Tag Archives: Pitchfork

List-less

Isn’t it a little to early for those end-of-the-year or end-of-the-decade critics list? Didn’t September just roll around? August hadn’t even ended before Pitchfork rolled out it’s top singles of the 2000s.

Doesn’t it all seem a little too, well, soon? It’s still just September! There are four full months left in the decade! Some kid in the middle of Mississippi could be making the best damn pop tune of the century with a jug and Garageband tomorrow, but for some reason the lists are done. Final. Sorry jug players of tomorrow, today’s history lesson is over.

I get why people make lists. It’s not even necessarily about “being the authority,” especially these days where anyone with an Internet connection and the ability to string verbs, nouns, punctuation, and numbers together with a complete thought can upload their list to every foreseeable computer. (Though in some small sense, anyone who makes a list wants to be the authority on their list.)

In most cases it’s because making these lists are fun. How do you think the guys in High Fidelity manage to get along each and every day without going ballistic? Top 5 lists! I know it’s fun because I’ve done it (on this blog no less). It’s especially fun to go back and see what you thought was the end-all-be-all of a particular year and how your tastes have changed over time. These aren’t the final word on anything. No way, no how. (Though consensus always brings “the classics” to the public, and you can’t go wrong there.)

But of course, that doesn’t mean I can’t get flustered at some lists. Take this one by Stephen Ortiz which cropped up on UConn’s The Daily Campus site: “Great Emo Anthems.” Whilest asking himself what the best emo songs of the past decade were, Ortiz came up with this list:

1. Taking Back Sunday – “Cute Without The ‘E’”

2. The Used – “The Taste of Ink”

3. Yellowcard – “Ocean Avenue”

4. Senses Fail – “Can’t Be Saved”

5. A Day To Remember – “I’m Made Of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?”

Huh?

What?

Really?

There are always things one finds questionable with lists like these. But I have to wonder what Ortiz was thinking with this list. Let’s just take a think here for a second. Take out A Day To Remember, because, really, what? And as far as Yellowcard, they were always considered widely to be more pop-punk than emo; that’s the “all sensitivity is emo” argument, and in that style of pop punk, wasn’t New Found Glory always considered to be more “emo” than Yellowcard?

What’s left? Nothing I could really consider top 5 emo anthems. “The Taste of Ink” may have been a hit, but it doesn’t place anywhere near top 5 (I’m surprised the band is still around to be perfectly honest). But “Cute without the ‘E’” was always something of a tune beloved by diehard TBS fans. And Senses Fail… I won’t bother there.

But are these anthems? Take a look at the definition of the word:

1 a rousing or uplifting song identified with a particular group, body, or cause : the song became the anthem for hippie activists.

I’d hardly call any of these anthems. I can think of 5 emo songs from this decade that are more anthemic to the general population (nevermind emo fans) than these songs fairly quickly. Let’s take a gander, and in no particular order:

Jimmy Eat World – “The Middle” (really, that song was inescapable in ’02)

Dashboard Confessional – “Hands Down” (wasn’t this the dude that made emo the thing at the start of the decade? Yes, I believe so)

Coheed & Cambria – “A Favor House Atlantic” (fairly inescapable in 03/04)

Say Anything – “Alive With The Glory Of Love” (is one of the few pop songs of the decade that had a 2nd life; once when it came out as a song on an independent record in 04, and then again when the album was reissued on a major label)

Taking Back Sunday – “A Decade Under The Influence” (dur)

See? Fairly easy. I even tossed in a TBS song more non-fans are probably familiar with. And this was all done without thinking what is a better song or a song I enjoy more, but instead what most people would call an anthem. There were so many great “emo” songs of the decade that any list would be missing some stuff. People will no doubt forget the Maritimes, Jeremy Enigks, Pedro The Lions, hell, even the Fugazis when making these lists… and well, that’s the way it goes.

I will probably make a list or two towards the end of the year. Probably nothing as monolithic as a “best albums of the decade,” because my rabid interest in music and knowledge of what was coming out every day wasn’t like what it is today. But, something will crop up. And I’ll be sure to have fun with it.

In Circles

When music-inclined and web-savy individuals open their browsers this morning and click over to Pitchfork, they may end up reading a review with this funny little quote:

What immediately strikes you about Diary is it doesn’t sound intended to be a gamechanger– even if it’s no surprise that one of emo’s most enduring documents is called Diary of all things. But even if it doesn’t break new ground musically, it signaled a new way to talk about the passion.

Does that sound, well, odd to you?

***

It seems these days everyone’s got a beef with Pitchfork. Either their “too cool” and ahead of the curve and used to read the site back when it was a lowly blog and now can’t be bothered with it, or they hate it’s newfound control over the culture of cool/hipsterdom, or maybe they just have never heard of it. Whatever. You can place me in some column of mild irritation. I appreciate a lot of what they do, and, for all their wreckless bashing of many a band that might not deserve it (and, hey, maybe even some that do), they’ve managed to make the world of music journalism translate into the Internet age and thrive, a feat among feats as the media self-perpetuates its own demise right next door.

