September 10, 2009
Pet Sounds, Renewed
I think I forgot to post this a month or so ago when I couldn't stop listening to it. Some genius had the amazing idea to remove the backing vocals from all the tracks on the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. The result is kind of breathtaking, especially "God Only Knows":
The difficulty and the peculiarity of these vocal lines can get obscured in the full versions. Just listen to the fugue section of that song. Man.
And of course, "Sloop John B," my other favorite song from Pet Sounds:
September 9, 2009
More Hud Mo
Hudson Mohawke remixes Tweet's "Oops (Oh My)"—and wow, whatever happened to Tweet? Her time has come, and she's nowhere to be found!
August 27, 2009
Small World Pop
[I]f anything, rock criticism's become less populist over the last decade, as the spiraling decline of album sales makes it tougher to frame successful records as public events and easier to make niche sensations seem like they matter. And as we'll see, there were definite limits to the types of pop that could win over wider audiences.
On a personal level, of course, the idea of a pro-pop revolution feels right because it validates the many hours I spent arguing about it on the net. Making niche events feel somehow important is something the Internet is horribly good at: it turns arguments fractal, lets your bunch of digital friends and foes feel like the world when it no way is.
August 24, 2009
Two Weeks' Worth of Awesome
Gabe Askew's fan-video for "Two Weeks" by Grizzly Bear can conjure only one appropriate adjective: Sublime.
Here's an interview about it, and here's the thing itself:
OutKast's B.O.B. is the best because it says YES to everything we are and compresses it to pure energy. It's our Good Vibrations, our Layla.
Robin (who clean-sweeps his tweets) had a nice addition:
Jeez now I'm listening to it again, and like Harold Bloom's Hamlet, it's a Total Work. EVERYTHING is in here.
Here's Pitchfork's Stuart Berman with a more expansive explanation:
"B.O.B." is not just the song of the decade-- it is the decade. Appropriately, the contemporary hip-hop act most in tune with the Afro-Futurist philosophies of Sun Ra, George Clinton, and Afrika Bambaataa, wound up effectively crafting a fast-forwarded highlight-reel prophecy of what the next 10 years held in store. The title-- aka "Bombs Over Baghdad", a phrase that sounded oddly anachronistic in 2000, sadly ubiquitous two and a half years later-- is only the start of it. In "B.O.B"'s booty-bass blitzkrieg, we hear an obliteration of the boundaries separating hip-hop, metal, and electro, setting the stage for a decade of dance/rock crossovers. We hear a bloodthirsty gospel choir inaugurating a presidential administration of warmongering evangelicals. We hear André 3000 and Big Boi fire off a synapse-bursting stream of ripped-from-the-headlines buzzwords ("Cure for cancer/ Cure for AIDS"), personal anecdotes ("Got a son on the way by the name of Bamboo") and product placements ("Yo quiero Taco Bell") that read like the world's first Twitter feed. We hear four minutes of utter fucking chaos yielding to a joyously optimistic denouement (a point reinforced by the Stankonia cover's re-imagination of the American flag, which anticipates a White House set to be painted black).
Of course, there is a downside of being ahead of your time-- upon its release, "B.O.B." didn't even dent the Billboard Hot 100, and merely peaked at No. 69 on the Hip-Hop/R&B Chart. But unlike OutKast's subsequent number one singles ("Ms. Jackson" and "Hey Ya") "B.O.B." is too disorienting and exhausting an experience to ever succumb to over-saturation, and its majesty has never been diminished by ironic cover versions from cred-hungry rock bands. Because even after a decade that's seen the act of copying music become as easy as a mouse-click, and the process of performing simplified for toy video-game guitars, the future-shocked ferocity "B.O.B." is something that just cannot be duplicated.
The best place to enjoy "B.O.B.", of course, is at Snarkmarket 3000.
Technologies Don't Transform. Societies Do.
Quick-hitting today, but here's an important axiom from Dan Visel at if:book --
the social use of digital media is more transformative than the move to the digital itself
Visel's responding to Eric Harvey's "The Social History of the MP3":
The first widespread music delivery technology to emanate from outside industry control, mp3s, flowing through peer-to-peer networks and other pathways hidden in plain sight, have performed the radical task of separating music from the music industry for the first time in a century. They have facilitated the rise of an enormous pirate infrastructure; ideologically separate from the established one, but feeding off its products, multiplying and distributing them freely, without following the century-old rules of capitalist exchange. Capitalism hasn't gone away, of course, but mp3s have severely threatened its habits and rituals within music culture. There is nothing inherent or natural about paying for music, and the circulation of mp3s > through unsanctioned networks reaffirms music as a social process driven by passion, not market logic or copyright. Yet at the same time the Internet largely freed music from its packaged-good status and opened a realm of free-exchange, it also rendered those exciting new rituals very trackable. In the same way that Facebook visually represents "having friends," the mp3s coursing through file-sharing networks quantify the online social life of music by charting its path.
P.S.: This observation from Harvey's essay is a great coda to my "How the iPod Changed the Way We Read" --
This might be the most profound social shift of the mp3 era: hoarding and sharing music changed from an activity for eccentrics to the default mode of musical enjoyment for millions.
August 21, 2009
The Unattended Documentation Of Culture
I fell in love with The Books in 2002, when I heard "Motherless Bastard" from Thought For Food. It begins with an audio sample, a conversation between a father and his daughter, where the dad playfully says, "you have no mother or father."
"Yeah, I do!"
"No, they left..."
And then the hammer falls:
"Don't touch me, don't call me that in public."
That sample was recorded live by The Books' Nick Zammuto at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Los Angeles. The rest of the track is just an insanely sweet, melancholy, beautiful acoustic instrumental, on cello, banjo, percussion, made just slightly glitchy with some electronic effects. That's what they do.
In a new interview with Pitchfork, Zammuto and Paul de Jong talk about their process--
NZ: There is a pulse to the material we work with that you can't find in the mainstream. It's this unattended documentation of culture. The productions are not made for recording any kind of history, but there's all this cultural documentation in there anyway.
PDJ: You can't find it anywhere else. You can't make it up, you can't shoot it yourself. If there's three seconds of beauty in an hour and a half tape, the search is worth it.
-- and their new album --
NZ: We've been really into hypnotherapy tapes. We've been into a lot of spoken-word religious material in the past-- just these deeply ego-ed voices. But, with hypnotherapy, the ego disappears-- it has this relaxing effect independent of what someone's saying. We're interested in that un-self-consciousness. In a bizarre way, it keeps things grounded. There's always this element of not knowing where you stand that you can hear in almost any voice. It's a universal quality.
And we have a vast collection of these tiny little musical fragments-- like analog synth demos-- that are very dated, but we never knew what to do with them. It's really hard to use them without sounding like genres that everybody's familiar with. But I think we finally started to crack the code and figured out how to use them in a way that satisfies us. Like, we have this incredible collection of brass sounds, so we kind of have a brass section going.
