5.31.2005

I could see her uterus!

dear friends,

I hope y'all woke up lovely & refreshed this fine tuesday morning. I didn't sleep so well 'cause I was having terrifying dreams that I was a nurse taking care of an elderly christopher lee who became possessed by an ancient demon & somehow turned into a devil with the face of a droid (he retained his bathrobe & slippers). that's right. half old man, half computer, all satanic. what does this mean, I wonder? perhaps it means avoid star wars* & hamburgers on a late sunday, I mean monday, night.

but now to the business at hand, this is a very special week. firstly, the monkey & I are celebrating our anniversary tomorrow!

(moment to muse about my good fortune at having found such a simian, moment for you to wonder what hell I'm talking about. insert crickets & tumbleweeds.)

secondly, & perhaps more importantly since it involves more than one reader, the first official soft communication mix exchange is taking place at the library bar on avenue a between houston & second this friday, june 3. I will once again attempt to make an additional page for that so I can enter all the details of your playlists, I'll pester the more seasoned interneters today about that. now is the time for you to inform me of your participation so that everybody knows exactly how many copies of their mixes to make. so do that.

for those outside of nyc, please comment on your favorite covers or post your recommended play lists right here on soft communication. I'm sorry we can't all meet in the middle of the country somewhere, perhaps one day. in animal costumes.

in an exciting bit of synergy (I'm not sure what that means but it sounds exciting! like synapse!) our gathering will be joint, as in, contributor george's syn-tastic great cover band project** will be meeting there as well. their theme is COVERS, our theme is COVERS, a few of those involved plan to do BOTH, so GENIUS! we shall be there from 6 to 10:30. get your party hat & come on out, even if you have no mix to exchange or cover to do or don't know anyone. people will be friendly & sauced & wearing name tags (provided by me). it should be good times, good times, etc...

again, if any of you are feeling sinister or otherwise, feel free to come to the loser's lounge presents the cure vs the smiths afterwards for more cross promotional madness.

no recommendations today. perhaps thursday.

love, d

* I think I know why christopher lee was in my dream even though he's not in star wars ('scuse me, sorry, a new hope)... see, peter cushing is in the first one playing vader's boss, a sort of wizened, bloodless bureaucrat with brylcreemed hair...the character's name escapes me... anyway, I was remarking to the monkey how interesting it was that not one, but TWO hammer horror vets (fantasy baddie du jour lee is in parts II & III) wound up in a galaxy far, far away. the mummy wielding a lightsaber, who'd've thunk?

** for those of you who don't check all their email accounts, some wise words from contributor george regarding your list of songs you'd like to cover for the covers project, a list he'd like to get before friday:

"I am eagerly awaiting for some cover song submissions from many of you. You can suggest as many as ten, but they should be specific songs, not "...anything by Led Zeppelin". Also, if you have an idea on how the song should be reinterpreted please note that on your list( i.e. - "Welcome To The Jungle" in a slow, shoegazer style). Hopefully I will have enough suggestions by Friday to compile a list we can take all take a look at. So get thinkin!"

5.27.2005

your time was running out

dear friends,

contributor mary & I went to the rilo kiley show at webster hall last night. the packed house responded with rabid fervor to the comely miss lewis & co.'s every move. but how did they get this audience? on their recordings, some of the songs have an overly glossy generic country feel, prairie ballads for the wry, like the song more adventurous off of the album by the same name. is this neo-alterna-country for people who fear the word country? & why are there so many of them? I have no clue (I just think frontwoman jenny lewis' voice is purty like daisies & stuff) 'cept judging from the fevered mass sing-along that accompanied every song (seriously, every selection came with that sing-along hum), the home draw isn't the sound so much as the message, namely the songs' sighing, philosophical, storytelling bent. live, however, the kileys did all they could to bring it up a few notches. what they call "raising the stakes" in actor parlance. the band does come from hollywood after all no matter what sleepy burg they reside in nowadays.

but back to the live show... firstly, there is the potent weapon that is lewis. natural & sexy in a completely approachable way, though she is by no means average looking (what is her secret? pilates? the blood of virgins?), she sings of sex & politics with a warm warble & always takes intimate staring aim at her audience. she never stops scanning the crowd with her eyes as she stands & plays her guitar/keyboards/bass/harmonica
/tambourine arsenal (I kept thinking about a line from the bbc adaptation of jane austen's pride & prejudice: "young ladies these days are SO accomplished!"), giving her rapturous fans the impression that she stared them in the eyes at least once. they would reply by providing the requisite wooh! soundtrack to her every gesture. jenny counted off! WOO! jenny pointed! WOO! jenny bent down becuz she's "feelin' it"? WOOOOO! & so on. this stuff works people! after the show I babbled to contributor mary about the importance of engagement at rock shows & how the very simple act of looking directly at your crowd or (in the case of blinding lights) pretending to look at your crowd can go so very far in making people respond to you. so simple. so frequently avoided.

secondly, her co-leader/band president blake sennett was equally at home playing the crowd. a small, slender chap with a floppy fringe clad in the bold sartorial choice of suit vest, he sang in a lovely lyrical voice & provided two of the night's highlights: a neo-ragtime number complete with a special guest trumpet player & a lonely hearts ballad called ripchord* which was elevated to full-on cry of longing when lewis joined him at the mic & the two harmonized forehead to forehead in front of a starry sky backdrop. they presented a simultaneously swooning/touching picture of unity that thrilled my inner soap opera inclinations. what of it? I like intimations of drama & history. like I've said before, I am an adolescent when it comes to what I'm passionate about. & I hope that never changes.

my other favorite performances were definitely the more straight-ahead rock numbers like love & war & portions for foxes from more adventurous. these songs give the kileys a chance to step up & fully unleash their inner bedroom rock star fury.

simply stated, a good show, I whole-heartedly recommend their live act to anyone on the fence. I root for these kids & want to see them keep going in that shameless & sugary pop/rock direction. I mean it band, PLEASE keep going towards the light. I am in desperate need of working female rock stars & what with miss love being muzzled by her aggression & the new rise of the machines aka these pre-fabricated "rock" singers like avril & ashley & (gulp) lindsay lohan, I REALLY need to believe. know what I mean?

love, d

* after some aural research, it turns out that wistful ballad was NOT called ripchord (that's another sennett sung number). I have no idea what it was called which stinks 'cause I really dug it. anyone out there who's familiar with this artist & that night's set, holla back.

Bird With No Name: Hajime Chitose

I love nothing more than people doing showy, nigh on obnoxious things with their voices. Moaning, crooning, shrieking and roaring does move to be sure but every now and again, I crave theatrics. Nonsensical notes in a language I barely understand to music I wouldn’t play outside a headset.
(See: Opera)

Okay, opera is more of a package deal. While there are a few exceptions, I find it’s something best appreciated with visuals. In other words, see it live.

But I am not here to talk opera. That isn’t very Japanese now is it?
Actually, neither is the subject at hand...much.

Today I’m gonna talk Okinawa, m’friends.

But first, I’m gonna rave about the dialect.

Okinawa dialect (uchinaguchi) is a linguistic treasure trove to an oozing Japanese freakshow like myself. Okinawa, originally known as Ryukuan, takes the bulk of its cultural origins from ancient China moreso than the other islands of Japan. Words in Okinawa start out sounding vaguely recognizable in Japanese only to mutate into something completely different. For example:

"What is this?"

Japanese = Kore wa nani?

Uchina = Kuree nuuyai biiga?

What the? Who the?

Well, it sounds cool to me.

Though most of the younger generation speak standard, uchina dialect maintains a presence in traditional shimauta, literally “island songs”. Okinawa folk music is characterized by one or more of the following: an instrument similar to a banjo (sanshin), a Chinese violin (erhu) and an undulating lilt to the voice that sounds very Bollywood.

I couldn’t sing along if I tried.

I confess at times I feel like a pretentious New Age crunchy PBS arsehole listening to it on the subway. But it does provide a shift? It is so completely the opposite of what’s going on around me and I like that.

There’s a couple things, ok, a hundred things I don’t get about Japanese folk music. For instance, whyzit so repetitive anyway? And what’s with the constant interjection of “koi” in the background? There’s always someone shouting “koi!” or “sasa!” in the background of Japanese folk songs. If I were smart, I’d guess this was some sort of shout out to the gods. To my ignorant brain however, they sound like the singer is challenging someone to a fight. The word “koi” in one context is a rough way of telling someone to come or “bring it” (ya big sissy!). Koi also means love though. Or it could mean carp?

So much for my lameass theory.

Since the early 90's, blending shimauta elements with other genres has become a trend in Japanese pop music. Thanks to a group called THE BOOM. One of their more imaginatively titled tracks “Shima Uta” was apparently a huge hit in Argentina and became a theme song for their soccer team. Well, well, well.

To cite a very geeky example the love theme from Final Fantasy X* Suteki da Ne (Isn’t it Pretty) was written and performed by shimauta artist, Rikki.

Suteki da ne was just that. It was pretty. No, sappy. That weeping Chinese violin was invented for drammy love songs. Gone was the uchina dialect and there was no trace of the yodel but I went out and bought the single anyway hoping for a decent B side which I got. Utikisama. (Moon) Is it just me or does that piano give anyone else vague Mr. Rogers Neighborhood vibes?

