Saturday, December 5, 2009

You Should Be Here: Raphael Saadiq, Terminal 5, NYC, 12.4.09

Top ten personal epiphanies that occurred during last night's show (in no particular order):

10. This performance is the closest thing to a Motown revue I will ever witness, Cholly Atkins' routines, in the pocket drumming and immaculate salmon colored suits included

9. The subtle subconscious ramifications of an outfit change cannot be ignored, especially if said salmon colored suit is involved

8. Raphael Saadiq may just have a 100% flawless career, starting with his tenure playing bass for Prince and Sheila E. at the age of 17

7. I have not felt this hormonally jubilant since a Tyrese show at the Chicago House of Blues circa 1998

6. 43 is the new 23

5. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is sexier than rolled up shirt sleeves*

4. Fashion glasses don't bother me if they are replicas of David Ruffin's

3. I still wish Lucy Pearl would reunite

2. After all these years, "Anniversary" still makes my heart flutter

1. I don't care how many times I hear the line "I got more than just a big stick and some money" I still believe it is pure poetry

*with the exception of the shirt sleeves being pushed up in order to better play a bass, and play it well. Very well.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Idolator Takes Another Turn

Our favorite music blogger Maura has been ousted by parent company Buzznet, replaced at Idolator by two new writers who I will not try to be too hard on. Daily Swarm has all the details, and you can read Maura's goodbye post here.

From the looks of it, a high quality music blog has been replaced by yet another completely mediocre music blog. Too bad. Not a huge surprise--the blog has been bought and sold and had its staff cut a number of times since its inception. We'll keep an eye out for where Maura takes her music writing after this.

Meet Idolator's New Editors [daily swarm]
It's Time (For Me) To Say Goodbye [idolator]

Monday, November 9, 2009

Amerie's In Love & War: Womp & Womp

Oh, Amerie. I waited for this. I was excited. I thought, and reasonably so, that this new album would be a continuation of Because I Love It, your best, and most elusive release (it didn't even drop in the States and was basically unreleased elsewhere since there was no press or promo done for it). I assumed it would be filled with all the things that make me love you so much: blaring horns, songs that Beyoncé probably should have done in 2003, a sassy exuberance that can really only come from a person when they genuinely love the music they are making (have you heard the unrelenting joy she exudes on Because I Love It's Sam and Dave sampling jam "Gotta Work"? Fucking contagious) and a kind of underdog mentality that stems from the fact that she never really became a public favorite. But no.

Maybe it was the move to Def Jam. Maybe it was the reuniting with longtime producer Rich Harrison, who helped define her sound but was absent from her last album, and apparently for the best. Or maybe, in an effort to effectively recycle elements of Because, she managed to dilute its essence into an album that only offers two stand out tracks (lead single "Why R U" and the stellar "More Than Love" which has her and Fabulous beefing over a lush and punchy Kool and the Gang riff).

The first half is upbeat and sort of a lazy version of what it should be, while the second half is syrupy and very I Am Sasha Fierce. Did people at her new label tell her to go more mainstream? To tone down the raw funk and soul that defined her style of R&B? To essentially, dumb it down? Because what we are left with here is an album that doesn't sound at all like Amerie. Redoing Mint Condition's "Pretty Brown Eyes" with Trey Songz? Employing the use of Lil' Wayne? Synth lines? Power ballads? What the fuck. Even the cover art is uninspired.

I'm going to go listen to "1 Thing" on repeat.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ghostface Stories

Last year we showed you this for Halloween. This year, something even better, courtesy of Jimmy Kimmel via the Daily Swarm. I present to you: Ghost Stories with Ghostface Killah.

So, that makes about as much sense as I expected. Shout to Midget Kiss.

WATCH: Ghost Stories with Ghostface Killah [daily swarm]

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Retire for Real: The Trouble with Jay-Z

jay-z-glastonbury.jpgJay-Z said this to NYMag's Vulture blog on the subject of his "Death of Autotune" song:

I really just wanted to send a message to rap; I didn’t know it’d be a cultural dispute. I really wanted to have the conversation, like “are we just going to sound like each other? Everyone’s going to sound the same? That’s what we’re gonna do? Don’t ya’ll know this is dangerous? And this is just how rock and roll got pushed from the forefront?” We did this to rock and roll. Everyone was doing the hair-band thing on MTV with the tight pants. They all had the big hair, just different colored tights. It just became about more of a look and a sound than the emotion of the music. And that’s what hip-hop’s becoming. It’s losing the emotion — you can’t have emotion in the robotic voice. I can’t feel anything! And then everyone sounds the same. I really wanted to have the conversation amongst us. And it went outside the culture.

Jay? You can't have it both ways. Blueprint 3--the album you seem to think really broke free of the hip hop pack--would be the most tired thing you've released to date, had you not also released Kingdom Come and American Gangster. And it's not exactly high on emotional expression. Your words and your actions are completely at odds with one another. It's going to take a LOT more than eschewing heavy autotune use in order to breathe life back into hip hop. Maybe you gave a damn about the music contained on BP3, but it certainly didn't sound like it. Sure, "Empire State of Mind" is a pretty good track, but it doesn't sound like anything that couldn't have come out in 2003 (and while we're on the subject, it would have been among the weakest tracks you did release in that year). If you want to keep making music this boring, that's fine. You're way past the Three Classic Album Rule. But please, stop acting like you're here to save us.

Now, if you've read this blog before, you might know a bit about my feelings on the state of hip hop: that it's tired, it's boring, it's just one stop short of dead. Everyone's afraid to try something new, and any feeble attempt to do so gets so chopped up by meddling hands that it ends up a sad neutered excuse for a record. And that's just for the artists who care, which most of them don't seem to. Call me cranky, but I defy you to come up with a compelling argument to the contrary. The best I can do these days seems to be Kid Cudi, and again, that record came out completely lopsided (I still like it a lot more than anything on BP3).

The only silver lining that I could possibly conceive of here is right in line with Jay-Z's rock music/hair metal analogy: the revitalization that rock music saw in the days during and after the hair metal craze was a direct result of said craze; four kids in Forest Hills needed to be bored to death by rock radio before they could bring it back to life as The Ramones (and that's just one example). So here's hoping that Jay can move along the utter stagnation of hip hop to the point that some kid, somewhere, gets fed up and does something completely insane, original, interesting, vital, and fun. Or any of the above. If they're out there and you know it, let me know where I can hear it in the comments.

Jay-Z on DJ Hero, 'D.O.A.,' and His Future Career As a Bar Mitzvah Performer [vulture blog]

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

That Really Was It: Michael Jackson's THIS IS IT

A lot has been said about Michael Jackson's THIS IS IT: Father of the year Joe Jackson claims that body doubles were used, his sister LaToya says that Michael would be horrified by the film's release; as a perfectionist, he wouldn't want fans to see him not giving his all, even in a rehearsal. Expectations were high for fans, especially for those who were supposed to see the concert, and many critics were skeptical. After all, Jackson needed this money. These dates were a way to help with his monstrous debt. And since he is one of the most beloved performers of all time, it would be easy, and not surprising at all, for him to simply phone in 50 shows and leave at least a few people satisfied, just happy to catch a glimpse of his former glory.

Well, after seeing the premiering 11:55pm show in Brooklyn last night with my brother, I can tell you this: The King of Pop still had a little fight left in him.

