Archive for November, 2012
With yesterday’s release of the new Flying Lotus “Tiny Tortures” video, something truly struck me deep – when the hell did having Frodo in your music video be the new hip thing to do? Including yesterday’s brilliant release, the past 2 years have found Elijah Wood as the official centerpiece in videos for three of my favorite musical acts of the past half-decade. A little research and a quick firing of some underused neurons from my youth made me realize it’s been going on for quite some time though. Thus here are the Top 5 music videos starring Mr. Wood. And I’m starting with #1 – because the brilliant new Flying Lotus feature doesn’t deserve to be buried at the bottom of this blog.
#1 – Flying Lotus – “Tiny Tortures”
If you haven’t gotten on the Lotus tip yet, then you’re seriously denying yourself one of the most incredible, and true “artists” existing in music today. There’s a reason Thom Yorke has a permanent boner for him, and this beautiful video off the recent Until the Quiet Comes album shows every reason why.
#2 – The Apples in Stere0 – “Dancefloor”
I honestly believe that the Apples are the most underrated and greatest unknown band of the past 20 years. Front-man Robert Schneider has had an incomparably prolific run that doesn’t seem to show any signs of waning. This video from 2010 is one of their bouncier tracks, but still features a dark, ironic chorus hook that is the true definition of the band.
#3 – Beastie Boys – “Make Some Noise”
Can you fucking believe MCA is really no longer a resident of planet Earth? Goddammit – well at least they went out with a bang. And while boy-faced Elijah wouldn’t be my first pick to portray Ad-Rock, it does all seem to make sense in this video. If you haven’t seen the full half-hour version yet, than definitely work it into your day somehow.
#4 – Paula Abdul – “Forever Your Girl”
Don’t act like you didn’t watch this video every afternoon on MTV in 1989. Shit’s catchy as all hell – don’t deny it. Well actually deny it, because it does basically make you want to stab yourself. But yes, cut to 1:45, and the stressed-out Robert Palmer looking kid at the desk is none other than El Senor Wood.
#5 – The Cranberries – “Ridiculous Thoughts”
Man, The Cranberries really didn’t age well. I remember in the early 90′s hearing one random song of theirs and thinking, “Ah man, this tune is actually really fucking good.” Can’t remember what it was though – and it wasn’t “Zombie” and it’s definitely not this. But at least they were forward thinking enough to get Elijah in, so I guess they were slightly hip before new hip was hip.
As a lyricist myself, I know that one of the hardest things to do in music is to put your emotions into words. Usually the easiest things to write about are the internal struggles that you face that you feel define you, and ironically sometimes one of those struggles is figuring out how to write lyrics. That’s why, I myself am a big fan of tunes that include lines like “this song” in them. I’m a sucker for moments of self-referential clarity, and thus there’s a lot of songs I could have put on this list, but here’s my top 7 that really hit home.
#7 - Elton John – “Your Song”
Well duh, obviously this had to be on there. Bernie Taupin and the Big E wrote a shitload of killer tunes, but I always felt this one was the most deserving of its’ widespread recognition. If you don’t listen to terrestrial radio anymore, then hopefully it hasn’t been as overplayed in your mind as it has for most of normal society.
#6 – Weird Al Yankovic- “Six Words Long”
There’s probably a few Weird Al songs that fit int his category, (“Smells Like Nirvana”) but this is one of those songs that even overshadows the original in my mind sometimes. And fuck, I love that 80′s George Harrison tune too, but Al seems to do a great job of calling out the go-to repetitive chorus of any of the late greats here.
#5 – Tenacious D – “Tribute”
Sure the glory days of the D are gone, although the new Simply Jazz release is pretty fucking genius, but “Tribute” always rang a special bell in my head. It happens to the best of us: you wake up in the middle of the night with a killer new song in your head and you say to yourself, “Fuck it, I’ll remember that shit in the morning,” and then the sun rises and that tune is forever lost in the universe.
#4 – My Morning Jacket – “Slow Slow Tune”
This is my favorite track off the latest MMJ album “Circuital” and I think it’s one of Jim James’ finer lyrical moments. I love the notion of future projection used here – “You, somewhere in the future listening/ I hope the present for you is glistening.”
