Saturday, December 19, 2009

ah, fuck it!

is animal collective really the best we can do? six or seven years after "sung tongs" crashed the independent music scene with it's stellar second track, followed by forty minutes of dull, tactless experimentation, i'm starting to wonder what it's going to take for them to go out of fashion.

"[A] work that gleefully teeters on the line between accessibility and inscrutability."

and that's what's perfect to these types: the ability to sound experimental while still making music that is "accessible", the holy grail of in-your-face independent music. let's take a look at some definitions of "accessible" with a particular eye on the second and the fourth:

"1. easy to approach, reach, enter, speak with, or use.
2. that can be used, entered, reached, etc.: an accessible road; accessible ruins.
3. obtainable; attainable: accessible evidence.
4. open to the influence of (usually fol. by to): accessible to bribery."

so fuck it, and to anyone who thinks like this, fuck you. and if you're soft, and think this and other efforts from animal collective represent a lot of the best music of the last decade, fuck you with a fucking billy club. in a few years, when you cut off your dreads and start shopping at the gap, you'll finally start looking like what we've always known you are: 2016's palin voters.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

oy

if you thought i wasn't going to touch lists this year, you were wrong. wrong i tells ya. i'll write a whole big long thing no one will read when i have the time. for now, check out the graph on grizzly bear song, the fifth best song of the year.

"A better name would be Teddy Bear, such is unlikely appeal of this unassuming Brooklyn foursome. But just how did they manage to charm the indie elite and Jay-Z and Solange and Beyoncé and your mom and scores of Twilight-addled tweens? [I]t's not the craftsmanship that's winning people over and making them want to spin this one again and again. It's the intangible, of course, the sound of a band that has struck upon something timeless, inspired, holistic, and-- it bears (ahem) mentioning-- utterly wholesome. Some people will hear 'Two Weeks' and instantly feel better about their day, some will want to join a boys' choir, and most will feel the urge to share this exceptional thing with those close to them."

regarding that first question: could it be because the "indie elite" have tastes that are about as well-refined as those of "twilight-addles tweens" and "your mom"? maybe those indie elite are the type of people who put "(ahem)" after their accidental puns (i.e. pussies), and so maybe it's no accident that their picks are overlapping with the suburban petit-bourgeoisie.

nah, couldn't be. grizzly bear has mass-appeal because they're timeless. it's not like they're completely bland and innocuous or anything. no sir. gotta be those intangibles.

Friday, December 4, 2009

revisited: musical exhaustion

todays p-fizzle review of OOIOO's new effort begins with a paragraph talking about their previous album.

"Japanese all-female group and Boredoms offshoot OOIOO's fifth album, 2006's Taiga, holds a more than respectable score of 78 on Metacritic, but it split Pitchfork listeners. The percussion heavy, often amelodic beast came off as needlessly difficult and even lazy to some staffers, yet Dominique Leone claimed it to be, in so many words, the easiest entry point in the OOIOO catalogue. I don't begrudge either extreme viewpoint: OOIOO's output is divisive for the simple reason that the band has a unique capacity to both wow and disappoint."

on one side, someone says that Taiga is a good place to start if you're interested in liking OOIOO. the other side finds the album "needlessly difficult". both views are cast as "extreme" and the difference is split, earning the new album a 7.4.

contemporary political journalism usually acts like this: describe two opposing positions as opposed, and treating each as 50/50 true, since there are two ides.

but more relevant to my topic is the idea that any music can be "needlessly difficult." "difficult", we've been over many times around these parts. "needlessly" is a new twist for me. as if the album were a confusing legal document, a student loan collection letter, or a health insurance form.

1) it's music. it has no purpose. it's ALL needless.

2) listening to music is not hard. OOIOO demand nothing more of their listeners than does taylor swift.

3) if you don't like an album, the reason simply is NOT that the album is difficult. because that's like saying you don't like a meal because it's furious.

4) and finally, to call an album "lazy" because YOU find it too "difficult" to sit perfectly motionless and listen to it is a new height of absurd pot-kettle-ism.

Friday, November 20, 2009

phootball phriday: too warm for november edition

so last week got ugly. i made four picks and only hit one of them, and it took the patriots coming up an inch short on fourth down for my one accurate prediction to come true. well, allen greenspan recently said, "when you're right 57% of the time, you're wrong 43% of the time, and that's still pretty good."

49ers over Packers. until last week's ugly win against the ugly bears, the niners had been loading up on close, devastating losses. but why? their defensive front is very strong, good linebackers, an ok-looking quarterback, a running game that should be a lot better than it is. the niners really aren't that bad, and even though the packers pooped all over the cowboys last week, look for them to come out lazy against an underrated playoff contender in san francisco.

Lions over Browns. last week, i picked the browns to surprise the ravens, and cleveland's offense responded by scoring no points and averaging a little more than two yards per snap. there may be a dozen or so college teams who would probably loose to baltimore, probably by a bigger margin, but at least they'd put up a field goal or two. a wierdly pathetic professional sports team, the browns. lions win, giving cleveland the slightly better draft pick, which the lions could really use.

Giants over Falcons. i'd be very surprised if the giants dropped another game. one gets the impression that they got soft early in the season against the NFL's terrible teams (oakland, kansas city, tampa bay, etc.). when up against a stronger foe, the giants have yet to look strong this year. after a bye week and before that a last-second loss to san diego, the truly awful games against the eagles and saints should be behind them. i expect the giants to be well rested and eager to beat a decent team. which they will. unless they play like they did in philly, which was really really bad.

last but not feast: the Jets will beat the Patriots. oh yes. this will happen. much has been made around ESPN's universe regarding jets' coach rex ryan's recent bout with crying in front of a room full of steroid-jacked football players. recently (this is true) i saw "blind date" host roger lodge on a sports talk show saying of this incident, "football is a man's game. can you imagine a big ol' linebacker like bart scott watching that?" yes, rex ryan. roger lodge thinks you're a pussy. ball's in your court.



but i understand why ryan lost his shit: because there's no good reason for the jets to be 4-5. ok, the rookie quarterback, season-ending injuries to the primary offensive and defensive weapons (leon washington and kris jenkins), and a defense that keeps the other team out of the endzone but struggles to hold on to a lead. the jets may have lost five of their last six games, but four of those losses have been by less than a touchdown. only the saints have kept the jets out of a game this year.

and finally, fuck new england. finis.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Surreal Estate: Redux

back in september, pitchfork did a news piece on the forthcoming debut album from the recently extant band Real Estate. (i wrote about it.) today, less than two months later, the band has joined the fork's "best new music" club, with an album that turns out to be just one and a half points shy of perfect.

in my post about september's news story, i wrote, "people who really like music that makes them remember high school should be banned from the internet."

in today's review, david bevan says, "Over the past year, many of these songs have soundtracked a time when it feels like every kid in or just out of college seems to be handcrafting/clamoring for music that shuttles us back to a time before career choices, adult responsibility, and this recession."

how deeply pathetic is our generation? before we turn twenty, we're already lamenting our lost youth. think about it this way: if we go on like this, what will we have to be nostalgic about ten years from now? still early childhood? damn, some people really hate their armpit hair.

