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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Full Albums

  • Oasis, (What’s the Story?) Morning Glory1

Random Excellence:

  • A Tribe Called Quest, “Check the Rhime”
  • M83, “Kim and Jessie”
  • Mos Def, “Mista Nigga”
  • Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, “More News from Nowhere”
  • Gorillaz, “Rhinestone Eyes”

Songs of the Week:

  • Warren Zevon, “Lawyers, Guns and Money”2
  • Run-DMC, “Down with the King”
  • Prince, “I Wanna Be Your Lover”
  • LCD Soundsystem, “All My Friends”
  • Justice, “DVNO”

Reviews:

1. “Morning Glory” and “Cast No Shadow” are just so good, it’s hard to believe all the beauty of the former is about a coke-addicted girlfriend. This album reveals more with every listen. For example, the album’s first couple of chords are the same chords as “Wonderwall.” Talk about hyper-aware: they knew one of their best hits was good enough to merit starting off the album while still not actually getting played in full until a little later.

2. I put this on my “Social” playlist. Do you have any idea how ridiculous that is? My favorite line on this song is “Now I’m hiding in Honduras;/I’m a desperate man./Send lawyers, guns and money!/The shit has hit the fan.” Then again, that line kind of makes perfect sense for a perfect party.

Comment:

This is kind of embarrassing. I have the new STS, new Kendrick Lamar and the LCD Soundsystem’s last show on my iPod since the Sunday before last and I haven’t listened to any of it. I’ve dropped like seven podcasts though. I even have a Post-it next to my computer with a list of music I need to listen to, but I’m still chipping away at all these podcasts. I think I wish Marc Maron the kind of success that brings a real radio show or something because catching up on his podcasts is killing my music schedule.

There is nothing so weird for me as knowing the only full album I listened to for the entire week is an Oasis album. I don’t mean that disrespectfully to Oasis, but it’s just not me. I’ll figure this whole thing out.

Full Albums:

  • AC/DC, Back in Black
  • The Afghan Whigs, 1966
  • The Black Keys, Brothers and Chulahoma
  • Driver F, Chase the White Whale
  • Friendly Fires, Pala
  • Jay-Z and Kanye West, Watch the Throne1
  • Lil Wayne, Tha Carter IV2
  • Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, The Main Ingredient
  • Terius Nash, 1977
  • Tom Vek, Leisure Seizure

Random Excellence:

  • Fall Out Boy, “The (Shipped) Gold Standard”
  • R. Kelly, “Ignition”
  • James Brown, “Papa Don’t Take No Mess”3
  • Thin Lizzy, “The Boys Are Back In Town”
  • Junior Wells, “Snatch it Back and Hold it”

Songs of the Week:

  • UGK, “Murder” and “Pinky Ring”
  • Outkast, “Life Is like a Musical”
  • Kings of Leon, “King of the Rodeo” and “Charmer”

Reviews:

1. The more I listen to it, the more interesting it gets. I’m not sure why, but there’s a jungle theme throughout and definitely addressed explicitly on two songs. But those two songs stick out so much more because they’re songs about, metaphorically, how hard the streets can be. Yet everything else is, as Kanye puts it, “luxury rap.” Maybe it’s the ability to buy “Maybachs on bachs on bachs on bachs on bachs” while still living in the same hood, trying to find that coke that turns Kanye’s black girls into zebras or a better way to discreetly “move blocks and squares,” but their vision of the jungle feels jumbled.

Is it hard on the street or are they looking back on how hard it used to be on the street? Are they even talking about the streets anymore? Is it just their life that feels like a jungle of business decisions; purchases and annexations to expand their territory? It’s entirely possible it’s all of those things, but since it’s not something they really fleshed out–or maybe they didn’t flesh it out for exactly that reason–, it probably is all of those things.

And then there’s Kanye’s Hitler fixation on and off the album. I think he should just give that one up.

2. “Abortion” and “She Will” are phenomenal. Really great stuff, but I think we’ve all started to shy away from him for a reason. It’s got the feel of an album, but the lack of editing that comes with a mixtape. It feels like he’s gotten so used to rapping about everything that he’s forgotten that not everything is good.

3. It’s like vocal gymnastics: the lyrics, the singing, the way he leads the band and, by extension, the listener. This is James at the height of his game. Every word counts, every scream is exactly where it has to be. Puts me in a cold sweat.

