January 2, 2009

My 2008 listening tallies, via Last.fm:

Top artists:

1. Nat Baldwin
2. Dirty Projectors
3. No Age
4. TV on the Radio
5. Deerhunter
6. Santogold
7. Parts & Labor
8. J.Period & Game Rebellion
9. Jaguar Love
10. Black Uhuru
11. Jesu
12. Scarlett Johansson
13. Skeletons
14. The Very Best (Esau Mwamwaye and Radioclit)
15. Pretty Girls Make Graves

Top Tracks:

1. Nat Baldwin - "Within Walls"
2. Nat Baldwin - "Lake Erie"
3. Blk Jks - "Mzabalazo"
4. Jaguar Love - "My Organ Sounds Like"
5. No Age - "Neck Escaper"
5. Crystal Castles - "Crimewave (Crystal Castles vs HEALTH)"
5. Black Moth Super Rainbow - "Zodiac Girls"
5. Scarlett Johansson - "Song for Jo"
9. Nat Baldwin - "De-attached" & "Dome Branches"
9. The Very Best - "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa"

December 9, 2008

The We Eat What We Like 2008 Year End Mix

Click the tape to download my mix! Or just click here.

Based on what I've gathered from reading year end lists and year end list criticism thus far, the consensus opinion is that 2008 was largely a lackluster year for new music. Maybe it's nothing more than a down year after an incredible 2007. Or maybe we'll look back in a few years and see 2008 as the year that the 21st century "indie" bubble, and the critical consensus that accompanied it, finally burst. Or maybe there has been a lot of great music out this year, but I just haven't heard it, or I have heard it, but I've been reading too many negative nellies who've led me to believe it's not even good, much less great. Whatever the reason, I've been having some trouble organizing my favorite albums and songs into a reasonable format that I'd feel honest sharing. I have neither the desire nor ability to create some sort of ranked list, since I'm not hearing a clear upper tier. In the case of songs, compare this to last year, when it was pretty clear by the year's 4th quarter that MIA, LCD Soundsystem, and Panda Bear put out tracks that were going to be in just about everyone's top 5. MIA and LCD made mine, and with tracks that could ultimately prove to be some of the decade's best. Trying to get a feel for the possible consensus favorites this year, I turned to the song list on Pitchfork's reader poll, which I'm assuming largely telegraphs the songs that will make their way to the site's own year end list. Combing through the list, and limiting my purview to bands who could conceivably be tagged "indie", I found only 2 acts who put out songs that I could see as consensus favorites: Fleet Foxes ("White Winter Hymnal") and Vampire Weekend ("Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" and/or "A-Punk" [I think]). These are certainly good songs, particularly the VW tracks (I'm iffy on Fleet Foxes), but it's also not at all unthinkable that, in a year's time, they could be entirely absent from the collective "indie" consciousness. In a tier just below VW and FF, I would put offerings from Beach House, No Age, and Deerhunter, but I could say the same for them. Considering the Pitchfork list as a whole, the only songs that I could really see placing highly on a majority of lists were selections by Beyonce, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne - certainly not indie acts, not even rock acts.

Of the three possibilities I offered above regarding my perception of 2008 as a disappointing year - and I think there is some truth to each - I think the main development we are seeing is the end of the indie/blog/Pitchfork (call it what you want) consensus of the past five or so years. Indie became too big to support itself convincingly as a single genre; the cycle of hype, the Brooklyn Vegan commenter mentality, and other assorted nonsense started to haunt the blogs; and Pitchfork is always creeping closer and closer to becoming "mainstream." (LOL THEY MADE A BOOK. OMG DID YOU SEE THEY HAD BEYONCE IN THEIR VIDEO LIST??) Meanwhile, indie bands are increasingly burrowing into sub-genre ghettos, making music that is accessible to fewer and fewer people, as if this is the avenue to authenticity in art. I acknowledge that that statement may be entirely unsubstantiated, but I level that charge (almost) wholly at LO-FI. I heard way too much self-consciously shitty sounding music this year (I see this as part of a larger decline in musicianship overall within the indie realm, part of why Nat Baldwin is my #1 fav of the year). Whatever charm I may have found in Times New Viking 8 months ago has completely worn off. Vivian Girls are boring poseurs. I really do enjoy No Age's music, but they need to get off of their "we're authentic we came from The Smell" kick. Etc. Don't we all read Hipster Runoff now? Don't we realize that thinking about authenticity in this way is absolutely ridiculous?