"clamoring" to be free from adult responsibility may indeed be the sound coming out of america's uber-educated white kids, but the notion that this results in some sort of creative movement? nigga please! you're explicitly saying it's a leap backwards! you just fucking said it!!!

no matter, backwards is okay. the past isn't scary, at least not if you're an american who attends or once attended college. it's the future that terrifies these people, in art as in their lives. in art because the future may, at any moment, render useless their intricate understanding of american independent rock music (1980's-present); in their lives because the future threatens to be less fun than high school.

the final paragraph of the reveiw reminds us that you can't write for pitchfork unless you can string together a diarrhea-inducing metaphor. in today's entry, bevan says that even though this is clearly a summer-themed album, "this music transcends the notion of seasons."

holy shit! i once thought i had transcended the notion of seasons, but then i started coming down and realized i was in a bowling alley.

"There's much more at play here than what goes on between the months of June through September." in a related point, sushi has more rice in it than what goes on between 2 and 2:30 in the morning.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

real quick

i know what you're thinking: "is this a full-time football blog, now? what the fuck?!" so i say, "shut up, reader. get a job."

anyway, since i don't have much time,

steelers over bengals. pittsburgh stops the run. palmer makes it interesting, but not that interesting.

colts over patriots. brady deserves to fail, because that's true. fuckin asshole.

browns over ravens. this is a why-the-hell-not surprise pick. i've missed one a week every week so far, so this'll be that one, most likely. but i caught the tail end of a rerun of the drew carey show recently, and cleveland still hasn't been fully compensated for the mimi charachter.

aaaand... cowboys over packers. dallas pass rush is too good, and green bay gives up too many sacks as it is.

a lot of weak ass games today. go for a walk or something.

Friday, November 6, 2009

phootball phriday: jets bye week edition

so last week i was three for four in my picks, my only miss being the jets, who totally outplayed miami anyway, ask anyone. that being the case, i'll give it another shot.

first up, baltimore at cincinatti. now it's clear that a bengal would beat a raven in a straight-up fight, but only if the raven wanted to fight. if it just flew away, the tiger wouldn't stand a chance. for that reason, if baltimore comes out on sunday and is able to fly, expect them to win. if not, cincinatti starts locking down the division.


maimi at new england. tough to call. maimi has proven that you never know when they're gonna come up with three freak touchdowns in a quarter, so watch out patriots. but brady's warming up, and if miami wins it's good for the jets, and good for the jets almost never happens. patriots by a lot.

tennessee at san francisco. one of the league's strongest 3-4 teams goes up against easily the best 1-win team out there. seriously, this game is gonna be fun. vince young finally did it the way jeff fischer likes it, so now the former heisman-winner is getting a chance to play (taking over for the nfl's best rasputin look-alike, the quarterback who won't die, kerry collins). look for the titans to be a threat on the ground. the niners, on the other hand, have also given over the starting qb job to the guy who clearly deserves it, alex smith. with michael crabtree and frank gore hitting their strides, this team could actually be good enough to sneak into the playoffs. this one's almost too close to call, but san francisco is a silly place. titans by four.

and last but also least, dallas at philadelphia. tony romo's powers get exponentially weaker the further he is from that 8,000-foot screen in his new home stadium. they have big screens in philly as well, but they just aren't big enough. romo's gonna play like superman in a kryptonite jock-strap. no spread is too big. eagles continue to roll.

some people deserve a chance

thus is the conclusion of this bit of noisy nostalgia. (this time it's a birthday party we get to remember) marc richardson is a dumb piece of shit and i hope he googles his name frequently enough to find this.

after quoting jim o'rourke saying this: "You can no longer use context as part of your work [...] because it doesn't matter what you do, somebody's going to change the context of it;" marc richardson responds with this: "The O'Rourkes of the world may argue that this trend is a bad thing, but it's obviously going to open a new world of experience, and right now we're just scratching the surface of possibility."

first of all, "scratching the surface of possibility" is a piss poor turn of phrase. second of all, "a new world of experience" is also a pretty meaningless group of words. it's the "new world" that makes it okay to steal music, makes it okay that even successful musicians all over america are going broke. the "old world", where people paid musicians for their work, and musicians had say in how that work was structured -- a thing of the past!

except, and here's the crucial part, except when marc richardson believes artists "know what they're doing". for them, "i give myself over to their work in a very particular way." so you're actually supposed to pre-determine, before hearing anything, whether or not an artist is supposed to be taken seriously. if yes, BUY WHOLE ALBUM. if no, download shit for free and continue "scratching the surface of possibility."

it turns out marc richardson's other job -- you know, when he's not ruminating -- is telling people what music they should take seriously. it's for this reason that i don't doubt him when he says: "These are exciting times."

i'm sure they are.

Friday, October 30, 2009

football blogging returns

after a fast start, my Jets have gone 1-3 in their last four games, losing nose tackle kris jenkins and running back/return man/superman leon washington to injury, both for the whole season (i wonder if anyone ever tried just breaking superman's fibula). sanchez should probably be gearing up for a big pac-10 matchup with oregon, but alas, he's leading an NFL offense. our third-string wide receiver was an option quarterback at missouri, and our starting wide-receiver is under indictment for punching lebron james' friend, a crime which bears the death penalty in cleveland.
all in all, things look pretty good. one game back of the patriots, having taken the first head-to-head, the Jets need to beat Miami on sunday in order to stay contenders in the AFC east. look for sancez to have another decent game against the porous Miami secondary, and the Jets will take it home if they can just keep the wildcat to under 12 yards per snap. with this win, the Jets may finally start believing that this is finally their year to get out of the first round.



after two strong wins, the Saints (seen above in cheerleader form) are widely considered the class of the NFL, and it's difficult to disagree at this point in the season. Brees finally looks like he was always supposed to, reggie bush is one of the best north-south runners in the game, and safety darren sharper scores more touchdowns than the chiefs. this week they go up against Atlanta on monday night. take new orleans and the points, saints stay undefeated.


the ridiculously over-rated giants have a big game on sunday, going all the way to philadelphia. one gets the feeling that michael vick is due for a game where he actually sees some playing-time, and if that happens i expect the suddenly so-so giants defense to end up looking silly. eli, for all of his ability, still misses plexico, but ahmad bradshaw and brandon jacobs should be gearing up for big afternoons. eagles by 6, but if vick is limited to five or six snaps again, the giants win behind eli's two-minute drill.



finally, brett favre goes back to green bay. the vikings look very very good. they have one of the best running backs of all time, one of the best quarterbacks playing, and a very strong pass rush, not to mention the explosive precy harvin. wisconsin will continue to be a loser state, but this is hardly favre's fault.

Friday, October 23, 2009

seen

one of the greatest lines from one of the worst movies ever, Saw:

"stop acting!"

with Saw VI coming out this year, they've now been putting out one of these every year since 2004. what's sad is that perhaps two generations will have this series locked in as their "friday the 13th", "children of the corn", or even "leperachaun". but where those films spent most of their time killing off one main character at a time until one or two of them get away, the Saw series expends all of its creative energy coming up with truly pornographic methods of torture to be used against characters who die so quickly you never get a chance to figure out why they deserve to die.

twenty years down the line, when someone wants to know about the '00s (again, pronounced "oooohs"), i'd make them watch "the Wire", and then the Saw series; then i'd make them guess which one was more popular.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

music as music criticism

in today's pitchfork review of Neon Indian's "Psycic Chasms", marc hogan lets something slip that i've been suspicious of for some time now:

"'Borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered 80s.' Those words, when James Murphy over-enunciated them on what's still arguably the decade's best piece of music-as-music-criticism-- LCD Soundsystem's 2002 debut single, 'Losing My Edge'-- had the decisive feel of a gauntlet being thrown down."

fantastic that it's only "arguably" the best piece of "music-as-music-criticism" of the decade. lots of princes vying for that crown, i guess. but let's get real folks. "music-as-music-criticism" is what passes for innovation these days. this is a problem to me.

at the end: "A new generation's borrowed nostalgia? High time."

high time indeed.

listen, if our decade is associated with music-as-music-criticism, and music-as-music-criticism for some reason necessarilly draws on 80's influences, then musically our decade has been an explicit, transparent effort to recreate the 80's. in today's example you can practically hear marc hogan ripping out whole fistfulls of his pubic hair when he writes about Duck Tales, or Weezer, or Reagan.

these critics, who give us these terrible bands that get famous so rapidly and inorganically, are people who are having trouble growing up. it's okay. we all are. but i really think it's about time to put this 80's thing to rest. with luck, we'll be around for forty, fifty more years, and i, for one, don't want to spend all that time thinking about my childhood. i'm actually kind of curious to see what comes next...

