed anybody enters your pseudo-dwelling area (be it camp-site, RV, or hotel room.) It doesn’t matter if you have no clue who the mother fucker is and he’s got a squirrely eye for your girl in the corner – “Cocktails Must Always Be Offered” End of story. However, rules of engagement are altered when a bottle of alcohol has been snuck onto the playing field.
Rule #2. Return Borrowed Bowls Packed
Be it due to travel arrangements, tight security, or absent mindedness, someone in your crew is always gonna have grass and nothing to smoke it out of. That’s just a Murphy’s Law kind of thing. And likewise in universal certainty, there will always be a 16 year-old kid in a tye-dye in front of you who has no weed and is dreaming of the moment when someone will ask to borrow his pipe. Seriously, these two dichotomous individuals are forever destined for one another and their own mere existences are made to brighten the others’ day. Of course, much of the time, said youngster is brought into the shouldered periphery of the circle and further post-bowl action is not required. However, is the child has been neglected in the ceremony, than by all means you are required to return pipe unto him fully packed with whatever it was that you were smoking. Depending on your level of ‘holding’ prowess, I believe said pipe should actually be returned back regardless of whether the youngster was involved in the circle, but I understand that issue being up for debate.
Rule #3. The Post-Mishap Barter
At a festival, some shit of some degree will always happen to somebody else that’s kinda your fault – be it a spilled drink, an accidental vomit splatter, or your spun buddy jumping naked on the roof of your neighbors’ Honda. Whatever the situation may be though, it can and should always be resolved with a non-financial agreement. A new drink should be bought, possibly a fresh t-shirt, or give em’ enough of whatever you’ve been eating all weekend so that they won’t even remember the issue in 10 minutes. Problem always resolved.
Rule #4. Don’t Play Shitty Music at 7 in the Morning
Just don’t. C’mon, what the fuck’s wrong with you. Bonnaroo 2008 – Sunday Morning – Backstage Camping Area – Folks next to us wake up and pump “Lollipop” by The Chordettes – booooold move! Now what’s interesting about this tactic, and this will bring me to #5, the most important rule of Festiquette, but what’s notable here is that this was such an absurdly poor act of festiquette that it’s humorous undertones actually made it acceptable. Playing shitty dub-step or String Cheese Incident is a much more erroneous offense.
Rule #5. Never Call Somebody Out For Lack of Festiquette
Kinda like the Fight Club rule. Regardless of what bad festiquette someone may be displaying, the worst show of festiquette is to publicly decry said offender. The only acceptable commentary is to murmur “festiquette” softly to your sarcastic friend – I assure you the subtlety of the condemning will be a wonderful display of comedic timing. While this rule is definitely the most essential, it also relates to the notion that festiquette is a constantly evolving term, as what may have been inappropriate 3 years ago could have evolved into something completely acceptable.
Now this example branches a little into a preview of Part 2 of this discussion where we talk about rules 6 and 7 which relate to not tweaking on your neighbors, and letting the tweakers tweak. This clip taken from Ween’s set at Lollapalooza in 2011 features a fine gentlemen who is being completely and physically overwhelmed by the combination of (most-likely) LSD and the echoes of Ween’s “You Fucked Up.” What’s great about this clip though, is what exceptional festiqutette both the gentlemen and his surrounding festy-goers are displaying! Sure, this cat is rolling in the mud and completely losing his mind, but he’s doing a really good job of not fucking with anybody else. He’s relatively quiet and only grabs onto one kid’s ankle for a second. Those around him are doing a great job of letting him get into the music and occasionally dumping a little water on his head. The biggest shower of poor festiquette here actually is the filmer, who is breaking rule #9 – Don’t ruin someone’s buzz with your iPhone. Great clip though. Guy is calmly taken away by security where they probably let him shake it off in the shade, (let’s hope.) To be continued…
“ Celine Dion isn’t in Las Vegas to perform. She’s here to kill it. Again… she isn’t aiming for applause. She’s looking for rapture.” – USA Today
We all know that USA Today is the go-to source for what is hip in music today, and I guess Carlos Santana got tired of being off their radar. So fuck it, cheat on your loyal wife of 34 years and pull the ole’ fat-Elvis maneuver – Vegas residency baby! Yep, continuing an odd string of public decisions the guitar-God has made in the past few years, Carlos has now announced 31 Vegas dates for 2012. Or in his words: “I am deeply honored that our new home in Las Vegas is House of Blues at Mandalay Bay. It will be a really special opportunity for everyone to share in the music together.” Yeah, a magical sharing opportunity for whatever coked-out bridal party happens to be in Vegas on a Wednesday in May.