PDJ: Yeah, it seems to be developing more into the sounds from traditional pop-rock history-- like, actual drum sounds. We're starting to make sense of what to do with something that's reached a critical mass.
August 15, 2009
"While My Guitar Gently Beeps"
If you were planning on not reading this week's NYT Mag cover story because it's, um, about Guitar Hero, reconsider. It's really good. And the photo at top is mesmerizing. (And whoever came up with the headline, I salute you.)
August 11, 2009
Awesome story from MeFi. You know that Nat King Cole song "Nature Boy"? The haunting one that opens and closes Moulin Rouge? Turns out it was written by a vagabond hippie and left in an envelope for Cole after one of his performances. Much more in the thread.
July 22, 2009
July 18, 2009
When Poptimism Meets Pessimism
One of my favorite "pop music meets pop culture" writers is Tom Ewing, who writes the "Poptimist" column for Pitchfork. Ewing's posts have a way of generally filtering into the cultural conversation without him necessarily getting a lot of direct credit - for example, he beat Paul Constant to the punch back in May by writing an essay on Twitter in 140-character paragraphs.
Ewing's newest column smartly juxtaposes the decline of the relevance of the Top 40 (particularly in the UK) with a certain strand of newspaper pessimism. I particularly like his definition of pop music as "a fragmented cross-section of popular culture squeezed into a tiny space, and the act of squeezing-- when things were working-- filled that space with energy and fizz."
Well worth reading the whole thing - here's a relevant sample:
Far more people worry about the decline of newspapers than the decline of the British pop charts, but their plight is comparable. Both packaged worlds of content into small things and let the different elements fight for attention. Both also enjoyed audiences who had to consume a whole to get at the parts they liked. Okay, a newspaper reader could skip over the sections they didn't care about more easily than a radio listener could, but still a good headline might turn that half-second flicker of disinterest into attention. And in that half-second chance lived serendipity and argument.
For serendipity to happen you have to be able to give people what they don't want-- or don't think they want-- as well as what they do.
Maybe that's a utopian conception of the newspaper as well as the Top 40 -- but it seems like all we do is trade in utopian conceptions. Let's kick this one around for a while.
July 15, 2009
Jay-Z and The Fog of Rap Battle
Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy goes there:
See, Jay-Z (Shawn Carter) is the closest thing to a hegemon which the rap world has known for a long time. He's #1 on the Forbes list of the top earning rappers. He has an unimpeachable reputation, both artistic and commercial, and has produced some of the all-time best (and best-selling) hip hop albums including standouts Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint and the Black Album. He spent several successful years as the CEO of Def Jam Records before buying out his contract a few months ago to release his new album on his own label. And he's got Beyoncé. Nobody, but nobody, in the hip hop world has his combination of hard power and soft power. If there be hegemony, then this is it. Heck, when he tried to retire after the Black Album, he found himself dragged back into the game (shades of America's inward turn during the Clinton years?).
But the limits on his ability to use this power recalls the debates about U.S. primacy. Should he use this power to its fullest extent, as neo-conservatives would advise, imposing his will to reshape the world, forcing others to adapt to his values and leadership? Or should he fear a backlash against the unilateral use of power, as realists such as my colleague Steve Walt or liberals such as John Ikenberry would warn, and instead exercise self-restraint?
But here's the other question: are Jay-Z and Beyoncé really in the same game? What about The Shins? In other words, maybe one set of actors are in the sphere of realist power politics, and another set are acting under a completely different set of assumptions - maybe idealist, maybe postmodern, maybe not based on the nation-state/single artist framework at all.
This was always my issue whenever we examined competing explanatory frameworks in political science: the assumption that whatever assumptions you made, they had to apply to all actors equally and individual actors consistently.
To me, it seemed (and seems) perfectly consistent to suppose that rational actors could be operating under different frameworks of rationality at different times, or even in some instances scuttling rationality altogether due to misinformation, contradictory internal forces, or misguided teleologies. "You can't build models that way," my freshman poli sci teacher said, half-joking but half-serious. No, I guess you can't.
June 29, 2009
Melting Like Hot Candle Wax (Now With Links)
It's silly to make a CD-length mix playlist in 2009. I stopped listening to CDs altogether when I donated my long-suffering 1996 Monte Carlo a couple of years ago. And curation with limits is out. Why limit yourself to a static 80-minute document when you can have your own blog - hell, your own radio station - curating music all year long? Why not just make a big "favorites" list for your iPod and stick it on shuffle?
So it took the following extraordinary circumstances to get me to put this together:
1. I'm secretly an analog dinosaur. I wrote papers on a manual typewriter until I went to college, and made cassette after cassette of 60, 90, and 120-minute songs I recorded from the radio from the time I was six or seven.
2. I keep all of my music on an external hard drive, which went kaput. I've had to scavenge data to my overloaded laptop - which means I mostly have only a few songs/albums that I really want to listen to available to me.
3. It's hot, and it's summer, so songs about heat and summer keep coming to my mind. And they're (mostly) not the obvious ones.
4. There are a few really terrific albums that have come out in the last few months.
5. The death of Michael Jackson has me reaching around in my music archive a bit.
So here's a playlist of songs preoccupying me for summer 2009. It's titled "Melting Like Hot Candle Wax." If you're really slick, you know where that title's from already.
1. "Build Voice," Dan Deacon, Bromst 2. "Two Weeks," Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest
3. "Boyz," M.I.A., Kala
4. "Summertime Clothes," Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion
5. "Not A Robot, But A Ghost," Andrew Bird, Noble Beast
6. "Another Sunny Day," Belle & Sebastian, The Life Pursuit
7. "Summertime," Galaxie 500, This Is Our Music
8. "We Could Walk Together," The Clientele, Suburban Light
9. "Black Cab," Jens Lekman, Oh You're So Silent Jens
10. "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," Michael Jackson, Off The Wall
11. "Postcards From Italy," Beirut, Gulag Orkestar
12. "Two Doves," Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca
13. "Too Many Birds," Bill Callahan, Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
14. "The City," Dismemberment Plan, Emergency & I
15. "Here Comes the Summer," The Fiery Furnaces, EP
16. "35 in the Shade," A.C. Newman, Slow Wonder
17. "Summer In The City," Regina Spektor, Begin To Hope
What music, old or new, are you listening to this summer?
June 25, 2009
Where There Is Love ...
For my family, the death of Michael Jackson was one of those call-your-people-and-make-sure-everyone's-okay moments. I was checking the New York Times on my cell on the way to Tampa International Airport when the story was still that he'd been rushed to the hospital, reportedly for cardiac arrest. The way they'd written the story, though, with eulogistic snippets of bio fleshing out the news report, it felt as though the writers had pasted in text from Jackson's canned obit, which I interpreted as a bad sign. I kept saying to the folks in the Super Shuttle that I had a bad feeling about it. As I handed my boarding pass and license to the TSA inspector, she passed it back slowly, looked me in the eyes, and said, "Michael Jackson is dead."