Friday, October 2, 2009

wampire veekend

frontman ezra koenig shows signs of wear and tear in this interview. i can't quite put my finger on why i find it interesting. i guess it would be this (and i am as guilty of this as perhaps anyone on the planet): writing songs against elitism, constantly reiterating that you are not one of those "elitists", that people who think you are are wrong, these are essentially elitist activities. is it such a coincidence that a band so explicitly concerned with elitism would end up being called elitists themselves? the only people who seem to be bothered by "elitism" as a topic, or an accusation, are themselves wealthy and educated; but in their hatred of elitism they actually find a way to think themselves better than all the wealthy, educated people who don't bother to worry about such things. the elite among the elite. love this independent music.

"With the first album, I noticed some people would never give us the benefit of the doubt about any lyrics that referenced class or education. They would be so offended that a song would be called 'Oxford Comma' that they didn't understand how it's a song about anti-elitism."

and who are these people who refused you the benefit of the doubt? totally missing your "anti-elitism" streak?

"Essentially it's just a bunch of college-educated people trying to compete for who has it tougher, when the truth is none of us had it tough."

oh i see. it's not you who's the phony elitist, it's the people who called you a phony elitist. neat!

were you aware...

that nine of the ten best albums from the last decade came before 2004? this is a sign of a truly brilliant couple years of music, not at all a sign that compiling a list of the best albums of a decade that isn't even over yet is for retards.

seriously, the strokes, radiohead, modest mouse, avalanches... it's high school all over again! to be fair, though, those albums really were the best years of your life.

Friday, September 25, 2009

adventures in BLAWG

the other week i put the word "kids" at the front of a post title. a comment was left, our first since july. and who left this comment? some fucking robot selling kids music, or some wierd virus thing. don't click through. it's just a robot.

in other news, my most recent post was slamming a news article written by one tom breihan. i found him transparently stupid.

well today he's reviewing a terrible album from a terrible new band called "Girls". first of all, even though he seems to respect the frontman, the fact that his mother was a prostitute is actually placed in the fourth sentence of the review, proving once and for all that press packets are humane. of course, like it's a wonderful life or jerry macgwire (spelled correctly in honor of Mark), there's a happy ending. "Then a local millionaire took Owens under his wing, and Owens moved to San Francisco." and now he has an adopted millionaire father and he's in a hip band. the end. some stories really are tragic, no?

now, if christopher owen, of Girls, did indeed have a very hard childhood, then i imagine it wasn't fun for him. but a little greusome is reading a writer idolize tragedy and poverty in this way, when only three days ago he was waxing nostalgic about his own hazy, dreamy youth in the suburbs. "You don't need to know Owens' story to intuit that there's something going on here. When I saw the band play SXSW, knowing nothing about them beyond their compulsively listenable 'Hellhole Ratrace' single, I wrote that the band's music sounds 'like the work of one deeply weird and possibly sad person.'" so being weird and sad, having a mother forced into prostitution... GOOD! that's COOL to us!

but there's something else going on here. watch: "It's the sort of story that can overwhelm a band so completely that you never really hear their music; you only hear the story. So it's a tribute to Album that you don't need to know one word of that first paragraph to hear it as what it is: a dizzily powerful piece of work." see? we love your tragic upbringing, but we don't want to think about it, and certainly don't want to hear YOU singing about it. write about your break-ups instead, that way your presonal tragedy can be reduced to a preamble, so college graduates who only think gutter punks are cool because they've never had to smell them will go out and buy your album.

tragedy's generally cool, but kind of too sincere for our age. we'd rather a tragic figure sing about really banal shit. that way we can identify with you AND feel superior at the same time.

the big problem is, as always, this band sucks. their music sucks. i mean, you've got to be fucking kidding me. to my ears, it isn't even remotely interesting. they're dull, forgettable, dime-a-dozen pop songs. familiar progressions soaked in reverb, and a white singer whose (totally authentic) self-loathing has taken a curiously audacious and public turn. i've seen this movie before and it sucks.

but what do i know? as with Real Estate a few days ago, Girls is "getting a ton of blog love." more and more, i've come to fully expect such bands to be terrible, allowing for the possibility of a shocking exception or two. and i think i know the reason why these bands always suck: because music blog culture is the full marriage of the music industry and junior-high school popularity politics (i.e. an emotionally stunted mob makes snap decisions about how good a person is, and that person may become royalty, until he does something that confuses or dissapoints the mob, at which point he has to change schools or live out his education as a parriah.)

and bands like this age about as well as the popular kid has.

finally, the phrase "compulsively listenable" should probably have it's eyes plucked out by grape scissors. meaning-wise, it's precisely as dumb as bud light's "drinkability" campaign.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Surreal Estate

i noticed a curious headline while running my eyes over pitchfork's "news" section: "Real Estate Announce Debut Album".

i thought: huh... that's odd. usually when a debut album is announced (as opposed to simply being released), it's coming from some long-awaited supergroup, which of course goes on to suck.

recently, though, bands that haven't produced a full work, are having their debut albums pimped. all you need is just less than six songs to stay popular with just more than 500 writers for a little more than a month, and your in. black kids was a perfect example of this, and if you click through to that real estate story, you can see it all happening again.

"Hazy Jersey-based indie poppers Real Estate have been setting our RSS feeds on fire all summer with tracks like 'Fake Blues' and 'Black Lake'-- blurry, innocent evocations of high school beach trips and first tokes."

now i haven't bothered to listen to the music. my internet's kinda shitty these days, and anyway it's been a while since i've gotten excited by something that sets "RSS feeds on fire". to be sure, though, the language is pretty fucking revealing. this writer, one Tom Breihan, misses high school.

those were the days, no? playing hookie, "blurry, innocent" trips to the beach, that "first toke"... all this shit's rushing back to me, it's like PROUST!

but seriously, people who really like music that makes them remember high school should be banned from the internet. nevertheless, with song titles like "suburban dog", "let'srock the beach", and "suburban beverage", you can't blame a 20-something for getting sucked in. after all, many 20-somethings are FROM the suburbs, and can totally relate. (it, like, sucks there because of your parents, but it can be totally fun sometimes cuz you can drive to the beach and there's parties!)

but who am i to judge? the blogs are abuzz about this band. and we all know how important blogs are. (cue crickets)

Friday, September 4, 2009

kids: DON'T GO TO COLLEGE OR YOU'LL TURN OUT LIKE THIS

http://pitchfork.com/features/staff-lists/7693-the-top-500-tracks-of-the-2000s-20-1/2/

as i recently warned, pitchfork has put up their top 500 songs of the last ten years (which comes out to roughly one song for every week). and yes, the "list" (such as it is) is pretty silly, with basement jaxx and robyn getting quite a bit of attention, with a top 20 cracked by such mainstream non-artists as rhianna and justin timberlake, and more animal collective on hand than freshman orientation.

