Tag Archives: Radiohead

I’ll Sing Anything for a Buck…

Nine Inch Nails/A Perfect Circle drummer Josh Freese may have grabbed headlines for his unusual promotional tool for promoting and covering the costs for his new album, Since 1972. For a certain price, you could get anything from a digital download of the album ($7) straight to a weekend with the man himself, mini golf with members of Tool and Devo, and a couple of songs about yourself for a measly $20,000, which one 19 year old was more than happy to pony-up for. Call it the Radiohead/NIN/whatever model on speed.

Well, Freese certainly isn’t the only one of trying to figure out how to make ends meet in the new age of music. Freese made the idea to focus on connecting music directly with the fans, but hand it to an emo artist to make it truly accessible. Always focused on connecting with fans, Say Anything‘s Max Bemis has opened his guitar case to his legions of fans with a little cash in hand.

picture-15

All you need is $150 and it’s all you’ve got a song all to yourself. Well, sort of…

Max’s heart is in the right place, but his contract isn’t. The concepts that drove bands like Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, and even Jimmy Eat World (post-Clarity posting of demos on Napster and recently with Clarity Live) were/are about challenging the way music is heard and consumed in our society. But therein lies the problem with the Say Anything song-about-yourself query. Just take a look at the terms and conditions:

 

“All songs are written by Max for you. Max and his record label retain all rights to the songs and you do not have permission to sell MP3’s, CDs or any other format known or unknown in this universe or any other. This is strictly for personal use by you and your dead dog.

Max didn’t want his team of lawyers to feel left out so we have asked them to further explain some rules and regulations, if you want your song you will need to agree to the following:

For good and valuable consideration, the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, you agree that Max and his successors and assigns will own all right, title and interest to the songs delivered to you, and RCA Music Group and their successors and assigns will own all right, title and interest to the master recordings delivered to you as a work for hire (such songs and master recordings are referred to below as the “Works”). These retained rights to the Works include the worldwide copyright and any and all renewal and extension rights, and the unrestricted right to use and exploit the Works by any and all means through any and all media now known or hereafter devised, either alone or coupled with other materials, without any payment to you. You agree that you will use the Works only for your personal listening pleasure, and you will not copy, sell, distribute, publicly perform or exploit the Works in any manner whatsoever. Without limiting the foregoing, you will not make CDs or MP3s of the Works, you will not put the Works up on any website, and you will not allow the Works to be used in any manner that would allow any peer-to-peer access.”

 

Really, even though the song may be about you, if that’s what you want it to be about. But it won’t be your song. You’ll get a copy sent straight to you, with all the thoughtfulness that Max can no doubt squeeze out. But “your song” will belong solely to the RCA Music Group, not you. Even though it’s yours, you cannot burn it or share it with friends… technically when you own something, you should therefore have the right to do whatever you want with it, especially if you paid top dollar for said product. And sure, it makes sense to not sell or otherwise distribute the song for money, but to allow RCA to have the power over the song and to be able to distribute it themselves in whatever manner they please is a bit disconcerting.

It’s with something like an RCA contract agreement hidden in the terms of service that really makes the entire concept kind of a moot point. What happens when fifteen friends decide to chip in $10 each and buy a song? Do they have to choose which friend gets the song, or risk breaking the contract by copying it for one another?

Still, I’m quite torn about the entire thing… the terms of agreement would invalidate the entire concept. But, Say Anything certainly has grown into one of the better bands today, amassing a fan base it certainly deserves. That said, $150 is perfectly reasonable for the man behind the band to cook up a song for you. Hell, I’m even considering it, despite the objections I’m posing. No, I wouldn’t want a song about me, though I appreciate the idea wholeheartedly; it reminds me a lot of the role of the griots, who were musicians in West Africa that served under the royal families and memorized elaborate royal histories and recited them through song. Except this is much more democratized. And the small fee for a band that still holds a special place in my heart and who’s …Is A Real Boy remains one of my favorite albums to this day. I’d be willing to swing that much, even with the massive chunk it would take out of the small amount of money I have. But if I can’t burn it on a mix for friends, what the hell would I do with a $150 song? I’m all about sharing the joy of music – that’s one of the reasons this blog exists!