#3 – Built to Spill – “You Were Right”
For 10 years I tried to write this song and failed, and then I discovered Doug Martsch and realized he had already written and perfected it years before. It calls out the idiotic fall-back of saying “everything’s gonna be all right” which so many songwriters go to for some reason. Oh, shit’s crazy but it’ll be all right – yeah, we’ve got mothers to say that, we don’t need to hear our rock stars say it. The rest of the song is calls of respect for the truest, and darkest lines in popular rock history.
#2 – Wilco – “Someone Else’s Song”
This is one of the simplest, and most brilliant songs Jeff Tweedy has ever written, and it positively crushed me to the floor when he closed with it at a solo performance I saw years ago. The same chord progressions are used so much in music, over and over again, and they’ll continue that way for eons. This may be the greatest self-admittance of that fact.
#1 – Blues Traveler – “Hook”
The irony that his song became popular is the greatest thing John Popper ever pulled off in his life. The entire lyrics to the songs are about how the song is about nothing: It doesn’t matter what I say,so long as I sing with inflection
That makes you feel that I’ll convey some inner truth of vast reflection
But I’ve said nothing so far and I can keep it up as long as it take. And then of course the chorus reveals that you dig it because it uses the catchiest hook of all time – Pachelbel‘s “Canon in D Major” – The inescapable I-V-vi-iii-IV-I-IV-V – believe me, it’s the pattern to at least 3 of your favorite songs, whatever they may be.
Hearing one of your favorite instrumentalists add vocals to their music for the first time is like seeing your aging mother buy her first pair of Uggs. In other words, sometimes the game doesn’t need to be flipped on its’ head that drastically. I’ve been a fan of Marco Benevento for nearly a decade now, and have always been enamored by his artistic attack of simplistic melodies. There’s even been times when his songs have held such a strong grasp of a melodic pop vibe that you can almost hear the unspoken lyrics float on top. I always thought this especially on “You Must Be a Lion” off of 2008′s Invisible Baby. In my head I always hear…”You must be a lion, because I can’t see, you being anything else.” But that’s the whole thing – the magic of the pop sensibility lied in my own personal and imagined connection with the music. If I had ever heard actual lyrics to the song, then it would have broken that spell.
Thus I’ve been quite torn by Marco’s choice to include vocals on the 1st two tracks of his recent release, Tigerface. First off, the vocals are provided by Rubblebucket‘s Kal Travers, who has quite an askew blandness to her tone. She always reminds me of the female version of the Hal 9000. But secondly, and most importantly, is how the inclusion of her vocals dispels the magic a great deal. It’s like when you read an amazing book, and it conjures this dreamy, hazy vision of the book’s reality in your head – one not defined by specifics and limitations. Then somebody makes a movie out of that book, and suddenly your own dream-scape connection to the story is squashed. That’s how I feel listening to “Limbs of a Pine” and “This is How it Goes” – like any chance I had of making a personal connection with the music has been automatically thrown out the window.
And listen, I love the album, but I can’t stop myself from starting it time and time again on Track 3. Marco learned a lot from his one-time teacher Brad Mehldau, and the biggest thing was the power of a simple melody. These vocal tracks seem like a step in the wrong direction – almost an admittance that the melodies aren’t strong enough to stand on their own. Of course, I applaud Marco on taking the risk, but I hope he never goes down the vocal path again. Try it out for yourself…
And here’s “You Must Be a Lion”
I always feel like a complete douche when it’s somebody’s passing that makes me aware of their life, but such is the case with the late, astonishingly great pianist, Austin Peralta. And as shitty as it sounds, I’m thankful that anything happened to allow his music to enter my life. Son of the legendary Z-Boy Skater Stacy Peralta, Austin died 4 days ago at the absurdly young age of 22. No cause of death has been given yet, and that makes one assume it was something really shitty. Regardless, the kid played the piano like a young Dave Brubeck if there was a gun being held to the head of his first-born child. His attack was merciless, his flow was seamless, and his joy and passion for his art was undeniably bombastic. I watched about 20 videos last night of his performances, and in each one he gives his band-mates that smile like they just won the Little League World Series.