but that's not really important. to put together an accurate list of 500 songs is about as easy as putting together an accurate list of the top 500 restaurants on the east coast. it's part fool's errand, but its true purpose mostly is to give a handful of arrogant people a platform to wax educated about media and culture and stuff.

each and every song gets a paragraph. the examples of purely god-awful writing are too numerous to be chronicled. from some guy's belief that Joanna Newsom meant to invoke "whores" when she said "horse", to ridiculous overuse of the gerund, to the fact that anyone who wrote a song about new york was really singing about 9/11; the writing is just hackery. i mean, how many times can you publish the phrase "it goes without saying" before it starts looking like a red flag?

but even that's not really important, at least not to me right now. what i wanted to write about (i got distracted; don't like it? continue not reading.) was the way in which almost all of these writers discuss "what happened in music". the passive voice is used a lot. some bands "were never heard from again". some songs "are indellibly associated" with certain years. aside from being poor writing, this betrays a deep lack of appreciation for the critic's role in the whole process. it's YOU that chooses to notice something or not, to like it or hate it, not some invisible modernizing, culturizing force. a band that pleases one person consistently shouldn't automatically be recast as a band who "has longevity". an artist hasn't "dropped off the face of the earth" just because you haven't written up his last three albums. it's the pools from which the list was drawn that are pre-selected. they have already manufactured taste, now it only must be prioritized, and explained as the result of a mystical, natural process. UGH.


one more thing: marc richardson says, "If the songs on this list were chosen solely by how they captured the zeitgeist in independent music, 'Losing My Edge' would be an easy #1." and i'm afraid i agree with him. a comfortable, computer-owning music appreciator throws together a garage band beat, each new layer being introduced at perfectly predictable intervals, with all the depth of a casio demo-beat; meanwhile the computer-owner talks about cool things he likes, and he's being ironic, but he really kind of isn't, but really he is, but honestly he's lost his edge because he's not cool anymore, but he's actually the sole arbiter of what's cool.... etc.

i don't blame the song for sucking heartily, nor do i blame those who disagree and think it doesn't suck. i blame the critic, the person who says it "captures the zeitgeist in independent music" thus defining the boundaries of said zeitgeist without actually making a creative contribution. i'm not sure about you, but in my zeitgeist, we're not sitting around, pawing at our bald spots, wondering how being middle class and having impeccable taste simply hasn't made us more attractive.


one one more thing: white people have just gotten through "revolutionizing" dance music in the same way that columbus "revolutionized" the americas. when columbus arrived, a whole mess of people were already there, yet still there's a lot of talk about his "discovery".

Monday, August 17, 2009

THE DECADE IS OVER! THE DECADE IS OVER!

well, kind of. i mean, the decade will be over, in seventeen months, five if you don't count right. whatever, the decade is over. do you people even know what that means?

it means soon we get to find out what were the best albums, tracks, and music videos of the last ten years. we'll surely get to find out what some writers think the decade "meant" -- lots of long essays about mp3's, about how online distribution is SO FUCKIN AWESOME!

one thing's for sure: the current crop of pitchfork writers is probably starting to get nostalgic for their college days. consequentially, look for smarmy indie dance bands to be extremely well represented (you know, fast guitar music with no backbeat [whites gotta dance, too]), competing most directly with smarmy indie folk bands (sweet christ on a cracker, i hate those woodland brooklynites who seem to practice their instruments as frequently as they shave).

expect certain TITS bands to be erased down the memory hole (black kids, arctic monkeys, clap your hands...), and expect the editorial staff to show diversity of taste by including a bunch of hip-hop records that they never bothered to promote.

i won't miss the 00's (pronounced "oooohs"). it's kind of been a militarist corporatist nightmare of a decade. if there's one thing we can learn from it, it's that dystopian writers like Huxley and Orwell weren't as imaginative as modern-day republicans and democrats.

musically? general taste has been eviscerated by the atomization of the public, corporate sponsership of music is UP (sales are, of course, DOWN), and brittney spears had more fight in her than the beta band.

while pitchfork has presided over the death of anything like counter-culture, many of us just last november participated in the untimely death of political activism. the next decade's movers and shakers need to survey the wreckage, and realize that being king of the mountain now means only that you reach the peak of a pile of rubble.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

morrissey, box sets, and reissues

so EMI is putting out two box sets of morrissey singles, and morrissey is pissed(through a fansite) because EMI hasn't paid him any money for seventeen years, and since he's in no position to collect royalties from songs he doesn't own, he instructs his fans not to buy the box set.

now, i approve of morrissey's edict, if not his singing. record companies love box sets and reissues and "retrospectives", usually because they own all the rights to the music, don't have to front any money to produce it (it already exists) and make one hundred percent of the profits from sales.

pitchfork has recently unveiled a "reissues" subheading in their "best new music" section, where congolese blues rock meets REM collecters editions. and what do the far flung members of the "best new reissue" category have in common? the artists no longer own the rights to the music being distributed.

YAY FOR SONY!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friend Request

so i talk about the fork a lot, and now i have an opportunity to explain why.

every time they publish one of these "poptimist" columns, i know damn well that something stupid is contained within -- something abrasively, arrogantly, obviously stupid. i'm sure one or two can be dug out that aren't masturbatory pieces of garbage, but if that's what you go in suspecting you usually won't be disappointed.

this one, subtitled "chartopia" is quite disturbing in that it addresses much of the crap i've been yelling about on and off for a few years now. he's talking about culture, about our much vaunted "new media", and how it's affected whatever remains of aggregate taste.

he says something that is stupid, and it's importantly stupid. "In a recent blog post, marketing guru Seth Godin touched disdainfully on the much-predicted demise of newspapers, writing 'Neatness is for historians.' This bon mot duly buzzed around the digiverse. Godin was addressing-- and dismissing-- journalism's much-honored role as 'the first draft of history,' its mission to make sense of the world for its readers. Social media, according to Godin and many similar thinkers, give people the tools to do this for themselves."

now here's why this is really stupid. some people call bloggers "citizen journalists". david simon once asked if you would call a man who puts out a small trash fire he sees while on a walk a "citizen firefighter". he then asked if your next conclusion would be that real firefighters are obsolete.

in reality, bloggers tend to be parasitic (as this blog). we live commenting on other companies' actual reporting. foreign policy blogs link to the new york times and the washington post, and most people don't follow links, meaning readers are consuming the product of a news company, but the company itself has no imaginable way to profit from it. aggregators (blogger's spell check doesn't recognize this last word; is it made up?) like google news and huffington post are the biggest violators of this, but the same dynamic exists for low-traffic blogs.

now, extend this to "social media" (i'm now realizing how orwellian this term truly is). some asshole TWEETS about a band; of the thirty five people who read his TWEETS let's say five take interest in the band; of those five presumably plugged-in folks, let's say one buys a few songs on itunes, while the rest torrent every single song the band has ever recorded and proceed to live the rest of their lives with thirty additional never-to-be-listened-to mp3s. the artist thanks the tweeter for the additional eight cents of income.

the problem with newspapers going out of business is that in order to produce news you actually have to pay some poor cunt to go somewhere and ask some questions and write some shit down. as adorably motivated as most "citizen journalists" are, someone needs to buy your food while you sit around at courthouse all day. reporting news is not an inherently profitable thing to do. neither is making music.

what tom ewing promises in his column is that social media allows people "to make sense of the world". i disagree. i think social media confuses its users, and disrupts any perception of the difference between the real world (of people, things) and the digital world (of pixels, numbers). as this happens, the real life institutions of the real world (newspapers, concert venues, etc.) die very rapidly, because the entire money-having nation spends ten hours out of every day typing and staring and typing and staring and typing and staring, all the while expanding their knowledge of everything, finding more people they know, being lords of their own universe.

sideshow bob once threatened to kill all television from a jumbotron, and i feel kind of like him, i guess. a luddite born in the 80's has a hell of a time these days. at the end of his sprawling, unfocused column, mr. ewing actually says, "There is still a great deal to be poptimistic about." as a musician, i find myself in another camp.