But then, this is all a matter of course. A popular genre takes hold, peaks, and begins to collapse under its own weight. It's cyclical, and nothing to particularly lament or be alarmed about. It's certainly been an interesting ride, and I think it may be even more interesting to see what happens next.

ANYway, linked in the image at the top of the post is how I decided to present some of my favorite songs of the year, in a 2008 Year End Mix (presented as one contiguous mp3, 192kbps). Full disclosure: I stole this idea entirely from Eric Harvey @ Marathon Packs, who's been doing it longer and undoubtedly much, much better. My mix is by no means inclusive of all of my favorites from the past year, but I think it's a pretty representative sample. I mentioned above that I was having trouble thinking of an honest way to present my favorite tracks, a ranked list would have felt completely arbitrary, and even an unranked list would have felt compulsory: like something I had to do, though I'd take little joy from its creation. I had a lot of fun putting this mix together; I think they're all great songs, if not necessarily as special as some of my favorites from years past, and I really enjoy listening to it, as I have many times already. Even if no one out there likes it nearly as much as I do, it's already been worth the effort.

Download: We Eat What We Like Year End Mix 2008

Click HERE to see the playlist.

December 2, 2008

BLK JKS on Al Jazeera

BLK JKS were recently featured on "Playlist", a music program on Al Jazeera's English network.

From the video description:
The unique group Blk Jks are the first of their kind in South Africa: four young musicians from Tapango, Speriam, Zulu and Xhosa backgrounds, coming together to form South Africas first ever all-black rock band who effortlessly fuse traditional sounds into their music, as well as a sprinkling of dub and psychedelic.

(via blkjks.blogspot.com)

November 20, 2008

Myspacecore: An Introduction

This video, for "FreaXXX" by Brokencyde, has been all over the internet today. First, like everyone else, I thought it was ridiculous and terrible. But then I realized that it's really the best video, the video we deserve. This is what suburban housing developments and American Apparel and Web 2.0 hath wrought. THIS IS WHAT YOUR KIDS/YOUNGER SIBLINGS ARE LISTENING TO. It's also what they look like.

This type of music (by which I mean music created by this these kinds of kids) is part of the first wide-ranging musical/subcultural style born and bred on the Web 2.0 internet. It may not all sound alike, or even belong to the same genre (see: the "hip-hop" of 3oh!3, the Xtian screamo of The Devil Wears Prada, and Brokencyde's cross-genre clusterfuck) but the uniting factors are image and background, not genre. These kids all look the same, have the same post-post-ironic sense of humor (which strangely revolves around ghetto tropes), come from the same kinds of boring suburban towns, and have access to the means to create and promote their music (affluent parents and Myspace, respectively). This is music in the post-genre future. This is Myspacecore.

November 18, 2008


Deastro - "The Shaded Forest"

The Killers wish they could write a song like this.

Deastro is the musical project of Detroit-based artist Randolph Chabot. "The Shaded Forest" was first released in 2007 on the album Young Planets, which was named Real Detroit's top local album for that year. In their review, Real Detroit compares Deastro to NES and The Postal Service, but I think those comparisons sell the band a bit short. While the electronic sounds and frenetic tempos of NES music are there, it lacks the annoying (my opinion) lo-fi electronic quality of true 8-bit composition. And as far as I can tell, the only similarity to The Postal Service is that both are synth-pop with male vocals. Where The Postal Service sees Ben Gibbard taking his typical maudlin, meaningful-core manner and applying it to the synth-pop format, Deastro opts for big, uptempo, arena-ready sounds that will please listeners long after the Indie-saddoe genre has withered away (hence the Killers reference above). Deastro appears ready to break out of the local Detroit scene, as the band has recently signed to Ghostly International, a label also home to Matthew Dear, School of Seven Bells, and Skeletons and the Kings of All Cities. "The Shaded Forest" will reappear on their debut full-length for Ghostly, Keepers, out today in digital format only.