The reviews are inevitably what it comes down to for people. (I hide no shame in saying that I regularly check the site for its news updates because, hey, I’m one person who can’t track every press release even when they hit my own inbox, so to see it marked up in a solid fashion ain’t too bad.) Rarely will I take a review at face value, and often I won’t even read them.

But, when I noticed the Sunny Day Real Estate reissues (Diary and LP2), I figured I’d take a gander. Of course they’d give it the “Best New Music” treatment: the folks at P-fork may have a select taste that has no use for 99.9% of emo, but they certainly can tell what has played an important role in our culture.

So it was a little dumfounding to read Ian Cohen’s remarks on the albums. Much like the quote above, I was a little confused by the review… not because he crammed so many gargantuan words where they need not be  (a problem of my own), but because he repeatedly seems to contradict himself. And not purposefully: I can see what he was getting at. But, it’s just… well, odd. To say that something isn’t “innovative” and yet completely changed things is just kinda like doublespeak. And I get what Cohen might be trying to get across: that SDRE took a combination of sounds from disparate scenes and communities and just put them together but that idea isn’t so much revolutionary as it may seem. I just fundamentally disagree with that statement, I guess.

Is this a case of Pitchfork trying to prove it’s might in writing it’s version of musical history? I can certainly see what Cohen is doing as a challenge-the-hindsight-and-historical-POV-about-SDRE type thing, but I really feel it falls flat. Reading, talking, and listening to the immediate community within which the band was wrought, there was literally nothing like them for miles around. Sure, zines and mailorders could connect music communities from across vast spaces, but it’s not like today where some kid can download kwaito and baile funke tunes and try and be the next Diplo. The Seattle scene which SDRE was geographically a part of was overrun with grunge, as it was ground zero. Most people looking for a break in the city must have looked stupid trying not to do grunge as that was what people asked for. So to say SDRE, who may have pushed a heavy and punk sound that was a brethren to grunge only in volume, wasn’t a gamechanger (for Seattle and the rest of the country). Well, you could call that a gamechanger.

Sunny Day Real Estate – “Seven” (Guitar Hero edition):

It Had To Happen…

I’m referring to a Get Up Kids interview featured on The Drowned In Sound website. Though it’s only been online for a matter of hours, it’s attracted a wave of attention for a rather misinterpreted quote that goes to the tune of GET UP KIDS APOLOGIZE FOR EMO on several other news sites reporting on the interview. It’s a rather brief moment in the conversation, but Get Up Kids guitarist Jim Suptic had this to say when pressed on the term “emo”:

Honestly, I don’t often think about the state of ‘emo’. The punk scene we came out of and the punk scene now are completely different. It’s like glam rock now. We played the Bamboozle fests this year and we felt really out of place. I could name maybe three bands we played with. It was just a sea of neon shirts to us. If this is the world we helped create, then I apologise.

Valid points, sure enough. Surely, I tend to appreciate it when bands generally refuse to bash groups that they’ve influenced, instead taking the high road and not delving into that subject simply to not unnecessarily stir any bad blood. What’s funny about all this is that Suptic really is speaking the truth about not keeping up with the state of emo. After all, what he’s describing sounds like scrunk, a sound that’s definitely indebted to and a part of the geneology of emo, but a creation that exists unto itself.

How do I know it’s scrunk Suptic is referring to? Well, the neon shirts are a dead give away. But so is the part of his following answer:

We at least can play our instruments.

Same ole’, same ole’. But, to each his own. I never particularly liked much of the Get Up Kids stuff to begin with… I can understand the role they had in both accelerating emo’s ascent to the top of the charts and providing support for the Vagrant business model, but most of their tunes I just can’t dig. But, as Suptic reveals in the interview, they certainly do fit into the 2nd wave emo lineage:

Fugazi is the reason I am in a band today. When I was 14 I heard Fugazi and started a band the next day. We grew up on indie rock. Superchunk, Rocket from the Crypt, Sunny Day Real Estate, Cap’n Jazz. That’s the kind of stuff we were listening to when we started.

Sounds familiar. And though Superchunk and Rocket aren’t emo bands, Superchunk is noted to have a pretty solid influence on 90s indie music, including emo (The Promise Ring anyone? That’s all Pitchfork could do when talking about TPR was to compare the two), and Rocket are a Drive Like Jehu offshoot of post-hardcore. Basically your out-of-the-ordinary ordinary roundup of influences for a second wave emo act.

This whole thing could potentially snowball into the Tim Kinsella vs Max Bemis free-for-all, though Tim had a more malicious rant against the emo acts he inspired, and Max had just as much venom when tossing insults right back. Good for Suptic for generally foregoing all the drama of attacking every band in Alternative Press and generally letting them be, even if he can’t give them credit for their music. Oh well.

