Monday, May 30, 2011

On Repeat: "No Trains"

I gave the new Box Codax (side project of Franz Ferdinand's Nick McCarthy) album a full listen earlier this evening and it was every bit as strange as I was anticipating. One song, however, really took out. Sure, it was a little left of center as the rest of the album was, but strangely beautiful at the same time.

The song has a very dreamy quality, with distorted female vocals and repetitive chord structure; as well as lyrics about sleep. It's been on repeat for probably the last 30 minutes and I'm not sick of it yet!

I'm a little bit in love with this

It's been a while since my last fashion-related post, but I have found something that excited me greatly. It is fashion line Maje's latest lookbook. The collection features Parisian-inspired pieces that manage to blur the line between flirty and professional. Oh, what I wouldn't give for that ruffled skirt or the capelet dress!

Maje Fall 2011 LB

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I found my new favorite thing

It should be no secret that I love covers. Fortunately, I may have found the ultimate source for unexpected covers by great bands of other great bands.

The A.V. Club compiled a list of 25 fairly random songs and invited musicians to come in and play their choice of songs. Once a song was already played, it was removed from the list so that later acts had fewer song choices, so it only gets more interesting with time!

They're about halfway through this year's list, but they did it last year as well.

I've only gone through a few but my favorite so far is Iron & Wine performing George Michael's "One More Try."

I'm also looking forward to seeing who will cover Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness", Kanye West's "Runaway" and Prince's "Little Red Corvette".

Look into the eyes

My Morning Jacket's new album, Circuital, drops on Tuesday (it's amazing, by the way...streaming at NPR).

Looking at the album artwork, it looked familiar; I've seen this before...somewhere:


After some reflection, it hit me. It's a version of album artwork I've seen too many times before (albeit considerable more robotic).

The earliest example in my collection of this cover is Scott Walker's Scott 3 album, released in 1969:

Scott 3

In 1990, The La's released their self-titled (and only) album, with a very similar cover:

The La's

Finally, just last year, Rufus Wainwright released All Days are Nights, this album's cover, too, had a oft-featured theme:

All Days are Nights

All four covers are striking. It's better than a photo of the lead singer holding a guitar and at least MMJ's is a little different, but no else is allowed to this anymore (since I have so much say here), I'm putting my foot down.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Family is the best used record store

I was in Northeast Ohio recently for my little cousin's high school graduation. My mom told me that my uncle has a record collection dating back 40+ years that he was looking to purge soon. She wanted to make sure, however, that he did not do so before I had the chance to peruse his collection. It's a good thing I did! After about an hour digging in the deepest reaches of an overstuffed closet, this was my haul:

The Supremes sing Holland, Dozier, Holland, A Go Go
The Supremes & The Temptations - Together, Takin' Care of Business
The Temptations - Psychedelic Shack
Ray Charles' Greatest Hits
Van Morrison - Tupelo Honey
Easy Rider soundtrack
James Brown - Sex Machine
Janis Joplin in Concert
Nina Simone Live in Europe
Miles Davis - Bitches Brew
Marvin Gaye - What's Going On
Aretha Franklin - Lady Soul
Led Zeppelin - II and IV
The Band - The Band
The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers

Monday, May 23, 2011

Subtle Humour

There's something that I just love about Holy Ghost!'s music video for "Wait and See." It's kind of funny, but not in an obvious way. The two actors singing and playing in the video are not the members of the band, they are older versions of them (which I just found out are their fathers). What I find funny is that everything else about them shows youth, the dress, riding skateboards, etc. Whatever it is, I love this vid.

