June 26, 2009

Friday Send-Off | Off The Wall

So much could be and is (and should never stop being) said about the King of Pop right now. A few of you have asked if I was going to post something. Well, I wouldn't really know where to start with a proper tribute. On a personal note though:

I'm 25 and can't remember my first exposure to the phenomenon that is Michael Jackson. It's foggy as to what came first, wearing through my VHS of Moonwalker, assembling a living room dance group with my cousins, or dreaming of the chance to join Captain EO on another mission at Epcot. Jackson, as a person, wasn't real to me or even of this planet. By that time, he was well transformed into his larger-than-life persona. And by 1993's Superbowl performance, he had surpassed any action figure, superhero or idol my little brain could handle.

It's taken the years that followed for me to fully understand what enabled him to become that. It begins with his body of work.

Download | Off The Wall (1979, Remastered)

We hear "Don't Stop Till' You Get Enough" and "Rock With You" as much as any other 'number one' from MJ. But for those returning to Thriller and/or enjoying the greatest hit media treatment in the next few days, remember there's another album full of funky, disco-glazed, vocally showcasing, essential R&B jams waiting for you as well. It's strange to think a record that's sold over 20 million copies worldwide might just be underrated.


Have fun. Be Safe. Get Weird.

June 24, 2009

Shred Wednesday | A Skate Video Retrospective [Part Three]

We didn’t have to look too far for this week’s installment. Turns out that Alien Workshop disc could have a post all unto itself. Our skate-man, Ian, as always, sports the brown and tells it like it is:



Song: "Crumble" by Dinosaur Jr.

Skater: Mikey Taylor
Video: Alien Workshop; Mind Field (2009)

This entire section registers as an instant classic. The song fits perfectly with the skating. It gets better every time. The rest of Dinosaur Jr.’s 2007 release, Beyond, is incredible and worth buying. It’s actually a comeback album, the first with all original band members since 1988. It sounds like reunited friends picking up where they left off, without having skipped a beat, just making rock songs that they like.

Don’t feel bad if you’ve never actually listened to Dinosaur Jr., their reputation exceeds their radio popularity - perhaps the epitome of a “never got the credit they deserved” band. Kurt Cobain seemed to be enamored with bands that avoided the spotlight and noted Dinosaur Jr. as a major influence. In effect, notching them as an important grunge era catalyst. It was really all in their attitude: the anti-fame (anti-hair-band), sarcastic slacker.

As far as the skating portion, Mikey Taylor exploded onto the scene and has been named, “the next big thing,” by the industry’s elite. Skating has progressed so much and created so many different avenues to popularity that many would argue what “skating’s next big thing” even means anymore. Taylor isn't proving ambitious enough to claim this title, but instead seems content with staying low-key and getting respect from the people who matter.

Dinosaur Jr. is the skateboarder’s band. It’s no coincidence that their songs have been used in a number of parts (or that the new music video for “Over It” literally returns the gesture).

Dinosaur Jr. - Beyond (2007)

Ian has indeed played Beyond nonstop and it indeed does rock. “Almost Ready” opens the album with a riff that I could see original fans smiling at in the same way they might an old buddy pulling into their driveway with the VW Bus they all used to get stoned in.




Dinosaur Jr - Farm (2009)

They've been everywhere lately supporting the new record
(2 sold out nights at the Troubadour, not to mention the local show on Saturday that we clearly should have bought tickets for online). And look for them tomorrow night on Jimmy Fallon.

I haven’t spent enough time with Farm, but those who have appear to be applauding another good one. Whatever differences these three guys once had in the past are far behind them. We're witnessing a caliber of 'second coming' that rarely happens in music.

