Category: Music

I’m constantly noticing signs that I’m getting old*. All the Red Sox rookies are younger than me, I think the kids these days are degenerates, and WBRU’s “retro lunch” is completely comprised of singles that I distinctly remember being “screamers of the week” (new music). And today I ran across a good one:

Greg, he writes letters, and burns his CDs, they say you were something in those formative years.

That’s a line from Tori Amos’s “Pretty Good Year” on Under The Pink (wow, I just listened to that cd all the way through. So, so good.)  First, I remember listening to that album in junior high school, which I’m pretty sure was in fact a lifetime or two ago. Second, and hopefully more interesting to you than the musical taste of a 13 year old, is the fact that “burning cds” has a completely different meaning nowadays. The line in that song almost conveys the opposite of what Tori was going for there. Crazy.

* I’m 26, so yes, I realize I’m coming off as a brat to anyone born earlier than the late 70s. Sorry.

Senescence

So I was thinking about posting on Mondays about whatever I’ve been listening to most over the the previous week. That was Sunday. Now it’s Wednesday, and I’ve spent the last 2 days meaning to write about how amazing Sufjan Stevens is, and how his album Illinois has been by far the most played playlist in my iTunes for the past year. But how to say that without gushing and sounding stupid, ay, there’s the rub.

Fortunately for all of us, it came to my attention today that my favorite band released their new album this week: In With the Out Crowd [iTunes Music Store link]. Using some iTMS credits from Christmas, I bought it this afternoon and have been giving it a first listen. Except for two friends, one of whom is in his annual “off the face of the earth” period, I don’t know anyone else who really likes LTJ, so I won’t go into a review (also, I suck at “reviews”). But, if you’ve got some extra cash sitting around, or on the off chance you want to feel like you’re getting to know Bil better, give this album a listen. It’s definitely a good time.

I miss Billy’s site. I still check it every day. It’s turning into a ghosttown…just like the OLD WEST!!!!!

Anyhoo, i probably should write more, but i’m at work, and, while that wouldn’t normally stop me, i just can’t think of anything else to say.

I just wanted to say hi. So, Hi!

I do have a little business to take care of with you Rhode Islanders. I’m coming back to Rhody tonight to visit my family, and bought some Iron & Wine tickets for his show at Lupos on Saturday night. Being excited that after 3 years of living in NY, there is FINALLY a good show in Providence on a weekend that i come home, i instantly bought some tickets – just as my friend Erin told me her boyfriend had some extra tickets for me. So here’s where you, dear C4H readers, come in. Would anyone be willing to buy 1, 2 or all 3 of my tickets? I’ll take off the Ticketmaster surcharge and go straight face value – $25. They should be worth every penny, i’ve never heard a complaint from anyone that has seen him play.

If you don’t know who Iron & Wine is, you’ve heard him, as i’m sure most of you have seen Garden State – he sings the Postal service cover in the movie – Such Great Heights.

So, if you’re interested, email me at Wehavethecat@hotmail.com

oh, and….I Love You.

Hello?? Anyone There?

I’m a sucker for horns anyway, but this song by the Decemberists is wonderfully infectious. Made me rush right out and get the album Picaresque (hooray for vocabulary rock. See also Pavement and Bad Religion), which I’m getting into between TV shows and hive-painting. Good stuff.

The question I have is why haven’t Mike or Nightwing told us about these guys yet? Anyway, in the rich Cry for Help tradition of reprinting the words to songs with topical lyrics:

Sixteen Military wives,
thirty-two softly focused, brightly colored eyes.
Staring at the natural tan
Of thirty-two gently clenching, wrinkled, little hands
Seventeen company men,
Out of which only twelve will make it back again.
Sargeant sends a letter to
Five military wives as tears drip down
From ten little eyes

Cheer them on to their rivals
Because America can and America can’t say no
And America does if America says it’s so.
And the anchor person on TV goes:
“La di da di da”

Fifteen celebrity minds,
Leading their fifteen sordid, wretched, checkered lives.
Will they find the solution in time,
Using their fifteen crispy, moderate-liberal minds?
Eighteen Academy chairs,
Out of which only seven really even care.
Doling out a garland to five celebrity minds,
they’re humbly taken by surprise.

Cheer them on to their rivals
Because America can and America can’t say no
And America does if America says it’s so.
And the anchor person on TV goes:
“La di da di da di diddy diddy da.
La di da di da di diddy diddy da.”

Fourteen cannibal kings,
Wondering blithely what the dinner bell will bring.
Fifteen celebrity minds
Served on a leafy bed of sixteen military wives.

And the anchorperson on TV goes la di da di da.

