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This post is not music related, but rather geared toward technology. tinderRecently out of work and consumed by boredom, I find myself with copious amounts of free time on my hands. My therapist said I should consider dating again, so I decided to try this Tinder app that the kids are raving about. After 48 hours using the app, I’ve decided that it is the single most effective way to destroy one’s self confidence. Basically, for those of you who don’t know, the app provides users with pictures of men or women within their proximity also looking for a social connection. Users are given the option to judge the person, based on looks and a description that consists of a character limit that guarantees learning virtually nothing about them.

One can swipe left if they are not interested, right if they are, and the app matches users based on what both parties chosen. In the event that both chose the “like” option, the app will denote a match. They can then message the other person in hopes that the two can form some semblance of a real-life connection. While I imagine that attractive women are inundated with matches, I, as an average looking male have received very few. Although I have not spent an overwhelming amount of time using the app, combined with the fact that I am pickier than is probably warranted, in a very short time, Tinder has made me feel like the ugliest person on planet earth.

It isn’t so much that I expect every woman I find attractive to feel the same about me, but given the pool from which to choose and the constraints that “likes” and “dislikes” are based almost solely on looks, Tinder is essentially a digital ego shatterer. In addition to intensifying the fact that it is difficult to meet new people, especially in a new environment, Tinder is also a sad representation of what our culture has become. Not that I am any more effective at engaging strangers in a physical setting, but Tinder is simply a reinforcement of how our culture has strayed from valuing social interaction. However, the app does provide instant gratification in the event that a match does occur, and cuts through the clutter of benign conversation with someone that does not share a physical attraction.

Online dating is notoriously a shit show full of awkward comments and a severe lack of which direction to take the conversation beyond “you’re not ugly”. With all the horror stories I have heard from the online dating world (even from those lucky enough to be contacted by members of the opposite sex), it is near impossible to place any faith in the system as a whole. But Tinder might even be worse than traditional sites. Instead of sending cheese ball remarks to attractive women in hopes of not being shot down in flames, users are enticed to sift though an ocean of people that simply do not find them attractive. At least before, one could pretend that their profile was not visible enough and that people were not aware of that person’s striking good looks and rapier wit.

Perhaps my thoughts are a product of not having put the time in needed to succeed on Tinder, but after this trial run, I can’t imagine the app leading to any sort of meaningful relationship. It provides a great chance to see who is out there and that one is not alone in their desire to expand their social network, but those with an already shattered ego, or that have been single for awhile should probably steer clear altogether. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean this post to read like a whiney fatalist rant, simply an indicator of what most average looking individuals can hope to expect. In most cases, you’re better off exploring the world around and taking your chances than being part of a digital network that values little beyond the attractiveness of a selfie.

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come-on-die-youngIn many ways, Mogwai represents the essence of post rock. From form to influence, the Scottish outfit is not only considered one of the most relevant names in the vein, but also largely responsible for its very existence. At the turn of the century, while groups were jousting for airplay and attempting to redefine the shape of  rock, Mogwai offered rhetoric of their own, a sample from a 1977 Iggy Pop interview challenging the very definition of “punk rock”. It is also the first track on their landmark album, 1999′s “Come On Die Young” (CODY to the cool kids), which will be re-released on July 21, 2014 with alternate song versions.

It was this album that helped sculpt the post rock genre. Favoring attention to detail rather than lyrical content, and unwilling to acknowledge a set song structure, “Come On Die Young” is subtle in its defiance. You won’t find anti-establishment anthems or an overt “fuck you” to modern music, but rather a demonstration of how to challenge conventions without outright proclamation. Sometimes they sing, sometimes they don’t. Some songs feel two minutes long, others two hours. The only constant of “Come On Die Young” is its originality. Not only does it sound nothing like anything in 1999, but it sounds nothing like anything before.

