Archive for August, 2006|Monthly archive page
I feel like for as much as I like the new Matmos record I should really be a lot more into Herbert’s Scale. But without some sort of cheat sheet in front of me I’m not impressed. A few intelligent twists and twerks on danceable electronic music, but when the gestation period is this finely tailored, I want it to punch me in the face. What’s the good of doing something totally inperceptably? Of course there are a million reasons, many of them smarmy and fitting of the situation, but I’ll leave that for someone else to write. That said, anyone who can get liner notes for this shit, hit up me. Seeing the strings being pulled might sway me some.
Topics for your consideration:
Stylus Magazine has a great and obsessively complete report on the summer in American teenpop running right now. That kind of shit makes me want to write for them. One of the groups featured is The Jonas Brothers, who are 2006 Hanson Brothers with better writers. I can’t imagine they actually played on many of these recordings, but the image is cute and not too groomed. This has got to be a shit your pants cool lifestyle for these kids, which is apparent in how damn excited they are to be making music. If you’ve never associated Jesse McCartney with being a decent singer, turn away now. It’s fun, not perfect.
You know just when you forget about Royce Da 5’9″ he pops back up and looks at you eye-level. The beat of “Ding,” his new single is classically-styled DJ Premier, blushing melodrama with tough ass samples. Rarely does a bassline have so much bounce and resonance in hip-hop these days. At times Royce works his rhymes tightly and characteristically strange, like Nas not taking himself seriously (or perhaps later day De La Soul?). A few times he drops T.I. catchphrases (“I’m a stand up guy,” “what you know about that?”) without reason, and doesn’t take them anywhere. It’s his own images, like killing like a proverbial ice storm (and not Jacob the Jeweler, ok) that score Royce the love. The samples dry out a few repetitions in, but the song is great layed back hip-hop from Mr. Undercover.
At first I thought it was my laptop speakers and now I’m hoping it’s just a bad .mp3, because the new A.M.P.s remix of Pharrell’s “Number 1″ is tragic. My copy first off sounds like it was recorded from a tape dub, a broadcast from clock radio speakers. But that’s not the problem. I acknowledge that Pharrell picks slightly unusual key signatures to sing in, but as the A.M.P.s signature solution is to rewrite the entire instrumental, they had the chance to fill all the key signature crags with notated putty. Unfortunately the A.M.P.s chose an unflattering key to write in, and Pharrell’s voice creaks in and out of focus on the track. The snap drum and slick funk don’t sit well with me either — it sounds too much like a cheesy mash up for giggling white boys. I suppose ol’ Skateboard P deserves a nod for writing a song few others can back as efficiently as he.
If I were to have a party tomorrow, the first person I’d ask to slang vinyl is my friend DJ Tornado. He’s got a bunch of mixes up on his site, but tonight’s bluelight special is the Hall & Oates greatest hits slab. Twirl your moustache and dance!
The automotive love of hip-hop videos finds its stoner metal mirror in the clutch masturbation that is the video for Earth’s “Tallahassee.” The woozy doom riffs plod along to sweet footage of motor cars and, gasp, a plot. Thanks to Karl (read 8.22) for pointing this out to me.
What’s nice about the Vice blog is that it’s internationally penned, so you get gobs of Vice attitude from weirdos around the globe who sometimes know what they’re talking about. This is one of those times.
Enter The Mint Chicks, a four-piece from Auckland, New Zealand with a fire under their asses. There’s an underlying need to frantically lash out that’s contained in four bubblegum maniacs, penning pop songs. Lead by a singer who might have a Dennnis Lyxzén shrine in his cubby hole, the band appears to have quite a presence, onstage or in the audience. Their angst and methods take something away from Dinosaur Jr. or their former buddies Sebadoh, but with faster, nastier footwork and the NZ twist. Sometimes they take it a little far, nearly Linkin Park too far, but at least it rips like the choicest moments of DFA1979 (RIP). “She’s Back On Crack” and “Opium of People” stand out the most, in punking out with teeth showing — yikes.
Flying Nun has had these four fellers since 2004, and if I had to guess (and to test a description), I’d say this band is going to be Arctic Monkeys big in NZ. What I don’t have to guess is their interests, musical or otherwise, as they’re gut-spilled on the left side of the band’s page. Americans might have to do the download their new album, Crazy? Yes! Dumb?No! one way or another or choke up $28 clams. Is it worth it for the newest band?
Was it good for you, Viceybaby?
I feel like this is what happens when people have too much money and coke becomes passe. That is, Elton John is making a “hip-hop” album. It’s not unusual that he’d want to work with Pharrell, but his list of wants also includes Snoop, Doc Dre, Eminem and Kanye. Is EJ one of the four horsemen of the hip-hapocalypse? Will it be a hip-hop record at all? “He revealed he had not yet spoken to Dr. Dre about the project, but was interested in producing a sound ‘a bit like No Diggity by Blackstreet.’” Well, there’s your answer.