To be honest, I bought these tickets the day they were released a month ago in the hopes that the film would shed some subversive light on his health pre-death. Maybe unintentionally show Michael in a Demerol induced haze, stumbling through rehearsals. Perhaps prove to the world that he was in absolutely no condition to fulfill those 50 planned dates at the O2 arena in London anyway. I am not particularly proud of my initial interest in the documentary, but like most people, I am not completely immune to scandal consciously and unconsciously forming my opinions of someone I have never even met. I was looking for sensationalism. I will admit that. I was looking for a few bittersweet laughs at a fallen legend's expense. I will admit that too. But I got the complete opposite. And I am impressed.

This wasn't funny. Or fucked up. It wasn't even sad, in a pathetic sense or otherwise. Parts of it dripped with melodrama, but that was no surprise, his tastes often lead to that. Really, it was just fascinating. It basically was a run through of the concert that never was, about almost 2 hours of him just planning, singing, dancing and rehearsing his way through the elaborate set. There were explosions, a Swarovski embellished "Billie Jean" costume partially developed by scientists in the Netherlands, that was so bright you needed sunglasses to see it up close (not joking), aerialists hanging from chandeliers, the world's luckiest dancers (one of the best scenes was footage from the auditions held for back up dancers, all of them crying with joy at the prospect of dancing not with, but for the King), amazing musicianship (his female guitarist was particularly excellent, and the band was fantastic) and tons of insane footage that was meant to be projected over the stage for pretty much each song, basically serving as mini music videos, even though the majority of said songs already have pretty amazing music videos to begin with (the "Thriller" one, although filled with great makeup, costumes and special effects, was no match for John Landis' original and the video footage for "Earth Song" had me checking the time a lot).

It started with "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" and ended with "Man in the Mirror," and in between there was a Jackson 5 medley (complete with an exact replica of The Jackson 5 Show set, which was my favorite part), a reinterpretation of Gilda set to "Smooth Criminal" which via green screen had Jackson spliced into the night club setting with Rita Hayworth, a Chicago-esque performance of "The Way You Make Me Feel," and the whole time, Michael's immaculate attention to detail. Whether he was schooling (soft spokenly and politely of course) his musical director for not playing the EXACT key used on the original "The Way You Make Me Feel" record for the intro of the song, chastising his band for not letting the bass "simmer" enough, or stopping a number because the mix sounded like a "fist was being pushed through" his ear, he was completely at the helm. His voice, is still phenomenal, even if he wasn't going full throttle on each song (although he did a lot and during his duet with back up singer Judith on "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" he got carried away in the moment and really let loose, quite beautifully, and then told her teasingly it was "OK for you to do that, but I need to conserve MY voice").

Joe Jackson, once again, can die in a fire; those were 110% Jackson's moves, start to finish. He didn't miss a beat, he just moved a few seconds slower than normal, partially because it was rehearsal and a lot of sound check stuff, and of course partially due to health, but nevertheless: he not only kept up with his lithe dancers, he led them. This was no walk through. He jumped around, threw himself on the ground, crotch grabbed, air humped, moonwalked, "Thrillered," Jackson 5 "rolled" (you know, the classic hand/arm roll the boys did all in a line with the two-step) and maintained great measure in his singing the whole time. He made perfect sense every time he spoke, even if he used ridiculous metaphors and passively aggressively told everyone when they messed up that he was correcting them with "L-O-V-E" and even though he seemed exhausted, was shockingly alert.

I have always said that Michael, even as a child, looked the most comfortable while singing and dancing. All other times, he seemed uncomfortable in his later giant and skeletal frame, nervously waving, shyly smiling. This film solidified that. His element, is performing. Watching him lead rehearsals was like watching someone come back to life. I wasn't even paying attention to his looks; they didn't matter. His hair, his skin, his nose, none of those heavily criticized things were an issue. I mean, I am no fool. I know they showed the best days of rehearsals. I know things were edited, heavily. I know he wasn't always that lucid. But I also know what I saw and I know that I would have loved to see the final outcome. There was no scandal. No gossip. No circus show (other than the one on stage). No law suits. Just a legend who quietly was building his swan song, proving that even though his records weren't what they once were, his natural gift for entertaining, immaculately and joyously, had never left.

Monday, October 26, 2009


One of our favorite blogs is Idolator. They consistently bring thought provoking commentary to some of the most ridiculous happenings in the world of popular and independent music, and for that, we thank them.

Currently, they're counting down the fifty worst songs of the '00s. It's a dirty job, but... well, actually no one had to do it but I'm glad the Idolator crew has taken to it. Because it gives us great harsh lines like the following:

This is a “collaboration” like leprosy is a collaboration with your skin, with Wu-Tang’s involvement little more than their collecting royalties on a copy of Wu-Tang Forever some kid probably sold to a CD Warehouse in 1998. So basically you have 30 seconds of a Wu-Tang record you already own, a full-on pause, and then a really fucking loud Ozzy and Tony Iommi playing a completely dogshit moronic chorus. And then the Wu record again, but really quietly and sadly just playing by itself with an out-of-tune Cypress Hill noises on top of it. Loud rocks!

Doesn't matter what song they're talking about (it's some kind of horrible Ozzy/Wu-Tang collabo), but these are still worth a read.

F2K: Idolator Counts Down The 50 Worst Songs Of The ’00s, One By Ear-Splitting One [idolator]

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Some New Stuff I've Been Listening To: Avetts, Hawthorne, Perkins, Cash

The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You
This LP, the 5th one from the Avetts, is their major label debut, produced by Rick Mothafuckin Rubin. It is the band's most concise album; it doesn't have the sometime meandering quality of the others. Unfortunately, it is also the most boring of their albums. There are a few winners on here, but nothing comes close to the high points of Emotionalism or Mignonette. Good thing that these guys easily get the three album rule seal of approval, so they could decide that they were a Taylor Swift cover band and I'd give them a pass.* Key tracks: "Head Full Of Doubt/Road Full Of Promise," "Kick Drum Heart," "Slight Figure of Speech"

Mayer Hawthorne - A Strange Arrangement
This debut release on Stones Throw from Ann Arbor's Mayer Hawthorne is a short, smart, and masterfully crafted tribute to the Motown sound. Like Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Hawthorne specializes in what I'd call period soul, but instead of the James Brown/Aretha Franklin vibe that the Dap Kings put forward, Hawthorne is a pitch-perfect Motown replica. Vocal cues come from Smokey Robinson's falsetto, while the songwriting takes a page from the Holland-Dozier-Holland songbook. Key tracks: "Your Easy Lovin Ain't Pleasin Nothin," "The Ills," "Maybe So, Maybe No," "One Track Mind"

Dudley Perkins - Holy Smokes
This is one of the craziest things I've ever listened to, in any genre. Perkins is an emcee who takes his cues (and samples) from psychedelic soul. Could've swore on listening to this that it's a Madlib production from Stones Throw, but the whole thing was produced by Georgia Anne Muldrow (who has a new album out as well) and is released by Koch. But regardless, if you're into Madlib's brand of trippy hip hop, this is something you should cop (and for what it's worth, Perkins and the Stones Throw label have worked together in the past). Key tracks: "Uncle Ruckus," "Funky Soul," "E&R"

Roseanne Cash - The List
I'm an unabashed fan of the genre I like to call Father's Day music. These are albums that your dad will probably love, and they top the charts around Father's Day. Note that they don't need to be released around Father's Day for the phenomenon to occur; usually these are slow growers in terms of sales, so they need a good six months lead off. They always win Grammys. O Brother Where Art Though, Steely Dan, the Alison Krauss/Jimmy Page record Raising Sand, these are all classic Father's Day albums and artists. T-Bone Burnett is the unchallenged king of the genre, though he's usually behind the scenes. Well, this year my dad is getting a copy of The List for Father's Day. The story goes that Johnny Cash gave his daughter Roseanne Cash a list of the 100 essential songs that she had to know when she was in her early twenties (apparently, girl didn't know jack about country and blues). This album consists of covers of a dozen songs from the list, from traditionals to Merle Haggard, Hank Snow, Bob Dylan and others. A solid album of covers with guest appearances by Bruce Springsteen, Rufus Wainwright, Elvis Costello and Jeff Tweedy. Key tracks: "Miss the Mississippi and You," "Girl From the North Country" (I love that Johnny Cash included the one Dylan song that he duetted on in his list), "She's Got You"

*Not gonna lie, I'd actually be all about this.

