Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Why Rock Band is still fun (even if it's not real)

So Sleater-Kinney's guitarist did this awesome review of Rock Band. It's a really good read, so I thought I would be nice enough to post it here.


Walkmen and White Rabbits to play Blue Hill

This should be interesting. The Riverfront Times is reporting that the Walkmen will be playing at the Duck Room at Blueberry Hill on January 21. Opening will be the White Rabbits. The White Rabbits' great new album, Fort Nightly, is, um, influenced by the Walkmen (by influenced, I mean shamelessly rips off, not that that's necessarily a bad thing). Can the student surpass the teacher? It's something I definitely want to find out.

Also, check out Dylan's review of the first track off Fort Nightly, "Kid On My Shoulders," just a few posts down.

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New Professor Murder

Head on over to RCRD LBL (can they please get at least one vowel in their name? Put a U in there, I really don't care, I just die a little on the inside whenever I type that. Please?) to hear a new Professor Murder track. Professor Murder is a Brooklyn-based band that is the heir apparent to the dance-punk throne. Fans of !!!, Rapture, Radio 4, etc should take notice, if they haven't already. Their debut EP, Professor Murder Rides The Subway, was released last year on Kanine Records.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Charts - 11/26 (Caring about the old folks)

1 SOUNDTRACK I'm Not There Columbia-Sony
2 MOST SERENE REPUBLIC Population Arts And Crafts
3 GRIZZLY BEAR Friend [EP] Warp
4 BABYSHAMBLES Shotter's Nation Parlophone
6 FRANK TURNER Campfire Punk Rock Welcome Home
7 VIVA VOCE Lovers, Lead The Way!/The Heat Can Melt Your Brain Amore! Phonics
8 MINIPOP A New Hope Take Root
9 ZOOKEEPER Becoming All Things Bellecitypop
10 WUSSY Left For Dead Shake It!-Shake It
11 VIRGINS '07 Self-Released
12 WIRE Read And Burn 03 Pink Flag
13 ELECTRIC SIX I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being The Master Metropolis
14 DUST GALAXY Dust Galaxy ESL
15 HANGAR 18 Sweep The Leg Definitive Jux
16 LONEY, DEAR Sologne Rebel Group
17 HAMMER NO MORE THE FINGERS Hammer No More The Fingers Power Team-Sharon Collins
18 ENON Grass Geysers... Carbon Clouds Touch And Go
19 VARIOUS ARTISTS Free Yr Radio Free Yr Radio
20 WHITE RABBITS Fort Nightly Say Hey
21 THURSDAY Kill The House Lights Victory
22 CLIPD BEAKS Hoarse Lords Lovepump United
23 PLEASE QUIET OURSELVES Please Quiet Ourselves Mushpot
24 DIVISION DAY Beartrap Island Eenie Meenie
25 MUSCLES Guns Babes Lemonade Modular
26 SAUL WILLIAMS The Inevitable Rise And Liberation Of Niggy Tardust Fader
27 VANDELLES The Vandelles [EP] Self-Released
28 PLEASURES OF MERELY CIRCULATING Pleasures Of Merely Circulating Ettabelle
29 BLACK DICE Load Blown Paw Tracks
30 POLYSICS Polysics Or Die: Vista MySpace


A New Use For Those New-Fangled Moving Pictures

So music videos have been a big part of music in the past couple of decades, but most really don't serve that big of a purpose. I mean MTV and VH1 hardly shows music videos anymore, and even when they do, its mostly bigger name (read:shit) songs. Well now-a-days artists don't have to even be on MTV to be popular. YouTube sparked things like the OK Go music video, and record companies and artists have started to take notice. And while music videos have been on youtube before, most of the time they're grainy and not great quality. Well now record companies have started to post the music videos themselves, in good quality. I can't complain, there have been countless times when I've wanted to watch a music video, only to not be able to find it anywhere, let alone in good quality. It works out for everyone; I get to watch the videos, artists get out there, and the record companies get a slightly better return on their investment. Just another way that the internet has helped rather then hinder music.

Here's an example: LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends

Sunday, November 25, 2007

We Don't Care About the Old Folks

I'm home in Dallas this weekend for Thanksgiving, and I decided to go see Peter Bjorn and John last night. The show was at the Palladium Ballroom, an ultra-sterile new venue owned by the multinational entertainment conglomerate AEG. I expected the venue to be the worst part of the show, with obstructed views of the stage and the band up on a stage so high you had to crane your neck to see if you were within fifty feet. I guess it's been a while since I've been to a real show in Dallas because I forgot that the scene's biggest shortcomings isn't the lack of decent venues or bands skipping over the city on the way down to Austin; its the dumb schmucks that attend the shows.

