Archive for the ‘ Music ’ Category

2010 Music in Review

This is part 1 of my list.  This thing’s so big, I had to separate it into two posts! Instead of just listing the good albums, I decided to review every new album I heard in 2010.  So here’s albums 34-16.

 

34.      4×4=12-Deadmau5-Rave program Deadmau5 outdid himself with his most creative album title yet.  If only I could say the same about anything else.  4×4=12 is a groundbreaking work in predictability, even when he tries his hand at some obnoxious rave-rap and dubstep.  (How topical!)  Give it a spin if you’re looking for something to put you to sleep.

33.      Straight Killa No Filla-Freddie Gibbs.  Oh really?  Look, I know it’s just a mixtape, but so was The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs, and that was incredible.

32.      I Am Not A Human Being-Lil Wayne-Lil Wayne has no fucking taste.  All of these songs are lazy, the beats are uninspired, and the rhymes are just stupid.  “So smart she coulda’ gone to college?”  What the hell, Wayne?  I didn’t have the highest expectations for this record released from prison, and at least Drake isn’t on every song.  Unfortunately, Drake is on all of the good songs.  All three of them.  And they’re not even really good.  They just sound a little better than the fucking banal pop-rap production that dominates the record.  Seriously, it’s like he’s using the demo that came with his EZ-Synth Jambox.  Lil Wayne being in prison, there’s a lot of guest stars.  Because what else, Young Money goons are all over this thing, and Nicki Minaj doesn’t even have to decency to rap on it.  A half-hearted effort from everybody involved.

31.      Pink Friday-Nicki Minaj-Nicki Minaj fared a little bit better on her solo debut than anything else a Young Money Goon* did this year.  If only it were good!  She wastes most of the album singing, which she sucks at.  She still managed to get in a few decent songs.  I’m a fan of “Did it on Em” and the Kanye assisted “Blazin.”  “Roman’s Revenge” is the only other song worth checking, if only for the novelty of Eminem making animal noises while referring to himself as a dungeon dragon.

*. Is “young Money Goon” the official term, or should I not take Gudda Gudda so seriously?  Also, is  it Wu-Tang Clansmen?

30. Hurley-Weezer-Ugh.  They came so close!  Hurley’s the best album they’ve made since Maladroit, but it’s still not very good.  I can live with the weak lyrics, it’s the production that’s killing me.  This shit is so clean and shiny, it sounds instantly dated.  At least they stopped trying to reinvent themselves.

29.      OMG!-Rusko-Wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp Gucci Mane wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp.

28.      Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys-My Chemical Romance-Was The Black Parade a fluke, or am I just delusional?  The follow-up to that record I loved so much is overproduced and uninspired to its breaking point.  C’mon guys.  That over-the-top dour shit was what made you good.  This is a step backwards.

27.      Album of the Year-Black Milk-More like 27th best album of the year!  Ha ha!  There’s nothing bad about this record, there’s just nothing great about it.  It’s like Be with weaker beats.  I don’t care how good a rapper Black Milk is, he doesn’t make good songs.

26.      Trunk Music 0-60-Yelawolf Yelawolf isn’t incredible by any means.  Right now he just sounds like a white trash T.I.  But as we’ve learned from Rick Ross and T.I. himself, nobody starts out great anymore.  I’ll give him a few more years, see if this goes anywhere.  At the very least, he’s a big improvement on Asher Roth.  Good job, white rapper committee.

25.      Distant Relatives-Nas and Damien Marley-This was almost a good album, and then Damien Marley showed up.

24.      Pilot Talk-Curren$y-Curren$y’s come a long way since I first encountered him three years ago.  It’s now possible to understand what he’s saying, there’s some emotion in his voice, he’s classed up his production, and he’s upgraded the guest features to include Snoop Dogg, Mikey Rocks and Big KRIT.  Mos Def lends his voice for the chorus of the two best songs on the album, (“Breakfast” & Jay Electronica assisted “The Day”) The guests make for the highlights of the album, simply because Curren$y has the worst fucking hooks.  Curren$y’s a big fan of the Bobby Digital method, where you repeat the title of the song 8 to 44 times or spell a sentence.  If he could get it together and spend more than 20 seconds crafting the song, he’d be set.

23.      Tron: Legacy-Daft Punk-Will a new Daft Punk album ever come?  It seems unlikely after this excursion into the world of movie soundtracks.  It’s lacking in computer wizardry, and most of the songs all sound like typical blockbuster music, but there’s just barely enough to make it okay for a few listens.

22.      Wu-Massacre-Meth, Ghost & Rae-Actually, it’s mostly the cronies of Meth, Ghost, and Rae.  Sheek Louch, Sun God and more also-rans do the bulk of the work here.  It sounds more like a mixtape than an actual album.  Tired beats, tired rhymes. There’s still a few god ones, like “Miranda” and “Youngstown Heist.”  It’s not a crowning achievement for any of these guys, but coming out six months after the incredible Only Built 4 Cuban Links Pt 2 and the awful Ghostdeni Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City, it’s forgivable.  It’s not like I was that lacking in Wu-Tang.

21.      Swim-Caribou-This record might be in the top ten if I didn’t have to listen to the guy sing.  As is, it’s still a damn good collection of electronica.  It’s not as high-energy as I typically like my computer music, but at least it feels like he’s trying.  If Kid Cudi was good, this is what his beats might sound like.

20.      Congratulations-MGMT-One of the year’s most unexpected records, Congratulations is also one of the few albums of “neo-psychdelica” worth listening to.  It sounds a lot like early Bowie-Jangly guitars, lyrics about famous people and fantasy.  There’s nothing here even trying to be as good and catchy as “Kids” or “Time to Pretend,” but they at least made enough changes to their sound to keep it interesting.

