Friday, December 28, 2007

Top Records of 2007 part 3

As I sit here watching Karate Kid for umpteenth time, I like to fondly recall some of the records I've purchased this year. It's been a weird one; I worked in a record store for the first part of the year, and got to listen to a lot of new records. And I also had to listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers thanks to my ridiculous boss. Ugh.

What I found in all this new music is the same old thing. About five years ago, I fell out of love with contemporary independent music. This fall out also included quasi-indie bands like Modest Mouse, Wilco, I dunno, I just didn't fall in love with any records from 2007. Re-issues were fantastic as usual, and I just built my collection with rarer and rarer discs.

Josef K - Entemology

As most writers will tell you, Josef K were one of the greatest Scottish bands not named Orange Juice. This record got me through slow nights at the record store, and it still gets me going. Some classic post-punk chock full of manic-to-the-point-of-falling-apart drums, tumbling and sometimes slinky bass, absolutely squalling anti-lead guitar scratching, and a guy yelling and speak-singing his way through various bouts of paranoia and hyper glee.

Favorite Song: All are pretty great (if not Interpol inspiring), but "Chance Meeting" gets me every time, only because it sounds so different from the rest of the record. The song has a great build of layered guitars and stilted rhythms. The closest thing Josef K has to a pop song, they manage to make a straight up 4/4 beat sound shakey and nervous, as the guitars build on a giant hook that ends each verse. Also, it contains a great example of how to use a solo trumpet tastefully (Cake, please fucking take note).

Harmonia - Muski von Harmonia/Deluxe

Upon these records being re-released I promptly sprayed urine into my underwear. I love Krautrock, and have been digging into Can, Faust, Cluster, Neu!, Amon Duul II and Kraftwerk for about 10 years now. The first time I got drunk (in 7th grade) my friend put on Autobahn as we drank his father's warm Bass Ales.

These two records came about when Cluster (of the dreamy cosmic music) and Michel Rother of Neu! (the masters of the motorik pulse) collided and decided to create the Blind Faith of Krautrock, a fucking supergroup. Full of synth wash environments, drum machines, spindly patterns and hypnotic guitar drones, these three guys and Conny Plank (the George Martin of this era) made some of my favorite music of the 1970's.

Song- "Veterano" fom Musik von Harmonia is the definition of motorik, taking everything Kraftwerk did with a electro drum kit and morphing it into a pulverising and delayed bomp and swish that is propelled by the fluttering keyboard and guitar syncopations.

"Monza (Rauf Und Runter)" is my personal focal point of Deluxe, a forboding wall of stretched out guitar leads that pulls a thick gauze over the proceedings until a single distorted snarl kicks the song into high gear. Resembling a castoff from Neu 75, Michael Rother's guitars splinter and crash, as the band burbles along. The vocals surge along in a spirited chant, and goddamn it this song needs to last forever! It of course ends eventually. Whatever, it's the shit.

Soft Machine - Soft Machine Volumes 1-3

A psychedelic band so musically adept they essentially moved past the scene in less than a year. Led by the unhinged but steady as a rock foundation of Robert Wyatt on drums and vocals, the Machine played some of the most inspired art-rock of the late sixties. Full of outrageously tight rhythm work-outs, spiraling tape loops, solemn organs and clattering pianos, these guys were the anti-Pink Floyd, superior musicians and truly deranged composers willing to take risks that reward the listener far more than any of their paisley-covered contemporaries.

All of the music on these records is essential if you're a fan of psychedelic and generally experimental music. Volume 3 is more jazz-oriented than the previous entries, but the weirdness remains. Wyatt's side-long composition "Moon in June" is a fucking impossibly dense well of ideas. Vocal melodies and bits of narrative fly by and disappear as soon as they pop up, as a vocal/drums/organ trio gives way to a full-blown quartet sound, which is then overtaken by a creeping organ drone being ripped apart by a jagged violin tape loop. Volumes 1 and 2 are steeped in the pop sound, although still jazz-informed. If you can, find the vinyl versions of these albums, as the CD transfers are pretty horrible.

Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom

I've spoken enough about Robert Wyatt on this website. By now you should know that I like his music, and I am not a fan of cynics who decry that his music is too "whimsical" or "silly." He has one of the most heart-breaking voices in music, and on this recording he gathers his friends and creates a triumphant tapestry of harsh organs, muted guitars, swirling percussion and child-like sea imagery to re-imagine his musical life as it led up to that point. Better production values could've helped (why one would enlist Pink Floyd's DRUMMER to produce a record is beyond me), but I still can't hate it.

This Heat - This Heat/Deceit

These two records alone have changed everything for me. I had close to a religious experience when I turned on "Deceit." I can't describe the music, I've tried very hard. There are elements of prog, avant-garde, jazz, eastern modal music, noise, hardcore, punk, garage rock, psyche, musique concrete, 60's folk, the list goes on.

Please, track down these two albums. They will change everything; band's you thought created sounds and movements are pretenders. These guys were true visionaries.

More later, I'ved gotta listen to some new records I got yesterday. A quick list (even though I'm anti-list):

Neil Young - Zuma
Motorhead - Ace of Spades
Magazine - The Correct Use of Soap
Chrome - Alien Soundtracks/Half Machine Lip Moves
Gong - Camambert Electrique

Time to get my listening on.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Top Records of 2007 part 2

That's what I'm talking about! Let's up the ante here, I'm not saying don't be funny, I'm saying surround your fun with facts.

This is getting gross. I sound like a fucking 7th grade science teacher.

In other news, I faintly remembered this headline from about 2 weeks ago.

"Daughtry is No. 1 Album of 2007."

I've been in shock for a while since even reading the headline. Yeah, I dig, he's got American Idol behind him, and Clive Davis and Tommy Mottola and Clive Owen and whoever else, but still:

"Daughtry is No. 1 Album of 2007."

According to the Billboard, Daughtry's band (who he named after himself) sold 3.2 million copies of their eponymous debut. This is fucking crazy. I really have a hard time grasping this. Who are these people? I guess there are a lot of kids and generally confused adults out there, but 3.2 million of them? Guess what was number 2?

Don't worry, it was just teenager-touching Akon, who wrote a song about how sorry he was that people saw him dry-humping the shit out of a 14 year old girl. Not since Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven" has an artist made mad scrilla thanks to personal tragedy. But this is different. I guess America loves kid touchers (I mean, even I have a soft spot for R Kelly. And Pete Townshend. And Bill Halley. And Chuck Berry.).

Number 3 record of the year? Oh, don't worry, it makes perfect sense. It's the soundtrack to a fucking television show! And the star of the show? Billy Ray Fucking Cyrus's daughter!! This list is great! What's even better is that it is based on facts! Not even in my wildest dreams could I come up with a more asinine list of musical performers.

But there's more!!!

Remember that girl from Kid's Incorporated? You know, that girl, who sang and also danced? Neither do I, and I watched that fucking show. And now I have to remember her, because her name is (annoyingly) Fergie and she sold the fourth most albums in America.

My beef with Fergie is this: When her first song with the Black Eyed Peas came out, I really thought that it was Fergie, you know, THE Fergie, married into the British monarchy, etc. "What a great ridiculous idea!" I mused. How wrong was I? Oh, you know, very wrong. Also, doesn't it look like Kermit the Frog is always about to burst out of Fergie's plasticized face?

In the end, we all the know the Pop Machine's evil ways. The Pop Machine is insatiable, it needs to feed the children of the world with outrageously disposable music, and this music must be super-compressed, super-auto-tuned, robot-written and hyphen-enducing.

Billboard magazine, your facts can eat my nuts.

Besides this final fact:

T-Pain's wonderfully titled "Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin) was the 5th best single of the year.

Taking crunk to a Prince-like level, T-Pain waxes poetic over his newfound female companion.

"baby girl what's your name
let me talk to ya"

Because nothing turns a woman on like saying, "Let me talk to ya."