The Get Up Kids – “Action & Action” (video):

VS

The Bamboozle fare… BrokeNCYDE – “40 oz” (video):

(Don’t Waste Your 500) Days of Summer

Caught a glimpse of this yesterday on the web:

500 Days of Summer + Sid & Nancy

500 Days of Summer + Sid & Nancy

The Cinemash idea – mashing up two distinct films into a “quriky” 3-5 minute byproduct – is particularly ingenious, and I’m sure it can’t hurt that MSN is behind the thing and able to hire the actors from one of the movies to play the parts. I’m looking forward to the upcoming Cinemash episodes, but the first one – mixing up 500 Days of Summer and Sid & Nancy is a pretty paltry affair that doesn’t move beyond the gimmicky idea behind combining the two films. It’s more one of the films being combined – 500 Days of Summer, the “hotly-anticipated” film, if you believe the waves of advertising behind it – is absolutely, rock-bottom terrible.

In April, I caught 500 Days of Summer at the Somerville Theatre, as it was screened as part of the IFFBoston. On that fateful evening, it was hard to verbalize my anger and resentment of the film beyond my hand doing a full-on collision with my forehead, repeatedly, while the film screened. Now, with some months behind me and the movie a week and a half away from opening up in theaters across the U.S., I think I might be able to articulate why I don’t like the film.

Just note, if you are considering seeing 500 Days of Summer, do not. With the price of movie tickets as high as they are, it would be a poor decision. Of course, the details are below. But, even if you heed my words with a grain of salt, I hope that you should at least observe them and try and understand where I’m coming from. Anyway, here goes:

In October 2008, The Washington Post‘s Ann Hornaday wrote a scathing article on the increasingly formulaized world of indie films. Entitled “From Indie Chic to Indie, Sheesh,” Hornaday was able to break-down the various variables and mathematical equations that, when combined just right, made an “indie film”:

Dysfunctional family? Try “Rachel Getting Married.” Disaffected teen? Meet “Donnie Darko.” Sexual taboos? “Tadpole’s” got ‘em. Sly references to pop arcana and sardonic humor? Go, “Rushmore”! Hipper-than-thou soundtrack? Listen to “Garden State,” it’ll change your life. Llamas and recreational drug use are optional. An overarching tone of ironic detachment is not: Irony is to the indie what the horse is to the Western and the rain-slicked street is to the noir thriller.

Hornaday had a point, but her article came too soon (Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, eat your heart out). Because the summer’s “biggest” “indie” “film,” aka 500 Days of Summer is the prime example of the formualized indie film, but in a completely homogenized and Hollywood lens. And it’s downright awful.

500 Days of Summer “boasts” the following pieces that have wriggled their way into indie films over the past decade or so (linked to the preceding, far superior film, where applicable):

*”Quirky” rom-comedy (be it Eternal Sunshine, Juno, Garden State)

*Non-linear style of storytelling (Eternal Sunshine)

*Narrative detours into the various character’s imaginations, films/images from their past, and various other sideline, eye-catching images (Amélie)

*Bright, colorful scenes, clothing, and images to match mood or simply standout (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, etc)

*Artistically-rendered and “unique” transition placeholders that match time of year/date with a particular thematic element (Juno, Rushmore)

*”Character-development” in supposedly “mundane” scenes (Lost In Translation, most films by Jim Jarmusch)

*”Quirky” indie soundtrack (Garden State)

*Unusual relationship with someone not the same age as the protagonist, wherein the main character derives something profoundly meaningful from the other person (in 500 Days, it’s Tom and his much younger sister to whom he goes to with all his life’s problems; Rushmore, Lost In Translation)

*”Quirky” female role (AV Club coined this term: Manic-Pixie Dream Girl, featured in movies such as Garden State, Eternal Sunshine, Juno, and practically anything some indie dude wrote)

*Little snippets of every-day talk that is meant to be something more meaningful (done with actual depth in some films by Richard Linklater)

*Scene in a karaoke bar where the main characters really connect (Lost In Translation)

*Random, yet somewhat consistent use of voice-over, sometimes ominous (used best in Adaptation, to a humorous degree)

*”Sweeping,” unorthodox cinematography that captures the city/surroundings of the film (Lost In Translation)

I could go on, but it’s exhausting. Truth be told, I could not find anything terribly unique to 500 Days of Summer at the end of the film’s screening.

So what’s so bad about a film that has all these elements? Truth be told, it’s sometimes forgivable when done well, but 500 Days of Summer isn’t done well – it’s a pure Hollywood, B-movie crap that’s pushed out every year, every month, every weekend, it no different than The Proposal.

The problem with this is that it’s advertised as something different, not your average film, not “A love story, but a story about love.” And that line says it all for the film; something that has the look of real depth, but is really hollow and shallow at the core. What does that phrase even mean? Not much quite frankly, and I’m not sure the people behind the movie even get it.

500 Days of Summer comes across like a vapid music video, one that sure is perty, but without any actual storytelling, character development, or memorable pieces to speak of. And yet, it tries so hard. Not to overly-criticize people, as I’m sure the folks behind the movie are probably quite nice and worked real hard on the movie. But, look at what they’ve done before the movie. Screenplay writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber only have one other completed film to their credit: the poorly-received and easily-damnable 2009 Pink Panther 2. Not even the original remake, the remake-sequel. And director Marc Webb’s previous works were straight-to-video movies about Jesse McCartney, 3 Doors Down, and some music videos. Not to downplay music video directors: some of my favorite films of the past ten years have been from former music video directors. But Webb is hardly Spike Jonez… hell, he’s hardly Zack Snyder. Snyder has a vision unique to him – albeit rather violent and often pretty shallow – but it’s a vision. 500 Days of Summer has, well nothing.