19.      Sea of Cowards-The Dead Weather-Jack White takes over on the second Dead Weather album.  It reminds me of the second Raconteurs album.  It has little to say, but it rocks a lot harder and benefits from it.  It’s not as good as anything The White Stripes ever put out, but it’s the best non-White Stripes record Jack White’s made.

18.      The Monitor-Titus Andronicus- If Bright Eyes wasn’t afraid to rock, this is exactly what he’d sound like. If that statement doesn’t make you cringe, you’ll love this album.  It also features the best saxophone solo of the year.

17. The Archandroid-Janelle Monae-Not quite as groundbreaking and futuristic than everybody says it is, but it’s a contemporary R & B album, so “groundbreaking and futuristic” is a relative term.  What it is is a collection of great pop songs.  Monae can sing better than anybody else on this list, and she delivers her lines with such conviction that I forgot I was listening to a sci-fi pop-opera about robot spiders (or something.)

16. The Suburbs-Arcade Fire-I didn’t listen to much serious music this year.  Until this came out, none of the good stuff was that serious.  The Suburbs caught me off guard.  It’s a lyrical album that came out in the middle of a six month Phish binge.  (Well, really a one month Lightning Bolt/Daft Punk binge. Suddenly trapped with lyrics to scrutinize, I was lost.  The Suburbs has meaning and a message.  It’s also incredibly dense.  The music’s still great.  We’ve got some more Springsteen posturing, some radio pop, and mandatory stadium blaster, but they’ve expanded into some cool new territory too.  There’s a lot going on, and I may not like sitting through all of it, but I’m not going to hate for sheer ambition.  It’s a fine album.  I just wish somebody had the decency to make one that rocked harder than its predecessors.

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Ten Things that Sucked in 2010

Don’t worry gang, I’ve got more lists on the way to commemorate things I did like, but first we’re going to warm up with the garbage pile.

10.      Dubstep-They (meaning the internet) keep calling dubstep the punk of electronic music.  At first I thought that meant it was noisier and rawer, but it actually means that it’s easier to do and is trashier than the regular stuff.  Besides, the bass is so heavy, you need 800$ speakers to even hear it properly.  Fuck that.  Not really seeing the punk connection.  It’s amazing how inescapable this shit has become.  Talking to somebody about dubstep recently, he kept calling it “wuamp-wuamp.”  It’s a dumb title, but it’s still more accurate.  “Dubstep” sounds too sophisticated for such stupid music.  Dumb isn’t necessarily bad, I just want them to admit it and stop taking themselves so damn seriously.

 

I don’t know man; maybe I just don’t understand this stuff.  Sure, they’re warping the sound, but it still sounds pleasant.  There’s not enough dissonance in most electronic music.  It’s cold and sterile.  Dubstep is only taking half-measures.  It does get dirty, but it’s not enough.  There’s still a lack of humanity.  The machines are doing the heavy lifting.  That’s what sucks about techno.  There’s nothing wrong with using robots, but there is something wrong with letting the robots do all of the work.   And all of them are so pretentious about it too.  Hey, look at me!  I invented my own genre!  I’m that different.”  Fuck you dude.  You’ve got all this technology at your disposal, and this is all you can do with it?  Dan Deacon doesn’t have a ridiculous sub-sub-subgenre next to his name on his Wikipedia page.  Y’know why?  Because Dan Deacon’s cool.  He doesn’t give a shit.  Electronic subgenres are fucking ridiculous.  It’s the trendiest shit and they’ve got a new one every month.  Stop trying to be different (because you’re not) and start trying to be good.

 

9.      Heavy Rain-The year’s most “revolutionary” (somebody must’ve said it) videogame isn’t really a game.  I thought Heavy Rain was going to be a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure type of game.  All you do is walk around, talk to people, collect clues and other shit like that.  The beginning is fun as you try to figure out how to play, but eventually, the ridiculous story becomes too absurd, the gameplay gets boring, and I realized that no matter what you do, the ending is always the same.  I had already seen a friend complete the game the proper way, so I was determined to have some fun with it.  Unfortunately, none of your actions have consequence.  The story progresses to the next scene regardless of how you play.  Even killing your characters doesn’t get anything done.  Heavy Rain isn’t a game, it just tricks you into thinking it is.  One more thing, for a game that prided itself on its realistic characters, I was a little appalled by the lone female character-a reporter who spends at least the first half of the game taking showers, being another character’s nurse, and making out with said character.  As soon as she starts doing some actual reporting, she gets date-raped.  Classy.

 

8.      Passion Pit-No band this year went from mildly amusing to fucking unbearable faster than these guys.  Catchy songs and good hooks can only take you so far before the unbearably effeminate voice of Michael Angelakos becomes the only thing I hear.  I was hoping they’d win me over when I saw them live at the Sasquatch music fest, but they only sounded worse than they did on the record and the excessive amount of douche bags kind of killed the atmosphere.  Living in dorms with a bunch of other buffoons, I had to hear “Sleepyhead” four times a day last semester, and I’m glad to be through with it.