Ryuichi Sakamoto mixed it up with synthesized noises and sampling. A haunting repetitive clamping broken by an uchina chorus. Sounded weird to me but I am sure to someone more informed it was very clever.

My favorite example is Hajime Chitose.

She sings in standard Japanese but retains the yodel. I’d love to get my hands on her early folk material but it's hard to find these days. Her mainstream album work is of the jazz pop soul variety, a genre I am not very crazy or informed about. She did quite a few cover songs which I am also not crazy about. Her cover of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane” was, in a word, cute but something about her cover of Lauper’s tired opus “True Colors” made me cringe. I don’t have anything against Chitose’s album work I just think acoustic accompaniment would provide better backup. Her voice is elegant. It is the focus. The music need not tart up.

Which is why I devoured her live album like some slathering hellbeast.

I could have done without the wind chimes on the album version of Namae no Nai Tori but the guitar was so soothing, I caved. This is the one example where the live version does not surpass the album version. Most of her songs, I think, were improved by the live recording. Just a simple piano for Kono Machi. An African drum for Namae no Nai Tori. A taiko backup for Seirei which, though it’s one of my favorite tracks, sounds for all the world like a death march.

But the words....

Namae no Nai Tori (A Bird With no Name)

Carried on the wind a rumor soars kaze ni yureteru kuchi kaketa dengoban
Better it should wander than betray uragirareu yori wa samayou hou gai ii

Days without tidings tayori ga nai hibi
Invite only sadness sabishisa dake tsunotte yuku
If it's anything like dragging along shadows kage o hikizuru gurai nara
I’d rather be a bird with no name. na mo nai tori de ii

Like a shimmer of heated air it appears kagerou no you ni yurai deru
the place that I was promised yakusoku no basho
A distant city far away haruka tooku no machi

If someone tells me it’s all an illusion Dareka ga zenbu maboroshii dato oshiete kuretara
Where then shall I go? Watashi wa doko yuku darou?


* I would like to state for the record that I do not own a Playstation and have never played any Fantasy, final or otherwise. No fantasy is final unless it begins with a Z and ends with an A.

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5.26.2005

summer jam

I realize it's cold, grey, and raining here in Brooklyn, but the calendar swears summer's on its way. This raises the all-important question: what will this summer's jam be? You know, the song that will infect car speakers everywhere, the song that will shoot to the top of TRL the day it's released, the guilty pleasure that the hipsters will actually dance to once they've drunk enough Sparks at the BBQ. Does anyone have a long-range forecast on this? Will Justin Timberlake be involved? Inquiring earholes want to know.

Labels:

Metal Up Ass Fails to Excite

I'd seen the Early Man EP (alternately self-titled and called Fuck You If You're Talkin' To Me...depends where you look) sitting around at Other Music with some blurb about guitar shredding and flying beercans. I was in there the other day thinking that I could use a good dose of squealing guitar power, and Lord knows these guys try to pummel you with "street metal" (any guesses on what that's supposed to mean?). I know that minimal instrumentation is all the rage in certain circles these days, but this disc wants for some musical development.

Each one of the three songs starts of promisingly enough - the vocals sound just like Sabbath-era Ozzy and drums achieve a certain heviosity without just relying on an overpowering kick. But then they just go on and on with the same riffs and it gets a little tedious. The mixing doesn't really help things - the high-hat and/or ride cymbal is the only thing that comes close to cutting though tracks which sound like they're being recorded on the other side of heavy curtains. But what seems even more obvious to me is that the lyrics are just tragically cheesy. Observe:

All right, so you wanna fight/My fists are sticks of dynamite/Fuck you if you're talkin' to me/My fuse goes quick like TNT

sigh... What's the deal here, guys? Is this just referencing the silly macho bravado that seems so essential to the classic Heavy Metal aesthetic? Or is this some kind of Andrew WK non-pose? Either way, it's pretty half-baked.

But you don't have to take my word for it. Go ask Matador Records - they liked these guys enough to pick them up for a full-length.

I give this EP an ambivalent 5 out of 10.

RECOMMENDED TRACKS: Eh...pick one.

there's more to life than books you know...but not much more

dear friends,

1. after ranting about how feelgood inc. by gorillaz is on my fantasy roller skatin' playlist, I catch the latest ipod commercial which features...yup, roller skatin' ipod people. clearly, I need to work in advertising. perhaps then I'll become fabulously wealthy & throw big piles of cash up in the air & go all power hungry & buy myself a castle, where I can traipse about wearing a paper crown, demanding rocky road ice cream all day long as I oversee the construction of my koi-filled moat. then again, they probably don't make that much money either. ah well.

2. last night I revisited one of my favorite david bowie tracks, sound & vision. there's something so clean & clear about that tune. try singing along to all those "don't you wonder someti-ah-i-ai-ah ah ah-iiimes about SOUND & VISIONNNNNN". I love that line's leisurely stretch up before it drops & how it ends with that crisp double tracked harmony. thrilling! o knowledgeable folks out there, can someone tell me who was bowie's hired gun, I mean guitarist, around this period? I cannae remember & I must know!

3. which way to happy by burly sibling act the magic numbers is a slow dance mirror ball prom type song that hearkens back to the 70's with its harvest-type strumming & soothing aaaah back-up vocals by the ladies of the group. earnest & refreshingly dated (these people are not courting the current "everybody sound like gang of four" craze), it's a perfect selection for an introspective sunday.

4. straight up, something about cody chesnutt creeps me out. is it the seed aka that "push the seed in your bush for life" song? uh, maybe. contributor jared played it for me several times in his trademarked uber-enthusiastic way when it first came out & the most I could muster was a skeeved "did he just say - I push the seed up in your chest? ummm...ok". I like the clipped guitar & the beat but damn I feel weird singing those lyrics (NB: I have singalongitis. it's critical. I. sing. along. to. EVERYTHING. seriously, it drives people nuts). I do like the song eric burdon. as per usual, I have no idea what he's talking about but I believe his fretful proclamations about how he's nothing without his mojo. a statement of truth that rises almost imperceptably in an amazingly controlled way; I feel like it's all chesnutt can do to stay in his skin. I will investigate further or maybe one of you nice people can fill me in on this cat's back story in the form of a (insinuating cough) post? hmm?

5. for those of you who don't believe in such a thing as "too many covers", friday, june 3 should be a helluva time. the the first official soft communication mix exchange & contributor george's great cover band project are joining forces & will take place at the same location, the unsuspecting library bar. but that's not all! after all the mix exchanging, cover idea suggesting & happy hour drinking, me & the aforementioned contributor george & the lovely contributor jessica are going to the knitting factory to enjoy the loser's lounge presents the cure vs the smiths show. you read right. while my only other experience with the losers was their queen tribute show at bowery which at times resembled a night of drunken karaoke with your friends (i.e. mostly howlingly amateurish but engaged performances with the occasional surprisingly good rendition) I actually enjoy that type of thing & can't wait to see what they'll do. for those of you in the ny area who can't go that night, there are other nights & times: friday june 3rd at 8pm (doors at 7), friday june 3rd at 11 (doors at 10:30), saturday june 4th at 8 (doors at 7), saturday june 4th at 11 (doors at 10:30). my wish list choices for the show are: the caterpillar or handsome devil. the royal we shall see if they comply.

love, d

songs to seek: sound & vision/david bowie, which way to happy/the magic numbers, eric burdon/cody chesnutt, the caterpillar/the cure, handsome devil/the smiths

5.24.2005

don't know which genre we belong

dear friends,

1. in one of those rare instances of a rock show running on freakin' time I missed amusement parks on fire aka the band I most wanted to see at the ny2lon show. I had a prior commitment that ended at 8 & got down to bowery ballroom at 9, only to learn that the shoegaze had just ended. argh!

watched the ordinary boys set & was won over by their energy, friendliness & super fantastic bassist, despite the fact that I'm not a fan of specials meets the jam ska/power pop type bands (even though I like the originators just fine). they did a couple of covers, both good, little bitch by the specials (love that song!) & the ramones' the kkk took my baby away. one of their originals, boys will be boys, was a pleasant throwback to those great 2-tone party tracks. afterwards, they happily mixed with all their new fans outside of the venue. nice lads.

next up was the the hong kong, a band I've heard quite a bit about through admiring friends. they managed to drive me out of the venue in 2 & 1/2 songs. the lead singer, a gorgeous blonde with tired mascara-heavy eyes wearing a tight, low-cut black dress, sang well enough but projected that kind of zero degrees kelvin charisma that makes me wonder why people play live at all. she sang without moving & when she wasn't looking straight ahead, stared around the stage absent-mindedly as if looking for a misplaced shoe. the rest of the band seemed anonymously proficient but unspectacular. contributor marta sagely suggested that shyness was the main culprit for this dull display. unfortunately, when you get to play a nice venue like bowery, I believe a band must bring it up a few notches. I think most of the people I know in bands are shy but when they get on a stage they still school the masses. & I don't necessarily mean by kicking & screaming. just somehow. I dunno. am I being uncharitable?

in my irritation, I left before the ligers aka stellastarr*. I'll see them eventually though they don't really do it for me. I do like one song of theirs but the name escapes me right now*...something with the lines "it took a while/for me to know/I'm not alone". a slow building 80's style number with I wanna be a brit bellowing vocals & a sprinkle of sugary girl back-up atmospherics. nostalgic but pleasingly so.

