Monday, May 25, 2009

Jay Bennett 1963-2009

Jay Bennett, best known for his work with Wilco, has died at the age of 45. While mostly known for his influencing Wilco's sound on albums like Summerteeth and the classic Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. During the tumultuous recording of YHF, Bennett was fired from the band. All of this was featured on the documentary, I am trying to Break Your Heart. Bennett also recorded music with the group Titanic Love Affair in the early 90s.

On personal note, I will have to thank Bennett for transforming my taste in music. While I got into Wilco thanks to A Ghost is Born, it was Yankee Hotel Foxtrot that sealed the deal with me as a music lover. It was a beautiful album filled with wonderful textures, guitar work and melodies. Despite the bickering by Tweedy and Bennett, Bennett's contribution were so significant to the band's work that you cannot deny that he was important in Wilco's evolution as a band.

While Bennett may have fallen of my radar after a while listening to that album fervently (and London Calling), Bennett will still hold a place in my musical heart. Bennett was also one of my favorite guitarist for his incredibly original style of randomly assorted, yet structured and intricate guitar work. Jay Bennett's death is truly a great tragedy in the musical world.

Friday, May 22, 2009

review of "Bitte Orca" by Dirty Projectors

Dirty Projectors
Bitte Orca ****1/2

Just when I thought nothing would compel as much as Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion this year, here comes Brooklyn’s Dirty Projectors and their new album Bitte Orca. Hot damn, is this album just plain excellent.
If one looks up “left-of-field” in the dictionary, you will definitely find a picture of the group or mastermind Dave Longstreth. Previous songs have predominantly involved epic battle between finches and humans. 2005’s so-called “glitch opera”, The Getty Address, was about musician Don Henley contemplating suicide, and of course had songs about finches. Their previous album Rise Above was Longstreth’s attempt to remember Black Flag’s classic Damaged. So to say the least, Dave Longstreth and Co, is not afraid to bring in the shock and awe.
Now we have Bitte Orca, and it’s pretty much safe to say it is their most accessible album. Songs that sound like a long lost collaboration between Prince and Talking with vocalizing women, drumming patterns and nothing involving finches (well, from what I understand). Like myself, one doesn’t need to have much knowledge about Dirty Projectors’ previous work when you listen to Bitte Orca. It’s sexy, cool and will have those Top 40 summer jams running for their money.
To be honest, it’s sort of hard to describe the album’s overall sound and feel. Is it funky? Is it pop? Or R&B? The songs here will take you in with their mesmerizing melodies, like the brilliant and sexy single “Stillness is the Movie”, with it’s plucky riff and brilliant vocal work from the women of the group. This song will definitely be the single of the summer. For Williamsburg, that is. “Useful Chamber” is, for a lack of a better term, the album’s “fun song”. Beginning with some soft keyboard work and crooning from all the members, it blasts into furious riffing, and then it get’s calms again with some platonic vocalizing. Or the opener “ Cannibal Resource” which sets the tone of the album with sound that will get into one’s head and will never get out.
Like I mentioned above, one cannot really point out where did these songs came from. To put it in David Byrne, aka lead singer of Talking Heads, they are band whose songs are “completely strange and oddly familiar at the same time.” Byrne’s statement can never be so true. While the Dirty Projectors have made something new, fresh and hard to explain, it sound like some of the best songs we have heard in awhile. It’s safe to say that Longstreth is someone who has obsessively studied pop music’s sound and structures, destroyed it in seconds, and then rebuilt in his own, special way. Bitte Orca is the sound of pop self-destructing and it sounds so good.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Good News and Bad News

First the good news, a new biopic has been produced on the life and times of lecherous French pop genius Serge Gainsbourg has premiered at the Cannes Festival. The woman pictured above is Jane Gordon. She plays Jane Birkin, Gainsbourg's lover for many years and the mother of Charlotte Gainsbourg. She also appeared in Spiderman 3. Not very known but she is seen as an up an coming star.

Now the bad news. Jane Gordon has been found dead in her apartment in Paris, two days before she is to turn 29. It is speculated that she committed suicide. It is unfortunate that an actress and never quite really broke into the public's collective consciousnesses. To be honest, this is the first time I have heard of this actress. Maybe in death, like poet Sylvia Plath or Vincent Van Gogh before her, people will learn about her talents.

