Monday, May 23, 2011

video: performances from "our band could be your life" tribute

Our Band Could Be Your Life tribute at Bowery Ballroom (Stereogum review)
Our Concert Could Be Your Life (streaming on NPR)

When this show was first announced, my reaction was pretty negative (I think my exact words were "fuck everything about this").  It seemed like a personal affront to me that the man who had written a book about some my favorite bands, and some of the most important bands of the 80's, was putting on a tribute show featuring performances by bands that sounded NOTHING like the groups they were covering.  How could it be showing respect to groups like Blag Flag, Big Black, Butthole Surfers and others by staging performances by bands that are not in any way connected to the sounds of those original bands?  I understood that The Dirty Projectors had released an album that was at least conceptually connected to Black Flag, even if sonically it had virtually nothing to do with them.  But the selection of St Vincent to cover Big Black I could not understand.   Oh lord how it made me mad- I had visions in my head of her taking the stage, whipping out a violin, and winking and laughing through a set of ironic Big Black covers.  In fact it was such an outrage to me that I tried my hardest to forget the whole thing was happening at all.  But yesterday the show did happen, and today my blood pressure spiked when I saw reviews of it popping up on music websites.  I almost decided to ignore the reviews for the sake of my happiness and mental health, not wanting to spend the rest of the day fuming about the desecration of music I hold dear.  But I took the plunge and watched a few videos, and to my immense relief my expectations were totally wrong about this show.  St Vincent's performance of Kerosene not cutesy or fake or ironic, its a performance that actually respects the original.  And it's a shock to see the Dirty Projectors playing Black Flag songs not as Dirty Projector songs, but instead more like they originally sounded, with a now long-haired Dave Longstreth forgoing his vocal acrobatics for guttural barking.  These were the two performances I was most personally interested in, so I can't really say if the rest of the show was as good as these two, but you can check out the whole concert streaming at NPR, or check out loopyvid's youtube channel for other performances from the show.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

LA weekly interviews Steve Albini about food

I love Steve Albini, I love food, and here he talks about cooking, as well as eating in LA. I don't really think anything more than that needs to be said really, other than that I'm kind of bummed he doesn't like Martha Stewart as much as I do.

Friday, May 20, 2011

tUnE-yArDs-w h o k i l l (2011)

no more soundcloud...those fuckers have denied my uploads about 10 times in a row now, so fuck em, you tube "videos" instead

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Merril is performing at the..." and thats how the album begins and if that isn't a perfect rev up for an album I don't know what is. She really is performing "at the..." she is everywhere on this album. Combining elements of Indie Rock, African Music, synth pop, punk, and even soul(mostly in the vocals). This reminds me of what would happen if Nina Simone fronted a punk band. This album is somewhat hard for the explain. It's much better than the first one, which was recorded on a 4 track. This one is split between 4 track/field recordings/and a nice studio or two. She seems to thrive in this environment, employing her lo-fi aesthetic while also taking full advantage of the studio time. Every song here practically bursts with creativity. A lot of the creativity on display here can at times be awkward but that just adds to the excitement, she knows the perfect moment to be shitty to compliment the greatness. By making some parts dirty and somewhat stupid at times it gives the album a very up and down feel. It's like someone grabbing your hand and whipping you through a crowd without telling you where you are going.
This album is exciting, forward thinking, a bit annoying but you couldnt call yourself an adventurous music listener without acknowledging that something interesting is going on here. Oh and it definitely reminds me of that first Micachu album which is awesome!
I highly recommend this to pretty much anyone.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

video: cold cave - villains of the moon

Some interesting facts about Cold Cave that you may not know (or maybe you do genius, jeez):
- Singer/songwriter Wesley Eisold was the vocalist for hardcore bands XO Skeletons and Some Girls (and on an unrelated but somewhat interesting sidenote, he has only one hand)
- The band used to feature Caralee McElroy of Xiu Xiu
- The band currently features Dominic Fernow of Prurient/Ash Pool and Jennifer Clavin of Mika Miko
- All of these facts should add up to an awesome band and yet somehow this, from their latest album, sucks really hard.

