Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sleigh Bells

Sleigh Bells - Crown On The Ground

This is a song from the emerging Brooklyn dance-pop duo Sleigh Bells. With so much mellow, lo-fi dance-y stuff (Washed Out, Neon Indian) lulling everybody to sleep these days, it's refreshing to hear something that goes in the opposite direction. "Crown On the Ground" is a blown-out banger so loaded up with distortion that its neck-snapping hooks transform the dance floor into a mosh pit. Producer Derek Miller used to be in Poison The Well, which helps explain how hardcore this is. All the idiots combining post-emo and dance music should pay attention to how its done. I'm making it sound more metal than it actually is, but don't read to much into it; this is definitely meant for the hips and not the fists.

"Marge, I'm afraid I'm gonna have to give your pork chops my lowest rating ever: seven thumbs up."

-Homer Simpson

(What I mean is this song gets seven thumbs up)

Sleigh Bells Myspace

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Music & Sports

October is the best time to be a sports fan. The World Series, the beginning of the basketball season, the middle of the football season, hockey might start, I don't know, I'm not Canadian. This is an especially good October for sports in New York (unless you're a M/Jets fan): The Yankees are in the World Series, the Giants are excellent, the Knicks are only one season away from getting LeBron. To celebrate, I made a short mix of songs about sports. The best part is, you don't even have to like sports to like these songs.

Donwnload songs here

1. Belle & Sebastian - Piazza, New York Catcher - buy

(Baseball-as-gay-relationship metaphor = brilliance)

2. Lil' Wayne - Kobe Bryant

(The "Best Rapper Alive" pays tribute to the best basketball player alive [arguably])

3. The Mountain Goats - Fall of the Star High School Running Back - buy

(A lot of athletes are only an injury and a bad decision away from oblivion)

4. Sun Kil Moon - Duk Koo Kim - buy

(Duk Koo Kim was a boxer who died from injuries sustained in the ring)

5. Warren Zevon - Hit Somebody (The Hockey Song) - buy

(Who gives a shit about hockey? David Letterman, maybe, who appears in the background of this song)

"Go, my favorite sports team, go!"

-Brian Regan

"The sports team from my area is superior to the sports team from your area"

-Onion t-shirt

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Lightning Bolt - Earthly Delights

(This review originally appeared in The New School Free Press)

Providence noise duo Lightning Bolt make their long-awaited return with Earthly Delights, their first album since 2005. They have spent the intervening years playing with Bjork (drummer Brian Chippendale), dating Kurt Vonnegut’s niece (bassist Brian Gibson), and workshopping new songs in their notorious live show, which turns shy, skinny hipsters into bloodthirsty savages. They’re like Slayer for RISD industrial design students. Lightning Bolt seems to have embraced the metallic undercurrent in their music, as Earthly Delights is their most metal album yet. The songs are longer and heavier, taking time build organically, like on standout track “Colossus,” which starts with a sludgy bass riff and ominous drumbeat, gets kind of spaced-out in the middle, then wakes up and sprints to the finish. Bassist Gibson can shred like Eddie Van Halen, but here at times adopts a style closer to Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi, slow and syrupy. However, he still frequently unleashes his patented confusing blasts of dexterity that redefine what a bass can sound like. Chippendale is one of the most distinctive drummers around, playing like he’s winning at the world’s most difficult game of Whack-A-Mole. His snare drum is like brain popcorn, and his bass drum is too fast and too complicated to only be played by one person. Plus, he’s still chirping indecipherably through his custom-made microphone masks, one of Lightning Bolt’s many eccentricities. All of this is more fun than it probably sounds. Lightning Bolt may provoke violence, but their music is as inviting as noise rock gets. You may get pummeled, but in the friendliest possible way.

Lightning Bolt - Colossus (Mediafire) - buy

Thursday, August 6, 2009

This Is A Post About Stuff White People Like

You all are familiar with Stuff White People Like. You frequently identify with it, you disagree with it other times, you think it's hilarious. And it is. I'm not blazing any new trails here, I'm just going to make a list of things on the list that I like too. Like you care. Boooooring. Whatever. I'm not even going to link to them individually. If you want to see what they are, find them yourself.

I am a White Person, and I like this Stuff:

#113 (though I'm always disappointed by it)

These are things that I love. There are other things on this list that I certainly like, and others that I'm certainly not opposed to, and others that I am opposed to, but mostly just to be a contrarian dick. Ultimately, though, I have an opinion on everything here, just like all y'all honkies do. That's why the satire here is so good. Humor analysis!

Wow, what a shitty post. I'm still gonna post it.

Here's a bonus track for wasting your time with me. It's what came to mind when I thought of the whitest music (for the right kind of white people. Don't try to talk to me about irrelevant things like Puddle of Mudd or something [wow, cranky?]):

The National - Mistaken for Strangers - buy

Why don't you leave a comment about what you identify with? Maybe that will give some purpose to this post.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Butt Odor?

Butt Odor.

Cleanse your butt with this:

Burial & Four Tet - Moth

Moody, head-bobbing house/dubstep collaborations are perfect for yo' stank ass.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bullet Points

I haven't posted anything in a while. It's because I'm breaking up with this blog. This is me reading my breakup letter to it (If you don't click that link, it's your own goddamn fault you're so miserable all the goddamn time. I'm doing what I can to make you feel better, but at some point you have to take responsibility for yourself). It's just not working out between me and this blog anymore. We just stare at each other over breakfast, not saying anything, feeling trapped and uncomfortable. When we do talk, it's just to bicker and undermine each other. I feel like half a person when I'm with this blog.

Just kidding. I'm not breaking up with my blog. We're meant to be together. This is the song we sing to each other:

Angelo Badalamenti & David Lynch - Just You - buy

This song is from "Twin Peaks." Do you watch "Twin Peaks?" You should. It may be the best TV show there ever was. It also may have the longest opening credit sequence there ever was.

Speaking of great TV shows, have you watched "NYC Prep?" I watched one episode because the recaps on Gawker and Videogum are achingly hilarious. I haven't watched any more episodes, but I still read the recaps. Does that make me pathetic?

If you're in New York sometime before August 15th, go see this show (art). It's a surreal, disorienting, live-action collage.

If you're in New York next Sunday, go to this show (music). It has the potential to be the show of our young century. It won't be, but it could be. It's free, at least. Well, a minimum of $4.50 for subway fare, unless you live right around there, in which case, DIE HIPSTER SCUM or whatever. Seriously, though, all three of these bands are great and I can't wait to see how this will unfold.

Thursday I went to a reading by one of my favorite pop culture writers, Nathan Rabin of the Onion AV Club. If you are unfamiliar with his work, I suggest you start here and then read through entire the My Year of Flops archives, because you will laugh, cry, and get an excellent education in cinema and failure. His just-released memoir, The Big Rewind, is brave and hilarious and uses profanity in new and exciting ways. He signed my book "Hey Liam, tell your cat I say hi. Nathan Rabin." I meet one of my favorite writers, and we talk about my cat. Like I said: pathetic.

I bought a book called On Michael Jackson by Margo Jefferson today. I'm looking forward to reading it. Like my copy of The Big Rewind, it's signed by the author. It says, "To Jocelyn - A former student I'm delighted to see again - All best (sic), Margo 2/06." It cost ten dollars. I feel like that was a good price to pay. I also bought a Joan Didion book I'd been wanting for a long time. It's out of print, but I found it today at Barner Books in New Paltz. It cost four dollars. I had good book luck today. I also bought a Prince single. This is the A-side. It might be my favorite Prince song.

Prince - If I Was Your Girlfriend - buy

Want to know how to make Andy Rooney's absurd rants on "60 Minutes" even funnier? Why, add curse words, of course!
The Original Hater just got hatier.