Sixteen Military Wives

I also have been listening to Motion City Soundtrack’s I Am the Movie which has made me realize I have no idea whether or not it’s good. All this emo-crossover stuff has ruined everything. Usually I just wait until Nightwing gets around to sorting it out for me (I can wait, I have about 300 songs on my iPod that I’ve honestly never listened to once). So if MCS sucks and proves I am lame, well, sorry, I didn’t know.

Also I can’t really tell the difference anymore between emo and what is considered new alternative music (that’s “new” as in 2004-2005, not a new genre). I was at my dad’s house the other day clicking through his newly installed Cox Digital Crack Cable music channels (“hey Billy, I’m in the 21st century now!“), and the alternative station was all-emo. I haven’t checked in with WBRU in a long time, so could it be that today’s middle school kids will look back on this stuff as the most important music of their lives? I shudder to think. (Yes, I’m sure my 13 year old self was pitied by hair band aficionados.)

(And another aside: I thought “Motion City Soundtrack” was definitely an 80’s band. Listening to the sample of “The Future Freaks Me Out” on iTunes only reassured me, but then there was a line about Will and Grace. It’s a weird world out there.)

One More On Music

It’s practically 2006, but here is my much anticipated (by Bil) best of 2004 music list. At first when I looked back I thought that 2004 was a great year for music. Upon further examination I realized that 2004 actually was a misstep – what actually increased was my love for music. I hope that my musical appetite continues to grow this year, but I also hope that 2005 brings a few more mind-blowingly good discs.

10.) The Thermals – Fuckin A (Punknews.org review) – 30 minutes of lo-fi garage rock that isn’t trendy, pretentious, or any of the other annoying things that usually get associated with lo-fi garage rock. Fast rock songs that bleed into each other so well that you will probably just press play when the album ends and start the whole thing again. Nothing new here, but still very refreshing.

9.) The Good Life – Album Of The Year (Pitchfork Review) – You either like Tim Kasher, or you don’t. If you like him, this is a thick moody ride that you should check out. This album isn’t number 9 because of the gimmicky 12 songs = 12 months of a failed relationship motif – it’s here because every time I listen to it the story becomes clearer and the characters become more lifelike. It’s one of those albums that create pictures in my head.

8.) The Living End – Modern ARTillery (Punknews.org Review) – I don’t have much to say about this one. If you put out a pop-punk CD in 2004 that isn’t a steaming pile of dog shit, then you have my attention. The Living End is a great band and Modern ARTillery sees them refining their sound, reaching out, and experimenting. This is one of those albums that is as good on shuffle as it is in order.

7.) The Life Aquatic – Soundtrack – (Pitchfork Review) – What the hell is a soundtrack doing on this list? Well for one, as a soundtrack this disk is pretty much perfect. The original compositions hold up outside of the film, the Portuguese Bowie covers are good enough to deserve their own disk, and I’m now staring to realize how great old David Bowie and Devo songs are. That’s one hell of a multi-tasker.

6.) Death From Above 1979 – I’m a Woman, You’re a Machine (Punknews.org Review) – How can I put this nicely? This album will rape you. Dirty, sex fueled dance/noise punk that just won’t let go. Did I mention that this is only a 2 man act playing drums, keys and bass? The best songs on this album are songs that you will want to hear right away when they finish. It’s like sex in so many ways…

5.) Wilco – A Ghost Is Born (Pitchfork Review) – This year I have a lot of respect for a ‘grower’ – an album that is at first underwhelming, but gets better every time you hear it. This is one of two big growers on this list. Ghost is an enigmatic marathon with self gratifying guitar solos, songs breaking the 10 minute mark alongside short pop songs, and extended periods of ambient noise. That being said, it’s a great CD. And if you have the good fortune to see Wilco live this year this disc will take on new meaning. These songs rock balls live.

4.) Blood Brothers – Crimes (Punknews.org Review) – As far as I can see, there are only two types of people left in the music scene – people who get the Blood Brothers and people who don’t. Sadly the majority of the world falls into the don’t category. Let’s me take a second to speak frankly. If you don’t like these guys, then I don’t like you. ‘Crimes’ is what your kids will be listening to in 2025. Dual vocals so high pitched that will make Alvin, Simon and Theodore will cover their ears. Songs that stop and start on a dime, finding structure in their complete lack of structure. Lyrics that sound like they were cribbed from the journal of a madman. It ain’t easy listening, but if you have the ears for it this is an incredibly rewarding album. A departure for the Blood Brothers that only hints at the ground these guys will cover over the next few years.

