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.

April 17, 2008

Take a look at this Wired story comparing a time-line of Robyn's career with that of Britney Spears'. I have a feeling that cultural differences have a lot more to do with their differing career arcs than a simple "Robyn is smart and awesome; Britney is totally crazy" explanation.


Scarlett Johansson leaks/streams on Muxtape

Someone has put together a Muxtape streaming 3 tracks from the forthcoming Scarlett Johansson album, Anywhere I Lay My Head. Click here to check it out [songs removed]. Despite the fact that seemingly everyone who considers him/herself a "fan of music" already hates it on premise alone, I think the premise -- Johansson singing Tom Waits covers, with production from TVotR's David Sitek -- is so weird that, regardless of quality, it's bound to at least be one of the most interesting releases of the year. I picked up the current issue of Vice yesterday and was surprised to see that their music reviewer, in the first review of the album I've seen so far, responded to it in pretty much the same way. He writes that Johansson doesn't always hit the notes, but Sitek's production buries her deep enough in the mix that the album is still listenable, and that the audacity of the project alone is reason to at least give it a listen.

Listening to the 3 tracks streaming at Muxtape, I'm a little disappointed. I'm hoping the album has some tracks in the style of more uptempo TVotR songs, but the preview songs all have a dreamy lullabye quality, and I think a whole album like that would put me to sleep for sure. Of course, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Update: You know what? I should probably listen to the songs more than once before I start talking about them. These songs are a little better than I initially thought. The only one that is overtly lullabye-esque is "I Wish I Was in New Orleans", the last track on the Muxtape, and apparently the only one I remembered when I started typing. The title track is pretty good, with a definite Celebration feel to it, which makes sense since Sitek produced their album, and the band's multi-instrumentalist Sean Antanaitis plays on this one. On the remaining track, "I Don't Want to Grow Up", ScarJo sort of talk-sings over a backing track that reminds me of 80s synth-pop in general, but doesn't recall any song in particular. Though I've changed my mind a little bit, I'll still be disappointed if "Anywhere I Lay My Head" is the best song on the album.

Also newsworthy is the fact that, as these streams have already been pulled by Imeem, Muxtape may be the new go-to source -- for the time being, anyway -- for providing unapproved streaming previews of unreleased albums.

April 15, 2008

Power Douglas - "Oblideration of King Alfred"

Power Douglas

As I mentioned yesterday, today is the release date for Power Douglas' debut full-length Pentecostal Fangbread. It looks like the only place you can get it so far is Amazon's download store (Amazon isn't listing a physical copy); click the album art to go there, where you can check out clips of the 9 songs on the record. Closing track "Pangea", which features Tunde Adebimpe from TV on the Radio and Aku Orraca-Tetteh from Dragons of Zynth, was featured on Pitchfork yesterday, and is reviewed on Paper Thin Walls today.

I downloaded the record this morning, and I like what I've heard in the two listens I've given it so far. After hearing the TVotR-esque sound of "Pangea", I was surprised that a good portion of the album is made up of rap tracks. Check out "Oblideration of King Alfred" [sic], in which vocalist Furor Thin rhymes on top of fuzzed-over layers of Latin percussion, and a simple bassline undergirds the whole affair.

MP3 - "Oblideration of King Alfred"
Get this you guys: In January, some guy registered www.weeatwhatwelike.com and set it up to have his tumblr routed there.
wewwl faker

I suppose there is room enough for both of us on this internet.

April 14, 2008

First-name sharer Alfred Soto on the presence of academics at the just-concluded 2008 EMP Pop Conference:
The decision to include more papers by academics injected an unwholesome amount of pedagogical oratory and jargon into several promising ideas (I never want to hear about "praxis," "teleological," and "heteronormative valences" in my presence again). In my experience, academics care little about audience reactions because the lecture format isn't particularly kind to the reception of ideas; it's just irrelevant. Also, academics have been taught to expunge their presentations of opinions, so their relation to the material they're presenting is often mystifying, often reflected in neutered prose. Pop music promises a utopian notion of community, and some of the presentations betrayed purely ascetic experiences that often clashed with the inchoate nature of the songs under discussion.


Check out WFMU's post on Columbus, OH bands. I'd never heard of most on the list.

Toothpaste For Dinner

CNNMoney reports on Youngstown's radical approach to the city's long declining fortunes: a conscious effort to get smaller, rather than holding out hope for new growth.

And Defend Youngstown blog gets featured in NY Times.

Dragons of Zynth @ Iron Horse, Northampton, MA 4/12/08

Saturday night, NYC born, Cleveland bred, and NYC returned twin brothers Aku and Akwetey Orraca-Tetteh brought the noisy future rock of their band Dragons of Zynth to the Iron Horse, where they opened for Saul Williams. If the name itself doesn't give it away, a listen to their debut album, Coronation Thieves, and a look at their Myspace makes it clear that the Dragons are carrying on a legacy that includes far out black artists like Yusef Lateef (under whom they studied musical theory), Sun Ra, George Clinton, and Afrika Bambaataa -- this is space age stuff for computer brains, with electronic beeps and mechanical fuzz on every track.

