Tag Archives: Billboard

Is Jawbox Reuniting or What?

Ok, here’s the breakdown:

Today, Billboard had a little write up on Jawbox, which featured an interesting quote from bassist Kim Coletta on a potential Jawbox reunion:

“I’d love to,” Coletta tells Billboard. “It would be the coolest thing in the world.”

What’s this? Do explain!

Coletta says the Jawbox’s “Jimmy Fallon” performance will be “a safe way of seeing if it’s still fun to play together, or get back together. It’s an easy way to test the waters. I can’t say whether it’s going to lead to a full-length show or any touring, but we’ll see. We’re taking it one step at a time.”

Interesting… especially considering just a short while ago, J. Robbins told Buzzgrinder something completely different:

There were good and bad things about Jawbox, but we always held ourselves to a pretty high standard as far as playing shows. We would want to make sure we did it right, and we felt like we couldn’t take the time to do that. So that was pretty much the beginning and the end of the reunion discussion.

Odd… perhaps Robbins was just pulling our collective chain… or Coletta for that matter.

That’s the tough thing with all of these bands-getting-back-together-matters, and another reason why I really appreciate Fugazi’s extended hiatus: it’s a bit abrupt to just toss everything away and call it a day when who knows what the future may bring.

So, perhaps the band has been practicing together more since Robbins’ interview and they’ve collectively found their mojo, something to really work with, do a full show or a tour beyond Fallon. Perhaps. Let’s just say never say never.

Jawbox – “Savory”:

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“Utah… I Didn’t Know They Knew Music Out There…”

Breakfast at Sulimay’s is probably the greatest idea for an Internet-based TV program. Kudos to Philly’s Scrapple TV. Here’s what old people think of The Used (as well as KRS-One and The National):

The video player provided on the Scrapple Website doesn’t work with WordPress. Instead, click here and scroll to “The Lost Episode.” Below is a clip of the show from YouTube, sans audio:

 


Obviously, not much. Gotta love the old lady who’s so concerned about Bert McCracken’s backpack and who considers the music something out of Star Wars. Gotta wonder if what fans see in McCracken and Co is an allusion to Skywalker et al… it would explain the Billboard numbers…

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?

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Mix-Up

A still from Nick and Norahs Infinite Playlist

A still from Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

About a week ago I came across the trailer for the new Michael Cera-propelled film, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. The movie is aimed at all things indie in both film and music and although the plot seems thin, the brief clips from Nick and Norah have a down-to-earth sense of adventure to them that made movies like Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle so fresh and endearing. Something apart from the plot-points, character, and humor stood out in the trailer almost immediately. Take a look:

Catch that? Chances are, probably not. Like most perceptions of indie or emo or the mixture thereof, the archetype of the “sensitive guy” as a musician is overly used to describe both brands of genre and culture. True to form, chances are most individuals would have a hard time sorting out emo from indie or emos from hipsters/scenesters. While the lines for what does or does not make certain acts like Death Cab for Cutie or Atmosphere appear to be in the realm of emo, when a music-bred subculture enters the realm of cultural output beyond simply creating music, things get fuzzy. Real fuzzy. Especially with indie music, which in and of itself is more puzzling for folks to define than emo.

And so Nick and Norah provides a template for such confusion. Nick is billed as a “sensitive musician,” which, in terms of underground music, would push him in the direction of the realm of emo. But his attire (skinny jeans, band shirt, hoodie and a sports jacket) and the film’s soundtrack of choice suggests more in the direction of general indie music and Nick as the prototypical awkward hipster. Or scenester. Both are associated with the indie scene and are terms attributed to those great subcultures of America’s past. Scenesters and hipsters both use a form of bricolage to recombine music, clothing, and art into whatever the new subcultural creative tract currently is. In my mind, there is a slight difference between the two. A scenester is someone who generally chases after in-vogue underground movements, taking what they will and leaving the rest to the slaughter – basically, the malicious and elitist individuals involved in the underground culture. A hipster is someone who is generally in tune with the ideologies of a particular subcultural movement and a thriving part of that – someone who understands the positive movement of creativity and values that over fashion. It was the scenester more than the hipster who Max Bemis railed against in Say Anything’s “Admit It!!!,” a six-minute rant of a song calling out all the false pretenses of elitism prevalent in underground culture.