That's a lot of information to take in with not a lot of context. Posts that are actually about things are coming in the near future. Keep you eyes peeled like hard-boiled eggs. Mmm.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Something I'm Excited About: Atlas Sound

According to Pitchfork, Bradford Cox, of 1979 Classic Film About the Human Tolls of Vietnam Starring Robert DeNiro, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken, is releasing another album as Atlas Sound, Logos, on October 20th, the followup to last year's Let the Blind Those Who See But Cannot Feel. In the interview, Mr. Cox describes the album as more worldly, which will be a welcome change from his previous album's sometimes oppressive insularity. It will also feature guest spots from members of Stereolab and, most notably, Panda Bear of Animal Collective and Panda Bear Crew. You may think, "wow, I wonder what an Atlas Sound/Panda Bear collaboration will sound like! Do I really have to wait until October to find out?" Well, cherished reader, your impatience will be rewarded. And this song is even better than you imagine. Its official title is "Walkabout," but I downloaded it from GvB as "Dovers Jam," which is what I will always think of it as. That was its title then, I guess. The Dovers of the title were a 60s garage band, and "Walkabout" samples their song "What Am I Going To Do?" This was recorded live at some place called the Drunken Unicorn on New Year's Eve, and I love it. It's among the best non-Deerhunter songs Cox has written.

Atlas Sound - Dovers Jam (Walkabout) - buy an Atlas Sound album

The Dovers - What Am I Going To Do? - buy

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

Goddammit, I love America! Let the motherfuckin' eagle soar!

Let's go drink some domestic beer and set off some

Fireworks - Animal Collective - buy

What am I going to do with those fireworks, you ask?

Rocketry Is My Plan - Frodus - buy

More titular relevance!

Independence Day - Elliott Smith - buy

Let's do this!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reporter vs. Drunk Guy

Most of the time when bystanders interfere with field reports, the reporter will handle it calmly, either ignoring the interloper or quickly cutting back to the studio. Fortunately for us, this is not the case here. This is obviously the culmination of an extended period of antagonism, which we don't see but was probably also hilarious. It seems like, "we can't get this guy to leave, but fuck it, LET'S DO IT LIVE!" But then the reporter loses his shit. It's priceless.

Two additional things worth appreciating:

1. The drunken fool appears to be alone. There's nobody egging him on, he's just such an asshole that he will ruin stuff solely for his own enjoyment.

2. The anchors' faces.

What happens in Vegas, AMIRITE? HUH? HUH?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

RIP Michael Jackson

I don't even know what to say. Only 50 years old. Let's have a party and celebrate his legacy.

Jackson 5 - I Want You Back

Just take a few minutes and appreciate how good this song is.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Crime Pays: A Breathing Shark Mix

Lately, I've been really into two things: The Wire and the Wu-Tang Clan. The former is a TV show about, well, a lot of things, but it boils down to cops and criminals in Baltimore. The latter is a long-running hip-hop collective from Staten Island. These two things are similar, and the reasons why are simple, which is ironic, because both are intimidatingly complex. The Wire and the music of the Wu-Tang Clan are both at their best when they tell intricately detailed, painstakingly realistic crime narratives. They go deep into the minds of drug dealers and murderers, exploring the ins and outs of the drug trade. They have superb eyes for character detail and ripping storytelling ability.

The show and the group are currently occupying most of my headspace, and as a result, I've been thinking a lot about crime. Primarily about dealing drugs, but other types of crime as well. And, like everything I think about, it eventually circled back around to music. I started thinking hard about great songs that tell crime stories, came up with many, narrowed it down to fifteen, then put them in a playlist and uploaded it to the Internet. These songs are crime songs, about everything from multiple murder to drunk driving. If you study this mix, maybe you'll grow up to be as a gully as me.

Break the law by downloading as a zip here. Snitches get stitches.



GZA - Gold - buy

It was hard to keep this to just two Wu-Tang-related songs, because there are so many excellent little short stories (audiobooks?) in every member's discography. However, this track from Liquid Swords is probably my favorite, and the most like The Wire of any I've heard. GZA is like Stringer Bell on this song, cold and focused, looking at dealing like a business, worrying about the quality of his product, and killing when he has to. This song is basically my favorite parts of the first season of the show in four minutes, complete with detailed descriptions of the life of a drug dealer and a chess metaphor. Waiting for the train overhead to make noise so he can shoot a competitor? I wish I was GZA/Stringer Bell.

Curtis Mayfield - Pusherman - buy

Here's a different view on dealing than GZA's. While not as detailed as "Gold," "Pusherman" it doesn't glorify the life. It's a sarcastic, despairing take on hustling. It's an anti-drug song, but you could easily misinterpret it, with its funky drums and seductive offer, "want some coke? have some weed."

Ghostface Killah ft. Raekwon - Kilo - buy

And now back to Wu-Tang glorification. This song is basically an instruction manual on how to produce and sell crack. According to Ghost, the drug trade is dangerous, but with potential for wealth and glory. Again, it's all in the details: mayonnaise jars full of water and crack, handing out lighters to clients during the holidays. It's what makes it realistic, separates Ghostface and Raekwon from mere braggarts. This is the closest rural whiteboys like myself can get to knowing what it's like to be Scarface. I could have gone with something from Only Built 4 Cuban Links, but I wanted to give you a chemistry lesson. Educate yourself!

The Velvet Underground - I'm Waiting For the Man - buy

It's not just dealers who write songs. This song is a step-by-step chronicle of the process of buying heroin from one of the preeminent junkie icons, Lou Reed. Reed has said that everything described in it is probably still true today, except the price.


Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Henry Lee - buy

This is a haunting duet with PJ Harvey. It's pretty much exactly what a duet between Nick Cave and PJ Harvey should be: a creeping murder ballad from two of the creepiest, most death-obsessed musicians out there. "Henry Lee" is traditional, rearranged by Cave, and a passionate tale of jealous, murderous love. Crime isn't just an urban phenomenon; sometimes bodies get thrown down wells in the backyard.

Big Black - Things To Do Today - buy

More black comedy from Big Black. Further evidence of their mastery of simple brutality and razor-sharp humor. This is based on the true story of the Billionaire Boys Club, a Ponzi scheme that led to murder. I love the title, which makes murder sound like an errand. And what's colder than "kill the dog, evidence?"


Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Tired Eyes - buy

This is a song from Tonight's the Night, one of the druggiest, most on-the-verge-of-collapse, most BEST albums ever released. It tells the story of The Doctor, a man who, as the song says, shot four men in a cocaine deal in Topanga Canyon. Neil Young is both recounting and listening to the story, and pleading for dead men to come back. Some of the rawest emotion you'll ever hear.

The Hold Steady - One For The Cutters - buy

Craig Finn of the Hold Steady is a Ghostface-level storyteller, and this is his "Shakey Dog." It's the story of a girl who goes away to college, parties a little too much, and gets mixed up with some townies she shouldn't get mixed up with. Things start out fine, then escalate into crystal meth use, class conflict, existential ennui, and stabbing. It's a disturbing, reflective song, plotted like a movie and packed with rich imagery in every line. The "Cutters" of the title are residents of Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana Univeristy. This song is driven by harpsichord. I'll keep preaching the gospel of the Hold Steady until I die, and this song is a large reason why. It has everything you could ever want in a song.

Notorious B.I.G. - Gimme the Loot - buy

Biggie is Omar Little in this song. An eccentric renegade robbing drug dealers and killing anyone in the way. Actually, he's not quite Omar, because Omar has a code, whereas Biggie is just on a rampage, unrepentant and evil and insane. Also, Biggie would kill you if you said he was like Omar, because Biggie ain't gay. He raps in two distinct, equally threatening voices and declares that he doesn't give a fuck if he kills pregnant women. It's pretty much the most gangster thing I've ever heard.


X - Johnny Hit and Run Paulene - buy

White-knuckle rockabilly punk from X on this harrowing story about a serial rapist and one woman who fights back. It's easy to let the lyrics become secondary to the hard-charging music here, but paying attention will disturb the holy living fuck out of you.