Perhaps I could go with The Cocker Spaniels for my personal-music fix: for as low as $25, the band will write a song that incorporates an idea you have. Pay a little more, and you’ll get a little more (including a percentage of royalties made off the song’s sales), and all the proceeds go to sustaining the musicians themselves, which is what the entire concept behind all of these new experiments with setting-your-music-prices is supposed to be about – sustaining the artists without ripping off the listeners!

It all feels a little too much like self-referential window shopping, though, there’s not much interest in injecting my personal life into anyone else’s work. Though, unless Max Bemis would want to write a song about America Is Just A Word. Now that’s just meta. Max, if you’re interested and want to use the potential song for some YouTube clip or whatever the hell you want, just drop me a line! Otherwise, I’ll find some way of gathering $150 to get Max to make a song about the plot of Infinite Jest (and there’s a nice way of getting around the 2 paragraph maximum description they ask for… and the book would operate as a footnote to the description… making David Foster Wallace proud as ever!)

Maybe It’s Called “Grammy” Because It’s For Old People…

I didn’t even bother watching the Grammys (nor have I in the past… well, who knows), because, well, for one thing, I rarely go out of my way to watch TV (especially on a Sunday night). But for one thing, of all the inumerable awards out there, the Grammys seem most meaningless; they toss aside critical flavor and often consumer favor for boomer taste. If you were to look at the nominees for many of the awards this past year, then yes, you may have to contend with the idea that 2008 was a lously year for music (especially considering the big winner of the night was an album that didn’t even come out this past year). And sure, Lil’ Wayne got a lot of awards, but they seem tailored for his genre and not his proven artistic merit… after all, they have so many hip-hop-based awards, somebody has to get them. (Not to rag on hip-hop, but rather the mindset of the award categories and concept… the hip-hop category appears to be the only one that does promote forward-thinking and inventive musicians on a mainstream level.)

And this is far from a unique complaint on my behalf. Just look at The New York Timeslive blogging from when Robert Plant & Alison Krauss won the big one…

 

“11:23 p.m. | Album of the Year — Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, “Raising Sand”

Dave: Come on, you knew it.
Jon: I mean, what can you say? I did indeed know it. It just would have hurt to say it.
Dave: Is it really that bad a compromise?
Jon: Let’s think of some collaborations we’d assemble next year to win a Grammy.
Dave: Mick Jagger and Cat Power?
Jon: Julian Casablancas and Iggy Pop.
Dave: M.I.A.’s baby and Aretha Franklin.
Jon: Pretty sneaky, sis!
Dave: But back to the question at hand — is it that disappointing a victory? It could have been Coldplay…
Jon: I’m not disappointed in the music, only in the inevitability. I mean, next year, let’s dispense with pretense and nominate five albums for the NPR/AARP set.
Dave: This can’t be seen as a crossover album, one that reaches out to older listeners and, um, medium-age listeners?
Jon: Your great-grandparents, and your grandparents!
Dave: My parents and me? I like Zep, they like Zep. It’s a start.
Jon: Not my parents and me. I appreciate your Yes We Can attitude!
Dave: Next time you want to talk about your parents, I’m charging you $125 an hour.
Jon: It’s not that the Grammys need to surprise or shock, but more that they need to reflect what’s actually happening in popular music. Otherwise, they run the risk of becoming a niche event. $125? That’s a bargain.”

 

Talk about nasty! And these guys aren’t exactly spring chickens to boot. (Just check out this hilarious annotated review of The New York Timespiece by the Fader on a Wavves show from this past weekend – the kind of gig that would seem to appeal to the most notorious vinyl diggers and uber-hip and not the middle-to-upper-class readership that NYT is famous for garnering.)

But their message is clear, and it’s something along the lines of “this is a farce. One big, giant stink that basically curtails the idea of an awards show celebrating current music, another bland attempt to celebrate the bygone eras, no matter what the music they produce today sounds like.” I could go on, but there’s plenty in there for another combination. But in essence, you don’t have to be some rabbid fan of indie, emo, hip-hop, reggae, salsa, klezmer, jazz, blues, funk, soul, R&B, world music, or even rock to notice that there’s something wrong when one of the only albums of this decade to sell over a million copies in a day (Tha Carter 3), a record that broke taboos for consumption and distribution while breaking online sales (In Rainbows… though it was released in 2007), and a couple of equally popular current pop acts are beat out by a baby boomer choice record that came out a year previously and also won “Record of the Year” despite having no discernable single released (according to Allmusic). It just doesn’t quite make… any sense really. 