So. Muse upon a problematic and epic life with me, Snarketeers. What have you seen that lives up to the moment? I'll kick us off with this reminiscence, by Minneapolis writer Max "Bunny" Sparber. And the MetaFilter obit thread is always a propos.
And, for the road, from Tim:
June 24, 2009
3000th post! This demands a party.
Just another seven light years to go!
June 22, 2009
The Hidden Fourth Dimension of Music
I'm picking up on a musical meme -- probably an old one, but new to me.
Start with this nice NYT write-up of a piece of music composed for long, curving lines of trombone players -- 89 in all! -- surrounding the listener.
Cross-reference with the new physical electronica -- and the argument that real sound sources, placed creatively in space, create an effect not replicable by any speakers, no matter how slick.
In an era when anybody can crank out music in stereo that doesn't sound half-bad, how do you distinguish yourself? The same way the movie studios are doing it, of course: add a dimension.
So now, I want the home version: How about an iPhone app that plays a composition on many phones simultaneously, networked via BlueTooth, and requires you to place them strategically around a space to get the full effect. Maybe dynamic performance instructions flash on-screen: "Run forward!" or "Muffle this phone with your shirt!"
If the app knew the relative locations of the iPhones -- (you, as a user, could probably give it some clues) -- the sound could swish and pan from phone to phone, in a sort of super-amorphous surround sound.
June 12, 2009
The New Physical Electronica
I have decided that if you are a band with guitars, bass, drums and nothing else, I have no time for you.
But that doesn't mean you have to use a laptop.
In their project Rhythm 1001, the group Invisible jams on plastic cups, typewriters, chairs, robo-tambourines, weird things with pegs, voice-mail tapes:
I love the fact that it's simultaneously so electronic -- a whole crazy spaghetti network of servos and controllers -- and so not electronic. No MIDI score here; it's all human performers.
Oh yeah and I also love the fact that it's so beautiful.
(Via Peter Kirn.)
June 2, 2009
Fredo Rides Again
Who cares, because I love it. It's the same layered sound as Sad Song, along with an even more free-form approach to video. 4:3? 16:9? Boring! Inspect one of the circles, or the hexagon, to see what I mean.
Cross-reference this with the combinatorial Cold War Kids and you are on your way to something important.
Update: Wow, there's more (older stuff?) I hadn't seen. Moon After Berceuse is a time-merge media music video. Imagine playing in an ensemble with alternate versions of yourself. Or time-traveling backward and forward, 30 seconds at a time, to fill in different parts of a song. My head just exploded.
May 29, 2009
In Praise of Post-
Music critic Simon Reynolds praises music's moments of in-between:
It rankles a bit that the late '80s are now treated as a mere prequel to grunge. The recently aired Seven Ages of Rock on VH1 Classic was a marked improvement on earlier TV histories of rock, which tended to jump straight from Sex Pistols to Nirvana. But its episode on U.S. alternative rock nonetheless presented groups like the Pixies, Dinosaur Jr., and Sonic Youth as preparing the ground for Nirvana. That's not how it felt at the time: Sonic Youth and the rest seemed fully formed significances in their own right, creative forces of monstrous power, time-defining in their own way (albeit through their refusal of the mainstream). My Melody Maker comrade David Stubbs wrote an end-of-year oration proclaiming 1988—annum of Surfer Rosa, Daydream Nation, My Bloody Valentine's Isn't Anything—to be the greatest year for rock music. Ever!
We actually believed this, and our fervor was infectious, striking an inspirational, Obama-like chord with young readers heartily sick of the idea that rock's capacity for renewal had been exhausted in the '60s or the punk mid-'70s. Yet that period will never truly be written into conventional history (despite efforts like Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life) because it doesn't have a name. It's too diverse, and it's not easily characterized. For instance, the groups were "underground," except that by 1988 most of them—Husker Du, Throwing Muses, Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers—had already signed, or soon were to sign, to majors. Finally, it'll never get fairly written into history because, damn it, grunge did happen.
As I've gotten older, I like 80s alternative music better than the stuff I grew up with in the 90s, although now (with almost two decades' distance), the 90s looks better, and just plain different, from the radio I remember. (I didn't listen to Belle and Sebastian, Neutral Milk Hotel, or Smog in the 90s. I do now.)
The weird thing is that to be a precursor is a recipe for big sales but also diminished significance in your own right. The 80s are full of bands that influenced Nirvana who don't really sound like Nirvana, who don't sound ANYTHING like the rest of what passed for grunge, who actually don't make a lot of sense in that context.
But to be post- is a kind of liberation -- one has a sense of being reflective, developing, moving beyond something else, a continuation with that history but also a break. So the coolest thing to be is post-punk. It's so cool that the first half of this decade saw dozens of bands who were post-post-punk.
So Reynolds identifies two strains of in-between music to go along with 80s post-punk: post-disco and post-psychedelic. I'm convinced that these typologies totally work; I might be more invested in the post-psychedelia bands he lists than the post-disco ones, but it all sounds interesting. And in this case, naming is claiming: giving these bands and their sound a name actually gives you a context to talk about them, one that might be misleading (in which case, time to toss it out) but which might be a way to call more attention to things that would otherwise go unnoticed.
He also includes this nice postscript (har har) on post-rock and post-metal:
There are some other "post-" genres out there, but to my mind, they describe something quite different from the above. Take post-rock, a term that mysteriously emerged in the early '90s to describe experimental guitar bands that increasingly abandoned guitars altogether. (Oh, OK, it was me who came up with that one.)
File under: Language, Music, Radio, Television
May 22, 2009
Something For the Kids
Have a good weekend, you guys.
May 20, 2009
The Combinatorial Music Video
As it's being created, any song, picture, game, blog post -- anything -- is like an electron cloud. There are lots of ways it could be (but won't). And a lot of the choices along the way are pretty arbitrary. So, hey: Here, take the whole cloud!
I think this is totally awesome. Art as combinatorial matrix. "Hey, did you hear the new Cold War Kids single?" "Which one?" "Oh... green-green-red-blue." "Yeah! LOVE that combination."
Okay, okay, I know this implementation is pretty simple. But I like that about it. I also like the fact that it's so accessible; it's not like twelve channels of evolving white noise that you can mix-and-match.
April 24, 2009
Wow, super podcast find -- on Apple Hot News, of all places. The Year Was 1959, a series of lectures (w/music) on a single year (but what a year) in the history of Jazz. Georgia State professor Gordon Vernick starts with three of my favorite records ever: John Coltrane's Giant Steps, Miles Davis's Kind Of Blue, and Ornette Coleman's The Shape Of Jazz To Come. (The two other great albums that people usually talk about are Charles Mingus's Mingus Ah Um and Dave Brubeck's Time Out.)