2. I'm tryin' to figure out how to make a separate page for (cue theme music) the first official soft communication mix exchange, also known as "the covers mix", to take place on friday, june 3. when I do, I figure I can put up all the play lists of said mixes for people to peruse at will.

I'm aware that there's been a new conflict with the great cover band project meeting time, contributor george & I are working to remedy this.

in related matters, I would like to re-vamp the look of this here site but I don't have the design or interneting skills. contributor phil was kind enough to provide the new header thingy (can you tell me & the web are estranged?) & I know some of you are skilled in the visual arena so let me know if you've got any ideas or suggestions...

in pseudo-related matters, our readership rose considerably in the past few weeks thanks to a) contributor pete's posting of the ewok song lyrics. no surprise there. my feelings on revenge of the sith can be summed up thusly...chewbacca wuz robbed! & b) people googling for "scurvy and british sailors". hmmmm. & I thought I was the only one who cared.

& because there needs to be a recommendation for every number, I have to say I'm very fond of art brut. for many reasons, one of them being the fact that the tone deaf guy is the lead singer & the one who can sing mostly goes tooh-tooh-tooh in the background. anyone who can make a catchy hook out of a "popular culture no longer applies to me" refrain & talking shit 'bout the velvet underground while some dude yells "white light! white heat!" in the background without making me want to garrote them & all their friends deserves mad props.

3. I recently re-discovered a song that I wasn't even wild about EVER but is zombie plague infectious & eating my brain. that song is called oblivious by a mid to late 80's band called aztec camera. so bright & poppy it sounds like grins set in concrete, this song will either ensnare you with its sunshine or make you wanna kill people. over-produced to the point of resembling lacquered sushi, chock full of saccharine aaah's & a peppy bouncing bass line screaming loudest in the mix, I'm sure I could use this tune for murder for hire gigs. for those who see its charms explain to me why I listen to it? please? before I become a pod person?

4. because I am insane, I've run out import mag options so I purchased that old war horse, record collector. in it there's an article about the ouevre of adam & the ants. while the talk of gate sleeves & import options started to make my eyes cross, the info about ant's early stuff is intriguing & explains somewhat why the poor man wound up sitting in a bathrobe in a mental hospital rec room.

in terms of starting points, I've always loved antmusic, catchy like the aforementioned oblivious, but un-embarrassingly good with its drumming in triplicate sound (though there's only two of them!) & ant's yelping about unlocking the jukebox & doing us all a favor. I don't know how people can listen to that song & not move or at least twitch. get your grubby hands on this number. no pleather required.

5. my friend nichol once introduced me to a very nice former boss of hers with the soubriquet dr. cool (though being that my brain is a stone dry sponge, I'm probably remembering this wrong). anywho, we'll stick to dr. cool. the good doctor & I had a conversation about how it was possible to completely miss the fact that this charming man was the gayest rock song ever. it's true, I didn't really piece the story together, I was more into the bright & shiny rickenbacker leading me around like a pied piper-ee to notice the leather running smooth, etc... after he was done making fun of me, he recommended al stewart. the man responsible for the terrifying year of the cat? yup. it's taken me this long but I finally looked into it. night of the 4th of may is preposterous, long & pretentious with a guitar sound that's like more than a feeling but with a slight patina of class. yet...I do like that warm, insular 70's sound; bass runs like lightly trotting horses & drums so precise they unwittingly conjured the age of the drum machine. maybe in a few years you can look him up too & tell me that it sucks. in the meantime, thanks dr. cool.

love, d

ps I'm running a slight fever so forgive me if this is more incomprehesible than usual!

pps hey kids! making none too subtle internet demands on your fellow contributors really does produce results! as requested contributor bryan has posted his gorillaz track by track review here.

*see below

songs to seek: in the walls/stellastarr*, boys will be boys/ordinary boys, bad weekend/art brut, oblivious/aztec camera, antmusic/adam & the ants, night of the 4th of may/al stewart

5.20.2005

skronky wankers or wanking skronkers?

This was going to be a poll of some sort about noise bands (inspired by Tina's Lightning Bolt post) but instead I'm just going to talk about one in particular and point you in the direction of some killer vids.

The band in question is Magik Markers.

I'll be honest here. I don't own any of this band's music (though a copy of their new 12" is headed for me right this very minute, so they say!) but I have listened to a few tracks online, and I also have never had the pleasure of seeing this wild bunch perform in person, but rather the majority of my experience with them is through videos I've seen online. From what I can tell, they're one hell of a trainwreck, and I mean that in quite a deceptively sweet way, really.

The drums never fail, always pounding ahead, often fairly 'normal' style, and the bass isn't too far off from what you'd expect from many bands (when she actually plays notes)... but it's the singer/guitarist, Elisa, who is just so far out of her mind that she makes the whole thing worthwhile. She screams and moans and attacks her guitar - I'd hardly call it playing the guitar - and flails around, just a pure force unleashed on stage (really, like down on the floor, not to mention in the crowd half the time, apparently). Here for your enjoyment, a bunch of videos of Magik Markers playing live. Be careful, you might want to wear some heavy duty headgear.



Also here is a review of a recent show they played in Europe.

Does this make you want to see this band? I sure want to. Actually I think I want to JOIN this band. You think I'm kidding.

See and hear lots more crazy ass noise bands at Ecstatic Peace, including every single thing that Thurston Moore touches, which is thusly regarded as art, noise, or music, but never crap.

I call you and say...COME 'ERE!

Dear friends,

1. Another Friday, another week, another ANTM winner (Catlike Naima and her fauxhawk variations) and another fevered contemplation of the weekend. Ce soir I plan to go honor my committment to NY2LON and see for myself what The Hong Kong, The Ligers aka Stellastarr*, Ordinary Boys and Amusement Parks on Fire have to offer live. Next week I'll do a little write-up about the show that hopefully won't include the words "legless", "hipster bitch slap" and "vomit."

2. Because he is quite possibly a "Local Tastemaker"*, Contributor Bryan got his grab-hands on the new Gorillaz. Perhaps if we pester him enough he'll tell us about it or at least post a link to the rundown on his site.

3. Even if I didn't know she had been a child actor, that's the way I would've perceived Jenny Lewis from her press photos. Like a female Jackie Coogan, grown-up but still sitting on that street corner. She has small sad eyes peering behind messy red bangs, thin lips clamped together in a study of secret willfulness. She's labelled an indie rock heartthrob by music rags but somehow that doesn't sit right with me. It's not that she isn't pretty, it's just that whenever I look at her strong but wounded stare in those glossy pages, I think of those girls I'd play with when I was a kid, who never seemed to want to go home and restlessly picked at their scabby knees. She seems familiar in that frayed and worn t-shirt way and no amount of PR write-up or coverage can change that initial impression.

I first heard her singing admonishments to Ben Gibbard in The Postal Service's Something Better. Nice voice, I thought. She's probably blonde and really skinny, I followed. Whatever, I concluded. There endeth the contemplation of this Jenny Lewis. Then by chance I heard Portions for Foxes by Rilo Kiley. I couldn't believe it was the same girl. Here was this big heartbreak voice singing about how she's still sleeping with this guy because hey, she's lonely! And getting jealous of some other hussy getting with said guy and where will all this lead to? And don't we all just suck? This performance is rueful, smart, true and unabashedly country-fried but not in a way that would make a Northerner nervous (though to be fair when I played it for The Monkey, he went "Eeew, Shania" so maybe I'm wrong on that score). I sought out other cuts and while sometimes lyrically it becomes a bit Lifetime, Television for Women (i.e. the song where she sighs about "I guess I'll have the baby", eh...not there yet) in that it seems like unbelievable female drama, there's compensation with a song like Does He Love You? which while coming from a similar dramatic landscape, (Woman singing of married lover and his wife who is her best friend...aaw crap) stays grounded. These are songs as mini movies and Lewis is the wild card lead. If you like pop rock and country don't make you run and hide in a closet, I'd strongly advise you check out More Adventurous. Rilo Kiley plays Webster Hall on 5/25 and 5/27.

4. I was watching a Jools Holland's Later DVD and there was an appearance by Kirsty MacColl singing Cole Porter's Miss Otis Regrets with a band of bagpipers. Better known for her collaboration with The Pogues on Fairytale of New York (a song that's close to the heart of many a sentimental urban boozehound,) my first encounters with her were through her cover of Billy Bragg's A New England and her back-up work on Ask by The Smiths**. With that peculiar tinwhistle tone possessed by many an Irish singer before her, MacColl vocalizes with a forthrightness that would almost sound confrontational if it weren't that her voice was so sour/sweet.

There's a retrospective that's just been released, From Croydon To Cuba, a lot of it centering on the Latin flavored music she was working on before her accidental death. I remember being quite fond of Walking Down Madison back in the day, which was a freaky friday mash of a song that had breakdance beats, drum machines, repetitive pretzel-style guitar loop, a rap bridge and MacColl harmonizing with herself about being in NYC. A good number to walk quickly to as you gnash your teeth and pretend you're in a "I'm late to school/work" montage.