Last night, they were out in full force. The drunken sorority girls from SMU were there, grinding to every song the band played and screaming out the chorus of the hit single to their friend they called on their cell phone. So were the obnoxious dancers, who clear out a five foot radius around themselves and make the music entirely secondary to their own dance moves. These characters are expected, and I've learned to tolerate them (albeit with the occasional well placed elbow). However, a new breed appeared last night: the obese thirty-something urban professional. People always have a tendency to talk too much during shows, which I feel is quite disrespectful to the audience and even more to the artists giving it their all on stage. These despicable concertgoers attempted to carry on a conversation after the third or fourth song for the entire length of the show, screaming to each other so loud that I could follow what they were talking about. Finally, in the middle of the first song of the encore, an excellent version of "Roll The Credits," I'd had enough and told them to shut up. It obviously didn't work, but it sure felt good.

After the show, my friend Rachel and I mused about why someone would waste twenty bucks on a ticket just to talk through a show. We hastily agreed on mere stupidity, but it dawned on me this morning what the cause of this new obnoxious concert attendee is: Grey's Anatomy. "Young Folks," PB&J's hit single was featured on an episode of the show. I know there's been a whole shit storm about The OC and other similar shows and how they've commercialized quasi-independent music, but I never really made too much of it. I was never a big Ben Gibbard fan, so when he sold out I could care less. Ocassionally, something good comes out of it, like Band of Horses covering The New Year on one of the OC compilations. I now realize how naive I was about the whole thing after last. It appears that the live gig may be the bigger casualty of all this.

A Song I Like: "Kid On My Shoulders" By White Rabbits

I listen to music the same way I do most other things: in an almost sickening, compulsive manner. I tend to listen to albums over and over and over again until I just get sick of even hearing the titles of the songs, and then I move on to the next album. I will play one song thirty times over, in just one sitting. I've spent about two hours just listening to The Fiery Furnaces' "The Philadelphia Grand Jury". I really can't imagine listening in any other way. Listening again and again and again means that I can really digest the music, separate out the parts and components and think why I like this song or why I don't like this song, and how it's working or what it's doing. For me, this is what listening means. Like Jay-Z says, "Do you listen to music / or do you just skim through it?" From time to time, I will get stuck on one song that just really hits where I'm at at that specific moment, so I figure, instead of just having a conversation about that song with myself, I'll have a conversation with all of y'all here on the blog. I'm thinking about making this a series of sorts, and I encourage all of y'all to post about songs you like too. Because eventually, when enough people are blogging, the Kingdom of God will be among us.

I have a mixed view on White Rabbits. I heard a lot of good buzz on them this past summer and liked the tracks on their MySpace, and so I decided to check them out at Sirenfest. Their set was underwhelming. Some songs were really great, but at times the energy just lagged, and I was overall disappointed. Flash forward to October. I'm looking for CDs to review, and I see "Fort Nightly", their debut album, on the shelf. I'm not very picky with CD reviews - this comes from listening to a lot of shit for work when I worked at a music archive in highschool - so I said, eh, this'll be ok. I said that they were neither good or bad, just average and our good music director, Dan Milstein, agreed.

Having listened and reviewed the album, I hold to my original view (although it's more like half the songs are good and half the songs are bad). I also think that my biggest complaint when I saw them live - that they are extremely derivative of The Walkmen - still holds. But being derivative isn't always so bad, in my opinion. Everybody steals, it's just a matter of stealing well and then building upon it (which I don't think White Rabbits does). Now that I've thoroughly trashed the band and therefore proven my indie cred, let me say that the album actually is pretty enjoyable, and more than that, there are a few true gems on it, especially the subject of this post, "Kid On My Shoulders".

The thing that grabs you immediately with this song is the driving percussion. One of my rather arbitrary rules about music is that adding more percussion is typically a good move. In the Sirenfest set, they played with two drum sets, which added a welcome extra bit of vitality to the live show. This percussion is not only driving, but determined, a steady, unstoppable beat that propels the entire song. Partnered with what sounds like a piano/organ line that swirls around and around and a spastic guitar fuzz, it sounds like falling down the stairs, inevitable and natural. The vocal delivery is nice and menacing, as if something nasty is rotting under the floorboards, especially the spat out chorus line of "You were the kid on my shoulders!"