When you look at 1959, it's almost impossible to believe that it would be rock and roll (plus folk and ballad pop) that would chart the musical revolution. Rock was stagnant and jazz was endlessly inventive ten times over. Such a delight to listen -- this one year is an education in music itself.
April 18, 2009
In Search Of Ordinary Things
Image via Wikipedia
Like the birds he loves so well, Callahan's albums find him alighting momentarily on precarious perches and naming what he sees. By the time we hear the music, he seems to have flown on again. His vantage from Eagle is one of textured ambivalence; his images split and shimmer like double-exposures, immediately releasing an obvious meaning quickly followed by a subtler one that equivocates the first... Twenty years in, and Bill Callahan appears to be tearing up everything he's believed and starting from scratch, armed with the terrifying wisdom of knowing that one knows nothing, and searching for meaning regardless. He's resigned but heroically presses on. The void looms, but the music keeps it barely at bay.
I don't think I've been this dominated by an album since Andrew Bird's The Mysterious Production of Eggs.
April 8, 2009
An Odyssey In Reverse
Bob Dylan on what intrigues him about Barack Obama:
He's got an interesting background. He's like a fictional character, but he's real. First off, his mother was a Kansas girl. Never lived in Kansas though, but with deep roots. You know, like Kansas bloody Kansas. John Brown the insurrectionist. Jesse James and Quantrill. Bushwhackers, Guerillas. Wizard of Oz Kansas. I think Barack has Jefferson Davis back there in his ancestry someplace. And then his father. An African intellectual. Bantu, Masai, Griot type heritage -- cattle raiders, lion killers. I mean it's just so incongruous that these two people would meet and fall in love. You kind of get past that though. And then you're into his story. Like an odyssey except in reverse.
Dylan obviously knows a thing or two about 1) being a fictional character and 2) being on an odyssey. He was drawn to Obama early after reading his memoir, Dreams From My Father. "His writing style hits you on more than one level. It makes you feel and think at the same time and that is hard to do. He says profoundly outrageous things. He's looking at a shrunken head inside of a glass case in some museum with a bunch of other people and he's wondering if any of these people realize that they could be looking at one of their ancestors." This also sounds like Dylan to me.
(PS: Link to the Times of London interview fixed.)
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Music, Snarkpolitik
April 5, 2009
As Still As A River Could Be
Whenever I get stuck trying to explain either 1) my favorite current musical artist, 2) my musical tastes in general, or 3) my general aesthetic stance on the universe, I always fall back on Bill Callahan.
Callahan made one terrific record after another through the nineties and early part of this decade, recording as Smog - and later as (Smog). Red Apple Falls and Knock Knock are particularly atmospheric high points. They also show Callahan's musical range -- he can crank out feisty garage rock, precise minimalist folk, full-throated country gospel, and carefully arranged pop.
Somewhere in the nineties, too, Callahan shifted his singing voice downward; now he's somewhere in that strange middle road between Lou Reed and the late Johnny Cash. And in 2006, he hooked up with queen of folk Joanna Newsom (previous paramours include Cat Power's Chan Marshall) and shed the Smog moniker to release his first album under his own name. Woke On A Whaleheart is gentle but exuberant, roots-burnt rock and roll. Of course, then Callahan's heart got broken again - but he kept the name, and the relative immediacy
His new album, Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle, is more restrained than the uneven Whaleheart, but even more beautiful. In particular, "Rococo Zephyr" and "Faith/Void" just blow me away. They officially drop at mid-month -- check them out.... Read more ....
March 30, 2009
Omission Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery
There are a lot of things to recommend Amazon's list of the 100 best indie rock albums ever, but the absence of any albums by The Smiths, Dinosaur Jr., or The Flaming Lips is not one of them.
March 12, 2009
If I Had Invented Music
March 5, 2009
The Joy of Paper Tape
There are so many reasons to enjoy Maximum PC's"Computer Data Storage Through the Ages -- From Punch Cards to Blu-Ray," but I like the way it relates the technologies to the broader culture. For instance:
Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and magnetic tape all rose to prominence in the 1950s, and it was the latter that helped shape the recording industry. Magnetic tape also changed the computing landscape by making long-term storage of vasts amount of data possible. A single reel of the oxide coated half-inch tape could store as much information as 10,000 punch cards, and most commonly came in lengths measuring anywhere from 2400 to 4800 feet. The long length presented plenty of opportunities for tears and breaks, so in 1952, IBM devised bulky floor standing drives that made use of vacuum columns to buffer the nickel-plated bronze tape. This helped prevent the media from ripping as it sped and up and slowed down.
Likewise, audio quality of cassette tapes improved, "ushering in the era of boom boxes and parachute pants (thanks M.C. Hammer." And "the floppy disk might one day go down as the only creature as resistant to extinction as the cockroach."
But my favorite digital storage media, hands-down, is paper tape:
Similar to punch cards, paper tape contained patterns of holes to represent recorded data. But unlike its rigid counterpart, rolls of paper tape could feed much more data in one continuous stream, and it was incredibly cheap to boot. The same couldn't be said for the hardware involved. In 1966, HP introduced the 2753A Tape Punch, which boasted a blistering fast tape pinch speed of 120 characters per second and sold for $4,150. Yikes!
One thing I've always wondered about these early paper-based computer programs is whether they were copyrighted -- and whether that, in part, led to the adoption of paper. One of Thomas Edison's clever exploitations of copyright loopholes was to take celluloid moving pictures (which weren't initially eligible for copyright) and copy them onto a long, continuous paper print -- this meant that an entire feature film could be copyrighted as a single "photograph."
I also wonder if/why early computer programmers didn't use celluloid instead of paper. You can move it a lot faster than paper tape, and it's generally stronger -- except, perhaps, if you punch it with lots of little holes.
File under: Movies, Music, Object Culture, Technosnark
March 4, 2009
Time and Materials
For my money, this is 10X cooler than Girl Talk: Kutiman makes amazing original songs out of YouTube music clips. I've seen videos sorta like these before, but none this accomplished.
I think my favorite is track six. Wow.
Also, he explains the process.
March 2, 2009
Junior Boys Feat. Norman McLaren
Wow, two great tastes that taste great together: Junior Boys and Norman McLaren. It was Andrew Simone's recent post that prompted me to do some Norman McLaren searching. All of his videos are on YouTube, but they're also on the National Film Board of Canada's wonderful site in super-lux quality.
February 27, 2009
If Robin doesn't like this, I'll eat my hat.