7.      Blackest Night/Brightest Day

Geoff Johns is starting to piss me off.  Has he not been reading Batman?  Dan DiDio clearly does not give a shit what DC publishes as long as it sells.  Johns has been given a massive corner of the DCU to play with with these two crossover titles, and what has he done with it? One good Martian Manhunter story.  Blackest Night didn’t really matter.  After an incredible first two issues, the zombie comic became textbook dull as the story progressed.  In the end, nothing really mattered, and a bunch of C-List characters got resurrected, because, hey, there certainly aren’t a lot of good living characters to write about.  All of these resurrected people then went on their own sucky adventures in the immediate follow-up Brightest Day.  Brightest Day is an example of comic-fandom at its worst.  Hawk and Dove and company were never compelling characters to begin with, and the comic makes no attempts to improve most of its 30-man cast.  Move on already.  Let a dead dog lie.  Is Aquaman so beloved a property that he has to be revived every five years for another shitty adventure that still won’t work?  Get over it, people.  Most of the stories weren’t very interesting.  Some of them were just plain stupid.  Only the Marian Manhunter tale has any bite to it.  The comic isn’t over yet, but I gave up after issue 13 anyway.  Can Geoff Johns be trusted anymore?  Or is he just a bond company stooge dead-set on maintaining the status quo?

6.      Kick-Ass-The Movie, not the comic.  Hey, what if the Spider-Man movie was just about a crazy kid in a wetsuit getting the snot beat out of him?

Okay, sounds cool.

Yeah, and what if the Spider-Man movie had more swearing, and shitty action, and it was kind of gory?  What if Peter Parker wasn’t relatably pathetic, but obnoxiously pathetic?  What if the fight scenes all looked like shit?  What if, even though we took away all of the superpowers, the script still had leaps in logic that made Spider-Man 3 seem plausible?  What if, at the end, the hero defined by his incompetence straps on a jetpack with attached machine guns and saves the day?

Wait, what?

Fuck this movie.  People have been sucking its dick for how bold and innovative it was, even though it was just a terrible looking, juvenile rehash of comic book tropes with added swearing.  Kick-Ass’s big selling point is the real world setting, but they forego nearly everything that makes the real world matter.  At least discuss hospital bills or something, sheesh.

5.      Kid Cudi-Kid Cudi is bad for hip hop.  He doesn’t make my blood boil the way Drake does, but his own personal brand of arrogance is still obnoxious.  He’s that stoner kid in your high school English class who loooooooooooooooooves drawing attention to how weird and interesting he is.  His music does often forsake traditional rap structure, but I’m not about to congratulate him for just that.  Get some lyrics, Cudi.  Stop rhyming words with themselves, stop writing so many songs about weed, and stop assuming that just because you’re sad, you’re also deep.

5.      Shadowland-Brightest Day might’ve been a great exercise in treading water, but at least that’s to be expected from a DC event comic (Even one only starring C-listers.)  After two groundbreaking Daredevil runs by Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker, it looked like this one was going to be the craziest yet, but Andy Diggle gave up halfway through and decided to make a comic that reads exactly as you expect, only more boring.  Daredevil, now the leader of the ninja cult The Hand, has declared martial law in Hell’s Kitchen and builds the title fortress in the middle of town.  Has he finally lost it?  Has he gone too far?  Nah, don’t worry.  It was just a demon controlling him.  The comic flakes out in the character development, and nothing of importance happens.  Unable to come up with anything better than a reset, Andy Diggle proved that he was indeed a bond company stooge.  In the miniseries’ final issue, Iron Fist and Luke Cage deliver some meta-commentary on the comic.  Motioning towards Bullseye’s corpse, Luke says “Well, at least he’s still dead.” To which Iron Fist replies “Small consolation.”  Indeed.  What could’ve been a decent story got bloated into oblivion until it was just another big pile of nothing.

3.      The Lost Finale-What can I say about this that hasn’t already been said?  Even I got in on the action earlier this year, and anybody who cares about Lost already has their own opinion about the ending.  Regardless, the fact remains that they ended exactly how they said they wouldn’t, and wasted half of a season doing it.  Thanks for the memories, guys.

2.      Drake-There is only one logical explanation for Wheelchair Jimmy’s rap career. He and Lil Wayne are secret lovers, and Weezy ghost writes all of Drake’s good raps.  I’m not a homophobe man, I just call it like I see it.  But seriously, he doesn’t even have an original flow.  Listen to a Drake song.  Can’t you hear those rhymes coming out of Lil Wayne’s mouth?  Drake depresses me.  He’s a former child actor from a Canadian teen soap, he appears in Sprite commercials, he’s had it made for the majority of his young life, and nobody even bats an eye.  Given his circumstances, Drake should be a rapper with class, but god forbid anybody have some integrity.  He’s talking about the same stupid material shit all these young rappers like to rhyme about.  He’s just Lil Wayne-lite from Canada, and he’s got no taste in beats.  Fuck Drake.

1.      The Social Network-

Mark Zuckerberg is an asshole.  20 minutes later-Mark Zuckerberg is an asshole.  2 hours later-Mark Zuckerberg is an asshole.  I don’t care if he’s a real person, he’s still not interesting, and I want to punch him in the face.  Almost every single character in this movie is a rich douchebag, everybody wins in the end, and it doesn’t have anything insightful to say.  It left a bad taste in my mouth.  It’s like a 2 ½ hour episode of King of the Hill where every character is Peggy.  The Social Network is a movie we didn’t need.  It’s not a story worth telling.  Can’t we wait just a little bit longer, and see where this real-life drama develops?  I guess that’s the thing, though.  That’s all there is.  Everybody’s a rich asshole and that’s all they want to be.

 

This movie is boring.  Nothing ever really happens.   This shouldn’t be a problem for the guy who directed Zodiac, but it is.  There’s a few times when they pretend that something’s happening, like that idiotic rowing race,* but Fincher lets Aaron Sorkin’s script do the heavy lifting.  Every character talks in that stylized tone where they’ve always got something clever to say. It keeps things interesting for a bit, but it’s not enough to save the movie.  The characters are all kept at a distance.  It’s impossible to get inside anybody’s head.  We’re only given a chance to identify with one character, and he’s not even in it that often.  If the movie had been from Eduardo’s point-of-view, maybe we would’ve gotten a quality flick, but it seems doubtful.