My prayers and thoughts go out to the Gordon family as they try to cope with this terrible tragedy. Rest in Peace Jane Gordon. You will be missed.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Butt Load of Quick Ones, Pt. 1

Well, I'm back after my college hiatus of film, studying and coming back from the verge of a nervous breakdown. These are albums I have listened to a rated. As the title implies, I still have some reviews to do, so keep your eyes peeled. Enjoy and leave comments!

…And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead
The Century of Self ***
The Texan alt-prog-rockers return with their sixth album. Typical hard riffing by the group who still haven’t found their post Source Tags & Chords groove. But their a some bright moments on this record, like “Far Pavilions” and “Halcyon Days”.

Kicks **½
Scotland’s punk group make nothing interesting or memorable on their follow-up to the succinct Cookies.

A.C. Newman
Get Guilty ***
The New Pornographers’ main troubadour makes another album of his typical classic-rock sounding stuff.

Abe Vigoda
Skeleton ****
Chino, California’s so-called tropical punk group makes waves with this brief, intense and excellent album. The group are regular noise rock band, as they are unusually organized with their synchronized sound. Kudos goes to former stickman Reggie Guerrero who is the backbone of this sound that they have crafted for themselves.

Air France
No Way Down ****
Imagine yourself on a yacht off the coast of Southern France. You are the son of the Prime Minister of Italy and you are surrounded by beautiful women. You have very little worries in your life and what’s there to worry about? This EP is the soundtrack to your life. All shameless hedonism aside, Air France make an album full of wonderful and beautiful faux-tropical music that is perfect for traveling somewhere in Europe and whatnot.

Andrew Bird
Noble Beast ***½
Fine songs from the indie troubadour that will most definitely please his fans and those who like their singer songwriters rootsy.

Antony and the Johnsons
The Crying Light ***½
Antony Hegarty has a great voice but he’s still a rather difficult singer to process. Somber, insightful ballads make up his first solo effort in a while.

Bat For Lashes
Two Suns ****
I’m afraid for the British songstress because she is now getting more attention from the mainstream media, which is a good thing for her because her talents should be noticed, but stuff like this will receive backlash from the indie bloggers. Anyways on her second album Bat for Lashes, aka Natasha Khan shows us her splendid voice and knack with melodies on this album, which ranges from folky tunes to ambient songs.

Bruce Springsteen
Working on a Dream ***
The Boss manages to bring his goofy half-time appearance onto this record. It ain’t great as some of the songs are weak and at times silly, like the opener “Outlaw Pete”.

Cut Off Your Hands
You & I ***
New Zealanders make a promising debut with the album of surprisingly fresh pop-punk. Check out the album centerpiece “Oh Girl” with it’s crunchy riff.

Crystal Antlers
Tentacles ***
Unorganized noise from the group’s debut. Tis all fine but it makes one lose interest as the album progresses.

Cymbals Eat Guitars
Why There Are Mountains ****
A promising debut from the New York City reminds me of the days of Indie’s past, specifically the 90s, or Titus Andronicus without the distortion. Filled with punk meets trumpets anthems, Cymbals Eat Guitars are a band you have to watch out for.

Dan Deacon
Bromst ****
Everyone’s favorite bearded nerd makes another album of experimental pop. The robotic sounding melodies get to you in a hard way, as it might annoy upon first listen, but as time goes on they stick to your brain and you’ll be humming to these caffeinated epics.

The Decemberists
The Hazards of Love **
You know those documentaries on TV that promise to have amazing revelations, but the whole thing keeps giving you facts and facts and then in the end there’s no real revelation? This is what this album is like.

Empire of the Sun
Walking on a Dream ***
Australian super duo containing Luke Steele of the Sleepy Jackson (who?) and Nick Littlemore of Pnau (who?) make an album full of smooth electro pop. “Empire of the Sun” is the best track on the album, while the others could be more memorable but they still have the melodies to make a smooth jam.

Fever Ray
Fever Ray ****
The sister half of Sweden’s The Knife makes a brilliant and brooding album of ambient electronic music. No hits here, but it’s an incredibly captivating album thanks in part to Karin Dreijer Andersson’s painful yelp and mastery of electronic. Perfect for sitting back and just watching the world around you.