November 16, 2008


Thursday night I went to my first ever METAL SHOW, at the Ravari Room in Columbus, OH. I've never felt so tall in my life. (A lot of short guys at the metal show.)

The headliner was Baroness, whose 2007 release The Red Album fits into the sub-sub-genre of doom metal that I can actually stand. I like a lot of the musical aspects of doom, but I just can't get beyond bands who insist on growling, guttural vocals. The guys in Baroness yell, but it's just yelling; they don't feel the need to sound like Tuvan throat singers. However, this being my FIRST EVER METAL SHOW, I didn't realize how much the excessive volume would destroy the songs, robbing them of whatever musical variation exists on the studio recordings. I definitely expected it to be obscenely loud, but once live music reaches a certain volume in a small enough venue (maybe even in larger ones), the sound all bleeds together and everything sounds basically the same. In the case of Baroness, it was all chugging chords and anthemic vocals, the choruses being the only way I could even tell one song from the next. For the first song, I was about 3 people back from the stage, and luckily it turned out to be "The Birthing" (video below), my favorite of theirs. "Luckily," because after that assault on my ear-holes I had to move to the back of the club. After hearing a few of their other standouts, including the single, Wanderlust, I left before they had even finished playing. I'm already a bit hard of hearing, and I wasn't willing to sacrifice even more of that sense for 20 more minutes of indistinguishable guitar sounds.

Baroness, "The Birthing" (Live from DC9 in Washington, DC 12/2/07.)

November 13, 2008


One of my favorite tracks over the past few months has been BLK JKS' "Mzabalazo." According to the band, the song is an "update of a classic apartheid era toyi toyi fight song when folks got it crackin in the streets." This recording, from a special Fader magazine 7", keeps those protest origins intact, as a squall of guitar noise and a brief instrumental intro soon give way to shouted call & response vocals. You can grab the track in mp3 form at the band's blog(or this direct download link).

If you're the type who likes to check things out before going all the way with a dl, watch this YouTube video to not only HEAR the song (in lo-fi YouTube sound), but also (sort of) see it spinning on a turntable.

In the video below, recorded April 2008 at Harriet's Alter Ego in Brooklyn, you can hear a version of the song more characteristic of the band's recent live performances, with the structure a bit more loose and open to variation than the studio version.

Check out BLK JKS' website, blkjks.blogspot.com, for more videos and mp3s.

November 12, 2008

Benauwd from Jasper van Es on Vimeo.

World record for most bags on head. I can't wait to see this recreated in a music video for my favorite band.

(via today and tomorrow)

Learn to blog!

This book reminds me of the time a few weeks ago when Colleen and I were at Barnes & Noble, and I saw a display of those binder inserts that are about things like the periodic table or grammar and editing tips, but there was also one about blogging. I bought it and put it in my blogging binder, where I like to collect interesting newspaper and magazine clippings. Sometimes I'll write a little something about one of them on some loose-leaf paper, and then make a "link" by stapling it to the clipping.

November 7, 2008

Blog Post - Worst Show

Think I might start blogging again. Probably with less of a focus on music. Not sure yet. If you've been a subscriber for this long (Google Reader says I have 10!), please bear with me! If December comes and there have only been like 2 new posts, then I suppose you can delete away.

Last night I went to my first show in about 3 months. There hasn't been very much going on since I've moved to Columbus, very few recognizable bands outside of the lo-fi wave that's found some sort of a base here. So yesterday, when I saw that Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson and Castanets would be playing the Summit, I figured I'd go check it out, even though Robinson's debut was a little too Bright Eyes-y for me, and, aside from name-recognition, I'm not very familiar with Castanets. As things turned out, the performances I saw left a lot to be desired.

MBAR's rhythm section couldn't make it, so he attempted to play his set with himself on acoustic, plus a keyboardist and an electric guitarist. They were clearly lost without the bass & drums, and ended up fumbling their way through 4 songs. It seems to me that, rather than trying to play the normal arrangements without the rhythm section (which I believe is what they did), or trying to rearrange around the missing parts on the fly, Miles should have just let the 2 present members chill while he played a solo acoustic set, which - if you've heard the songs - is almost definitely how they were initally composed. Instead, he chose to play an abbreviated set of poorly performed songs. Why?