But what's kept me listening to this song is the amazing breakdown. About two and a half, three minutes in, the guitar clears out, and you hear the drippings of a haunting piano line and the whole band harmonizing. The next two minutes, in my opinion, are a textbook example of how to use piano in rock. The piano steps nimbly through the song, not bringing it to a halt or working against the grain, not adding a false gravitas, but instead reinforcing the overall impression of the song. The song is structured like a train wreck, and the piano just creates an impending sense of doom. And then, my absolute favorite part. The lyrics in the breakdown, chanted over and over again, gilded with a sense of dread and bitter menace: "We held our tongues throughout it / one day we'll laugh about it / we held our tongues throughout it / one day we'll talk about it".

It taps into me. I'm not quite sure what exactly this song is about. The lyrics are somewhat oblique. What the song touches in me is the general feeling I've been having about the times we live in. A silent rage that lies barely suppressed under the surface at the incompetent, mendacious leaders who have arrogantly bamboozled us into this war and the useless generation of gullible voters and nasty little pundits who allowed it to happen. A feeling of helplessness and bitterness about being dragged into a thing that so many of us knew was wrong and stupid, and not being allowed having any say in it. So I feel like chanting "we held our tongues throughout it / one day we'll laugh about it".

Check the song out at their MySpace . "The Plot" and "While We Go Dancing" are also recommended.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Subversive Cinema: Todd Haynes' "Superstar"

I'm Not There (out now!) wasn't director Todd Haynes' first biopic. In 1987, he created a short 43 minute Karen Carpenter biopic using Barbie dolls.

The film has become a piece of "illegal art" unable to be properly released because of current zealous copyright laws.

Stay Free! magazine's illegal art exhibit explains it:
"With Barbie dolls as the principal actors, Superstar portrays the life of Karen Carpenter and her battle with anorexia. Haynes never secured the rights to the Carpenters' music he used in the movie, and Richard Carpenter filed an injunction that kept Superstar from public release. Even without Carpenter's court order, the film would probably have been stopped by the notoriously litigious Mattel, the makers of Barbie."

While most film prints were immediately recalled and destroyed, the Museum of Modern Art film archive holds a copy (although they've agreed to never show it).

Thanks to Stay Free! Magazine and other underground enthusiasts, you can download/view the entire film online. If you want your own DVD(-R) copy Stay Free! would also like to sell you one.

Streaming Google Video

Download at Stay Free! illegal art exhibit



Gary Kasparov Arrested

Gary Kasparov was arrested on charges of Organizing an Unauthorized Protest and Resisting Arrest, after a protest by the Other Russia Coalition broke through police lines and began marching on the Election Commission. Gary Kasparov, of course, is the former Chess Grand Champion, now known for being strongly critical of the current Russian government. He was reportedly forced to the ground and beaten, says his assistant.
Let's be honest, I'm just trying to paraphrase from the news article. You can read it here.
Here is a video of Mr. Kasparov on Bill Maher earlier this year-- I can't figure out how to embed it because I am having a Brain problem today, so, here it is.

As far as I can tell, Gary Kasparov is a pretty fantastic guy.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

New Hold Steady songs

Tonight at the Hold Steady, Art Brut, 1990s show, the Hold Steady at Terminal 5 in New York, played 3 new songs: Stay Positive, Ask Her For Adderall, and another one I didn't catch the name of (it had Strange in it). The first two were pretty fast and the third was pretty slow. All three: pretty awesome.

For the Hold Steady's last song, Art Brut's Eddie Argos and Ian Catskilkin joined them on stage. I'll try to post some video when I find it, but let me just tell you, the British accent brings a whole new element to the Hold Steady. Whether that's a good thing, I'm not too sure. But Jackie McKeown of 1990s (who put on another great, great, great performance) was dancing along with the entire set (including the 30 seconds of Art Brut's Hold Steady cameo) also, so you know the set itself had to be good.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Alberto Gonzales Heckling

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales delivered his $40,000 speech at the University of Florida last night. Gonzales’ first stop on a nationwide college speaking tour got off to a very rocky start, as he had to endure shouts of “criminal” and “liar” throughout his speech. The St. Petersburg Times describes the scene:

Embattled former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was a few minutes into his speech Monday night when the first two protesters took the stage, their heads covered and hands tied behind their backs like Abu Ghraib prisoners.

