Friday, January 28, 2011

How to create your own band and album

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a page that gave instructions on how to create your band and album, using random search features on different websites. Of course, it's all make-believe, but it's fun to do. Here are the instructions:
  1. Go to Wikipedia and click on "Random." The page you end up on is the name of your band.
  2. Go to Wikipedia's Quotations page, click on "Random." The last four or five words in the quote is the name of your album.
  3. Go to Flickr, click on "Explore Last Seven Days." The third picture is the album artwork.
  4. Use an image editing software, such as Photoshop, to create the final product.
I decided to do this and here is what I got:

Bailey's Comets - Add a Thousand Others


Pretty cool, I think. I decided to determine a track listing using the same process that determined the band name and Excel's RANDBETWEEN function to determine the number of tracks:
  1. Spectrum Bias
  2. WBCN
  3. Glenn Dubin
  4. Dayton, Ohio
  5. Delaware Fightin' Blues Hens Football
  6. Sean Dockery
  7. Yitzhak Golan
  8. Brock Bowling Club
  9. The Chinese Bungalow
  10. Native American Mascot Controversy
  11. Estadio Hanz Usko
I have a feeling tracks 5 and 10 are pretty epic. Expect to hear from us soon!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A gruesome twosome plus more music videos

Yet another batch of music videos are out, it's a fun batch!

Two Door Cinema Club - "What You Know"

This video somehow manages to evoke 1960's pop videos, "Hey Mickey" and '90s longing emo at the same time. Nothing's better than some indie dance sequences.

Patrick Wolf - "The City"

I wouldn't think of Patrick Wolf as an artist capable of producing what could be a summer anthem, but he's done it and it's awesome. A bit more upbeat than much of his previous work, I like the shift.

Lykke Li - "I Follow Rivers"

In her second video for her upcoming album, Li is chasing a man (I assume he is the "rivers"), and boy is she determined. She even takes off her high heels and chases him the snow. It's never clear why exactly he is running, but it may be because she's dressed like death.

Sleigh Bells - "Rill Rill"

This is one of the gruesome ones. The lead singers seems pretty diabolical and has a vendetta against her bandmate, always makes for a fun video. Also, there's bleeding phone, for some reason.

No Age - "Fever Dreaming"

These guys were doing noise punk before it was cool. In this video, the going about their day seemingly unaware the room is closing in, then being destroyed, around them. It's seemingly innocuous until the very end. Let's just say there's a lot of blood.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Is this the real life?

Today (just minutes ago, truthfully), I discovered an amazing lyrics game. The game challenges players to finish the lyrics of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" in 10 minutes. You get the first part of the line and must fill in the rest.

The first time I played, I got 74% right when time ran out. The second time through, I got 100% with 3:53 left to spare! Play the game (ha, another Queen song) and see how you do.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Music Tuesday - January 25

This is an absolutely monumental week for new music. I could almost swear all these artists got together to release at the same time.

Amos Lee - Mission Bell
Mission Bell
I've always enjoyed this performer's golden voice and introspective lyrics and am interested to see what he does with this record. His last release, Last Days at the Lodge, saw a little bit of mainstream success. Hopefully, the success hasn't changed his aesthetic. Something that is exciting me about this release is the caliber of guests, including Willie Nelson, Calexico, Iron & Wine and Lucinda Williams.
"El Camino"

Cold War Kids - Mine is Yours
Mine is Yours
Dutch site 3VOOR12 is currently streaming this album online for free. I had some trepidations about the record upon hearing that the band was aiming for a more mainstream sound. The record is a little more mainstream, but manages to maintain some of what made the band unique. While it's not as good as their first record, Robbers & Cowards, (or even their second) it's still a good release.
"Louder than Ever"

Destroyer - Kaputt
This band, which I most shamefully admit I just heard of, is headed by The New Pornographers' Dan Bejar. While this is not technically a side project (Destroyer existed before The New Pornographers), I'm often wary of what members of my favorite bands do outside those bands, but I've really liked what I've heard so far. This album is also streaming online here.