The Avett Brothers' I and Love and You [amazon mp3]
The Avett Brothers' back catalog [emusic]
Mayer Hawthorne's A Strange Arrangement [emusic]
Dudley Perkins' Holy Smokes [emusic]
Roseanne Cash's The List [amazon mp3]

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Most! The Best! The Greatest! Forever!: Mixes by Cryptacize

Soon after the release of their fantastic 2006 album Calamity, San Francisco band The Curtains went and did a stupid thing. They broke up. Well, that might be a little misleading, since the "band" was essentially just Chris Cohen, a former Deerhoof guitarist who wrote, performed and recorded the album almost entirely on his own. Luckily, Cohen continues to write similarly minimal, challenging pop music as a member of Cryptacize, which also includes guitarist/vocalist Nedelle Torrisi, who lent her voice on a couple of Calamity tracks, and toured with The Curtains in support of that record. Though it's hard for me not to compare Cryptacize's two albums-- 2008's Dig That Treasure and 2009's Mythomania-- to Calamity, and to feel that they don't quite measure up to the excitement and singularity of that earlier album, that's a bit unfair, seeing as Calamity is easily one of my top five records of the last decade, if not ever. In fact, I actually think Cryptacize has put out two quite-good albums, and has forged a unique sound that melds elements of Ennio Morricone's 60s western soundtracks (Mythomania's "I'll Take the Long Way"), stage musicals (Dig That Treasure's title track), and melody-heavy children's music (Dig That Treaure's stand-out tune, "Cosmic Sing-A-Long") into a compelling and engaging new form.

It's this combination of disparate influences in Cryptacize's music that makes the mixes up on their blog so enjoyable and illuminating. On February 16th of this year, Cohen posted his first mix-- there are now five-- with the note:
since finishing our album Mythomania, I've been rediscovering listening to music for pleasure! as everyone knows, there is so much music available everywhere and for free. it's like a dream come true to me - anything I ever want to hear. well anyway, I'm going to make a bunch of mixes - and here's the first one.
And with that, Cohen gives us a 60-minute compilation that's as eclectic and exciting as any you'll ever hear. It starts with a swaggering blues/gospel number from post-war vocalist/guitarist Arbee Stidham, featuring an ecstatic organ line and Stidham's booming baritone. The next track, from a 2005 album by avant-punk group The Howling Hex, explodes with a wonderfully simple, distorted guitar lick that repeats for the entirety of the 3:30 minute song, underneath alternating male/female vocals. Then we have an experimental Moog composition, which shows up in iTunes with the title "Pixillation (schwartz, bell labs, 1971)", followed by a track from a J.A. Adofo & City Boys International, who describe as "Ghanaian highlife from the 70s and 80s". And the eclecticism never lets up from there. Each of the five mixes has it's own vibe, but all of them will have you thinking "that was great, who was that?" Occasionally the songs can tend toward a more experimental bent, but for the most part the music is accessible, and the majority of the more challenging songs are still palatable and rewarding upon repeated listens. Though there are a few recognizable names sprinkled throughout the mixes-- Les Paul, The Ronettes, Nina Simone, Queen, T. Rex--the vast majority are, to me, unknown treats. Ann Peebles' "Make Me Yours," from Mix #2, is one of the catchiest and most energizing songs that I've ever heard, while the song that opens that mix, "Motherless Child," sends chills down my spine.

Although you don't have to know Cryptacize to enjoy these compilations, it's definitely interesting to hear how each of the tracks is influential on the band's style-- the instrumentation of Tom Zé, the raw energy and simplicity of The Troggs, or the vivid, dreamlike imagery of Richard Harris' "Watermark". And to top it all off, Cohen has created a great series of "covers" for each of the compilations, all employing the same visual style of colorized, distorted photography, and a consistent typographic treatment: the text is uniformly Helvetica, with titles in quotes, all caps and italicized, and the remaining text in all lowercase. Though the covers aren't completely necessary-- most of the songs display their own album artwork in iTunes anyway-- their existence adds to the feeling of curation and care that has gone into the selection of each mix, and serves to hold them all together as a sort of boxed set--something much more considered and deliberate than the bulk of online music sharing.

If you're looking for a place to start, Mix #2, "Find Someone", is my favorite, though all have stellar tracks. Cohen has this to say about Mix #2, which articulates the juxtaposition and joy in each mix:
songs about looking for something or just beautiful songs.

please give Richard Harris a chance!
get inside of his brain!

the rest is sweet candy
Mix #1: "A Rainbow's Revenge"
Mix #2: "Find Someone"
Mix #3: "The Eternal City"
Mix #4: "The Edge of the World"
Mix #5: "Magic Glue"

Friday, October 2, 2009

Stuart Murdoch and the Three-Classic-Album Rule: God Help the Girl


Is it a Belle and Sebastian album? A Stuart Murdoch solo effort? A crowdsourced theatre geek pet project? Yes, yes, and yes. Stuart Murdoch's said before that he wasn't involved in any side projects because Belle and Sebastian took up all of his time, and he micromanaged everything from production to art direction (I'm paraphrasing here). Shame, really, because he seems like the kind of artist very well suited to have his hands in all sorts of things. Enter God Help the Girl. The concept: God Help the Girl is the soundtrack to a nonexistent musical (it's also the name of the band), with vocals by three lovely young ladies who are up until now unknown, as well as Murdoch himself, and music played by all the members of Belle and Sebastian. So how is it?

Let me preface this by saying that I have a rule that if a band or an artist releases three or more classic albums, then any meandering experimentation they do can be excused (I reserve the right to give these artists a hard time regardless *cough* Jay-Z *cough*). You can call it apologist, and you may be right, but it seems fair to me. Belle and Sebastian reached this point early in their career (Tigermilk, The Boy With the Arab Strap, If You're Feeling Sinister, plus oodles of stellar EPs collected on the double disc Push Barman To Open Old Wounds), and on God Help the Girl, Murdoch really flaunts his achievements by meandering, HARD.

The album is good, not great. It's in some ways a return to the twee bedroom confessions that made us fall in love with B&S in the first place. In another way, it plays like Murdoch wants to have his Phil Spector girl group moment. In other ways still, it contains the worst and hammiest of Broadway musical songwriting. This isn't necesarily a bad thing, and after the non-stop pop barage that we've gotten from the band recently, it's refreshing. "Act of the Apostle" and "Funny Little Frog," both from the band's last effort The Life Pursuit, sound better for the orchestrated arrangements and female leads. Title track "God Help the Girl" has a nice bounce to it and stands with the best of Belle and Sebastian's upbeat pop arrangements. These new female vocalists, apparently selected by internet contests and anonymous Glaswegian classified ads, really hold their own. But a number of tracks ("Hiding 'neath My Umbrella," "Pretty Eve In the Tub") get lost in Broadway musical tropes and ultimately fall flat.