In closing here’s the only thing from the night that I’ve been able to view on YouTube, and only one of two that I probably would’ve enjoyed seeing live on TV (the other being the performance of “Swagga Like Us”). And because this is YouTube and all, I was hoping to have been spared the introduction, this time an unfortunately horrendus ode to Radiohead’s brilliance by Gwyneth Paltrow (we understand you love ’em – your husband has made a career of trying to sound like them). Anywho, here goes:

Top o’ 2008

THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2008 (and other things)

So, like any music-related blog, here’s a listing of my top albums this year. Some of it may seem a bit odd and arbitrary, but there’s some backings to my orderings. But, it’s all merely numbers – I’ve enjoyed all these albums throughout the year, and completely numberless. However, for the sake of order, here’s the list…

 

35. AmpLiveRainydayz Remixes

Here’s a great album remix concept that works out all the way through. Rather than simply mashing up In Rainbows with another album, AmpLive rearranges the Radiohead tracks into completely new and downright great hip-hop songs. Del’s track (“Videotapez”) is one of the best hip-hop songs of the year.

34. High Places03/07 – 09/07

It’s a bit random, but this selection of songs recorded by High Places made from March to September of last year is, if anything, a mark at how great this band can be. “Head Spins” and “Jump In” offer up some fantastic experimental pop songs, bringing some heft to the album of mostly-studio experimentations.

33. Future IslandsWave Like Home

Comparisons are pretty easy, but in this case, it’s impossible to ignore. Baltimore’s Future Islands sound a little something like if New Order used cheap laptop technology for their electronics and were fronted by a slightly subdued Iggy Pop. “Old Friend” is perhpas one of the most endearing beginnings to any album this year.

32. Fuck Buttons Street Horrsing

Listen to the first two tracks and just try not getting hypnotized. Experimental-art-whatever-kind-of-rock that’s quite pallatable.

31. Lil WayneTha Carter III

I’m not sure what convinced me about this record. Oh wait, it could be the brilliant minimalism of “A Milli” and Wayne dropping rhymes like “you drop em cuz we pop em like Orville Redenbacher.” Now that’s an imaginative and oddball line for you.

30. AtmosphereWhen Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold/Strictly Leakage

Sure, Slug’s fit of anger may have become… well, sluggish. But he’s surely got more to offer, as seen on When Life Gives You Lemons. Although there are some rough patches here and there, Slug melts his tales of woe and wisdom of everyday folks with Ant’s increasingly experimental neo-soul. Guest spots from TVOTR’s Tunde Adebimpe and Tom Waits sure do add to the mix. The free Strictly Leackage is a bit of a toss-away in comparison to the large amount of Atmosphere material out there, but pump those beats and you really can’t go wrong.

29. The Very BestThe Very Best Mixtape

This mixtape might be a little higher to the top if it weren’t for the fact that many of its best tracks are simply recylced instrumentals that are quite recognizable… then again, that is part of the appeal of most mixtapes. Even so, Esau Mwamwaya’s skillful flow brings a newfound musicality to the over-used Clash sample on “Paper Planes”… now, if I only new what he was saying…


28. FoalsAntidotes

When I saw Foals in a tiny club in London back in 2007, I was sold. But when Antidotes was released, I didn’t pick it up. Actually, I still haven’t. However, I’ve heard plenty of the album, and after having a sizeable amount of distance from the material and the British hype machine, I must say the things that brought me to the band are still there. There’s the quirky math-minimalist streak, combined with an ambience I originally pushed off in search of more post-punk punch but does the trick. If only some of the songs stood out a little more on their own, or rather, didn’t appear to repeate the tropes of other tracks, this album would have been in the top ten.

27. Pattern Is MovementAll Together

Punk drums and church-like organs with operatic singing, and tons of positive feedback. How can you go wrong?