June 23, 2009

Chairlift @ Detroit Bar [Costa Mesa; 6/21/09, w/Luke Top]


I was camera-less on Sunday night, so a thank you to our friend at Amateur Chemist for the picture. Too bad, considering how damn attractive this band is. Which leads us to Chairlift's one flaw: they might be too fashionable for their own good. They're a psychedelically pop sensible Brooklyn outfit in a psychedelically pop sensible, Brooklyn-loving, time. It's the kind of hip, sexual aesthetic (in videos, press photos, lyrics, stage presence, iPod ads...) that invites just as much skepticism as it does buzz. Last year's debut, Does You Inspire You, was strong enough to breakthrough, but didn't exactly mesmerize everyone. However, returning to it last week uncovered some non-single tracks that actually had more to offer ("Territory", "Make Your Mind Up", "Chameleon Closet"). Even then, I wasn't expecting Chairlift to perform as well as they just did.

Every song benefited in aired-out live form (a real accomplishment at Detroit Bar). Caroline Polachek's voice was in fact, mesmerizing, at times slicing the reverb fog it swam in. And there was plenty of room in the pool, what with maybe 40 of us in attendance (Dinosaur Jr. sold out Detroit the previous night, and our town just can't pull off two shows in a row). Coming from Bonnaroo and entertaining what looked like either parents or family friends in the crowd, the band seemed quite alright with a low key evening. They had fun with a cover of "Sensual Seduction" - yes, the one by Snoop Dogg.

In-vogue bands come and go. It was nice to see Chairlift so involved with the musicianship side of things (even if they are painfully good at packaging it). Hopefully they'll stick around.

They have newer and fancier videos, but Caroline Polachek's self-directed "Planet Health" still wins:



Luke Top opened - thought I recognized that We Are Scientist's drummer and that other dude from Giant Drag. It was him, and him, and they were solid. Friends is out, as of today.

June 19, 2009

Friday Send-Off | Lizzy Mercier Descloux [1981]

Finds like this (album, not necessarily this slideshow) are what it's all about.



If you need one more to be sold, try "Room Mate."

Download | Mambo Nassau (1981)

A thanks to Scott M. of p-rockers, who prefaced his share with,

"This is very easily digested punk-pop that errs on the side of Tom Tom Club/Talking Heads' style of fractured funk/world beat/art-rock/mutant disco. If there is a naked dance party in Shasta, please play track 6. Loud."


Have fun. Be Safe. Get Weird.

June 18, 2009

Enter | Spirit Spine

A Bloomington, Indiana-based college kid that goes by Spirit Spine, was brought to my attention via social network last night:


Our discussion regarding style from the previous entry kind of comes full circle here.

First off, it's got to be hard to develop your own unique sound these days (and then put the raw progress out there for all to judge). And Joseph Denny aka Spirit Spine is, without a doubt, gifted, and I'm happy that he's shared his art with everyone (seriously, like giving away an EP). It's just interesting to come across a next generation of sorts; one who looks to modern acts like aforementioned, Panda Bear/Animal Collective, and then studies backwards down the timeline.

I find Denny's recent self-education on surf rock, 60s garage, shoegaze, tropicalia and so on, fascinating (mentioned here in his first ever interview). Influence makes the world go round, and it's arguably present in any song you'll ever hear.  He'll likely hear some hasty comparisons like my conversation above represents, but he' a sharp guy that's aware of it, to impressive extent (in the interview). Think about being 19. This is part of the process. And it appears he's just getting started:
"I’ve thought about a mindset of how I want to make it (his next album)....I want it to sound like you were surfing in New York City at night."
Go for it.

Feeling good about the future. Oh and Silent Talk, fun.

UPDATE: I actually chatted with Joseph and he's never heard the Fuck Buttons song I mentioned in the screengrab above (go figure! My bad for making that assumption). Look for a possible interview with him in the near future. And he just announced the winners of his remix contest here

June 17, 2009

Shred Wednesday | A Skate Video Retrospective [Part Two]

It's beyond counting now, how many overlaps have transpired between songs from recent skate videos that Ian (our new contributor here, in case you missed that) gets turned-on to, and the selectively heard iTunes libary in our living room. I'm stoked either way, whether Ian gets into a band from my incessant blabbering, or a well-edited skate montage. Sometimes it's a clean take, sometimes the medicine is hiding in the baby food, you know? Bottom line, the man has great taste and knows what he likes. His standards are strict. The type you respect (and secretly want to shake around). Electronic music has been our highest wall to climb, but let me tell you, together, we're getting somewhere.