5. An old friend of mine who lives out in the red dust west wrote to me to thank me for a couple of mixes and asked me what I thought about Enon, since I must have everything of theirs. Huh? Who dat? I did not. I went out and found some and how did they ever get past me? A few tracks I enjoyed very much thank ye: Believo, sexy and simple. A danger vamp with toy instruments that's gone as soon as you start to move. Rubber Car is circa-Odelay Beck but without the "white boy doing this" wink. And a million stylistic miles away from those songs are the keyboard gurgly, indie funky, girl-sung In This City and Shave. They make me do a very silly space dance. I NEED to find MORE! See most of the time, one's friends get it just right! A la Mr. Fahrenheit, I thank you all!

Love, D

* I spent a mind numbing minute outside of Irving Plaza listening to a hipster chick with a flat vocal affect as she boasted/explained how she was part of some label publicity team responsible for sending Raveonettes CDs to "local tastemakers." I wondered who they could be. Now I know. Note to self: smile more at Contributor Bryan, but not in a way that might scare him or make him suspicious.

** MacColl also covered their You Just Haven't Earned It Yet Baby.

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5.18.2005

1, 2, 3, 4, what are we fighting for?

In honor of my going to see Lightning Bolt for the first time, I would like to share with you all why I like them so darn much and why I am scared to go to this show.

James Ricks (yes, THE James Ricks) was the first to turn me on to them by asking me to see them at the Knitting Factory. As I recall, the message left on my cellphone was something like: "Tina, it's James. Lightning Bolt are playing at the Knitting Factory tomorrow night and we should go. I hear their live show is fucking nuts. They may have burned down a club. Call me."

Remember, I said the message was "something like" that. I do remember that the live show was supposedly nuts. I don't know if they burned down a club, but I wouldn't be surprised because their music is…yes, I'm gonna say it! INCENDIARY! I couldn't go to the show, and they slipped from my mind until I downloaded a song ("13 Monsters"), was wowed and then bought the Contract Documents. For the record, I thought "13 Monsters" was a song with a full band behind it. This is an important note. I then bought Ride the Skies, at Newbury Comics in Boston. I was up there for New Year's (2004) with Phil and some of his friends and after I got the CD, we all decided to listen to it in the car and were shocked. I think we just sat there listening to the first song with mouths open. Especially because we found out the band had 2 people in it. Those noises could not be coming from a single bass guitar and a drum kit. No fucking way. But it's true! The band has only two members and they sound like a zillion! And they are both named Brian! Chippendale slams on the drums like a marathon runner and sometimes sings through a ski mask with a mic somehow attached to it. Gibson rends noise from his bass that are impossible. The man plays RIFFS on a bass guitar! The two create an amazing sound. Is it hardcore? Metal? Math-rock? Fucking electronica? Art rock?! You can't define it and you either like it or you don't, but I am so psyched to see them live after watching their tour DVD (The Power of Salad).

The first song of Ride the Skies is "Forcefield" and after much buzzing and strange arpeggios going on you get the monster sound of Chippendale banging away at the toms. The two work closely with each other, sometimes hitting the beat spot on that gets in your brain and makes you bop. At other times the bass is off doing this weird thing that sounds like a violin, I shit you not. It's a great song to start an album. "13 Monsters" the first LB song I ever heard is one that will kick your ass and then make you mop up the floor that is soaked with your sweat. It's one of the shorter songs on the album, but hoo boy! it packs a punch (Runners, this song is for running. This song is also good for beating things). The song starts of with Chippendale singing a little sing-song ditty, but it's dirty and distorted and there are only drums to back it up. Suddenly, the drums pick up and the bass joins in and its time to throw things people and jump around!! The rest of the songs are different, sonically, from one another and "Into the Mist 2" is also another one to get into. Their other album, Wonderful Rainbow, is a little bit less abrasive then Ride the Skies, but only on certain songs. Things to look out for here are "Assassins" and "30000 Monkeys." You also have to love guys that kicked this out in Rhode Island, draw funny little cartoons (see this interview) and seem sincere (see the DVD) and get some free songs. Seriously, I love these guys. I hope I don't get hit in the head at the show and I hope people will join me.

Absolve, Absolve, Absolve

This is a post about Destroyer, which is mostly the work of Dan Bejar. Bejar may be better known as a member of The New Pornographers. I've never been a huge fan of the NPs, but that may be due to a lack of exposure - maybe somebody can suggest some good songs of theirs. I might also state up front that I haven't listened to more than a track or two from Destroyer's latest album, Your Blues. This is more of a tribute my three favorite Destroyer albums: Streethawk: A Seduction, City of Daugters, and This Night.

The song "Bad Arts", from the album Streethawk: A Seduction, was the first Destroyer song to get's its hooks in me. The unassuming acoustic intro has almost a livingroom recording quality to it, with Bejar alternating between a raspy tenor and squawky falsetto. It's easy to think you've got a handle on what Destroyer is about. But then a minute in, the guitar falls out and here comes this strolling bass and drums that are so clean (dare I say dorky?) you almost feel like you're in an instructional video. And then there's the guitar comes back and it's electric and it brought along a piano and things are clearly building here, and then BOOM. It's some kind of undefinied electric shock that's so incongruent with the mix that you feel like something must be wrong with your stereo - but actually it must have been the engines blasting off, because now you're floating away into some huge reverberating space and you're thinking "how the fuck did I get here?"

That song brings out what makes Destroyer so interesting - the melodies and instrumentation range from easy-going to majestic (never aggressive), but they're constantly interspersed with effects and compositional choices that are truly bizzare and awkward. Songs often end abruptly - not just in mid-verse, but in mid-word. You get the sense that Bejar only wants you getting so comfortable. His vocal style in itself has the potential to be either sweet or fascinatingly weird.

Bejar manages to craft these seemingly conflicting elements into a sound that is not only coherent but, in my opinion, truly unique. And catchy - don't forget catchy.

RECOMMENDED TRACKS: From Streethawk... "Bad Arts", "Beggars Might Ride", "Virgin With a Memory"; from City of Daughters "No Cease Fires", "The Space Race", "State of the Union", "You Were So Cruel"; from This Night "This Night", "Holly Going Lightly"

5.17.2005

are we going too fast?

dear friends,

1. the comas played rothko on a tuesday once & I missed it 'cause I had to watch american idol &/or wuz broke. months later, I'm still broke & I am rootin' for coked-up southern boy bo over fembot carrie (perpetually peppy vonzie don't have a chance!) & I still haven't been able to catch the comas' live show. nevertheless I will try & make their upcoming 5/24 gig if any of youse from the nyc are willing to brooklyn it up & come to see them with me at southpaw. the comas have three songs on their cd, conductor, that have charmed me silly with their pop meets indie vibe. the first is science of your mind, which has an my bloody valentine-type guitar line snaking throughout the song like a chocolate ribbon in a scoop of vanilla fudge ice cream. add to that some discreet handclaps & a spanish guitar type solo that sounds as high school bitter as the song's protagonist. the second song is the equally relationship angry hologram which progresses expertly, as if some brilliant child was methodically assembling a complex lego city. build like this is hard to find in your average pop offering. third, but not least, is the charming boy/girl sung moonrainbow which has the female counterpart cooing "but you caaaaan't" in a way that turns this musical druggie into a parrot. I sit at my desk, fluff my wings & repeatedly mutter/sing that refrain under my breath much to chagrin of my co-workers.

2. I've been enjoying the work of black mountain*. one particular title, set us free, is a cool trip down a dark street. a sexy, slow hip-twitcher that rides its male/female harmonies through a night-time tour bus ride of southern locales. repetitive, hypnotic & vaguely freedom rock in a way I can't explain, put this ditty on your greyhound bus playlist & try & ignore the obese man using your arm rest.

3. I heart the dears & I especially heart their slinky & slow, I am a raven haired spy at the bar, version of autotomy on their live disc thank you goodnight sold out. heavy lidded drama! cellos! gitane references! cock rock guitar chord stabbings! ghostly "oooooo" coda! noir rock meet the masses. masses meet noir rock. I hope you enjoy your time together.

4. I write about things when I damn well get to them, so forgive me if I'm past the due date on hipster favorites deerhoof. but boy, oh boy, do I LERV milk man. I play it on repeat as I ride my way to & fro work. this song manages to have a three-way with a keyboard line that sounds like yes (the band, not the affirmation) gone skeletal, a cutely clipped girl vocal & that inside-out groove favored by art students gone muso the world over. stop, start, slow, faster, soft, louder. green light, red light rock. these are not a bad things. coming 5/21 & 5/22 to brooklyn's northsix. who's down?

5. I love kylie minogue. it's not her golden shortie short clad behind (though it is lovely), her ingratiatingly toothy smile nor the locomotion (blegh!) could it be come into my world which is even more head-stuckable than can't get you out of my head? definitely! swirly, romantic & stoopid all at once; the chorus doesn't even sound dirty even though it should! I blame my childhood games of "I am olivia newton-john"**, it made me weirdly attracted to that sort of breathless soprano that could be hopelessly devoted to you as well as all about skippin' a beat & moving with your body. it just goes to show that from the obscure to the sublime to the lowbrow & trashily enjoyable, sometimes music is just one big game of emotional connect the dots & I just freakin' love it. next!

best wishes for your recovery, miss minogue.

love, d

* contributor phil has already written about black mountain, or more specifically their label, jagjaguwar, for soft communication. you can find that post here.