This shit is really fucking sad people. Austin was beyond talented – he was magical. And we as Earthlings can’t handle losing any more fucking magic these days. It’s really one of those things that makes you question the nature of destiny, and wonder if his fire burned so bright so young because it wasn’t bound to be held for long. He was pushing the frontiers of music forward – above and beyond. The fact that he was on Flying Lotus‘ Brainfeeder Label, and that he collaborated with modern production wizards like Lotus and Thundercat was a sign that boundaries truly were non-existent anymore. So for humanity’s sake, raise your glass to this kid, feel some sorrow for the Peralta family, and put your children in front of a musical instrument.
Here’s my 2 favorite videos I stumbled upon – The first is Austin at the Tokyo Jazz Festival when he’s only 15 years old. 15 fucking years old! Sweet mercy, it’s incredible. The 2nd is from last year of him going ridiculously deep on a cover of the Flying Lotus track he played on forCosmogramma.
It seems odd that we’ve come to a time when a three-guitar rock band from Brooklyn sounds refreshing, but in a landscape dominated by laptops and synthesizers, Los Encantados are just that. Embracing the love and melodies of the greatest punk/50’s revivalists, but adding a little something called chops and talent, these guys have established themselves in just over one year’s time as one of the new bands coming out of New York actually worth paying attention to. Fresh off the release of the 3rd and final chapter of their debut album, The Same Damned Soul, I talked with the band’s front-man, James Armstrong, about the shockingly natural formation of their music, and how their dream gig lies somewhere between playing with a Miami gangster-rapper and a bisexual glam-rocker from London.
Adam King: So how did these songs move from your bedroom to the stage?
James Armstrong: Well, I had initially wrote The Same Damned Soul by myself as kind of an audio Valentine type thing for this girl. After a while, I eventually let a couple of my friends listen to it…it got passed around through some more friends and band members that were in different bands, and they passed it on to band members and then one night we just decided to go to our practice space and play the songs that I had written. And that’s kind of the short story of how we started playing together.
You guys had another band going and then morphed into this band?
Yeah, one of the guitarists in the band, Kevin, he has a garage-rock band that I played guitar in at the time, and still play guitar in as well. And all the other members are members of very official projects, and all those bands before Los Encantados was a thing, we had all shared the same practice space. But I just never had shown them the songs that I had written before. Yeah, so we just nailed down a date and went through the songs, and initially we were just gonna do this one show and play the whole project from start to finish, and following that show we got booked on another and we just kept on rolling from there.
Were all the songs on The Same Damned Soul written before you released the first EP?
Yeah, we recorded it all at once. All nine songs.
Why did you decide to release it in three parts then?
It was partly just because I think, or we think, it’s a little bit easier to consume as a listener – to have it in three little short bursts. And the arc of the record kind of mirrors out, well it flows nicely through seasonal changes, so those were the main theories, that there’s really sort of three peaks.
Did the album work with on the girl that inspired it?
Yeah! For a while…(laughs) You know everything has an end point…it was a good one.
I know you guys are working on this new album – is the new record still just you writing the songs or are you slightly more collaborating with the other guys in the band on it?
Yeah, it’s a bit more collaborative. I still primarily write them and then bring them to rehearsal to flesh them out. The first one, the first song is basically me in my bedroom just recording, so I think the next album will be a little bit more dynamic and there’s a lot more varied instrumentation, and a little bit more produced. It will be a little bit different.
Are you guys working with the same producer that you did on the EP?
No, the EP was my buddy Sammy Gallo – he did those. The new album we’re producing with Tim Wagner who’s the co-founder of Dither Down records, a dance-label in New York. He plays with other projects and DJs and stuff. I really like the sound of the dance records he puts out, like the drum sounds and the bass, and he’s got a lot of experience in the music scene besides producing records and working in the studio. So he’s great to work with, and he’s really got an awesome ear for great sounds.
I hear a bunch of influences in the songs, but in all of them there’s something about the whole vibe of the band that’s undeniably a New York sound. How much of a direct influence do you think that the city itself has on your writing, and how important do you think it is for the band to be based from there?