One of the young men stood silently beside Gonzales, who looked down at his notes and waited for two police officers to lead him away. Then came a young man in a military fatigue jacket, who stood directly in front of Gonzales with a sign declaring: “Habeus corpus.” (report from thinkprogress)

I can only hope that similar protest action is taken at Gonzales' appearance at Wash U. February 11th 2008 in 560 Music Center



Monday, November 19, 2007

Charts - 11/19

2 GRIZZLY BEAR Friend [EP] Warp
3 SUNSET RUBDOWN Random Spirit Lover Jagjaguwar
4 BAT FOR LASHES Fur And Gold Parlophone-Caroline
5 TEMPO NO TEMPO Repetition Double Negative
6 IRON AND WINE The Shepherd's Dog SUB POP
7 OF MONTREAL Icons, Abstract Thee [EP] Polyvinyl
8 SEA WOLF Leaves In The River Dangerbird
9 SIBERIAN With Me Sonic Boom
10 CAKE SALE Cake Sale Yep Roc
11 BIRD AND THE BEE Please Clap Your Hands Blue Note
12 SOUNDTRACK I'm Not There Columbia-Sony
13 DE NOVO DAHL Shout [EP] Roadrunner
14 MOST SERENE REPUBLIC Population Arts And Crafts
15 GUNSHY There's No Love In This War Latest Flame
16 WHITE WILLIAMS Smoke Tigerbeat6
17 LIGHTSPEED CHAMPION Galaxy Of The Lost [EP] Domino
19 TULLYCRAFT Every Scene Needs A Center Magic Marker
20 ANTI-FLAG A Benefit For Victims Of Violent Crime A-F
21 LONEY, DEAR Sologne Rebel Group
22 TOKYO POLICE CLUB Smith [EP] Paper Bag
23 ENON Grass Geysers... Carbon Clouds Touch And Go
25 CASTANETS In The Vines Asthmatic Kitty
26 HEALTH Health Lovepump United
27 BRITISH SEA POWER Krankenhaus [EP] Rough Trade
28 CELEBRATION The Modern Tribe 4AD
29 PLEASE QUIET OURSELVES Please Quiet Ourselves Mushpot
30 BABYSHAMBLES Shotter's Nation Parlophone


Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!

On Friday, at the COCA, I had the great pleasure of hearing a talk by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, the geniuses behind Tom Goes To The Mayor and Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! (yes, that is the full title of the show). In the future, I'll let you guys know about this kind of stuff in advance, because this show was not to be missed. Both Tom Goes To The Mayor and Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! are some of the most bizarre and absolutely hilarious programs ever to be allowed on television. Here's an example of a typical Tom Goes To The Mayor plot, from Wikipedia:
Although he has limited experience with dogs (and no dog), Tom is selected by the Mayor to provide a canine matchmaker for Jefferton's yearly holiday Toodle Day, in which all eligible dogs in town are married. After purchasing the "last dog" from the local pet shop (run by Jeff Goldblum), Tom sets about the difficult task of training his new pup to become the Toodleday matchmaker. But the dog-doo hits the fan when Tom's pup is waylaid by an accident, and it's up to Tom to make sure the town's dogs achieve wedded bliss.
Tom Goes To The Mayor at least goes through the motions of a plot, but the live-action Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! makes no such pretensions, just bouncing back and forth between insane, bizarre sketches, like a hip-hop instructional video that instructs the dancers to "slap your hands" and then to "think about your dad" or the "Beaver Boys", who are obsessed with eating shrimp and drinking white wine. Here's one of my favorite segments:
Tim and Eric are about more than just random absurdism, however. In my opinion, their work constitutes some of the sharpest criticism out there of the vicissitudes of American capitalism. Tim and Eric's America is one wholly empty of any real sort of culture, bland and indistinct, full of meaningless rituals and totally defined by consumerism. The mayor of Tom Goes To The Mayor has his office in a strip mall; the town council meets in a Gulliver's Buffet. Greil Marcus once famously said that Bob Dylan tapped into the "old, weird America" for his work; well, Tim and Eric tap into the "new, weird America". Late night TV commercials, cable access channels, local news shows, all the detritus of late twentieth century American life is captured and criticized in their work. It is not merely absurdist, but Dadaist.

Anywho, I could write a whole article about Tim and Eric as art, but more importantly, they were damn funny in person. They showed some stuff that I hadn't seen before, like their enthusiastic, unprovoked promotions of Shrek The Third, some yet-to-be seen Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! episodes, and an Absolut Vodka ad featuring wigs, bathrobes and Zach Galifianakis that is absolutely the strangest promotion I have seen for any product, ever. Also, I totally got a picture with Tim!
You can read an interview with Tim and Eric at the Onion AV Club here or visit their website to see some really funny stuff here.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Subversive Cinema: Len Lye Tourist Commercial

"Len Lye edited together “swing” versions of the popular Lambeth Walk (including Django Reinhardt on guitar and Stephane Grapelli on violin), combining them with a particularly diverse range of direct film images, scratched as well as painted. He was particularly pleased with a final guitar solo (with a vibrating horizontal line) and double bass solo (with a stomping vertical line). For this film Lye did not have to include any advertising slogans; friends at the Tourist and Industrial Development Association, shocked to learn that Lye and his family had become destitute, arranged for TIDA to sponsor the film – to the horror of government bureaucrats who could not understand why a popular dance was being treated as a tourist attraction."