Amidst the sonic landscape of the album is scattered sampling, often juxtaposed against the serenity of the instrumentals. Fuzzy and recorded in a time much earlier than the album itself, they enhance the album’s lush dreamscape and often have an eerie “voices of the past” feel to them. Frenetic tempo changes, crunching guitars, competent breakdowns, and the occasional feedback loop provide the perfect amount of “edge” against a backdrop of sparse strumming and instrumental minimalism. It is as if every note was crafted with intention rather than serving as a fleeting element in a non-hippie jam session.

Realistically, there is little to be said about “Come On Die Young” that hasn’t been re-hashed by every music journalist in existence. However, from their widely diverse “Rave Tapes” to producing the entire soundtrack for the amazing French zombie-ish masterpiece series Les Revenants (The Returned), Mogwai in many ways does not receive the credit they deserve for their impact on modern-day music. The band has consistently evolved for more than 15 years, each album not only sounding different from other Mogwai albums, but different from everyone else. Punk rock in mentality rather than sound, Mogwai still challenges the conventions of modern music, often without saying a word.

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Image courtesy of Consequence of Sound (www.consequenceofsound.net)

Stagnant Pools, a two-piece noise outfit from Bloomington, Indiana, represents a modern amalgam of a sound largely buried in the 90′s. That is, to say, a noisy landscape of whirring guitars, uptempo drumming, and understated vocals. For many, this results in the all too obvious comparisons to bands like Jesus and Mary Chain, Joy Division, Sonic Youth, etc. (as seen on the site from which the album stream was stolen).

However, Stagnant Pools is not only unique in the sense that they are able to achieve the noise level of a full band with only two members, but that in some ways, their music is even more powerful. Like its predecessor Temporary Room, Geist is fearless in its lyrical content. Scraping the depths of despair, not afraid to address what most art, and humans, for that matter bury deep within. The visceral nature of Geist combined with a tempo that is not necessarily reflective offers an amazing experience for those interested in the darker side of music.

Geist will be released June 10th on Polyvinyl Records. Listeners can hear the album in full via The AV Club Website.

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Worthwhile Smiths Covers

It’s been awhile since I’ve had anything remotely interesting to say, and this is likely no different. However, while losing the fight to insomnia, my searches took me to Pitchfork, where I heard Arcade Fire’s cover of London by the Smiths. And while not the worst butchery I’ve had the displeasure of hearing, hearing Win Butler feigning a British accent sparked an inner monologue begging the question found in the title of this post.

We get it, you like arguably one of the greatest bands of all time. I thought we’d established this in the early 2000′s with the vast emergence of band names either copied and pasted or sliced and diced from titles of Smiths songs (Panic! At the Disco, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Girl in a Coma, to name a few). Now, I will be the first to admit that I did not listen to the Smiths until I was well into my adult years, and by no metric am considered cool. But frankly, in my opinion, neither are the bands listed above.

At the center of my inquiry is whether there is a point at which Smiths covers graduate from “cool person” bandwagoning to  true homage. Of course this question is purely egotistical and a reflection of my septic personality, but I simply can’t help but hope that there exists a clear distinction between doing one of my favorite artists justice and simply covering the Smiths because it’s “cool”. And although I am not a fan of the Arcade Fire cover, I would argue that they’ve earned the right to redo one of my favorite tracks from one of my most beloved artists. This is not only due to their success, but also their appreciation for music as a whole.

After all, once you’ve played with Bruce fucking Springsteen, only a fool would question your artistic clout.

Moving forward, I became curious as to which other artists covered the Smiths, and whether there were any of substance. Had you asked me a few years ago, unless your name is Morrissey, you’ve no business covering the Smiths. But following my investigation, there are a few covers that are individualized enough to curb even my disdain for artists so much as mentioning my beloved Smiths in any capacity.

How cool does one need to be to cover the Smiths? The answer is “pretty fucking cool”. Fortunately, there are a handful of artists that meet the criteria. Do they touch the originals? No, but covers seldom do.