I think more than anything, there’s just so much here. You get to see so many different bands live. And not just bands, there’s art and cultural experiences and it keeps you inspired and makes you feel more a part of what’s currently going on. I was born in a super small town in Scotland called Nairn, it’s about 5,000 or so people, and I moved around the state sides as well, but that was my home base. And being so remote and removed from all the music you love…it’s cool and it’s fine, but it’s kind of a weird feeling, you yearn to be immersed in this scene that you think‘s going on, so I’m glad that I’m over here now and being more of a part of it and experiencing it first hand as opposed to through reading Kerrang or Spin or something like that, you know?
With there being 10,000 bands in New York right now, do you ever think about what you need to do as a band to rise above the mix of getting thrown in as just another hip new Brooklyn band?
Um, not like gimmicky shit. (laughs) I think just continuing to play as much as possible. We rehearse a lot, and I listen to as much music as I can, and just try to improve my writing. But besides that, the only way that I would want to be recognized apart from any other band is just by the quality of the music we put out.
I dug the end of the 3rd EP where things get a little darker and more poignant. Do you find that for some of the bands you listen to, that the darker things resonate deeper with you, or is a mixture of things?
I think both. I like bands that can do both even within the same song. Like Jesus and the Mary Chain kind of have that thing where it’s dark and kind of noisy for the most part, but they still have this pop sensibility that kind of lightens it up. I like that a lot, that stuff resonates with me a lot.
Are there new bands out there that you gain as much inspiration from as some of these older bands that you’re into?
Oh, yeah for sure! I mean, within our own city even… Japandroids are a really great band. I like a lot of dance music as well. I’ve been DJing since I was 15 or so. I took time off writing rock stuff to just DJ, and I go back to it sometimes. I think the dance scene in New York is really cool – there’s a lot of great stuff. I love Wolf and Lamb – that sound is so awesome. Like inspired off of 90’s R&B but with Housebeats.
Do you think of Los Encantados as being a dance band?
No…not necessarily – I mean not like EDM. People dance at our shows, but we’re a rock based kind of group. We’ve had remixes on our songs and I like having that, just having the variation.
Suppose that a current Top 40 band asked you guys to do a co-headlining tour with them. What would be the ideal band in that limited range that you’d want to do it with?
Oh man, Top 40? Shit…(laughs) It’d be pretty funny getting on a hip-hop tour, like Rick Ross. That’d be pretty ridiculous. If I could open for Rick Ross I think my dreams would be met for the year.
Suppose in some out-of-time other dimension, Television, The Modern Lovers, and David Bowie all ask you to join their respective bands at the same time.
Which one do you join?
I would go for Bowie. Definitely. It’s funny, interestingly, last night at rehearsal I was saying my favorite rock lineup is the Spiders From Mars tour era Bowie, you know with Mick Ronson and Mike Garson. I think that would be like a fucking dream. Almost as good as Rick Ross.
So the Bowie/Rick Ross combo tour would be it all right there –
Oh man, that would be too much.
After my recent rant on the failed solo endeavors of one of my favorite modern artists, I thought I’d express my appreciation for another who is actually doing shit the right way. Last week, My Morning Jacket‘s front-man announced his solo debut Regions of Light and Sound of God will be coming out on February 5th. And even though he’s released solo projects before under the Yim Yames moniker with Monsters of Folk and his George Harrison tribute, this one gets the official debut of his real name. I presume that’s because it’s on MMJ’s same label, ATO Records, and they presumably have some contract with James where he can’t use his own real name on other labels. Either way, the first cut “Know Til Now” is already out, so take a listen:
So unless you’re breaking up your main band, let’s learn some key lessons here from James on how to make appropriate solo music. First off, highlight your greatest attribute, which in James’ case is his instantly recognized distant-space quasi-falsetto voice. Second, make the surrounding instrumentation sound well apart from your actual band. On this track, James uses a muted drum pattern that sounds far away from anything MMJ’s Patrick Hallahan would ever play, and the main riff is obviously looping like a sample of itself – almost like you expectHova to drop a verse any second. In other words, this song sounds instantly like Jim James, and equally as instantly not like My Morning Jacket. Oh, and it’s good too! I forgot about that, part three of the solo equation is to make sure your solo music is good, or else people will just think you’re a pretentious dick-fuck who’s wanking around in a studio and thinks he can make a couple extra nickels off of it.