There’s a reason that Bemis would become so upset by the presence of scensters and why people often confuse emo with indie and vice versa. As indie is an all-encompassing term for independent music (however you may define it), emo is one of many genres that fits into that general sphere. After all, emo was a vibrant underground subculture a good decade and a half before it hit the top of the Billboard charts. And it’s been in the past few years, when both emo and indie have been vibrant presences beyond underground music, that some general sharing of cultural production would flow between the two shared-genres. And in that, the “sensitive musician” who was very much a vibrant part of indie music for some time (most notably in the guise of The Smiths, an act most people often confusingly attribute to being emo but who have nothing to do with the genre/subculture itself in their lifetime), became a defining part of emo. And the punk-panache of emo was welcomed into the fold of definition for various artists in the indie marketplace. And so the confusion tends to grow.

Building the Playing

Down in New York for the weekend, I decided to take a break from some ear-shattering concerts (short review: Deerhoof rocked Prospect Park, Parts & Labor absolutely killed it at Siren Music Festival) to check out David Byrne’s Playing the Building exhibit at the Battery Maritime Building in Manhattan. The instillation is a wonderful little experiment. Byrne rigged up an old organ and attached each key to a tube that then sets off a sound within different parts of the building. Each key either triggers the sound of banging, whistling, or vibrating in different portions of the structure, thereby creating the concept of “playing the building.”

There are various ideas encapsulated within the instillation that resonate within emo and numerous punk and post-punk genres, to which Byrne himself has been such a vibrant part of since he was a founding member of Talking Heads. The instillation is meant to be an exploration of music in that the sounds emitting from the organ are in no ways linear by classical standards of tuning or performance; while classically-trained musicians will find frustration in the process, those without any musical background and “non-musicians” should potentially use the opportunity to explore making music on such an open template. Whereas knowing how to play an instrument versus a lack of experience or knowledge is the first of many boundaries that helped create the olde world rock status that punk revolted against, Byrne’s installation destroys all those boundaries. If anything, it shifts those boundaries against those with formal training, making it frustrating for those individuals to attempt to create the kind of compositions they’re used to.

Aside from that, Byrne’s exhibit makes it able for anyone with access to said exhibit and patience to wait in line the temporary ability to try their hand at making music (or just plain noise) for a temporary amount of time. Part of what makes emo (and other punk genres) so appealing is that it’s focused on allowing every individual to make music by their own means (or rather, any individual who is up to the task of doing that). But hey, instruments aren’t like penny candy, and those are usually the first resources to grab in order to make music. With Playing the Building, all you need is a Metro card and the ability to sign a waver and you have your chance to make your own noise.

After a 20 minute wait, I tried my hand at “Chopsticks” and fooled around with the keys before quickly getting up, taking a good-humored bow for the patient folks who were behind me. Look out Lil Wayne, I’m about to grab your spot on Billboard.

EXTRA EXTRA:

TV on the Radio

TV on the Radio

More good news from the land of upcoming releases. TV on the Radio have announced the release of their next album! Due out at the end of September, Dear Science, should be another great addition to what has been a wonderful array of noise, punk, and art-rock releases for 2008. Never mind my usual attempts to discuss hype, but whatever you want to call this collection of underground music bubbling up around the country it’s looking to be big. The new new alternative? Maybe. Whatever the case may be, it sure sounds great.

UGK vs TV on the Radio – I Was an International Player (Hood Internet)

Lawrence And Cambria

Lawrence of Arabia is one of those movies your told, nay instructed, to see if you enjoy film of the sort. I knew it was epic, but I had no idea how epic until the big, bold “Intermission” stood on screen about two and a half hours in. Planning an intermission in your film? Now that’s epic. All told, I walked into Coolidge Corner Theater around 7 and left after 11. And the movie was everything I thought it would be, and not quite what I expected. The cinematography was wonderful – big, sweeping shots of the desert right from the get-go. The acting wasn’t overwhelming, just was simply well done through and through. It wasn’t action-for-action shots throughout the three-plus hours, but the tension that built on the screen boiled over in every image, making the time pass by without a stir. And its connections to real-time concerns with what’s going on in the Middle East today was, well, more than simple good planning. Every detail was meticulously pondered over, and for an epic effect.