Here's the thing: a lot of the time, a musical works really well on stage and doesn't translate to a recording; unfortunately we don't know if these songs work on stage or film (they may very well) but they're missing something on record. With the right production team this could make a phenomenal musical. As it stands, we've just got a sort-of alright Belle and Sebastian album. Which, all things being relative, is a pretty great thing to have.

God Help the Girl [eMusic]

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Beatles' Day is Upon Us!

F4F1E687-67D3-4B9F-9041-441BCF3FD6DC.jpgSo, it's finally here: the entire catalog, all twelve albums plus Past Masters, remastered in (I'm told) pristine quality. Allan Kozinn in the Times says that "this music has dimension and detail that it never had before, and the new packaging reflects each album’s musical and cultural importance. Over all, the new discs sound substantially better than the Beatles’ original CDs, which EMI issued in 1987. The most striking and consistent improvements are a heftier, rounded, three-dimensional bass sound, and drums that now sound like drums, rather than something in the distance being hit." Joy!

I don't want to get back into how Apple Corps. and EMI dropped the ball in waiting this long. I'm far too busy spending all my energy on not impulsively buying the entire box set (leaning towards mono so that I can pore over all the nuances) from Amazon.

Looking, for some reason, for more Beatles' coverage? Check out Pitchfork's reviews of the albums, both individually and as a collection. These at first seemed like a silly joke ("great, I finally know that Sgt. Pepper is a 10/10") but turns out, they're a really well written analysis of records that, if you're like me, course through your veins.

Finally, if you want to read Chuck Klosterman beat a dead horse of a joke, check out his "review" over at the Onion. It gets old fast, but it's got some pretty great zingers.

How are you celebrating Beatles Day?

Long and Winding Road, Repaved [nytimes]
The Beatles, reviewed [pitchfork]
Chuck Klosterman Repeats the Beatles [the onion]

Thursday, September 3, 2009

In Which Pitchfork Makes Sense of Lady GaGa and Millenial Pop

Pitchfork's recent list of the top 500 songs of the 00's seemed a bit premature, as it's 2009. I'm sure it's just chock full of misplaced songs, missing entries, and love for artists who in no way deserve it. But to be perfectly honest, I haven't combed through the list at all, because the particulars don't concern me. I can't even think of 500 songs from the last 9 or so years, let alone rank them.

But if you're interested in what's been happening in pop over the last decade, then check out Tom Ewing's wrap-up essay, "The Decade in Pop." It's one of the best pieces of music crit I've read in a long time. He distills the list (I assume) into a thoughtful critique of just what the hell happened in the 00's, and how it shaped a new pop. I don't buy it all (the argument that American Idol is music criticism on a national scale seems a little flimsy to me), but what I kept thinking while reading this piece, which seems destined for next year's Best Music Writing anthology, was "this is on Pitchfork?!" Now, I don't hate Pitchfork as much as some, in fact I think it's a pretty alright central voice in online music writing, if at times a bit heavy handed. But aside from the odd well-written album review, I don't think I've ever read such a thought provoking piece on their site. Maybe it's that I haven't been paying attention all that much. Go check it out.

The Decade in Pop [pitchfork]
The Top 500 Tracks of the 2000s [pitchfork]

Thursday, August 6, 2009

If You Read Only One Account of the Recording of We Are The World This Year...

Taking the death of Michael Jackson a very loose reason for the post, you're going to want to check out this summary of the events that occurred at the recording of "We Are The World," the song that ended famine in Africa once and for all. (NOTE: I did not do a lot of background research, but I assume the combined power of Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Lionel Richie, Al Jarreau, Bette Middler, Paul Simon, Dan Akroyd, Cyndi Lauper, et al. was unstoppable. It was, right?)
At exactly 5.57am, Dylan's lines are played back over the monitors. Lionel Richie falls flat on his back, eyes closed, then dances awhile, waving his ladies' Reebok aerobic shoes in the air.
Pretty much all of it is that quotable. One more for the road:
Soon after, Al Jarreau corners Dylan by the piano. He's choked up. 'Bobby', Jarreau says, holding back tears, 'in my own stupid way I just want to tell you I love you.' Dylan slinks away without even looking at him. Jarreau walks to the door of the studio, looks back at Dylan, cries 'My idol,' bursts into tears and leaves.
It's basically unbridled pop music porn, a bit flighty but filled with fascinating little nuggets like the ones above. Also, Bob Dylan: not a hugger.

When Bob Met Michael Jackson [bob dylan encyclopedia]
via The Roundup [goings on/new yorker]

"Bad Habits" Official Video Premiere

The second video from Maxwell's gorgeous BLACKsummers'night was just released. In it, he reluctantly(ish) cheats on his wife with actress Kerry Washington and shows us that while on hiatus, he apparently was working out 7 hours a day. I need a minute alone. Or like, an hour.

Maxwell "Bad Habits" [YouTube]

Monday, August 3, 2009

TDOS Obituaries: Baatin

Co-founding Slum Village member Titus "Baatin" Glover passed earlier this weekend and was found in Detroit this Saturday. The reason for his death is unknown at this time, but foul play, which had been suspected, was ruled out yesterday. The 35 year-old rapper and Detroit native had told the Detroit Free Press that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia right after he left Slum Village in 2002, but had rejoined the group, performing with them at the Detroit Rock the Bells tour date recently and shooting the video for their single, "Cloud 9" (featuring Marsha Ambrosius, formerly of Floetry) off of their forthcoming album Villa Manifesto this past week. He will be missed.

My favorite Baatin contributions after the jump.

Slum Village "Climax (Girl Shit)"
Common f. Slum Village "Thelonius" [YouTube]
Slum Village "Forth & Back (Rock Music)" [YouTube]

These Stank Ass Rappers Make Me Sick.

This 2000 clip sums up precisely how I feel about the majority of R&B/soul (Maxwell, Erykah and Saadiq you are excluded; thank you for continuing to make music that gives me pause) music that is being promoted/released thus far in 2009.

The Original Kings of Comedy

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Weather Forecast for Thursday, August 6th: It's Gonna Rain Purple

A friendly reminder from Two Day Old Shit:

This summer marks the 25th anniversary of Purple Rain, the greatest piece of semi-autobiographical celluloid to ever be created. It spawned the greatest soundtrack of all time (while simultaneously giving us an album that successfully chronicled the Seven Deadly Sins), managed to demonstrate Prince's phenomenal ventriloquist skills and gave the world the greatest power ballad it will ever know.

A simple tale really: a troubled yet talented Kid meets a total smokeshow named Apollonia. They fall in love and wear matching hoop earrings. Tragedy strikes and the Kid blows it by perpetuating the same violent cycle that his talented but troubled father created, and almost loses Apollonia to his dapper and smarmy musical nemesis, who has an amazing man slave named Jerome. The Kid finally learns to use his words, not his fists, and channels his frustration and anger into musical collaboration. He then wins the hearts of the club goers, his long suffering band and of course, his girl, in the end.

So, in celebration of the glory that is Purple Rain, Celebrate Brooklyn! is presenting the Purple Rain Sing-A-Long, which invites you to belt out "I Would Die 4 U" and "Computer Blue" to your heart's content, surrounded by the lovely Prospect Park Bandshell and hundreds of other adoring Paisley Park fans who would gladly purify themselves in any body of water Prince asked them to. Movie starts at 7:30pm, a suggested donation of $3 is encouraged.

C U There.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Maxwell is BACK. And, I Still Would.

Oh hey! Its been a long time, and I know I shouldn't left you, without a dope post to step to. But sometimes, life (moving, job hunting, wallowing in your post-graduate, unemployed, broke and single pity) gets in the way. And when that happens, it usually takes something extra extra extra special to snap me out of my bummer fest. Luckily, my favorite Brooklyn born West Indian/Puerto Rican neo-soul wet dream has graced us with the first installment in an upcoming trilogy of pure unadulterated soul. Ladies and gentlemen, Maxwell is back.