"let me buy you a drank im t-pain you know me
convict music, nappy boy ooowee
i know the club close at 3
whats the chances of you rollin wit me"

This is good. If I was a teacher, and I based my grades on narrative structure, I would give him an A-. Good story, if not a little trite and overdone. If I based my grades on structure of verse and rhyme scheme, I would give him a B-. Believe me, if this wasn't Crunk (a genre that celebrates its limited verbosity as a testament to the lazy ears of its listeners) I would fail T-Pain in less than a second. Uh oh, can't rhyme anything with "nappy boy?" And the next line ends with 3? Just throw a fucking "OOOWEE!" in there and your dilemma is solved.

This is how you make a hit record.


Slander is Fun, When Fact-Based

If yer going to leave a nasty comment about someone on this site, please provide some background info as to why you feel this way.

Calling people names is fun, but infantile without appropriate context.

If you are going to call me a pussy, for instance, that's not good enough. It's not funny and rather sloppy. Tell me why I am a pussy.

Maybe you love and you're sick of my tired quarrels.

Perhaps you love the overuse of adjectives and aural derivatives.

Mayhaps you loved that Of Montreal album.

In which case, you and I disagree about a lot of fundamental ideologies, and wouldn't it be more fun to dissect why each other's opinions are absolutely baseless rather than sling random ass mud? Maybe not. This is the internets we be talkin bout.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Top Records of 2007 Part 1

It's the end of the year, and you know what that means. People make lists. People then read the lists. The lists are discussed and compiled. The compiled lists are arranged in order from "worst" to "best" and the magazine companies create a new magazine called "Magazines" that chronicles the best of the reprinted word. "Magazine" runs an end of year "Best List of 2007" list, and in the Midwest my house is leveled by the Tornado of Supreme Opinion.

For some years, I have decried Pitchfork's top 100 list, as they tend to embrace the sudden, the moment, the obvious misanthropy that involves knighting a hyped up band that deserves and asks not for the accolade. Unless of course you're Deerhunter and you'd suck anyone's cock for a google hit.

Random barbs aside, Person Pitch, an album that is actually listenable(!) has been voted as the best album of the year. Far superior to his band's own release (which is hilarious as Animal Collective's sonic template was obviously drawn from Panda Bear's own record), Panda Bear made a fucking great slice of sound, a break from the same-old-strums, the dull depressing indie thump. One could argue that people have been copping Phil Spector, Jack Nitzsche and Brian Wilson for about 50 fucking years, as Mercury Rev, R.E.M, Flaming Lips, and a litany of others can attest to. No one, however, has used such an accute attention to detail. The woodblocks sound like they're being played in an airport hangar. The voices actually shimmer. It's so good that I feel guilty trying to describe it, so I won't, not any further at least. Just listen to the damn thing.

I know what hasn't been said: 2007 had a pretty dull reading on the Great Albums of Our Era Ricter Scale. I'd say maybe a 0.5. A slight rumble but nothing extraordinary. Which is as much as one can say about the past 3 or 4 years of modern music. Outside of record producers rising in prominence (Dave Fridmann, Nigel Godrich, T-Pain, Lil John, Just Blaze, Kanye West) artistically, bands are kind of banging their heads against a wall.

Oh yeah, before I go, what's this years favorite break up album? According to Pitchfork, it's Of Montreal's pile of crap "Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer." Nothing like tooting one's own horn, as Pitchfork gave it a 9 out of 10 (or something, whatever, it's not even the point, the rating was too fucking high). The record is terrible, a glossy amateur take on white boy Canadien disco that falls flat on its over-compressed face. Who gives a shit about your divorce? I might've if you hadn't masked the message in such a terrible shit-pile of samples.

How many ways has modern music portrayed the break up? Hmm, let's see...

1. Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks
2. Joni Mitchell - Blue
3. Beck - Sea Changes
4. Guided by Voices - Isolation Drills
5. The Wrens - Meadowlands
6. Marvin Gaye - Here, My Dear
7. Weezer - Pinkerton
8. The Microphones - The Glow Pt. 2
9. Richard and Linda Thompson - Shoot Out the Lights
10. Phil Collins - Face Value

You get the picture, a shit ton of popular musicians have experienced heartbreak and loss. And we get to hear about it. Boy howdy, it's sad and powerful. Even Phil Fucking Collins made a better record.

A terrible album to trumpet, just terrible.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Lazy Lazy Lazy

Why is it so hard to write about music? Is it that hard to separate the music from the culture? Every day I read reviews that remind me that while they are inseparable, music and the culture it engenders makes for some awful writing.