3.) Say Anything – …Is A Real Boy (Punknews.org Review) – As I mentioned above, if you put out a good pop punk CD in 2004, then you have my attention. This one is about as good as it gets. Originally conceived as a rock opera, ‘Real Boy’ is one of the most clever concept albums to hit in years. It’s an anti emo rant consisting of songs that tread on every existing emo cliché. Retarded song titles, John Cusack References, the acoustic love song, New Found glory type pop hooks, songs about girls, mentioning love and death in the same sentence (in a concentration camp love song, I shit you not). Sure this shit has been done before, but never so well, never so angry and never so tongue-in-cheek. Did I mention that aside from drums, one 20 year old kid wrote and recorded every note on this? Highlights include amazing sing along gang vocals, and ‘Admit It!’ a 5+ min rant going after stuck up indie kids across the U.S. This could easily have been #1. Highly suggested.

2.) The Arcade Fire – Funeral (Pitchfork Review) – This is the other ‘grower’ – I have spun this thing hundreds of times by now and every time I hear it, it gets better. It’s a CD that tells a vivid story, and each listen reveals a new layer brining more details to light. This one also brings up another important pattern this year, bands who want to sound like The Talking Heads. Aside from those two general leanings, this disc is really difficult to classify – it’s loaded with tons of creative instrumentation (most band members are multi-instrumentalists), and songs that shift from dark and cryptic to bright and dancy (often within seconds). ‘Funeral’ is also dripping with emotion without it feeling forced, or dare I say ’emo’. A great discovery for those who don’t mind music that feels like literature.

1.) Modest Mouse – Good News For People Who Love Bad News (Punknews.org Review) – I doubt that this CD will hold up as well as ‘Funeral’ in the future (I expect “Funeral’ to grow to be one of my favorite albums of all time), but I can’t deny Modest Mouse of the top spot this year. ‘Good News’ is a great album – eccentric, diverse, and fun as all hell. It’s a wonderful thing when an artist embraces major label production values and comes out better because of it. What could have been a slick, over-produced misstep arrived on store shelves as a wonderful next step for Brock and company. Here great production values emphasize what was already amazing about the sound of this band. Plus, ‘Float On’ is one of the greatest singles released in my lifetime. This CD is greater than the sum of its parts – it finally forced me to fully explore the Modest Mouse back catalog, which is a gift in and of itself. What is more important here is that this CD was a huge commercial success. The fact that a band like Modest Mouse can get airtime says something really good for rock music over the next few years. I’m looking forward to it.

Worth Noting – Black Keys – Rubber Factory, Bad Religion – The Empire Strikes First, Jimmy Eat World – Futures.

Guilty Pleasure of the Year – My Chemical Romance – Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (Please don’t tell anyone).

CDs that I wish I caught in 2003 – Lucero – That Much Further West, Bear Vs. Shark – Right Now You’re In The Best Of Hands

As always – everyone is highly encouraged to comment with their own personal top 10.

The Best Albums of 2004

Check out the video for “We Will Become Silhouettes”. [from Napoleon Dynamite director Jared Hess, no less -bil]

I’m in love with Jenny Lewis. Her and the chick that sings with Broken Social Scene. If you don’t know Broken Social Scene; run, don’t walk to the record store and buy “You Forgot It In People”

There, i said it.

Also, i’m going to a few concerts in the next week. A band called Say Hi To Your Mom on friday night, and Bright Eyes next thursday. Maybe i’ll take pictures and post about my experiences…maybe.

i love you

The Postal Service

Since we’re voting today I thought it would be a good time to mention that The Presidents of the United States of America have a new album out and it’s got my vote.

I heard the single “Some Postman” on the radio a few weeks ago, and now that song makes me want to jump around the house every time I hear it (Em has witnessed this, actually). The whole album has a really fun, pop-rock vibe, channeling at times OK Go, the Aquabats, and They Might Be Giants. And it’s quirky in a delightful way, moreso than their bizarre (but excellent) self titled album from 1996 (“millions of peaches, peaches for free…”).

Check it out, it’ll get you back in ass kicking mood after chilling out with the Garden State soundtrack.

Reelecting the Presidents

Weezer recorded some great pop songs back in the day. That’s reason enough to dig the band, but that doesn’t tell the whole story on my enjoyment and devotion to Weezer. I continue to follow Weezer even as their recent albums lag, because of their enigmatic frontman, Rivers Cuomo. Sure he has the typical rock star trappings – he’s insane, he wants to lead the biggest band in the world yet yearns to lead a private life, and he defies logic in every single choice he makes – but it is the way he does things that keeps me interested. Cuomo has drastic shifts in style and purpose that occur so fast, following along with him is like being high while on a roller coaster.