Mr. Bungle - Love Is A Fist - buy

This is irresponsible of me to post, because domestic violence isn't funny, and this song makes a joke out of it. But how can you deny the gnarly metal of the chorus and John Zorn's evilly skronking sax? And, um, this song is a little bit funny. "I feel strongly about violence." C'mon, that's funny. It's just a song by some sickos who really like Blue Velvet, alright?


The Clash - Bankrobber - buy

Similar to Wu-Tang, it was difficult to settle on just one Clash song about crime. This band approached crime and poverty more thoughtfully than any rock band before or since, and "Bankrobber" is as brilliant as any of their other, better-known songs. This dubby number about a Robin Hood-esque thief is supposedly based on Mick Jones' fantasy about his grandfather, who may have been involved in a bank robbery.


Bruce Springsteen - Atlantic City - buy

For as long as I have been aware of him, I have argued that Bruce Springsteen sucks. He is prone to overblown melodrama, working-class-guy hypocritical shtick, and all-around tastelessness. Recently, however, I've found that I need to reevaluate that stance, because this album, Nebraska, is excellent, and this song is the standout. It is lyrically one of the best songs I've ever heard. No exaggeration. I get goosebumps on top of my goosebumps after every line. It is both specific and subtle, perfectly balanced between the two. It is enriched by outside knowledge. It is philosophical and sociological, but handled understatedly and gracefully. Plus, it's a perfect crime story about a man driven by circumstance into a gig with the Mob.


Pitchfork Militia - Crash - buy

Gonna get real drunk and drive my car gonna get real drunk and drive my car gonna get real drunk and drive my car and crash.


John Hiatt - Shredding the Document - buy

Not everyone can be hard like Biggie. Some of us have to get money in other, less violent ways. This was Jeff Skilling's theme song. Some go to jail, others get sex changes and go on Larry King.

Now you know how to sell drugs, suppress evidence, and get away with murder. Best of luck to you in your future endeavors!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sunny Day Real Estate reunites

This is great news! Seminal 90s emo band Sunny Day Real Estate is reunited and touring! Currently, they only have shows lined up in Seattle and San Francisco, which is funny, because I thought they refused to play in California. Which is one of the coolest things a band can do. Anyway, I know emo is dead and a joke and everything, but 00s emo bands could have done well to play closer attention to Sunny Day Real Estate. Don't get turned off; emo doesn't have to be a dirty word. Check it out:

Sunny Day Real Estate - Pillars - buy

Hopefully, they'll come to New York so I can watch balding men cry in Webster Hall. Sounds fun, right? Seriously, though, this is exciting, because SDRE is a great band.

via AV Club

They are playing in New York! Yay! Two days before my birthday! Yay! At Terminal 5! Boo! But their original bassist is back in! Return to Yay!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Aural Sandpaper #4

Zebra Mu / Schadenfreude - "The Good, The Bent, & The Twisted" Split
Zebra Mu - Taped to Destruction
Schadenfreude - Country Gas Station

It's been an embarrassingly long time since I've posted an Aural Sandpaper, and I have no excuse other than there have been thrilling things like interviews with DMX that I felt were more deserving of your attention. However, as my primary goal with this blog is to use it to eventually become the Arts & Leisure editor of the Times, I figure I may as well write about music or something, like I told myself I would. And so, for your listening displeasure, today I present to you the unbearable sounds of Zebra Mu & Schadenfreude.

I'm jumping the shark a bit in terms of sheer unpalatability with Zebra Mu & Schadenfreude. My last post was about Big Black, a band that is certainly abrasive, but still uses things like melody, rhythm, meter, and other such outdated musical cliches. These dudes, on the other hand, make absolute, honest-to-God noise. Maybe it could be called sound collage, maybe it could be called abstract composition, maybe it could be called, I don't know, something else (there's my Washington Post audition sentence), but really, it should just be called "guys destroying shit on tape." It's like the audio form of Jackass, only not funny and twelve-year-olds wouldn't like it. I like to think I have a high tolerance for extreme weirdness, and can listen to just about anything, no matter how nauseating (I plan to write about Wolf Eyes next), but Schadenfreude and especially Zebra Mu really bother me. This is maybe the only piece of music I possess that I can't listen to. I downloaded this album last summer during a fleeting period of fascination with circuit bending, and I only now made it through the whole thing.

Circuit bending is manipulation of electronics like toys and cheap keyboards for musical purposes. It creates new, experimental sounds by using devices in a way they were not intended to be used. While circuit bending can produce results where the source sound is still recognizable, that is not how Zebra Mu & Schadenfreude do it. They are more apt to record a tape being eaten or a toy being dismantled by a screwdriver. While these sounds may have at some point been a Tickle-Me-Elmo or something, now they sound like a broken stereo being dragged by a car. The squalling white noise and grinding gears are disorienting and irritating. There are no patterns, very few recognizable melodies, and a whole lot of racket. It may remind you of your VCR fucking up your copy of Fern Gully.

What makes this album so difficult to listen to for me is the aforementioned lack of pattern. There's no rhythm to grab hold of, so it just becomes an assaultive collection of cheap, hideous broken electronic noises. It's impossible to follow, making it extremely difficult to focus on while listening to, and it's too abrasive for background music. It may be beautiful to the smallest of niche audiences, but it would only annoy most listeners. It's interesting conceptually for its repurposing of items with a fixed meaning, making it a form of evil children's music, but it's so headache-inducing to listen to. Which is not to say that headache induction is its ultimate goal. It's not cruel like other super-abrasive music (again, I'm thinking of Wolf Eyes), where the performers are trying to freak people out. Zebra Mu & Schadenfreude seemingly more interested in finding out what happens when things get taken apart. This is nerdy rather than aggressive. Which kind of contradicts what I was saying about how painful to listen to this is; don't get me wrong, it's still painful. It's just that the pain is more a side effect than the intended result. But, like many medications, the side effects are worse than the disease (if after taking Viagra you ejaculate blood, please consult your physician).

I must say, though, these dudes are growing on me. I'm going to listen to them side by side with Drake now.

If for some reason you want to download this album, you can do so legally here

Monday, June 15, 2009

Summer Jams '09

The summer is starting in earnest, which means corn, hot dogs, and most importantly, songs that correspond to the season. Every summer needs a defining jam, a song that you can't go anywhere without hearing but doesn't really get old. Here are three picks for songs that deserve to be heard over and over for the next three months:

Best I Ever Had (Remix) - Drake feat. R. Kelly

This is a radio dominator, the kind of song that gets everyone in the car singing along and will be played at least once every hour. I'm a sucker for well-placed profanity, and this song has it in spades. If you haven't heard this song, don't drink anything the first time you listen to it, otherwise you will spit it all over when a line catches you off guard. Because it will. In these troubled times, this song gives us what we need: A fun R. Kelly ode to fucking. Myspace?

Combination Pizza Hut & Taco Bell - Das Racist (Wallpaper Remix)

File this one under "gloriously stupid." Here's the story: one guy is at the combination Pizza Hut & Taco Bell, and so is the other guy, but they don't see each other. One guy has a lot of smells, the other has that pizza butt. You'll love this one until idiots find out about and ruin it for you, like "Paper Planes" or something. Or maybe that won't ruin it, and I'm just an elitist douchebag. Certainly possible. In any case, this is a worthy addition to the summer novelty song canon. Myspace!

Stillness Is the Move - Dirty Projectors - buy

Dirty Projectors are making a move to claim every ass for themselves. By that I mean if this song doesn't make your ass shake, you must not have one. A combination of West African guitar, flawless harmony, huge drumbeats, and, of course, Mariah Carey, this song is not only the best song of the summer, but may end up being the best song of the whole year. It's a perfect marriage of Dirty Projectors' mind-expanding experimentation and Hot 97's well-constructed pop. Dirty Projectors are your new favorite band.