Gang of Four - Content
These classic post-punkers are back with their first album of original songs in 16 years. Granted, I didn't actually know who these guys were (or what post-punk was) 16 years ago, but have since learned. It's a pretty solid record, also streaming online at NPR.
"It Was Never Gonna Turn Out Too Good"

Iron & Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean
Kiss Each Other Clean
So excited about this one!!! I've had several opportunities to hear this one in its entirety, both performed live, and, of course, streaming. It's quite a bit more upbeat than a lot of his past work, though I'm not completely sure how I feel about the abundant sax.
"Tree By the River"

Sonic Youth - SYR9: Simon Werner a disparu
Simon Werner a Disparu
I know nothing about this release. I like the Sonic Youth, but have heard little about this soundtrack or the corresponding film. So, straight from Wikipedia itself Simon Werner a disparu is "a French thriller film directed by Fabrice Gobert." Yeah, that's all I have.
"Alice et Simon"

Talib Kweli - Gutter Rainbows
Gutter Rainbows
While I'll completely admit to not liking Talib Kweli as much as his Black Star partner, Mos Def, his music is still great. While, as of yet, I've only heard the lead track, "Cold Rain," it promises to be a great album.
"Cold Rain"

Wanda Jackson - The Party Ain't Over
The Party Ain't Over
The "Queen of Rockabilly" is 73 years old and still rockin'. Jack White really seems to have a thing for older female country singers, producing this album and Loretta Lynn's Van Lear Rose 7 years ago, but that certainly is not a bad thing. You can definitely hear his touch.
"Thunder on the Mountain"

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sweet song by Ducktails


Ducktails (Mathew Mondanile, of Real Estate) is one of those artist many haven't heard of, but he's definitely worth checking out. His music bridges the gap between a few genres that are currently very popular; it has the cool, laid-back feeling of surf rock coupled with the trippy, ambient musings of dream pop.

He released his third album last week and it has some great tracks. My personal favorite is "Killin' the Vibe," which exists in two versions on the album. One version features guest vocals from Panda Bear of Animal Collective. While the versions do not differ significantly, I slightly prefer the Panda Bear version.

I may stop shopping at Forever 21 for awhile

Forever 21 has been accused of stealing designs since 2007, when they were dealt lawsuits from Anna Sui and Gwen Stefani, among others, after those designers discovered items that looked suspiciously like their own designs. I occasionally shop at Forever 21 and initially passed the issue off as indicative of an unscrupulous fashion director who would soon be sacked.

Anna Sui Forever 21

However, by 2009, Forever 21, had received over 50 lawsuits and it appears that copying designs, as well as procedures of what to do when caught, are integral parts of their strategy. For one, Forever 21 only targets designs by smaller labels and designers. Entities like Chanel or Louis Vuitton are too powerful and work too hard try to defend their designs to try to copy.

Second, they seem to have an actual plan (though they of course deny it) in place when a designer issues a complaint. A designer, Virginia Johnson, recently discovered a copy of her skirt on sale at Forever 21. Upon calling the company, she was initially offered 10% of the sales of the skirts in restitution. When that amount was dismissed, they then offered her 22.5%, which she accepted.

Of course, they have excuses for why copying seems to be so ubiquitous from this particular brand. For one, they claim to have little control over their suppliers. Coupled with is that one of company's founders, Jin Sook Chang, is the sole person in charge of approving items. It is up to her alone to approve up to 400 pieces a day, leaving very little time for verifying their originality.

Their are several things I think the company can do to prevent crossing the line from "inspired by" to "copied from." The first, which is something they claim to be doing, is hiring a design team to create designs in house. This would help them gain full control of what their suppliers are creating.

The second would be to try out a strategy that many other fast fashion retailers are utilizing, designer collaborations. Target has been the best about it, introducing a new designer collection every couple of months through their Go! International line. Others, including H&M and even JCPenney, have also utilized collaborations. So now, rather than making enemies out of designers when they copy designs, they can be working with those designers to create truly original pieces.