Their new album, "Cherish the Light Years", is full of songs with brainless hooks and high-school emotions like this one.  At best, this comes off as an insincere "sell-out" ploy; at worst, it just makes them seem like terrible songwriters (you are free to reverse the "best" and "worst" in this scenario, but I'd rather think they are trying to "make it" rather than to believe they are just this awful of a band).  I'll let this video review serve in lieu of an album review, because this is pretty representative of what the album is like and I don't have any interest in listening to it in its entirety again.  I'm hopeful that they take their sound in a different direction, because there's way too much talent in this band to make music this fake and simplistic.

This, by the way, is what they sounded like on their last album, which to me sounds perfectly mainstream without sounding completely dumbed down:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

video: liturgy - returner

Liturgy are one of those bands that make it almost impossible to listen to the music without wondering what it all "means": in this case, the "meaning" at hand being the appropriation of outsider music (black metal) by clean-cut pretty boys in v-necks.  However, questions about intentions, appropriateness and the legitimacy of the people behind the music should always come second to the music itself.  Trying to put my reaction to concepts about black metal and indie "identities" is pretty difficult to do in this case, but I think Liturgy are doing something legitimately unique and sincere.  It may come from a sincerely stupid philosophy, but again I feel like its an important personal challenge to reconcile good or interesting music made by people I find obnoxious or repulsive.  If I can honestly appreciate Burzum without buying into his white supremacist ideology, I can certainly enjoy black metal made by poser douchebags right?  And then, there's an undeniable humor to see black metallers reacting to these guys with the same self-righteous horror with which the cultural mainstream reacts to black metal.  In the end, it wouldn't matter at all if the music wasn't any good, and here I think it is.  I have yet to hear the new Liturgy album in its entirety, and what snippets I've heard I don't feel are as good as their previous work, but I'm hoping to go in to it with an open mind at the very least.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

video: reality 86'd (Black Flag's last tour)

Click here to go watch the movie

Filmmaker David Markey is so cool that he released his documentary about Black Flag's last tour for free for all to watch on Vimeo, yet strangely he is not cool enough to let me embed it here. Oh well, can't win them all I guess. I've gotta go eat crazy-ass Chinese food with my lil' bro so I don't have time to watch this right now, but maybe I'll add my thoughts tomorrow. Or maybe you should add yours in the comment section.

In the meantime, here's a Black Flag video that will actual embed!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tyler, The Creator-Goblin(2011)

1-01 Goblin by sean.taylor106

Oh Tyler, you have managed to write and record the most self aware, self conscience and schizophrenic albums I have ever heard. Most of the time this would be a good thing, hell even a great thing. Many artists have done this, especially in hip hop. I have liked albums by egotistical weirdos for a while, the most recent album in memory was the last Kanye album. That album was made by a self aware egotist and it turned out to be concise and expertly produced. Even though it was self aware it still kept the most important thing in the forefront, Kanye let the music seep through everything above all else, his message was a moot point when those choral vocals and crazy song arrangements poured through the headphones. It was good, pure and simple.

The difference between that album and this one, i find, is extreme immaturity. Tyler really seems extremely cautious of every word he laid down to tape. He knew this album could make or break him but he seems so concerned with this that it gets in the way of the album. It's as if he was looking over his shoulder at all times when writing these tracks, second guessing himself until he made this. What is this? One of the biggest convoluted messes of an album I have heard in years. The music resides somewhere between Anticon and Def Jux and somewhere between the years 2001 and 2004, except this is 2011 and Madvillain happened and mainstream hip hop stepped up to create equal pop/critical hits. The landscape changed and El-P already made Fantastic Damage. In fact, this album sounds like a sloppy codeine fueled version of that album. In my eyes that makes this album completely unnecessary for the times.
It's painful to listen to this for many reasons, it feels like I stumbled upon some angry teenagers livejournal from a few years back. It reminds me of the bullshit rebellion that I let go after age 18. It's ugly but it's calculated ugly, it's fine tuned to a disgusting degree, and we havent even touched the lyrical content yet.

Lyrically this album is both successful and a failure at the same time. It succeeds because it does "go there". It really is, on first listen, dangerous and full of menace but after a few spins it really shows that this is just the product of an angry young teenager who is so concerned with his self image that he ends up not having an image of his own and ends up becoming a cheap, immature version of what he wants to be; a true dark creative genius. He is not, not even close because he thinks about it too much. No amount of pitched down and up vocal techniques could save this album, no amount of minimal production could save this album. Instead, Tyler buries this album with his monumental ego and his desire to be loved and hated by everyone.