** elaborate skit game I'd play with my cousin mane, now married with child & living in queens. we'd pick an olivia incarnation (grease, physical, xanadu, early innocent period, late slutty period) & perform one of her songs for my grandma. with choreography. suddenly! something about an ocean! & I-aha-a-I would swim any ocean!, etc... we would also do abba & because my cousin was older & a bossy little bitch to boot, I was always stuck being frida. sniff. at least she had there's something going on.

songs to seek: science of your mind/the comas, hologram/the comas, moonrainbow/the comas, set us free/black mountain, autotomy (live)/the dears, milk man/deerhoof, come into my world/kylie minogue

Mad Hot Classroom

...just posted on 1015 about Mad Hot Ballroom, a documentary about ballroom dancing in NYC public schools.

Now I'm curious about contributors' experiences with music in a classroom environment and how those experiences affected the rest of your schooling and life after school... basically, did you take any type of courses dealing with music? When? Why? How long? Still play? Anything... Please share in the comments.

the more things change

Life, man. It's all uncertain and stuff. But one thing I know for sure: there's always Dolly Parton.

I humbly submit that in this age of Ashlee and Olestra Dolly is one of the most genuine things going. She may wear extravagant wigs (Interviewer: How long does it take to do your hair? Dolly: How the hell should I know? I'm not around when it happens). She may have gone under the knife a few times (Dolly: If I see something sagging, bagging, or dragging, I get it sucked, tucked, or plucked). Dolly looks like a joke, but she's in on the joke, she made the joke, and she knows perfectly well it's all secondary.

A lot of people started re-listening to Dolly a few years ago when the White Stripes covered "Jolene"; if you've never heard the original, you must check it out. Most sane people gnash their teeth in desperation when Whitney starts howling that she will aaaaalllllwwwwaaaayyyyys looooooOOOOHHHHHve yooooOOOOHHHOOOOUUUUHHHH, but if you go back and hear the way Dolly did it first, you'll see that underneath it all, it's a damn fine song.

Dolly makes a great candidate for covering - after all, the woman has recorded over seventy albums. If you're looking for an introduction to Dolly (the music, not the punch line), a great place to start is The Ultimate Dolly Parton, a greatest-hits collection put out by RCA in 2003. Dolly picked the songs herself; you may have heard them before when the radio scanned past the country channel ("Islands in the Stream," her duet with Kenny Rogers, busted country chart records for months). My favorites are the aforementioned "Jolene"; "Please Don't Stop Loving Me", a duet with her longtime musical partner Porter Wagoner; the classic "9 to 5" from the hilarious movie of the same name; and "Tennessee Homesick Blues" ("New York City ain't no kind of place / for a country girl with a friendly face").

Apropos of that last song, when Dolly moved to Los Angeles as a young star, the people back home accused her of abandoning Tennessee. Her response? "I'm not leaving the country. I'm taking the country with me." You can hear this for yourself in some of her recent records, especially 2001's Little Sparrow, which is pure, honest folk music (in the best sense of the word), straight from the mountains. My favorite songs on that album are the title track, "My Blue Tears", and a beautiful version of "I Get a Kick Out of You". There's absolutely zero artifice.

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5.16.2005

FA-FA-FA-FA-FA

I thought I'd write about some sad songs today. I actually wrote 85% of this post last week and then somehow backed out of it and lost it all, so it seems all the more appropriate that I'm writing about songs that make you wanna bawl. And since I'm prone to list let's call it:

GEORGE'S TOP 5 SADDEST SONGS

1. Leonard Cohen- "Famous Blue Raincoat" (from Songs)
I adore Leonard Cohen's early albums before he had to go and start using synths in the 80's. I consider him to be just as brutally morose as Ian Curtis, though I don't think people perceive him in the same way. This song has it all- faint wind chimes, a gently finger-picked acoustic guitar, the creepy Stepford Wives-esque backup vocals, some sparse strings near the end, and in the middle of it all is Leonard's booming voice awash in reverb. The lyrics are written in the form of a letter from Leonard to his estranged friend who apparently hooked up with Leonard's wife. Ouch. And then it ends with one of the coolest last lines ever- "Sincerely, L. Cohen"

2. Joseph Arthur- "The Real You" (from Come To Where I'm From)
This could be not only one of the saddest songs ever, but also one of the heaviest. With lines like "I feel like taking a razor blade, and on my wrist write an invitation" there's no question as to how bad Joseph Arthur is taking the breakup that surely spawned this song. Though this track is hidden close to the end of his album, the title Come To Where I'm From is a line from this song, perhaps indicating that this track is the heart of this collection of songs. I love his voice, love the guitar, and even love the rickety and poorly recorded drums.

3. Morrissey- "Seasick, Yet Still Docked" (from Your Arsenal)
Having a list of sad songs without Morrissey on it would be like having a list of best dance songs without James Brown, so with that I chose one of many possible contenders from his solo albums. Though many of you could laugh at lines like "I am a poor freezingly cold soul...", I eat that shit right up. Throw some cool washed out atmospheric guitar in there and I'm hooked. Worth mentioning is the underrated production on the first few Morriseey albums. In fact, that's why I always preferred his solo albums over The Smiths. Yes, I said it.

4. Yo La Tengo- "Tears Are In Your Eyes" (from And Then Nothing Turned...)
One of my favorite albums of all time became that because it got me through the worst breakup of my life, and oh yeah, it's fucking brilliant. I used to stay up all night staring at the ceiling listening to this album over and over again until I would eventually fall asleep. Georgia sings this one and her voice always sounds like honey oozing out of my speakers.

5. Prince- "Sometimes It Snows In April" (from Parade)
I know what you're thinking- "What the hell is Prince doing on this list?" Well, that's why Prince is the MAN. Just when you have him pegged as a funk rock madman who just makes you wanna do dirty things with your pelvic region, he goes and writes this achingly beautiful song about a good friend dying. Though most of the Parade album is hard for me to get into, this song and it's placid simplicity kills me. With just piano, acoustic guitar(yet another song on this list with acoustic guitar!) and the pristine harmonies of Wendy & Lisa, Prince brings all the funksters to tears. You get extra bonus points for playing this song when it actually does snow in April.

Ok, so there they are. I'm sure there's more that I'm forgetting that you wanna tell me about in the comments, so let's all be sensitive and share. Yech, did I really write that?

Lastly, I wanted to mention THE GREAT COVER BAND PROJECT. As some of you may remember from my post about cover songs my band(EL JEZEL) would never do, I mentioned forming a supergroup cover band that would comprise of a rotating cast of all the super talented people I know. Well, I'm getting the ball rolling on it and if you think it sounds cool you can check out all the details right HERE. So far the response has been promising and I hope to start putting it all together soon!

Be good, kids.
-george jezel

5.14.2005

"The Ewok Song"- Great Modern Folk song or just annoying crap? Discuss!

Since I've got Star Wars fever, I thought I would make this musical contribution to soft communication:
When I was 9, and "Jedi" came out I bought the soundtrack and found myself obsessed with the last track - "The Ewok Song" Here, for your enjoyment, is a link to the song and a copy of it's lyrics in both Ewok and Human.
May the Farce Be With You!
pete

http://www.erwintang.com/jedi02.html

Ewok Song
Ewok Version

Yub nub
eee chop yub nub
ah toe meet toe pee-chee keene
g'noop dock fling oh ah
Yah wah
eee chop yah wah
ah toe meet toe pee-chee keene
g'noop dock fling oh ah
Coatee chah tu yub nub
coatee chah tu yahwah
coatee chah tu glowah
allay loo ta nuv
Glowah
eee chop glowah
ya glowah pee chu nee foam
ah toot dee awe goon daa
Coatee cha tu goo (Yub nub!)
coatee cha tu doo (Yahwah!)
coatee cha tu too (Ya chaa!)
allay loo ta nuv
allay loo ta nuv
allay loo ta nuv
Glowah
eee chop glowah
ya glowah pee chu nee foam
ah toot dee awe goon daa
Allay loo ta nuv


English Version

Freedom
we got freedom
and now that we can be free
come on and celebrate
Power
we got power
and now that we can be free
it's time to celebrate
Celebrate the freedom
celebrate the power
celebrate the glory
celebrate the love
Power
we got power
and now that we can be free
it's time to celebrate
Celebrate the light (freedom!)
celebrate the night (power!)
celebrate the fight (glory!)
celebrate the love
celebrate the love
celebrate the love
Glory
we found glory
the power showed us the light
and now we all live free
Celebrate the love

5.13.2005

Those Goofy Brits

I now draw your attention to this Gothamist interview of British Sea Power. Here's my favorite part:
Let's get this out of the way, where did your band name originate?
Well, it's one from the history books - like The Age Of Steam or The Enlightenment or The Disco Years. We liked the idea of naming ourselves after 400 years of history, after the period when Britannia ruled the waves. Not that we're saying this was necessarily a great idea - it's a pretty mixed idea. If you're going to think up a name for your band it might as well be a good one. The Fall or Teenage Fanclub or Franz Ferdinand are great names, while Red Hot Chili Pepper or INXS are bad beyond belief. British Sea Power is also quite rock in a way - like when all the dandy suited sailors turn up on shore and go looking for pretty locals. Don't you think them lusty boyz in The Bravery look just like sailors on shore leave? There they are, high on scurvy and gonorrhoea and looking for the best thrill in town.