 

Besides, what kind of loser makes a movie about Facebook instead of adapting Black Hole? Now Fincher’s next movie is going to be an American-ized adaptation of a best-seller that’s already been made into a movie.  I don’t want to say that that’s a Ron Howard move, but that’s a Ron Howard move.

 

I might be missing something, but I don’t care anymore.  I really hate this movie.

 

*A gold star for anybody who can tell why that scene matters.

Two Reviews-Girl Talk and Kanye West

the cover.

So last Monday was pretty nice.  A new Girl Talk album out of nowhere?  Yes please.  I haven’t reviewed anything in a good long while, and here was something new giving me the opportunity to beat all of those official reviews to the punch.  Right on.  So how is All Day?

Pretty damn good.  The songs actually sound like songs instead of a bunch of shit mashed together.  He really slowed down for this one.  Maybe that’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but I love it.  Right from the get-go, I could tell this was going to be different.  The album opening mash lasts over a minute.  It was great.  I actually get to listen to something awesome like Rude Boy/Waiting Room instead of hearing 20 seconds and wondering what the rest of the song would sound like.  Of course, this patience thing can be a double edged sword.  There’s no saving Souljah Boi and Black Eyed Peas songs.  It just can’t be done.  Stop trying.  Quit.  Please.  Same goes for the Phil Collins.

A lot of time is spent trying to recreate old tricks.  Looking for the next Lil Mama/Metallica moment?  Yeah, there’s about four of those.  Biggie anthems and 70s rock?  Check.  Radiohead samples?  You fuckin know it.  Some samples come across a little too obvious, like we knew it was coming.  Guess that’ll happen when you’ve accumulated 800 mini-mashes already.  The good news is that parts like these have mostly replaced the more obnoxious “30 songs in 30 seconds” that made up the less listenable parts of (or all of) the previous albums.  It’s no quantum leap in any way.  There’s still an excessive amount of 80s power ballads and bunches of people just shouting “yeah!”

All Day excels with unfamiliar territory too .  For example, Ludacris shows up three times, and each part kicks ass.  I only recognized the first one, a War Pigs/Move, Bitch mash.  The others work because he’s letting the music breathe a bit and develop more naturally.  All Day manages to make a lot of awful rappers sound good.  It was the fourth or fifth listen before I realized a part was B.O.B.’s shitty hit single “Nothing on You.”  Turns out there was a good rapper buried in that tomb of overproduction.  He even makes Drake sound good once.  I fuckin hate Drake.  In my defense, he does appear twice and the other part kind of pisses me off.

It’s a dense, grueling record, but it’s worth it.  All Day sounds more like an actual album than anything Girl Talk’s done prior.  Probably the best one yet.

And then this came out…

My, ahem, Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Everything about this album is nuts.  Mr West went all over the place on this one.  When it’s good it’s great, but when it’s bad, it’s fucking awful.  Luckily, there are not any truly awful songs, just a handful that go on way too long.  It’s big, bad, and doesn’t give a fuck what you think.  Yeah, that title is incredibly gay, but it’s not gonna let you hold it back, Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad.   (From now on, My Beatuful Dark Twisted Fantasy will be referred to as My Fantasy Ass Job)

Moreso than anything else, My Fantasy Ass Job is bold.  How bold?

Lex Luthor in Prison bold.

Kanye seems to indulge in every impulse he gets, looking for something that’ll stick.  Being him, almost everything does stick.  It’s a hell of a record.   Musically, every track impresses.  Lyrically, it’s a big angry ball of arrogance, spitting in the face of good taste.  It’s easily West’s best album since Late Registration, but it’s the work of a guy at his most decadent, hedonistic, and most of all, evil.

 

He’s taken the ego to the next logical step-supervillain.  On Power, West claims “every superhero needs his theme music.”  I’m not sure what stunt he’s trying to pull, because he sounds like a good guy on maybe two of these tracks.  Jason Greene wrote that Kid Cudi’s influence was all over this one, so I’ll see his Kid Cudi and raise him a Jay-Z.  My Fantasy Ass Job is Kanye’s new and improved version of Blueprint 3.  The blueprint apparently being “Throw shit at the fan, but only if the fan is made of diamonds.”  Jay always came across as so smug, rapping about nothing but money with an aw shucks attitude.  It was a record drunk on its own hype.  Kanye at least has the sense to know what to do with the money.  The lavish production budget wasn’t wasted on designer jetskis.  If it sounds like a brass band, that’s because it probably is.  For all the money stuffed into this, it still sounds surprisingly fresh.  Nothing ever gets buried in Kanye’s pleasure pit.

Presumably what the pleasure pit looks like.

I don’t hate the supervillain stuff, but it keeps everything so heavy and dour.  This aint the Kanye West who had a sense of humor or gave a shit about poor people.  We get every other possible position he can twist himself into, but Your friend, Kanye is oddly absent.  Apart from the whole “detachment from humanity” thing, complaints just boil down to nitpicking.  “So much head I woke up in Sleepy Hollow?”  What’s that supposed to mean?  There’s a few more Sleepy Hollow related rhymes around here and it doesn’t sound like anybody’s actually read it.  That stuff always bugs me.  Also, “All of the Lights” has 11 guests including Rihanna, Kid Cudi, and Elton John.  It’s impossible to pick all of them apart, and MIA is missing.  I know she’s missing because Fergie shows up obviously trying to sound exactly like her.  I have to wonder why Kanye couldn’t get the real deal.  He spent a few million dollars on this thing recording in fucking Hawaii of all places, and he couldn’t get MIA?  Would’ve been cool.  However, credit must be given where credit is due.  Fergie doesn’t do half-bad.  I know, I know.  I ain’t mad at her, but I ain’t glad at her.