February 26, 2009
Michel Gondry + Flight of the Conchords + Ex-Girlfriends = Love
A little late, but I just saw this little delightful slice of pop:
February 13, 2009
House Party At The Drop Of A Hat
The Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique, twenty years later:
Paul's Boutique is a landmark in the art of sampling, a reinvention of a group that looked like it was heading for a gimmicky, early dead-end, and a harbinger of the pop-culture obsessions and referential touchstones that would come to define the ensuing decades' postmodern identity as sure as "The Simpsons" and Quentin Tarantino did. It's an album so packed with lyrical and musical asides, namedrops, and quotations that you could lose an entire day going through its Wikipedia page and looking up all the references; "The Sounds of Science" alone redirects you to the entries for Cheech Wizard, Shea Stadium, condoms, Robotron: 2084, Galileo, and Jesus Christ. That density, sprawl, and information-overload structure was one of the reasons some fans were reluctant to climb on board. But by extending Steinski's rapid-fire sound-bite hip-hop aesthetic over the course of an entire album, the Beastie Boys and the Dust Brothers more than assured that a generally positive first impression would eventually lead to a listener's dedicated, zealous headlong dive into the record's endlessly-quotable deep end.
With no other album did I spend as much time transcribing and deciphering lyrics, beats, ideas -- staring at the radio, staying up all night.
February 12, 2009
We can agree to disagree about Sasha Frere-Jones. David Remnick and I like him, and I'm increasingly convinced we're alone in that regard. But few critics derive as much pleasure from discussing pop trifles, or do it with as much pizzazz. Clearly I was not about to let his paean to Beyonce go unremarked. Best observation: "'Single Ladies' is an infectious, crackling song and would be without fault if it weren't the bearer of such dull advice. The wild R&B vampire Sasha is advocating marriage? What's next, a sultry, R-rated defense of low sodium soy sauce?"
Low-sodium soy sauce! Swish!
February 11, 2009
Compression Artifact Art
Aha! It was only a matter of time. This new Chairlift music video is all about the warped, chromatic beauty of bad video compression:
It's really hard to watch without thinking something is wrong, yeah?
February 2, 2009
Hey guys, maybe we should investigate some sort of joint-venture opportunity with Riffmarket. Rex just pointed to one of his posts. This is my first exposure, and his voice is terrific: sharp, fluid, fair.
I admit it, I'm really only linking because it's called Riffmarket.
January 26, 2009
Shut the F--- Up, Piano Man
I love Ron Rosenbaum's takedown of Billy Joel; you really have to dislike someone to go to the lengths taken by Rosenbaum to document, distill, and identify what makes them so bad.
My favorite part, though, is Rosenbaum's side-snipe at Jeff Jarvis:
Besides, some people still take Billy seriously. Just the other day I was reading my old friend Jeff Jarvis' BuzzMachine blog, and Jarvis (the Billy Joel of blog theorists) was attacking the Times' David Carr. (Talk about an uneven fight.) Carr was speculating about whether newspapers could survive if they adopted the economic model of iTunes. Attempting a snotty put-down of this idea, Jarvis let slip that he's a Joel fan: As an example somehow of his iTunes counter-theory, he wrote: "If I can't get Allentown, the original, I'm not likely to settle for a cover." Only the hard-core B.J. for Jeff! ("Allentown" is a particularly shameless selection on Jarvis' part, since it's one of B.J.'s "concern" songs, featuring the plight of laid-off workers, and Jarvis virtually does a sack dance of self-congratulatory joy every time he reports on print-media workers getting the ax.)
See, this is the thing: there's a weird way in which the entire attack on Billy Joel just allegorizes Rosenbaum's frustration with Jarvis. Read RR's December article, "Is Jeff Jarvis Gloating Too Much About the Death of Print?" if you're not convinced.
January 15, 2009
Meme Engineering, Or, I Am a Conceptual Bro
Cross-reference with Tim's post: Hipster Runoff asserts that Animal Collective is a Band Created By/For/On the Internet.
Several people have pointed me to Hipster Runoff as this sort of mad savant of internet culture. Don't let his language fool you; this is some trenchant analysis:
I remember when I saw [Animal Collective] live in the post-Strawberry Jam world, it was swarming with entrylevel alts who were looking for a more meaningful experience than just a 'marginally dancey Cut Copy show.' At Animal Collective concerts, people are willing 2 unite, kind of like meaningful core during its peak days (ie the DeathCab TRANSATLANTICISM era).
He's created a whole dictionary and taxonomy for himself. And after you read him for a while, it starts to make sense.
There is nothing more annoying that Conceptual Artists/Bands who have allegedly garnered mainstream praise. For example, the Radioheads. Or maybe the zany broad BJORK. Maybe Sigur Ros or Arcade Fire (those 2 are a lil different/smaller). I think the main gimmick behind these bands is convincing yourself that their 'product' stands for something more than most music. They are pretty much a lifestyle brand for every sort of alternative ideal possible: social change, innovative instruments + recording techniques, reflections on humanity, usage of performance + visual art during the live show, environmental awareness, anti-War, embracing technology, innovative/meme-able music videos, having opinions on politics, and stuff like that which makes the band interesting/easy to write about.
Band as lifestyle brand! I don't know, I guess it's obvious on some level, but the way he articulates it is really sharp and refreshingly harsh. And the package matters: His bizarro blog dialect and earnest inline images are part of the argument, too.
You gotta read the whole post. Seriously. Even if you hate it. Especially if you hate it.
P.S. I found an Animal Collective track that I like.
January 8, 2009
Humanism in Electronic Pop
It's been almost five years since I realized that I was in love with the Brooklyn-based, Baltimore-bred band Animal Collective. I had fired up Sung Tongs, expecting something vaguely similar to Iron and Wine's The Creek Drank the Cradle, Devendra Banhart's Rejoicing in the Hands, or Joanna Newsom's "Bridges and Balloons," all of which, like the Collective, had been branded as "freak-folk" by that year's musical ethnographers. The other signposts indicated were the Smile-era Beach Boys.
Instead, there was this weird sound -- "Leaf House" -- that didn't quite work in headphones or at parties or in your car, but rattled around in your brain. The harmonies on "Who Could Win A Rabbit" paid off the Beach Boys campfire rumors, but I still didn't quite know what to do with it. Finally, "Kids on Holiday" won me over. Its lo-fi strum, its fleeting, wavering, erotic yelps, and solemnly intoned lyrics about a Felliniesque trip to the airport, replete with surreal details ("the smell of pajamas") and quotable asides ("Where the hell have I got to?"). It was Pet Sounds, but polymorphously perverse.
This is a very roundabout way to say that AC's new album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, is out -- and it's very different from those weird not-quite-folky sounds on Sung Tongs. But it's even more awesome. I'm pencilling Animal Collective in as the best indie-alternative band of the decade.