26. Hercules and Love AffairHercules and Love Affair

The sound of Hercules and Love Affair breathes disco, but it seems to be missing part of the free-for-all effervescence that fills the best tracks of that era. But considering that the large majority of songs from that era get increasingly hard to listen to, consider HALA a neo-disco best of. Some of these songs are that great. Hats off to Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons, who’s trumpet-like warble makes the albums best songs.

25. Apollo Sunshine Shall Noise Upon

Like the Beatles? Like classic rock? Anti-folk? Country? Jam? “Indie?” Well, it’d be best to run out and pick up this record immediately. It’s great to see Apollo Sunshine constantly producing great music, and their work in the studio has certainly begun to equal their live presence. What’s the worst thing about the record? The fact that it hasn’t been getting its proper due.

24. Kanye West808s and Heartbreak

Here’s what my friend had to say to me about this album while arguing about it the other day:

“He doesn’t rap!”

“It’s all electronics!”

Now, on paper/screen image, it’s impossible to register the confused disgust in my friends voice. That’s because he was just making statements, though ones marked with hatred towards the album. For a person who isn’t neccesarily looking for a formula, 808s and Heartbreaks is a solid pop record. The beats are, if anything, still fresh, “despite” the electronics of it. And the auto-tone? Well, it’s better than T-Pain. Moreover, songs like “Say You Will” and “Coldest Winter” seem to stick to the inside of your head no matter what the ratio of electronic singing to rapping may be.

23. Hot ChipMade In The Dark

It’s got some of the best dance tunes of the year, and some of the oddest slow dance songs of the year. You have to give it a hand to Hot Chip to keep on revitalizing their sound and style and interspersing it with effects from reggaeton to two-step to old school soul.

22. The Black KeysAttack & Release

Danger Mouse. Danger Mouse is like cowbell for those musicians who aren’t Blue Oyster Cult. With Attack & Release, DM revitalizes The Black Keys tired and true approach and certainly makes it less tired, working in to fill in the blanks that come with only having a guitar and drum. The funky bump of “Strange Times” and wistful ballad of “Psychotic Girl” have helped revitalize my own faith in this band.

21. Marnie SternThis Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That

Here’s a record for folks who think that the world of the guitar virtuoso is gender oriented. Marnie Stern can shred faster than most of those old phallic hair metal acts, and she does it well to boot. AC/DC-styled riffs at chipmunk paces, math-stylized song structures, and Zach Hill make for pop-fueled fun.

20. Wilderness(k)no(w)here

When the vocals on “High Nero” kick in halfway through the song, it’s as if Wilderness grabs you and goes, “where have you been?” I can’t believe it took me until this band’s 3rd album to discover them, and what a treat it is. Stormy, ambient psych-folk combined with brutally haunting vocals that don’t so much scare as orate tales of loss and redemption. Too bad it’s over far too quickly.

19. Dr. Dog Fate

Another band that took me far too long to discover, but this was purely out of my musical filtering mechanism: the name Dr. Dog just has no appeal. Fortunately, their music is an entirely different beast, a wonderful combination of Beatles melodies, country-fried guitar rants by The Band, and who-knows-where-we’ll-go-with-this-song of good ole’ indie rock. These guys might actually turn me on to classic rock instead of the other way around.

18. Chad VanGaalenSoft Airplane

VanGaalen’s third album is also his best (so far at least), and a complete picture as well; previous records sounded like a mess of VanGaalen screwing around in his basement with random instruments he created and a few good tunes surviving. Well, here that process has paid off, with some of his most mind-gnawing work to date: death, freak-folk, and oftly odd melodies crash and collide to make a great listen all the way through.

17. AliasResurgam

It’s been a banner year for Anticon, and Resurgam is just one of many great records to come out of this Oakland collective over the last couple of years. Almost entirely composed of instrumental work, it’s an ambient take on old school hip-hop that will put you in a state of relaxation for hours on end. It even seems a bit unpleasant when the two vocal songs kick in, at least until you recognize that the same music sits at the foreground of the album.