The real T.E. Lawrence

In the world of emo, nothing is more epic than New York’s Coheed & Cambria. It certainly helps that the world is of no concern to the band; their four concept albums span a web of narratives in an alternative universe created by frontman Claudio Sanchez and the group itself is named after the story’s two protagonists. Throw in Sanchez’s alien-like falsetto, the band’s taste for grand prog instrumentals that span into the double digits, and a narrative that transcends tales of love at its very best, and you’ve got something downright epic in the emo scene now over-run with three-chord pop-punk flavored anthems.

Coheed & Cambria share some similar stylistic elements to emo forefathers Sunny Day Real Estate (most notably the unheard of falsettos shared by their frontmen and the melding of progressive instrumentation), though Coheed is at an absolute extreme to Sunny Day. Coheed are otherworldly by comparison; their concern with matters of an alternative universe (one which Sanchez has plotted out in comic book form), their instrumentals run at sometimes-comical lengths and include too many time signature changes to account, and their musical aesthetics are more connected to the realm of New Jersey’s Lifetime than any DC Dischord act. It’s so absurd, yet so unrelentingly plausible and popular that it makes for the most epic sound in modern emo and on the top of the Billboard charts.

Coheed & Cambria

Personally, I’ve had a hard time getting into Coheed’s last two albums. For some reason, whatever I listen to just seems devoid of the same cathartic expression and passionate performance of Second Stage Turbine Blade and In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3. Sure, some of the lengthier tracks on Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV Vol 1 run the gamut of musical menageries, but at some point the album seemed too absurd for its own intentions. It’s an excellent case for and against the idea of epic. When it all comes together in a creative and ingenious manner (see “Everything Evil” off Second Stage) it works wonders. But too often the beast becomes to big for its own good, and end in and of itself that is impressive more for its size than content; it loses the fresh vigor and zeal that drove it to such a passionate beginning. Coheed is traveling a fine line between both worlds. It’s not quite Lawrence of Arabia, but thankfully nowhere near Epic Movie.

Coheed & Cambria – Devil In Jersey City

Say Anything About Science Fiction

There’s something about the 4th of July that screams “joy”. It could be the way that folks file out of the woodwork to aimlessly meander around Boston in numbers that rival a sports championship parade. It could be the atmosphere of happiness that bounces off porches and front lawns, where normally reserved neighbors suddenly take to the near-outdoors to share a laugh and an afternoon. It could be the way fireworks careen through the streets of Allston the moment darkness sets in, a venerable battlefield of noises raging through the air. It could be the familiar smell of meat (and your garden variety of vegetables) wafting through the air, almost as if it’s every individual American’s right, nay duty, to fire up the grills and fill our stomachs. It could be the way that Boston turns from a normal city into a communal playground, the kind of place where everyone does indeed know your name, or at least act like they do.

Or it could be The Twilight Zone marathon on the Sci-Fi Channel. Seeing as I rarely indulge in TV on my own time and that the number of shows currently broadcasting aren’t what I’d pin down as “entertaining” (though I do watch my fair share of DVDs and random re-runs) it’s funny that of all the days of the year, I’d take the 4th of July to spend some quality time with the good ole’ Jawbox. I’d forgotten about the annual Twilight Zone marathon, and it wasn’t until I dropped by a friend’s cookout did it pop back into my head and on the TV.

Suffice to say, Rod Serling was a genius and the impact his program has had on popular culture and modern storytelling is pretty hard to underestimate. In just the first episode that I watched (of three), I saw shades of Toy Story, a better and more succinct version of what I think Lost is all about (truthfully, I’ve barely seen that show, and have no interest in continuing to watch it), and the strong influence of Samuel Beckett. Titled “Five Characters In Search Of An Exit,” the episode (part of which I’ve placed below) quickly reminded me just what made The Twilight Zone such an anomaly and a brilliant work of art.

Serling, like so many great artists, had his finger on the driving impulses of humanity. His work has the mark of absurdity, but in the way that what is accepted as normal within The Twilight Zone isn’t necessarily as absurd as what we accept in our reality. Just as many great works of science fiction point out the absurdity of the human condition through metaphors (such as George A Romero’s take on racism in Night of the Living Dead, although that is more horror than science fiction) or critique the absurdity of society (the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers and it’s critique of the red scare), Serling’s work struck a chord either with the paradoxes of humanity, the state of our society, or simply played on our individual fears.