I’d describe how I think the tune sounds but I think James says it best: “I wanted the album to sound like it came from a different place in time. Perhaps sounding as if it were the past of the future, if that makes any sense—like a hazy dream that a fully-realized android or humanoid capable of thought might have when it reminisces about the good old days of just being a simple robot.” I dig it, and I also like that he’s continuing the same theme of future projection that he brought in on my favorite cut off of the last MMJ Circuital album, “Slow Song.” It’s good stuff, and I’m looking forward to the full release which you can order now at www.jimjames.com.
Photo courtesy of dannyclinch.com.
There’s some folks in this world who are legitimately evil – folks who some people defend by saying they’re just idiots, but nobody can honestly be that stupid. You know, folks like the Kardashians or that bastard running for Senate in Missouri, Todd Akin, and his asinine comments about “legitimate rape”. That guy ain’t an idiot – he’s just a fucking evil asshole. The same goes for this prick over at ARK Music Factory, Patrice Wilson. If you haven’t seen his new creation yet, and in honor of it being Thanksgiving tomorrow, then behold the horror that is Nicole Westbrook and “It’s Thanksgiving”.
Now some people will argue that there’s a degree of sarcasm in this song, or even that it’s just a little girl having some harmless fun. But don’t be fooled – this shit is pure evil. This guy is such an untalented hack, that all he can do is write beyond simplistic bullshit that can only potentially be accepted as tolerable if it’s performed by a 12 year-old girl. This is the same bastard that dropped that piece of shit “Friday” song with Rebecca Black last year. I really hate to post her horrible performance on here, but again here it is if you haven’t heard this complete crap.
But here’s the thing – I think Wilson is well aware of how completely intolerable these songs are to 95% of people who watch the videos, and I think that is his whole evil-genius game plan. Right now “Friday” has 43.5 Million views, of which 1.1 million people have either liked or disliked, and of which 80% of the people who took the time to click the thumbs up or down button actually clicked DISLIKE. “It’s Thanksgiving” already has 10.3 million views since it was released 2 weeks ago, and 88% of the thumb clickers clicked DISLIKE. So what this means, is that an overwhelmingly large percentage of viewers are watching these videos because they HATE them. The top comment on “Friday” right now is actually “I keep creating users just to dislike this video.” But of course the whole thing is that the haters are making this shit viral. Hell, I’m one of them myself – I’m devoting an entire blog to this crap.
In other words, don’t try to tell me that this Patrice Wilson guy doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s making tons of money right now off of shit he knows will get popular BECAUSE people hate it. He’s not an idiot, he’s just an evil bastard. He’s no better than the guys who make 16 and Pregnant. They know the shit is horrible, and they know that America loves to watch a train wreck. The only thing is that with Wilson, he himself is standing right beside us watching the train wreck. He’s not in the crash himself – rather he’s just destroying the lives of poor little girls like this Nicole Westbrook chick who’s wearing more slutty makeup than a Staten Island tramp of Friday night, and he’s just cashing in on it massively. Although, the stupid serious eyes she sings with makes it clear that she’s that snotty bitch who always talked about how much better she is than you in Junior High and that you always wanted to slap upside the face. But there it is. “It’s Thanksgiving” is the truest example of everything that is wrong with our country right now. It’s not ironic or kitsch like that damn “Gangman Style” – it’s just bad. So bad that I’m telling more people about it, and making more money for the evil bastard who made it. I fucking suck.