5.12.2005

PON! to iu Sekai: Pop Goes the World

Hello Hey Hello!

I'm on a Spitz kick m'friends.

I don't actually know much about them. All I know is after listening to that worn copy of Hayabusa a few times, I tend to attack my dusty issues of Naruto manga with renewed vigor. Just when I think I'm fed up with tired storylines, boring diatribes about Super Special Attack #753 and another spazzy ninja brat trying to be king of the world...

....SPITZ smacks me right back into the groove.

J pop and comics mean the same thing to me. Ready-to-serve gratification. Ear candy, pretty pictures and plots I don't need to crack a dictionary to appreciate. SPITZ is an old JPOP war horse still trottin. They've got a gazillion albums which you can probably get used and half price at Book Offs.

Which is not to say that Spitz is cheap simply because they are consumed en masse.

They are not (I'd like to think) the same breed of embarrassment bands like SMAP or KINKI KIDS are. They're cheesy to be sure but with different tact. Kusano Masamune's voice has a permanent trace of the melancholy even when he's singing upbeat. He doesn't beg and never calls you "baby".

He'd rather sing about the tear swaying on the fringe of your lashes.

Did I not mention the sap never runs dry?

There's harmonicky in Hotaru (Firefly). Something resembling ska in Hayabusa (8823). The freakin harpsichord in Namida (Tear) I cave for orchestral arrangements. If it's got a cello, violin or a Masterpiece Theateresque harpsichord I am in rapt attention, lameness be damned. My mood for it is specific.

Like most war horses, they've been covered a bunch. Sure, I like Puffy's obnoxious version of Ai no Shirushi but there's just no replacement for Spitz's swanky original. I fucking flipped 3 different ways when I came across Shiina Ringo's (can'tshutupWON'TSHUTUP!!!) live cover of Hayabusa. So naturally I was elated when Masamune and Ringo did a duet for Ringo's cover album, Utaite Myouri. It was unreal hearing them sing together in Haiiro no Hitomi (Gray Eyes)*. Ringo! Masamune! Argentina! Somehow, Masamune's voice still sounded at home with Kameda san* at the helm.

If you've ever wondered what empty time feels like to a typical Japanese high schooler (or eh regressive anime geek girl), go to Saint Marks, nab yourself a manga (opt for Ranma ½ instead of that waste of space Inu Yasha. Or better yet, go attack Blade of the Immortal! W00t!), stop a few doors down for the Pocky of your choice and pop in a SPITZ CD.

Let that eat a sizeable cavity in your brain.


*Shiina's producer

*Una Ramos- Aquellos Ojos Grises

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I LOVE JEWS

Mary’s earlier post stands as less the lighting rod for further writin' on writers who make good tunes than a cosmic intersection of what good tunes we want to write about. I thus speak of David Berman and his band The Silver Jews: Browsing, five years ago, the new titles rack at Saint Marks Bookshop, I spied a book cover: two ultra modern glass towers, jauntily looming above a patch of dead yellow grass. The book’s title: Actual Air. The photo on the back cover seemed to be of a latter-day Confederate cavalry officer lunching at a bohemian café. Further inspection revealed that this bearded fellow had on a tee-shirt with a picture of a real Confederate cavalry officer. Hmmmm, I thought and, judging the book by its cover, bought it.

The first poem “Snow,” a meditation on storytelling and the origin of snow angels, contained these simple truths: The ice looked like a photograph of water and When it’s snowing, the outdoors seems like a room. Actual Air wound up being treasure trove of such gold nuggets, little bits of reality skewed just enough to make sense, homespun tales of the everyday illuminating the dark, deep down we all know is there. Really, even if you don’t read poems, especially if you don’t read poems, go get the book. Read the poem about the assignation of Lincoln as seen from the theater audience and about the younger brother who was missing that part of the brain / that allows you to make out with your pillow. I digress. From the biography, at the back of Actual Air, I first learned that David Berman, this poet whose poems I was devouring like nutritious candy, had a band. The Silver Jews.

The Silver Jews put out records on the esteemed Chicago indie Drag City; they’ve put out four full-lengths, plus some 7”s and eps, plus there’s another LP on the way (the studio burned down just days after recording finished). They rarely, if ever, play live. Like some other Drag City artists (Smog, Palace Music), The Silver Jews are a band that boils down to just one person, who writes the tunes and sings them, with a rotating cast of characters playing behind. In the case of The Jews, the characters are pretty darn cool. Turns out Berman is friend of Steve Malkmus from back before Pavement (they were museum security guards together), and starting with the first LP Starlite Walker, Malkmus, along with Bob “Nasty” Nastonovich, has lent a hand on every other Jews record. In a broad sense, the Jews are kinda lo-fi countryish,sorta folk-blues but with bolts of weirdness and darkness, unsurpassed storytelling and indelible images, Berman’s rangeless baritone telling the tale on each tune: Like a message broadcast on an overpass / All my favorite singers couldn’t sing. The records with Malkmus tend to have more developed songs, niftier guitar playing and a bit more experimental edge, whereas the Malkmus Jews records mine more exclusively the country diamonds and folk/blues silver. If that’s your thing, start with the most recent Jews effort Bright Flight; the standout track, “I Remember Me,” is a sad song of love lost to amnesia. If you want some country dirt piled on your Pavement, start with the most recent +Malkmus Jews record American Water, which begins with this couplet:

In 1984 I was hospitalized for approaching perfection.
Slowly screwing my way across Europe, they had to make a correction.
Broken and smoking' where the infrared deer plunge in the digital snake.
I tell you, they make it so you can't shake hands when they make your hands shake.

Digression: Personally, I find much truth and soulfulness in the music my old country heroes: Hank, Johnny, Willie, Waylon et al, but this is a different time, and it’s not enough to just mimic or emulate, even if you have a lovely voice and red-blooded dobro player. If you want to take the country idiom, you’ve got to take it somewhere. Its inherent simplicity and beauty must be reconfigured to even begin to evoke the truth and soulfulness of the originators.

Further digression: I once wrote to Berman a modest letter of admiration and included a CD of our then-current music project, the Cold Memory LP Damage/No Damage. I relay his response from memory: “Dear Joe Willie Weissman, I don’t have a CD player but the record looks great and those are damn fine lyrics. Sincerely, David Berman”

Final digression: My favorite Jews lyrics, from “Black and Brown Blues” off of The Natural Bridge LP:
When there’s trouble I don’t like runnin'
But I’m afraid I’ve got more in common
With who I was than who I am becomin'.


Well said Mr. Berman. Well said.

P.S. There’s some Jews MP3s The Corduroy Suit.

How to Clean Everything



I want to say a couple of words about Propagandhi. This is a band that seems to have fallen by the wayside, a victim of both an overwhelming, yet tasty side-project (The Weakerthans), and total aesthetic cooptation by mainstream po(o)p-punk. Let me explain:

Propagandhi plays loud, melodic punk rock full of big fuzzy guitars that play catchy riffs and hooks. For a number of years now, that's been the sort of material produced by a seemingly endless progression of fuzzy-wristbanded clone bands, beginning somewhere around Green Day's crossover to MTV, and reaching it's vacuous pinnacle with Avril Levigne's complete sk8tr praxis. But give Propagandhi a chance, and they'll prove - have proven - that militant Canadians can rise above.

For one thing, you will never in your life find a punk band that plays tighter than Propagandhi. They can turn on a dime at 90mph and make it sound easy. Second, while pop-punks tend to sing about nothing and take it very seriously, Propagandhi manages to be one of the most overtly political bands you've ever heard (just count the Chomsky sound bites), without making themselves out to be some sort of vegan messiahs (see their faq page). Now don't get me wrong, these guys can be pretty blunt. After all, the CD art for Less Talk, More Rock was a giant anarchy symbol surrounded by the words "anti-racist, pro-feminist, gay-positive, animal-frendly". They let you know they've got firm principles, and they'll tell you about them as long as they're not too drunk, but they're not so pompous as to adopt some kind of class-warrior posture. If you'll allow me to quote from the song "Resisting Tyrranical Government":
"yes, i recognize the irony/that the system i oppose affords me the luxury/of biting the hand that feeds/but that's exactly why priviledged fucks like me/should feel obliged to whine and kick and scream/'til everyone has everything they need."
Their first two albums, 1993's How to Clean Everything and 1996's Less Talk, More Rock are both listenable all the durn way through, as is the 1998 unreleased material comp, Where Quantity is Job #1. Their last album, 2000's Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes, has a significantly more hardcore/metal sound. You kind of get the feeling that they wanted to take the band in a new direction, but lost their way a little bit. My guess is that this had somehting to do with the ascendency of the Weakerthans at the expense of Propagandhi.

There are a number of songs available on their website, and if you're a fan of Our Band Could Be Your Life, the Propagandhi bio page will provide you with a couple minutes of entertainment.

SUGGESTED TRACKS: "And We Thought Nation-States Were A Bad Idea", "Refusing to Be A Man" (esp. the alternate version from WQiJ#1), "Rio De San Atlanta, Manitoba", "The Only Good Fascist is A Very Dead Fascist"

5.11.2005

One Melody, Two Folk Chestnuts

Parte the Firste: Willie O'Winsbury
-or- Medieval England Was Fulla Stoopids

So a couple months back, after over a year of searching high and low, I finally managed to pick up the Anne Briggs collection and give it a few spins. Anne is a character whose life and work entirely merit several posts of their own, but her defining characteristic for the purposes of this discussion was a fanatical devotion to English folk music. She was kidnapped by communists and made to sing in public just before the folk movement began in earnest in England, and managed to influence pretty much every musician who followed. For a highly romantic take on her life, listen to "Beeswing" by Richard Thompson. But I digress.