I can't imagine seeing this in a theater in 1939 (much less as a commercial)!



Thursday, November 15, 2007

Maybe record labels do have a clue?

RCRD LBL may be unfortunately named, but it's a fucking awesome idea. It's essentially an MP3 blog, but it's a partnership of a bunch of cool labels, such as Downtown, Warp, and Dim Mak. All the MP3s are free, and the artists actually get paid. There are already some cool exclusive Bloc Party and JUSTICE MP3s up there, so check it out. I'm officially excited.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"Don't Do What Donny Don't Does"

From my buddy over at Reed, ASCAP's new effort to stem illegal downloading, Donny the Downloader:

The centerpiece of The Donny the Downloader Experience curriculum is a multi-media school assembly program featuring fast-paced animated videos starring the misadventures of Donny. Donny is a 14-year old who's tech-savvy, but unaware of the bigger picture of why illegal downloading hurts the same performing artists and songwriters whose music he loves. The program centers on the negative reactions from the other kids and adults in his life who he tries to impress with his access to supposedly "free" music, while demystifying the process of how music is created.

In addition to the animated "Donny" segments, the assembly also features compelling video segments that introduce real-life, 17-year-old aspiring music creator, Sonya Bender. The videos follow Sonya as she meets with music creators, producers and publishers to get an unfiltered perspective on how illegally downloaded music negatively impacts their ability to make a living from being creative. The assembly experience also includes an interactive component, where students perform a special "Donny" skit to help reinforce what they've learned.

Check out the excerpt here, it's totally rad and stupid fresh. For a cogent counterpoint, here's Simian Mobile Disco:

In any case, a very interesting debate.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

can you still rock out if you can't see?

I've been watching videos of blind guys singing songs and playing guitars for quite a while now (probably a lot longer than I'd like). But, despite how nerdy this is, I've found some pretty interesting things going on. (trends, if you will). It's fascinating to watch a blind man play guitar, or maybe just these blind men, but the way they play guitar seems to be almost fundamentally different from a lot of guitar players who can see. They have a very unpretentious aura to them. I mean, as much as they might be showing off (ahem, all of them, actually), none of them really do all of the trendy things that you typically see an eleven year old kid do whenhe's rocking out on an electric guitar.

Take the blind Reverend Gary Davis, for instance. Here he is playing his super smash hit, "If I Had My Way"

Now aside from how much he's showing off while making sweet, sweet lovin' to that gorgeous guild guitar, you should pay attention to his body language. He hardly moves most of his body. He keeps his head in a pretty steady position and he hardly moves his torso (watch his shoulders for this, he hardly does any swaying). Of course the first time I ever saw this recording I was standing on the dance floor at the House of Blues at Disneyland waiting for Bo Diddley to come on stage, and I clearly remember being struck by the way Davis moves his hand up and down the neck. He seems to have extreme familiarity with the guitar and an innate knowledge of just where his fingers need to go. Now this seems to be particularly impressive, because the good reverend went through a whole slew of guitars in his day. He used to play for money in the streets of New York City until one day he fell asleep on the sidewalk and when he woke up "pretty miss gibson" was gone. So apparently his virtuosic abilities are applicable to any guitar (including twelve string) which makes his abilities even more impressive.

Then we've got good old Arthel "Doc" Watson. Here he is playing "Southbound" at the 1988 Philadelphia Folk Festival with Jack Lawrence (although, for the life of me I don't know why this guy is there, you can hardly hear him playing and he doesn't contribute any special talent or anything of the sort). Anyway you don't need to watch all six and a half minutes of it, just wait through the introduction and listen to the song.