January 1, 2009
Year of the Ox
Hello, 2009! Year of the ox! Year of work! Year of staying up late and getting up early. Year of nights and weekends. Year of noses and grindstones. Year of always produce. Year of there's no wind out here, so we'd better row.
Hello, 2009. I'm making you a mixtape. Here's the first track:
December 21, 2008
Hot Chip's Vampire Weekend
Oh boy, it's a late entrant, but this gets my nomination for cover of the year. Hot Chip does Vampire Weekend's "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa," with vocals by Peter Gabriel.
Prediction: In two years, no one will listen to Vampire Weekend. But they will listen to this song. And they will be like, "Wait, that's a cover?"
November 30, 2008
Swann and Odette's Little Phrase
A terrific post by Blair Sanderson sleuthing the real-life identity of the fictional Vinteuil's Sonata from Marcel Proust's Swann's Way.
Since it's at All Music Guide, there are also streaming samples of some of the contenders, including Gabriel Fauré's Violin Sonata No. 1 in A major, Op. 13, César Franck’s Violin Sonata in A major, M. 8, Claude Debussy’s Violin Sonata, L. 140, and Sanderson's most likely candidate, Camille Saint-Saëns’ Violin Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Op. 75.
The Year's Best Music
Since 2003, I've made discs and MP3 playlists of my favorite music of the year to swap with friends. But this year, I just haven't been feeling it.
I really like In Ear Park and The Walkmen's new album, and I've listened to Dodos' "Fools" a couple dozen times (my tastes are skewing folky in my dotage). And it may be too early to say, but "Single Ladies" is percussive and weird and anthemic enough to be this year's "1 Thing."
But mostly I've been tuned out. So, I ask the Snarkmatrix: What have I missed? What do I need to hear?
November 29, 2008
I just discovered this site, a collection of expositions of the fugues in Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier. Some of Tim Smith's writings are pretty opaque to those of us who aren't trained in music, but many of his comments are accessible enough. ("If you think of the subject as a dancer, then the fugal process is one of finding a suitable partner. But what if the dancer has the ability to be its own partner? Well that is stretto. And stretto is what the C Major fugue is all about.")
And the visualizations help, although I wish they were done in Flash instead of Shockwave. But hey, it was made in 2002.
November 17, 2008
The New Radio
My friend Bethany Klein, communications professor at the University of Leeds, has a terrific interview in the new issue of Miller-McCune about her research on the relationship between pop music and advertising:
[Y]ou get people flippantly saying, "Sure, what's the big deal? This is what people do now." But when you further investigate, you find that everybody has some kind of internal checklist: "What kind of product is it? What's my relationship to the product? What type of commercial is it going to be? Who's directing the commercial?" If it truly was just submission to hyper-commercialism and an embrace of advertising, would it really matter? The other interesting tension I noticed in the interviews was that all these musicians were, of course, huge music fans. Many of them saw their own work as not very precious, that it couldn't possibly be a big deal if they licensed a song, but then if you talked to them about instances in which their favorite musicians had licensed to advertising, they couldn't help but feel that sadness of a fan about it. There was a difficulty in reconciling these two positions, thinking nobody could possibly care that much about your own work but knowing how much you care about other people's. In my book, I devote a chapter to The Shins. They licensed "New Slang" to McDonald's, relatively briefly, maybe just during the Olympics a few years ago. And that case was an amazing example of "Oh, people do still care." You could see in all the interviews that James Mercer, their singer, did about this -- and it got brought up in every interview -- he was really struggling with the idea: "What's the big deal? This is just a commercial -- it happens all the time." And, on the other hand, he could recognize how painful it would be if, say, The Smiths got used in a commercial and how terrible that would make him feel as a fan.... Read more ....
November 5, 2008
My President is Black / My Lambo's Blue
This is ridiculous, and awesome:
I Was Born By the River
Oh, and why the heck not taste it again for the first time:
October 22, 2008
The Last Words of David
A propos of nothing, I'm going to point you to the best song we performed in high school choir, Randall Thompson's "The Last Words of David," as interpreted by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Man, that's some great stuff.
September 21, 2008
Orchestra of One (Age Four)
Video of the day: Cutest kid ever = sound machine. Give it 'til 0:50 at least! And then you won't be able to stop.
It's like that video of the crazy-haired kid (which I cannot find, because all I can think of to search for is "video crazy hair kid") except cuter.
September 12, 2008
Another Laptop Audio Auteur
August 26, 2008
An Evening with Rthrtha
Check out this fun, cut-and-paste-y music video. Give it a bit to warm up; it gets exponentially better as it goes.
I love the bats.
The song is from a group called Octopus Project -- sort of Ratatat times Pinback minus vocals. Actually, never mind, that makes no sense. I'm going to stop trying to describe music.
Bonus: Behind-the-scenes stills! Oh man that looks fun.
(Via Ted R.)
July 7, 2008
The soundtrack to my life for the past couple of weeks has been "Gobbledigook" from Sigur Ros's new album. You can download it here. Skip the naked-fawns-frolicking video.
Fun fact: Who coined the term "gobbledygook"? None other than Maury Maverick, U.S. Representative and grandson of Sam Maverick, from whom the term "maverick" originated. Now that is a neologistic family.
March 6, 2008
Wow, check out this titanic feat of pop archaeology: Michael Barthel on the cultural journey of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."
Don't miss this part, about a third of the way down the page:
What's fascinating about all this is not simply the song's ubiquity on TV dramas--it's that it's used in the exact same way every time. Songs can be used sincerely, ironically, as background shading, as subtle comment, as product placement. But "Hallelujah" always appears as people are being sad, quietly sitting and staring into space or ostentatiously crying, and always as a way of tying together the sadness of different characters in different places. In short, it's always used as part of a "sad montage."
Now, I could go into details about how exactly the "sad montage" is constituted, but it's more efficient and probably more effective just to show you a montage of the montages. You'll see what I mean.
The montage is pretty hilarious. And then, a bit more of Barthel's analysis:
The way Hallelujah is being used here is the auditory equivalent of a silent film actress pressing the back of her hand to her forehead to express despair -- emotional shorthand. It's sometimes called a needledrop, and it's an element of visual grammar that signals the mood of the scene loudly and unmistakably. In the Scrubs musical featurette, creator Bill Lawrence says, "How are we gonna make a show where a lot of the comedy comes from broad, silly jokes switch gears on a dime and suddenly be dramatic? What we found is we were able to make that transition quickly if we chose the right song."
Seriously, you've got to check this out. There are graphs!
February 29, 2008
This Is Not a Music Blog
No links to MP3s next week, I promise. But MGMT is super-fun. Try "Time to Pretend."
February 28, 2008
Track of the day: Santogold remixed by XXXChange. Just feels very Thursday-appropriate, you know?
