Friday, November 30, 2007

Elvis Costello - This Years Model

At age 16, in a musty record store attic, I purchased my first vinyl copy of This Years Model for $2. I had never heard a note of Elvis Costello's music, but I recognized his name, checked the copyright date (1978!) and was instantly attracted to the geeky but cool aesthetic of the cover photo. My turntable at the time, a pathetically cheap hand-me-down, was unable to play at a volume much above a whisper. Yet, with my ear pressed to the speaker, in Costello's frantic energy and lover's scorn I recognized a kindred spirit. He wasn't so much angry as pissed off and reflective.

Led by Steve Nieve's sharp edged organ lines, the Attractions' reckless energy is perfectly suited to Costello's breathless delivery. The whole album teeters on the verge of combustion. "No Action," immediately lets the listener know just where we're headed, as Costello spits "I don't wanna kiss you. I don't wanna touch/ I don't wanna see you 'cause I don't miss you that much." Ouch.

Halfway through side two, in the second verse of "Lip Service," Costello buries one of the best kiss-off lines in history:

"Don't act like you're above me/just look at your shoes."

So pissy. So perfect.

Witness the band's riotous attitude during their U.S. TV debut on Saturday Night Live. Scheduled to play My Aim Is True's "Less Than Zero," Costello chose to stop the song after only a few bars and instead broke into the then unreleased "Radio, Radio," reportedly much to the chagrin of the suits at both SNL and the record company.

A week later, I went back to that musty attic and picked up My Aim Is True. But that's another story...

Elvis Costello - Lip Service

Buy This Years Model at

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

CNN/Youtube Debate - Nov. 28, 2008

Sorry for the off-topic post, but it’s a must.

I just finished watching the CNN/Youtube Republican Debate and I’d like to make a few observations.

Let me get this one out of the way first. One of the Youtube questioners asked, while holding a Bible for the camera, “do you believe every word in this book?” Giuliani responded with the safe answer that he does believe it but that some of it has to be understood as metaphor and cannot be taken as the literal word of God and so avoided the damaging effect that a fundamentalist stance would have on his, or anyone’s, credibility as a rational human being, let alone a candidate for President.

Romney, however, took a different approach. He tried to take both positions. He first stated that he certainly believes the bible as the word of God. By saying this, while not saying so explicitly, he implicated that he believes the bible to be literally true. However, when pressed further by the moderator, he stammered for a bit, then backed off by saying that while he believes every word to be the word of God, some of it is surely meant to be interpreted as allegory.

Without getting too far off topic, I’d like to make the obvious, if beaten to death, point that if this is the case, how is it decided which parts are to be taken literally and which are to be taken metaphorically? Should I literally smite the inhabitants of a city of unbelievers? And if not, how does one interpret that metaphorically?

Politicians pandering aside, the more important point to be made is that it never occurred to either one of them that the only appropriate response to such a question is that a candidate’s religion HAS NO RELEVANCE IN PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE!!

I think this is appropriate:

Second, I’d like to address the failure of democracy in this country that is so blatantly obvious that no one seems to want to acknowledge it. Any two year old watching this debate, or any other presidential debate, could tell you that what we have here is a media spectacle that exploits the general public’s propensity for favoring entertainment over substance. Is it any surprise that the frontrunners got center stage and were given the majority of the two hours? You can check my numbers on this, but it is not a gross overstatement that Giuliani and Romney spent more time quibbling back and forth over the very first question of illegal immigration than Ron Paul was given the entire time.

Call me crazy, but if it is going to be scewed, face time should be inversely related to poll figures. How can we possibly have a democracy if the opposite is true.

If you doubt the media bias, I refer you to the following clip from an earlier debate. Listen for Sean Hannity in the background saying that Fox’s own poll is driving him crazy because the results indicate overwhelming support for Ron Paul.

Of course the poll in question was not scientific and was probably flooded with Paul supporters. But the media is constantly trivializing Paul, suggesting he has no chance of winning. Well of course he has no chance if all anyone hears about him is a dismissive/insulting remark made in passing by Sean Hannity.

Hilariously, the media has had to start taking Paul seriously after he raised 4.3 million dollars on November 5 of this year, setting a one-day GOP fundraising record. That's hardly indicitive of someone who has no chance of winning the nomination.

Listen. What I’m getting at is that now is the time to make a conscious decision to become interested in politics and it has never been so important as it is now. We are on the verge of something big, and we all have a vested interest in the outcome. Our generation could see the fall of the most powerful nation in the world. We have been witnesses to and accomplices of the most egregious acts of aggression abroad and have allowed the most potentially irreversible losses of freedom and liberty at home in the history of the United States.

If you’re interested in Liberty and freedom, you’re not going to find it in a CNN debate. Do your 2008 Election research on the internet. I’ll get you started with a couple clips of two candidates that I feel strongly about. I don’t agree with either one of them on every issue, but in the words of Elizabeth Kucinich, they are both “truth tellers.” And from what I can gather so far, they are the only “truth tellers” running.

Democrat: Dennis Kucinich

Republican: Ron Paul

And finally, since this is a music blog, I’ll bring it all together with the appropriately titled:

Arcade Fire – Wake Up

Buy it from or

/end rant

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Magnetic Fields – Take Ecstasy With Me

On the surface, this song is almost boring. But somewhere beneath the layers of cheesy synths and dry vocals, there’s a vast dusty labyrinth to be explored. It’s one of those songs that you have to have your eyes closed for in order to get the full effect. If you listen closely, during the chorus, the echoing of Stephin Merritt’s voice gives shape to the walls of a great underground concourse. Stand there in the middle for awhile, and look around.

The Magnetic Fields have a nack for establishing a specific mood in their songs. And although it's difficult to describe those moods or explain where it is that the songs takes you, the effect, when they are at their best, is overwhelming.

The Magnetic Fields - Take Ecstacy With Me

Buy it from or

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Citay - Little Kingdom

Little Kingdom is a guitar lovers album. Before you run away, this isn't the guitar shreddery of the Eddie Van Halen pentatonic-finger-blister variety. Instead Citay focus their energy on interweaving guitar lines that move the listener into an otherworldly headspace. This is an album where the individual songs come together beautifully to form a cooperative whole. Imagine a campfire version of Television and you’re almost there.


Citay - On the Wings

Buy Little Kingdom at

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Saturday Looks Good To Me - Fill Up the Room

Pop music contains a long line of “cracked” geniuses, artists who take the simple structure of a pop song and find creative ways to invert them without losing their hummability. Brian Wilson’s post-Pet Sounds output is the obvious touchstone, but more recent artists like the Microphones have created lofi headphone pop that leads the listener into a scattered but transcendental head space.

With Fill up the Room Fred Thomas has officially laminated his membership card for this very special club. Previous Saturday Looks Good to Me albums were full of instantly likeable retro pop, but this time around finds each of Thomas’s tunes overflowing with different ideas pulling in every direction.

The album opener, “Apple,” uses a doo-wop chord progression as a jumping off point as it builds into a symbol crashing barroom sing-along. The hyperactive strumming of “When I Lose My Eyes” perpetually sounds like it’s on the verge of collapse yet manages to sustain its momentum for nearly 7 minutes. Buzzing spy movie guitars prevent “Make a Plan” from sounding like the otherwise simple folk pop that falls behind them. The albums only track not sung by Thomas, “Hands In the Snow,” uses Betty Marie Barnes’s sweet voice to contrast the fuck off message of the lyrics.

With a move to K Records and a less immediate sound, Saturday Looks Good to Me may lose some fans but are poised to connect with many more. This is the kind of album that leaves me to wonder, “What’s next?”

Saturday Looks Good To Me - When I Lose My Eyes

Buy Fill Up the Room at

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Menomena - Muscle'n Flo (live)

While we clear up some bandwidth issues, please enjoy a live version of one of my favorite songs, courtesy of Juan's Basement and Plum TV. If you don't know this song, then we can't be friends, and in fact, I don't want to know you...unless you hear it, decide it's also one of your favorite songs and swear your undying allegiance to it.


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Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Clean - Anything Can Happen

As I've mentioned previously, I have a soft spot for kiwi jangle pop. I just stumbled upon this vintage video for the Clean's "Anything Can Happen" via the Merge Records blog.

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Mum – Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy

I’ll apologize ahead of time for the gratuitous use of acronyms.

It’s taken a solid month or two, but Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy has finally nestled itself into a cozy place in my heart. I’m not sure why it took so long. In fact, I wanted to like this album long before it was ever recorded.

A little self disclosure: my only previous experience with Mum is their 2002 release Finally We Are No One. And my take on that album is that there are two songs that make the whole thing worth having: Green Grass Of Tunnel and We Have A Map Of The Piano. Experimental glitch pop is the best way to describe FWANO. And although Kristin Valtysdottir’s childlike, delicate croon makes the album better suited for closet listens - “er… no I wasn’t listening to that, I was trying play, um… Rancid. Yeah, Rancid. And then I was going to, uh, get a tattoo. On my balls.” - those two songs will live long on my future playlists and rank well into the double digits of my all-time favorites.

I think the reason why Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy took me so long to accept is that it is so different from what I was expecting (granted, I missed a couple releases between FWANO and GGSTPI). The glitchiness is still there to an extent, although it is much less pronounced and is more of a fucked-up start-stop percussion section rather than the pops-and-clicks from FWANO.

The most notable difference, which is likely a result of the radical change in members since the 2002 setup, is that Mum sounds more like a band now, as opposed to an experimental, synth driven outfit. Where the music once felt cold and sterile, there is now warmth and fluidity with brassy instrumentation at times not so dissimilar to Broken Social Scene.

And while I don’t foresee any of the songs on GGSTPI making it onto my all-time list, the album, as a whole, turns out to be far superior to FWANO.

I'm recommending both albums so here is a sample of each:

Finally We Are No One:
Mum – Green Grass Of Tunnel
Mum – We Have A Map Of The Piano

Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy:
Mum – Blessed Brambles
Mum – Guilty Rocks

Also check out this killer performance of We Have A Map Of The Piano:

"I'll close my eyes and bite your tongue."

Available at and

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Ravens and Chimes - Reichenbach Falls

Quick, name a band from New York City. Strokes, LCD Soundsystem, Television, Interpol...just in case you needed help.

Certainly Wolf Parade and Arcade Fire aren't two names that immediately jump to mind. They are the first two that I thought of while listening to this album. Ravens and Chimes lists Wolf Parade as a band that they enjoy, and rightfully so, as it shows through in their music (that's a good thing). I don't mean to make it sound that they steal from or mimic the fine fellows from Montreal, because they don't.

Ravens and Chimes' music is music that makes you want to dance. That is not necessarily because it is full fledged dance music, though it does err that way on occasion. Simply put, it is fun. Having a bad day? Put this on. Your girlfriend ran off to join a hippie commune, leaving you to care for her pet ferret? Put this on. You dropped your wii controller in a jack and coke? Put this on.

I think you get my point. I don't want to confuse you though, this is not syrupy pop music that will lighten your mood. It's music that will share a mood with you (I promise that will make more sense after you listen to this).

May I recommend:
General Lafayette! You are Not Alone
So Long, Marianne (Leonard Cohen Cover)

Buy it at Amazon.

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Monday, November 5, 2007

Battles - Tonto

A couple of months ago Sam and I discovered Battles and their video for first single 'Atlas.' After watching that, we realized that we had to find out more. First there was the groove heavy, almost jam-like quality to the music. I would've written if off as jam rock for indie kids if there wasn't so much to their music. WIth a gabillion (yeah I made up that numberm so?) layers of sounds, and the oddest voice modulation I've heard in quite some time, I thought I'd realized why I liked it so much...then we saw the drummer's crash cymbal set up about eight feet tall. Yep, you heard right.

We then spent the next half hour or so trying to re-create it on Sam's drum set only to realize that it is invoncenient and unstable.

What's my point you are probably wondering. Well, it's simply that Battles is kind of out there at first, but even with all that doesn't make sense about them, there's too much to get interested in. That is most evident in the video for 'Tonto', which turns out to be one of those songs that you can't listen to without thinking of the video; thanks to the talents of proclaimed light artists UVA (United Visual Artists).

I hereby implore you to get this video stuck in your head:

Battles - Tonto

Buy the album at Amazon

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Sunday, November 4, 2007

Simply Saucer - Cyborgs Revisited

I can only imagine what the residents of Hamilton, Ontario made of Simply Saucer back in the mid-70’s. Their music, a blend of Velvets stomp with Syd-era Pink Floyd weirdness, still sounds a bit off-putting. Straight forward rock songs quickly shift into Theremin led discordant freak outs. The groove heavy “Dance the Mutation” could have been the most fucked up dance craze ever. “The Twist” for the kids who ate acid instead of cereal for breakfast. While “Instant Pleasure” is a freak beat sex romp sing-along that clocks in at less than 2 minutes (without any lyrics past the first 45 seconds). “Bullet Proof Nothing” is the album’s pop song as Edgar Breau begs to be treated like dirt by the object of his desire. His straight-faced vocals sound as if he’s the only one not in on some sort of joke.

Much like the Velvets before them, the few that actually heard this record the first time around couldn’t have helped but absorb Simply Saucer’s influence.

Simply Saucer - Dance the Mutation
Simply Saucer - Instant Pleasure
Simply Saucer - Bullet Proof Nothing

Buy Cyborgs Revisited at

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Saturday, November 3, 2007

Sigur Ros - Svefn-G-Englar

I was thinking that if I had an apartment directly above Sigur Rós’s rehearsal space, my dreams would be a lot cooler than they are now. They would, at the very least, involve considerably more floating.

Plus, the intense blue light that, I’m certain, pours from the crack underneath their door (that blue light follows them wherever they go… concerts, rehearsal, Taco Bell, etc.) would look sweet bouncing off the bricks across the alleyway and back in through my window, saturating the ambient fog in my bedroom. Because, of course, I would have to get a fog machine.

Check out this (superb quality) performance of Svefn-G-Englar from 2001:


Sigur RósSvefn-G-Englar

Buy Sigur Rós at or

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Covers: Grizzly Bear - Knife

First, a bit of a preface; I would like to make this a regular entry, as I find it interesting when bands cover their contemporaries, as opposed to giving a new spin on old favorites. I have a few in mind, but suggestions are always welcome.

One of the best songs in the past five years is receiving its due by being covered, seemingly, incessantly. A few of the culprits being CSS, Born Ruffians, Girl Talk (Sort of), and Beirut.

The CSS and Born Ruffians covers of Knife are solid efforts, which leave the original feel and arrangment essentially intact; of course they sound a bit different, as you neither band is what I'd call comparable to Grizzly Bear. The Girl Talk cover, and I use the word cover loosely in this case, takes Knife and welds it together with Clipse single 'Wamp, Wamp', and the beginning percussion from 'Shout' by Tears for Fears. Anything involving Clipse is a winner in my book, so I fully endorse the Girl Talk version.

Check out this surreal and amazing picture courtesy of Broolyn Vegan:

Yes, Clipse + Girl Talk + Dan Deacon + Grizzly Bear = Awesome

Sorry, back to the entry...the Beirut version is also a bit less than a true fleshed out cover, but it is worth viewing and ejoying (courtesy of LaBlogtheque):

Check 'em out:
Girl Talk - Knife (Remix)
CSS - Knife
Born Ruffians - Knife

Download the artists at Amazon or emusic.

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Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Pale Blue Dot

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.” – Carl Sagan, The Pale Blue Dot

We know very little about each other, reader. We are strangers. In fact we do not even enjoy the simple privileges that most strangers do; like being able to look each other in the eyes, or engage in a dynamic dialogue. Unless you leave a comment for us, you are simply a statistic on our site meter.

Bear with me. I’m going somewhere with this, I think.

The universe is incomprehensibly vast. That you and I should find ourselves together on this planet, much less this website, is, at the very least, unlikely. That the molecules you are made of have gathered themselves in such a way as to be able to contemplate the molecules I am made of is downright absurd. Nevertheless, our consciousnesses meet here, for a moment. Lest I should squander this opportunity.

Listen. It is my moral obligation to pass this along. I hope that whatever trust we’ve built so far will not be damaged when I say this. And I won’t say it often, but this is…

A must watch:
(stick with it, it gets good!)

The voice you hear is Carl Sagan himself, author of The Pale Blue Dot. The music is Mogwai’s Stop Coming To My House.

In the words of this film’s creator:

This is not meant to be nihilistic or defeatist. Rather, it should inspire us to make the most out of our brief stay here on Earth. It is a scale on which to measure the insignificance of our differences and magnifies the importance of our similarities.” - Pale Blue Films

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for humoring me.

Mogwai – Stop Coming To My House

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