Now to be honest, and believe you me, I'm ashamed to admit this, but the first time I ever heard a recording of him doing this song, I really honestly thought that there was no way a blind man could be doing that. I mean, really, the guy went blind when he was one. Anyhow, what to note in this video: The standards of the blind performer. He's got a pretty serious face the whole time, he doesn't really move his head at all, he doesn't wave his shoulders, or slide around in his seat. These blind guys are, apparently, strictly in it for the love of the game. Something special to note (and I'm not sure if you can really see this in the video) is that Doc is playing the guitar with two fingers, two little old fingers, yep, you heard me. In fact, there's a really great exercise you might want to try: You could count them. Here, I'll help you through this. hold up your right hand and ball it into a fist. Now raise your thumb and index finger. There! You've got it! two fingers. Now try playing this song. with your eyes closed. Interestingly this method (only two fingers) was used by Merle Travis (granddaddy and namesake of Travis picking) who of course is the reason Doc named his one and only son, Merle, Merle. Whatshisface from Dire Straits also played that way, I hear. Anyway what Watson is doing on this song is next to impossible for pretty much anybody. Aside from getting all those chords right in the breakdown, picking a guitar (especially with all of those notes) at that speed for the entire song without messing up requires a loooot of stamina, or at least a few good forearm muscles.

Comparison anyone?
Let's take a look at this here video. I was going to show you a Chet Atkins video, but then I thought, maybe Leo Kottke, but I finally realized that I would just most like to dump on Michael Hedges (the other guy is Kottke, they're playing the themesong to Doodles)

I mean... for real?? who does this guy think he is?! The guy is moving his head more than a pigeon that's been half run over by a steamroller. What a total weiner. Anyway, in his defense, Hedges was really bitter about being labeled "new age" and often referred to his music as "Heavy Mental" and "Thrash Acoustic" (I can see why). Of course who wouldn't label some dude with hair down to his lower back playing electric harp guitar "new age". The man is basically a parody of himself. But maybe he's being sarcastic about what he's doing. So what? Look at how much he moves around. The man is moving his entire body, he's rocking and rolling left to right, front to back, he's bobbing his head (in at least two different manners, aside from watching his hand move up and down the neck, a weakness of many guitar players), and he's doing lots of fancy handwork with his picking hand. Doc Watson hardly moves his picking hand away from the guitar. Hedges is totally dramatic with how he's picking, he can clearly just feel it. It must be coming from within and he must let this room full of people know about it and hear his wonders! But I digress. You might want to note his outfit and how well groomed his fingers are (Watson and Davis both have big fat fingers). Also be sure to catch that thing he does with his left hand when the song is over. Thank you conductor Hedges.

Well, apparently if you want your prodigy guitar playing child to be good as well as unpretentious you need to blind them at birth. This way they'll sit stock still and play music for you, minus the theatrics that society will teach him are the privilege of the performer. But wait! Who's this? Why, it's Jose Feliciano playing "Flight of the Bumble Bee"

Turns out that I'm not actually as right as I wanted to be. Apparently, if you're a little bit younger you can still absorb theatrics into your routine. Just not as much. (As a sidenote, dig on his seeing eye dog resting behind the stool). As much as Feliciano rocks out, this is the only way he ever rocks out. He bobs his head back and forth pretty vigourously, but that's it. He bobs his head the same way every time, and he is still much less aware of himself as a physical performer.

Of course I'm just talking about guitar players here. I have no clue what I think about other instruments. Stevie Wonder moves around a good deal, but he's still kind of awkward. Maybe he just smiles a lot more than these dudes.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Girl Talk video

Here's a video someone posted at YouTube from the Girl Talk show post-shut down, presumably pre-tasering.

Charts - 11/12

2 GRIZZLY BEAR Friend [EP] Warp
4 IRON AND WINE The Shepherd's Dog SUB POP
5 JENS LEKMAN Night Falls Over Kortedala Secretly Canadian
6 TOKYO POLICE CLUB Smith [EP] Paper Bag
7 A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS A Place To Bury Strangers Killer Pimp
8 SOUNDTRACK I'm Not There Columbia
9 TULLYCRAFT Every Scene Needs A Center Magic Marker
10 DE NOVO DAHL Shout [EP] Roadrunner
11 BRITISH SEA POWER Krankenhaus [EP] Rough Trade
12 FRANK TURNER Campfire Punk Rock Welcome Home
13 SEA WOLF Leaves In The River Dangerbird
14 LONEY, DEAR Sologne Rebel Group
15 G AND D Message Uni Versa Look
16 CAKE SALE Cake Sale Yep Roc
17 STARS In Our Bedroom After The War Arts And Crafts
18 OCTOPUS PROJECT Hello, Avalanche Peek-A-Boo
19 CUT OFF YOUR HANDS Shaky Hands [EP] Iamsound
20 GUNSHY There's No Love In This War Latest Flame
21 ICE PALACE Bright Leaf Left Speaker Phone
22 MGMT Oracular Spectacular Columbia
23 HAMMER NO MORE THE FINGERS Hammer No More The Fingers Power Team-Sharon Collins
24 SIOUXSIE Mantaray Decca
25 PRE Epic Fits Skin Graft
26 ELECTRIC SIX I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being The Master Metropolis
27 SIBERIAN With Me Sonic Boom
28 ENON Grass Geysers... Carbon Clouds Touch And Go
29 BIRD AND THE BEE Please Clap Your Hands Blue Note
30 FRANTIC Audio And Murder Sinister Muse