Update: Hey, I have a question. What's the deal with these music blogs posting MP3s? Do they have special (unofficial) arrangements with labels? Or is it just sort of understood that it's okay to share MP3s as long as you practice restraint? I wouldn't mind dropping some tracks on Snarkmarket from time to time but it still makes my spidey senses tingle. Are my spidey senses stuck in 2004?
February 23, 2008
Spore's Procedural Jams
That link includes a small picture of the programming environment he used, but you've got to see Aaron interact with it live to understand how truly cool it is. It's this crazy hybrid of computer code and, like, circuit design, and the music keeps playing as he makes changes, so you hear it evolving and improving in real-time.
Bonus: Here's some video of Aaron demoing part of the game.
December 7, 2007
Tonight the Streets Are Ours
Just returned from a concert I've been on tiptoes for all week: Richard Hawley, at one of Minneapolis' most intimate, acoustically divine little bars. And it was just perfect. The impeccable, impossible clarity of Hawley's baritone surrounded everything in the room. And each of his songs is a gem. The tiny crowd lapped up every moment of the performance. To the SF folks, he's coming your way in five days. Highly recommended for a chill night out.
December 5, 2007
Selling Out, Quantified
You know I love pop-culture equations! Here's one from the Washington Post, by way of Current.com: The Moby Quotient. Excellent visual treatment.
November 29, 2007
Admittedly, I was primed for this new Dolly Parton song and video by a recent Economist piece (!?) about the deep American-ness of Dollywood, her theme park in the Smoky Mountains. But, whatever: It's great. You can definitely hear the pop-industrial complex at work in that multi-tracked chorus... but it's still sort of Dolly-simple and Dolly-good.
November 26, 2007
One Voice, Many Layers
The "Ma Fama" version of "Dancing With Friends" made me think of Fredo Viola's sad song.
November 15, 2007
He Traded His Vowels to the Devil for Fame and Power
Peter Rojas' new music label just launched: RCRD LBL. Simple concept: The music's free! It's all supported by advertising.
Feels a bit thin right now, but that's okay: The internet felt a bit thin in the beginning, too, and that didn't make it any less The Future.
October 16, 2007
Short Schrift on Sasha
October 15, 2007
Musical Genre Name Generator
If you're a music critic, you're constantly searching for combinations of terms to describe the flavor-of-the-moment in a novel but legitimate fashion (e.g. "metal-queer," "mumble-core"). I've made it easy for you. Presenting the Musical Genre Name Generator™. After you generate your new musical genre, you can click the term to search Google to see how original you are. (By the way, this won't work in the RSS feed.)
Clearly, this is a statement on how nothing's original anymore; everything's been done. Even the Musical Genre Name Generator™.
October 10, 2007
Tracing the Virtual Band
When the band isn't the band: There was Prodigy and his "frontmen," of course. Then the awesomely synthetic Gorillaz. Now (via Rex) Justice subs in some, er, new faces of its own. I think it's terrific. Other examples? (Only honest ones -- I know you could cite a whole history of lip-synching, etc.)
October 5, 2007
Sampleur-Sample: a blog of pop song sample origins.
September 27, 2007
High and Low
Awesome riff on music over at n+1:
If you could write perfectly, you would write the way Charles Mingus composed music: uncompromising intelligence and seriousness married to shit-kicking raunch.
Frustratingly sans permalink -- it's just the site front page -- so get it while it lasts.
P.S. n+1 seemingly in parody of itself: "Against Email."
September 21, 2007
And Timbaland Hasn't Changed His Clothes in Three Days
Remixing Stronger. Actually really illuminating to see these super-famous guys sitting around like schlubs, just banging on keyboards. Everybody's normal.
September 8, 2007
Great great GREAT NYT story about the Prairie View Marching Storm. The video is really good, too -- although, as always, the thunder of a good marching band eludes recording somehow.
September 7, 2007
Diplo for the Weekend
August 30, 2007
P.S. Also here on YouTube, but what is up with this new genre? I have seen a bunch of them -- sort of ragtag musical slideshows.
August 21, 2007
Realize it's old news to some, but just in case: elbo.ws is a crazy music blog meta-aggregator. Plug directly into brain.
August 11, 2007
Doing It Right
In a nice bit of musical apologia, Gorilla vs. Bear writes:
So I was talking to that dude from Marathonpacks about his contention that the Go! Team is essentially "twee-as-all-holy-hell kiddie rap, it's ESG minus the sexuality and implied danger, it's perfect for roughly 74 percent of mp3 bloggers." I agreed that this was probably all true, but refuse to concede that these are necessarily bad things.
Indeed. There is a new Go! Team video waiting for you there as well. It might just be the perfect thing for a Saturday afternoon.
July 17, 2007
Yeah, maybe mix DVDs really do just belong on the internet: Here's a big collection of music videos that use architecture in interesting ways.
Be sure to watch the Mum video (direct link). Every flock of birds should come with a soundtrack.
April 22, 2007
Best Video Ever
April 17, 2007
The Arcade Fire plays a Parisian freight elevator. Not the original plan, but:
We had discussed dates and places, imagining the Madeleine at night, the knoll at the Ile de la Cite, an old cafe, a roundabout behind the Olympia...We checked the weather every day, put to despair by the cold front that's passing through Paris. We had surveyed the entire inhumane neighborhood from top to bottom, trying to anticipate the crowd, the will power of the group, the cold, and the fatigue. Then suddenly we had a plan. Win asked if there was a freight elevator. We found it, he smiled, and the Take Away Show was no longer in our hands.
Also: Same city, sunnier day, and The Shins hit the streets.
Update: I didn't even notice the guy tearing pages out of a magazine in the background! That's the percussion!
April 16, 2007
April 2, 2007
February 13, 2007
Where's the Podcast?
I'm seriously appreciating the musical tastes of CitizenFork.com. Their weekly playlists are more delicious than Multigrain Cheerios.
February 5, 2007
Long Live Looping
January 21, 2007
Ratchet Up points to a video demo-ing software that let's DJs rapidly remix music videos on the fly. The technique is a mix between fast sampling and beatboxing, and I'd be psyched to see it done live. Especially if the source video was this.
December 5, 2006
PlanetDan's Kick-assiest Xmas List is actually pretty kick-ass.
November 14, 2006
Missing the Concert
I heard one of this woman's songs week-before-last, immediately bought the album, listened to it during lunch at work the next day, and instantly went to a coworker's desk to announce I'd found her new favorite thing. And now I give her to you. Her name is Shara Worden, but she goes by My Brightest Diamond.
Tomorrow night, she'll be at 7th St. Entry, First Avenue's adorable little brother venue, but I cannot attend. This makes me sad. Support her when she comes to your town, that she may return to mine.
October 29, 2006
I can't tell you what I find so incredible about it, but I spent about 45 minutes just staring at this Flash program yesterday, and I don't regret a minute of it. Turn down your speakers before you visit.