Finally, just hire more approval people. That's too much for one person and by hiring a team of people passionate and knowledgeable about the fashion industry (as well as capable of doing research) can help to avoid unintentional copies.

I'm really surprised at Forever 21 for having exhibited such an attitude towards copying, especially considered the strong Christian values the company was founded on, but they can be better and I hope they realize that soon.

F21 Religious

In case you're wondering what to wear to the ski lodge

Missoni's Pre-Fall 2011 collection features 60's/bohemian ski-wear in their signature zig-zags and mixed patterns. Everything is warm and cozy. Another of many collections that makes me wish I had greater means.


Music videos: some cutesy, come apocalyptic, most in-between

She & Him - "Don't Look Back"

Zooey Deschanel is just way too cute in this retro video. It's the world of today as imagined by the world of yesterday...but filmed in the world of today. It's a fun video, and I totally want an inflatable guitar now.

Matt & Kim - "Cameras"

As happy-smiley as this duo's videos usually are, I am pleasantly surprised by this video. You wouldn't think two usually happy people could engage in such epic fighting, awesome...

Destroyer - "Kaputt"

This video came out a couple of weeks ago, but I only just discovered Destroyer and thinks it's a great video. It's a teen dream (of a different and much better kind), but then I gets really weird. You know that kid had to love filming the opening part.

Nicole Atkins - "Vultures"

This video's even older, but it's also a great one. Her voice is great, she has an awesome blues vibe to her. Watch her as she walks around the neighborhood, gathering disaffected townspeople.

Talib Kweli - "Cold Rain"

An apocalyptic video for a song critical of much of modern times. Some disaster has turned Kweli into a lone scavenger gathering remnants of human life.

R.E.M. - "Mine Smell Like Honey"

This is technically a "lyric video." It's pretty much what it sounds like, it shows the lyrics in some interesting, artistic way. It was created by R.E.M., though, and it's pretty cool. Nice song, too.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Wanda Jackson covers Amy Winehouse

WJ vs

Rockabilly legend Wanda Jackson is set to release her new album, The Party Ain't Over, next Tuesday. That album will feature a cover of an Amy Winehouse song, "You Know I'm No Good." I had the chance to hear the song over at NPR, where her entire album is streaming. It's a pretty good cover, though it doesn't come even close to Winehouse's original. The song is just better suited to Amy's voice. Hear the original and the cover below.


Cover (live version)

I can't tell whether she intends to mix up some of the lyrics, but she makes it work for her.

Tribute: Sam Cooke

sam cooke - martuca23

Yesterday would have been music great Sam Cooke's 80th birthday. His life was abruptly ended almost 50 years ago when he was killed by a hotel manager. Many have wondered in the years since what he could have done were he still living. In his time, however, he did manage to release many classic songs. Here are some of my favorites.

"You Send Me"

"Only Sixteen"

"Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha"

"A Change is Gonna Come"

Saturday, January 22, 2011

If every music publication decided on one top ten list, this is the monster they would create

Ultimate Top Ten

So, I'm a bit of a dork. After making and posting my own top 10 of 2010 list, I started looking through the year-end lists of major music publications. Seeing some of the similarities and differences between the lists, I decided to compile them all into a general top 10 of 2010 list.

This ultimate lists combines the following publications:
Rolling Stone
Huffington Post
Drowned in Sound
Under the Radar
Hype Machine
Grammy nominations

My methodology
The first thing I did was look at just each list's top 10 choices and assign points to each position. So, an album at the number 1 spot received 10 points, number 2 received 9 points and so on down the line.

I then looked at albums ranked below number 10 on each list (if the list went beyond 10 albums) and assigned points based on grouping. Top 20 albums got 0.5 points, top 30 got 0.4 points, top 40 got 0.3 points, top 50 got 0.2 points and anything lower got 0.1 points.