Comment:

A combination of running out of my allergy drugs, returning to the gym and, possibly, the change of the seasons compounded and got me sick. I tried to play it off like it was just really bad allergies, but I think lowering my immune system’s capabilities opened me up to an awesome cough. I stayed home on Thursday and drank green tea through the worst of it, battling back the runny nose–but leaving the absurd cough.

And on Friday I went to work with a death rattle and 10 hours of sleep. I might have had one of the most productive days ever. I don’t know if it was the drugs making me lightheaded or just the intense focus a full night’s sleep allows, but work felt great. And yet, most of my body felt terrible. Such is life.

A friend loaned me an Army Digital vest to go to the gym with. It weighs thirty pounds and I’m worried it’s just going to exacerbate my cough, but if I don’t start now, I’ll never start. Man, I hope I’m able to walk and breathe in the future. I guess if I grow asthma and three inches shorter, we’ll know why.

Full Albums:

  • Action Bronson, The Program EP
  • The Gaslight Anthem, American Slang
  • Justice, Cross
  • Kings of Leon, Come Around Sundown

Random Excellence:

  • The Used, “Pretty Handsome Awkward”
  • The Rolling Stones, “Bitch”
  • The Roots, “Web”
  • Jay-Z, “Girls, Girls, Girls”
  • The Beastie Boys, “Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun”1

Songs of the Week:

  • Television, “Friction”
  • Tom Vek, “The Lower the Sun”2
  • The Clash, “I’m Not Down”
  • Brand New, “Fork and Knife”
  • The Afghan Whigs, “Citi Soleil

Reviews:

1. The line, “24 is my age, 22 is my gauge,” always kills me; they made the album of their career while I was still working a retail job at the same age. It’s people like them and Keats that keep my life in perspective. Actually, one of my coworkers tells me I need to read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus because there’s nothing so heartbreaking for people who write right now than knowing she was 17 when she wrote it.

2. It doesn’t seem to be the case all the time recently–what with sleeping poorly during the week, working too hard during the day and whatnot–, but this song, his “On a Plate” and The Police’s “Bring on the Night” describe my life. If not my life, then just how I generally feel: like it should always be night time. Mornings are lame.

Comment:

I’m not sure if it was was the combination of having read his stuff for the first time in a while and sleepy or just the former, but I shed a tear or two over David Foster Wallace back on Friday. Maybe it was my family’s history with suicide, but I was only about twenty minutes into reading a piece of his that Grantland republished and it was just so beautiful to read something by someone who knew more about grammar than me about writing.

A lot of my expertise comes from reading a lot and reading closely, but that’s recently been getting confused as bloggers around me leave periods outside quotation marks or throw in a hyperlink that actually tells more of the story than the story. The man’s footnotes had footnotes. That’s the kind of stuff I wish could be taught, but I’m kind of glad a lot of people don’t understand any of it because it exponentially increases my chances of getting hired for the copy editor or editor positions they’d never qualify for.

At any rate, I was reading that story on a bus down to Washington, D.C. and headed to the Virgin Mobile Freefest. It was exhausting and I got stung on the finger and friends were being dumb, but I had a genuinely good time. The food was terrible and everything was overpriced, but I saw Calvin Harris DJ an entire set. James Murphy accidentally bumped his own records hard enough to knock the needle out of their tracks–twice. I’ve seen him live twice now–more than any other band, I think–and he’s played Diana Ross’ “Love Hangover” both times. That song is beyond spectacular and for it to have such a central part in his DJ set just confirms it’s that good.

We all got muddy and sweaty, but I caught the tail end of TV on the Radio and saw The Black Keys, who ended with “I Got Mine.” The latter band’s performance was an incredible show that started with just some simple phrases: “Hi everyone. We’re the The Black Keys from Akron, Ohio.” They seemed like the two nicest, most humble guys you’ll ever meet and then they just killed it for the rest of the show. Two white dudes up on a nearly empty stage, playing some of the blackest blues you’ll ever hear for thousands of white kids. My head was spinning from dehydration and exhaustion, but fuck yes–they sure as shit got theirs.

I’m sad I missed Empire of the Sun and Cee Lo Green, but those were the sacrifices I decided to make for friends, food and performers. The festival itself was certainly better than I expected, despite our original plans falling apart almost from the second we arrived. I was even intimidated when I first got to Union Station in D.C.: this was the weekend of the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and where some of the douchiest lawbros from college ended up, after all. If I had to wade through a sea of pleated khakis, coral shirts and ties or anachronistic Ray-Bans with eyewear retainers, I was going to stab everyone. And then arriving at Merriweather Post Pavilion made me terrified I’d trample a toddler or get just as mad at the underage hipsters as I was going to at the absentee lawbros.