September 25, 2006
You Gotta Hear This One Song, It'll Change Your Life I Swear
In modern movies, especially modern movies by Zach Braff, pop songs are extraordinarily "load-bearing." Music, not action or dialogue, generates all of the emotion.
I don't know whether this Garden State remix really proves that point or not, but either way, it just made me laugh out loud. Awwwesome.
June 1, 2006
May 31, 2006
My new favorite song comes courtesy of this Ask MetaFilter thread I posted. The identity of the song had been driving me crazy for weeks, ever since I first heard it play in a commercial for HBO Documentary Films before a movie at the Landmark Theater by my apartment. Ask MeFi to the rescue! Within hours, site members had it pegged -- "Sparks Fly", by Daniel Agust (mp3).
May 13, 2006
500 Greatest Songs
May 9, 2006
Feist Sings "The Build Up"
Feist's cover of the Kings of Conveniences' "The Build Up" was one of my hands-down favorite moments from her concert. And now you, too, can hear it (mp3 link). Here are all the tracks from the performance. (Waxtastic.)
April 11, 2006
Man, ever since that Feist remix, I can't stop wishing for more Postal Service. If you too are longing for clicky, computer-y goodness... here are some stand-ins:
April 2, 2006
Excellent Nonrequired Reading
Sasha Frere-Jones on Mariah Carey. Sample: ["Vision of Love"] begins with several bars of lovely, wordless melisma, as if Carey were warming up, and it ends with two very loud passages of melisma, one of them an a-cappella expansion on the word “all” that can be roughly transcribed as: “ah-ha-uh-uh-oh-oo-oh-ooah-ha-uh-uh-oh-oo-oh-oo-ah-oh.”
March 6, 2006
I'm not even going to link to it, because 1) you've already seen it, and 2) you know where to find it,1 but the Natalie Portman video really is a masterpiece. Even as a ripoff of an Easy E song, it's pretty breathtaking. I can even live with the random Viking segment.
1 If 1 or 2 is not true ... my child, I give you the Internet. Try not to break it.
2 Brokeback was robbed.
February 22, 2006
This Is the Part Where I Steal Matt's Link
February 16, 2006
Here's an RSS Feed That Will Make You Cooler
Podbop rules. You enter your city name and get a feed of upcoming concerts -- complete with MP3s!
February 15, 2006
A Fine Entertainment
January 30, 2006
Music Video Fantastico
In case any of you haven't seen this link yet, enjoy. It's the top 65 music videos of 2005, and all the selections I've seen really are brilliant. A few are available for watching without downloading the torrent; def. avail yourself of that opportunity. And watch "Mushaboom." (Waxtastic, and side note: If Feist comes to your city, make every effort to see her perform; she's wonderful in concert. Her voice really is as deliciously birdlike as it sounds on tape. And she's great at banter. And she plays some mean drums. And she's Canadian.)
January 18, 2006
I thought Imogen Heap's performance on Letterman was only so-so, but I loved the fact that she was just standing there surrounded by all her electronic gear. Much potential. As you know, I loves the Frou.
January 13, 2006
The trailer for "Idlewild," the OutKast movie, is finally available for viewing.
As Matt will tell you, this is of course just the warmup for their inevitable "Chity Chitty Bang Bang" remake.
But in the meantime... looks pretty sweet.
January 5, 2006
But Will It Be Staged With LEGOs?
Hey, speaking of robots...
To which I say: COOL.
November 27, 2005
Hipster Norah Jones
Am I late to this party? This album has been lying around since April, and I'm only now discovering it? It's awesome! A+++ super-fast seller! will use again!!1!
November 2, 2005
The Heights of Pop
I totally agree with Michael Idov's words on t.A.T.u. and the recent spate of critically acclaimed guilty pleasure pop music. "All the Things She Said" was a wonderful song containing, as Idov says, "at least five distinct parts, each catchier than the other." I'm happy critics recognize this. And having utterly fallen for Kelly Clarkson during the first American Idol, I'm thrilled that she's recorded such a universally beloved gem of trash-pop as "Since U Been Gone," even if I don't much care for the song itself. I look forward to hearing t.A.T.u.'s new album. May they never jump the shark.
October 10, 2005
Now If Only Gladwell Would Start One
Addendum: I love it because of incisive thoughts like this one, from his latest column --
The catchy chorus [of Fiona Apple's song "Extraordinary Machine"] is a warning to those (her fans included) who underestimate her resilience: “Be kind to me, or treat me mean. / I’ll make the most of it, I’m an extraordinary machine.” As she completes the phrase, her voice leaps girlishly into her upper register, and it’s as if she were gripping your arm so firmly that you could feel her nails dig into your skin.
When I first read this, I thought, "Hmm, that's not how I hear that chorus." But upon re-listening, Frere-Jones' remark struck me as totally apt. Even if that's still not exactly how I hear it, SFJ has evocatively communicated how he hears it, which is a rare and valuable gift for a critic to have.
August 30, 2005
The New Jam
"Breakfast Club" by DJ Z-Trip. Pass it on.
August 12, 2005
Very fun music video from OK Go. Via MF.
July 29, 2005
Famous on the Internet
July 19, 2005
Skip the Encore
July 9, 2005
I tried to reform. After leaving college, I had to confront the fact that my activities during those four years were not socially acceptable. I assiduously removed all references to that lifestyle, reforming some of those dead-giveaway behavioral tics, brushing up on new conversation topics, even tweaking my music collection.
It was hard. It had been a wild four years, and I was still in the thrall of college a cappella. I had to move on.
But last week, my former a cappella group's CD was released, it arrived in my mailbox on Thursday, and folks, I have backslid completely. I have not stopped listening to this thing since I got it. I am absolutely swimming in six-part harmony cover versions of contemporary pop songs, and I'm no longer going to hide it. Call me a degenerate. I don't care anymore.
In fact, I'm posting three snippets of the album, three of my favorite parts. How I love this stuff.
May 11, 2005
Push the Button
The trailer for fashion photographer David LaChapelle's documentary about krumping, Rize, has been released. Despite appearing a full year ago on BoingBoing, the art of krumping (a.k.a. clown dancing) remains the next hot thing in hip-hop dancing.
Most recently, krumping was featured to great effect in the Chemical Brothers' video "Galvanize," although Missy Elliott probably deserves the most credit for piping it into the mainstream with last year's summer jam "I'm Really Hot."
At least superficially, the comparison makes sense. In PIB, a straight Jewish woman captures New York's brilliant, predominantly black and Latino voguing scene at its height -- and also at the height of AIDS and violence against queers and within the queer community on and around Christopher St. With Rize, a gay white photographer takes on LA's brilliant, predominantly black krumping scene -- a splash of positivity set against the violent backdrop of South Central L.A.
Here's hoping it makes it to Fresno.