A little while back, during the KWUR executive staff potluck, we were sitting around listening to Wu-Tang Clan and Mikey challenged me to name the sample in the Wu-Tang song "Tearz" Although I have listened to that song many a time (it includes the fantastic line "then / like a whammy / he pressed his luck"), I did not happen to know the sample. I was like a deer in headlights. My life flashed before my eyes. I had been disgraced as a man, and more importantly, as a soul DJ. When I reached home and finally stopped crying, I swore that I would never rest until I could name that sample. Luckily for me, it took me about five minutes to find the sample, thanks to the miracle of the Internet, and more specifically, the Wikipedia page on "36 Chambers", which lists every sample for every song on that album.

There are basically two types of hip-hop beats, if you ask me. The first is the kind where a lot of different tracks (some that sound absolutely un-funky on their own, unaltered) are skilfully spliced together to form a beat (examples include Kanye's beat for Jay-Z's "Takeover", RZA's beat for "Can It Be All So Simple"). The other kind are beats based around one, impossible funky sample (examples include Kanye's "Stronger") that even complete garbage flow would sound good over. I tend to be in awe of the first kind more, since it requires considerably more skill and creative energy. However, the second kind also takes skill. To pick a really good sample, you have to find a small snippet of a song that's really danceable but not instantly recognizable, and this requires a great deal of crate-digging, which, as a soul DJ of some sort, is something I have a lot of respect for.

"Tearz" is the second kind of beat. RZA is a crate-digger par excellence, and this one is a real gem. The song sampled in "Tearz" is "After Laughter (Comes Tears)" by Wendy Rene. Wendy Rene was one of the artists in the Stax-Volt stable, originally part of a group called The Drapels with her brother, Johnny. AllMusic has this fun little tidbit to share about Ms. Rene (originally Ms. Frierson):
A tour with Rufus Thomas included an appearance at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, NY. Rene returned from the Big Apple, to the dismay of her parents, with a monkey she purchased at a pet store there. Arguments over the monkey messin' up the house became the predominant topic; Rene was still a teen and lived at home. Monkeys were a status-symbol in the '60s for some. You dressed them, tuxedos were the vogue, and drove around in convertibles with the critters riding shotgun. Soul singer Edwin Starr, among others, briefly owned monkeys. Get a hit, buy a drop top and a monkey.
Which, coincidentally, is more or less how I roll. After releasing just two singles with The Drapels, "After Laughter (Comes Tears)", although recorded with The Drapels, was credited entirely to Wendy Rene, in Phil Spector style, and released in 1964. The track's a real doozy. RZA doesn't have to do much to the sample, just adds a little backbeat. The vocal delivery is exuberant and heart-felt, typical of mid sixties Memphis soul. But the real neat thing about the song is the instrumentation, which is a weird, minimalist proto-Isaac Hayes (who probably wrote the thing, come to think of it) composition. Check it out:

That clip, btw, is from the movie "Head-On". Another neat thing I found in the course of my research (i.e. dicking around the internet) is that Wendy Rene is still around and still doing gigs. Hell, she even has a MySpace. It's funny; you tend to think that after the sixties, all these soul people died or disappeared off the face of the earth, but a lot of them are still around, still doing shows. KWUR Week, anyone?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Good Copy, Bad Copy

A Danish documentary that explores the current remix and copyright landscape. It takes a look at how different cultures (Sweden, Brazil, US, UK, etc.) are taking on this issue, interviewing giants of the entertainment industry to music distributors to artists like Girl Talk and Dangermouse.

Available for free for your viewing pleasure.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Subversive Cinema: Killer of Sheep

In 1977 Charles Burnett completed his UCLA Masters Thesis Killer of Sheep. He filmed the movie basically by himself on weekends in 1972 and 1973.

The film is undoubtedly a classic of American cinema. It was one of the 50 first films to enter the Library of Congress' National Film Registry (along side such films as Wizard of Oz, Star Wars, Vertigo, and Citizen Kane) where it will be preserved for future generations.