Here they are:

P.S. One day I’ll get around to fixing these frames. They are super obnoxious, I know.

The Boo Radleys: The Queen Is Dead

Stars: This Charming Man

Doug Martsch: Reel Around the Fountain

The Wedding Present: Hand In Glove

Quicksand: How Soon Is Now?

At The Drive In: This Night Has Opened My Eyes

 

 

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Far From Your Worst Nightmare

Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks’ new album Enter the Slasher House not only won’t haunt your dreams, but you might actually enjoy it

enter-the-slasher-house

A swirl of quick-paced rambling, dizzy effects, and beaty drums, Enter the Slasher House is an album that many have waited for. The debut release of Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks, more commonly known as Animal Collective’s Angel Deradoorian and former drummer of Ponytail Jeremy Hyman, Enter the Slasher House is a missing link between digital and physical.

The music of Animal Collective is known for its randomness, and at times, its ‘what the hell am I listening to effect’. While this has certainly helped the band attract attention, it also makes them enigmatic. Even among fans, there are albums that are utterly adored, and others that are despised. Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks will appeal to many fans of AC, namely ones that enjoyed Strawberry Jam. Immediately reminiscent of the album, shouty lyrics are backed by organic instrumentals and frenetic electronics. Perhaps more surprisingly, the album draws from Strawberry Jam’s ability to border on rock, something that AC seemingly abandoned in subsequent releases.

Perhaps some of Enter the Slasher House’s appeal stems from the feeling that Avery Tare is not trying too hard to create a modern disco opus. One could dance if so inclined, but is supplemental to the full enjoyment of the album rather than a necessity. Tempo changes from droning to upbeat, vocal styles from schizophrenic to serene, content from grandiose to worldly. The album’s diversity comes not solely from an array of digital effects, but also from song structure and content as well. Instead of mixing in musical arrangements that simulate chewing on tinfoil, Enter the Slasher House provides plenty of variation while staying relatively even-keel.

Electronic dominance appears to have a stranglehold on the indie landscape, but Avey Tare does a good job of creating a balance. These are not 8 minute Apparat songs with sparse lyrics set to an electronic metronome, but rather a combination of electronic and organic elements entwined. Admittedly, some of the album’s slower songs come close to the intolerable slog of modern indie, but these moments are short-lived.

ATSF offers a  glimpse into the recent history of the genre, where electronica only began to invade the realm of indie. A historical account of what music sounded like before the robots took over.

7/10

Enter the Slasher House by Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks Full Stream

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A Night With Kid A

a-night-with-kid-aPlenty of eye rolling to be had today in the world of indie news, as Detroit chef Kyle Hanley presents “A Night With Kid A“, a gourmet food menu based on Radiohead’s 2000 release. It’s got it all, from the Everything In Its Right Place pan-seared diver scallop to the Idioteque arugula salad. The menu ensures that diners will experience the nostalgia of the album by doing something they’ve likely never done while listening to it – eating.

Let me just say, that thank god someone decided to pull the trigger on what has been on the mind of everyone that’s ever listened to How To Disappear Completely: “This song is awesome, but why hasn’t anybody thought of listening to this while eating oil-poached monkfish?”

At $125 a plate, the dinner includes paired drinks and a stream of the album. The perfect experience for anybody that enjoys iconic experimental music and Meyer lemon sorbet. Sure beats the hell out of listening to it alone in your room while eating Top Ramen, right?

Here is the full menu:

kid-a

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Drowners, Not to be Confused with Drowner

drowner-drownersApparently “drowner” is the new “weekend” in terms of band names, which ads to the confusion of what is good and what isn’t. Upon skimming today’s new releases, I was incredibly saddened to see that Drowners self-titled release received septic reviews. Mainly because “You’re Beautiful, I Forgive You” was one of my favorite releases of 2013. Luckily, all was right with the world when I learned that Drowner and Drowners were different bands. Of course, that meant that I would be required to write an album review, which I’ve all but stopped doing.

In all honesty, I’m at a loss as to why “Drowners” received such bad reviews. Granted, the New York-based four-piece is a blatant strokes ripoff, but there’s something about their music that re-creates the sound that made The Strokes a seminal rock group. Musically, the album is a bit uninspired, each song consisting of the same predictable tempo, 4/4 progression and typical indie rock vocals. However, there are some redeeming qualities to the record. The album’s vocals  do not annoy, and dare I say, are enjoyable. Lyrically, the album falls short at a few points, most notably on the second track “Long Hair” during which the main chorus “All the girls had long hair, all the boys had long hair, and you were missing out”. Meh.

There is also a severe lack of complexity in the songwriting found on the album. It’s not that simplicity excludes albums from being good by any means, but there is a definite line between not being overly complicated and being mundane. For me, it’s a difficult decision on whether I appreciate the simplicity or whether it’s sort of blasé. Either way, as an overall listening experience, I wouldn’t call it unenjoyable. Tracks like “You’ve got it Wrong” and “Pure Pleasure” are passable, and dare I say, “good” indie tracks, but overall sub-par is the best way to describe the album overall.

Honestly, the horrid reviews are likely a product of indie being largely dependent upon complexity; an assault of ambient effects and unintelligible electronic bullshit. With bands like Warpaint receiving the lion’s share of “holy shit this is an awesome album” reviews, there is little room for bands that play simplistic rock. As a result of tempering my love for pure rock with my appreciation for creativity, “Drowners” leaves me conflicted. I don’t hate it, but I’m probably never going to listen to it on purpose again. This is one of the worst rated albums I’ve seen in a long time, which is likely due to indie being largely redefined in the 21st century. Let’s be honest, even the bands that helped form the late 90′s rock sound have departed from that sound to create spaghetti westerns and “what the fuck, why are there synthesizers” artistic presentations.

Drowners is a bit of a throwback to what we used to love about indie, but simply put – there are probably other albums more worthy of your attention.

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Pretentious is  a word that is seldom disconnected from music as a whole. It stands to reason that many listeners willing to expand beyond mainstream radio and Pandora believe diligence provides the necessary vehicle for clout. Similarly, it stands to reason that many musicians willing to push the boundaries of conventional music will oftentimes be branded as pretentious, and oftentimes with good reason. One of the best illustrations of this idea comes from the book Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk Rock, which provides a first-hand glimpse at the roots of punk music as well as its evolution.

A common theme in the book is the idea that all musicians are assholes; whether it be in the form of ego, selfish self-destruction, or simply a flaw in personality. Not having met all that many musicians, other than friends; who appropriately enough, are assholes, this list is purely a matter of perception and hearsay that may or may not be corroborated. To me, it’s also an illustration of pretension can occasionally be warranted, and that outside thinking is an excusable conduit for ego. And that some musicians are just assholes. Organized in no particular order.

Kevin Barnes – Of Montreal

kevin-barnes

The quintessential art snob, Kevin Barnes often references the most esoteric of artistic pieces in his lyrical content. Often siting French literature and Greek mythology, his scholarly style is highly niche, yet crafted with beauty. Even his stage show is an abstract artistic collage, albeit one that undoubtedly falls under the must-see category. Simply being good is a legitimate excuse for pretension, and Barnes may well be the apex.

Colin Meloy – Decemberists

colin-meloy

Lyrically, Meloy prefers a historical context, which is oftentimes relevant only to those within a certain vein. A clear-cut academic, Meloy’s extensive educational background reflects not only in his lyrics, but also the musical compositions of the Decemberists. I guess it’s to be expected from someone that studied English theatre and creative writing. Not to mention someone that plays a bouzouki.

Lou Reed – Velvet Underground

lou-reed

Call talking shit about a dead person and an icon of indie music bad form, but it’s a relatively well known fact that Lou Reed epitomized pretension. A disciple of Andy Warhol, Reed was part of the artistic scene of 60′s New York, which might well be the Mecca of artistic snobbery. It’s probably worth mentioning that Reed was one of the most innovative and influential musicians of all time, but this remains separate of the underlying topic. His assholery is oft addressed in the text mentioned in the intro.

Noel Gallagher – Oasis

noel-gallagher

Like him or not, Noel Gallagher embodies what it means to be the perfect asshole. Although Oasis recordings might not reflect it, Gallagher captures the true ‘I don’t’ give a fuck’ mentality of rock, with the knowledge to back it. And although many aren’t appreciative of his brash form of commentary, he often acts the spokesperson for those unhappy with the state of rock music as a whole.

Madonna

madonna

There was a time when Madonna would not have made this list, but that time has long passed. Being from Michigan, I don’t know many people from Rochester that speak with English accents. In fact, there aren’t any, unless they migrated from England itself. She undeniably helped pioneer the female pop star archetype, which she oftentimes seems overly proud of.

Pete Townshend – The Who

Pete Townshend

In his own mind, he is the driving force behind the success of The Who. Something that everybody on earth but him knows isn’t true. It’s not difficult to find recorded footage and peer-reviewed articles of Townshend being an asshole. Some may disagree, but I feel as though one requires a bit more chop in order to warrant such lording.

Thom Yorke – Radiohead

thom-yorke

Common knowledge would dictate that no list similar to this one is absent of Thom Yorke. Fortunately, his talent and creativity more than make up for his temperament. He’s also an advocate for musicians’ rights, which may be one of the reasons he receives so much flack. I have mixed feelings about not being able to listen to Atoms for Peace on Spotify.

Bono – U2

bono

Similarly, the frontman of U2 is essentially a synonym for pretension despite his humanitarian efforts. For many, there is a stark contrast between philanthropy and self-satisfaction, which is something that Bono has yet to distinguish between. And although a large portion of U2′s music is beautifully grounded, Bono’s swagger alone is often enough to ruin it for many listeners.

Anton Newcombe – Brian Jonestown Massacre

anton-newcombe

Perhaps muddling the mixture a bit, Anton Newcombe’s personality strikes many as intolerable. After having ruined any chance of BJM becoming a commercial success due to an on-stage fistfight, Newcombe is a shining example of how talent often forgives pricky behavior. Although it’s arguable that his raw demeanor is what rock music is currently lacking.

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New Year’s Playlist

Yes! It’s the New Year, full of resolution, full of fresh starts. The past is never to be re-lived, the future is infinite. The person of yesteryear is but a distant memory, the skin has shed, the new individual has emerged. Masters of our fate, captains of our soul, we press on with nothing but the utmost of positivity; knowing that we’ve learned from our past mistakes and that a new dawn is at hand. Optimistic, but far from all-knowing, we press on; with the hope that this year will be different from the last, that we’ve finally learned what it is to be a human being. This is the year that we discard the ineffective, that we finally obtain that which has eluded us for so long.

With open hearts and open minds, we are now ready to face our destiny, realizing that only we can navigate this treacherous terrain, and that the answer has been right in front of us the entire time. And now we have the playlist to accompany the thoughts that have just now been revealed. Happy 2014, and may these resolution be the last that demand immediate attention. Vigilant, yet ordinary, here are the songs for the new year that scream cautions optimism; anthems that illustrate our full potential, while illustrating that we are still human. The closest thing to  true reckoning.