Satan Rock

I'm not going to explain why this is crazy and wonderful, you're just going to have to trust me. The title should be indication enough. There's a whole lot of crazy in not a lot of time. The fact that this exists makes me want to buy a moving van and go into business with God.

If this is what Hell is gonna be like, I never want to go to that place.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Norm MacDonald on The Tonight Show

You may or may not know this, but Norm MacDonald is probably the funniest man in America. For proof, see here, here, and especially here. All of these are great, as any Norm MacDonald talk show appearance is, but that last one in particular is a transcendent comedy moment. His Bob Saget roast (link #2) is a close second. Anyway, he appeared on The Tonight Show last night. While not as classic as some of his other appearances, he still manages to tell some jokes about Winona Ryder and abuse his signature word, "whore."

If there is an online petition to get Norm MacDonald his own show, I will sign it.

Monday, June 8, 2009

On Hipsters and The Hold Steady

I've said this before, and now someone agrees with me. Therefore, I'm right. I don't want to hear the word "hipster" anymore.

To see this so you can actually read it, click here

If you don't know about Cat and Girl, you should. It's by a woman named Dorothy, and she is almost always right.

Another thing I'm right about but no one I know seems to agree with is that the Hold Steady are one of the best bands in the world. If you can't appreciate this band, I don't think you are capable of appreciation.

The Hold Steady - The Swish - buy it here

This isn't even one of their better songs, and it's still the best. It contains the line, "My name's Rick Danko but people call me One Hour Photo/ I got some dangerous chemicals." Let's see you write a punchline like that, hotshot. Just because something sounds like Bruce Springsteen and the Replacements and AC/DC doesn't mean you're not an asshole.

The Hold Steady has two shows at the Bowery Ballroom and two shows at the Music Hall of Williamsburg this week, and I am going to none of them. The first one is tonight. If for some reason you read this and are going to one of them, raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer for me. Just so you know, I was looking for a live video to post there, but the video I linked to instead is hilarious.

Fake Band Names

Today, while cleaning my room, I found some old papers, and one of them was a list of fake band names that my friends Dave and Riley made up. If I remember correctly, they came up with them while high during an SAT prep class. Now, everyone has a list of fake band names they think are hilarious (mine are School Bus, School Bus Disaster, the Cool Dads, Admiral Dad & the Admirable Dads, and Shep Smith & the Vengeance), but these go above and beyond the average fake band names. They are incredible feats of free association and nonlinear thought. The LOL per word ratio on these is about 1:1. At least, I think so. They may be too inside-jokey and arbitrary for anyone else to get, but what you need to understand while reading these is that there is nothing to get. The joke here is simply in the names themselves. So, without further ado, I give you the roster of my fake record label (My favorites in bold):

"Mustard, Bitch"
"Tater Clumps"
"Binky Mumps"
"Dick Musk"
"I Can Smell Doug's Dick Musk From Here"
"Snarler Booty"
"Frankie Muniz and his Ding Flingers*"
"Soda Poop"
"Fink Sprinkles"
"I'm So Sorry, Doug"
"No Dumpling"
"Black Stump"
"Sack Happy"
"Flute Nuts"
"Birch Lodge Fucknips"
"Spank Jesus"
"Backseat Bangers"

For a list of real band names that will make you laugh for weeks, check out the AV Club's 2007 roundup of the year's worst band names. I read this list every few months when I'm bored, and it makes me crack up every time. Highlights include "The House That Gloria Vanderbilt," "Shoot For the Stars...And Kill Them," and "Happy Mother's Day, I Can't Read."

This band is on that list:

Batman vs. Predator - 20BUX

*This is a reference to the band Frankie and his Fingers.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Upstate Music #1: Coors Light - "Deva With An 'E'"

Coors Light is the project of Raphael Cohen, a student at RISD and Alligerville native. He plays pensive lo-fi that accurately reflects the influence and circumstances of its creation: weed, alcohol (duh), and lonely late nights. With little more than an echoey bass and his plaintive, Jeff Mangum-ish off-key wail, he makes music to soundtrack bleary, end-of-the-night ruminations. Imagine that you're very drunk, lying in bed, the room is spinning, and you have to throw up, so you stumble to the bathroom, and the light hurts your eyes, and you kneel over the toilet waiting for the vomit to come, and it finally does, and you feel better. This is like that.

"Deva With An 'E'" is a heartbreaking song about the death of a dog, unrequited love, and the Yankees. It's driven by a toy dog bark, harrowing background screams, and that ever-present echoey bass. It's ugly, thorny, and depressing, but so are lost games, dying pets, and girls who don't love you.

Coors Light - Deva With An 'E'

Full disclosure: Raphael is one of my best friends, and one of his other bands is Preferably Tapioca, which I am also in. Today is his 20th birthday, so this post is sort of a birthday present. If you see him, tell him "happy birthday," or leave him a comment on


Thursday, June 4, 2009

...And Then There Was X

It must be hard being DMX. He just got out of jail, he is about to be sentenced, his house was placed in foreclosure and looted while he was in jail, he doesn't know who Barack Obama is, and he makes dog noises during sex. He seems to be at ODB-levels of crazy. On top of all that, he roller skates. Ruff Ryders Roll:

"It's not a motherfucking game! Skee-ball, over there in the corner, that's a motherfucking game!"

I shouldn't make fun of DMX, because even though he's a punk-ass roller-skating bitch, he'd still kill me. All they'd find of me is a small piece of my arm, but it wouldn't be easy to tell, because of the bomb.

DMX - Party Up (Up In Here)

Brat Pack/Phoenix Mashup

This is a mashup of footage from Brat Pack movies (you know, the 80s. Don't be nostalgic. You don't remember them) with the song "Lisztomania" by Phoenix. It works remarkably well. It's like synching up "The Wizard of Oz" with "Dark Side of the Moon." MINDZ BLOWN. But seriously, this is cool. The song is irresistibly infectious, as is Molly Ringwald's dancing. The same clip of her is used about five times, but it's ok, because she dances exactly how you should to this song.

Don't post Phoenix songs. Your post will get deleted. You can stream/buy the song here.

Bonus Video:
This is another mashup that is totally batshit and you'll love:

"I don't want to grab your dick, I just want to bake a cake without using the Metric system! Stop yelling at me!" Poor little pink-haired tween.


I just came across this video, which is a bunch of Williamsburgers reenacting the first video posted here. It's kind of annoying, but also kind of cute. They're no Molly Ringwalds, that's for sure.

phoenix - lisztomania *brooklyn pack mashup* from ian parker on Vimeo.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Water Works USA: The New Brooklyn Scene?

It is May 1st, and Tamur Records has taken over the Silent Barn.

The label, run by Ray Weiss of the band Le Rug, is having its showcase at the Ridgewood loft, just over the Brooklyn-Queens border. There is a band playing in the kitchen in front a sink full of dirty dishes, and another is setting up in the hot, smoky basement. There is art all over, with demons and polka dots painted on the walls. In one corner, a broken arcade game sits next to a broken piano. The space exudes a bohemian haphazardness, a mishmash of little pieces of cool. The crowd is young and goofy-looking. Many people are apparently in high school, and almost all are sweaty and unwashed. When one band stops playing, members of the crowd pick up instruments and start setting up. It is almost impossible to tell who’s in a band and who isn’t; everyone appears to know everyone else, and everyone has similar enthusiastic expressions.

Of the numerous bands playing, two in particular stand out: Le Rug and Tom Blacklung & the Smokestacks, both punk bands from the NY/NJ area. Le Rug includes members of a third New York band, Fiasco. These three bands share many things: members, a label, geographic location. Along with a fourth Tamur band, Michael Jordan, they are all examples of a shifting underground that’s bubbling up in Brooklyn. They are the newest incarnation of the borough’s musical tradition, one that’s still largely localized and do-it-yourself. Some might call it a scene, but there is disagreement over the term. Whatever it is, it is still mostly undefined, but Le Rug, Michael Jordan, Tom Blacklung & the Smokestacks, and Fiasco are all good places to start in trying to figure it out.