I am glad about Rick Ross.  Mr West makes everybody sound incredible on this one, but Devil in a New Dress transforms Ross into a rapper as good as he says he is..  Shit man, way to go.  I didn’t think you had it in you.  This is even cooler than the time Young Jeezy became a demon on the last albumWHOAHOLDUP.

It just occurred to me than Drake is nowhere to be found on My Fantasy Ass Job.  But The RZA is, and Raekwon, and Nicki Minaj, and Bon Iver, and Pusha T and Elton John .  Nice.

All of the Lights isn’t alone in its excesses.  Nearly every song is a tad bloated.  Runaway, so good when he was doing it live, goes on twice as long as it has to and I could do without the “beautiful death” coda on “Power.”  Are fuzzed-out autotune solos cool?  Maybe for 30 seconds, but certainly not 5 minutes.  The one song that I do want to keep hearing forever only lasts 3 minutes.  Sigh…  It’s so good, my biggest complaint is that I want more.  It’s a true monsterpiece, a city devouring gelatinous blob.  But if you set your mind to it, it wouldn’t be hard to just go into Audacity and cut out the “Nicki Minaj quoting Neil Gaiman” intro, the end of “Blame Game” where Chris Rock talks to a sex slave for two and a half minutes, and separate Runway into two songs, throw “The Joy” and “Good Friday” into the mix for that wee bit of humanity, delete the second half of Runaway and we’d be set.  That’s it; I’m gonna go build the better Monsterpiece.  Shit already comes with 12 covers.

*Checked and saw that MIA appears on a bonus track on the deluxe version.  So that’s an improvement.

*Update-So in the time I started writing this and the time I finished,all of those bonus tracks disappeared from the Amazon and Wikipedia pages.  Maybe they’ll turn up on Watch the Throne.  Who knows?

Sasquatch Music Festival 2010- A brief glimpse.

Hey internet.   I know this is a little late, but I’ve been working on it for a while.  It’s not a full report on the Sasquatch music festival.  That’s coming along very slowly.  I’m 15 pages into it and I might be done with it by the end of the year, or it might just keep getting longer.  Who knows.  This is a very brief sampling of what went down to whet your appetite for more of my nonsensical ramblings.  I’ve been working a lot lately, but hopefully I’ll have a review of something else by the end of this week.  And if you’re in Butte tonight, you should come see my band, Mordecai play with Slackeye Slim at the Venus tonight.  You have nothing better to do.

Anyway, the show.

Broken Social Scene- This was a surprising show.  First, I was surprised how many people were in the band-three guitarists, two bassists, and a drummer.  Second, I was surprised by how old they all looked.  I don’t think any of these dudes could be younger than 40.  They’ve got a bizarre visual aesthetic.  It looks like half of them like to dress up, but none of them want to match.  There was Scott Stapp, Lyle Lovett, jock drummer, hardware store employee, librarian, electrician and furniture maker.  The band started big and they kept getting bigger.  A lady came out to play piano, and then another one came out to sing, and then a fucking five-piece brass band came out onstage and they didn’t look like crackheads, but one of them did look like Rivers Cuomo.  In addition to looking hilarious, BSS were also really good.  This was my third surprise.  These guys rock hard live.  The guitars punch so much harder.  The noise is more enveloping.  They may act a little goofy in their rock-star ambitions, but they play like they mean it.  They did Texaco Bitches at double speed!  Their set seemed mostly composed of material from Forgiveness Rock Record and the Self Titled.  I’m cool with that because those are the only two I’ve listened to extensively.  Much respect gained for these guys.

Z-Trip- I wanted to see Z-Trip, who’s write-up billed him as “the godfather of the mashup.”  His set started strong with some Public Enemy/Justice, but by the end of the show, he was remixing the same tired shit that I saw at the Bassnectar concert.  I wasn’t crazy about Bassnectar, but I think he was actually better.  Z-Trip may be the godfather of the mash-up, but in this modern world of Girl Talk and Grey Albums, he’s been left behind.

Passion Pit- Passion Pit did not sound any better live.  That’s what I was hoping for.  I was hoping there’d be something special about a Passion Pit performance, but it was very by-the-numbers.  Nothing was harder.  Nothing was grittier.  Nothing was louder.  Was it wrong to expect Passion Pit to be harder live?  I don’t know, man.  I mean, I’d think they’d at least have some heavier bass.  The singer’s got the lamest voice I’ve heard in a long time, but I could put up with it for a while because the band could spin genuine pop hooks, which I always admire.  They’re a dance-y band, but they’re such stiff performers, ugh, no soul.  I’ve given up on Passion Pit.

Oddly enough, Passion Pit was the only band I saw people really going nuts for.  Let me explain.  The way the Gorge is set up, there’s a barrier between the inner and outer pit.  Presumably in order to prevent people from getting crushed, only so many people are allowed into the inner pit.  Between sets, the security will block off the entrance while other people leave.  When space has cleared out, security will let you enter in waves.  Prior to the Passion Pit show was the only time I’ve seen people trying to break down the barrier to get in.  It was almost scary.