I’ve really been thinking about this hard since the announcement a few days ago. Sure, there’s some a amazing musical experiences to have in Vegas – Blue Man Group, Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles Love. But my question is whether this is one of the least rock and roll moves for an artist to make. I guess Vegas has a gritty rock reputation, but the idea of just bunking down in the Desert of Sin for an extended period of time definitely brings to mind a less-than-sacred aspect of music. Right now Santana went from being on the short-list of influential rock artists, to a list that includes Celine Dion, Shania Twain, and Cee0-Lo Green dancing around in feathers to the greatest pop hits of yesterday and today.
I guess it’s cool if you happen to be in Vegas and you’re like, “Oh shit, let’s go get hammered and see Santana shred.” But I can’t help trying to shred this icky feeling I get from this whole thing. Does he need the money? Is he going to give the money to some huge charity? I’m sure he hops on a jet directly after the show and is home smoking a fatty in Marin within and hour, so that’s gotta be nice. Maybe he feels like there’s an electronic debauchery that’s taking over the Vegas nightlife and he needs to come in as a force of good will to resupply the essence of rock’s nuts back to Sin City. I want to believe that this man has enough magic in him to make musical decisions that are beyond my capability of understanding, but I’m afraid that his wife took all his money from him when he started banging a girl half his age and now he’s trying to replenish it. Am I wrong? Will he say? Oh well, too bad we’ll never hear any reviews of the show since what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Right? Get it? Ahh, screw you anyway – here’s the master at the top of his game.
When I first heard that Aaron Freeman (aka Gene Ween) was going to release a solo album, I was giddy as a school-girl. Ween hasn’t released an actual album since La Cucaracha in 2007, although Deaner did drop The Caesar Demos last year. If you’re in a serious need of hearing Ween tunes you’ve never heard before, it’s definitely a must-have. The download links are still up at MediaFire – Here’s Disc One and here’s Disc Two. Anyway, when I first heard Aaron was putting out an album, I had visions of slow ballads that were a touch too soft for Ween but would still have his off-kilter beauty shining through. The pseudo-bummer is that the album is actually a collection of songs originally penned by Rod McKuen.
Now if you’re like me, too young to have been a complete music geek in the 70′s, then you also have no idea who Rod McKuen is. Turns out Gener didn’t have a clue either, til producer Ben Vaughn turned him on. Well good ole’ Rod here supposedly wrote over 1500 songs in the 50s through the 80s, for everyone from Frank Sinatra to Madonna. And yeah, he’s got a little odd twist to his writing and his voice has an ironic snarl that points to a hidden amusement in even the most serious of moments, but these aren’t Ween songs. This is Aaron Freeman paying his respects to an artist that he truly appreciates and wants to turn more folks onto. So, it is what it is for what it is, but fuck, I was hoping for it to be just a little bit more. I guess it’s a good way to get your grandmother into Ween, but other than that it’s only gonna make you want to listen to The Mollusk on repeat a few more times. Give it a shot yourself. Here’s Freeman’s take on “As I Love My Own.”
And here’s some original Rod with “Marvelous Clouds.”
And if you need Ween you haven’t heard, here’s “Ambrosia Parsley” – another classic Prince on Mushrooms groove.