Next, I considered Grammy nominations (only including nominees that were placed somewhere on a year end list - too many sub-categories to consider). For major awards, such as Record, Song and Album of the Year, I assigned 9-10 points to each entry. Bets New Artist received 8 points. Vocal performance categories (all genres) got 5 points. Finally, Best Album in any particular genre got 7 points.

One list, NPR's, did not rank the albums, so any album on their list received three points.

I added up all of the points, and the 10 albums with the most points were the general top 10 of 2010! If you would like see my Excel worksheet, I have uploaded it here.

And now, without further ado, my Ultimate Top 10 Albums of 2010!

10. Vampire Weekend - Contra 43.6 points (on 7 top 10's)
9. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest 44.1 points (on 6 top 10's)
8. Lady Antebellum - Need You Now 45.1 points (no top 10 placements, 6 Grammy nominations)
7. The National - High Violet 53.8 points (on 6 top 10's)
6. The Black Keys - Brothers 55.6 points (on 5 top 10's)
5. Eminem - Recovery 59 points (on 2 top 10's, 8 Grammy nominations)
4. Beach House - Teen Dream 62.4 points (on 9 top 10's, ranked #1 in Spinner)
3. LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening 69.4 points (on 11 top 10's, ranked #1 in Paste)
2. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy 107.8 points (on 11 top 10's, ranked #1 in Pitchfork, Time, Billboard, Stereogum, Spin, Rolling Stone)
1. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (on 13 top 10's, ranked #1 in Hype Machine, Huffington Post, Q)

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mrs. Obama in McQueen

While the world of politics was talking about President Obama's recent meetings with Hu Jintao, I noticed what the FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States) wore to the state dinner. She wore a gorgeous red print Alexander McQueen gown. When I first saw that she was wearing McQueen, I was a little shocked, since some of the line's recent patterns have featured skulls or snake print. But the dress was a very tasteful floral print, she looked great.

Michelle Obama State Dinner
NY Daily News

Of course, since nothing the Obamas do can go without criticism, the FLOTUS did receive some flak for her choice to wear McQueen. Oscar de la Renta criticized her for wearing a British designer to an event meant to promote trade between China and the US.

While I understand his argument, I think it's a little misplaced. Mrs. Obama has done a lot for both American fashion and fashion newcomers. She helped make start up designers like Jason Wu and Prabal Gurung famous and is largely credited with helping to restore two major American retail labels, J.Crew and White House | Black Market.

It's not as though she never wears American designers. Even just within the past few weeks, she has worn Narciso Rodriguez and Thakoon. She has also worn Derek Lam, Rachel Roy and Peter Soronen, all American designers, in past state dinners. So, I think de la Renta's argument is a poorly defended.

Well, that just kinda sucks

Kate and Laura Mulleavy of fashion label Rodarte created some of the most beautiful costumes of the year for Black Swan. However, due to a couple of factors, should the film get nominated for, or even win, an Oscar for costuming, they will not be the ones gaining the recognition.

The first reason is that in negotiating with the film-makers, they did not negotiate a credit for their work. That credit goes to Amy Westcott, who is the person named in the credits. Additionally, at the time the film was made, the sisters were not members of the Costume Designers Guild, which I guess is a requirement for nomination.

While they haven't technically been screwed out of a potential nomination or win, it's unfortunate that a couple of oversights mean they may not get the full recognition they deserve. I can only hope that, should the film win, Westcott gives credit where credit is due in her speech.

Black Swan

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Some happenings of the past week

Bands on tour
of Montreal
A lot of good artists announced upcoming tours, including: of Montreal, Iron & Wine, Mountain Goats, Interpol, The Kills, Foals, Cut Copy & Simian Mobile Disco. I hope, for once, to be able to see a lot of their shows. Unfortunately, I will soon live further from the location most of closest shows will be playing, which is Chicago. Thankfully, a few will stop in Cleveland, which is a bit closer.

Stream full albums
Kiss Each Other Clean
Speaking of one of those soon-to-be-touring bands, Iron & Wine is set to release his next album, Kiss Each Other Clean, next Tuesday. BUT, you can stream the full album at Conan O'Brien's website. Other upcoming albums being streamed include Gang of Four's Content and Wanda Jackson's The Party Ain't Over.