Burnett was able to make this masterpiece completely outside any big budget corporate Hollywood studio for a price of only $10,000 (which is an amazingly small budget for any movie - let alone an outstanding one).

The film captures urban African-American culture in 1970's Los Angeles. It tells the story of Stan, a slaughter house worker, and his family in loosely connected episodes. Often times the camera just observes the actions of everyday life in this community. Burnett used non-professional actors and filmed completely on location. These low budget, but arguably better and more realistic techniques, recollect the radical style of post-war Italian cinema (Italian Neo-Realism). To celebrate the history of African-American music Burnett created a soundtrack that songs from all eras.

But it was this soundtrack that made the film literally "the best film you've never seen". Burnett was unable to secure proper licensing for the soundtrack, so the film, while critically acclaimed, had no official theatrical release until 30 years after it was completed.

Thankfully, director Steven Soderbergh put down the $150,000 needed to license the soundtrack (except for one song). After a nice preservation job at the UCLA Film Archive (blowing the original 16mm print up to a theater friendly 35mm one), the film was finally given a proper (although limited) theatrical release earlier this year. [The film played at the Tivoli for less than a week this summer].

So where does this leave us? Well, this month a nice DVD boxset of some of Charles Burnett's early films is being released. This is the first official home video release of the film (and it isn't bootleg quality...).

OK, great. What else? Well, if you missed the short run of the film this summer at Tivoli, Webster Film Series (really the only place worth seeing films in St. Louis) will be showing the film this January on the 17 through the 19. And don't make me remind you that seeing the actual film is always better than DVD...

AND... to top that, Charles Burnett himself will be doing a free workshop on Saturday January 19th. You must RSVP to that event so visit the Webster Film Series site for information. I'll even be in town (from NY) attending that event, so see you there.

It should also be noted that Burnett is only one of a few filmmakers who has received the highly prestigious MacArthur Fellowship ("genius grant").



Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Monday, November 05, 2007

Charts - 11/5

1 TULLYCRAFT Every Scene Needs A Center Magic Marker
2 SOUNDTRACK I'm Not There Columbia
4 DE NOVO DAHL Shout [EP] Roadrunner
5 BIRD AND THE BEE Please Clap Your Hands Blue Note
6 CASTANETS In The Vines Asthmatic Kitty
7 GOOD LIFE Help Wanted Nights Saddle Creek
8 FIERY FURNACES Widow City Thrill Jockey
9 OCTOPUS PROJECT Hello, Avalanche Peek-A-Boo
10 LONEY, DEAR Sologne Rebel Group
11 WEAKERTHANS Reunion Tour Anti
12 STARS In Our Bedroom After The War Arts And Crafts
13 SOFT Gone Faded

14 SHARON JONES AND THE DAP KINGS 100 Days 100 Nights Daptone
15 ANTI-FLAG A Benefit For Victims Of Violent Crime A-F
16 BABYSHAMBLES Shotter's Nation Parlophone
17 LES SAVY FAV Let's Stay Friends Frenchkiss
18 ENON Grass Geysers... Carbon Clouds Touch And Go
19 ELECTRIC SIX I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being The Master Metropolis
20 THOMAS DYBDAHL Science Recall
21 BEIRUT The Flying Club Cup Ba Da Bing
22 FIRE ENGINES Hungry Beat Acute
23 BLACK LIPS Good Bad Not Evil Vice
24 CAKE SALE Cake Sale Yep Roc
25 PATRICK WATSON Close To Paradise Secret City
26 BRITISH SEA POWER Krankenhaus [EP] Rough Trade
27 CUT OFF YOUR HANDS Shaky Hands [EP] Iamsound
28 SHOOTING SPIRES Shooting Spires Cardboard
29 HEALTH Health Lovepump United
30 GEORGIE JAMES Places Saddle Creek


Sunday, November 04, 2007

Facebook music?

Via CMJ:

Facebook, the online social community craze, could use the upcoming ad:tech convention in New York City to announce their latest (rumored) music component, Facebook Music, suggests Co-Ed The speculation follows possible "top-secret meetings between the website and high-level representatives at each of the four major labels," according to the site. This new feature, which is said to be similar to programs such as iTunes and MySpace Music, would use artist pages to let fans, "play music, watch videos, upload pictures, add music to their page, receive tour information and interact with other fans." Held this year at the New York Hilton from November 5-8, the ad:tech, an interactive advertising and technology conference, will showcase a number of keynote speakers and workshops concerning the fields of marketing and technology.