Like last time, his commentary is brown, below.




Song: "In The Flowers" by Animal Collective

Skater: Jason Dill
Video: Alien Workshop; Mind Field (2009)

I’m surely not the first person to admit that Animal Collective didn’t make sense to me initially. I was genuinely unimpressed with their lack of song structure and overall sporadic, weirdness. It was the type of experimental stuff that left me thinking either they or I was missing the point. As a band, wouldn’t they want to make music here, don’t they care?

As a pro skater, Jason Dill doesn’t really give a shit what anyone thinks either. Rumored to have been a homeless drug addict, Dill was the notorious couch-surfer of the early 90s skateboard scene. Getting fucked up, skating anything, and possessing a blatant disregard for social behavior has been his thing since day one.

Dill has become an icon in a sport that continues to grow commercially, simply by refusing to fit the mold. While some skaters from his era have capitalized by mainstream means like skating super-pipes on the X-games, he's held true to his own off-beat style, creating unconventional lines out of virtually insignificant, “un-skate-able” settings. To name a few examples in this part: grinding the angled green bench or riding the rough walls of the drainage ditch. He's often criticized for not attempting more difficult tricks, therefore lacking talent by today's levels. But that is missing the point. He's sending a message; his skating is for the pure excitement of exploration and creativity, a reminder of what skateboarding “used” to be all about.


It seems to me that Animal Collective hold a similar position within their industry. Both skater and band have inspired and paved the way for more “accessible” peers. Like bold innovators, they don’t seem to be concerned with receiving credit for the movements they start. It takes rare individuals to do this, true artists in my opinion.

Dude, that was an astute connection. Animal Collective has earned a following by doing exactly what they wanted, making music meant to be felt, regardless of whether it was considered marketable, or even listenable to some. They've mastered their own instruments (not necessarily common, tangible ones), while understanding pop music (that is, when and when not to sprinkle us with it). I don’t know much about Jason Dill’s current reputation, but I imagine the parallels between him and the band curve a little when you consider the evolving emergence of Animal Collective and success they've seen in the past few years, especially with their latest album (from which “In The Flowers” is taken) - aging, sucks for skaters, (sometimes) awesome for musicians. Still, Ian is dead-on about how each creator’s craft, though misunderstood by many, has pioneered a new way to experience their respective platforms.

Love for Merriweather Post Pavilion at this point is a stadiums and shrines pastime, so I’ll just say: highly recommended.

As my roommate for a couple years now, Ian had no choice but to endure this band, and it’s been a real pleasure to see him warm up to the new stuff, and as a result, respect the old.

June 12, 2009

Friday Send-Off | Phoenix | "Lisztomania" [brat-pack mashup]

You may have already watched the fan-made video for "Lisztomania." I just talked to your weekend, and it wants you to again.



Which brat-packer did you want to be? Andrew McCarthy FTW!

Rarely does a fan video surpass a band's official video with such dominance that the band not only acknowledges it, they prefer it. When asked what he thought, Phoenix singer Thomas Mars said, “It’s our best video.” The shot for shot, physical reenactment response has officially pushed this thing into phenomenon territory.

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is one of the year's best. Like I said before, prerequisite for getting into this album: a pulse.

H
ave fun. Be safe. Get weird.

Band of Horses @ Carnegie Hall [NYC; 6/11/09]


That last one seemed to go over well, so here's another round of shots from our main NYC squeeze, Victoria. A guy like Band of Horses and a girl like Carnegie Hall? Sounds rather special from the get-go. It was confirmed, the meeting between acoustic and acoustics went over quite well. While looking like ants on the grand stage to most, Ben Bridwell and his mates managed to fill the open space.