It's been eight years since his last and third album, the lovely and shimmering Now (you know, the record with the super sensual and ethereal cover of Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work") and the countertenor has been laying very low ever since. Then, sometime last year, some whispers about a new project began floating around and he started doing some promo gigs. But it wasn't until he showed up at last year's BET Awards and performed "Simply Beautiful" in honor of Al Green that people besides die hard fans truly remembered him and remembered why he was so fantastic. To put it bluntly, he killed it (the Youtube linked there is great because towards the end a woman filming it starts singing along super off key to his hit "Fortunate") and if you were wearing pants they probably were off. He had cut off his trademark locks, but nothing else had changed: same sexual charisma, same gorgeous voice and the same Marvin Gaye circa "Come Live With Me Angel" vibe. And at this year's BET Awards (which I will not discuss further FUCK YOU JOE JACKSON YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID) he performed the first single off of BLACKsummers'night, "Pretty Wings."

I have always thought if Maxwell's voice was anything other than his voice (uh, stay with me, this is going somewhere I promise) it would be the manifestation of laying in the world's most luxurious bed with the one person you wanted the most, just rolling around touching forever, while the temperature was a perfect balmy warmth, and your skin was bathed in shades of gold from a Sun that didn't burn. Hunger, anger, jealousy and insecurities didn't exist, and neither did clammy sweat. That's what I have always believed. Always (the song "Bad Habits" perhaps best demonstrates my hypothesis).

Well, the album dropped two days ago and for the past two days it's all I have been ingesting. A farewell to a love lost, the record is at once heartbreaking and uplifting, stimulating and numbing. Lush and vibrant horns (best illustrated on my second favorite cut "Cold"), soft guitar and pleading vocals ("Playing Possum") and the same haunting, beautiful yearning ("Fistful of Tears") that he always has exuded in his textured, emotive vocals ("Help Somebody") make this very worth the hiatus he put us through.

2010 and 2011 should give us the rest of his trilogy (and dare I call it too soon, trifecta?) but until then, don't treat this like a comeback. He never really left.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Please Let This Be The Song Of The Summer

So, today a coworker sent over "LOL," a new Trey Songz/Gucci Mane/Soulja Boy collaboration about... well, I don't know really. I guess it's about Twitpic and sexting? Either way, I kind of can't stop listening to the stream over at The Fader blog. Kind of stupid and totally awesome is the only way I can think of to describe lyrics like "Shorty just text me, say she wanna sex me/ LOL smiley face, LOL smiley face/Shorty sent a a twitpic saying come and get this/ LOL smiley face, LOL smiley face." Also in bonkers hip hop today, this ode to a combination Pizza Hut/Taco Bell.

Trey Songz f. Gucci Mane & Soulja Boy, "LOL" [the fader]
Das Racist, "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell (Wallpaper. Remix)" [the burning ear]

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I Can't Think of Ten Great Ones Either

You guys know how I like to complain about hip hop all the time, right? How no one makes decent LPs, no one cares about their live show, no one gives a fuck? Well, it really warmed my heart this weekend to see this piece by Free Darko blogger Dr. Lawyer Indian Chief (seriously) on the Straight Bangin blog. It's at once thoughtful and off-the-wall bonkers--in the good way.

Basically, Dr. LIC was asked to make a list of his top ten hip hop records since 2000, and he could only think of about six, so he penned this condemnation of the genre instead. It contains nuggets like:

That black male figurehead has been replaced by a white woman. Jim Jones would rather have Cory Kennedy on his jock than Chuck D at this point. Not exactly sure why this is (is it simple economics that white girls drive the market-->get white dudes to buy stuff/white people = 80% of America = buying public?), but it is. This whole steez has led to pointless Feist-sampling/MIA-jocking/Lady GaGa-collab’ing/KANYE STATING THAT HE KNOWS WHO PETER BJORN AND JOHN AND ANIMAL COLLECTIVE IS SO THAT HIPSTERS ARE LIKE WOW THAT IS SO SURPRISING and other nonsense that has generally resulted in music that sounds like the opposite of The Infamous or Livin’ Proof. Aside from the Lykke Li/Drake collab, which I really dug, rappers’ pursuit of validation of white women has created this super-faux “Pitchfork Media got Pharoahe Monch to play so it’s like the Roxy with Talking Heads and Afrika Bambattaa and Debbie Harry” in one room. Except it isn’t. It fucking sucks.

That's what I'm talking about! He also actually says something negative about Dilla and then backs it up with so much evidence, you can't even get mad, just kind of disappointed in yourself for never realizing it. I'm gonna make you clickthrough for that line, though. And I'm not gonna repeat what he has to say about ?uestlove, but suffice it to say it chilled me to my core. And:

Here’s an interesting experiment: Pull out your Ice Cube and Paris albums from the Bush I presidency and listen to their anti-prez raps. Shit makes waaaaaaaaaaaaaay more sense and is oddly far more topical than any political rap produced in the past ten years. Putting the strange new Obama-era aside for a moment, let’s focus on Bush II era political rap, one of the greatest creative letdowns of our time. I remember reading some article in URB magazine right after 9/11 about how the fuckedupedness of the time would spur a renaissance in political rap. Never happened. Instead groups like dead prez et al. made the hip-hop equivalent of Farenheit 9-11, conspiratorial, jumbled oversimplification with an easily digestible “Fuck Bush” tagline.

Yeah! And he's looking at you too, Jigga:
Jay and Nas became de facto kingz after Biggie died for no real reason other than there was a throne to fill. This was also during the point in their careers that they both started snoozing hard. [...] These days we can’t accept an empty throne, so we have been stepping over each for the past few years trying to give the “crown” to people like Cam’ron, the Game, and Weezy. And seriously, I love Lil’ Wayne, but I once tried to tally the number of instances on The Carter III where dude makes an “I’m the shit”/actual pooping pun, and I lost track. The guy is great, Top 30 all time, sure. But, like I said, let’s have some standards.

Alright I guess I'm just reprinting the post at this point, but you get the idea, there's much more to it and if you care at all about the quality of popular music (hip hop, indie or otherwise) these days, get over there and take a look.

All That Glitters Ain't Shit [straight bangin]
(Thanks for the heads up, Jonathan)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Don't Feel Right: The Roots Picnic, Festival Pier, Philadelphia, 6.6.09

So, remember when Isabelle interviewed ?uestlove for the Weekly Dig in January and asked him about the status of a then-unannounced 2nd annual Roots Picnic in Philly? We posted the interview here on the site, too. ?uesto told Isabelle that this year was going to be a two-day affair, among other tentative plans:

ID: Are you guys going to do another Roots Picnic this summer? I went to the first one.
?: Yes, we are. And this time I promise it's gonna be an actual picnic. We're new at this festival-throwing thing, so we forgot to figure in fatigue of the audience and how to protect them from the sun.
Well, a few months later the official announcement came: the second Picnic was going to be a one day festival again (fine by me, as I day tripped from NYC) featuring a lineup that was as amazing as ?uest alluded to. Antibalas, TV on the Radio, Black Keys, Santigold and the centerpiece of the lineup, Public Enemy playing the entirety of It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, backed by not only the Roots but Antibalas as well.