"social networking" (another phrase our society could probably do without) is incredibly useful for self-promotion. as an artist without any institutional support, it's more or less irreplaceable. but the rest of you, those non-creative people, whose generosity has fed us guitarists since the birth of our profession, you need to get off your god damn screens (right after you agree to attend my show). stop talking to each other all the fucking time and do something!

there's only so much that people can share. part of the equation has always been injecting new ideas, previously non-existent and unknowable, into the stream. mr. ewing thinks new media can do this job just fine, and that's why i called him stupid before. for real culture to happen, culture that we can be proud to pass to our children one day, we need to interact with one another in a way that can never be mechanized, a way that simply won't be made obsolete by tiny little machines that break if you kick them.

i'm talking, of course, about live music and fucking. who's with me?!

Monday, July 13, 2009

this post has been heavily influenced by african rhythms

pitchfork has an interview up of the dirty projectors guy, and even though he's talkiing about the fact that he's more of a band than a one-man act, even as we see pictures of the newly formed group being a group, the interview is with the guy and the guy alone, who says an awful lot of shit. wow, what a lot of thoughts he has. must be sharp.

anyway, what i want to focus on is the african influence section of the interview. check:

Pitchfork: You've been influenced by musical styles from Africa, and I wondered if you could speak to what you've listened to and the avenues you took to find it.

DL: To me it started with being into just sort of like, Motown shit, and into some of the earlier James Brown shit. And then there's that Brian Eno essay about the return of these Americanized African music to Africa, in music like Fela Kuti. I guess that's where I began, and I quickly ran through a whole bunch of those Nonesuch and the Okura discs, more like ethnomusicological folk musics.

And there's that book by John Chernoff, African Rhythm and African Sensibility, in the same way that Ian McDonald's Revolution in the Head served as a kind of gateway to me getting into 4-tracking and the recording artifice as something to be into.

Pitchfork: What do you think that influence has brought to your music?

DL: I don't know. I guess it's an ideal for me to take what you love in the same way that you take elements of your life, your personal experiences or whatever, and digest them into something new and incoherent. I like the idea of trying to make what you love unrecognizable. Although Bitte Orca is also sort of about doing the opposite of that.


i've omitted nothing. this is the entire bit of conversation on african anything in the whole stupid interview. seriously, it's as if it's a major influence, only it's not at all, even for a moment, relevant to any of the direct questions asked previously. when the journalist (hehe) asks questions about specific songs, about lyrical phrases, about various creative choices that were made, african music does not come up.

when prompted, however, by the statement "You've been influenced by musical styles from Africa," Mr. Dirty Projector, of course, has an answer loaded up. needless to say, the answer is incomprehensible. he heard some records, read a book, and though he likes the idea of making "what you love unrecognizable", his most recent record is about the opposite of that (this last part is a doozy). a simple listen to his music reveals the dearth of African influences, such as the writer means here. does this guy like african music? probably, but if it's altered his music in any significant way i can't tell. (to my ears it still sounds more Lauper than Farka Toure.)

but there's another aspect to this trend (and it is a trend; i have to hear about "african influences" playing out in all these white as paper bands and i'm like "nigga what? nigga please."): if you listen carefully, most indie rock adheres pretty strictly to the twelve-bar blues. arrangements may be getting out there (dirty projectors). vocal harmonies can be piled on top of one another until the listener gets the impression of depth (animal collective). broadly speaking, though, all of these college educated culture-loving wankers are playing songs that were written by people whose FUCKING GRANDPARENTS WERE FUCKING BORN IN FUCKING AFRICA.

just saying.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

yo

this guy's thesis, broadly speaking, is: "The model for record labels was that the U2s paid for the Hold Steadys, and that's supposed to keep regenerating. But obviously the labels aren't able to do that so well anymore because they're shrinking their rosters." this is true, but he misses what is important, which is that bands like the hold steady were always an awkward fit for the mass media industry. t-pain can sell millions of records; simply put, sleater kinney cannot.

you have to shell out a ton of money before you get a marketable mainstream hip-hop album, while the cost of producing an "indie" record ought to be quite modest. with such records, modest sales should be able to reap modest profits. these profits are way too small for GIGANTIC companies like sony and time warner, which is why i've always found it odd that the big labels want anything to do with indie music in the first place. undeterred, however, labels merged and acquired all sorts of smaller, once independent labels over the last ten years (as was the style in the times). and now they bitch that the hold steady doesn't make enough money.

there's another problem here, one which steve knopper, rather oddly, doesn't mention: there aren't any record stores left (if he expects to find a viable profit model for digital distribution, then he should really give the new york times a call; i hear they've been waiting for one of those for a decade). it's hard to make money off of theft, and bundling your digital product (easily attainable for free all over the internet) with a t-shirt and a concert ticket is a stupid fucking idea. the music is the product, and if you can't sell it, then you can't fucking sell it.

at this point i would say, "figure something else out", but that's not what i believe is going to happen. more importantly, that's not what i think SHOULD happen. the record industry is FUCKED, and that's OK. record industry folk believe, as does knopper, that the purpose of a label is to "develop" new artists, but nothing could be further from the truth. an entire, globe-spanning industry has been built on the profits that are made from the sale of music; all of those salaries (fewer and fewer every year, but still) are paid for by the sale of music. they make the music as much as a supermarket makes soda. the industry develops nothing; its only jobs are promotion and distribution.

but the digital revolution is really a self-promotion revolution, and now that there aren't any record stores left, exactly who are they distributing to? and if they're so goddamn good at developing musicians, why are they all broke?

what profits there are to be had from making and selling music will be paltry -- generally, this has always been true and it will always be true. music may even be such a poor career choice that it might make sense for us to declare ourselves "not-for-profits". shit, my private liberal arts college did that, and they charged 36 grand a year. but whatever the particulars are of whatever future model we can imagine, i would hope only that ALL profits generated by the sale of music return to those who were integrally involved in the creation of that music.

the key word there, of course, is "integrally". edgar bronfman may own dozens of different imprints, he may be very rich, but it's creativity that makes music, not capital.

my advice to decaying labels would be this: if you want to make money selling music, maybe you should write a song or two; i insist, however, that you stop shitting down my throat and calling it cake.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

dear fork

you really need to be more selective with your "best new music" category. for instance, the music nick cave released over 20 years ago isn't "new". the vaselines recorded some music 17 years ago, but if sub-pop is willing to put it out , then sure, it'll be some of the best new music out there.

simply put, any release commemorating that it's been decades since a record's inception simply should not be presented as new, let alone the best of what newness has to offer. if you consider music from the age of thatcher "new", i think you're officially becoming old and lame.

meanwhile, tara jane o'neil has released a new album, and while it does garner three whole paragraphs full of praise (about half the length of the vaselines review), i can't say i'm surprised that the work of a prolific and relevant songwriter is simply not as best (or maybe not as new) as the music nick cave put out while i was breastfeeding.

no disrespect to mr. cave, of course.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

did you know

...that "nightmare on elm street III" and "boogeyman II" are very, very simmilar movies? the former stars a young larry fishburne; while the latter showcases anne from "arrested development" dying at the hands of, yes, the boogeyman. both films are classic "gather some kids and kill all but two of them" stories, both taking place in mental assylums, hellholes where even after half of them are dead, the inmates cannot reach the outside world.

the only difference, aside from two decades of AMERICUH, is that freddy kruger is astonishingly vulgar (pretty chill about calling jailbait horror movie starlets "bitch" and "cunt"); while "boogeyman II" spends much more time graphically destroying the flesh of young hot institutionalized teenagers.

teenage mutilation is HOT -- teenage sexuality is NOT.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

you know, this band makes me think of this band which makes me think -- wait, what's playing?