Anyway, one of the nifty things about Anne Briggs (according to what people say - I wouldn't know as I wasn't there for any of it) is that her readings of old songs stick highly faithfully to the originals. She had a researcher's mind and a respect for the medium that prevented the kind of experimentation engaged in by young Turks like Dylan, Fairport, etc., and thus we can listen to her work and hear something like what the songs sounded like as they were passed on from parent to child through generations of olde. But she also doesn't edit the stuff, and a lot gets left in that doesn't really speak to our modern minds.

Okay, so I'm standing on the F train coming home one night, listening to this intense folk stuff, nearly all of which is a capella, and all of a sudden I hear a mandolin picking out a melody I know well from Fairport Convention's "Farewell, Farewell." My first thought is, "oh, I never realized this was a trad song (a Child Ballad no less) - crazy, who knew they wrote such introspective lyrics in days of yore?" But then Anne starts singing, and the lyrics are pretty damn different.

"Willie O'Winsbury" starts, as so many good things do, with a chunk of exposition - "the king has been... a prisoner long in Spain." And (though the exact words fail me) his daughter's been getting it on with Willie O'Winsbury. So he comes back from Spain, goes up to his daughter and (give him credit for being on the ball) notices something's up right there in the second verse. "What ails ye, my daughter Janet? Your face is pale and wan. Oh have ye had any sore sickness, or yet been sleeping wi' a man?"

Now, were I his daughter Janet (which name the song repeatedly insists on forcing into a space fit for only one syllable, which is annoying), I'd realize the game was probably up here, and start figuring out what to do. There's a bunch of these pregnancy dramas in the English folk tradition, and unless the girl stands up for herself in a pretty assertive way, it usually ends badly. But Janet doesn't. In fact, she tries the cheesiest response ever - "[my sickness is] for you, my father dear, for biding so long in Spain."

Well, the king doesn't buy it (he's an idiot as we'll see later, but not of this sort) and tells her to get naked so he can see whether she's "a maiden or no'." And of course, she doesn't give any back chat here, either. She strips, she's all bulgy, the king sees she's enceinte, and he's naturally a touch pissed, so he asks her who it was - was it a lord or a duke or a knight, or a man of wealth and fame, or was it one of his serving men that's lately come out of Spain?

And again, bucking the rich, tragic folksong tradition of standing up for clandestine lovers, she immediately names Willie O'Winsbury (who, it now occurs to me, has also been hanging out comfortably at home boffing the princess whilst king and manly men are off fighting and being kept prisoner, which can't do much for his popularity with said king) as her mate. She doesn't even make any argument - she just gives him up.

And the king then does what kings tend to do when their unmarried daughters are in a family way - he calls for his merry men (yes, the song refers to them as "merry men") and tells them to get Willie, for "hanged he shall be." And here all us folkies rejoice, since this is the drama and emotion part, where transcendent love is rewarded and/or temporal lust punished.

So Willie's rounded up and brought before the king, and the song takes the most amazing turn - all of a sudden it starts talking about how attractive Willie is. "...He was wrapped in the red silk. His hair was like the strings of gold. His skin was as white as the milk." In fact, the king is so impressed that he tells Willie he now totally understands how Willie won Janet’s love, and offers perhaps the best unsolicited comment in the history of ballads: "if I were a woman, as I am a man, my bedfellow ye'd have been."

And then the whole thing is utterly blown to hell - the king offers Willie his daughter in marriage, plus all his lands, Willie accepts Janet but not the lands (since he's already plenty rich), and they all ride vapidly off into the sunset.

The story of Willie and Janet and the king is a totally stupid non-event, populated by fucking idiots – the unbearably indiscreet girl, the ridiculous king, and the vain fancy-man who, we get the feeling, knew he’d be pardoned when he rode in all stunning. The turning point, which should be the climax of the song, is the king seeing the feller who’s been making sport with his virgin daughter (!) and saying, in essence, “damn, you fine!”

So aside from the points it clearly wins for freshness and uniqueness, as well as what I’m sure professors would call proto-queer metadiscourse, there’s not a whole lot to recommend this one. The melody is inane, repeating one riff over and over again, and on mandolin no less, there’s that awful squishing of the word “Janet,” the use of “apron” and “haunches” to mean “stomach” and “ass,” I’m not all that fond of the name “Willie”… the list goes on and on.

But folks more talented than me heard something, and rewrote, and the result came out as Fairport Convention’s “Farewell, Farewell,” one of the best tracks on what may be their best album. This will be addressed in the Second Part of this article, entitled “yis can stuff tradition up yer Khyber,” arriving soon on a monitor near you.

5.10.2005

What does love want me to do?

Dear friends,

Special shout-out to Contributor Jeremiah and Contributor Jenny P, whose song recommendations are on my May, part I mix cd (for unknown reasons, possibly the sheer amount of music, my ipod, Little Monkey Jr, is in a coma. I hope that it wakes up eventually to reveal something important just in time for sweeps but until then, I will have to make do with a stack of blank cds Sharpied with the month of provenance. *soft sobbing is heard*.)

The recommended songs, The Chauffeur by Duran Duran and 1985 by The French Kicks, make surprisingly good bedfellows. The former, a steady beat dotted with adenoidal Le Bon's usual Euro-trash observations; the track's general emptiness goes a long way to establish mood. Something like a nightime spy scene. The latter is like the aural equivalent of a party in a downtown NYC loft in the mid-80's where all of a sudden you see your fellow partiers a little too clearly. And they're all gabby coked up-monsters so obvs you need to leave. But first you'll finish your drink and hear the rest of the song playing as you slowly inch your way over to the door.

2. In link related matters, for a non-rabid, level-headed take on coachella, head your way over to Contributor Liz's The People's Dance Party and take a look at Michael Cameron's piece. As a devotee of British elevator music, I appreciate his bit on Keane's set.

3. For a non-rabid, and decidedly more truthful letter than anything Britney Spears could dream of mustering, go to Contributor Mike's blog and follow the link to Alan Sparhawk's apology for Low's recent tour cancellation.

Contributor Caryn writes about her May 4th The Decemberists live experience and about a NY Times' anti-intellectual rock pronouncement directed at those kids on her gig review site, More in the Monitor. While she and I differ in opinion about the NYT (since I don't read that particular paper for the music reviews and she does, I have no beef with it for their music related articles. To me, they are the metaphorical equivalent of a well-dressed person at a gallery opening talking too loudly at the wine and cheese table. You can't help but hear them but are far too busy trying to stuff yourself with crudites to challenge their prattle but somewhere in your heart, you know you don't really want to be introduced. You can't take them seriously. It might get ugly.), this is not about that but about the response she got from one of her readers, which was snark dressed up as white gloved comment insinuating that her argument was simply whitey elitism. Hmmmm...

Personally, when I hear a song that features a man singing a complicated revenge tale from the belly of a whale, like the hilarious and thoroughly enjoyable The Mariner's Revenge Song, I LAUGH. Why? Because Victorian drama as album cut is amusing and certainly non-alienating to anyone with an imagination to go with their sounds. That certainly doesn't translate as white people music to me. Sorry. Us non-Caucasians can read and stuff too. But maybe I'm responding in just as rash a manner, so go to the site and read the comments exchange for yourself.

3. Riddle me this: what Peaches song does Leslie Feist sing on? Where can I find the song call Tatty by Britpop, girl-fronted almost-rans, Sleeper? Whatever happened to Michelle Shocked? Does anyone remember a song called German Kid, this novelty rap song by Dee Dee Ramone? What in the heck is Ashe Bowie of Polvo and Helium fame doing nowadays? Help!*

4. A long time ago, I had to go the circus as part of a school assignment. I went with my friend Kelly, who was famous for her terrifyingly embarrassing public behavior. Sometime during the endless presentation, the ringmaster happily announced that after the show, Shannon would be performing! Shannon? Get the heck out! I was way too excited. For me Shannon was an example of the better sort of popular dance pop of its day. But it couldn't be. Not shannon!

At the close of the circus, a small woman came out and stood center stage wearing a banana yellow bolero jacket, enthusiastically doing the snake to a prerecorded track as tractors drove around her picking up elephant and tiger crap. Kelly was shocked into comportment. Whereas I did the mini running man in the stalls. How could I deny the powerful pull of Give Me Tonight and Let The Music Play? Crank it!

5. In other dance related nostalgia news, I can think of no dancefloor moment quite as satisfying as m/a/r/r/s' Pump Up The Volume when the guy goes "put the needle on the record/put the needle on the record/put the needle on the record/when the drumbeat goes like THIS" BOOM, BOOM, followed by a sped up and squirrely Ofra Haza vocalization. It makes you wish for your own piece of cardboard to throw down and bust a move on.