16. Beach HouseDevotion

I was itrigued to see how Beach House, a band who’s music could easily lull one to sleep, would perform under the insurmountable pressure that comes with taking the stage at Siren Music Festival. Facing the grueling heat, packed crowds of hipsters, and set time near the end of a long, long day, Beach House performed as beautifully as their melodies. Devotion is a spellbinding, ambient mess of tunes that work under any weather or state of emotion. Victoria Legrand’s voice is as soothing as it is soulful, and it carries the entire album to its sleepy-headed end.

15. No AgeNouns

No Age’s Nouns is filled with the kind of songs you seem to know before you even hear them. They’re packed with anthemic punk-rock riffs and bursts, yet remain emotionally perplexing and experimentally arousing. And it’s loud as hell. It’s hardcore for the arty crowd, art for the little punks in us all, and something for everyone.

14. WaleMixtape About Nothing

Here’s a hip-hop artist with a good head on his shoulders and an ego that’s perfectly comfortable in a realm where folks have to defend theirs at every turn. That could be because Wale can crank out dozens of tunes about something as archaic to hip-hop as Seinfeld can be… and it’s great too. Infuse sick rhyming and lyrical foreplay with old school hip-hop meets go-go (and perhaps that genre’s ticket out of D.C.) and tons of rap’s biggest names and you wouldn’t feel the need to defend one’s ego either.

13. The BugLondon Zoo

In an odds-and-ends collection of articles, a close friend of Lester Bangs’ describes PiL’s Metal Box as a musical accompanyment to his depression. In many ways, London Zoo feels like an equally derranged equivalent; the record is so dark, intense, and angry, I’ve yet to listen to the entire album in one sitting. But its intensity displays its musical muscle, as deep-in-your-chest bass grinds with glitchy grime and head-banging dancehall to create one intensely personal meditation on the nadir of society. Not for the weak, but definitely for the musically ambitious.

12. Forest FireSurvival

Here’s a summer record for you – sprawling lo-fi folk that mixes with Velvet Underground-style proto-punk and garage rock done on spare acoustic instruments. It’s enchanting and oft-aggressive, and man does it get in your head and stay there. And to think, they gave this gem away for free…

11. SubtleExiting Arm

The impact of collaborations with members of TV on the Radio bear their mark on Subtle, who’s Exiting Arm takes their sound and turns it to the noises in between. Whereas on earlier recordings Doseone could often be heard spitting rhymes at 100 mph, here his vocals are subdued and sink into the tapestry, which taverses across an odd array of sounds and vibrations, but is a whole product throughout. The minute I heard this thing in an ice cream place over the summer I knew it was stuck to me; months later it’s yet to leave my head.

10. Food For AnimalsBelly

Noise and hip-hop? Whodathunkit? Food For Animals, that’s who. And that’s why Belly, the long-delayed first album from the DC/Baltimore group, is in the top 10. It’s hard to find an album more ambitious in its sound and execution than FFA’s, and it’s as accessible as any other hip-hop blaring on mainstream radio today. It’s glitchy, bass heavy, and dark as hell, but this trio certainly spins some sick off-beats and rhymes that are more shout-along-chorus-friendly than anything else.

9. Friendly FiresFriendly Fires

This is what the Foals record could have been, and what I originally wished it was: a great post-punk dance piece. Infusing that genre with strains of disco, salsa, and Brit pop, Friendly Fires’ debut defines irresistible. The music is taught and catchy, the sound gets in your head and shakes your hips, and the hits keep coming. Friendly Fires sounds like a singles collection, with each track as pop-friendly as the last – funny to think this is the band’s first record.

8. The Dodos Visiter

It may be due to the fact that I had this album on repeat for most of the spring, but Visiter seems to uphold a sense of rebirth and newborn energy that’s often so hard for musicians to capture. Some folks cast the band off as acoustic Animal Collective wannabes, but the album is a beast unto its creators, filled with child-like enthusiasm and sincerity that makes them altogether unique.

7. The Mae ShiHLLLYH

2008 could be the year of concept albums, or, more correctly, the year that produced a handful of great concept albums. The Mae Shi’s tribute to the end of the world sounds positively, well, great. It’s scary, but the band’s mix of agit-punk, twee, and art pop have an endearing effect that carry through the morbid lyrics of “Run To Your Grave” (and that title to boot). It’s got energy and vigor that blasts through the entire album, one concept to the last. For such a depressing topic to tackle, these guys sure make it sound fun.