By the time Castanets finally came on, the preceding scene had left me pretty deflated, so I probably wasn't in the best mindset to really pay attention to a group I wasn't very familiar with. They ended up sounding pretty good, but also played maybe 6 or 7 songs, and their songs aren't terribly long, so it was maybe a half hour set.

I don't mean my first blog post in forever to be a whine-fest, but I really really have never seen such a half-assed show. I'm sure these people are having a hard time financially, like the rest of us, I'm sure it's not too thrilling to be playing for a crowd of about 25 in Columbus, Ohio, but the lack of effort and professionalism displayed by both bands was pretty shocking. I've seen bands in crappier venues, more informal settings, but the apathy last night just blew me away.

I write all this to ultimately pose this question: Is this a trend? Have any of my 9ish readers been to a show lately where it seemed like the performers just did. not. care?

The more I think about it, the more I think it may just be a problem with Columbus itself. Fewer bands are coming here these days than when I last lived here 2 years ago, and the turnout last night supported those who make the decision to skip this town altogether. Any thoughts?

(I'm not even going to get into the gross midwestern college student brand of alt/hipster/scenester types that made up about 95% of those in attendance, but they didn't do much to improve my view of the situation. I will just say: there were AT LEAST five moustaches in the room; that means probably a quarter of the males in the paying audience were wearing ironic moustaches. Please.)

July 13, 2008


A little over 2 months since the last blog post! There are a variety of reasons for this, the main one being I haven't had reliable internet access since mid-May.


Jaguar Love, "My Organ Sounds Like..."

Made up of members from Pretty Girls Make Graves and Blood Brothers, Jaguar Love is carrying the torch for what might be (probably is) my favorite genre of rock music: early-aughts art punk in the vein of At The Drive-In, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Sparta (1st album - Wiretap Scars - only), and PGMG and Blood Brothers themselves (though the latter often tended to be a little too hXc/thrashy/screamy for me). This track (released in June on a self-titled 3 track sampler EP) gets everything just right, combining strengths of both earlier acts. It’s rumored to be the closing track on their debut album, due August 19.

Black Moth Super Rainbow, "Zodiac Girls"

Black Moth Super Rainbow’s music has generally been a lot more “Super Rainbow” than “Black Moth”. Last year’s Dandelion Gum was full of song titles about lollipops, roller discos, flowers, gum, and lyrical references to "summertime" in what seemed like half (or more) of the tracks. Meanwhile, the band’s darker side has only been apparent in their public image, as the members themselves go by odd pseudonyms like Tobacco, Power Pill Fist, and The Seven Fields of Aphelion, and much of the group's other background info is kept deliberately mysterious. With “Zodiac Girls”, the band flips the musical script and for once the sound jibes with band's cryptic presentation. This track is musically menacing, with a driving fuzz that isn't far removed from the predominant sound on Dandelion Gum, but is employed to far spookier effect. Tobacco’s lyrics add to the creepy vibe, as he sings "I know about your rainy days/I'm here when you melt away/I'll sing with my broken mouth/I'll sell your dead flowers now". Like on Dandelion Gum, the tile here perfectly captures the mood of the song, making me think of a band of murderous alternative females, sort of a Manson Family for the 2000s. Will Tobacco become the indie Rob Zombie and use this track as a basis for a mumble-core horror movie?!

Last bit of news: In a month and a half I'll be moving to Columbus, OH. I'll be sure to get super lo-fi and stuff and try to get back on the blog train.

May 9, 2008


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Sometimes I think that, in between boning celebrities and starlets, John Mayer wishes he went the W.K. route.

April 25, 2008

Video: Apollo Heights - "Shallow by Shallow"

Today Apollo Heights released the video for "Shallow by Shallow", the first for a song from their 2007 debut, White Music for Black People. The track, with it's reverb-heavy guitars and thick drum sound, wouldn't have been out of place 15 years ago, which makes sense given the backgrounds of the band and producer.

Apollo Heights "Shallow by Shallow" Video 2008

April 24, 2008

Vampire Weekend tricks me into posting their video by performing with a drumline on last night's Jimmy Kimmell Live.