Take, for example, a few scenes in the film (note: potential spoilers ahead. No, they’re not cataclysmic, end-revealing spoilers, but mostly tell one scene. But, I feel better about warning you anyway. Read on if interested):

*Tom (the usually excellent Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel) are upset with one another. Summer mentions that they’re not in a relationship (occurs throughout the film), and Tom protests by mentioning all the things they’ve done together that couples do. He proceeds to talk about only three events, all of which the viewers have seen. At this point, it’s over 100 days into the couple’s knowing and interacting with one another. One would think that they’ve done more than three things over the course of 100+ days into knowing one another, and they don’t necessarily have to be shown. Even so, these scenes have, and it’s damn dumb to beat the viewer over the head with these scenes.

*Summer is telling something of great magnitude to Tom. But, instead of actually hearing what it is, the booming voiceover comes on and merely tells the audience that this is an epochal point in their relationship. So, instead of showing this interaction, the writers/director/whomever couldn’t come up with anything truly moving and had the voice over patch it up. Nice work.

*The Apple trailers site has a clip from the film, and it’s a bit of a throwaway, but it’s a pretty stand-in for the whole film. In it, Tom’s best-friend pleads with Tom to tell him something important because he’s his best friend. We learn this throughout the film, and it’s beat into the viewers’ heads mercilessly. Kind of like the following, so-bad-it’s-good film:

*Also, for someone who is Tom’s best friend, in a movie about “love,” why the hell isn’t the best friend’s girlfriend of umpteenth-years ever in the movie?

(End of potential spoilers)

Simply put, 500 Days of Summer has a lot of problems that bog down the story… if there was one. But it’s basically a dude-loves-girl-and-heartbreak-blah-blah-blah. Another film where a girl is put on a pedestal and doesn’t get much of a character (not that Zooey Deschanel can actually act… seriously, she basically talks in monotone and they work in an excuse for her to sing) and it’s all from the guy’s perspective. I get it, I’m a guy, but I’m surely tired of seeing movies that put women on some high up stage, give her a few tidbits for why they’re so great (she’s pretty! and likes Belle and Sebastian! marry me!) and nothing else. It’s been done to death. I don’t care, and the “film” didn’t give me any reason to care.

The one thing the movie does well is it is marketed well. Oh so well. That could be because it’s not, as they say, an indie movie. Sure it’s under Fox Searchlight, the “independent” branch of the Fox film juggernaut, but it’s got all the money you can toss at it.

It’s soundtrack, the key element for the focus of the film and people paying attention to the movie, surely has your indie greats, but a majority of the songs all come from a major label catalogue:

1 Mychael Danna and Rob Simonsen: “A Story of Boy Meets Girl” (self-released)
2 Regina Spektor: “Us” (Sire Records, owned by Warner Music Group)
3 The Smiths: “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” (recent greatest hits compilation released by Rhino Records, owned by Warner Music Group)
4 Black Lips: “Bad Kids” (Vice Records)
5 The Smiths: “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” (recent greatest hits compilation released by Rhino Records, owned by Warner Music Group)
6 Doves: “There Goes the Fear” (Capitol Records)
7 Hall & Oates: “You Make My Dreams” (RCA)
8 The Temper Trap: “Sweet Disposition” (No US label, but on Liberation Music in the UK, which is distributed by Universal Music)
9 Carla Bruni: “Quelqu’un M’a Dit” (Not available in the US)
10 Feist: “Mushaboom” (Polydor, which is owned by Universal Music Group)

11 Regina Spektor: “Hero” (Sire Records, owned by Warner Music Group)

12 Simon & Garfunkel: “Bookends” (Columbia Records)
13 Wolfmother: “Vagabond” (Modular, owned by Universal Music Group)
14 Mumm-Ra: “She’s Got You High” (Sony-BMG)
15 Meaghan Smith: “Here Comes Your Man” (Sire Records, owned by Warner Music Group)
16 She & Him: “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” (Merge Records)

I’m actually a little surprised they don’t have the original version of The Pixies’ “Here Comes Your Man” on the soundtrack, as Elektra is owned by Warner Music Group. But, there might be complications with all the label ownership/high fees for the song, all of which is beyond my own caring of major label-ownership-of-bands-catalogs. But, a high number of acts that are on/affiliated with major labels, which shows the connectivity/buying power of Fox Searchlight.

