New musics for you

I took some time and uploaded a couple of EPs to Jamendo under CC-BY-NC-SA license.  Basically, that means you get to download it for free and distribute it as you like.

Here is a link to The Poplar EP, which I think is the one you should download and listen to first.  It’s a very small, but melodic sound – like Kompakt fed through a pop machine.  “Imagination Cake” off of it is probably the most fun track I’ve written, so check it out.  If you like that one, then try out The Birch EP.

Arbitrary song of the day: Casiotone for the Painfully Alone – I Love Creedence


Electric Six at the Grog Shop

I saw Electric Six at the Grog Shop this past Saturday.  Now, the Grog Shop consistently has their shows start late (sometimes hours), but this time we managed to time it just right.  Almost as soon as we arrived, the opening act started.  In the past, I haven’t been too impressed by many of the opening acts I’ve seen there.  I’m not sure I can justify that opinion considering I saw Los Campesinos! with opening acts The Smith Westerns and Girls, who subsequently blew up (in the indie/Pitchfork sense at least) soon after.

The first opener was Swarm of Bats – a local band with a big wall of reverb, which is something you might not think if you listened to their songs on their Myspace page.  They started with a clatter of various drum hits and guitar twangs at which point I became worried that they were an experimental band.*  But that resolved in due time to a punky stomper (after listening on their website, I believe it was “Zombies”).  Their live sound was surprisingly polished; it sounded more like a raucous shoegazing band than the projected horror clips would have you believe.

*I don’t have anything against experimental bands, but that would not be what I want for an opening act.  You don’t get to destroy my ears with random squealing unless you’re the headliner.

Next up was The Hot Rails.  I really had no idea what to expect when they took the stage, as the guitarists, bassist, and drummer all looked like your timeless rock band – could have been anywhere out of the past 30 years.  Then the lead singer lumbered on stage, drink in hand up to where two six packs of Pabst Blue Ribbon where placed on stage.  After some amusing banter, he spent the first song alternately belting out lyrics and placing his beverages in strategic places across the stage.  He was particularly charismatic and funny and the rest of the band was pretty damn skilled, too.

Improper dancing indeed...

Electric Six came on soon after.  We had staked out a pretty good spot front and center, but then douchebags happened.  About a half dozen drunk guys decided that this was the place for mosh pit, or whatever the kids call it these days.  This took me by surprise as (1) I had never seen this at the Grog Shop before and (2) Electric Six doesn’t seem very moshy to me.*  Really, it wasn’t a mosh pit.  That implies a group of many people.  You’re not really a “pit” if you’re just like five guys – you’re just douchebags.  Indeed, most of the surrounding people seemed more irritated than anything at this, including a grizzled Grog Shop employee who looked like he was going to snap and shank one of them.  Eventually, we moved off to the side and back, which felt much more comfortable next to the guy in the cardigan awkwardly “dancing” and a guy writing down the set list to post on his message board.

*Go back to your Insane Clown Posse and Slipknot.  Kthxbye.

Electric Six were fine and Dick Valentine’s enjoyment of Cleveland was obvious, including with his intimate knowledge of Cleveland area codes.  They played some new stuff and some older singles, nothing too different than their album versions.  Somehow they didn’t know the names of the opening bands.  After Electric Six finished their set, Ken Janssen “apologized” to Electric Six over the PA on behalf of The Hot Rails and Swarm of Bats for “giving their bands name”, which was hilarious.  Afterwords, we spoke with Janssen, who informed us that Electric Six had snubbed them before the show.

Anyways, I was very impressed with the opening acts and enjoyed them more than the headliner, which is absolutely the first time I’ve said that.

FYI, The Hot Rails have an album on CD Baby which I’m going to get next time I place a CD Baby order (CD Baby’s $5 sale!).  Probably when Faded Paper Figures release their next album (coming in May!).

Arbitrary song of the day: Métal Urbain – Lady Coca Cola

February 2010 Mix CD

No time for commentary this time, just a track list…

  1. Kristopher Carter – Batman Beyond Theme
  2. Wolfmother – Joker & the Thief
  3. The Big Pink – Dominos
  4. Micachu – Golden Phone
  5. Ladytron – Black Cat
  6. The Knife – One for You
  7. Charlotte Gainsbourg –  IRM
  8. The Dodos – Fools
  9. Fleet Foxes – Sun It Rises
  10. Le Sang Song – Everybody Sing
  11. Brian Eno – St. Elmo’s Fire
  12. Modest Mouse – Dashboard
  13. Mike Doughty – Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well
  14. Animal Collective – Summertime Clothes
  15. Underworld – Born Slippy .NUXX (short)
  16. Deltron 3030 – The News
  17. Gnarls Barkley – Run (I’m a Natural Disaster)
  18. Fever Ray – If I Had a Heart
  19. Ian Brown – Upside Down
  20. Destroyer – Bay of Pigs