Absurdity is a great and oft-dangerous tool in art. Use it well and you’re a genius; misuse it and your work suffers (one cannot forget Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales, which seems to both use and misuse absurdity in extremes; the film is a bumbling mess that’s both hideous and brilliant at the same time. Unfortunately, one half cannot be without the other). Of all the acts in emo, Say Anything is the one band to make excellent use of absurdity for the bettering of art (and sometimes, abuse it for the unfortunate nadir of art as well). People may complain about the state of emo today, but chances are, none have them would have bothered to pick up Say Anything’s 2004 effort …is a Real Boy (which was later re-packaged as a double album in 2006, with the second half labeled …was a Real Boy). The blogosphere is no stranger to hype, and hype is no stranger to frontman and perpetual mind of Say Anything Max Bemis, but …is a Real Boy is easily one of the best albums to come out this decade.

Still from the \

Epic, mature, humorous, brilliant, lyrically-intelligent, spellbinding, and yes, absurd, …is a Real Boy takes the idea of extremism in punk rock and hits it out of the park. For a first album, any band would be proud. But Say Anything is not any band, and Max Bemis is not any frontman. Here’s the skinny:

Max Bemis grew up in LA a punk-pop prodigy, told from a young age that he would be the next Bob Dylan. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a young man, especially one who would later be found to have manic-depression. After putting out some independently-produced albums, Bemis scrapped all of Say Anything’s back catalog to make something, well, epic. Bemis concocted …is a Real Boy as a great emo rock opera. Quite literally. Bemis even went as far as to recruit Stephen Trask, creator of cult sensation Hedwig and the Angry Inch, to produce the album and what was meant to be a giant musical production of the record’s songs in conjunction with its release. The overarching story is of a boy who is struck to breakout into song when he reaches some climactic and passionate burst of fury over whatever he was agonizing over. Musicals are easily the most absurd form of modern art (honestly, nobody simply breaks out into song and is joined by a massive, perfectly-choreographed chorus in order to express their inner thoughts and then simply act as if said moment never happened afterwards), but the songs on …is a Real Boy made it work. The way a punk lifer described his iconoclastic ideals through passionate bursts of song that made the critiques on reality just as absurd as the moment of intensity of the performance was flawless.

Too bad the musical never panned out. Bemis had the first of many psychological breakdowns during the wrap-up of the album’s production; he got in a fight with strangers on a New York City street corner, believing they were actors in a film about the production of his album. Several nervous breakdowns later and a career in danger and Bemis is found to have manic-depression. A number of years later and Bemis has signed a major label deal, has his videos on MTV, and (rightfully so) has found his work on top of the Billboard heap. Call it what you will, but I was disappointed with the release of In Defense of the Genre; it may have landed Say Anything at the top of the pops, but it was an example of absurdity in unfortunate extremes. A double album with only enough good material to fill a single side, In Defense of the Genre is a good effort, but merely an effort in comparison to …is a Real Boy. The idea of defending emo is excellent, and the cavalry of emo stars who fill out the album’s guest spots is great (such as Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba and My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way), and the (ab)use of a multitude of genre aesthetics is an interesting concept. But ultimately, the performance and the ideas fall flat. Still, it is a valiant effort, even if Bemis is much more concerned with love (most songs on In Defense of the Genre) than, say, rightfully bashing elitist hipsters (“Admit It!!!”).

Sometimes I wonder if the absurdity, nay, even the brilliant social commentary of Say Anything ever really seeps into America’s tweens. But there’s no doubt that Say Anything’s best work has a certain staying power that most pop cannot achieve. Hopefully somewhere in the middle of America those who pick up Say Anything after hearing it through some Clear Channel station will play …is a Real Boy years from now and understand what Bemis is getting it. Or maybe I’m just not giving these tweens the right credit. Sure, Warped Tour is ground zero for shameless product plugs and hours upon hours of pop-punk. But with the cathartic live experience of Say Anything – Bemis is halfway between Andrew WK and a white, male MIA – there’s no doubt that those messages critiquing society’s ails can reach someone.

I’m in a video mood, so here’s the video for Say Anything’s “Alive With The Glory Of Love”, itself a critique on the important aspects of life during times of desperation (listen closely to the lyrics):