New albums and EPs
The Strokes
In addition to going on tour, of Montreal will be releasing a new EP, The Controller Sphere. No absolute date is set, but hopefully we'll see it sometime this spring. The Kills officially announced their next album, Blood Pressures, which will be released on April 5. And for something I know I've been waiting a long time for, The Strokes have announced both a name and release date to their Impressions of Earth follow-up. The album, Angles, will be released on March 22.

Ra Ra Riot sees a pretty big line-up change
Ra Ra Riot at Brooklyn Academy of Music (February 5, 2010)
The band Ra Ra Riot's drummer, Gabriel Duquette, has left the band. He replaced John Ryan Pike, who passed away three years ago. While the departure seems to be friendly and they do have a replacement lined up, it's still sad to see him go.

The line-up for the Coachella Music Festival has been announced. It's amazing, to say the least. The festival will include The Tallest Man on Earth, Animal Collective, Best Coast, Arcade Fire, Cage the Elephant, Cee Lo, The Kills, Cults, The Strokes, The Black Keys and Lauryn Hill, as well as many many others. As soon as I saw the line-up, I started making mental plans for the weekend, I hope I'm able to go!

So many music videos...

I try to post new music videos whenever I get to four by artists that I really like. It was only a few days ago that I last posted and, already, a lot of new videos have been released. Of course, with a lot of albums set to be released in the coming months, I guess that's to be expected.

Crystal Castles & Robert Smith - "I'm Not in Love"

This collaboration between Crystal Castles and the frontman of The Cure has been out for a while, but the music video was only recently released. It has that hazy, distorted effect that has been used quite extensively by a lot of indie artists lately, which is really starting to annoy me (it makes me feel a little sick), but the song itself is great.

Peter Bjorn & John - "Breaker Breaker"

This is the first song off their new album, Gimme Some, due out in March. It's a frantic video, matching the frantic pace of the song. I don't know why this stands out to me, but the part of the video I love most is the beginning drumroll when the drummer leans down to beat on the bass.

Best Coast - "Crazy for You"

Yes, exactly what the world needs, and LOLCat video. I may I just say, the lead singer is just adorable.

Wanda Jackson - "Thunder on the Mountain"

A great rockabilly cover of a Dylan song featuring modern guitar god, Jack White. Miss Jackson has just about the cutest voice ever, amazing song.

Magnetic Man featuring John Legend - "Getting Nowhere"

A fairly stark video and song, featuring the four motocross bikemen of the Apocalypse. Magnetic Man is a dubstep supergroup, but what drew me to the song was the featured vocals of one of my favorites, John Legend.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hipster cake!!!

Hipster Cake!

I don't normally watch "Ace of Cakes," but I may have to watch this Thursday's episode. To honor the end of Pavement's reunion tour, Duff and the gang decided to make a horse cake with Pavement-inspired artwork. Based on the preliminary pictures, it's sure to be an amazing cake. I can't wait to see the full result. The members of the band will also be appearing in the episode!

Watch a preview of the episode here.

And here is the song, "Debris Slide," that inspired the cake:

New Music Tuesday

Another good week for music, I'm pretty excited for these releases.

The Decemberists - The King is Dead
The King is Dead
This album marks a pretty big shift for the band. They became known for epic storytelling ballads that tended to come off a bit pretentious. This album promises to be more straight-forward and accessible. The title of the album itself may be an allusion to The Smiths' The Queen is Dead and their first single is seeing some comparisons to Bruce Springsteen, so a simpler sound seems to be both what they were going for and what they've achieved.
"Down by the Water"

Claire Denamur - Claire Denamur EP
Claire Denamur
This is a French artist that I absolutely love. Her music is fairly romantic French pop. One of her songs, "In the Mood for L'Amour" was used in a Degree commercial a couple of years back. Unfortunately, this release is just four songs from her self-titled début album, so there's nothing new here. But, the songs are good, so I guess that warrants a re-release.
"Le Prince charmant"