While looking for some more obscure, great bands I caught myself reading reviews of Epic Soundtracks' solo outings. Epic formed and played drums in the brilliant (if not commercially invisible) Swell Maps, a British group that fully embraced punk's supposed style nihilism better than anyone. There sound was dangerous and unstable, a heady mix of power chord ferocity and teeth-scraping improvisation with T. Rex, Can and surf music being their primary influences.

After the break up of the Maps, he plays with the Jacobites and Crime and the City Solution until a career renaissance in the early 90's. The Swell Maps are credited as a huge influence to seminal underground/grunge mammoths as Dinosaur Jr, Pavement, and Sonic Youth to name a few.

Epics records a handful of piano-led solo records, and I trolled for a good review. I found nothing of quality.

Epic Soundtracks writes affecting piano ballads and mid-tempo pieces with an ease that belies how good these songs are.

Read it again. Epic is credited as a great songwriter, but maybe his writing is TOO good. I say this because it seems that reviewer John Bush believes his process is too laid back. Perhaps someone needs to light a fire under Epic's ass? Will that make the songs better?

Though J. Mascis (drums on two tracks) and Kim Gordon (voice on "Big Apple Graveyard") do contribute, this is Epic's show; he provides most of the music and all the magic.

Name checking as one should in this situation. However, I have a feeling that we're at the end of the line here. So far, this album has celebrity cameos and magic. Great. I really know what I'm in store for here.

Many songs have a traditional feel and sound strangely familiar.

And that, my friends, is that. The End. Exeunt. Horrible. Terrible. Undescriptive. Void of information. Void of analysis. Void of content.

Void. Void. Void. Void. Void. Void. Void. Void. Void. Void.

I'm usually the first person to defend allmusic, but fuck, what's a guy to do when they try to shove horseshit into your brain? I choose to defend myself from the mediocrity.

You'll read a better review elsewhere. Please do so.

Belated Ill Tidings

I know it's been a while, but I fully intend to rip every piece of garbage review possible. Just like the following.

If you like obscure bands who happen to be great, the Raincoats are for you. Three girls who emerged out of the punk explosion with little musical experience and a distinct ignorance of gender roles in popular music. What's not to love?

This is supposed to be a full review of an album. A review that talks about the music therein.


Rough, loose-limbed, warm, and exciting, The Kitchen Tapes is everything you'd expect from the Raincoats on-stage.

Wonderfully vague adjectives to describe the general "feel" of the album. At this point I would normally add a hopeful phrase that prompts my dismay when I realize that there isn't any fucking content to this review. Guess what? No content.

Bolstered by the heavy percussion of Richard Dudanski and Derek Goddard, this recording pulsates, while the band dances around the beat tossing in shards of guitar, vocals, and violin. The liner essay by Greil Marcus is excellent.

You guessed it. That's it. That's the end of a record review. This review was written by a guy by the name of John Dougan. He believes in writing with the big picture in mind. No one would want "details" in a review, and I right? Details:

1. It's a great recording of a band in what sounds like an intimate space, so intimate you can hear the audience during quieter moments.
2. The mix comes through clear, and the band's playing is expert.
3. This is not what you'd expect from a typical Raincoats show. Have they always played with two percussionists?! No, of course they haven't.

Anyways, Dougan refers people who want to know what the record sounds like to read the liner notes. Sounds like Mr. Dougan DIDN'T EVEN LISTEN TO THE GODDAMN RECORD AND PICKED OUT ARBITRARY ADJECTIVES THAT FIT!!!

Sorry, just not a fan of such an ill-informed and disrespectful article. Three sentences that tell the listener to find the liner notes. Thanks Allmusicguide. Terrible.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

It's not just the mustache that grabbed me, nor the the simple fact that it's three ugly guys flanked by a pretty woman.

Just look at the guy second from the right. You know, the ginger afro. What the hell is wrong with his face? Why so small? Why is the rest of him so big?

This is the Rick Davis Band, by the by. I can only imagine the glorious New Wave grooves pumped out by such a gorgeously attired outfit.