Kid Cudi- Cudi’s been on my fence for awhile, so this was going to be a make-or-break performance.  I was putting his head on the chopping block.  Maybe if he knew what I had vested in this performance, he would’ve put more effort into it, but that seems a little unlikely.  After all, Kid Cudi doesn’t really care about anything.  He just wants to get high.  This is the message of his music.  Kid Cudi is one of the worst drug advocates I’ve seen perform.  He preaches complacency and apathy.  “Guess what kids, doing mushrooms won’t solve your problems, but it will make you stop caring about them.”  Musically, his show was also lacking.  Cudi’s a live-band rapper.  In the post-Kanye world, the pressure’s on for rappers to create more enthralling live performances.  I saw Lupe Fiasco with a live band.  That was a great show.  I also saw Lil Wayne with a live band.  That show was pretty awful.  Weezy is a turntable man.  The live band doesn’t lend itself to every rapper.  For example, I can’t really see Young Jeezy performing in front of a horn section.  Kid Cudi, however, is all about the music.  His rapping is bad, but he’s got great song arrangements, so I was more than a little disappointed when I saw that he only brought a DJ.  This was one of those macbook DJs too.  Very little scratching.  Fuck, at least give Cudi a hype man to interact with.  One thing I did like about the Kid Cudi show-I found out why he performs “Make Her Say.”  This “Poker face” sampling blowjob song got more people singing along than anything else.  “Day n Night,” Cudi’s own hit, had only about half the roar coming back from the crowd.  So I guess there’s the childlike glee one derives from hearing a bunch of dumb girls sing your song about face-fucking.  Yeah, but overall, Cudi is bad for hip hop.

The xx-The xx had a lot of technical troubles throughout the show too.  It took them a few songs to get the mics right.  It probably had to do with how quiet the singing is.  The bassist also stopped a couple times to talk to the sound guy.  Four songs in, they seemed to have all of the bugs worked out-a little annoying, but nothing that’ll derail a good show.  The XX was one of, if not the, loudest band I saw there.  This is a band that gets menacing when they get loud.  Even stuff like Basic Space or Islands gets mean live.  By the time they got to “infinity” I was a little worried that the lead singer was going to get slapped around by the bassist after the show.  By now, the mics were getting feedback again, but I think it actually added to the menace.  Could it have been intentional?  Was it all just an act?  It seems like something these kids would pull off.  Stage theatrics the minimalist post punk way.  The xx had the best stage presence there.  These three pale English kids all look like they’ve been pulled out of their halfway home and dressed up to impress the people from Social Services.  They all act incredibly bored.  The synth-drummer probably lifted his head less than 10 times throughout the entire show.  The slightest movement is exciting with these guys, so when they do do something, it can be pretty thrilling.  I was outright shocked when the synth guy hit the cymbal that had been sitting there the entire show.  What a surprising twist.  I was left to read their faces.  The bassist and guitarist kept leering at each other, both looking like two bitter ex-lovers.   It was great.

Cymbals Eat Guitars-I listened to their album a few times.  It was okay.  On the record, they sound like a band whose only influence is Pavement.  Live, they sound like a band whose only influence is Dashboard Confessional.  Ugh.  I got the hell out of there and gave up on them forever after two or three songs.

Jets Overhead-Better off dead.

MGMT-MGMT released a profusion of beach balls, balloons and other blow-ups into the crowd.  They were a perfect fit for the atmosphere.  People were crowd-surfing like there was no tomorrow.  The MGMT show produced a childlike glee in even the most jaded concert-goers.  There were so many opposing personalities converging at this show, people seemed relatively well behaved.  Guess we all wanted to look good as representatives of all our shitty fringe-subcultures.  This was a very fun show from a fun band.  The new stuff sounds great live.  “Brian Eno” is probably my new favorite MGMT song.

Ween-The love and happiness of MGMT was not to last.  Ween performed next, being the closing act of the fest.  Two or three songs into Ween’s set, every inflatable beach toy had been banished back to the front of the stage.  “Get those fucking beach balls out of here!”  I distinctly heard somebody say.  The Ween crowd was a much more serious group.  Unlike the MGMT fans, the Ween fans were of the mind that their band could die at any minute.  They didn’t have time to deal with fucking beach balls.  Ween is not going to live forever.  Every member looks haggard and sickly.  Broken Social Scene has nothing on these guys.  I’ve seen The Cure and R.E.M. live before.  Those guys were all about a decade older than the members of Ween, but Ween looks a decade older than them.  These people, especially Dean, the singer, have not taken care of themselves.  Peter Buck might look like he smoked a lot of pot in high school, but Dean Ween looks like he sniffed a lot of glue.  And still does.  There was a part in the show where he just stood there, hunched over behind the piano player, leering at him while he smoked a cigarette.  That’s pretty punk rock.  Not being a band prone to eating vegetables, Ween would have to take breaks now and then.  They never stopped playing, but they’d constantly switch back and forth between fast and slow songs.  They didn’t play “It’s Gonna be a Long Night,” which I found disappointing, but I did gain a new appreciation for “Transdermal Celebration.”  They played more of their jokey songs than I expected.  I didn’t think stuff like “Bananas and Coke” or “Your Party” would really lend themselves to a live atmosphere, but they pulled it off.  These guys seem to be able to pull just about anything off.  It’s because they’re a legitimate rock band.  Ween.  Fuckin right.

New Music-LCD Soundsystem and Sleigh Bells

I’m not exactly dying for new music.  There’s plenty of old music to go around.  I try to keep up to date on what bands are cool, but they usually end up being sucky and boring.  Vampire Weekend and their cronies have been invading our websites and rock fests for the past few years, and before they popped up, it was all of that faux-folk bullshit.  But I think we’ve almost reached the tipping point.  Dear god, I hope we’re reaching a tipping point.  This musical pussifying has about run its course.  It was cool when Modest Mouse was doing it, because they knew how to rock.  It didn’t even matter for a while, because people still seemed concerned with making good music, and not just writing lyrics that made teenage girls swoon.  Arcade Fire?  TV on the Radio?  They knew what was up.  Band of Horses?  Not so much.  The indie rock landscape’s gotten so damn clean recently, it’s a little disgusting.  I understand that phases like this are necessary for music to grow, but I think it’s time to call it quits on that shit guys.  We’ve let the Colin Meloys and the Ben Gibbards of the world have their turn, it’s time to change the guard.  They’ve been in charge for so long, their whining’s ringing a little hollow.  Now don’t get me wrong, I fuckin love me some angst, but there’s more than one variety.  It’s time to get evil again.