Victoria's review consisted mostly of beard-love. She did offer this:

"They played some songs kinda slow, like they wanted a very mellow show. It sounded great actually."
My interest in these guys was restored recently by a very solid showing at Coachella. I won't be surprised if their upcoming album does something big.

Setlist (via
BrooklynVegan):

Part One
Marry Song
Why You Never Get Older
Window Blues
A Song For You (Gram Parsons cover)
Monsters
Compliments Down
The Great Salt Lake
Weed Party (in double time)
Wicked Gil (in half time)
The Funeral
New Song (by Tyler Ramsey)
No One's Gonna Love You
...one more I can't place...help please!

--

Ode To LRC (Ben Bridwell & Tyler Ramsey)
Detlef Schrempf
The General Specific




Hi Jill. Thanks Vic.

And anyone lucky enough to be at Bonnaroo right now,
Friday's route looks unreal. Dirty Projectors, Animal Collective, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Grizzly Bear, TV On The Radio, David Byrne, Phoenix, Girl Talk, and so on. Wow.

June 10, 2009

Shred Wednesday | A Skate Video Retrospective [Part One]

My usual answer to the “what got you into music?” question cites direct hits like “my dad’s Beatles collection” and “seeing Fake Plastic Trees on MTV.” But somewhere collecting dust, are 30+ VHS tapes that deserve some credit. Skateboarding videos were an indirect hit. For a 13 year old, it was less about sequence and soundtrack, and more about watching hesh dudes rip like you wish you could. In hindsight, the most memorable “skate parts” not only showcased the best tricks, they mastered the art of sight and sound. And often connected impressionable, wallet-chain-wearing kids (like myself) to genres otherwise unknown to us.

Over the next few Shred Wednesdays, we’ll be highlighting select segments from all eras of the medium. This isn’t the first time that good friend, Ian, has come up in a post, but it is our first true collaboration. Ian never really grew out of his fascination with skate/surf/snow videos. This makes him the stadiums and shrines resident expert. His insights are in brown, below.



Song: "Watermelon Man" by Herbie Hancock
Skater: Guy Mariano
Video: Girl; Mouse (1996)

Guy Mariano is considered a pioneer of street skating and was one of the few street-skaters who had already achieved fame when this video was released. His natural talent is so advanced that the tricks he performs would hold their own in today’s world, 13 years later. Quite an accomplishment considering the level of progression skateboarding has endured.


In contrast, I still vividly remember hating the song originally. It starts out with weird noises, yells, chirps and flutes, and then starts “bumping,” which I immediately wrote off as some sort of lame rap-beat remix. Hip-hop of any sort wasn’t exactly my thing at age 14. In fact, having a father who was a musician, I respected artists who were proficient with actual instruments and resented most hip-hop for its reliance on electronic beats. As time went on, I played the video over and over and began to notice that the song actually had some pretty impressive drumming and what sounded like real instruments. I finally came around to “Watermelon Man,” and learned that Herbie Hancock is a pioneer of jazz-funk and this song in particular was considered controversially experimental when it came out in 1962(!). Like Guy Mariano’s innovative skating, Hancock’s sound was years ahead of its time. I recommend the entire album, Head Hunters, which features a nice, polished version of "Watermelon Man."


Download | Herbie Hancock | Head Hunters (1973)

It's scary how badass Head Hunters is. I don't know much about the jazz fusion movement, and I think the reason it appeals to me is probably the same reason it's one of the largest-selling jazz albums of all time. Just a full on, bending experience.



June 5, 2009

Little Joy @ Detroit Bar [Costa Mesa; 6/4/09]


Any article about Little Joy likely centers around the drummer from The Strokes, Fabrizio Moretti, as this is "his side project." It makes sense. Journalistically, that is the story:

While on tour in Lisbon, Fabrizio meets Brazilian musician, Rodrigo Amarante. Rodrigo then comes to LA to work on Devendra Banhart's record, where he and Fab meet up again. A very pretty and talented, Binki Shapiro, enters the picture, they all jam at house in Echo Park, and later name themselves after a cocktail lounge down the street, known for its exotic jukebox.