Somehow I’ve managed to not write about Cassie’s first single, “Me & U,” even though I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. And as her album sold something like 100,000 copies in the last week and radio has gone balls out on playing it, by now most folks are aware of it. The spell she’s cast on music-listening public has been powerful, like a snakecharmer whose lyrics possess their listener and get the trousersnakes moving. Starting with a limited, punctuated slide up and down the scale imitating a hypnotized sway, locking in perfectly with the juicy keyboard line, airy synth counterpoint in lieu of backing singers, oil-tanker percussion, stabbed from every direction by a orchestral sample and swell.
The words slinking out of her mouth are far sexier than most of what’s on the radio. Despite being the one in control (still charming), she plays subservient with a hint of glee. There’s also a bit of detachment: as much as it’s all about “me and you,” she’s all “too busy” and apologizing for delaying her callbacks, talking about the free samples she’s not giving out but mmm, there have been some licked lips when her name gets dropped, Pavlov’s dogg style. There’s a shit ton of studio gloss on Cassie’s voice, especially noticeable during the prechorus and beyond, but it works well with the tones that surround her. When she harmonizes with herself it’s irresistable, even when it’s done frequently — tasty and tasteful.
But the best song is the lush bridge, getting all sweet and cuddly with the same juicy chimes. Her little “I swear!” outburst is a little, uh, little girl sounding but adds a little emotion beyond horn-Aye. The rest of the song swings the same except with little vocal exercises thrown in for one last hurrah. “Me & U” was produced by Ryan Leslie, apparently a chum of Usher’s and guy who’s produced some large and mostly unheard stuff (Britney Spears “The Answer,” new New Edition and a bunch of shit for Bad Boy Records). Leslie was the one who encouraged her to take music seriously, and he also wrote nearly every song on her record. Personally this is my favorite single on the radio at the present — far sexier than the dreaded “Sexy Back,” less overt than “Gettin’ Some Head,” and kicking the shit out of everything Beyonce puts out these days. If her next single works magic the same way “Me & U” has, we could have a bona fide new star on our hands.
Pardon live show reporting ettiquite, I need to geek out for a moment. Through the magic of free Monday night shows at the Empty Bottle, I had the pleasure, nay, privilege of seeing the end of a great band I never knew and discovering a handful of other interesting, still thriving groups.
Beginning at the end were Killer Whales, one of three Chicago groups to playing that night. I walked in during the middle of their first song, which threw me off kilter with a gust of earnest energy. To classify would be a lie, as there was far more shit going on than simply following genre rules. Didn’t stop them from shacking up twangin’ old rock and roll with elastic post-punk (picture Desperate Bicycles having fun, if you can), and dosing afrobeat with a bit of lean whipped cream. Two drummers, each on their own creating a mesh of beats to bounce on; two singers, one on “thunderous” bass (his words, not mine) and the other on guitar. The guitarist flicked papercut thin strums and sawed away, slasher movie-style on his instrument. Either took on affected, high on helium voices conveying a serious good time being had, ’til the lower octaves stopped by and busted open in harmony. The songs had jam, paced deliberately with just enough minute change to keep things interesting. This was often provided by a rarely seen member and a guest saxophonist, dropping in casual cameos of recorder and tambourine. Between numbers the bony figures onstage looked ecstatic at both their own tenacity and the crowd’s voracious response.
I briefly talked with the guitarist who most resembled an Eastern Bloc immigrant and quickly found that the band had nothing to sell its hungry consumers and was now broken up. My disappointment at their peaked out demise was met with encouragement to stick it out for the next band. A short moment later a friend told me he’d tried to access the Whales Myspace page before the show and found it recently deleted, as if the band wanted no memories of the group beyond its farewell performance. (In reality it was silly Myspace politics which dismantled their page, but the myth is better than the truth.)
Chandeliers needed plenty of time to hook up their fortress of keyboards, as well as a projector. When they lurched off the ground, the five members took a song’s length to warm up and get comfortable with the groove. Once sweating and happy, the band conjured up live synth house music that jammed and broke “it” down. The drummer from Killer Whales was also a fixture in Chandeliers, complicating the rhythms and keeping the proverbial needle inside a real-time groove. The accompanying short films were repetitious but ultimately fitting the theoretical score. The group closed with a cover of Joe Jackson’s “Stepping Out” that upped the sweat content in the room and spread more smiles on faces.
Between sets was dj and label guy Michael Broers played classic hard & acid house. Turns out he owns Ghost Arcade, who put out Chandeliers new 7″ and is slated, I hope, to release a Killer Whales joint as well. His set was massively loud and str8 jacking.
I didn’t get to stick around for all of Michael Columbia, which is deceptively a two-piece of drums/vocals and a multi-instrumentalist. The latter spat out blatted melodies on a sax and undulations on a keyboard, subtle bass touches and threw a handful of switches and twisted all the right knobs. Their experimental back and forth also kraut rocked, bouncing back and forth between Popel Vuh and Robert Wyatt solo records. Very interesting, very unexpected. If the Bottle keeps treating me this way, I’m going to become a Monday night regular.