I could provide examples, but no one could do it better than the man himself. Recently posted on River’s myspace page (which is widely agreed to actually be created and maintained by the actual Rivers Cuomo) is his recent readmission letter to Harvard. It is a wickedly interesting look into the mind of a man who I consider to be one of the more important musicians of our generation. I hope to someday be as eccentric as Mr. Cuomo.

I’m off to wash my ham sandwiches with Jules Verne. Eng Gah!

Notes From A Tortured Genius

One of my standard comedic lines is “Music is the soundtrack to my life”. It’s meant to be funny, but at this point I have said it so much that it is starting to have real meaning.

Less than Jake, my favorite band in the world, released a handful of songs from their upcoming b-sides album today. I have been pretty forthcoming about my dissapointment with “Anthem”, their last album. I’m proud to be able to say that these b-sides smoke almost everything off of “Anthem”. It’s quite ironic really – “B Is For B-Sides” is 12 songs that were recorded during the “Anthem” sessions and left off the album. The point here? I love music. Hearing these songs at the beginning of my workday completely shaped my mood for the rest of the day. I was giddy like a school boy thinking about the fact that these songs reminded me of “Hello Rockview” era LTJ.

Just like most die hard less than jake fanatics, I also have become a Wilco fan as of late. I really respect that a band that shouldn’t be internet savy has been consistantly shaping the face of digital music. After getting dropped by their record label, the put “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” online and the album was a huge commercial success because of it when it was eventually released. Now with “A Ghost Is Born” they streamed the entire CD months before release. This works for them for two reasons. 1.) They have faith in their fans – and trust that they will buy the final copy. 2.) They included an amazing enhancement on the CD so that the hardcopy is a worthy investment. Buy “Ghost” and get a quicktime stream of a full 130 minute live show recorded on June 12th 2004 (how’s that for a quick turnaround?). I saw Wilco on this same tour and can tell you that this is the best CD enhancement ever – Wilco is jaw droppingly good live.

Rock and roll happens to real people too. My good friends in local not-ska-anymore band “Monty’s Fan Club” head out today on their biggest national tour so far. Tonight they play their first ever gig at CBGBs and then they are off to Cali to play on the remainder of this years Warped Tour. Fucking cool huh? I used to help them load in and then wreck all their shows. They will be keeping a road journal along the way – follow along, won’t you?

Picked up a great CD with a great title yesterday. “Fucking A” by The Thermals. Peep it – it rocks.

Anyone looking for something to do in RI this weekend? I will be kicking it live in a special one off Friday night Unexpected Company show at 8:18 at the Warwick Museum of Art. We will be grilling dogs and burgers, making people laugh, and generally starting the holiday weekend off right.

I’m in a fantastic fucking mood.

Before the thread gets too far down, I wanted to link some of the things mentioned in the comments.

Matt recommends Music Plasma. Search for a band you know you like and it gives you a 3D representation of other bands that are similar, or inspired by, your band. It also shows, by size, how influential a given band is. Really neat idea, but a little skimpy on obscure and new bands.

Mike says check out All Music Guide, which is pretty comprehensive, too.

And Cotuit points out that the new version of iTunes Music Store has iMixes, letting you see what people you share musical taste with are listening to.

I just downloaded the new Bad Religion album because it’s not coming out until next month and I don’t feel like waiting any more. Why did you tell me about this two months ago?! I have about $30 sitting in my iTunes account that I gladly would have spent on this album, but TOO MUCH WAITING!

Music Links

A common complaint about the current state of music albums is that people don’t want to pay $15 for a couple of good songs. I’m not sure if this is a true complaint or just another justification for illegal downloading, though it’s probably a valid point. When I was in high school I used to blow my paycheck buying cds from current one-hit wonders, but it never seemed to bother me.

What made me think of this is all the talk about iTunes and digital music jukeboxes changing the way we listen to music. I don’t think it’s really changed my listening habits at all. I still generally listen to entire cds of an artist, and I’m not content to just download a few songs of an album, even if I’m not paying for it. Also I’ve noticed that, of the old cds that I’ve ripped into my library, I don’t delete the songs that I am less than enthusiastic about. Maybe it’s because I have an ample hard drive, but I’d just feel weird only having 4 tracks out of 15.

iTunes has made it nice and easy to listen to my entire collection all shuffled up (and the new version’s Party Shuffle makes it even better), but other than that it’s been more of a time saver (no switching discs) rather than a revolution.

Maybe I’m just in the murky middle of those who like music so much that they distinguish between many levels of song quality and those who only have time to listen to their favorite songs. Am I alone in this? Have any of you had your music world turned upside down in the past few years?

iTunes Revolution?