See, I just did it too. Now going beyond the blog press kit: Little Joy tours as a Fab Six, sans
Fab (he's back in the studio with The Strokes), and appears to be every bit a well adjusted band (rather than a side project), and also the cutest, happiest, most likable stage-full of folks I've seen in a while.

The Detroit Bar, just down the street from me (but no the jukebox is not that exotic), has been booking some impressive acts lately. Good news for the neighborhood. And hopefully for the venue (dear Detroit Bar, please use this money to upgrade your sound). The turnout was also impressive for our quaint beach community.

After just two songs, the little blond, Binki, laughed and commended us on being her favorite crowd thus far on tour. Not all performers react to divey bars and poor sound with such...joy. She saw our hearts were in the right place at least. Rodrigo (since we're doing first names today) vocally lead most of these huggable ditties. Tracks from last year's self-titled album grew into sway-along/sing-alongs (even some of the french/spanish lines).



Lighting was a tad dark for recording, but you should watch this nicely spliced video and decide if there's room in your life for a Little Joy. Also consider this your Friday send-off:



Yes, that's Mr. Banhart hanging in the back.

Have fun. Be safe. Get weird.

June 4, 2009

Mixtape | Optimo | Sleepwalk

I'll be honest, aside from that new video for (that old) "Kids", I was at loss for things to post today (and there, done). Sometimes the answer is staring right at you, or in this case, down at you while you're in upward dog. Anyone remember the yoga mix I put together last December? Well, the mix below (that you're about to download) was partly, its inspiration.

Optimo - Sleepwalk (2008, Various Artists)

Opening in a "No Man's Land" of waves and seagulls, Sleepwalk initially presents itself as ambient music. But you'll find that the two DJs from Glasgow behind this project don't stay in one classifiable place for too long. And the switch from water to land and so forth occurs naturally (the transitions make it exceptional).

The 18 tracks, pulled from all walks of music, feel strangely at home here, like little decedents gathering around
19th track, "Sleepwalk", a 1950s style diner-dreamer by The Lady Vanishes,

Legendary "This How We Walk On the Moon" by Arthur Russell, is an easy highlight. As is Eden Ahbez's trippy spoken word. I could go without the "Ring of Fire" cover, but 18 out of 19 for a mixtape is well above average.

Download | Optimo | Sleepwalk

Enjoy.

June 1, 2009

Passion Pit @ The Echoplex [LA; 5/29/09, w/Harlem Shakes]

East coast electronic pop band with debut album in mid-explosion bring a handful of outright jams to the sold out Echoplex, smile big when the west coast crowd knows all the words. Where have I written this blog before?

Born on a dorm room laptop, Passion Pit watched the circulation of a not-to-be-taken seriously early project grow into a label-backed EP, a monster LP, and a 4-piece touring act, all by the end of their breakout year. We now call this the MGMT model.

Michael Angelakos, the 21 year old singer who wrote the EP for his girlfriend as a Valentine's Day gift while at Emerson College, greeted us with:

"Hello, we're Passion Pit, FROM BOSTON."

You don't hear that everyday. I was happy for them (as a former New Englander myself).

For being so young, they're a pretty good live band. It is obvious, even with the busy stage, Angelakos is very much the central nervous system here, which mostly works. The EP's DIY quality and the LP's thick production meet at a happy medium. For example, "Better Things" simply gets better when it gets louder, while the thick, studio-chanting "Little Secrets" makes a lot more sense in person.

And like MGMT last year, you can't blame a band with 15 songs for only having 5 great ones. Of them, I managed to tape "Sleepyhead":


The YouTube title should probably be changed to "Skakyhand."



It's worth mentioning that Harlem Shakes (who appear to be on the Vampire Weekend model?) were also solid. Go get Technicolor Health.