And Fox Searchlight has done quite a solid job of advertising the film, perhaps on levels greater than the folks behind Transformers 2. I mean, they’re giving out 500 cupcakes at a time through Twitter tweets. But, perhaps their advertising has been so overwhelming to me because I’m in their target demographic: young male with a taste for indie flicks. So Fox Searchlight has plastered the background of Stereogum, advertised on Pitchfork, The New York Times site, The AV Club website, and their connections and the “indie roster” of the film (both soundtrack and casting, as Joseph Gordon-Levitt has become one of the strongest actors in independent film as of late – just look at Brick) has probably gotten them the PR attention and landed the Cinemash deal.

And there just might be the one reason why I’m so implausibly upset at what is just some dumb movie:

They had hooked me.

They got me from that first teaser trailer:

I probably watched that thing a dozen times after I heard it did well at Sundance (hint hint, another popular “indie” point of reference.) The chord progression from The Temper Trap got me, hook, line, and sinker. And the images so pretty, it was all so well edited. Unfortunately, the film has half that equation: solid (but a little limp from time to time) soundtrack, and pretty, but bogged down by supposed-plot and an image that tries to be something profound but merely slinks away in shame. And that’s what I did after the film. I was shocked at how well an advertisement, a one-and-a-half minute advertisement, convinced me that, beyond all reasonable doubt, the movie was worth seeing. And was something better than the usual torpid sludge that’s trudged into theaters this time of year. And I was wrong.

This is why I hope anyone who can’t wait for this film based off of some selections from the soundtrack, their “love” of “Brand Name A” involved in the movie (another thing that ticks me off – the lavish IKEA advertisement for the film – does it have to be an IKEA? Why not, say some unbranded place?) or an actor/actress (which, in and off itself, is the Hollywood formula: place famous actor in some situation, make a lot of money), or the idea that the movie is a “great” “indie” “film.” It isn’t. And sure, in the end, it is my opinion, but I find it so hard that something so formulaic and unoriginal doesn’t appear to be when inspected by others as well. But, “this is not a movie warning, it’s a warning about a damn bad movie that, if it were to succeed, would only further the studios’ ideas to create even more formulaic indie films.”

Travis Morrison, Retiree?

tmretiresJudging by the ever-changing combinations of letters on his website, Travis Morrison has apparently retired from music.

Honestly, the whole thing seems a bit odd… perhaps the part where he says he’s relaxing in Brooklyn is a bit of a tip off… Same with the link merely to his Facebook page, a nice gesture, but nothing totally out of the ordinary (anyone who’s ever gotten in touch with him in the past would probably be able to tell you that he’s quite quick to get back to people and is quite down to earth and sincere.)

It all seems a little odd, but who am I to judge. And if it is some odd joke, it’ll be a bit funny that Pitchfork went along with it. I’ll be sure to ask Travis about it in my next round of interview questions for America Is Just A Word.

Passion Pit = Electronic-Rock’s Jimmy Eat World?

I rarely mention Pitchfork in the guise of this blog… I won’t go into great details, and I will admit it’s easily one of the best aggregators for independent-related music information, so I do visit the site regularly. But when it comes to reviews, I try to stray from their pieces. Yes, the Pitchfork writers are clearly intelligent, and are articulate… and yet, they voraciously dispense their harshest vocabulary upon criticisms of acts that don’t so much reveal what is necessarily “good” or “bad” about an album, but really display the reviewers’ own unkempt contempt for a particular genre or band. It often feels at times as if they choose a critic who’s distaste towards a musician far outweighs anyone else on staff to give a record its “proper” review.

So I stay wary of Pitchfork reviews. Granted, if one album gets the “Best New Music” seal-of-approval, I’ll check it out; Pitchfork has a select taste, and it’s good. But I’ll also be sure to take a peek at records that get trashed. After all, it doesn’t hurt one to look into a band – it hurts when you purchase the album to find out you hate it. I’ve enjoyed many an act that’s sustained Pitchfork’s wrath and many that have received their praise.

But one genre that never seems to get much respect is emo. Sure, Pitchfork loves the indie-established emo acts – to a point. Fugazi is always tops for them, Sunny Day Real Estate has done well (with the exception of The Rising Tide, though it does get a fair “ok” from em), The Appleseed Cast and Cursive fluctuate on the P-fork scale, and The Promise Ring managed to sneak in with Nothing Feels Good (only for their later material to get trampled).

But a band like Jimmy Eat World? They’re toast, put on a pedastil of emo in its worst essence and burnt to the ground. They’ve yet to achieve a good review from the site… and this isn’t even including the skewering that Clarity received that was less a review and more a transcribed taunt at all the bubbling stereotypes that were about to burst to the surface.

So I’m a little baffled with the introduction to Pitchfork’s weekly music pick on ABC. When describing Passion Pit’s Manners, Ian Cohen praises the group by saying:

What Passion Pit does is update a real passionate, really sincere, almost emo sound of the early 2000s like a band like Jimmy Eat World, and applies it to an electronic-dance sound.

Strange. He goes further in his review on the site:

Most of the time, singer Michael Angelakos’ half-eunuch/half-Jeremy Enigk voice is likely voicing some sort of commentary on his feelings. There’s an almost archaic belief that a record should have at least four singles and the nagging feeling that Passion Pit could just be another garage/emo band that traded in their guitars for samplers. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, just about all of this works in Manners‘ favor, as it’s the sort of heart-to-heart populist record that’s every bit as sincere as it is infectious– though Angelakos sings in a manner rarely heard outside of a shower with unpredictable temperature control, it feels symbolic of a band that’s completely unashamed, not shameless, in its pursuit of a human connection.

I’m sorry. What? Honestly, that is every bit as revealing of Cohen’s distaste of emo out of sheer blind-hatred than anything about Passion Pit’s music. The description that Cohen gives matches that of many a great emo act – I would hardly call Jim Adkin’s lyrics shameless… perhaps later on “not great,” but it’s sheerly “unashamed in its pursuit of a human connection.”

So why does Passion Pit get the go ahead? Well, it’s not emo for one – it exemplifies many a trait, but the band’s choice to do so with electronic music gives it something of an ironic twist, even in its sincerity. After all, the band was originally nothing more than a cute few ditties made from looped samples by Michael Angelakos for his girlfriend on Valentines Day. It was humorous and cute in its creation, and in many ways continues to be. Because the band doesn’t muddle in familiar musical antics that so many emo bands do, it’s a bit refreshing. And, again, there’s a bit of irony to bringing high-pitched falsetto to over-the-top love ditties. It gives it a twist that some may be able to stomach in a different sonic plane than in a guitar-based state. While it seems purely superficial done with three-chords and loud and noisy, for some reason, it’s high-hopes and dreams are matched with Passion Pit’s sound.

But, as is my interpretation of Cohen’s love of the band and not, well, emo.

As for my take? Well, I like them, but I’m certainly not over-enthusiastic about them. “Sleepyhead” is nearly-impossible to not get stuck in your head and enjoy… but the rest of Manners is up and down and doesn’t seem to have the same, well, passion as their single or a few of the other songs on Chunk Of Change. But, it’s nice to see a Boston band do well for itself; considering the mass of bands and music communities festering in this city, whatever gets any of the odder bands more attention because they’re from the same city as Passion Pit or any other band of the moment that’s cropping up from this town ain’t too bad.

Passion Pit – “Sleepyhead” (video):

Sunny Day Real Estate Reunion in 2009?

 

I hope this is real...

I hope this is real...

Twitter is beginning to become really beneficial… the news that Sunny Day Real Estate may be reuniting for a second time is literally music to my ears… History and influence aside, the ability to see Sunny Day on stage today would be a momentous occasion for those who still consider emo to be a viable genre. Considering the numerous groups that have been reuniting en mass lately, this would be a pleasant surprise.

This announcement, or Twitter-based, pre-potential-announcement leak from Brian Perkins, may explain why, just a handful of months ago, Sunny Day frontman Jeremy Enigk refused to perform any of the band’s material during a solo set at Great Scott. “I cannot play any of those songs without the rest of the band” was what Enigk announced after a flurry of calls to perform SDRE tracks. Considering he’d been known to perform the average Sunny Day song solo lately, and considering this little bit o’ news that’s come to fruition, I guess it does make sense that Enigk would refuse to perform any material from SDRE as they may be reuniting once again.

Fingers crossed…

In other Sunny Day news, Jeremy Enigk will be releasing his newest solo album, OK Bear, on May 12th. Pitchfork has the album’s single, “Mind Idea” available for download. Fans of Enigk’s Return of the Frog Queen should be satiated with this song, as it’s lo-fi quality and focus on darker musical tones is more reminiscent of Enigk’s older material than the musician’s slicker sophomore release, World Waits

Jeremy Enigk – \”Mind Idea\”

597-Way Tie For Most Eclectic Proposal

What could have been - fake cover for a famously rejected proposal

What could have been - fake cover for a famously rejected proposal

The 33 1/3 blog released the final list of the nearly 600 potential books on a wide variety of albums that Continuum received after the call for open proposals a little while ago.

Needless to say, it’s quite a list. It’s interesting to see what albums people are passionate enough about to fill an entire book, and think about numerous individuals (who most likely don’t know one another) who came together at the same entry period and wrote a proposal about the same record (Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville and Slint’s Spiderland got a lot of props).

Perhaps what’s great to see is the number of emo albums that have been proposed. In general, it’s a generous heaping of bands in the large arc of emo’s narrative. There’s Fugazi (who received numerous proposals from their discography), Lungfish, Jawbreaker, Jimmy Eat World, Say Anything, and (of course) Fall Out Boy.

Now, I must admit, I submitted a proposal too. Mine is for The Promise Ring’s 1997 album, Nothing Feels Good.

Nothing Feels Good Album Cover

Nothing Feels Good Album Cover

From the looks of all the proposals, it sure must be tough to choose 20 or so out of hundreds of great ideas. But, I’ve got my fingers crossed for my idea. And it’s not just because I am the one who wrote and worked on the proposal. Rather, I feel it’s record that needs to be discussed, and one that hasn’t had the proper opportunity to be carefully observed and thoughtfully written about in the thorough manner that every 33 1/3 book requires. Nothing Feels Good is still as astounding today as the day it was released (nearly) twelve years ago, and its impact on popular music today is equaled by a handful of other albums. Hell, even the folks at Pitchfork who frequently turn their nose down on emo acts and albums loved The Promise Ring’s sophomore disc. If that doesn’t show some middle ground between mainstream popular music listening (to which TPR has had undeniable influence over and certainly had an appeal towards, despite the indie circuit with which they traveled in) and elitist-leaning tastemaking, I don’t know what does.

Hopefully, the editors of the series will think so as well. And one of the first handful of comments sure gave me some hope:

Anonymous Anonymous said…
I thought pitching a book on the Hold Steady was a long shot, but the fact that there were two other proposals for Separation Sunday puts some of my fears to rest…

I appreciate seeing some of my high school staples getting pitched: 24 hour revenge, clarity, nothing feels good… I can, indeed, still feel the butterflies…

tw

2:21 PM

Good luck to everyone who worked hard to get those proposals in on time, and same to the Continuum folks who no doubt will have a lot of hard thinking to do!

They Said It…

Right on the button… The emo-inspiring (in pop terminology, that is) webcomic title of Pictures For Sad Children has some of the driest and most on-point sense of humor I’ve seen online. And the depictions of music blogs and obsessions with top 10 lists is pretty histerical, even given my own end of the year lists.

Still, the thing I love most about end of the year lists isn’t an incessant need to categorize everything, but rather reflect on some of the music/movies/whatever that I found particularly compelling from the past year. These lists are often attempts by many to stand the “test of time,” but in many ways they’re a great marking for an individual’s personal state-in-time. Looking back on some of my previous end of year lists, I see records I undeniably loved and still cherish, but I can see there are other albums that would have garnered higher spots and some records that mean more to me as a, dare I say it, nostalgic item more than “album # of whatever year it is.” Looking back, there are some albums I might dig up soon and give another re-listen (because catching up on music is a job in and of itself).

Largehearted Boy has a full listing of countless year end music listings, to which this blog was humbly included, so check out that site for all the music you could ever want and more. I will not even attempt to match what he’s done, but rather give something of a breakdown, matching where I placed my top 10 against other listings. Enjoy:

# 1: TV On The Radio – Dear Science,

#1: Ann Powers (L.A. Times), The A.V. Club, Chris DeLine (Culture Bully), Entertainment Weekly, Jon Pareles (New York Times), Josh Keller (Culture Bully), Michael D. Ayers (Billboard), MTV, Rolling Stone, Spin

#2: Edna Gundersen (USA Today), I Guess I’m Floating, Margaret Wappler (L.A. Times), Stereogum (Gummy Awards), NME, TIME, WOXY (Top Played Albums)

#3: Blender, New Haven Register, Tiny Mix Tapes, Uncut Magazine

#4: Alexandra Cahill (Billboard), Erik Thompson (Culture Bully), Greg Kot (Chicago Tribune), NPR Listeners Poll

#5: Amy Lindsey (KEXP), Justin Harris (Billboard), Cleveland Plain Dealer

#6: Pitchfork, Troy Carpenter (Billboard)

#7: Associated Press (Best Rock Albums), Nate Chinen (New York Times), Q Magazine

#8: Susan Visakowitz (Billboard)

#9: Cortney Harding (Billboard)

#10: Jessica Letkemann (Billboard)

#11: Chicago Sun-Times

#20: Mojo

#27: Drowned In Sound

#33: Amazon.com editors’ Best Albums

#50: Paste Magazine

General Favorite Listing: John Bush (Allmusic.com, top pop albums), Heather Phares (Allmusic.com, top pop albums), James Christopher Monger (Allmusic.com, top pop albums), Jason Kinnard (KEXP), Joan Anderman (Boston Globe), Kelly Hilst (KEXP), Limewire Music Blog, Sarah Rodman (Boston Globe),

Honorable Mention: New York Observer

#2: Why? – Alopecia

#1: Morgan Kluck (KEXP)

#6: About.com

#7: Drowned In Sound

#8: Eric Mahollitz (KEXP)

#10: Morgan Chosnyk (KEXP)

#11: Tiny Mix Tapes

#13: Stereogum (Gummy Awards)

#24: Cokemachineglow

General Favorites Listings: Kyle Johnson (KEXP)

Honorable Mention: Pitchfork

#3: Parts & LaborReceivers/Escapers Two

#5. New Haven Register

#6: Greg Kot (Chicago Tribune)

#9: Amazon.com editors’ Best Alternative Rock Albums

#12: Chicago Sun-Times

#25: I Rock Cleveland

#53: Amazon.com editors’ Best Albums

General Favorite Listing: Allmusic.com Best Noise Albums

#4: Sun Kil MoonApril

#1: Erik Thompson (Culture Bully)

#2: Jonathan Cohen (Billboard)

#5: New York Observer

#7: Robert Thompson (Billboard)

#8: Paste Magazine

#16: The A.V. Club

Honorable Mention: Pitchfork

#5: PonytailIce Cream Spiritual

#8: Blender

#12: Tiny Mix Tapes

#13: Fact Magazine

#50: Pitchfork

General Favorite Listing: Allmusic.com Best Noise Albums

#6: Neon NeonStainless Style

#7: Uncut Magazine

#11: NME

#28: Mojo

General Favorite Listings: Stephen Thomas Erlewine (Allmusic.com, top pop albums), Matt Collar (Allmusic.com, top pop albums),

#7: The Mae Shi – HLLLYH

#8: Baltimore City Paper

#18: Pitchfork

#8: The DodosVisiter

#2: Josh Keller (Culture Bully)

#5: Katie Hasty (Billboard)

#9: Chris Barton (L.A. Times)

#10: Eric Mahollitz (KEXP), NPR Second Stage

#12: Cokemachineglow

#23: Stereogum (Gummy Awards)

#24: I Guess I’m Floating

#39: Paste Magazine

Honorable Mention: Pitchfork

#9: Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires

#8: Drowned In Sound

#10: NME

#46: WOXY (Top Played Albums)

General Favorites Listings: Melissa Trejo (KEXP)

#10: Food For AnimalsBelly

Looks like it’s just me…

…then again, this list is quite short of “comprehensive.” And in the end, it’s ultimately the individual who chooses what they like, right?

Art With Flavor

Giddy would be a great explanation for how I felt when I saw this news release from Jagjaguwar:

We’re proud to announce that PARTS & LABOR will be releasing their new album, “Receivers,” on 10/21/08 here in the US and 11/03/08 in the UK.

Brooklyn’s Parts & Labor has become one of my favorite bands in recent years, and it’s been simply wonderful to see them grow as an artistic entity and in the eyes of the music community. In a handful of years and successive releases, they’ve turned from an anthemic noise act of uncompromising creativity into the center of a vibrant underground music scene in Brooklyn. With the release of Receivers in October, there is no doubt they’ll continue on their trajectory of making outstanding music. From the sound of it, they’ve already managed to do that. Pitchfork released the track titled “Nowheres Nigh” today, and chances are, P&L aren’t far off from joining a number of their critically-acclaimed contemporaries. The song is pure pop, but still contains those elements that make Parts & Labor such an anomaly; the clashing sounds of electronic blips float with ease atop shoegaze waves of fuzz, while Joe Wong maniacally bashes away on the drum-kit in the background and BJ Warshaw exemplifies the poppiest vocal work to rival any previous track the band has made. It’s a change-up for the band, but it keeps to their mantra of pushing their own creative notions.

old Parts & Labor live pic

old Parts & Labor live pic

I’ve been lucky enough to see Parts & Labor grow in time with a bit of my own maturation. While interning at Rock Sound magazine in London, I introduced the folks at the magazine to Parts & Labor after throwing their then-upcoming release (Mapmaker) onto the stereo. The staff instantly fell in love with the band as I won a little cred in their books; pretty soon I was interviewing Dan Friel for an “Exposure” piece on the band, no doubt bringing them into the homes of many new UK fans. A year later I had the pleasure of putting on a show with the band at Brandeis University; I was involved in putting on a lot of great shows in Chums coffeehouse (the venue of choice at Brandeis), but the Parts & Labor show was one of my favorites. A month ago I treked down to Brooklyn for the After The Jump Fest, where Dan pointed out what acts to check out, which included a set by newly-acquired P&L guitarist Sarah Lipstate’s solo project, Noveller.

I’m more than happy to say that I will also be a part of the next Parts & Labor album. While they worked away on Receivers, Parts & Labor asked fans to send in audio samples, leaving four questions as guides. I sent in a little something, and although I have no idea how they used it, the band has decided to use every single submitted audio sample for their record. Now if that’s not the sign of an inclusive, open community I don’t know what is. Of course, those ideas go hand in hand with Parts & Labor; besides the musical influence of punk’s past, the ideological influence of the DIY, hardcore and post-hardcore greats that filled the 80s is especially strong in how the band runs everything. And community, as strong as it is within the lineage of emo (and I shall write no more on emo and community for this post), is an especially strong aspect of Parts & Labor’s existence and coexistence. Friel and Warshaw even went as far as to create their own record label – Cardboard records – in order to release material from bands that they felt a strong ideological, musical, and personal connection to. Just as, say, Dischord (ok, I lied a little bit about two sentences ago) became an epicenter for a small, DC punk community, Cardboard has become a connection for like-minded musicians across the country. Just pick up Love and Circuits, a double album compiling all the bands that Parts & Labor has shared a communal bond with, and you’ll hear a fraction of the bands involved in the American art-punk/noise/whatever you want to call it community. Just as a record label, a venue, or a town can become centers of musical and cultural scenes, in their own way Parts & Labor – as a band and an idea – have also become something of a meeting point for a community.

The Cardboard Family

The Cardboard Family

Parts & Labor will be performing at Siren Music Festival this Saturday and Whartscape this Sunday. Make it to the shows if you can.

Parts & Labor – Nowheres Nigh

Parts & Labor – The Gold We’re Digging (video):