New Music Tuesday - 05/24/2011

Friendly Fires - Pala
Post-punk meets dance at just about its best. Saw their video for "Kiss of Life" a couple of years ago when MTV was at least still showing the 3 A.M. block of videos. I immediately got the album, which didn't actually have the song on it (the version with that and two other bonus tracks was released a few months later). Anyways, all of it is excellent!
"Blue Cassette"

Joseph Arthur - The Graduation Ceremony
The Graduation Ceremony
The Black Keys aren't the only great musicians to come out of Akron, OH. (Besides Devo and The Pretenders) Joseph Arthur is also from the Rubber City. This was a Pandora discovery for me. He's supposed to be like Damien Rice. While his music is simple and folk-influenced, he sounds nothing like Rice, but is still amazing.
"Out on a Limb"

The Pierces - You & I
You & I
Continuing with the folk-inspired music, I heard of The Pierces when a number of their songs from Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge showed up on various TV shows, movies and commercials. There, they had a cabaret-esque sound that was unique and enjoyable. They've gotten away from that sound since, but it's still some beautiful music.
"We Are Stars"

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A weekend of great music

Last weekend, I discovered one more of the many gems that Cincinnati has to offer, the MusicNow music festival. The local festival has been running for five years and is curated by The National's Bryce Dessner. The band hails from Cincinnati.

Past years have featured Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Robin Pecknold (Fleet Foxes), Sufjan Stevens, Grizzly Bear, Joanna Newsom and many other amazing artists. This year was no different, with Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire), Tim Hecker, Little Scream, Owen Pallett (Final Fantasy), Megafan, Sharon van Etten and The National themselves.

Megafaun, Fight the Big Bull, Justin Vernon - jonahogles

I skipped the first day to visit friends out of town, unfortunately missing Shara Worden and Richard Reed Parry. I was there the next day, though, at Memorial Hall, a beautiful little theater in Over-the-Rhine, anticipating seeing one of my new favorites, Little Scream, and Owen Pallett, an old favorite.

Waiting for a show to began, I saw someone familiar; a musician I saw perform at Rachael's Cafe in Bloomington opening for Cults. I went up and introduced myself. His name was Eric, he wasn't an often performer (though he was amazing that night). Just a little aside, it was kinda exciting to meet him. According to his girlfriend, I made his night!

Then the show started. First on was Tim Hecker, an electronic musician I hadn't heard of before. His sound is ambient, reminiscent of Brian Eno's solo work. Not something I could listen to over and over, but good to put on when you have work to do.

During intermission, a funny thing happened. A woman sent her pre-teen daughter to get Matt Berninger's (lead singer of The National) autograph. The girl came back to her seat, excited to have gotten his autograph, but confused at who he was, asking her mother, "Is he famous?" The answer, of course, is yes.

Next on was Little Scream, who I stumbled upon a few months ago after seeing a video for her song "The Heron and the Fox." Absolutely amazing song and amazing performance from her that night. Normally, when she tours, she is a fully solo act. However, one of the benefits of this festival is the collaborative nature of the thing, so she got some help from Bryce Dessner, Parry, van Etten and Pallett. The whole thing was quite amazing.

Last on was Pallett, who is also generally a solo artist. He was supported during this concert by two former band members from Les Mouches. He's a violin player who uses looping to create a fuller sound and it's incredible to watch live. He claimed to not being a particularly good looper, name-dropping tUnE-yArDs as one of the best, but I thought he was amazing. I was amazed at his ability to create different sounds using his violin, including percussive sounds by hitting the bow against the strings.

The whole thing ended with most of the festival's musicians performing an a capella version of an old traditional hymn, whose name escapes me at the moment. Richard Reed Parry was one of the main vocalists and has an absolutely incredible voice. Arcade Fire should probably bring him up front and off of bass more often.

The second night (well, my second night, the festival's third) was held next door at Music Hall, a larger, but equally beautiful venue. When I came in, a documentary on The National, filmed by Berninger's younger brother, Tom, was playing. I'm not sure if the entire film is available online, but snippets of it were used for the music video for "Terrible Love." Also before the show began, Aaron Dessner squeezed past me twice trying to get to the rest of the band, who were sitting near me...awesome!

The show started with Sharon van Etten, a newer artist that Bryce Dessner discovered after Justin Vernon covered one of her songs for last year's festival. His backing of her is fully deserved. Thoughtful, introspective lyrics, simple guitar, you kinda feel like you're reading into her mind listening to her. Based on her music, I somewhat expected someone fairly withdrawn and angry to be on stage, but she's warm and friendly with the audience.