Art Brut
Hold Steady
Counting Crowes
Bloc Party
Franz Ferdinand
Velvet Underground
Gang of Four
John Darnielle
Jeffery Lewis
Jens Leckman
Los Campesinos!
The Tough Alliance
Nodzzz
Kanye
Jonathan Richman
Frank Black
Coldplay
Brian Eno
U2
Weezer
The Smiths
Death Cab for Cutie
Travis Kooks
Kaiser Chiefs
Razorlight
Iggy Pop
Vampire Weekend
Beatles vs. Stones

ok, what do all of these bands have in common? they are all mentioned in pitchfork's review of the new Art Brut record, "Art Brut v. Satan" which i'm fairly confident will suck just as much as everything they've ever put out.

the record recieves a 7.7 rating, while drawing the critic's attention to no less than 26 bands whose records he isn't reviewing. i've read tepid reviews of tepid records where the critic has actually talked about the music. for, like, the whole thing. imagine that!

in the few parts when he's not dropping names, you kind of wish he would. "It's not irony, it's self-aware sincerity."

"The beautiful people and their sycophants will always outnumber lovable losers. But this is a record I like."

and my personal favorite...: "Not that Satan gives a damn about songs that communicate aspects of everyday life with clarity and human charm."
check it, "human charm". way better for music than "horse charm". even better is the idea that the album "communicates aspects of everyday life"; which aspects are being communicated really doesn't seem to matter. so long as the songs aren't challenging to figure out ("clarity"), and are delivered with the Supreme Ironic Pose of the Decade ("self-aware sincerity").

we are told that Art Brut's 2005 piece of shit full-length "Bang Bang Rock & Roll" is "the closest our decade has come to The Modern Lovers", and i suppose that's meant as praise. putting aside the fact that the album was obviously, stunningly awful, isn't it a little wierd that this guy (Marc Hogan), who seems to like this band very much, can't find much of anything to say about what the record sounds like? all he can talk about are other bands that he likes, and a few that he doesn't. are the sounds on this album really that forgettable? that they receed into the background while making you wish you were listening to iggy pop? IS THAT GOOD?!?!

we are left to assume that Art Brut is now filling the middle ground between the Mountain Goats, Gang of Four, Velvet Underground, U2, and Vampire Weekend. i admit, i've often had mad visions of fusing all of those styles together, but it's kind of like that scene in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, where the fat guy orders the whole menu. the waiter asks, "would you like each dish individually, or mixed up in a bucket?"

Friday, April 17, 2009

just LOOK at this asshole

i stopped writing here precisely because i didn't want to sound like this asshole. now, i think people who use "twitter" are fucking retarted. my anti-technology streak is so strong now that i struggle to stop myself from knocking perfect strangers' phones out of their hands, while they check their screens to look at a map which can show them EXACTLY WHERE THEY ARE!!!
William Bowers, over at the pitched fork, feels the same way. but he can't just say as much. he has to use a lot of space to make clear how sincere his luddite pose really is.
"You want gauche? I got no game console. I got no cell phone. I've never been in an American Apparel store, despite their advertising's relentless, almost artless ass-baiting. You want archaica? I still read books. In a rocking chair. On a porch." to which my response is: (1) who gives a fuck you miserably self-involved piece of shit?! you have a rocking chair? and a porch? you read BOOKS? and here i was thinking hundreds of millions of americans read books in chairs every single fucking day. (2) so you refuse to buy american apparel, bully for you. but short of a full-on consumer boycott, you're essentially doing their market research for them (i.e. since you've given no particular reason to avoid the company aside from your general disposition, and since you've indicated no opposition to "buying stuff" per se, the only conclusion to be drawn is that the brand doesn't resonate with you).
he also, of course, needs to anticipate his reader's reaction and pre-empt it with a subtle blend of self-mockery and masturbatory reference-dropping (no quotes necessary; follow the link if you don't already know exactly what this sounds like.)
among many other objections (the fact that a pitchfork writer is bemoaning our culture's deteriorating attention span is one; the fact that, "It champions impulsive utterance at the same time that it highlights the disposability of that utterance. It reduces communication to the parameters of an advertisement. Make your pitch, bark your slogan, get out," is written about twitter and not about pitchfork would be another), i'd like to point out that the word "populist" has been sucked dry of any meaning whatsoever.
consider: "It is a lot more populist and I think that can be attributed to Twitter's significantly larger userbase. Everyone from teenage Hannah Montana fans to Rachmaninov-loving college professors are on Twitter. So you get a pretty interesting diversity between the songs typically tweeted about." in this quote, from an unnamed executive at a private company, people who are too poor to afford computers simply don't exist. "everyone... are [sic] on twitter."
but many of us make exactly this mistake: technology that costs a hell of a lot of money to access is "democratizing". the ability for people with cell phones and computers to communicate with other people who have cell phones and computers -- of course that means "everyone can talk to everyone." who else is there?
with all the references that William Bowers tosses into the mix (bon iver, kubrick, voltaire, emily dickensen... you get the point, motherfucker's been to school and back), almost none of them seem to have any relevance to his argument, whatever that might be. they are, at best, tangentially related to tangents. so, i'm gonna suggest one, that could have saved the author a lot of mental gymnastics. (something tells me, however, that the gymnastics are precisely what he enjoys, in which case, has he tried twitter?)
a simple line from thoreau, which could really substitute for the entire article and still have more resonance: "can it be, perhaps, that massachusets and texas have nothing to talk about?"

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Art of Nit-picking

In Pitchfork/Nate Patrin's nice little ode to Paul's Boutique, Nate managed to slip this little gem into the article whilst describing lyrics:

They were still happily at home affecting low-class behaviors: hucking eggs at people on "Egg Man"; going on cross-country crime sprees on "High Plains Drifter"; smackin' girlies on the booty with something called a "plank bee" in "Car Thief";


Do you know what a "plank bee" is? Neither do I. Because there is no such thing as a plank bee.

The line should read as: "I smacked her in the booty with a plank, b."