Aku Orraca-Tetteh

While the electro sounds can at times play a neutering role on the record, a protective film to keep the intensity of the music from fully reaching the listeners' ears, the live performances strip much of that away, allowing the tracks to achieve full sonic force. In what I initially thought was a mis-step, DOZ chose "Anna Mae" -- the critical favorite in Coronation Thieves reviews -- as their opener. A slow, dreamy love song awash in the aforementioned fuzz -- and by far their most subdued track -- I thought it would have been a better choice as a late-set come down. As it turned out, the song merely lulled the audience into a pleasant but unsuspecting security before the band pulled out "Get Off", Coronation Thieves' most dangerous rage-r. Beginning with a soft intro & verse not unlike "Anna Mae", "Get Off" doesn't bust out until the chorus, which brought an until-now quiet Aku out from behind his keyboard, gesticulating wildly while spitting the lyrics at a crowd suddenly brought to life. From this point on, Aku was the clear star of the show, working himself up into a similar state in similar parts of the remaining songs (including jumping into the crowd during #2 rager "Who Rize Above"). Unfortunately, therein lied the problem that became more and more clear to me with each song: DOZ essentially has two sonic formulas, that of "Anna Mae", with it's gentle fuzzy melody, and that of much of "Rize" and "Get Off"'s chorus, with Aku's fiery vocal performance. "Anna Mae" is the most critically beloved track because it's the most effectively realized use of their safe, soft, pop style, and "Get Off" is the album's best track because it's the best synthesis of that formula with the more dangerous one; the rest of the tracks just stand as not-quite-as-good attempts at the two (listen to "Anna Mae" followed by "Labor Day Lung", or "Get Off" followed by "Rize"). However, the magic of the first two songs was enough to leave me with a good impression of the show overall, and the performance on "Get Off" was probably the best performance of a single song I've seen so far this year. The audience (bigger than I expected for a Saul Williams show) responded very positively, somewhat surprising since I imagine the vast majority are unfamiliar with DOZ. Though I don't know how much of that was their east-coast liberal self-satisfaction with being present at a performance by Black People [I never really, completely believed in it until I lived here for a while, but east-coast liberal self-satisfaction exists just as much as the stereotypes would lead you to believe, and being present at a musical performance by Black People is definitely Something White People Like.]

Mp3: "Get Off"

Despite the samey-ness of their songs, Dragons of Zynth are still doing something different and far more interesting than most indie-rock blog bands, and it's odd that they don't seem to have collected as much buzz as plenty of their more boring peers. It's also encouraging to see that, despite well-publicized complaints to the contrary, there's a significant heavily black-including-and-influenced rock community out there. This morning, Pitchfork posted a new track by Power Douglas, that features TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe on vocals, and was co-written with Aku. Their new EP, Pentecostal Fangbread, is out tomorrow, and also features DOZ's Akwetey Orraca-Tetteh on guitar. You can pick it up (so to speak) at Amazon's download store.
Also check out former DOZ member Crunc Tesla:

And Apollo Heights, whose White Music for Black People was released last October, and I'm bummed I hadn't heard of it until now. Very good sounds. Why did this never even get a Pitchfork review?

April 13, 2008

Article to check out @ NPR.org: "Five Modern Classical Pieces for Pop Listeners: 20th Century Classics You Should Get to Know," by Alex Ross. The pieces discussed therein (with audio excerpts):
  • Igor Stravinsky - Rite of Spring
  • Olivier Messiaen - Quartet for the End of Time
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen - Song of the Children
  • Morton Feldman - Rothko Chapel
  • Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians
This is a companion piece to an article Ross wrote for the site in November listing his Top 5 Pop Albums for Classical Listeners.

[Thanks to Mike Anderson for sharing this article on Facebook.]

April 12, 2008

Quick Post

Tonight is the big Cleveland "Lottery League" show, for which members of several local bands were rearranged at random, resulting in 33 new bands for one show only. You can check out further explanations and coverage at I Rock Cleveland and Scene. Since I'm not able to see the show, the most interesting aspect to me is the names these one-off bands have come up with for themselves. My personal favs tend to be the punny and/or current events related, such as: Bourbon Outfitters, The Audacity of Dope, Good News for People with Credit Problems, and Stimulus Package.

Here's the gig poster, with the full slate of bands:


April 9, 2008

[Via Boing Boing] IFC and Nerve have compiled a list of "The 50 Greatest Comedy Sketches of All Time." They have videos for most, so it's worth checking out if you're into comedy and/or questionable list-making. However, the entire endeavor is invalid due to its failure to include this: