Monday, July 31, 2006
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Three years ago in this space, I wrote about the joy of discovering Stereolab's Dots and Loops in college and my worry that revelatory experiences on that order were no longer possible as I aged. Recently I expanded that into a full-fledged reconsideration of the album, for Stylus's On Second Thought column, which you can read here. In retrospect, I might excise that whole John McEntire rant in the middle, to make the whole piece read better -- but dammit, the thing needed to be said. :)
Friday, July 21, 2006
By the way, here's some additional singles reviews from this week that got cut:
Sean Paul ft. Keyshia Cole, "(When You Gonna) Give It Up to Me"
This came as a revelation, because I'd been hearing the original mix on Chicago radio for the last couple months and was always just like, "yeah yeah, Sean Paul, whatever" -- but the remix is fitted with an unusual lushness, and Keyshia Cole's silky vocals provide a nice foil for Sean Paul's chanting Jamaican robot act. Plus, since it's a clean edit, they've gotten rid of the word "horny," which is silly enough without said robot pronouncing it as "yarny." 
Plan B, "Mama (Loves a Crackhead)"
It's funny, I really liked that choppy "Like I Love You"-style guitar until I learned that dude plays it himself, which I dunno, just makes me think of M. Doughty now. And the lyrics are, let's face it, pretty insipid. But major points for managing to integrate "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)" (a/k/a THE BEST SONG EVER) into the chorus in such a smooth, non-intrusive fashion. 
Gnarls Barkley, "Smiley Faces"
Is it just me, or does this sort of sound like TV on the Radio? Seriously: listen to those dense doo-wop harmonies constrained by the machine-like beat, rubbing up against that scuzzy guitar. At any rate, it's a good choice for a follow-up to "Crazy," since it's probably the next-best track on the record, and while I'm at it, it's better than anything on Cookie Mountain, too. 
The most influential man in modern music
So I don't understand: Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hutz stars in Everything is Illuminated and within a year every other new indie band in America is doing the Eastern European gypsy cabaret-rock thing. Like, in the Stylus Singles Jukebox this week, I talk about how this Tapes 'n' Tapes track, "Insistor," has the same "crooning yelp and Old World accoutrements" as do songs by DeVotchKa, Beirut, and Man Man. (DeVotchKa in particular really plays it up, with the lead singer hoisting a dusty bottle of red wine throughout their live set and taking swigs between songs, all amidst furiously flying violin, romantic accordion, and thumping tuba. My own band is opening for them tonight, and it should be a treat.) And what the hell, you can throw Dresden Dolls in there, too, I bet.
But criminy, I certainly wasn't expecting this trend to find its way to Basement Jaxx, of all acts. And yet there it is, on the new Crazy Itch Radio. The intro track is a grim march that boasts glorious, chasing strings and a huge, foreboding choral section out of, like, Wagner, or Carmina Burana. Later, "Hey You," with its bubbling brass, fake klezmer solos, and manic shouts and claps throughout, sounds like it belongs at some Russian village festival, while gleeful peasants do that dance with the arms on the chest and the leg kicks and everything. And then "Run 4 Cover" basically mines this same territory, except maybe not to the same extent, because there's also, you know, spunky female grime MCs barking on it. Truly odd.
On a whole other stream of thought, I don't believe I ever linked to my short profile of Larry Carlton in the Stylus Non-Definitive Guide to the Session Musician, which ran a couple weeks ago. It was fun to research; dude's a class act.
Friday, July 14, 2006
In Jonathan Bradley's article on Taking Back Sunday, he ruminates on the "faintly demeaning pet names for (ex-)girlfriends" that show up in emo songs, from Fall Out Boy's "Sugar, We're Going Down" to Panic! At the Disco's "There is a Reason Why These Tables Are Numbered, Honey..." and the opening line in Taking Back Sunday's "Cute Without the E (Cut From the Team)": "Don't bother, angel, I know exactly what goes on." (I'd add the North Atlantic's "Swallows Fire," with the line, "I'll tell you one thing, sugar...")
I'm sure there's plenty to be extrapolated from that trend, especially in light of Jessica Hopper's now-canonical essay about emo and sexism, but what jumps out at me most from Bradley's digression is, "Holy shit, emo titles and lyrics are awesome!" I mean, awesome in the most ridiculously pretentious way, of course. But still: I am seriously loving that my favorite commercial rock song of the year (the dynamics are really intense) has a chorus that goes, "I chime in with a 'Haven't you people ever heard of closing the goddamn door?' / No, it's much better to face these kinds of things with a sense of poise and rationality." (Even better when, until two seconds ago, I thought the line was "poisoned rationality.") And it's called "I Write Sins Not Tragedies"! Brilliant. I still have to hear Fall Out Boy's "A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More Touch Me" -- but I have a feeling it won't live up to its title. Because really, what could?