Glasvegas ***
NME’s next big thing. Nothing special, but there’s a reason why the Brits are eating them up: singing with a thick brogue , post-punk influenced songs and lyrcis about everyday life in Scotland.

The Horrors
Primary Colours ****
I normally dislike or show complete apathy to NME bands. However, the new album from NME poster boys the Horrors is, dare I say it, good. Normally a band like them would completely mooch of a sound of a past era to rapturous praise in the UK (oh wait, that was their previous album). Yes, they do borrow from scenes of alt-rock’s past, ranging from shoe gazing to post-punk, and yet they manage to pull it off and sound at ease with this stuff, thanks to a little help from the production team of Geoff Barrow, Craig Silvey and Chris Cunningham. Before I thought this band was fake and fabricated, but then I heard Farris Rotter’s yelp and it’s truly authentic. Hell, this album cover manages to be cooler than their previous, pretentious debut.

Loney, Dear
Dear John **½
Electro-folk from this dorky Swede. This is what Jens Lekman would sound like if he wasn’t cool. Pretentious.

M. Ward
Hold Time ***
The go to guy for indie collaborations, back from his work with Zooey Deschanel. The lovers of the stereotypical type of indie (singer-songwriters, folk) will eat this up, but despite his song writing chops, this album is very dry at times.

Matt & Kim
Grand **½
It’s too cute for it’s own good. Pop-rock that will definitely drive haters absolutely insane.

Neko Case
Middle Cyclone ***1/2
Nearing 40, the New Pornographers songstress still has the chops to sing and write songs with her strong follow-up Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. An enticing album that shows some artists can still kick ass as they age. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s hot.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart ****
The Brooklyn hype band sound like a combination of all the 80s British alt-rock bands, from Joy Division to the Smiths to My Bloody Valentine - a dash of Pixies - and they are mixed together to form the cutesy sounds of this band. Nice indie anthems that will definitely burn up college radio like “Come Saturday” and “Stay Alive”. The only dilemma I have with them is, can they manage to make a second album? A sophomore slump is inevitable with them.

Peter Bjorn and John
Living Things **
The post “Young Folks” slump continues for the Swedish trio with this missteps, chaning the sound with some cold electro pop. Well, they made it cold.

Slipway Fires **
Ugh… no comment on this album. Who cares about Razorlight? Seriously? Can somebody honestly like this band of pretty Brits and Swedes. Will make you grind your teeth on the first listen.

Titus Andronicus
The Airing of Grievances ****½
This brilliant debut from the Glen Rock band showcases the band as the next voice of indie. They have the personalities that create heroes. Seriously. Hyper literate anthems about the banality of suburban life ranging from dramatic to humorous. Just like the books and play that these boys ate up, they create an album full of drama, seat to the sound of Conor Oberst and My Bloody Valentine combining together to form a wonderful sound. Noise rock may be coming back, but this group stands out from the rest of the pack. To quoth Rob Gretton in Closer: “I am a believer of Titus Andronicus. Hallelujah.”

Women ****
Calgary, Alberta’s new band bring some minimalist punk. There a few “real” songs like the excellent and catchy “Black Rice” and “Upstairs”. Others have more of a vignette feel to them. Despite these brief blasts it’s still a compelling album.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs
It’s Blitz! ***½
Maturing can sometimes bite in the face of fine bands. The follow-up to the excellent and exciting Fever to Tell, Show Your Bones, confused maturity with being boring. It’s Blitz shows more confidence and shows that maturity doesn’t have to suck. There are still some kinks with Karen O and Co. but it’s a bright future for the trio.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I'm back

Oh man. I'm back after slightly putting this off for two months or so because of the complexities. I'm tired and glad I'm over college for the semester. However, I'm a bit apprehensive over this summer and not seeing my amazing college buddies, people with whom I worked with on their film sets and who worked on my sets. Thanks goes to you guys for this excellent year of school.

I have some loose plans for this blog. I want to draft some of my friends to be writers for this site and such. So keep your eyes peeled and look out for any potential new writers.

Also, I'm going to post up some quick, time-capsule reviews soon. Just need to think about ratings and reviews and such.