But it all turned out okay. I lived. One of my friends got punched in the face (accidentally) and another (apparently) tried to break concrete with the back of her skull, but we’re all alive and no one’s concussed. We had a weekend. We listened to kids on the bus say things like, “I was talking to Two Door Cinema Club when he said he had to do an interview or something. Just because you listen to a band all the time doesn’t mean you have to know who they are or anything. Whatever, I stole their towels,” or “Omigod, Deadmau5 is awesome.”

Not to shit on Deadmau5 without listening to him much, but I don’t trust guys whose musical career is built on a joke. He started his career by recording a song making fun of house music and now he makes house music. I mean, he was one of the headliners and Patti Smith opened for TV on the Radio. I think my only hope is that at least some of the kids saw Patti and know there’s still art out there.

I don’t know; if we could survive despite not being kids anymore, maybe those kids will be alright, too.

Full Albums

  • Beyonce, 4
  • Friendly Fires, Pala
  • The Secret Machines, Now Here is Nowhere1
  • Senses Fail, Let it Enfold You
  • Slick Rick, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick2
  • Terius Nash, 19773
  • Wu-Tang and Jimi Hendrix, Black & Gold4

Random Excellence:

  • The Clash, “Rock the Casbah”
  • Driver F, “Bury Me with My Money”
  • Jay-Z, “Party Life”
  • M.I.A., “Paper Planes (DFA Remix)”
  • Saves the Day, “Get Fucked Up”
  • The Von Bondies, “C’mon C’mon”
  • Shakira, “She Wolf”
  • Massive Attack, “Angel”
  • Tom Vek, “Nothing but Green Lights”

Song of the Week:

  • Martin O’Donnell & Michael Salvatori, “In Amber Clad”4

Reviews:

1. I used to listen to this album and worship the ground they were about to walk on. There’s a lot of great material, but I wonder what happened that made them collapse in on themselves. I listen to this album and want to talk to their producers like, “Did you make them do too many acid trips or something? Because this one’s good, but it could do with a little focus. They wrote a 9-minute song about battlefields and sounds like Jimmy Page lent them a riff (or an entire song). Did they break when they weren’t secret anymore? Did they have to be underground forever to improve?” I wish we could all go back and fix them.

2. Sometimes I just can’t listen to The Ruler because his raps subjects are beyond bleak, but good gravy can that man grace the mic with the illest ear-pleasers you’ll hear. I’m pretty sure, if not officially, that “Children’s Story” is every rapper and listener’s guide to quality production, storytelling, wordplay and subject matter. He’s gritty and he’s wrong, but he did it better than everyone.

3. Terius Nash, you brilliant son of a bitch. Out of my entire music library, I think he and the Wu-Tang Clan are the only people treating their music like literature and referencing all their own songs in new ways. Actually, Jay-Z might be doing it, too, but I’m not sure he’s doing it like every two songs. At any rate, Nash’s one of the few artists I know of writing songs that are catchy as hell and then throwing a couple of layers on, inviting you to listen to the rest of his catalog to dig for the rest of those layers. I don’t really like “Silly,” where he introduces Casha–after featuring her on “Rolex” and not introducing her–, but I’m willing to look past that. I’m sure the girl’s gonna be okay because that boy got her back. Now we just have to hope he doesn’t get her pregnant, but because it’s pretty clear his lyrics are very, very real.

4. I don’t know if it’s a Pavlovian thing where every time I listen to this song, I get itchy trigger fingers and a strong desire to melee everyone around me in the back of the head. Just hearing so much as the opening is enough for me to pull out of any funk like, “What? Oh, today is mine.” Just a set of strings and that hint of a chorus singer in the background leading into some amazing drums and then some of the best guitarwork the Halo franchise every produced. And sure, it’s not Steve Vai’s solo on the “Halo Theme Mjolnir Mix,” but structure and rigor of “In Amber Clad” just gets to me. It’s only one minute and forty seconds, but I want it to go on forever. Nine minutes wouldn’t be terrible. Doesn’t even need lyrics.

Comment:

I started going to the gym again and I’ve also been trying to catch up on my podcasts. I’m all the way caught up on The Bugle (6 episodes) and I have 38 more WTF Pods to go (down two episodes). So I haven’t been listening to a lot of albums because WTF takes like an hour and a half and there’s like two a week. I also just listen to my music on random when I’m running in order to keep myself distracted from the horrendous pain (and resulting hyperbole).

Hope your Labor Days were labor-free.