Finally, the main attraction; The National! Despite the festival being the project of the band's guitarist, Bryce Dessner, this is the first time in the five years that they've performed at the festival. I had a hard time visualizing the type of show they would put on, given that their music is fairly low-key. I figured it would be a good show, but not particularly exciting...I was wrong.

First off, the band had a video backdrop and cameras placed around the stage. The feed from the video was mixed with pre-recorded footage, creating a real-time music video behind them. The way in which Berninger used his voice was interesting, too. On the band's records, you'll hear a distinctive baritone that permeates all of the songs. Live, however, he often would scream certain lyrics in a tone befitting a screamo musician, but well placed here.

During the second-to-last song, Berninger jumped into the audience, making his way up the aisle and into one of the lower balconies, leaving member of the audience to hold up the microphone chord to keep it from tripping anyone, or Berninger himself. It was fun to watch, a friend of mine told me he does it at the end of every show.

As the grand finale, most of the festival's participants, minus Tim Hecker (but he really isn't a singer) joined the band for an acoustive performance of "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks." The entire audience joined in, truly incredible.

I've said it before, I'll say it again, I love living in this city. The music scene is incredible, and the presence of this festival just rounds out the amazingness put out of the Ohio Valley. I'll be eagerly anticipating the announcement of next year's line-up.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

America's Next Top Model finale!

Last night was the finale of a surprisingly interesting season of America's Next Top Model. It was down to Molly and Brittani. Molly was the athletic blonde with "abandonment issues" who took good pictures throughout the entire season. Britanni was the trailer park girl who took marginally weaker pictures but had an "amazing" runway walk.

The finale played out pretty much the same way it does every season. The girls started with the CoverGirl commercial and photo shoot. Both pretty much bombed the commercial; Brittani spoke way too fast and Molly had zero emotion. At least Brittani looked good, I'm still trying to figure out what the hell they dressed Molly in. Their photo shoots went better, though neither photo came out particularly good; Molly had a crooked mouth and Brittani had a bad case of man-hand (though both were, of course, praised in panel).

Then, in a newer addition since the show went "high-fashion," they did a photo shoot for a Vogue Italia spread. Brittani seemed to do well; Molly, however, was pissy...she was cold, ate a nasty sandwich and it apparently showed.

In another new addition, they finalists' parents came to visit in Morocco (this season's trip abroad). Actually, only Molly's parents came, Brittani's mom is agoraphobic. Molly's parents were nice and polite to Brittani, though, aware that her parents couldn't make it.

Finally, it was time for the final runway. They actually got a named designer, Vivienne Westwood; though I think I prefer when they go with designers of whatever country they happen to be in. Both walks were, quite honestly, kinda bad. Brittani walked too fast and Molly jiggled. They did look fabulous though. Brittani effed up...twice. First, she cracked up while posing mid-runway with Molly, then tripped and slammed into a wall.

Deliberation time. For no explicable reason, the girls got another makeover (keep in mind, this is after every aspect of the competition is over). Brittani looked cute, but Molly (while looking better with shorter hair), got a horrible bowl cut. Molly started crying before the winner was announced, however, once Brittani was announced winner, was stone-faced.

All-in-all, I'm happy with the winner. I liked Molly, but generally felt a little apprehensive about her. Brittani was the better overall choice.

Brittani ANTM Covergirl
Our winner!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New Music Tuesday - 05/17/2011

Company of Thieves - Running from a Gamble
Running from a Gamble
This is a band that has a lot to live up to. They won a songwriting award for "Oscar Wilde," that same song, one of their first singles, was featured on iTunes "Single of the Week" back around 2007, and their debut album, Ordinary Riches, debuted at #5 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart (which ranks albums by artists that have never entered the Top 100). They're great storytellers, so I hope they've stuck to that strength.
"Modern Waste"

Danger Mouse - Rome
This man is way too prolific for his own good. He has collaborated with Sparklehorse, Cee-Lo Green (as Gnarls Barkley) and James Mercer of The Shins (as Broken Bells), among many others. He has produced albums for The Black Keys, Beck and U2. On top of all of that, he has released his own work, most famously The Grey Album (a mashup of The Beatles' White Album and Jay-Z's Black Album. This release sees him working with Jack White, Norah Jones and composer Daniele Luppi.
"Two Against One"

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bill Cunningham New York

I went to the movies last week. Cincinnati has this great little independent chain of theaters that specialize in foreign and indie films, as well as documentaries. I went to see Bill Cunningham New York, a documentary about the New York journalist and photographer.