Before I tell you how the performances were, I have a bone to pick. Festival Pier is a terrible, terrible venue. It's more of a concrete parking lot than a pier. The drinks are overpriced and the food is terrible. I will admit that all of this so far is par for the course when it comes to outdoor shows. Sad but true. That, I can get over. But you're gonna put thousands of people in the hot sun all day with no water fountain or cooler or anything? Last year, the weather was way worse--95 degrees and no cloud cover, as I recall. Maybe that's why they set up water coolers for everyone to stay hydrated. This year was much cooler and partly cloudy, so maybe we just didn't deserve complimentary water? Maybe I'm old fashioned or naive, but I believe that if you have a ten hour music festival you need to look after the crowd, especially when most of them paid upwards of $60 to attend. Adding insult to injury, security made me dump out my water on the way in ("For all we know, you have vodka in that bottle") and told me I could fill it up at the water fountain inside. The nonexistent water fountain. It must be the one that appears once you start hallucinating from lack of fluids. This was beyond an inconvenience; it was a risk to everyone's health, and basically felt like a huge 'fuck you' from the venue and the promoters. Of course, water was for sale at $3.50 a bottle, if you could afford it. Judging from the number of people I saw pass out (I counted five in my immediate vicinity) not everybody could swing that. People were dropping like flies all due to the negligence of those in charge. I'm not sure whose fault this was--Live Nation, Penn's Landing, the Roots, Okayplayer, or some other party all of whom I'm sure would just blame the other for the problems and call it a day--but it was severely disappointing. In my decade long career of concert going, I have never felt so abused and mistreated, which is saying quite a lot, since this is an industry that generally tries to do just that to its customers whenever possible. Perhaps worst of all, it made ?uestlove's words on this very blog feel fake.

So how was the music? It was phenomenal. The Roots always bring their A-game, and Antibalas' set was one of the most dynamic, sonically satisfying sets of my concert going career. Black Keys were a welcome break, bringing their stripped down blues licks to a crowd that seemed mostly disinterested. Their loss. Santigold, who bailed on the first Roots Picnic at the last minute, played a passable set marred by terrible sound (bass and voice turned to 11, drums buried in the mix) but hey, her backup dancers were pretty cool. Too bad she didn't show up last year, when I still cared. Busdriver played a great set, but as one of the only traditional emcee-and-a-DJ hip hop sets of the day didn't really stand up to a lot of the live instrumentation that was going on. Fun to watch for sure, though. TV on the Radio's set was hot like fire, with the Antibalas horns backing them up. It seemed like TVOTR were sort of the symbol of the day--a band encompassing rock, hip hop, soul, blues, and world music all in one place. You know, like Santigold thinks she does, only successful. The last act of the night was the Roots, who of course rocked the house (25 minute version of "You Got Me," anyone?), although I would have liked to see them play a longer, more wide-ranging set like they did at the 2008 Picnic. To be fair, the show was supposed to be over by the time they took the stage, so maybe they were pressed for time.

As expected, the highlight of the day was the Public Enemy/Roots/Antibalas set. It Takes a Nation... is one of the most dark, dense, difficult albums in the history of hip hop and watching these musicians breathe all of this life into the work was nothing short of a revelation. This performance actually exceeded my greatest expectation for it. The Second Annual Roots Picnic was a fantastic day of music, marred by conditions that had me fantasizing on a Woodstock '99 style uprising.

Please guys, next year, can we do this somewhere else?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

So Anxious

Next week kicks off Central Park's SummerStage. TV on the Radio gets things started Friday June 5th, but the acts I am super duper pumped for are Les Nubians (I have never gotten the chance to see the French-Cameroonian duo live before, as an unfortunate last minute email cancellation from Ticketmaster came right before a Boston gig my sophomore year), Q-Tip, Jazmine Sullivan aaaaaaannnnnnd (drum roll please): GINUWINE, JOE AND CHICO MOTHERFUCKING DEBARGE. On one stage! "So Anxious" and "Pony" live? "Stutter" and "No Guarantee"? 1999 to my face.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

David Byrne Has Something To Say

David Byrne, who's been blogging on his website since before 'blog' was even a word, posted some thoughts on Dark Was The Night: Live, and it's obviously more interesting than what I had to say. He sounds quite energized by the current state of indie rock. Sounds like he had fun:
Maybe it’s the headiness of being surrounded by so many creative folks, but it seems that popular music — some of it anyway — might be going through one of its periodic peaks. It also seems that rock music, or some sizable branch of it, has evolved from being a throwaway piece of merchandise for teens to a respectable art form. The transformation, made in fits and starts over many decades, seems more or less complete.
Click on over there for the rest.

05.05.09: New York -- Cinco de Mayo [david byrne journal]

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sparklehorse and Danger Mouse, Together At Last


Gah! Maybe you remember a few years back, when Sparklehorse and Danger Mouse announced they'd be recording an album as Dangerhorse. This was after Danger did some production on Sparklehorse's fantastic Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain. Well, we never heard from Dangerhorse, but now comes word that this summer will see the release of Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse present Dark Night of the Soul, with a guest list that veers into is-this-really-happening territory. It's so far flung it reminds me of the appearances we saw on Gorillaz' Demon Days (another Danger Mouse production, come to think of it). The most interesting name on the list is David Lynch, but head over to for the full rundown (Suzanne Vega? Black Francis? I'm so down--even Grandaddy's Jason Lytle, the vocalist I most confuse with Sparklehorse, is along for the ride).

Sparklehorse's work is always interesting, but sometimes lacks focus; this project is so enticing because focus is exactly what Danger brings to the table. Cee-Lo, MF Doom, Black Keys, yes even Gorillaz all were in the game of releasing meandering, far too long records until they hooked up with Danger Mouse, so here's hoping that this album finally delivers the disk I've always wanted from Sparklehorse. It's streaming right now on Chrysalis Music's blog, so head on over and check it out.

Dark Night of the Soul stream [chrysalis blog]
Stream Dark Night of the Soul [stereogum]

Monday, May 4, 2009

I Don't Wanna Burst Y'all Bubbles: Sharon Jones Shows Us How It's Done

Last night was Dark Was The Night: Live, a performance that I reluctantly plunked down $50 to sit in the cheap seats, if only because the triple threat of a Feist-David Byrne-Dap-Kings concert had to be worth it. It was a night of mini-sets and collaborations between a handful of the artists on the Red Hot compilation, a double-disc loaded with original material produced by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of the National.

The show was better than I thought it would be--none of the acts disappointed, and some bands I was neutral on (Bon Iver, the National, My Brightest Diamond) turned in performances so strong that I've been digging much deeper into their discographies (this Boxer record is really very good, eh?). And getting to watch David Byrne duet with Feist was worth price of admission alone.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings gave the most electrified performance of the night to close the festivities. Then came the encore: the indie clusterfuck elite (and I say that with adoration and respect, honest) took the stage to lead a singalong of Pete Seeger's "This Land is Your Land," a fine choice on the folk legend's 90th birthday. Then, halfway through, Sharon Jones returned to the stage to show these kids how it's done with the Dap-Kings' cover "This Land" (which you can find on their LP Naturally) Watch the video before it gets taken down.

The whole show stopping number became an embodiment of my love/hate relationship with indie rock today: there are interesting things happening and tons of great acts working, but even at the top of its game, it can't ever really be as much fun as Sharon Jones and the Dap- Kings. Luckily, there's no need to pick one or the other, something that Dark Was The Night highlights in its eclecticism and deft curation. Please pick up a copy--it's for a good cause and it's really much better than this sort of thing usually turns out.

This Land is Your Land @ Dark Was The Night [youtube]
Dark Was The Night [official site]
Red Hot Organization [official site]
Buy Dark Was The Night [eMusic]
Buy Dark Was The Night [amazon]

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In Which I Pat Myself On The Back For Being The Last Indie Kid In The World To Listen To New Pornographers.

Two Day Old Shit isn't just a classic Phife Dog line; it's also a way of appreciating music. Something new, or something garnering a lot of buzz, isn't always worth listening to. Waiting on something, sleeping on it even, brings pretty great rewards. For one thing, you can be sure you're not being sold a band solely on the basis of their cool factor. But the best part is discovering a new band, and then realizing they have a slew of albums for you to work your way through. That's a good feeling. Call it the Two Day Old Special.

So here's a quick roundup of some things I've slept on. They're not new, but they're probably better than anything that's come out so far this year. And for better or worse, they were so buzzy when they first came out, I couldn't give them a fair shot 'til now.

New Pornographers: My interest in the New Pornographers was piqued late in the game by an interview with Neko Case on Sound Opinions in February. Greg Kot asked what influences Case saw in her new LP, Middle Cyclone, another quality-yet-middling release from the alt country honky tonk queen. "The New Pornographers were a really big influence [on this record] in that they will have no less than five people singing at a time, and it's really gratifying--it's a super sugary cheap fix, and I can't help but want to do that. [...] Playing in that band is a huge influence, because it feels great to sing like that." It sounded like maybe the New Pornographers were a band I should be listening to instead of trying to make myself like Case's solo records. You know how it is: every Neko Case album that comes out, you try to listen, but it's a little boring about halfway through and even though you want to like it because she's a badass with a truly great voice and a top notch sense of humor, the songs kind of blend together and you don't really care about what she's singing about? Well, in the New Pornographers you get enough of the gal to satisfy your Neko craving, but the crew keeps things moving in a way that Case's solo albums never have for me. There are a ton of interesting personalities in this band, and they each bring their own flare to the table but they're still a band. It's not a case of competing personalities, but the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. It's some of the strongest indie pop I've heard in years, and I'm kicking myself for not listening for so long. Twin Cinema is a good place to start, and I'm also digging their most recent, Challengers. I'm sure the other records are pretty good too.

Metric: Until my girl Claire dragged me to see an Emily Haines solo show, I always thought of her as "that woman in Broken Social Scene who isn't Feist." But she was so live, so charismatic and cool and together at that show that I began to think I should check out her work with Metric. Their new LP Fantasies is new school new wave, with lyrics ranging from the personal to the political. I don't know if I think this is a great album yet, but it's very good, and I'm looking forward to diving into the rest of their catalog.

The Avett Brothers: Holy hell, where has this band been all my life? I cannot stop listening to this North Carolina string band. I listen to it on the train, at my desk, cooking dinner, and cleaning up the apartment. It really feels appropriate for everything, especially now that the weather's getting a bit nicer. It's springy music, and while musically its a throwback, lyrically it runs the usual indie gamut from love songs to confessions of intense anxiety. Check out Emotionalism or Mignonette; I can't really vouch for the others. If finger picking and banjos are the kind of thing you're into, trust me on this one. You will love the Avetts.

The New Pornographers [eMusic]
Metric [eMusic]
The Avett Brothers [eMusic]
Neko Case interview [sound opinions]

Monday, April 13, 2009

Finally: The Beatles' Remasters

Maura Johnston over at Idolator has a post today regarding the Beatles' reissues, something I've clamored for quite a bit and am pretty happy will be making it to the masses this September. I don't think that McCartney and company should be patting each other on the back, since it took them decades to do something that should have been at the top of their list from the beginning days of the CD format. But better late than never, I would say. I have faith that these albums are going to sound better than we've ever imagined, or at least better than they have on digital formats before (nothing beats my copy of Abbey Road on vinyl, "STEVE FISHNER" dymotape still intact). But Johnston isn't so sure that the project will perform very well:
[...]There was one question that was nagging at me every time I passed through another breathless announcement of the release. And that question is: Who, exactly, is going to buy these CDs?

Johnston makes the point that there aren't that many places to even buy CDs anymore, even if people wanted to, which more and more they don't. This is true, and Johnston is right about almost everything (especially "the way the music industry is hell-bent on shooting itself in the foot with dopey ideas like the ringle and Musicpass") save for one thing: people buy the Beatles' material no matter what. She claims that they've "fallen out of the habit," but I don't know that I'd go that far. This is anecdotal but I can pretty much guarantee that my dad, who I think is probably the target here, will pick up this remastered release. No, he doesn't buy CDs with the frequency he once did. In fact, he buys a lot more music via iTunes than he does from brick and mortar sources. But he bought The Beatles' 1, he bought Love, he bought Let It Be Naked, he bought the Capital Albums reissues, and if he bought all those superfluous releases, then he's probably going to buy the remastered catalog. Time will tell, but you should never underestimate the commercial power of the biggest band in the history of the world. As sometime Idolator Michaelangelo Matos points out in the comments to the post, the Beatles are recession-proof.

The Beatles' Remasters: Are They Really That Big A Deal in the Post-CD Era? [Idolator]
Earlier- Dropping the Ball: The Beatles [2DOS]

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

From Rhymefest, to You: The Manual

the_manual_front.jpgIt's looking like we're never going to see Rhymefest's long time coming LP El Che, which is a major bummer. I can only watch this video in anticipation so many times before it creeps up on me that it was posted almost two years ago.

But, good news! Rhymefest's new mixtape, The Manual, hit the internet this week, and while I haven't listened to it yet, I implore you to cop it from Fest's MySpace. Okayplayer promises "Fest rhymes over reworked versions of some golden era classics," something he's particularly well suited to do. And the tracklist features a three part "Native Tongue Medley," the prospect of which has me salivating on the keyboard. My hopes are high, especially after the man's previous mixtape turned out to be the best hip-hop album of 2008.

Rhymefest and Scram Jones present The Manual [free download at MySpace]
Rhymefest - The Manual [okayplayer]
Rhymefest w/ the Fresh Prince's Jazzy Jeff [YouTube]

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

This Is Going Out To Roadrunner Records

I have no feelings one way or another regarding Amanda Palmer. But after seeing this, via Daily Swarm, she's a total winner in my book, even though I could take or leave her body of work:

If you ask me, this is right up there with carving "slave" on your face and holding a press conference announcing you will now go by a symbol instead of a name. But, you know, cheekier.

WATCH: Amanda Palmer Sings to Roadrunner Records [the daily swarm]

Monday, April 6, 2009

Upcoming: Dark Was The Night Live @ Radio City

Dark Was The Night is a double disc compilation benefiting AIDS relief organization Red Hot, produced and compiled by Aaron and Bryce Dessner (the National). It features outtakes and covers by Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, Spoon, Sufjan, Iron and Wine and Stuart Murdoch to name just a few, as well as collaborations like Conor Oberst/Gillian Welch and Feist/Ben Gibbard. The record skews towards the kind of indie buzz bands I generally avoid, but there are certainly a few artists on here whose work is strong enough that you'll want to investigate further. There are also some you may want to delete from your iTunes straight off the bat. Anyway, it's bursting at the seams and I'm not going to try to give it a track by track rundown, but check it out because there's really something for everyone and it's all for a good cause.

But what I'm really stoked about with this whole Dark Was The Night business is the show that WFUV and The Bowery Presents are putting on, May 3rd at Radio City Music Hall. David Byrne was just added to a lineup that already featured Feist, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, the National, TVOTR's David Sitek (also the producer of all three YYY's albums), My Brightest Diamond, and Bon Iver among others. And it's not just going to be a performance of tracks from the compilation, either. Says Aaron Dessner in an interview on Pitchfork that essentially sold me on the tickets:

We're going to have two halves. The first half will be songs from Dark Was the Night, and then there will be a short intermission. And then afterwards, there will be mini-sets by different artists and collaborations, both things that relate to Dark Was the Night and some that don't. Not every artist will do a mini-set, but most will. That's basically it. We're trying to keep the show manageable in length, you know, so it's not four-and- a-half hours or something. But it will be a lot of music.