6. Since American PR for the new wave of British acts handily creates more backlash than interest, I decided to stop reading those articles cum adverts for my sanity. Perhaps this is why I have no beef with The Kaiser Chiefs. I Predict A Riot seemed a tad pedestrian to me. The approaching riot of the title sounded bloodless and non-threatening; hipsters gettin' rowdy. Oooh. Better grab your culottes. The Modern Way, however, is great; a retro curve ball with a question mark guitar riff and an a quasi anthemic chorus from a sincere sounding vocalist. The song doesn't seem to be putting on an act; it presents itself without that emperor's new clothes patina. Whether the rest of their album is more of the same remains to be heard...

Love, D

* Contributor Jared just informed me that these questions seem rhetorical. They are NOT. They are actual questions and I really want to know the answers! So if you have any ideas and/or information, please reply in the comments field.

songs to seek: mariner's revenge song/the decemberists, gimme tonight/ shannon, let the music play/shannon, pump up the volume/m/a/r/r/s, the modern way/the kaiser chiefs

5.08.2005

ch-ch-chain... chain of events, or, the human serviette, or, not exactly something to listen to, but kind of, in a way

1. The family was in town today for Mother's Day brunching.
2. The brother wanted to look for records, so naturally I took the gang over to Somethin' Else.
3. The moms and the brother grubbed through the bins for Sun Ra records, pausing only to examine the Freddie Hubbard vinyl (how I managed to come from such a decidedly rock-averse family, I will never know).
4. I happened to notice a Sonics record in the S bin. "Oh, the Sonics," I thought to myself. "I don't have any of their records. I should plunder the internet for them later."
5. The family left a half hour ago and I sat down to do the plundering. For some reason when I typed the word "Sonics" into PlunderWire, the word "serviette" popped into my head. I mulled this for a while (downloading from 3 hosts) and mulled (clear inactive) and mulled and then I realized the connection between the words "Sonics" and "serviette." Like, duh!
6. Nardwuar.

5.06.2005

I want to know if you feel it too

Dear Friends,

1. Candy by cameo is a one joke funk pop song but it's a good joke. Repetitive, cheesy and clangy the way only a late 80's percussion track can be, it features a guy who purposely shout/sings like a codger. At one point he yelps out "Indeed I do!" and it's hard not to imagine a toothless old man waving his cane upon winning bingo. Last week I got the urge to hear that song and I mentioned it to The Monkey and HE HAD NO IDEA WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT. Dudes with mile high flat tops who wore black leather outfits with giant red cod pieces? Nope. Never heard of them. I'm either more vintage than I thought or really was warped by too much MTV. Word up.

2. I got Blur's self titled CD for free back in the day and I recall being grudgingly pleased with it. I say grudgingly because a) in the photos accompanying Blur interviews Damon Albarn always has a perma smirk on his face and looking at said pics made me want to get a plane ticket to London, buy a giant tuna, find Albarn, slap him silly with said tuna and provided I wasn't arrested, come home feeling remarkably at peace with the world and b) I thought the whole effort, promoted prior to its release as Blur goes Amer-indie!, (Please. A song that includes the ridiculous line, "look inside America, she's alright, she's alright!" AND Song 2, the Hey Ya! of its day but not nearly as good, smelled of cynical, opportunistic, pandering ASS.

But it was good, dang it. Death of the Party was definitely a highlight for me. Brooding and depressed, with slow warped pinball machine noise guitar punctuating the solo party circuit narrative. Essentially the same story as How Soon Is Now?, 'cept the singer's on Prozac and the come down's muted. A D-mix tape staple usually followed by the B-52's 52 Girls. For texture, natch.

3. Finally got my hands on my very favorite music mag, Mojo, (due to my advanced state of crippledom this month, I hadn't had the chance to go to my favorite import mag shops until now) This month and who was on the last page but The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band*! Basically a Vaudeville meets Parody meets 60's Psychedelia act featuring a Rutle, the Bonzo's have an excellent bounce along number called I'm The Urban Spaceman which is one of those lilting numbers that just screams "PASSAGE OF TIME" montage (if that bastard Wes Anderson doesn't get to it first, it's all MINE). I discovered them on an obscenely cheap import mini-box set of 60's novelty items, some awful, like Keys to Tulsa by someone that stinks, but some wonderful, like Simon Dupree's Kites (truly bizarre single, sounds like it was meant to be quasi mystical zen meditation, instead winds up sounding like the best tampon jingle you've never heard and oddly enough, that's not a bad thing) and uber fantastisch Conversations by Cilla Black. Big horns, big lungs, big dynamic and dramatic triangle! What more could you want in your Mersey soul singers?

Bonzos aside, there's also an excellent piece on Marc Bolan which features some thoughts by B.P. Fallon, of current NYC party Death Disco. The man played Teenage Kicks twice on the day Peelie died and I never got the chance to say thank you. I'll just have to wait until the next Death Disco appearance by certain friends o' mine to accost him, much to the chagrin of pretty much everyone that knows me at all.

4. kaitO has a song called Sweet Allie. Cutesy breathless vocals that go hoo! and chiga chiga and slow down behind some off the wall sound effects, like plane landings and space ship waiting rooms. Music with the energy of breathless 5 year olds on tricycles. If you still love D.I.Y. girly punk that defies the current rules of message before sound, then this is definitely the way to go.

5. I don't know a ding dang thing about plans and apologies and I'm so, so glad 'cause I enjoy the spirited pogo with handclaps, Nabbo!**, so much, I don't want my infatuation soured by bad sound bites, over styling and party girl panting. Like an ecstacy via jumping jack work out, this song is everything that I wanted The Futureheads CD to be but wasn't (though that cover of Kate Bush's Hounds of Love is that good), namely fun new wave aerobics. If these folks wind up on my side of the pond, I'll be there with a badge, a smile, a drink and some dance moves.

Love, D

* Death Cab for Cutie took their name from the Bonzo's totally absurd Elvis/Doo Wop pastiche song of the same name. Which makes me suspect those fellas actually have a sense of humor. Crazy!

** You can download this song on their website! yay!

songs to seek: cameo/candy, blur/death of the party, bonzo dog dooh dah band/I'm the urban spaceman, cilla black/conversations, simon dupree/kites, kaitO/sweet allie, plans and apologies/nabbo!

Labels:

5.05.2005

A Minor Treat

So I was twelve years old, pretty impressionable and trying to be all punk rock, and I went to try and buy some punk CDs one day at Newbury Comics in Harvard Square. As I was carrying a copy of Daisy Chainsaw's "Eleventeen" to the counter, the bully of the seventh grade at my school stepped out from behind a rack, grabbed my choice away from me, sneered derisvely and hissed, "this isn't punk." And he proceeded to repatriate the offending disc and force a copy of Minor Threat's "Complete Discography" into my hands.

Needless to say, I wasn't about to argue with the kid, and I meekly took the new CD up to the cash register and bought it, cursing the assholes I went to school with and my own lack of spine under my breath. But I decided to give it a spin when I got home (I had paid for it after all), and... and... and...

And 12 years later it probably qualifies as my favorite record of all time, by virtue of length of relationship if nothing else. I've bought it three times, lost it twice, found it once and given the recovered copy to a friend - it's an album I truly don't think I could live without, and I've been listening to it again on the train, and...

It just kicks ass. At a time when Hardcore was developing, and developing into one of the stupidest musical boutique cultures in western history at that, with nerdy white assholes in Southern California getting hammered and kicking the shit out of people and nerdy white assholes along the East Coast kicking the shit out of people for getting hammered, Minor Threat and a select few other nerdy white assholes actually made music. Sure, it was fast and loud - but that wasn't its only drawing point. It was about being a kid, and it was written by kids, but kids who had perspective. It has remained interesting and relevant to me for twelve years - since before I had pubes, to now as I start to go bald. And that's pretty cool.

The lyrics: my favorite is at the end of "Betray," and I don't think I really realized what Ian was singing until the other day (amazing how you can listen to something literally five hundred times and never hear words). He sings "Goddammit, we were supposed to stay young." I like that - because I feel that way a lot of the time, and maybe it's stupid and childish of me, and it's hardly an earth-shattering revelation, but so much music (and especially hardcore) is about fucking or fighting or showing off, or making sure not to do any of same, or politics - and that lyric is personal. "We were supposed to stay young. Now it's over, finished and done." And the dude wasn't even 22 when he wrote it.

Plus, that same song has a groovy funk riff that I like quite a bit, also a rarity in white-white-white HC music. Towards the end of their career (and hey, the whole damn thing's on one disc) MT started doing what other bonehead bands couldn't - they got softer, and slower, and more intense because of that. They started to make sounds that didn't all blend into one furious whirl of testosterone, sometimes jarring, often disturbing, but a hell of a lot more musically interesting than, say, Adrenalin O.D..

They also, as far as I can see, and I may well get lots of argument on this one, invented the stop/start rock'n'roll thing widely attributed to the Pixies - who, to be fair, did use it brilliantly. But Minor Threat did it in 1981, and I can't find anybody who really did before that, so I'm gonna say they invented the jumpy punk stop/start. And wait to be told otherwise. But in any case, they had the chops to play it, which was no small achievement at that time and place.

All that written, I still don't think I've really captured anything about them, and my love for Minor Threat is so deeply personal that I don't know if I even could. But if you feel like listening to some loud music, do yourself a favor and check it out. It is one of my favoritest albums of all time, and well deserving of a gushing if inarticulate love letter.

Oh, and Daisy Chainsaw really did suck.