Bill Cunningham

That may not seem exciting at first glance, but this man is the stuff of legend. Cunningham was a hat designer as a young man before being drafted for the Korean (I think) War. When he returned, he began a series of journalism jobs beginning at the Chicago Tribune.

The man is widely credited as one of the first (if not the first) street style photographers. For nearly six decades, he has gone out, almost daily, taking pictures of people looking fabulous or wearing interesting clothes. At more than 80 years old, he still heads out every day and night on a New York City, no photograph people on the street and at nighttime events.

He currently operates several columns for The New York Times, the most popular of which is On the Street, a weekly collection of his street style photographs. He's been a meticulous catalogger of style. With photographs going back several decades, some have said he has the best record of style progression through the years.

He's involved in high society, as he often photographs many of its members, but he doesn't really seem to care for that life himself. He lived in a small apartment at Carnegie Hall for most of his adult life, until the building's owners kicked all of the remaining (mostly elderly) tenants out, he dresses in the same blue utility jacket every day and repairs his plastic rain ponchos with duct tape. He may be around some hot actress surrounded by paparazzi, but won't take a picture if she "doesn't have anything interesting on."

The man and the documentary are both truly amazing. If you have the time and opportunity, I would definitely check to see if the film is playing near you and go see it!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Top Model All-Stars Cast

The cast for the all-stars season of America's Next Top Model has been announced!

Alexandria Everett (season 16)
She was just eliminated from the current season. She's not going to have as much of a following as some of the other girls may have, but she was crazy, so she m be interesting to watch.

Allison Harvard (season 12)
This was one of my most disappointing losses. One of the few girls ever on the show who even kind of looked like she could model professionally and she lost to...Teyona???

Angelea Preston (season 14)
Seriously...this girl skated by each week to third runner-up only because there was always a photo worse than hers. She was kind of mean, but I had to look her up to remember who the heck she was.

Bianca Golden (season 9)
Not spectacular, but as long as they don't shave her head again I'm good with this addition (girlfriend does not have the right-shaped head for a close-shave).

Bre Scullark (season 5)
Yes! Crazy bitch and she's actually had a pretty good career. Top Model winners get promised commercials, but they get featured for a millisecond, at best. Bre had a speaking part in a Garnier commercial, so take that girls who thought winning Top Model would actually make them a top model!

Brittany Brower (season 4)
No, no, no, no, no, no, no. This girl was just bad. More party girl than top model. She only stayed on as long as she did because she resembled Janice Dickinson (who was a judge back then).

Camille McDonald (season 2)
Just one word, eh...

Dominique Waldrup (season 16)
Another girl from this past season and another She didn't even live up to a promise of being interesting. Doesn't look like a model and doesn't have an interesting presence...what's the point of bringing her back?

Isis King (season 11)
Yayyyy!!!! She's coming in at a much better time to make a real impact. As long as she doesn't trip up on insecurities again, she better make it to the top!

Kayla Ferrell (season 15)
She was good, technically, but she never really excited me.

Laura Kirkpatrick (season 13)
One of the girls from the "short" season, which may be to her disadvantage (considering how much they enjoy ripping on the shortest girl each cycle that she doesn't look as tall as the others). However, I loved her, one of the few times I would have been happy whoever of the top two won.

Lisa D'Amato (season 5)
Oh good lord, this is going to be interesting. Her and party girl Brittany up there will keep this season good and liquored up!

Shannon Stewart (season 1)
Elyse Seward is probably so beyond this show now, that her exclusion doesn't bother me. So, if we have to take anyone from season 1, this is a great choice. I don't know what's happened in her life beyond the show, but I can imagine her being the "mama bear" of the house.
Sheena Satana (season 11)
Yeah, no...