Arbitrary song of the day: Aphex Twin – Donkey Rhubarb

January 2010 Mix CD

  1. The Ruby Suns – It’s Mwangi in Front of Me
  2. Fleet Foxes – Your Protector
  3. The xx – Crystalised
  4. The Knife – Like a Pen
  5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero
  6. Discovery – Orange Shirt
  7. Yelle – Tristesse/Joie
  8. Polyphonic Size – Girlscout
  9. Deltron 3030 – Virus
  10. The Pink Noise – Wild Love
  11. Lovvers – 100 Flowers
  12. Tokyo Police Club – Tessellate
  13. Sleater Kinney – Jumpers
  14. Pony Pony Run Run – Hey You
  15. Peter Bjorn and John- Nothing to Worry About
  16. Tokyo Police Club – Sixties Remake
  17. The Good, the Bad, & the Queen – Herculean
  18. M83 – Graveyard Girl
  19. Fleet Foxes – Mykonos
  20. Animal Collective – What Would I Want? Sky

Unlike the past few mix CDs I’ve burned, I made this one more of a full circle.  Rather than having a beginning and end, we start off with “It’s Mwangi in Front of Me”, an unusual mix of sparse and lush, which works well coming off of the finale of “What Would I Want? Sky”.  It’s much better for when the CD loops around in the car.  The pace picks up with Fleet Foxes with “Your Protector” which is probably the closest the group gets to rocking out.

“Zero” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs is the only track of theirs I really like.  The pulsating bassline drives the track between big synthy choruses.  “Tristesse / Joie” does something similar with the track fading away and coming back with a plumper bass groove and juicy kick.  Not that the unabashedly bouncy bass in the first section of the song is anything at which to scoff.

Some songs from the 70s and 80s work in a different way than they used to.  “Girlscout” has a sound that still works as we can view it through the lens of retro and lo-fi, even though I would imagine at the time it was cutting edge and high tech.  I’ve found this same effect in Brian Eno’s Another Green World, which by today’s standards, sounds self-consciously lo-fi.  Also, one of the recurring themes in “Girlscout” sounds like the theme from The Jetsons, so we got that going on, too.

Yes, Deltron 3030 is hip hop for white people, I admit it, but there’s a lot here that works.  Dan the Automator rocks a minimal, but effective drum loop with a smattering of windchimes.  The occasional growl, arpeggio, and sci-fi sample supports the basic cyberpunk storyline.

Tokyo Police Club’s “Sixties Remake” is one of their best songs.  It’s almost entirely because of the Editors-like guitar piece in the chorus.  That might not sound like much, but for a two minute Tokyo Police Club song, it’s enough.  This band does not overstay their welcome, but I still think they could stand to add a little more spice to their non-single tracks.  For example, “Nature of the Experiment” has quite a few clever hooks to it: the bassline is catchy, the main chorus guitar riff is fantastic, and the overlapping female vocals are inspired.  If TPC wants to push the two minute barrier (not that I’m saying they should want to push that barrier), they need to have that much cleverness to sustain my interest.

I think I have a good grasp of what M83 is going for: dream-like visions of a sometimes melancholy youth, like a snapshot out of The Virgin Suicides.  That said, I think it’s difficult to listen to the graveyard girl’s actual words (“the cemetery is my home/I want to be a part of it”, “I’m 15 years old/ And I feel it’s already too late to live”) without cringing.  I get that this is probably supposed to be emo poetry that a high school freshman would write, but that doesn’t mean it’s not embarrassing to listen to.

“What Would I Want? Sky” is atmospherically two separate pieces with the second providing the enjoyable pop-vocal payoff.  However, the song is nowhere near as rewarding without the clattering, effects-driven first half.  Hearing this for the first time, it’s really surprising how this simple, catchy pop song emerges from an experimental (well, not that experimental) mishmash.  If you’ve been an Animal Collective fan for awhile, feel free to think less of me as their first album I actually enjoy listening to is Sung Tongs (2004) and my general enjoyment of their works is inversely proportional to how long ago it came out.  I can live without the pop structure, but I can’t live without any structure.