Bee should read as short for "boy." Why this bothers me so much I know not. It just seems so logical, so part of familiar slang. It's not a silly make-up word. It's a known rap colloquialism that shouldn't be hard to decipher by someone who spent half the article glamorizing the Golden Age of hip-hop.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

bragging rights

the other day, hours before the super bowl, i predicted that edgerin james needed four yards per carry for the cardinals to win.

i humbly submit, dear reader, that i was absolutely right. if james could've been counted on for a few yards, then the cards don't pass the ball so predictably on short yardage in the red zone, thus no interception, thus a four point arizona lead at the half. a whole different wax of ball.

kurt warner had god on his side, and it showed. unfortunately, it was the defensive co-ordinator, not god, who put the cardinals in a cover 2 in the end zone.

i submit to you that you should listen to me any time i tell you what the x-factor is going to be.

as for my beloved knicks, i fear their x-factor is not letting a guy put up 60 on their home court. stiff upper lip!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

a little stuff you might want to skip

one of the reasons why i've lost interest in blogging about music critics in the past is that i don't only care about music critics. politically, i'm something of an alarmist, which can get frustrating, because in polite company (really, any company) i've learned to shut my mouth, because people hate it when you talk about politics (unless you're talking about elections). since there are no people on the internet -- just ghosts -- i've decided to let off some steam over here.

the ongoing struggle in my one-time home of oakland is heating up again. on new year's eve, a BART police shot an unarmed black man as he was subdued, face-down on a subway platform. several transit riders made cell-phone videos of the execution, and this set off a string of protests which turned violent several weeks back.

this is, so far, a milder version of riots we've seen before in this country (los angeles, newark). they tend to involve what usually ends up being called "senseless violence". in truth, it only takes a bit of examination to see otherwise. young black men attack commercial real estate (i.e. the prevailing social order) in response to an especially heinous state action, which only confirms and amplifies a belief that urban youths of many races share, namely that they are VICTIMS of the prevailing social order. just because the actions aren't really constructive doesn't mean that they aren't logical. indeed, what use is being constructive when you are essentially redundant to the structure itself?

here is a link to today's san francisco chronicle story about today's protests. what i would like to draw attention to is the comments, about a third of which have been deleted by the editors.

some samples:

"90% of these 'Bad cop' shootings could be avoided. Take a lesson...just follow the 2 simple rules!! Its so easy, even a fool can do it!!! Rule 1: Do exactly as you are told to do when confronted by the Police. Rule 2: Do as Rule 1 sez, otherwise you may be shot!!! Re-read it if the words are too big or difficult. ......Idiots......." (this comment, as of this moment, has 35 thumbs up, and 7 thumbs down from other readers)

three comments later: "Oscar Grant did exactly as he was told by the police, and he got shot in the back." (six thumbs up, forty four thumbs down)

"50 people blocking Broadway and chanting meaningless slogans like 'no justice, no peace,' and mugging for the cameras -- which is exactly what I saw these brainless jackasses doing from my office window -- doesn't accomplish anything, either. Except make an already broke city go even further in the hole with police overtime." (fifty three thumbs up, four thumbs down; in which the poorest people in the city are held responsible for THE MONEY IT COSTS TO OPRESS THEM!!!!!)

"'be arrested for unlawful assembly'.....how can this be? Is there no freedom to assemble in the USA? No freedom to demonstrate?" (twelve thumbs up, thirty three thumbs down.)

what gets me down is that this is happening in the bay area. i assure you that each and every author quoted above (not to mention all those thumbs) voted for obama. yet even in oakland, the oppressed becomes the criminal; the state, the victim.

a young student is tased by campus police for the act of asking a disagreeable question of john kerry, and the desperate yelp he manages to get out between massive electric shocks ("don't tase me, bro") becomes a national punchline. the banking industry literally steals $700 billion from the treasury, and the newspaper blames "low-income borrowers" who defaulted on their criminally structured mortgages.

california prisons house over 750,000 inmates (roughly the population of wyoming). this didn't happen overnight. it's taken thirty years of draconian federal and state law enforcement to get our nation where we are today. (one in every nine black men between the age of 18-29 is currently serving time in prison).

understand, i do not support violence. i don't think armed young men roaming the streets looking for something to destroy is a good thing -- indeed, that's precisely why i feel the way i do. if you're going to wage a war against this nation's urban poor (a popular way to do so at the moment is to vote democrat), you really shouldn't act surprised when your adversary strikes back (and you should thank your caucasian god for how peaceful such responses usually are).

i promise to do this, at most, once a month. apologies.

ladies and germs.... the grammys

i think the last time i noticed the grammys, i was happy to see soul asylum getting the respect they deserved (they were a much better new artist than SWV). obviously, a lot's changed since then. silverchair couldn't find the staying power that we were promised, the internet stopped being called "the information superhighway", and kurt cobain never rose from the dead. the grammys, though, are forever.

looking through this year's nominations , what catches my eye first is that snoop dogg's "sexual eruption" is nominated for best rap song, which is fantastic.

did you know that beck and radiohead, two of the biggest white names in music the world over, are still making "alternative" albums. that's right. beck, the scientologist, and radiohead, captains of the penthouse underground. other nominees in the best alternative album category are: death cab for cutie, gnarles barkley, and my morning jacket. so "alternative", a word they only invented because some asshole didn't want to call pearl jam "a rock band", is now completely devoid of meaning, or even recognizable traits. i mean, gnarles barkley and my morning jacket ARE IN THE SAME CATEGORY!!!

best electronic/dance album: moby, robyn, kylie minogue, cyndi lauper, brazilian girls, and daft punk (nominated for their live album with no new material). that, reader, is as stale a list as you will ever find. extraordinary that this group of mccain voters (most of these artist reached fame before lebron james hit a growth spurt) are representing the most overcrowded genre this side of rap.

some fun tidbits: judas priest gets a not for best metal song. hope somebody from the industry's buying the plane tickets. boyz II men aparently put out an album last year, and it was good enough to get a nomination. danger mouse, nigel goodrich, and will.i.am go head to head to head for "producer of the year".

what's important to understand is that the record industry was going broke BEFORE the economy contracted 40%. itunes has kept the labels afloat for the last couple years, and the explosion of "20th aniversary" releases and record label retrospectives has kept a older demographic in the fold (the one that has memories of buying records frequently). but the RIAA's gala-throwing days are numbered. this is reflected in the desperate attempt to draw attention to coldplay and lil wayne.

the big labels used to produce dozens of "viva la vida"s every year. rap music still sells pretty well ("the carter III" was a good old fashioned success, selling one million copies in its first week). but the industry has already past its very own "hubbert's peak"; it's tough to imagine a future in which record sales would trend upward. when the distribution mechanism implodes, the industry fails. simple as that.

did james taylor give the best pop performance of the year, or was it the eagles? neil young, eddie vedder, bruce springsteen, paul mccartney, and john mayer should probably be thrown into some sort of battle royale, but instead they're all nominated for "best solo rock vocal performance". are the voters so astoundingly tasteless that they'd actually reward kid rock for his crap-epic "rock and roll jesus"? what size sunglasses will kanye west wear?

hard to think of anyone who cares. the world has bigger fish to fry at the moment. fish such as: edgerin james is the fucking key. if he can average more than 4 per carry, pitsburgh's secondary will open up just enough for kurt warner to CHRIST his way to the hall of fame.

Friday, January 30, 2009

major labels and indie labels and why they're the same fucking thing

want to see something funny? read this.

it's a badass article about how badass the fleet foxes guy is because he's squashing a rumor that his stupid crappy band is signing with virgin. he says, "Fleet Foxes will never, ever, under no circumstances, from now until the world chokes on gas fumes, sign to a major label. This includes all subsidiaries or permutations thereunder. Till we die." pretty bold.

why not major labels? "I just don't see the point. Most major labels seem anti-music." pretty firm. it lacks an attention to detail that many arguments possess, but who am i to pick nits?

at the beginning of the article, pitchfork newsman Tom Breihan talks about how many records they've sold. 180,000 by early january, 211,000 to date. these are pretty impressive figures for an "indie" record, especially one put out by a guy who so vehemently opposes the chokehold that major record labels have on the music business.

trouble is... subpop, the "indie" label to which fleet foxes are signed, is owned (49%) by warner music. if you'll recall my previous post whining about fleet foxes, you'll recall that warner music is a subsidiary of raytheon industries, one of the largest weapons manufacturers we've got.

so an indie band, signed to an indie label, owned my a major label, owned by a weapons manufacturer, won't sign to a major label "until the world chokes on gas fumes." this fucking country.

incidentally, why is it ok to go on saturday night live but not ok to sign to a major label? could it be because robin pecknold is an idiot?