Ducktails - Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics
Arcade Dynamics
Most of this guys music is instrumental, though I can't tell yet if it will be the same story with this album. He has an ambient/experimental vibe to him and already is gaining an impressive resume. As a bonus track on this album, he recorded a song with Panda Bear from Animal Collective, which is, of course, how I ended up hearing of this guy.
"Killin' the Vibe" (featuring Panda Bear)

Klaxons - Surfing the Void (Deluxe Edition)
Surfing the Void
This is not a fully new release. The Klaxons re-released their second album with four additional songs. Deluxe or special editions tend to annoy me, as it often means re-buying the album just to get a few extra songs, so hopefully these are worth it.
"Twin Flames"

Monday, January 17, 2011

Best and worst dressed at the Golden Globes

I'm entering my first awards season as a fashion blogger and I'm pretty excited. Things got off to a good start with the Golden Globes last night. I realize it's not the absolute first award show of the season...but the Critics' Choice wasn't televised, so it's hard to regard the fashion. As with any massive outing, some stars looked amazing, others...not so much. Here are my best and worst dressed.

Best Dressed

5. Anne Hathaway in Armani Privé
Anne Hathaway
I usually hate long sleeves on the red carpet, but...damn...she looks good.

4. Mila Kunis in Vera Wang
Mila Kunis
This is her first big awards season and she's doing it so right.

3. Kyra Sedgwick in Emilio Pucci
Kyra Sedgwick
For me, this woman can do no wrong, just gorgeous.

2. January Jones in Versace
January Jones
Boobies! Yeah, it's showing a lot, but she just looks incredible.

1. Jennifer Lawrence in Louis Vuitton
Jennifer Lawrence
I barely have any idea who she is, but I love this dress.

Others who wowed me: Olivia Wilde, Elisabeth Moss, Julie Bowen, Eva Longoria, Jane Lynch, Mandy Moore & Amy Adams.

Worst Dressed

5. Natalie Portman in Victor & Rolf
Natalie Portman
Pregnancy is no excuse to look this bad.

4. Leighton Meester in Burberry
Leighton Meester
Looks like someone decided to run off to Utah to be with Brother Joseph.

3. Michelle Williams in Valentino
Michelle Williams
I think I wore this to my first grade recital.

2. Julianne Moore in Lanvin
Julianne Moore
Everything is off about this...except her make-up!

1. Helena Bonham Carter in Vivienne Westwood
Helena Bonham Carter
No words are needed, I've come to expect it from her now.

Other who just missed the mark: Gabourey Sidibe, Kelly MacDonald, Katie Lee, Kaley Cuoco, Heather Morris, Jayma Mays, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Julianne Hough, Jennifer Lopez, Heidi Klum.

Golden Globes pre-show thoughts

Golden Globes

I decided against the whole "live-blogging" thing. It's not that I don't think it's worthwhile, it's just a pain.

Last night I watched E!'s Golden Globes pre-show, which I actually tuned into about 30 minutes in because I don't generally watch E! and didn't realize when the show actually started. Anyways, here are some of the thoughts I had while watching:

  • Lea Michele is incredibly annoying. She's trying so hard to be endearing, but it only makes me like her less.
  • Everyone is obsessed with beige this season. Seriously, y'all are white (with the exception of Vanessa Williams), the dress does nothing, NOTHING, for you.
  • I love Emma Stone as a redhead (even though I know it's not her natural color). With the blonde hair and the tan, she looks like every other Hollywood wannabe starlet, and she's a little past wannabe at this point. Stick with the red sweetie, you stand out more.
  • Natalie Portman, I love you, but pregnancy is not an excuse to wear burlap sacks. Look at Jane Krakowski, she's pregnant and looks amazing. You look like you gave up.
  • While I don't completely love Nicole Kidman's dress, it's so much better than everything she's done lately. Other than being boring, it's a nice dress and there's usually something off about her red carpet choices.
  • Armie Hammer, if I see you in real life, I will tackle you.
  • Same for Ryan Gosling.
  • Christina Aguilera looks better than usual. She finally toned down the make-up a bit.
  • Christian Bale is denying his sexy; he seriously needs a haircut and a shave.