Time to once again readjust you collaboration flow-charts people. What happens when you take 3 of the most prolific musicians of the past few decades and throw em’ in a room together? Well, you get a shit load of new music, that’s what. So Damon Albarn of Gorillaz and Blur had another supergroup a few years back called The Good, The Bad, and The Queen – composed of Paul Simonon from The Clash on bass, the guitarist from The Verve, and the legendary Tony Allen on drums of Fela Kuti fame. That band only lasted one album and did little to utilize the power of Allen. It did lead to Simonon becoming an actual member of Gorillaz though, and left Albarn probably thinking, “Fuck, now what cool shit can I do with Tony Allen?” Well the answer to what cool shit you can do with anybody can always be answered by, “Throw Flea on bass.” And thus was created Rocket Juice and the Moon, a name apparently taken after a Nigerian artist did the album artwork and labeled it as such.
To briefly tangent, I do still believe that Damon Albarn is completely haunted every day by the fact that he will never have the dark admiration of his fellow Brits in the same way that Thom Yorke does, and thus is constantly trying to do something to impress or at least match him. Thus, after Yorke formed his side project Atoms for Peace with Flea on bass, Albarn probably felt a need to steal the thunder and make his own British side-act with the same L.A. bassist.
Anyway, Tony Allen and Flea play like they have been waiting for each other their whole lives. I’m sure the two of them could close their eyes and play a funky afro-beat groove for a solid week and a half straight. The group has only played live once, which was last October at the Cork Jazz Festival in Ireland – I didn’t know the Emerald Isle was such a bustling beacon for the world of modern funk frontiers, but I’m just a stupid Yank. You can stream most of the cuts from that set at their site www.rocketjuiceandthemoon.com. Like most Albarn works, the music has both its’ gentler sides and raw attack-funk moments – but all pre-listens point to the March 27th official album release as being a must-hear beast for 2012. Chicago’s Hypnotic Brass Ensemble provide the quasi-Sun-Ra psychedelic power lines, and listening to a few cuts, one can only imagine what a dance party this could and should be. The first album leak streaming above “Hey, Shooter” features Erykah Badu and is a friggin’ banger. Below is live video for “Poison” – the other end of the spectrum of what this band is – a delicate, drifting Gorillaz-esque tune. It’s great, and so are a lot of these other tunes featuring guest MC’s, but I’m hoping the album focuses on the afro-funk thunder. Unfortunately, Red hot Chili Peppers have just set a 17-month long tour or something, so it’s highly unlikely that anybody will be seeing this band anytime soon. But rest assured, if you get the chance – jump on it.
I’ve gone through an extended love affair with this band, and I don’t see it ending any time soon. Bringing melody and songwriting back into conjunction with something you want to bounce to, It’s a Corporate World is a refreshing taste of how the original pop-rock paradigm can cohabitate with modern sound. In this interview with half of the two-man team, I find Josh Epstein beaming with a stead-fast pride for his hometown of Detroit, an honest love for covering 80′s Winwood hits, and a conjunctive knack for crafting great songs. Read the full thing HERE.
I mean, yeah, there’s definitely that pressure from other people where “we need you to write songs that people like” just as much or more. But I think when you live like that, you’re writing from a fearful place. And I just don’t think that ever works for people. I think the sophomore slump comes from people’s heads. Daniel and I have to keep on thinking about that — this isn’t our second record. For both of us it’s like… number eleven. [Laughs] It’s not like we’ve never had to follow up an album before. Maybe not as many people listened to our other albums, but we’ve always tried to make one better than the last one.
Ahhh, the glorious shadow-beast known as www.pitchfork.com. I’ll admit, I check the site everyday – usually only resulting in a minor degree of frustration and WTF moments. But I think they’ve introverted into some new epic cocoon of self-righteousness with their lineup announcement for this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. Sure, they keep ticket prices low ($45 a day) and they highlight bands that are just on the cusp of becoming something. And there’s really no better way to cap off a day of seeing mutated rock music than by throwing your cares to the wind and raging your face off to… Feist? Oh wait, maybe the other headliner will be huge… Vampire Weekend?