Which, when combined with the idea of seeing Feist, Sharon Jones, and granddaddy-of-it-all David Byrne, was enough for me to plunk down the $38 for cheap seats. Tickets are still on sale.

Dark Was The Night live - tickets [bowerypresents]
Dark Was The Night (Red Hot Compilation) [emusic]
The National's Aaron Dessner on Dark Was The Night, New National Album [pitchfork]

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sort Of Belle and Sebastian's New Album

Found this on a friend's tumblr today:

God Help The Girl - an introduction from God Help The Girl on Vimeo.

Is Stuart Murdoch constructing his own girl group, playing Phil Spector to some kind of awesome Scottish Ronettes, or is he recording what will one day be his first movie musical? It's hard to tell from this meaty introduction video, but it looks like this June we'll have some sort of bizarro Belle and Sebastian album to listen to all summer. There's a song streaming from the band's official site.

God Help The Girl - an introduction [vimeo]
God Help The Girl [official site]

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Prince wants to see Salma's crrrazy underwears, asks her infant to help.

In case you haven't paid the super reasonable price of $77 to become a member of the Purple One's new(ish) website, or picked up a copy of his new album(s) at your local Target for $11.98 (Prince's music economics 101: punish downloaders and reward retail consumers), perhaps you aren't aware of Prince's latest gem of a tune, "Valentina." I hadn't heard it yet, since he only streams like, three songs on his mind fuck of a flash site. But, thanks to Jody Rosen at Slate, it was brought to my attention and I have to get my hands on it, ASAP. It's no big deal, really, just a creepy ode to my favorite wet nurse, Salma Hayek. Sample lyrics:

"Hey Valentina tell your mama/ She should give me a call/ When she get tired of runnin'/ After you down the hall/ And she's all worn out/ From those late-night feedings."

And yes, the title of the song is the name of Hayek's baby girl and yes he shouts out Hayek's bff too:

"If Penélope wants to Cruz/ There ain't no way that we ain't gon' dance."

I'm sorry, what?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Happy Birthday Marvin.

If he were still alive, Marvin Gaye would be 70 years-old today (and yesterday marked the anniversary of his 1984 death). What are your favorite Marvin Gaye albums and songs? Comment, please.

Mine are 1976's I Want You and 1978's Here, My Dear.

Two choice cuts from each record, after the jump.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

This Is Getting Ridiculous

The economy is fucked, your job is hanging in the balance (if you've still got it at all), and summer festivals are still charging a pretty sizable figure for admission. But the lineups aren't getting any less awesome. What's a listener to do?

Layaway, of course! From promoter Goldenvoice's All Points West lineup announcement:

Festival-goers now have the option to purchase 3-day festival tickets and 3-day parking passes on a payment plan. Layaway options (available online ONLY through May 29) are as follows: the 50% down payment option allows purchasers to pay a 50% deposit of the total order now, with the remaining 50% automatically deducted July 3; a multiple payment plan whereby purchasers initially pay 10% of the total order, with the remaining amounts automatically deducted in equal payments on May 4, June 3 and July 3.

Uh, alright. I guess that's one way to handle things. I just don't know how to decide between this and that Margaritaville I've had my eye on.

All Points West - 2009 Festival Dates and Lineup [brooklynvegan]

When Will Yeah Yeah Yeahs Have Their Album Moment?

Yeah Yeah Yeahs' third LP, It's Blitz!, came out a few weeks back and it's sporting awesome album art and some pretty rollicking jams. Much has been made of the more synth-heavy sound for this record. That really got me excited at first, as I think this band's synth based songs are usually a lot more fun than the more straightforward guitar-driven numbers (I'm counting guitar synths as synths in this analysis). Have they ever recorded anything better than "Rich"? No, they have not.

For my money, this album doesn't sound like too much of a departure from the band's previous output. I think it's probably their strongest record to date, but I'm starting to wonder: are Yeah Yeah Yeahs ever going to release a classic, start-to-finish fantastic album? So far they've got three pretty good albums, but not a single one I want to listen to from beginning to end. It's not to say it'll never happen--this band is still fairly young, though by today's standards they can seem like dinosaurs--but when will Yeah Yeah Yeahs put out their Village Green Preservation Society, their Happy Hippopotamus, their Dutchess?* I hope we see it eventually, but if not, there's always the inevitable greatest hits collection.

Let us know what you think in the comments: can this band deliver a truly great album? Is this the one and I'm just not hearing it yet?

*Just kidding about The Dutchess. Sort of.

It's Blitz! Review [The L Mag]

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Chicago Soul Stories: The Notations

Great article by Dave Hoekstra in today's Sun-Times about Chicago soul men the Notations. Protégés of Curtis Mayfield, the group only released one self-titled album in 1973 (on Mayfield's Custom Records subsidiary, Gemigo) but they represent the unsung history of the city's relationship to soul music.

Most think of the blues and jazz when it comes to the Windy City, but the truth is, my hometown has produced more soul records than most give it credit for. Detroit, Memphis, L.A. and Philly housed the key players, but Chicago had tons of tiny labels, not to mention offices for many of the majors of the time.

Ken Shipley, who founded the Chicago based Numero Group in 2003 (the Numero Group is putting on the first Eccentric Soul Revue at the lovely Park West this Saturday; with Syl Johnson and the Notations headlining) puts it best: "Chicago has always gotten the short end of the stick as far as soul goes," he says.
"And Chicago produced more soul records than any other city in the country. Chicago goes blow to blow with Detroit in a heartbeat because we had more labels. Someone is doing a Ken Burns-type documentary on soul and they contacted us about licensing music. So I go, 'You guys coming to Chicago?' and they said they were skipping it. People think of Chess and the blues with Chicago. But every major record company had an office here. Brunswick [Tyrone Davis, Jackie Wilson, Gene Chandler] was here. OKeh [Major Lance, the great Walter Jackson]. Mercury [Jerry Butler]. King had an office here. And of course, Curtom, Vee-Jay and One-derful, the home of Otis Clay and Harold Burrage. It blows my mind people don't know more about Chicago's soul history."

The Notations offer a window to the soul [Chicago Sun-Times]



When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Park West, 322 W. Armitage
Tickets: $22
Phone: (312) 559-1212;;

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Supavillain

MF Doom's new record, Born Like This, dropped earlier this week. eMusic, always towing the line between online download store and valid online music magazine, celebrates with A User's Guide to the Doomography. It's pretty comprehensive, hitting the high points of the pre-Doom days as well as his later work behind the mask.

As for Born Like This, I'm still on my first listen, but so far, so good. One track on there is "Ballskin," which was also on producer Jake One's White Van Music, while "Batty Boys" is either completely offensive or a nod of sympathy to the gay community. Actually, I'm pretty sure it's both (he's a uniter, not a divider). Meanwhile, "That's That" is driven by a violin sample, dotted with handclaps and the usual comic book sound effects. And on "Supervillainz," MF takes on the autotune with all the seriousness you'd expect, which is to say none. And of course we get further teased over the forever-in-the-works Doom/Ghostface album with a track featuring Tony Starks himself. In two words: cop it.

A User's Guide to the DOOMography [eMusic Essentials]
MF Doom's Born Like This [eMusic]