Le Rug is the project of Ray Weiss, a stylishly scruffy twenty-one-year-old. Bearded and leather-jacket-clad, he is both charismatic and geeky. He is Le Rug’s only constant member. He estimates that there have been about twenty different members during the band’s approximately two-year lifespan. The band is based in New York, where Weiss is from, but there have been members from all over the Tri-State region, including New Jersey and Westchester County. Weiss is extremely prolific, releasing six Le Rug records in about two years.

Le Rug’s music comes from the punkier end of indie pop. Weiss describes it as “a hybrid of the Smiths, the Fall, and Built to Spill.” It is catchy post-punk loaded with sweet harmonies and hooky melodies delivered in Weiss’ aloof Everyman voice. His dexterous guitar playing calls to mind mathy mid-90s bands like American Football or Cap’n Jazz. The songs are well constructed, with twisty songwriting rife with sudden tempo and rhythm changes and clever lyrics about Pat Buchanan and St. Vincent’s psychiatric ward. Le Rug’s music is a little too fast for dancing, but not quite hard enough for moshing. Instead, it occupies a sweet spot between the two, somewhere that’s a lot of fun to listen to. Of all the bands profiled here, Le Rug seems to have the greatest potential for widespread popularity.

That being said, don’t count on Le Rug showing up on MTV2 anytime soon. Weiss has prior experience with the music industry. His old band, the Medics, was courted by Island Records, a division of Universal. The label offered them a three hundred thousand dollar advance, but wanted to fire some of the members because of how young they looked. Weiss quit, and the band broke up soon after. According to Le Rug’s Myspace page, Weiss “decided I needed a band that had balls.” He returned to the underground and formed Le Rug.

This sort of thing will never happen for the brilliantly named Michael Jordan, a five-piece hardcore band made up of NYU students. Four of the members are from New Jersey, with the fifth hailing from Chicago. They have been together for somewhere between two-and-a-half and three years. Drummer/ vocalist Michael Sheffield describes their music as “comedic hardcore,” but he doesn’t give himself enough credit. Obviously, a band named “Michael Jordan” has a sense of humor, but the music they play is less hilarious and more furious.

Citing bands like Sleep, Jawbreaker, and Born Against as influences, Michael Jordan plays feedback-drenched heavy punk rock. It is lo-fi like the best early-80s four-track-recorded hardcore, but with enough awareness of music post-1984 to keep it from becoming a stale throwback. The band’s two drummers play pounding, skull-rattling rhythms. This is not to say that they are totally abrasive, however. There are some hooks buried in there as well. Their riffs often resemble pop punk with the scraping, corrosive noise cranked up, not unlike the aforementioned Jawbreaker. The melodies are shouted and imprecise, but not without some degree of pop sense.

In person, Sheffield is soft-spoken and friendly, belying his onstage intensity. There, he is all flailing limbs and oxygen-deprived screams, while the rest of the band flails in equal measure. Live, Michael Jordan has to be a competitor for the title of “loudest band in New York,” an avalanche of drums and distortion. Sheffield self-deprecatingly describes Michael Jordan as “pussies making the hardest music imaginable.”

Tom Blacklung & the Smokestacks play the most straightforward music of any of these bands. They themselves are hesitant to call it anything other than rock-n-roll, and rock it does, just hard-charging, no-frills guitar-bass-drums punk rock. Many of their songs showcase tricky rhythms and singer/guitarist Joe Plourde’s raw-throated yell. It’s what Washington, DC punk godfathers Fugazi might sound like if they developed a sense of humor and started playing something more danceable. The band formed in June of last year, and is comprised of New School students. The members are split between Brooklyn and Jersey City, and practice in Midtown.

Of these four bands, the one to garner the most national attention so far is Fiasco, a trio of soon-to-be high school graduates from Park Slope. Fiasco has received mentions in the Village Voice and on Pitchfork, and has embarked on a few tours. This past March, they toured to South by Southwest in Austin, where they played nine shows in just four days. They have been playing together as Fiasco for three-and-a-half or four years, but have been playing together in various incarnations since 2003. All Brooklyn natives, they grew up within three blocks of each other.

Guitarist Jonathan Edelstein is a reserved and thoughtful eighteen-year-old who plans on attending Lang next semester. When asked to describe Fiasco’s music, the first thing that Edelstein said was “usually loud.”

“It’s complex,” he adds. “We’re not a band that improvises. Our music is very structured.”

He also describes it as “not punk, but punk influenced,” and “random and spastic.” Edelstein has an impressive ability to explain his own music, a difficult thing to do, because all of his adjectives are accurate.

Fiasco is a mostly instrumental three-piece math rock band. Math rock is a genre of music that takes cues from punk rock, but adds complex rhythms and time signatures. It is characterized by angular guitars and very fast drumming. The members of Fiasco are all very technically proficient at their instruments. Their rapid-fire playing is intricate and dizzying, with fleet-fingered guitar and bass runs slashed through by discordant outbursts. Clusters of notes careen around like a swarm of bees. Everything is painstakingly arranged and perfected, focused and tight as a drum, probably due to the members’ chemistry developed over a six-year period. It is incredibly high-energy music.

One of the most interesting things about Fiasco is the very fact that they play this music, considering their ages. The heyday of math rock was in the mid-90s, when the members of Fiasco were still in elementary school, and even then it wasn’t particularly popular. It is rare to find teenagers drawn to such idiosyncratic, uncommercial music, but somehow Fiasco found it.

“I’m not sure how it happened,” Edelstein says. “I was just lucky, I guess. A lot of kids don’t find out about it.” He recalls scrolling through the online music guide Allmusic, just following links and exploring. But math rock isn’t the only thing he listens to.

“I try to listen to whatever,” he says. “There’s good music in every genre, you just have to look for it.” He feels that people don’t appreciate older music as much, and new music wouldn’t be what it is without its historical foundation.

All of these bands are linked, geographically, ideologically, and personally. According to Le Rug’s Ray Weiss, the community is “incestuous.” The current lineup of Le Rug consists of him and all three members of Fiasco. He used to live with Joe Plourde from Tom Blacklung & the Smokestacks, who recorded Michael Jordan’s most recent EP. However, most of the participants are loathe to call what they’re doing a “scene.”

“You have these bands from Brooklyn, Queens, and New Jersey who all know each other and play together,” says Weiss, “but nobody gives a shit about the scene except kids and blogs.”

Michael Jordan’s Michael Sheffield finds that things are spread too thin. His band has had trouble fitting in; “Brooklyn kids think we’re too hardcore, and New Brunswick [New Jersey] kids think we’re too noise.”

“We can’t can find a home, so we rely on comedy,” he says.

Tom Blacklung & the Smokestacks’ drummer Josh Rosenberg concurs with Sheffield, saying there’s just too much out there for there to be a truly cohesive scene. He says that there are “a million” bands like his. He feels that part of the problem is that very few people in New York prioritize going to see local kids playing music, since there are so many other things to do.

Weiss thinks there is too much competition to really have a scene. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though, because it leads to better music through social Darwinism.

Jonathan Edelstein of Fiasco has a different perspective. Fiasco used to be lumped with other very young bands in New York as “kidcore,” which he says was mostly children encouraged by their parents who didn’t necessarily want to play.

“We were labeled ‘kidcore’ by all this people,” he says. “People would just come to see kids. But now that we’re getting older, it’s not cute anymore.”

“It wasn’t about music, it was just about image,” he adds.

His time with kidcore makes him appreciate the community he is now in more. According to him, there’s a flourishing DIY [do-it-yourself] scene all over New York. He mentions Todd P, the Long Island City-based DIY promoter who books a lot of shows and is instrumental in bringing a large number of independent touring bands to New York, as a major player in the scene. Edelstein does acknowledge that it can get competitive, but he still finds little to complain about.