RG_AH is a girl to choose?

Friday, January 14, 2011

New music videos

Broken Social Scene- "Texico Bitches"

I feel like they're trying to make a political statement with this one (or two, or three). And, yes, I am Captain Obvious. One of the more interesting videos I've ever seen.

Tapes 'n Tapes - "Freak Out"

The song that has started what I hope to be a great relationship with this band for me. I've had the chance to listen to the entire album and, while "Freak Out" stands out the most, the album is very good.

The Dø - "Slippery Slope"

I love this band with a passion and this song lives up to everything I already loved about them and incorporates over love affairs I've developed recently (tribal percussion-driven music).

PJ Harvey - "The Words That Maketh Murder"

She seems to be going in a somewhat indie pop direction with this song and I like it. I only hope the album version won't alternate between that studio-produced sound and the home-recorded sound like it does in the video, a little annoying.

Grammys are coming!


The 53rd Annual Grammy Awards will broadcast February 13 and I'm getting pretty excited about this year's show. It's a guarded excitement, as I watched the show last year (due mainly to Phoenix being nominated for Best Alternative Album). Of course, they didn't actually air that award, so the ceremony was a let down for me and I spent most of the broadcast wondering why Taylor Swift was a popular recording artists (seriously, listen to her sing live...she can't). Watching the show, I decided to write my minute-by-minute reactions, here a snippet of what I wrote:

9.36: I'm going to start putting my TV on mute during the musical performances. Should've thought of this earlier.

9.46: I apologize to anyone who's a huge Taylor Swift fan, but, while it's nice that she writes her own music, her lyrics aren't profound or special. Her music's pretty pedestrian, IMHO.

9.48: Taylor cannot sing that note. Let Stevie Nicks do it, honey..

I'm hoping this year is better. For one, there promises to be some great musical performances with Arcade Fire and Cee-Lo Green set to perform. There is some great representation of artists generally considered "indie" in major categories (and not just relegated to the Best Alternative category). Arcade Fire is nominated for Album of the Year, and Florence + the Machine and Mumford & Sons are both nominated for Best New Artist, even though I'm sure the Biebs will win that one.

Of course, the award I'm looking most forward to probably won't be broadcast once again, that award being Best Alternative Album. I love everything that's nominated there: Broken Bells, Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, The Black Keys and Band of Horses. I would like The Black Keys to win, but I think Arcade Fire probably will. But hey, I'm happy no matter what.

On that note, Tuesday, "The Colbert Report" featured a Best Alternative Album show-down (eliminating Arcade Fire because they were on "The Daily Show" and 'f' them). The segment pitched Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig, both Black Keys, Colbert and a member of the Grammy committee in a fight to the death. My money's on Colbert...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Music Tuesday

It's that time of the week (OK...technically two days ago, but I was in airports all day). This was a fairly decent week for new music. Some old favorites released new music, as well as some I only recently discovered.

Cage the Elephant - Thank You, Happy Birthday
Thank You, Happy Birthday
I am listening to this album as I type this. I found out about Cage the Elephant a couple of years back and really liked their first album, Cage the Elephant. They had kind of a gritty sound, but you could tell the band was having a lot of fun. So far, this album seems a bit more mature, both in sound and in content, but the basic sound is still the same.
"Shake Me Down"

Cake - Showroom of Compassion
Showroom of Compassion
I wasn't sure of what to think when I heard that this album was going to be a slight departure from their typical style, with a more piano-driven sound. I was even more dismayed when I saw the album artwork, as it looked a little different than the rest (though on further analysis, it's actually pretty similar still). Listening to a few of the initial songs, however, did away with my trepidations. Even though piano is present, there's still the trumpet and spoken word elements that they're known for. It's same old Cake, with a little something extra!
"Sick of You"