There's a few I'm sad not to see: A.J., Shandi, Heather. All in all, this feels like a random sampling. With a few exceptions, these aren't among the best models from their seasons, nor were many of them particularly interesting personalities, seems they just took whoever they could get. That may explain why Jade Cole is missing, she didn't think the pay was enough (how much could she possibly be making faux-modeling?)

So, from this list, I'd say Allison, Bre or Isis to be most likely to win. First to go home will be Sheena, Angelea or Dominique.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New Music Tuesday - 05/10/2011

The Antlers – Burst Apart
Burst Apart
The Antlers’ third album, Hospice, got them a lot of attention (i.e., hype) about two years ago. So much so, that some were wondering how well they would be able to follow up that effort. That follow-up is here and early reviews are positive... well-deserved positive. The album is quiet, but strong, but definitely one of those that requires multiple listens.
"Putting the Dog to Sleep"
Streaming at NPR

Box Codax – Hellabuster
Box Codax is the side project of Franz Ferdinand’s guitarist, Nick McCarthy. Where Franz Ferdinand became known for an art-influenced (and somewhat kraut) indie rock, this band is quite experimental. The songs I’ve heard are very…very interesting.
"Choco Pudding"

Cat’s Eyes – Cat’s Eyes
Cat's Eyes
I’ve become mildly obsessed with their song, “Face in the Crowd,” with its sixties-inspired sound. The album is out this week, showing an even broader sampling of sixties pop sounds. I’m fairly surprised something like this has come out of The Horrors, who are overall pretty dark (hence the name, I guess).
"I'm Not Stupid"

The Cars – Move Like This
Move Like This
This band was quintessential ‘80s, though they haven’t released anything as a group since that time. In terms of popular music from that era, The Cars are one of the few I enjoy listening to, so I’m fairly excited about the new release. They haven’t changed much (in terms of style, anyway). It would be nice to see them bring in more influence from the past two and a half decades, but it’s a good listen anyway.
"Sad Song"
Stream on The Cars' website

Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math
Simple Math
Heard this band on a late night show a couple of years ago, playing “I’ve Got Friends,” and instantly loved the sound. The music is very emotional and the lead singer lets his voice just go crazy at times. I like that lack of control. This is relatively more subdued than their previous release, Mean Everything to Nothing, but still good.
"April Fool"
Stream at Manchester Orchestra's website

Miles Kane – Colour of the Trap
Colour of the Trap
Miles Kane has been involved in three bands (that I know of) during his career; Little Flames (good), The Rascals (eh, also, not The Rascals that sang "Groovin'") and The Last Shadow Puppets (awesome). This is his first solo album. The better of his three acts so far have either featured someone else’s vocals (Little Flames) or someone else’s songwriting (The Last Shadow Puppets; primarily, at least). It will be interesting to see if he can hold his own as a solo artist.
> "King Crawler"

Okkervil River – I am Very Far
I am Very Far
Indie folk rock with some flair for the dramatic. This band seems unassuming enough at first, but there are elements throughout the album that bring them from beyond the typical, such as the chanting of “show yourself” during the track of the same name.
"Show Yourself"
Stream at NPR

The Sea and Cake – The Moonlight Butterfly
The Moonlight Butterfly
The Sea and Cake is a somewhat enigmatic band for me. A fairly strange name, albums that can be hard to find, a jazz influence rarely seen in indie rock and a different way of releasing their music (they don’t believe in singles). I can’t say that, at least from the albums I’ve heard, the jazz influence is particularly pronounced, but their grown-up style puts them at different level than the many 20-something indie bands around now (though I love many of those, too).

Wild Beasts – Smother
Poetic, artsy British rock with a falsetto lead voice that would be annoying anywhere else. This is one of the few bands I found out about while listening to the radio, although it was “Indie Rock Monday.” With this new album, they’ve maintained what makes their music so great.
Stream at The Guardian

Other releases:

Blood Orange - "Dinner"/"Bad Girls" (single)

Here We Go Magic - The January EP
"Hand in the Sky"

Thursday, May 5, 2011

So Much YES!