All the bands agree that there are definite positives to being where they are.

Michael Jordan’s Sheffield says that the city is a great resource for musicians, where, although it may be difficult, every band will eventually find someone to help them, and fit into some niche somewhere.
“It’s the capital of the world,” says Ray Weiss. He likes that New York is so close to places like Philadelphia and Providence. He also appreciates how friendly other bands are, with most bands letting others borrow their equipment as necessary. There’s also a lot of press, like bloggers who will write about bands they see.

On tour, Edelstein observed scenes around the country, and found Brooklyn to be unique.

“People in, like, Alabama, are trying to do what we do here,” he says. “Brooklyn is the most well-developed scene in the country.”

Brooklyn has a long musical history that is still currently flourishing, with borough-based bands like TV On the Radio and Grizzly Bear earning critical accolades and higher cultural profiles. But there has also been a trend toward disposable buzziness and bandwagon jumping. Style trumps substance, and many bands are more concerned with image than with music. However, among these younger bands, there is a refreshing lack of image-consciousness.

“We’re just dudes,” says Sheffield. “If we were going for an image thing, no one would listen to us.”

He concedes that it’s impossible to totally get away from image, but that they consciously try to stay away from caring about marketing themselves or doing things just to get attention. Smokestack Josh Rosenberg also recognizes a tendency for musicians to get caught up in their own persona, and he and his band try to avoid that, even though they can’t help it.

“We happen to look really cool,” he jokes.

One thing the bands all have in common is a connection to Tamur Records, a label run by Ray Weiss. Even though the bands claim that there is not much of a scene, Tamur serves a scene-building role. The label was started in 2004 by Conor Meara as a non-exclusive collective that helps bands book shows and get their music out. Weiss says the label’s primary function is helping to book shows for bands who “haven’t gotten their promotional wheels turning.”
Most notably, Tamur’s entire catalogue is available for free download at the label’s website, tamurrecords.org. All of the bands are very much in favor of giving music away for free.

“The only albums being sold are to ten-year-olds,” Weiss says, “like High School Musical and things.”

Weiss explains that artists make so little money from album sales that it’s often not worth going through the trouble to prepare them for sale, and makes more sense to give it away. He has found that bands can reach more people that way, as it draws more people to shows and traffic to the bands’ websites.

Joe Plourde of Tom Blacklung & the Smokestacks finds more of a community among Tamur bands than with others. He recalls a plan among the label’s overseers to get one set of instruments that every band could use, so that time between sets would be reduced and the shows would be better. The plan fell through, but it was still indicative of the agenda-free, DIY nature of the label.

Michael Sheffield says he loves what Tamur does.

“It’s an orphanage for bands that are too purist or too weird,” he says. He describes it as a haven for outcasts, and appreciates that they encourage bands others mostly ignore.

Most of Le Rug, Michael Jordan, and Tom Blacklung & the Smokestacks’ music is available on Tamur, and Fiasco plans on making their out-of-print first album available soon.

All of these bands are different, but in some overarching way similar. It may or may not be accurate to call the similarity a scene, but there is definitely something to it. At the showcase, Jonathan Edelstein and Joe Plourde were introduced for the first time. Though the future and current Lang students had previously never met, they know a lot of the same people and listen to a lot of the same music. They may not ever speak again, but at that moment they were almost the same: two sweaty, bespectacled guys in a basement in Queens enjoying the community spirit of rock ‘n’ roll.

Le Rug - The Boss

Michael Jordan - Wires

Tom Blacklung & the Smokestacks - Tweek

Fiasco - Oh, You Horny Monster!

(MP3s via Mediafire)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pick One

Check this out, it's really simple and really cool. All you have to do is choose which thing you prefer:

Pick One

Mary-Kate Olsen or the 1990s?

Exercise or Drinking?

Frank Sinatra or Hell?

Think it over...

Bonus Track:
Leftover Crack - Heroin or Suicide

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sexting: The Electronic Swine Flu Is Spreading!

Do y'all know about sexting? IITGRTAAUS911 (It Is The Greatest Threat Against America's Youth Since September 11th, 2001). Thank God the Fox news affiliate in Atlanta is here to warn parents about this horrible, totally real phenomenon. This is something that all of our children are doing on a regular basis. They're not kidding either; they are doing every single thing these acronyms spell out, and worse. Here are some Fox missed (I know because I send pictures of my dick to all my friends all the time):

COMF: Cum On My Face

PIMB: Poop In My Butt

GMART: Give Me A Rusty Trombone

(*): Clit Piercing

WOOF: Bulldog Eating Mayonnaise

80087355: Boobless

M/P: Let's Murder My Parents And Drive Around With Them In The Trunk For Four Days Before We Go Into The Desert And Have A Bonfire With Their Mutilated, Beginning-To-Decompose Bodies, Because Parents Don't Understand And Are So Stupid And We're Out Of Control Teenagers Who Actually Do Things Like This And This Is Not Some More Bullshit Media Alarmism

(That's one concise acronym!)

Can you think of any more they forgot?

Bonus Track:

The Offspring - The Kids Aren't Alright

Things were so simple back in 1998. Back then, all we had to worry about was our children shooting up their school after listening to Marilyn Manson.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Three Distractions

1. A cute animal video

That's really cute, right? Which brings me to my next thing

2. The best gif ever made

I apologize for not just posting the picture, something's not working right, but please please please follow the link. I promise you will not regret it. My only comment is LOLOLOL.

3. This is a song I like and have been listening to a lot that you should like and listen to a lot. Preferably Tapioca has a song called "Running Uphill" that has a similar title but that's the only similarity.

Kate Bush - Running Up That Hill

That's all. Now get back to work! Those finals aren't going to fail themselves!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

In the words of a drunk zombie, "I'm vomiting blood"

You're not even going to believe how terrible this is. Scapegoat, I guess this band is called. The song is called "Zombies," and it's about zombies. No metaphors, just zombies.

Scapegoat (Tragic Hero Records) "zombies" from Scott Hansen on Vimeo.

Nice dick, dreads-head

You, dear reader, may think zombies are cool, but enough is enough. Once you have zombie Jane Austen, your meme has collapsed. Find something else. Have you heard a conversation earnestly (ironically) discussing the zombie apocalypse lately? If not, give thanks to Zombie Jesus (go fuck myself). Morrissey once said, "that joke makes me want to kill myself if I hear it one more time." While jokes about zombies make me want to kill myself because they are already boring me to death, Scapegoat makes me want to kill myself because I don't want to live in a world where they exist. It's like if Brokencyde went metal and traded Auto-Tune for eight hundred layers of irritating New Found Glory vocals, but kept all the repugnant screeching. It even goes on for two minutes longer than you expect/has any reason to, just like Brokencyde. In the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, "holy fucking shit, my eardrums are spraying a mixture of spinal fluid and liquid feces in rebellion against me for subjecting them to this. I'm actually shooting shit out of my ears because this music is so fucking bad. This sucks."

(FDR said that when he listened to The Baxter County All-Star Jug Revue play the song "Ninjas")


Friday, April 24, 2009

Aural Sandpaper #3

Big Black - "Kerosene"

Big Black was a Chicago noise rock band from the 1980s who, while heavily influenced by punk rock, pushed the genre to darker, more abrasive extremes than had previously been seen. They were led by the notoriously misanthropic singer and guitarist Steve Albini, who is perhaps the most important figure in noise rock’s history. Albini’s bands Big Black, Rapeman (yup, Rapeman), and Shellac are all required listening in the genre, and perfectly fuse scalding noise rock with pitch-black humor. Perhaps even more importantly, he is a renowned recording engineer (he abhors the term “producer”) whose innovative instrumental recording techniques on landmark albums like Pixies’ Surfer Rosa and PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me gives them the harsh, hard-edged sound that is just as contributive to their classic status as the music. He is famous for his willingness to record just about anyone, and his highly ethical approach to receiving payment. He is also an outspoken music commentator who rails against major record labels. He is a living embodiment of the independent, confrontational nature of abrasive music.