One guy who’s gotten away with not being evil is James Murphy.  James Murphy a.k.a. LCD Soundsystem has been floating around the musical landscape for the better part of the decade, seemingly impervious to whatever everyone else is up to.  Because the music is made in a weird little bubble universe, I’ll allow him to do whatever.  The music feels a little more timeless because of it.  The new record, This is Happening, doesn’t get very evil, but it does get plenty snide.  It also gets sad and angsty a few times.  That usually seems to work when you don’t make every song a breakup song.  There’s misery but there’s also swagger.

One thing first, I’m not sure how much of a band they exist as in real life.  I’ll be seeing them in a few days, so I’ll report back on what they’re like live.  I think Murphy does the Trent Reznor thing, where he just makes the album alone and then recruits a band for performances.  There’s definitely loneliness in a lot of LCD’s music, but I dig it because Murphy’s got a great “fuck you” attitude.  “Dance-punk” is the genre listed on Wikipedia.  I don’t buy that title because that genre sounds stupid and vague.  I refuse to believe that LCD Soundsystem, Death From Above and Mindless Self Indulgence all play the same type of music.  In LCD’s case though, I can kind of see where the label comes from.  The music itself isn’t that punk.  The attitude though, very punk.  This is the music of a guy who sneers a lot.  They’re two dominant themes to the songs, either “You think you’re so cool, but you’re not as cool as me” or “I’m sorry.  I fucked up.  Please forgive me.”  Murphy’s vocals are also delivered with punk-like effort.  He’s got a very limited voice, but I like it when he manages to get something done with it.

I liked the new album, but a disc of (nearly) nothing but songs over seven minutes can take a toll on you.  At least half the time, I just wanted James Murphy to get to the fucking point, and I started building up expectations for where the song was going, but then he’d just keep zigging when he should’ve been zagging.  The second half of the album tends to get obnoxious because the songs just get so damn repetitive.  If that was the process he had to go through to make “All I Want” then I guess it was worth it.  “All I Want” is going to be this album’s “All My Friends” aka the song that makes all the critics get hyperbolic.  It’s like the Brian Eno song that never happened.  The guitar tones are ripped straight out of “Here Come the Warm Jets.”  However, unlike Here Come the Warm Jets, we can understand what the words are about, and this is where that hyperbole will really start pouring in.  Murphy makes it a song of forgiveness, constantly returning to the line “all I want is your pity.”  He succeeds with the message.  I don’t feel sorry for him, but I also don’t want to scoff at him.  That’s an accomplishment.  That’s a damn good song.  I’m gonna go out on a limb here and declare it to be better than “All My Friends,” his previous “masterwork.”  I just wish the rest of the album could measure up to it.

In the end, This is Happening isn’t as good as Sound of Silver, but it was still pretty good.  I’m not a person who absolutely adores LCD, I’m the guy who finds half the songs really, really good and the other half kind of boring.  This album might’ve had some higher highs-Drunk Girls, Dance Yrself Clean, One Touch, the previously mentioned All I Want, but it also had some pretty abysmal lows.  What the fuck was the point of “You Wanted a Hit” being nine minutes long?  That song goes nowhere.  You better not be fucking with us James, I get the feeling that you’re fucking with us.  Which gets me to this other song, “Infinity Guitars.”  “Infinity Guitars” feels like it might be one of those songs that take for fucking ever.  Sooner than I expected though, they cut loose with the most blown out guitars and drums possible.  Good thing, because the song’s only two and half minutes long.  Coming back to it, it’s the perfect song of anticipation.  The build-up isn’t gratingly long, and the release actually feels worth the wait.  It’s like a damn wave of noise washing over you.  Oh, “Infinity Guitars” isn’t an LCD song either.  It’s from Sleigh Bells debut album, Treats. I was just looking for a nice segue to the next topic.

Treats is the album I’ve been waiting for.  All year long, I was waiting for somebody to come out and kick my ass and make ME get hyperbolic.  Earlier here, I was talking about my desire for a changing of the guard, how we need something really new and nasty to kickstart the next loud music movement.  Sleigh Bells can be that band.  Their level of loud is up there with the best.  Holy shit, this band is loud.  I was so happy to see a “best new music” review on Pitchfork that didn’t revolve around what a well-educated, well coifed pussy the singer was.

The guitar is distorted beyond all recognition.  The synths are equally brutal.  The drums hit like a baseball bat to the skull.  This music is fucking grimy.  It’s also pretty damn poppy.  Is that a bad thing?  Nah, when you’re at this level of noise, you can get away with whatever you want.  The shit’s so hard, it even comes as a relief when they do slow down for a track here and there.