Arbitrary song of the day: Sleigh Bells – Crown on the Ground

Top 25 Films of the 2000s

As much as I struggled ordering my top albums list, the films list was even more difficult.*  This is despite being assisted by Netflix’s rating system.  Basically, I came up with a list of movies I rated 5 stars from this decade – somewhere from 35 to 45 films – and narrowed it down from there.  I felt that ranking them from 1-25 was a bit disingenuous as I could move almost all of them five spots or so and not feel like the list was worse.  So, instead of coming up with a definitive list, I’m breaking up my top 25 into three different pyramid tiers, plus my number one film.

* Despite films being longer than albums on average, I still feel that you can absorb a higher percentage of what a film has to offer on its first viewing.  Is this because I watch more films?  Is it because I am not a filmmaker, whereas I do, in fact, write music?  Am I not watching enough Alejandro Jodorowsky films and too many Jason Statham films?**

** That question was facetious – you cannot watch too many Jason Statham films.

Below is the list, starting with the bottom tier.  Each tier is in alphabetical order.

Tier 3 (15-25)

Borat (2006)
Grindhouse: Planet Terror (2007)
Knocked Up (2007)
Kontroll (2003)
Memento (2000)
Millennium Actress (2001)
Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
The Prestige (2006)
The Savages (2007)
The Science of Sleep (2006)
Sin City (2005)
Talladega Nights (2006)

Tier 2 (8-14)

The Dark Knight (2008)
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
Gladiator (2000)
In Bruges (2008)
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Spirited Away (2001)

Tier 1 (2-7)

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)
Primer (2004)
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Snatch (2000)
Superbad (2007)

#1 Film

–> Amélie <–

Most unknown from top 25: Kontroll – a Hungarian comedy-thriller that you really should see

Most critically derided from top 25: probably The Life Aquatic, though I don’t think any of these movies scored below 50% on Rotten Tomatoes

Barely missing the cutoff date: Kikujiro – this was definitely a Tier 1 film and probably one of my all-time top 10.  Netflix actually had this listed as being released in 2000, but that must have been the US release date or something.

Wanted to include in top 25 but could in no way justify it: 2 Days in Paris, The Darjeeling Limited, Dan in Real Life, Last Life in the Universe

Worst film that I saw: Radio (2003) – This cliche of a film just made me angry all the way through (I was on a bus, so it was still better than the alternative of staring at my seat for 1.5 hours… barely).  Also, Die Another Day (2002) and The Family Man (2000).

Worst film that I didn’t see: Epic Movie – It’s so frustrating that these humorless, phoned-in movies make money.  Read Cracked’s takedown on this terrible series.

Most overrated: Idiocracy (2006) – While perfectly geared towards the kind of people who love to post messages about Ron Paul on Digg, this film’s premise wore out its welcome extremely quickly and was hyperbolic to the point that I found it irritating instead of funny.

Decade winner: Wes Anderson

There wasn’t too much of a contest for #1.  Since I saw Amélie years ago, it’s been in the back of my mind as my favorite film of the decade.  The Royal Tenenbaums made a late run up the chart, but nothing could top the wit and charm of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s masterpiece.

I was pretty surprised that Gladiator was released this decade, as it feels like it has been out for ages.  For some reason, I pictured it coming out around the same time as The Matrix.  Out of all of the films on this list, Gladiator is probably the one I’ve seen the most times – mostly on lazy days in high school for some reason.

Arbitrary song of the day: Major Lazer – Pon De Floor

Posts coming soon and a few links

I’m probably going to be doing a top 25 movies of the 2000s, so keep an eye out for that.  For now, I suggest you follow this Twitter feed from everyone’s favorite SimCity 2000 advisor.

I’ve also been creating some quizzes on Sporcle.  Do you know your classic newspaper cartoons?  Try the original here and the sequel here.  Also, try a tough one about oddly named TV show characters here.

Arbitrary song of the day: Wagon Christ – Rendleshack

December 2009 Mix CD

  1. Faded Paper Figures – Metropolis
  2. Passion Pit – Live to Tell the Tale
  3. Sonny & The Sunsets – Love Among Social Animals
  4. The Ruby Suns – There Are Birds
  5. Animal Collective – Peacebone
  6. Vampire Weekend – Oxford Comma
  7. Marmoset – Hallway
  8. Tokyo Police Club – Your English is Good
  9. Digital Leather – Your Hand, My Glove
  10. Faded Paper Figures – Polaroid Solution
  11. Glasnost – Come Alone
  12. The Knife – One Hit
  13. Roll Deep – Badman
  14. Eskiboy – Music Money
  15. Moby – Shot in the Back of the Head
  16. The Knife – Silent Shout
  17. The Smiths – How Soon is Now?
  18. M83 – We Own the Sky
  19. Nick Drake – River Man
  20. Colourmusic – Yes!

Arbitrary song of the day: µ-Ziq – Sick Porter