His engineering abilities and caustic personality can be both found in Big Black’s music, which fuses harsh, distorted guitar and bass and booming drum machine loops to Albini’s cynical, sarcastic, nihilistic lyrics about pedophilia, racism, domestic violence, and any other ugly topic one can think of. Their greatest song, however, is the infamous “Kerosene,” a brutal, harrowing descent into the darkest places that small-town boredom can go.

“Kerosene” is inspired by Albini’s upbringing in Missoula, Montana, a place where his friends would go to the slaughterhouse to watch cows get killed for entertainment, and a place where he felt alienated, isolated, and most of all, bored. Many of Albini’s songs, just like a lot of punk songs, are about crushing, deadening boredom, but “Kerosene” is the definitive statement on the subject. Bassist Dave Riley frames the story of “Kerosene” as, “there's only two things to do (in small-town America). Go blow up a whole load of stuff for fun. Or have a lot of sex with the one girl in town who'll have sex with anyone. 'Kerosene' is about a guy who tries to combine the two pleasures.” The lyrics are exactly how the uneducated, disengaged, probably teenaged narrator of the song would speak. “I was born in this town, lived here my whole life,” the song begins. “Lived here my whole life” becomes a mantra, repeated after every line of the first verse, summarizing the narrator’s abject disgust at being confined to such a dead-end place. He’ll “probably learn to die in this town,” where there’s nothing to do except, “sit around at home, stare at the walls / stare at each other and wait till we die.” Nothing to do, until he observes that “there’s kerosene around, that’s something to do/ there’s kerosene around, she’s something to do...there’s kerosene around, set me on fire!” Where Albini sings most of the verse with a dead-eyed sneer, on the last line he crescendos to a desperate yell, while the music explodes along with the exhortations to destruction. The simplicity of the lyrics on paper cannot convey the intensity that Albini brings to them. He loads every syllable with rage, menace, and revulsion, and they leave his lips with a cobra-like spit. He so fully embodies his creation that the listener cannot help but feel as desperate and hopeless as the narrator of the song, whose only escape is to be burned alive.

The instrumental playing of the song perfectly matches the lyrics and vocal performance. The verses are driven by a churning, distorted bass riff, and the clanging guitars that erupt on the chorus are like steel cables being slashed with razor blades. The defining moment comes at 4:46, when the song appears to end, only to come back into the already aggressive main riff with even more volume and force than before. The false stop is a simple musical trick, but here Big Black uses it to devastating effect, letting the listener know that it’s never over. There’s no escape from this town.

“Kerosene” still resonates more than twenty years after its release, because small-town rural America still has the sort of characters the song describes. Few songs embody the the hopeless, “No Future” spirit of punk rock as fully as “Kerosene.”

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Developing Story: "The Hipster Grifter"

I don't really know why I'm posting this, as it has nothing to do with me. It's just kind of a fascinating story, I think, because it involves real-life cinematic con-artistry. This woman, Kari Ferrell, moved to Brooklyn last summer, charmed and insinuated her way into social circles, and then lied about having cancer and all sorts of crazy shit. Then, when everyone Googled her, they found out that she was wanted on outstanding warrants in Utah. Weird. You don't think this sort of thing happens, right? Also, everybody seems to know her. Every comment on every one of these stories is somebody saying, "yeah, this girl did all the stuff to me that she did to everyone else." Maybe EVERYONE IS LYING?!?! I lied, too. I do know why I'm posting this: I have a theory that all girls with massive chest tattoos are crazy and you should stay away from them. This just proves my point. Some will yell scary threats at you in McDonald's, some will beat you up, some will steal your $60,000. So stay away. Validation! Here's a roundup of all the stories.

What a world.
Ol' Dirty Bastard - Brooklyn Zoo

Saturday, April 11, 2009

New St. Vincent video - "Actor Out Of Work"

Here's the video for the sort-of title track from St. Vincent's forthcoming album, Actor. It's a pretty straightforward rock song, but with those dramatic flourishes that make St. Vinnie's Hospital so distinct. Annie Clark looks lovely as usual and I have a crush on her, which is not something I would normally make a point of mentioning, but I will this time because so cute. But also good music! I have a true story about Annie Clark that's really interesting and exciting*: once I stood next to her at the Knitting Factory. She was very pretty. I could tell she wanted me, but was too shy to make a move. Next time, Annie.

(via GvsB)

If you like this, here's an MP3 (via Mediafire):

St. Vincent - Actor Out Of Work

Actor comes out 5/4. I guess it leaked a few days ago, but you should buy it because that's the responsible thing to. If you download it, SHAME ON YOU!

*Parts of this story are neither true, exciting, nor interesting.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Aural Sandpaper #2

Xiu Xiu - “Nieces Pieces (Boat Knife Version)”

Where the previous installment of Aural Sandpaper looked at a song that went for abrasion through volume, this one’s song does it very quietly, and even more effectively. “Nieces Pieces,” by the San Francisco band Xiu Xiu, explores a dark, ugly side of humanity while never rising above a whisper. Through atmospherics and some profoundly disturbing lyrics, Xiu Xiu creates a bleak, unshakable portrait of family dysfunction.

No matter how hard I try to come up with a more intellectual description of Xiu Xiu’s music, I keep coming back to “fucked up.” There is no better way to describe it. While there have been countless musicians who are personally fucked up, few are as willing to display it as Xiu Xiu’s leader Jamie Stewart. Where most songwriters try to poeticize their pain, Stewart shows his scars for all to see, putting things as bluntly as possible and pathologically reaching into the darkest depths of his battered psyche, no matter how uncomfortable it makes the listener. Listening to Xiu Xiu is like eavesdropping on an unusually intense therapy session.

No song in Xiu Xiu’s discography full of anguish is as painful as “Nieces Pieces (Boat Knife Version)” (I don’t know what “Boat Knife Version” means. As far as I know, this is the only released version). Stewart addresses the song to his newborn niece. For most uncles, a new niece would be a joyous event, but Stewart has seen too much to be happy. He knows that life will not be kind to this poor little girl, because she has the misfortune of being related to him and has family. “I can’t wait to watch you grow up,” Stewart sighs, “I can’t wait to meet the first boy who breaks your life.” In these lines, the first of the song, he foretells the girl’s difficult future, and how it will only get worse from there. He then tells her about some of her family history, how her uncle and mother’s childhoods were marred by physical and sexual abuse. The descriptions of abuse set up the song’s final, impossibly devastating lyric, “I can’t wait until you realize that Mommy’s heart is broken/ I can’t wait to watch you grow up around the people who broke it.” Stewart is both a witness and a contributor to one of the most depressing things there is: a life doomed before it has even really begun. His niece is fated to “turn from good to bad.” She will grow up to be just like the rest of her family, broken.

The lyrics are upsetting on their own, but when taken with the music, it becomes almost too much to bear. The song is based around a mournful, discordant two- note horn part. There are only a few other elements: a drone provided by a hard-to-identify instrument, perhaps an accordion, a disingenuously pretty guitar part that comes late into the song, and Stewart’s quavering voice. The lack of percussion creates a disorienting rhythmic effect. In fact, there is hardly any rhythm to the song, leaving it quiet and free-flowing. The sparseness and fragility of the arrangement juxtaposes with the ugliness of the lyrics while simultaneously complementing them perfectly. The atonality and lack of rhythm are just as difficult to digest. Stewart’s singing is the focal point, however, and he carries the song with his performance. He is not a traditionally good singer, but he often still tries to sing operatically, which makes him sound like a confrontational drama queen. The opera is not present here, exactly, but he still sounds like a confrontational drama queen, albeit a defeated one. He murmurs the words in an airy, tremulous tone, sounding on the verge of an emotional collapse. Stewart seems to be searching for catharsis, but unable to find it. The rhythm and melody follow his own weird, internal guideline. It all adds up to an unsettling whole.