 

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Notable Indie Supergroups

It’s difficult to utter the word ‘supergroup’ without thinking of some shitty ‘hard rock’ outfit featuring The Nuge. But for lack of better terms, it’s the one that’s been chosen. Moving on. In the past, indie was bred in such relative obscurity, that no one musician stood out as having the capacity to form a supergroup. If asked about their thoughts on Lou Barlow departing from Dinosaur Jr. to form Sebadoh, most listeners would have likely replied ‘who the fuck is Lou Barlow’? Of course that’s changed, and now there are scads of indie supergroups, mostly comprised of members of bands that are just now getting the credit they deserve. Keep in mind that even as this list is being crafted, many sources will need to be checked in order to find the bands that most of these people were even in.

Whether it’s the fact that a lot of indie projects that spawned these new collectives still remain in relative obscurity, or that I’ve only got a rough idea of who the hell is even in the band, defining what makes a supergroup is difficult. Readers are free to derive their own decision regarding the definition. Hopefully myself and readers alike will have a few ‘holy shit, that person is in that band?’ moments.

Broken Bells/Gorrilaz/Gnarles Barkley

These three are lumped together because they all share one thing in common, producer Danger Mouse. An undeniable musical genius, he’s not only been an active musician in the bands listed above, but has essentially produced music for virtually any indie musician worth mentioning. Jeff Mercer of The Shins, Cee Lo Green, Jack White, Sparklehorse, Black Keys, Beck, Norah Jones, etc. and of course, etc. These are a few that are pretty well known, Broken Bells featuring Jeff Mercer of The Shins, Gorrilaz consisting of Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and Damon Albarn of Blur, and the now-more-popular-than-Jesus and former member of Goodie Mob Cee Lo Green being one half of Gnarles Barkley.

Mister Heavenly

Perhaps the most surprising ‘how the hell aren’t these guys more well-known’ supergroup is Mister Heavenly. Consisting of Honus Honus (Ryan Kattner) of Man Man, Nick Thorburn of Islands and The Unicorns, and Joe Plummer of Modest Mouse, they’ve cultivated their own unique form of catchy crooning, which they call ‘doom wop’. They even contracted Michael Sera as their touring bassist for awhile. They are pretty much the hipster supergroup. Their first and only album titled Out of Love was released in 2011 on Sub Pop records.

Broken Social Scene

I find it utterly baffling when indie lovers claim to not like Broken Social Scene (you know who you are). Essentially consisting of every notable Canadian indie artist that isn’t in Arcade Fire, BSS was the perfect conduit for highlight the talents of every artist contained within despite being virtually as large as the Polyphonic Spree. Broken Social Scene artists include: Leslie Feist, Emily Haines of Metric, Charles Spearin of Do, Make, Say, Think, and Amy Milan, Evan Cranley, and Torquil Campbell of Stars.

Quasi

Consisting of only two members, Portland-based Quasi is technically the smallest supergroup possible. It features Ex husband and wife Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Wild Flag) and Sam Coomes of Heatmiser, Elliot Smith’s old band, and formerly featuring Joanna Bolme, a bassist that has essentially toured with every Pacific Northwest indie band you’ve ever heard. Somehow having been around for forever, Quasi is somewhat of a touring staple in the Pacific Northwest, despite its members being involved in a slew of side projects. On a side note, Wild Flag is also a supergroup featuring Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney and Portlandia, but I simply can’t get into their music for whatever reason.

Bad Books

Bad Books acoustic singer/songwriter Kevin Devine and the Manchester Orchestra. Responsible for some of the most compelling and depressing songs since Bright Eyes (although not quite Elliott Smith) Bad Books provides the perfect blend of erratic, peaceful, orchestral, and straight acoustic. Not to mention lyrical perfection more times than not. A must-listen for those that find solace in dark poetry.

Middle Brother

Consisting of members of smaller, yet talented indie bands, Middle Brother is John McCauley of Deer Tick, Matt Vasquez of Delta Spirit, and Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes. Formed in 2010, this folky supergroup is riddled with edge and encompasses the true sound of modern Americana. Debuting at SXSW, Middle Brother might be the single most important band in bridging the gap between modern music and country music. The good kind, mind you.

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