Mew - Eggs are Funny
Eggs are Funny
Mew is kind of a weird band, but they're from Scandinavia, so it makes some sense. This album was released a few months back in their native country, Denmark, but only just got released in the states. It brings together some of their more popular songs (they're not huge in the U.S., so I'm guessing these songs are pretty big back in Denmark). It doesn't have my favorite track, "Apocalypso," on it, so I don't know how much of a hits album it is...
"The Zookeeper's Boy"

Tapes 'n Tapes - Outside
This is a fairly new band for me, though I realize they've been around for a few years. I first heard of them when Pitchfork was pimpin' their single "Freak Out," which I really liked; it reminded me a bit of Arcade Fire and The National, if they had a baby band. The album, Outside, wasn't out yet, so I checked out some of their back catalog. I didn't like it so much as that song, so I'm really excited for this release.
"Freak Out"

Teitur - Let the Dog Drive Home
Let the Dog Drive Home
This is another Scandinavian artist whose album came out in his native country months ago. Try as I might, I couldn't get my hands on it until it came out in the states this past week. I got into this artist through the suggestion of (I hate to admit this) John Mayer. Mayer used to write guest columns for Rolling Stone magazine and really lauded this guy. He is actually really good, though the strength is mainly in the song writing. He's made some beautiful songs and this album is a good follow-up to that Mayer suggested, Poetry & Aeroplanes.
"All I Remember from Last Night is You"

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Shopping in San Francisco

So, I just got back from a vacation in San Francisco, which is why I haven't posted in a while.

Going to San Francisco, I knew one thing that I would have to check out would be the shopping. Day One in SF, I got off the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and set about looking for my hostel. I was pointed in the direction by a someone and started walking up Powell Street. There, I noticed how great a choice I had made in accommodations. The street was lined with some of my favorite stores like DSW, Urban Outfitters & H&M. I made a mental note to come back down the street later on.

I usually make it a personal rule not to go places when on vacation that I could go when I'm home (or wouldn't have to travel far to get to), but I made an exception for San Francisco, especially when I saw the perfect skirt in the Urban Outfitters window. Most stores were pretty much the same as you would see anywhere else. H&M, Zara and Aldo all were exactly the same as other locations that I've visited. I would even say that I've been to better stores.

Urban Outfitters, DSW and Forever 21, however, were all so much more magnificent. Forever 21 was actually navigable. Normally, the store looks like the website threw up in a building, but here, the clothes were actually organized by style, pattern and color, which made it much easier to browse. DSW and Urban Outfitters both just had more. The Bloomington Urban Outfitters is poorly stocked, truth be told, but the SF location had so much in the store. They even had things separated by the sub-brands, something I'd never seen before. The DSW was two full floors (as well as a middle sub-floor), PLUS a basement full of clearance items.

I also devoted a day to heading out to Haight-Ashbury, the noted "hippie" area of San Francisco. Though, I will say, it's currently more hipster than hippie. But that suited me just fine, I was able to find several stores that fit my style and did so at a great price. Some of my favorites were Wasteland, Buffalo Exchange and Xgeneration.

In the end, I came away with a bit more than I was initially planning to buy, but I really did get some great pieces like a peach tulle skirt and scalloped shorts. If for nothing else, San Francisco is definitely one of those places I would visit again just for the shopping.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Albums I'm looking forward to this winter

Pitchfork released their quadrannual (is that a word?) list of upcoming albums for the season and I know the rest of winter is going to be a good one for me. Even better, finally having a real job means I can actually buy all of that music that I want rather than acquiring them means...

Here are a few albums I'm most looking forward to:

January 18: The Decemberists - The King is Dead
January 25: Cold War Kids - Mine is Yours, Iron & Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean
February 15: Bright Eyes - The People's Key
February 22: Adele - 21
March 1: The Dø - Slippery Slope, Dum Dum Girls - He Gets Me High, Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes
March 29: Peter Bjorn & John - Consequences of Sound