6. Neon NeonStainless Style

Nostalgia can be a killer, and it’s flogged the 80s past the state of decay, but man oh man do Neon Neon know how to make a bad thing sound great. To call it nostalgia however is making the great concept of Stainless Style seem passe, when in fact it’s a record more “with it” than countless other albums released this year. Much as Gnarls Barkley emphasized “neo” in their neo-soul mix debut two years ago, Neon Neon take the aesthetic tics of 80s pop and place it into an entirely new landscape. It makes it so that the chincy-sounding synth sounds altogether refreshing on tracks like “Dream Cars” or “I Told Her On Alderaan.” It also helps that this project came from the meeting between oddball producer Boom Bip and even-odderball Super Furry Animal Gruff Rhys, and they certainly saved their pop-tooth for this record.

5. PonytailIce Cream Spiritual

Ponytail put on one of the best shows I’ve seen this year – so good, I saw them thrice. So I was immediately drawn to the record after grabbing an early release copy after seeing them, doing nothing but playing it for weeks straight. After my mania over the album subsided, I can safely say it’s still a fantastic record. It’s a swirling mess of punk-art-rawk, one that caterwauls off of every surface and smoothly glides through the down-tempos and down singer Molly Siegel’s over-worked larynx to create a record that seethes with passion and power. Kudos to producer J. Robbins for wrestling their great live sound into a well-preserved recording.

4. Sun Kil Moon April

April opens with a song that nearly hits the 10 minute mark, and could have sustained my rapt attention tenfold. “Lost Verses” sweeps along like any Mark Kozelek song, yet there’s something profoundly new and slightly different than the frontman’s previous efforts. It could be his meditation over the death of a former muse, who’s image is never quite literally addressed, but who’s absence hangs over the entire record. Whatever it is, Kozelek delivers every last line with undue sincerity, and it’s probably because they are his own; in retrospect, the biggest problem with Tiny Cities, the last Sun Kil Moon album made entirely of Modest Mouse covers, is that the music wasn’t created by Kozelek himself (although he does a great job of re-imagining most of the songs on the album). But here, you get the sense that Kozelek’s body struggles with every pick at his guitar, even though all you’re left is with that voice and no image behind it. But what a voice it is.

3. Parts & LaborReceivers/Escapers Two

For a band that makes a lot of noise, Parts & Labor have made music for just about everyone. Receivers is a fantastic opus of noise juxtaposed against anthemic, stadium-sized pop rock. The electronic bursts and blips are still there, but they’ve become a fixture of a larger pattern; noise doesn’t give way to bubblegum hooks and back again, but it’s all intertwined throughout the album. From “Satellites” to “Solemn Show World,” there’s a song for the punk in everyone (and every punk who submitted sound samples is in a song). For those who don’t like getting too close to accessiblity, Escapers Two offers 50+ “grind pop” songs, most of which barely hit the minute mark and have the mark of dark metal and hardcore punk bursting from the seems… at times, it’s quite beautiful to boot.

2. Why?Alopecia

What a pleasant surprise Alopecia turned out to be. Why?’s previous work always had some inadvertantly beautiful quality to it, but it’d always been battling a range of sounds and ideas passed out by Yoni Wolf. On Alopecia it comes together in a brilliant and cohesive work, with Wolf’s lyrics and stories spilling into one another, but neither clouding up the music or his often enticing nasaly rasp. And, much like most of the top albums of the year, it is a whole product instead of a combination of some good songs repackaged for consumption.

1. TV On The RadioDear Science,

Numbers or not, there was no question this would be my number one album of the year. From the opening moments of “Halfway Home,” I knew this would be a fantastic album. Unlike Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes and Return To Cookie Mountain, Dear Science, is a fully fleshed-out album from beginning to end as each track seemlessly gluides from one to the next. The band’s turn to a poppier and all together accessable sound is just as natural as their work as a band in and of itself; they’re still pushing musical boundaries, using a wide array of feedback and avant-guard noises, but it’s an altogether cohesive and beautiful mess.