Sleigh Bells could certainly be bogged down in the murk with other acts who get by emulating other bands, but they do it so much better than the rest of them, and they do it with a completely opposite style.  Where everyone else is finding new ways of being melodic and catchy, Sleigh Bells already have that part down and are finding new ways of being loud and abrasive.  Neon Indian this aint.  Part of their trick is combining a bunch of shitty sounds until they get a good one.  For example, “Run the Heart” takes dubstep* bass, really shitty hip hop synths (think T.I.), and Cranberries vocals, combines the three for a genuinely good song, then throws in some nu-metal guitar just for the hell of it.  And it works.  Just to prove they’re not limited to one trick, they threw in “Rill Rill” a few songs later.  Easily the most pleasant thing on the record, it does a better job emulating 60’s pop than just about everybody this side of Grizzly Bear.  Shit man, give em an album or two, and they’ll probably have those guys beat too.  They’re on point even when they’re not!  Songs aren’t wasted on showcasing anybody’s crate digging skills.  Sleigh Bells hit hard and they hit fast.  They’re an electronic pop band that approaches their songs via stoner metal and dubstep (or drum ‘n’ bass.  Whichever’s faster.  Electronic genres are stupid and confusing and there’s too many of them.)  While everyone else is getting back into 80’s synths and basic hip hop beats, Sleigh Bells are taking it one step further.  They’re like a musical rescue mission.  They give new life to all kinds of shitty sounds, and not just the usual stuff.  I’m talkin shit that hasn’t been heard since the glory Days of Linkin Park.  The only thing more impressive than their sources of theft is how easily they make it their own.  They fucking rock, and that’s not something I can say about a lot of new bands, let alone electronic duos.

*At least that’s what I think you’d call it.

Lightning Bolt

This is Lightning Bolt

I have two favorite albums at the moment-Wonderful Rainbow and Hypermagic Mountain, both by Lightning Bolt.  Two half-albums if we want to get into it.  They share the same problem-Strong starts, weak finishes.  Lightning Bolt makes noise.  There’ nothing pleasant about their music, the vocals are barely audible, the bass is distorted beyond all recognition, and the drums sound like free jazz on meth.  They’re the loudest, noisiest, most intense band I’ve probably ever heard and I love em.  Their music feels like doom metal via DFA via abstract jazz via Night on Bald Mountain.  It’s a little hard to describe.  Most importantly though, their music is evil.  It’s important to keep music evil.

Wonderful Rainbow

Of the two records, Wonderful Rainbow is the more diverse one.  It peaks early, but it manages to keep going after the album’s seven minute monsterpiece “Two Towers.”  “Two Towers” is a hard act to follow.  I imagine the other songs felt a bit like Dewey Cox performing after Elvis, and they’re good certainly good songs, but with the memory of “Two Towers” still not done steamrolling your spine, it’s hard to get through the rest of it.  The album’s biggest problem is arrangement.  The three best songs are all at the beginning, and they all come in a row.  I hate it when that happens, but it’s a problem we have to live with.

Hypermagic Mountain

I’ve been tossing “monsterpiece” around a lot lately, but I think it’s entirely applicable here.  Lightning Bolt’s best songs are monsters.  Fucking behemoths that either crush your skulls, or the skulls of your enemies.  Hypermagic Mountain is more monstrous than its predecessor.  I think they took my advice here, and waited till the seventh song before they got to the skull crushing.  Even the sixth track, “Magic Mountain” feels like a march to battle, a fucking death march as an army of orcs prepares to crush the skulls and drink the blood of their human enemies.  I dunno.  I might be getting carried away with this skull crushing stuff, but I it’s a damn good time for it.  If I’m gonna indulge in hyperbole, it’s either that or “orgasmicly brutal”  Mypermagic Mountain’s monsterpiece is “Dead Cowboy” and it’s probably the most epic, skull crushingly heroic, orgasmicly brutal song ever recorded.  That’s right.  Heroic.  The demon hordes are on our side this time and they’re gonna crush our enemies skulls.  Lucky us.  Dead Cowboy is so fucking good, the remaining 5 songs on the album are rendered pointless in the wake of its awesomeness.  Also, they’re not very good.  There’s nothing left to say after Dead Cowboy.  It’s an album ending song.  Not only because it’s impossible to top, but because I imagine the studio fucking exploded in the shape of a skull after they finished recorded it.

Like this,but waaaaaaaaaaaaay cooler.

There’s nowhere left for them to go after that song.  And they don’t go anywhere after it.  The remaining songs all sound the same.  They’re just noise.  I seriously thought the album was over after that one, but then the noise started up again and I thought “What the hell?  Shouldn’t everyone be dead now?”  Dead Cowboy is probably the most heroic, skull crushingly epic song ever written.  I guess there aren’t any lyrics about Vikings or shit like that, but maybe there are because it’s impossible to understand what they’re talking about.

If you really like singing or instruments that aren’t distorted beyond recognition this probably isn’t for you.  If you laughed at the part when Juno calls Sonic Youth “just a bunch of noise” then maybe it is.  Maybe.  Man, fuck you Juno.  We thought you were cool.  You can’t handle Sonic Youth?  You pussy.  You say you like the Stooges, but I bet you don’t even own Fun House.  Did you know that that’s Jack White’s favorite album?  Look at you now Juno, not so cool anymore are you?

Yeah whatever Juno.

(Update-apparently Dead Cowboy is about George Bush.  Okay.  Whatever.)

Suites For Ma Dukes

Here’s a really quick post for ya.  This was the coolest thing I saw on the internet this morning and thought I should share it with you.

http://www.hiphopdx.com/index/news/id.11022/title.b-talks-suite-for-ma-dukes-dillas-work-performed-in-iowa

J Dilla compositions as performed by an orchestra.  It’s pretty cool stuff.  I might have to find this DVD when it comes out.

damn good record.

For those not in the know, Dilla is generally considered one of, if not THE, greatest hip hop producers of his time.  His 2006 album Donuts, released three days prior to his death,  is considered THE go-to album in instrumental hip hop.  He was a talented guy, producing so much material that we’re still hearing new stuff today.  Last year, both Doom and Raekwon managed to get unheard Dilla tracks on their albums.  Check it out.