OK, so I dig Feist and Vampire Weekend – I’ve seen them both before, but I would never place them in a closing headlining slot at a festival. There’s a lot of standing still, head nodding moments for both acts, if not even sit down in wet grass moments. Hell, I don’t think I’d even put either of them in a night-time slot. It’s like Pitchfork is becoming a massive caricature of their own cliches – it’s like they sit around and say “Ok, Coachella and Bonnaroo are both selling out in seconds – what’s a lineup that we can put together to assure that tickets will still be available day of show and to guarantee there won’t be any of those jerks there that come to music festivals to lose themselves and engage in mass, sonic hysteria with their peers. Let’s make a festival where we can assure that everyone will have enough room to sway by themselves and quietly ruminate on their own delicate life. Seriously, are they regretting that they had TV on the Radio headline last year because someone pointed out that Rolling Stone also likes that band?
This is the same pretentious mentality that seeps through in their writing, but magnified 10 fold. Two weeks ago, when they announced the lineup for Bonnaroo they listed 32 bands from the lineup, but intentionally failed to mention that either Phish or The Red Hot Chili Peppers are headlining. Two of the hugest, most-beloved live acts on the planet – but one is too hippy-oriented and one is too main-stream for their names to even be mentioned on their pages. I’m not a huge Chilis fan. I still rock Blood Sugar Sex Magik every so often, but I can guarantee you that I’d be flipping my lid if I was at their set in Tennessee. That’s what these festies are for – losing yourself in amazing music that you may not have put yourself in front of otherwise. Not to go see the same safe bands play the same safe sets. And I’m not saying they need some huge DJ like Skrillex either, I’m just saying that folks these days are into everything. These big festivals are selling out so quickly because of the magnitude of different bands you can see. Pitchfork claims to be the freshest and most cutting-edged voice in music criticism these days, but they’re burrowing further and further into a hole of causal mediocrity that no one else is following them down. Yes, these smaller bands are great and deserve to have their moments – but this whole music industry wouldn’t exist if there weren’t the big bands on top to inspire and excite and keep people paying attention. It’d be one thing if the folks at the website just didn’t’ like some music, but their systematic negation of mentioning certain bands is solely due to said band’s popularity, and that is the exact definition of being a pretentious asshole.
For spite, here’s the new cool-ass video for RHCP’s “Look Around.” Go to their website though, where you can control the video all by yourself, and no, you don’t need to download any fancy program for it.
And fuck you Pitchfork. Phish rocks – go see them.
“People in Portland never laugh at jokes. It’s cuz you don’t have sales tax. You don’t even have heroin in this town anymore. Um, go Blazers.” – That was a mere smidgen of the poetic turns-of-phrase that came out of Bradford Cox Monday night in Portland. Sonically, the lines between Bradford’s band Deerhunter and his solo work as Atlas Sound have blurred together a lot more lately. Last year’s Parallax was a lot more melody-oriented than any of his prior solo seances, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from this set – luckily, he didn’t seem to know what to expect either. I’d say 65% of the show was all completely off-the-cuff, and it was spectacular.
Readings from a gay poetry book, posing like Lou Reed for the camera-happy, hilariously loving comments of Portland, and oh yeah, some of the most brilliant drone and echo manipulation you’ll ever see any human being on earth perform. Here’s a snippet of my review at State of Mind and you can read the full thing HERE.
“The evening began with a reading from A Lover’s Cock, a book Cox had bought that afternoon at Powell’s and which was totally comprised of graphic, homosexual poetry. A passionate boner soliloquy grew into an enormous droning vocal-loop before landing in “Recent Bedroom” from 2008′s Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel, which itself than melted into another space-drone accompanied by a sonnet about the beauty of a man’s ass. The thing is, as crazy as all this sounds, what he is doing with an acoustic guitar, a harmonica, and a loop machine is honestly magical. He’s able to take half-second snips of harmonica or vocal notes and turn them into elegant drones — not just the sweet loops you and your buddy make in your garage after too many bong-hits, but instant moments of sonic art by a true master of his craft. More than just a genius of echo patterns though, Bradford is a master of formulating himself and his whole persona into the main instrument. There’s this twisted innocence inside him that is the heart of his sound. You could put him up there with a wooden spoon and a stack of dirty laundry, and he would somehow be able to tweak some harmonies out of them.”
And here’s “Te Amo” – one of the songs he fully performed the other night and a great example of what he does with his pedals.