Albums I wish I had more time with, because they probably would have made this list:

For those of us who can’t get our hands on every available album to come out this year, it certainly made the “best of” list process a bit more difficult because, having heard at least snipets of the following albums, I wish I’d gotten them all. But, there is always time for more new music. Anyway, here are the ones I would have liked to have on my list:

High PlacesHigh Places

Extra LifeSecular Works

Fall Out BoyFolie á Deux

BeckModern Guilt

The Notwist The Devil, You + Me

HEALTHHEALTH/DISCO

Eddy Current Suppression RingPrimary Colours

Lykke Li Youth Novels

Dan FrielGhost Town

Eagles of Death Metal Heart On

Fleet Foxes Fleet Foxes

Edie Sedgwick Things Are Getting Sinister And Sinisterer

Heavy Heavy Low LowTurtle Nipple and the Toxic Shock

SpiritualizedSongs in A&E

Death VesselNothing Is Precious Enough For Us

DoomtreeDoomtree

Miloshiii

El Ten ElevenThese Promises Are Being Videotaped

School of Seven BellsAlpinisms

Fucked UpThe Chemistry of Common Life

DananananaykroydSissy Hits

Hot Club de ParisLive at Dead Lake

Best of 2008 from 2007:

The albums from last year that made a lasting impact this year.

The Dillinger Escape PlanIre Works

Bon IverFor Emma, Forever Ago

Double DaggerRagged Rubble

VideohipposUnbeast The Leash

MusclesGuns Babes Lemonade

Too Lazy To Right Write

Michael Moore is the newest guy to pull a Radiohead, but not with music (though if it were, I’m sure it’d be somewhere in the general stereotype for emo these days – whiny and overly-dramatic). Moore released his newest piece, Slacker Uprising, on the net for a free download yesterday, perfectly timed with the upcoming elections. I was as moved by Bowling for Columbine as any other kid my age who saw that movie must have been. But this? Well, see the trailer for yourself:

True, it’s only the trailer, and I may have had some ideologically perplexing opinions about first-impressions in my last post, but it’s clear that’s just as far as Michael Moore will go to approach a subject. I never took Moore’s words at face value; he’s always been relatively upfront about not wanting to be called a documentary filmmaker, as that would imply seeking to find some indefinite fact. Moore’s work is the kind that seeks to persuade first, inform later. But that’s even harder to swallow when the subject he’s attempting to cover – rousing young Americans into voting – is given the finishing polish of a stereotype.

With the trailer, Moore paints himself as the patron saint of liberalism – the youth the lost in a dark and depressing world without his kindness. They are the “slackers” of the title, whom he rallied to vote for John Kerry in a supposedly unprecedented landslide in that demographic. What is this, the early 90s? The slacker is the prototype for Gen Xers and could hardly describe individuals of my generation who first voted in the 2004 election. Growing up, I remember reading and watching countless news stories about how overworked, over-committed, and over-stressed my generation is. Not only that, I’ve lived it (although to a lesser degree of other individuals); I carried book-bags that weighed more than me to school, spent hour after frustrating hour doing seven classes worth of homework an evening, and (most recently) drove myself towards sleep deprivation with extra-curricular activities.

Michael Moore

Michael Moore

Moore seems to forget an important point that I’d like to kindly lift from Thursday’s Geoff Rickly; every action you do is inherently political. The idea that voting is absolutely revolutionary – while true centuries ago and in some respects today – is a little old. And its dis-empowering. If this country was built on the idea of the people governing themselves, than any action one does can have some positive (or negative) end result. Punching some ballot (or pressing some images on a computer screen) every two years is hardly revolutionary. The work people of my generation have done – from volunteering, to community building, to simply creating and implementing whatever creative idea they have, is just as powerfully political as single vote.

Moore’s assertion that young people today are “slackers” is the kind of crap that has had an affect on low-voter turnouts in the youngest voting age demographics. It may not be a singular cause, but the fact that most politicians completely ignore this demographic certainly has a large impact. And Moore is simply feeding into that idea. As an icon for liberalism, he’s doing a pretty terrible job as well, merely reiterating stereotypes about liberals and negatively affecting the left side of the American political divide even more. As Thomas Frank asserts in What’s The Matter With Kansas? , the image that a large number of Mid-Western Americans have of liberals is that they are leeches on society, merely doing and producing nothing of value or sustenance. Sounds a little like the definition of a slacker. With that portrait of the most liberal voting demographic, is it any wonder why certain portions of American society have moved to the right. (I realize this is a massive generalization, just on piece of a very complicated puzzle that Frank addresses quite thoroughly and provocatively in his book, but it is still a part of the picture, and an important one at that).