Friday, January 16, 2009

fleet foxes ----> SNL

a good many years ago, godspeed you! black emperor put this on the back of their album 'yanqui uxo'.

the flow chart shows that every major record label is a subsidiary of a weapons manufacturer. they were roundly mocked for being naive. the point they were trying to make wasn't that military contractors are force-feeding us pro-war music in a nefarious effort to accomplish... something. the point was, simply, that major record labels are amoral, joined at the hip to an industry of mass death; companies have no values, and as a musician, you can do better than to let them be the ones who feed you.

this is "naive" because survival is the ethic of any musician, and only in movies do people turn away money because of principle. cut to present day:

fleet foxes, the hottest shit in the universe for the moment, will be performing on saturday night live this weekend. usually it takes a while for a "cool" band to end up on SNL. (modest mouse weren't allowed on until they wrote "float on".) even more usually, saturday night live's stage plays host to ashlee simpson, justin timberlake, perhaps mudvayne.

last winter, vampire weekend played SNL mere months after their album was released. now it's fleet foxes' turn. NBC is owned by GE, the third largest military contractor in the history of the world. what's my point?

bringing it back to godspeed, they would never be invited to play saturday night live, nor would they be likely to accept such an invitation, were it ever to be extended. is this because they are better people? no. it's because they are better artists.

if GE doesn't mind pimping your music, you're probably playing something the suburban dads of this country can get behind. i, for one, believe this means you suck, out of hand. fleet foxes suck. vampire weekend sucks. (glad i got that out there)

when i was working in a record store in san francisco, we had one section called "indie" and another called "rock". a co-worker tried to move vampire weekend from the former to the latter, since the promotions blitz our employer was engaging in cast serious doubt on the independence of vampire weekend's operation. (story continues in next paragraph)

did you know that record labels send assholes around to record stores in order to make sure that their shit is being pushed with appropriate enthusiasm? they do. it turns out, vampire weekend was in the "indie" section because of a financial arrangement between my record store and their distributors. ain't that a kick in the teeth?

long story short, "indie" bands who get put on saturday night live to promote their debut record are not "indie". they are "corporate", like "christina" aguilera.

Friday, January 9, 2009

something on the internet has bothered me

these days, your average pitchfork review ends with a link to the relevant group(s) myspace page. it's nice of them to do this. for instance, a band called "lemonade" has just had their self-titled (debut?) record reviewed. the album gets an 8.3 and is "[recommended]". aside from saying that one song goes on too long, there isn't a single negative word about the record, which must make that song pretty fucking long.

but i digress (frequently). what's important is: it's another douchebag indie dance record. after my last post, in which i asked what's so damn special about yet another kind of electronic folk/pop, the experience of listening to lemonade's myspace songs presents an almost spooky parallel. another group of white kids makes another record that recalls the eighties. the songs aren't terrible. to me, though, they aren't even particularly memorable. i've heard so many fucking indie dance records that i can no longer tell one from the other.

noentheless, pitchfork sees lots that i don't. it would seem that the songs are "rife with rhythmic density and intensity." the band employs a "muscular, aggressive approach to dance music." one song has "a pounding 4/4 beat that would go over both in Williamsburg warehouse parties and Dubai super clubs." (does the spectrum you've just been given leave you any hints as to which social class is being marketed to?)

my point, again, is: so the fuck what? they've rejuvinated 80's dance music? again??? but -- WHY?

if what you want is an enless march of "muscular, aggressive" dance music "rife with rhythmic density," [DENSITY?] you've certainly had your desires met in the last decade. you were a pig in shit in '04. but for the rest of us (those of us who don't see the point in rehashing genres that have already been resurrected, co-opted, and pastiched all over again), these cracker-ass indie dance bands are getting rather tiresome.

what's the appeal? why does this shit continue sticking to the wall? i have a theory.

reviewer sez: "As the [final] track fades, it's overcome by a chorus of sampled voices all uttering the same statement: 'we're all having a good time.' Given Clendenin's cryptic, fragmented approach to singing, you can't fault Lemonade for using these dying seconds to state the obvious." after hearing the song in question, the line is clearly an ostentatious attempt at irony, which seems to be entirely lost on the critic. regardless, this is what music means to these people. they want their bands to have a good time, they want to be reminded of good times they temselves had in high school, they want simply to forget that the last twenty years even happened.

what better way to escape the desolate creative landscape that corporate media has fashioned for this american generation? the critic wants to hear that record that reminds him of his first blowjob -- a simpler time, before critics and the internet destroyed american cool music with their solipsism.

Monday, January 5, 2009

still fussin

been a while. anybody there? perfect.

animal collective has a new album coming out, and i've just today had the opportunity to read a review a full two weeks before i can buy the cd in a store. talk about anointed! (PITCHFORK: the day after your winter break, you reviewed an album that isn't out yet, some label's 25th aniversary box set, the current project of some beta band refugees, an "english indie-dance trio", and ludacris. what the fuck? the only unfamiliar band is another fucking indie-dance trio. why does pitchfork hate our freedom?)

but look, i wanted to rant about the animal collective review before i had a chance to hear the album, which i'm confident will be at least passable. that's not the point. i wanted to examine the praise it received, in isolation. this is a dumb thing to do, but nobody's reading, so you know.

to start, animal collective get praise for the "open-ended ideas about what their music might 'mean.'" i don't know why "mean" gets its own quotation marks; it could signify a number of things that render the sentence "meaningless". more importantly, though, the open-ended meaning thing is great for critics, who can write eight full paragraphs (a relative epic in the pitchfork decade) about why this album is the tits.

moving on, "Since their inception, Animal Collective have wandered the territorial edges of music, scoping out where boundaries had been erected and looking beyond them." check it: "looking beyond them". as in, "oh hey, what a great view we have from this boundary. that stuff out there sure looks interesting."

at the end of paragraph two, the bomb is dropped. the album is "the result of all their explorations pieced together to create something accessible and complete." accessible and complete. complete and accessible. these words are telltale signs that you're truly tickling the critics aural prostate. but what on earth does "accessible" mean? it allows you to access it? like a museum? other music is inaccessible? like an underwater cave?

an early nominee for turn-of-phrase-of-2009: panda bear is praised for his "his fuzzy, head-in-the-clouds dreaminess." if that isn't the perfect embodiment of everything pitchfork's thrown at me for as long as i can remember, i don't know what is.

on and on... "a towering edifice of sound"... "from one chanted melodic nugget to the next before building to a huge swirl of psychedelic sound"... "ego-pulverizing bliss of shoegaze"... "brings to mind altered states and the confusing gap between the familiar and the strange" [confusing to whom, sir?]... "the words seem like a running commentary on the essential mystery of being alive". hubba hubba!

look, animal collective's not so bad. they've had their moments, and even an album or two. but jesus christ, i'm sick of this shit: "What they've constructed here is a new kind of electronic pop." well bully for them, but how many new kinds of electronic pop do we need? it's like buying shampoo at duane reade. WHY ARE THERE 800 DIFFERENT KINDS OF SHAMPOO!?

good to be back.