“Nieces Pieces” is a hard song to listen to, and Xiu Xiu’s detractors accuse them of being irredeemably ugly and exploitative. I don’t think this is true; Xiu Xiu’s music works in the same way that a director like Todd Solondz or Gaspar Noe’s films do: the art is in the depiction of the ugliness. It is a rare unfiltered look at darkness, and maybe it can help us to better understand the basest depths of humanity.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

b4-4 - "Get Down"

My friend Riley posted this video on my friend Gideon's wall:

Gideon's baffled, outraged response is almost the same as mine:

"Those guys are fucking scumbags/the one who only sings back up vocals in the black wifey is the scummiest/what the fuck is going on with this storyline?/ A young black kid and a homeless person are whisked away to a beach planet where androgynous queers are singing about oral sex?/ somehow both the homeless person and the black kid are better for this experience?/ the eight year old black kid, in a culmination of this viewmaster vision, can now dunk? Because he's black? because the music is so good? Because later someone male/female may go "down on him"? The kid is like six and he's dicking around on the beach with a football, some chicks and these mascara'ed out fucking losers?/ what the fuck was the director thinking? What the fuck was anyone thinking in the writing/production of that? unbelievable. That was appalling."

I just have a few things to add:

The homoerotic undertones of this video are quite striking. There are homoerotic elements to all boy bands, but these guys take it farther than any other. Specifically, the loving shots of the weightlifter, the gender neutrality of the lyrics, and the emphasis on the lyric "it's a GAYme of give and take." Subtlety! Actually, though, this song does kind of subtly slip some positive messages about equality into a mainstream song (b4-4 was somewhat popular in Canada, apparently) about how gay people are no different than anyone else: they are just as capable of making insipid, laughably terrible music as any straight idiot. Isn't there a group of powerful gay figures a la the Black Crusaders from 30 Rock who could have put a stop to this? Maybe they did. Boy bands are over now, aren't they?

Speaking of the Black Crusaders, they would take exception to the portrayal of black people in this video. As Gideon pointed out, the kid is good at basketball. That's a stereotype. The kid is also depicted as a pimp. That's an offensive stereotype. Did he turn out this way because he grew up without a father, because all black people grow up without fathers? Right, b4-4?

Furthermore, the inclusion of the kid in this video should offend anyone who is not a pedophile. Women love him, it is implied that men love him, and probably at the end of the shoot everyone 'got down' on him. There is no reason to expose a child to this sort of sexuality.

Finally, the expression is "go down," not "get down." If you're going to use a euphemism, at least make it different enough to make you not look like a fool.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Do y'all have Netflix accounts? Do y'all rate movies on Netflix and pay attention to the recommendations it gives you?

Because I do.

And shit just got crazy specific.

These are the types of movies that Netflix thinks I would be interested in:

-Revenge Thrillers From the 1970s
-Dark Movies Starring Robert DeNiro
-Exciting Independent Dramas
-Critically-acclaimed Cerebral Comedies
-Visually-striking Mind-bending Foreign Movies


I'm not sure how I feel about this. One the one hand, it's very accurate and gives me useful recommendations. On the other hand, it's so accurate that it's unnerving. My personal preferences can be deconstructed by a computer program that knows me better than I do, and it's not even human. It makes me feel inhuman. Plus, it makes me look like a total pretentious douchebag. "Critically-acclaimed Cerebral Comedies?" Who am I, Jeff Daniels in "The Squid & the Whale?"

Another issue here is consumer surveillance. Netflix is collecting data on me and storing it away, keeping tabs on my activity. A corporation knows me personally. In order to get this special service, I have to give more of my privacy away. I've given Netflix access to both my bank account and my mind.

My question is: where do y'all draw the line between getting cool products and becoming a drop in the sea of information?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Aural Sandpaper #1

The Jesus Lizard - “Boilermaker”

There is a lot of music out there, and most of it serves a purpose: to make the listener happy, to make the listener sad, for dancing, for meditation, to try and get someone to sleep with you, etc. Most of it wants to be liked. It is designed to entice the audience with a catchy hook or a relatable lyric, and for most people this is enough. The average, sensible person wants music that is pleasant to listen to, easy to like even if it’s thematically difficult (Steely Dan, for example. So smooth, but so fucked up). But what about those people who don’t want to hear or play something nice? Those people who are more interested in being provoked, challenged, or repelled? Those who see the world as an ugly place, but still find value in the ugliness? Yes, there is music for them, too. It can be found in dark corners, dank do-it-yourself venues, and Japan. It’s loud, nasty, often druggy, sometimes violent, disgusted and disgusting. It’s also sometimes as beautiful and transcendent as “Rhapsody in Blue” or whatever. No matter what it is, once you hear it, it’s hard to forget, whether you like it or not. If this doesn't sound appealing, that's ok. U2 has a new album out. Go listen to that. But if it does, then put on your rattiest t-shirt, crank up the volume, and enroll in art school (other than Parsons), because things are about to get ugly.

Since I don’t want to let things escalate too quickly, I’ll be starting off with a relatively accessible track, the Jesus Lizard’s “Boilermaker.” Founded in 1987, the Jesus Lizard was a flagship band in the fertile Chicago noise rock scene of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. They released six albums before breaking up in 1999, and a reunited lineup will be touring this year. Several of their albums were produced by Steve Albini, possibly the most important figure in abrasive music of the past twenty-five years, who will be covered here at a later date. “Boilermaker” is the first track on their third album, 1992’s Liar.

When I say this song is “relatively accessible,” I mean it’s accessible relative to one’s tolerance for feedback or screaming. While “Boilermaker” may be more appealing to a rock radio listener than, say, the droning, doomy metal of Sunn O))), it is still definitely not for the faint of heart. It is aggressively fast-paced and follows a verse-chorus-verse structure, which puts it in line with hardcore punk. Guitarist Duane Denison’s guitar sound and style of play are reminiscent of grunge, very loud and overdriven but still clear, similar to Kurt Cobain’s on Nirvana’s In Utero, which was also produced by Steve Albini. However, what separates “Boilermaker” from any other punk or grunge song is vocalist David Yow. On “Boilermaker” and most other Jesus Lizard songs, he sounds like a man driven mad by rage, a crazed drunken redneck who would not hesitate to smash heads with whatever he has handy. He doesn’t sing so much as he rants, his words coming out in a breathless tangle. The melody is secondary to Yow making his rhythms as blunt as possible. He sounds totally untrained, which makes his delivery come across as wild-eyed and out of control. His vocals are buried low in the mix, which only makes them more menacing. You may not be able to understand what he’s saying, but you know it isn’t good. A look at the lyric sheet shows that the song appears to be about a man getting drunk before he busts in on his girlfriend and her lover. “I’ve calmed down, but I’m shaking,” he growls at the beginning, just before the chorus, “make me another boilermaker.” A boilermaker is a shot chased by a beer, a no-nonsense drink sure to get you drunk. Yow spits the chorus so venomously that the listener feels the implied beatdown coming before it ever does. You’re shaking? No, Mr. Yow, I am.

Of course, Yow’s menace would go nowhere if not supported by the rhythm section’s precision and intensity. They stop on a dime and start back up again just as quickly. The thrashing power chords hit with the force of a hammer. Every time I listen to this song, the phrase “blunt force trauma” comes to mind. The drums, bass and guitar each slam the listener individually, and then collectively slam even harder. The music matches the violence of the lyrics perfectly.

“Boilermaker” is exemplary of the frantic intensity of the Jesus Lizard. They are one of the few bands that genuinely makes the listener fear for his or her safety.