Ok, let’s get back into this. First off, let’s celebrate Mr. Aaron Freeman on 11 months of sobriety. Probably the longest he’s gone since 8th grade, so mad props unto you fine sir. However, I have some serious bones to pick with you my good man. Going solo is totally fine. And I understand that you needed to get away from Ween and that being Gener was keeping you on the eternal binge train. But here’s what really apes my butt-star…
After releasing this dumb album of Rod McKuen covers, you tried to do a solo tour. Only you very quickly realized that in the mass swashes of low IQ locales you had scheduled shows, (The South), nobody there realized that Aaron Freeman is Gene Ween. Thus, you had to cancel those shows. Then you realized that at the shows you actually played, nobody gave 1/2 a shit about hearing some pussy cover tunes off an album they had no interest in listening to in the first place. So you gradually worked more and more Ween cuts into your gigs until by the time you got out to Portland, nearly your entire set was Ween tracks. Deep tracks. You encored with “What Deaner Was Talking About”. Those are some really fucking poignant lyrics bud – “The sun comes up and I’m all washed out. Is this what Deaner was talkin’ about? I don’t think I will ever return again my friend.” And I know that shit has to hit home hard for you, let alone what Deaner friggin’ feels about his lifelong friend turning his back on him only to sing these songs that mean so much to the both of you without him.
So if you want to go solo, then go solo. Don’t play Ween tunes, just play your irrelevant cover songs. Right now you’re making yourself look no better than Axl Rose or even the dude from Asia who tours without Asia. I mean, what do you really need – a separate dressing room? You guys usually played venues that can accomodate that shit. If you don’t want to be around your boys drinking whiskey and blowing coke, then leave the fucking room. Don’t be a whiny brat about it – suck it up and get out there on the stage with them after they’ve gotten their buzz on without you. I assure you Deaner and the crew would be a lot happier with that, than with you playing all their songs with some other random cats. Sobriety’s tough – I get it, we all do. But what’s even tougher is turning your back on your boy and your legacy and your fans. I guarantee all of them are willing to support your decision to not be fucked up anymore if you’re willing to keep one of the greatest bands of all time together.
So in one month you’ll be a full year sober. That seems like a great time to apologize, say you needed to distance yourself from it for a year, and then set some new Ween tour dates for 2013. Open up the 1st show with “Stay Forever” and I guarantee you, Deaner, and all the fans will have tears of joy pouring down their face. Stop being a bitch.
Here’s a wicked early version of “What Deaner Was Talking About”
And here’s Cooley’s latest entry into the classic Hitler clip world.
We’ve all heard of using music and sound as a torture, like how we blast supposed terrorists in Guantanamo Bay with Rage Against the Machine until they shit their pants and tell us they know where Bin Laden’s 3rd cousin 5 times removed is hiding. Or how somebody should duct tape Paul Ryan to a post and then slowly read him the lyrics of Rage Against the Machine songs while somebody bashes a splintered log over his head. And of course I’ve talked before about the brown note, and just the fact that sound literally affects your physical being. But listening to the uberly-awesome and wicked geeky NPR program Radiolab the other day, I became enamored with a whole other part of the equation. This particular show was about the recent studies of one Dr. Hashim Ahmed who is using High Intensity Focused Ultrasound or HIFU to kill cancer cells. Literally, he’s shooting tones at a group of cells which resonate at a frequency by which they only affect the cancer cells and not the other healthy cells around it. It’s really quite wild stuff and you can read a more detailed interview about it HERE.
Regardless of the details of the study, I became more intrigued about how different sounds could affect our own unique cellular patterns, and thus how when we say that sometimes music is so crappy that it actually feels like its’ killing you, perhaps it actually is. What if the tone of Kenny G‘s horrid soprano saxophone is literally decomposing part of your cellular makeup? What if the robot sex bass wobble of Skrillex is literally destroying your brain cells? And you know, even differently than what’s due to the mass amounts of shitty ecstasy you’re on while at his concerts. And fuck, what about those really crazy adult-contemporary party-rockers who love to snort Molly at Kenny G shows? They’re just launching themselves down the shitter. Either way, it once again leads to my previous conclusion – really shitty music is really fucking shitty for you. If you’re listening to some modern crap just because you want to go along with the crowd, or just because you want to fuck some 14 year-old girl at a Carly Rae Jepsen concert, then stop for a minute and think of what dyer consequences it’s actually having on your physical well-being. Sure, we’ve all done some stupid things before to blow our loads off, but is it worth losing the cellular lining of your kidney for? You know, is really crappy dub-step really any different than those military LRAD things?