Oh well..."Yonkers" was alright.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Akron Family-S/T 2: The Cosmic Birth and Journey Of Shinju TNT (2011)

01 Silly Bears by deef deeferson

03 A AAA O A WAY by deef deeferson

Opening with distorted drums and wordless chanting, there is a sense of menace and darkness with this new journey of Akron/Family's. All the distorted elements continue but like a flash of lightning crackling through the sky come the clear perfected haromonies. It's kind of what i feel Grizzly Bear would sound if they got a little crazy. This is the opener and it successfully gives a preview of the entire album to come. When i say album I mean this is meant to be listened to as a whole. No individual song downloading from Itunes, no "I've heard a couple songs and it's pretty good" bullshit. This is an album you sit and listen to it, it was constructed that way, just like a movie, things unfold and flow into each other. These things don't come with a casual listen. Though it isn't impossible to take it in chunks, I just recommend you give the album one full go through before you start picking favorites.
In terms of the inevitable comparison I do when reviewing, I would definitely say these guys are on some kind of Psyche Pop freakout tip. Early Mercury Rev is a damn good comparison, same with Feels era Animal Collective. The music is very earthy and hippieish yet always with a foot firmly planted in the future and an eye on the horizon.
This album is one of those rare examples where a disjointed style and sound actually ties the whole album together.
This is highly recommended and might be the album of the year so far. After years of toying around with their sound the varying degrees of success these dudes have come full circle to the imagination packed first self titled album they released. It's no wonder they titled this one "self titled-2".
Anyone who likes the forward thinking side of indie rock needs to go out and get this immediately!!!!!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

phil manley - life coach (2011)

01 FT2 Theme by philmanleylifecoach
04 Forest Opening Theme by philmanleylifecoach

Phil Manley
San Francisco, California, USA
Life Coach (Thrill Jockey, 2011)
RIYL: Edgar Froese, Arp

Given today's news about Phil Manley engineering the new album from SF krautsters Wooden Shjips, and the fact that I'm gonna be seeing Phil Manley play live tomorrow with Santa Cruz's best psychedelic detonators Mammatus, I thought I'd take a moment to consider the debut solo album from this noted local guitarist and producer.  Manley's longest running music project is Trans Am (he's also been a member of Oneida, The Fucking Champs, and most recently, Jonas Reinhardt), but in my opinion his work as an engineer tops his work as a musician- Alps, Arp, Mi Ami, Moon Duo and Wooden Shjips rank among my all-time favorite bands, and Manley has manned (heyyyyyy) the boards for all of them.  Now frankly I don't really know enough about the production side of music to be able to tell you exactly what it is that Manley brings to the albums that he produces, but the fact that he is involved in so many amazing recordings makes me think that he must be doing something special.  This is his first record under his own name, although I've seen this project referred to as "Phil Manley's Life Coach" or "Life Coach", rather than being an album titled "Life Coach" by Phil Manley.  Confusing, but at any rate, it is Manley's first solo affair, and it definitely follows the path that his both his production work and previous musical output have set.  Life Coach is a collection of propulsive kosmische stompers, patiently finger-picked guitar pieces, and humming drones.  While none of the tracks on here are standouts in their respective genres, they are all very competent and enjoyable and showcase Manley's adeptedness at a multitude of styles.  However, this impulse to work in a variety of genres is definitely this album's biggest weakness, because although individually each track here is worthwhile, the end result is a very scattered and unengaging album.  I suspect that these songs were not written specifically for this album, and I don't think the tracks are sequenced here in a way that works very well.  Because Phil Manley played the very first KUSF-in-Exile co-present a few months ago, and because his upcoming show with Mammatus is also a KUSF-in-Exile benefit, it made me think about what a perfect record this would have been for radio.  The choice of tracks in different styles, Manley's history in the local music scene, and the individual strength of each track would have doubtlessly made this a very successful album on the KUSF airwaves.  Had I first approached it from that angle- of playing a single track from it here and there- I might have had a much higher opinion of this album.  But taken as a whole, the quality of the individual songs is obscured by the unfocused presentation on the album, and the end result is an album that is promising and yet disappointing at the same time.  I'm looking forward to seeing how these songs play out in a live environment (and therefore hopefully in a different sequence), and hoping that any future full-length albums will be more cohesive.