Target has done about 20 Go! International collections over the past six years and many of them have left me fairly unimpressed, especially given the caliber of designers they typically work with. One was just announced, however, that has me really excited and hoping for a star!
On September 13, Missoni for Target will hit stores. With what I believe to the largest designer collaboration so far, it will include 400 individual pieces of apparel and home decor. I hope they do not waver from the signature zigzag the brand is known for.

Missoni Zig Zag

I'm gonna go ahead and start saving my money now, I'll probably buy the whole collection up!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Best concert so far!

I can't even begin to describe how much I love the music scene in Cincinnati. It's easy to underestimate the amazingness of live music until you have access to many of your favorite bands right in your backyard.

Last Tuesday, I got to see The Walkmen and The New Pornographers.

The Walkmen were on first and I was actually a bit more excited about them than The New Pornographers (despite my girly crush on Neko Case). I quickly realized that The Walkmen are one of those bands you have to see live to fully appreciate. Their music is good, really good, but they have this great restrained energy live. Hamilton Leithauser has an incredible voice which would be well-suited to heavy metal (though I much prefer it here). He's also surprisingly hot when he's singing, new musician crush, I guess... Paul Maroon provides the sprinkling guitar, though took to the piano for one AMAZING song. Matt Barrick is incredibly entertaining to watch as the drummer.

The Walkmen - Stubbs - Loren J. Root Photography

Two things detracted from their set, though neither was the fault of the band. For one, The New Pornographers' set lights were up the entire show (the lights happen to spell out "The New Pornographers"), so that was a little strange to me. Also, some idiot fan kept screaming for them to play "We've Been Had," which they eventually did, but the guy was super-annoying.

Those minor annoyances aside, their set was incredible and I was left with even more appreciation for this great band.

Next on were The New Pornographers. This would technically mark the second time that I've seen them perform live, they were at Pitchfork about four years ago when I went. This was another great performance. I was sad that Dan Bejar was not a part of this show (probably touring with his other band, Destroyer), but seeing Kathryn Calder, A.C. Newman and Neko Case was still incredible. The band has great songs and easy to sing along to. They willingly (as in, not to just shut up a fan) took a few requests, which inevitably involved shouts of "Bleeding Heart Show" (the song used in the old University of Phoenix commercials), which they graciously played. They came back for an encore and ended the whole thing on perhaps my favorite song of theirs, "Spanish Techno."

the new pornographers - lilhelen

Overall, an absolutely incredible show!

New Music Tuesday - May 3, 2011

This is a big week for long-awaited follow-ups and much anticipated releases.

Architecture in Helsinki - Moment Bends
Moment Bends
I only started listening to Architecture in Helsinki around this time last year, but quickly fell in love with their sound. Their last album was released in 2007; even a year ago, there were reports of an impending follow-up, some which went back to 2009. Well, it's only been two years since that speculation, but the album is finally here!
Watch: "Contact High"

Aretha Franklin - A Woman Falling Out of Love
A Woman Falling Out of Love
I've seen this title floating around for just over a year, with some sources reporting that it had been released last year. However, I could never find any proof that it really existed, not even an announcement from the queen herself. Although this title has been floating around for awhile, the first real announcement I saw for the album was last week. It appears Aretha is back to form after her recent health issues, a welcome return.

Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee, Part 2
Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
This was supposed to be released about a year and a half ago as Hot Sauce Committee, Part 1, but was initially postponed due to MCA's cancer. Even after he was cancer free, however, the album remained without a set release date. After a long wait, it's being released, as Part 2, though the songs are the same...there's supposed to be some joke around the name that I don't quite get.
Listen: "Lee Majors Come Again"

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
Helplessness Blues
Squeal! Early buzz, already named by some to be the best album of the year (can you technically do that before it's released the year isn't even half done?) NPR has the full album stream, and it's pants-crapping-ly awesome. It maintains some of the best aspects of the band (namely, harmonies) but adds more instrumentation and more personal lyrics. Hittin' up the record store tomorrow after work, they better still have copies!
Watch: "Grown Ocean"

Other releases:

Yeasayer - End Blood single
Listen: "Swallowing the Decibels"

Antony & The Johnsons - Swanlights EP
Listen: "Kissing Noone"