Still, I might watch the movie. It’s hard to tell though, being a slacker and all. I just don’t know if I have the energy or motivation to watch a documentary.

Briefs:

*The New York Timescoverage of My Bloody Valentine’s performance at ATP ends with the following quote:

“You can’t do anything with sound,” Mr. Shields had said, “unless there is emotion.”

And again, there is a case against the idea of “emo” as a viable term for a genre of music.

*The MacArthur “Genius” Awards were announced, with Alex Ross being one of the notable recipients; his book, The Rest Is Noise is a tremendous work on classical music in the 20th Century. I’m part-way through and can’t wait to pick up some Richard Strauss. One of the more interesting narratives for the winners is that of Walter Kitundu, who combines turntables and stringed instruments into some pretty intense works of art (and great instruments in and of themselves):

*TV on the Radio’s Dear Science, is out everywhere. Expect something resembling a review soon…

Emotional About Environmentalism

Radiohead released the video for “House of Cards” early Monday morning. The video is not just a continuation of the band’s subvert-the-norm conceptualization through the use of the internet; it’s also a promotion of their inclinations towards positively affecting the environment. The video was filmed without the use of cameras as the band opted to use 3D plotting technologies to create the on-screen narrative.

Of course, you could read pretty deep into the visual concept of the video. Is the destruction of power-lines (outlined in red) meant to symbolize a sense of negativity directed at our society’s drain on the amount of available energy? Maybe yes, maybe no, but beyond the message of the “House of Cards” video and the method Radiohead chose to create it, the band has been a forward-thinking unit on the subject of the environment. As the world’s “biggest” musical acts were chastised for traveling to their various Live Earth performances last year, Radiohead were nowhere to be seen. Instead of joining in on critiquing their peers on environmental protection, Radiohead have taken the higher and independent road towards helping the environment. Using their status as one of the biggest acts in the world, they’ve done everything from getting fans to calculate their carbon footprint, to their green-friendly performance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, to providing a major chunk of live material (in the guise of a performance by Jonny Greenwood and Thom Yorke) on the Artists Taking Action On Climate Change compilation. Cynics can call it a gimmick, but Radiohead have used their position in pop culture for an excellent cause.

Although certainly not as well known as Radiohead, emo act Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly has been a force in environmental action in their native UK. Or should I say “his” native UK. GCWCF was created by Sam Duckworth, and the rest of the band has offered more of a stage-presence than a recorded or creative force. Combining lo-fi indie and folk with the vocal stylings of third-wave emo (think acoustic Taking Back Sunday with even less screaming) and Dashboard Confessional-type acoustic underpinnings.

Sam Duckworth

Sam Duckworth

Although GCWCF may seem something not-out-of-the-ordinary to American listeners, his actions as a musician are certainly admirable. Duckworth is an ardent supporter and champion of everything from Free Trade to Love Music Hate Racism – an activist group aiming at subverting the acts of UK racist organizations. Perhaps it’s unsurprising then that Duckworth would be an ardent supporter of positive environmental action; he’s done everything from DJing the World Environment Day Trust concert in London to conducting television and magazine interviews concerning environmental protection and green-friendly touring.

Sure, it may be a far cry from seeing numerous bands make albums filled with their own versions of “Burning Too” – the environmentally conscience song off of Fugazi’s 13 Songs. But, as Fugazi have been heralded for sticking their positive and political beliefs, it’s important to recognize the actions that acts take in order to ensure that they’re up to snuff with their ideals. He may not be at Radiohead’s level, but Sam Duckworth and Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly certainly make their ideas an important part of their image. And in the world of emo, where image has come to be more important in the eyes of the media and mainstream, there’s nothing wrong with a little positive change.

Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly – Waiting For The Monster To Drown (free download)

GCWCF – War of the Worlds (live, BBC 1):