I say: uninspired. If they were serious, they would've included a huge throwdown break in the middle. And I don't know why, but the song seems unbearably slow.
Also, why is the show's music set aspiring to be some venue that I'd never, ever, want to go to? [Via Pitchfork]

And, Idolator beat me to the punch in writing about yet another silly Slate music essay. Links: Idolator's post, the Slate piece in question, my post on last month's dumb Slate music essay.

April 23, 2008

The Veldt

While digging for info on the critically slept-on Apollo Heights debut, White Music For Black People, I found out that band-leading twins Danny and Daniel (weird, I know) Chavis also fronted mid-90s shoegaze/dream-pop band The Veldt, whose Mercury-released Afrodisiac was produced by Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins (who reunited with the the Chavises to produce the Apollo Heights album). Afrodisiac is out of print, but I was able to find an MP3 of "Soul in a Jar". I like it better than most of what I've heard from Apollo Heights, but more on that (maybe) later.

MP3: "Soul in a Jar"

Though out of print, plenty of copies of Afrodisiac are available from sellers on Amazon.

Some Relevant Items

1 - "Falling Down", the first single from the upcoming Scarlett Johansson album premiered Monday on AOL's Spinner, and was yesterday (I think) released to the iTunes and Amazon MP3 stores for purchase. I like this track a lot, even more than title track "Anywhere I Lay My Head", my favorite of the songs I discussed previously. David Bowie is featured on backing vocals, and Scarlett's lead vocals are reminiscent of Sinead O'Connor and/or Annie Lennox. I was really into the singles from Lennox's Diva back in '92 ("Walking on Broken Glass" was the first and, I think, only song I ever called in to request on the radio), so I suppose it's only fitting that I would take a liking to this one.
There is a music Myspace set up for the album here.
1.2 - I like the latest iteration of Bowie's career, which seems to involve guest turns with young, currently relevant acts (TV on the Radio, Arcade Fire, Sitek/Johansson), allowing him to gracefully age as a legend without feeling the need to crank out an album every few years, as he did from '93 to '03. Compare that to Lou Reed, who's playing any corporate gig for hire, disappointing paying fans on a regular basis (I'm glad I didn't spend the $50+ it would have cost to see him in Northampton last Sunday), and guesting on overblown Killers b-sides.

2 - Interesting post at Boogie Woogie Flu, in which Ted Barron traces the "stark two chord template laid out in Lou Reed's 'Heroin'" to Peter Laughner's "Amphetamine", Wilco's "Misunderstood", and Josh Ritter's "Thin Blue Flame" (complete with MP3s of each). [Link]

3 - Pitchfork brings news that Dirty Projectors have signed to Domino, and plan to release an LP on the label in early 2009, as well as their last LP for Dead Oceans in fall 2009. It's said that the Dead Oceans release will be "an album expanding upon and inspired by the arrangements of Rise Above." I saw the band play some new songs in Boston late last month, all of which were similar in style and arrangement to Rise Above, but otherwise bore no relation the album's Black Flag concept. The sound struck me as already a little tired, so I'm hoping this means that Dave Longstreth will be taking yet another new direction on the Domino release, and using the songs I heard for the Dead Oceans album. If that's the case -- and if you're familiar with the band's history, you'll know that Lonstreth doesn't like to stick with any one sound/style for too long -- this is exciting news. [Link]

4 - An article posted on MTV.com last week (link) makes the case that, essentially, America(ns) is(are) "too dumb" for Robyn. This is similar to the Wired piece I posted earlier -- comparing the careers of Robyn and Britney Spears -- in which a message about the stupidity of Americans was at least implied, if not stated directly. I don't know exactly why, because I don't entirely disagree with the premise, but something about this type of coverage rubs me the wrong way. If the author of the MTV post is as hopeful for Robyn's U.S. career as he says, is insulting her prospective audience really the best way to get them interested in her music? There's a reason music critics have a reputation as elitist assholes. I have a feeling there will be more coverage of this ilk as her the release date for Robyn approaches.

April 18, 2008

Stars got to get high.

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Record Store Day

Tomorrow is the first ever Record Store Day. As far as I can tell, two stores in the Pioneer Valley will be participating.

Turn It Up! in Northampton will be offering "discounts and special offers" all day.

Meanwhile, at 2pm at Newbury Comics in Amherst, you can see a solo acoustic performance from... wait for it... Aaron Lewis of Staind.

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Record Store Day website.