Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Sax is having its moment

Maybe it's just me, but the saxophone seems to have become nearly ubiquitous in indie music this past year. There have been a number of bands in recent years who have used band and orchestra instruments to great effect, including Ra Ra Riot and Beirut, but the saxophone has never been chief among them. The saxophone's use has even run the gambit from fairly standard Kenny G-like solos to more experimental usage.

Some examples:

Destroyer - "Chinatown"

Patrick Wolf - "The City"

Bon Iver - "Beth/Rest"

M83 - "Midnight City"

Monday, November 28, 2011

New Music Tuesday - 11/29/2011

Cee-Lo Green - The Lady Killer Platinum Edition

No absolutely new music this week (at least in terms of what I'm into), but today does see the re-release The Lady Killer, one of my personal favorite albums last year. I still don't like albums being re-released just to add a few extra songs; unless you're The Rolling Stones, and it's 30 years later. I do plan on buying the extra tracks, though, which include a new single, "Anyway" and the radio version of "F*** You," among a couple of other extras.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hipster Black Friday

I'm really not a Black Friday shopper; I could do without the lines, crowds and pepper spray. Thankfully, though, some retailers have turned the day (and the weekend) into a way to support local small businesses. Friday hosted a mini-Record Store Day across the country.

Record Store Day, held now for four years on the third Saturday in April, serves to promote local records stores and independent bands. The day sees special releases from a variety of both established and newer bands. The founders of the day decided to hold a mini-Record Store Day on Black Friday, serving much of the same purpose.

Yesterday saw singles from The Black Keys, Ryan Adams and The Civil Wars; re-releases from The Beastie Boys, The Doors and The Grateful Dead; and much much more! You can guess what I was there for...that's right, the single release of "Lonely Boy" from The Black Keys!

Thankfully, there is a great independent record store in my mom's town of Akron, OH, Square Records. I arrived there with her about 30 minutes before the store opened and there was already a line! They had only a few copies of The Black Keys' single, but I managed to snag one before they were all gone.

Black Friday Record Store Day
The line was about 6 people long when we got there.

This, so far, has been the store where I can always find things I've had trouble finding elsewhere, and today was no exception. I also managed to snag a copy of Little Joy's (Fab Moretti's, of The Strokes, side project) debut LP, which I couldn't even find on Amazon.

Like Crazy

This past Tuesday's movie night movie was Like Crazy, a love story starring Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones. The movie follows a young couple as they grapple with a long-distance relationship. The couple, a British exchange student and an American student, meet at school just before graduation. Once they've graduated, however, her visa expires (which she violates) and she must return home. They spend the next few years meeting up, breaking up, getting married and dating other people. Finally, the girl's ban on entering the United States is lifted and she moves back so they can be together forever. But will they last that long?

The movie was a Sundance favorite and it's easy to see why. Anton and Felicity turn in great performances as star-crossed lovers. Everything feels believable, too, with their relationship shifting between giddy romance when they're together, and fights and despondence when they're parting or are apart. I was surprised to learn that much of the film was improvised, though that really added to the realism.

Mini soundtrack:

Paul Simon - "Crazy Love, Vol. II"

The Tallest Man on Earth - "The Wild Hunt"

Stars - "Dead Hearts"

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fleet Foxes - "The Shrine/An Argument"

Fleet Foxes became known for their folksy, pastoral music with their first album. On their second album they managed to keep many elements of that sound but turn it on its head a little bit. This song and the accompanying video are the best representations of that shift. The video itself starts off pretty innocently, with a woodland animal walking around, but soon things go awry. Stunning video.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Music Tuesday - 11/22/2011

The Antlers - (together)

They released one of my favorite albums this year and are back with this followup EP. What I would have really liked from this release are B-sides and tracks from the same session, I would love to hear more of what they developed for the album. What we get is almost just as good, though. The album brings together re-recorded tracks from the album, performed with other artists, like Nicole Atkins and Neon Indian. It also features an amazing cover of The xx's "VCR."
"Rolled Together" (with Neon Indian)

Death Cab for Cutie - Codes and Keys remixes

Death Cab also released a new album earlier this, Codes and Keys. That one, though, was not one of my favorites of the year, nor was it my favorite Death Cab record. Hopefully, teaming up with a slew of talented young artists can throw something into the songs that wasn't there before.
"Codes and Keys" (Yeasayer remix)

Neutral Milk Hotel - Career box set

I only really got into Neutral Milk Hotel after I got interested in this boy who really liked them. Long after my feelings for him faded, however, my interest in the band remained. Their two studio albums were even among the first vinyl records I bought for myself. The box set encompasses those two records, as well as a slew of previously unreleased material, much of which has been posted to Jeff Mangum's site for streaming going a couple of months back. I don't plan on re-buying the vinyl records, so I hope the extra material is available to download as well...fingers crossed!
"You've Passed"

Monday, November 21, 2011

Corporate Music

I have such mixed feelings when it comes to some of my favorite bands shilling for major brands. I don't mind it, though, when the music seems to meld well with the product or tone of the commercial. It also leads to some hilarious moments from time to time (see: The Black Keys and Vampire Weekend showdown on The Colbert Report).

Another time when it seems to work is when I really like the brand doing the advertising. There have been three recent collaborations between some of my favorites artists and some of my favorite brands, all of which led to great results.

Best Coast and Johnny Marr for Ray-Ban

I want a pair of Ray-Bans so badly, I've taken to wearing the Ray-Ban-esque glasses sold at Wal-Mart until I have some more money to buy the real deal. In a recent project for the brand, Johnny Marr, formerly of The Smiths, has teamed up with several up-and-coming bands to produce songs for the brand. The "Raw Sounds" project includes several bands; Best Coast, Au Revoir Simone and Tom Vek, but Best Coast seem to best capture the sunny and cool attitude of the brand itself.

Here all songs here.

Karen O for Chipotle

Karen O, of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, is a legend in the making. It's only fitting that she should cover a song by two other legendary artists, even if it's a completely different style than her own. Miss O covered Waylon Jenning's and Willie Nelson's "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys." The song was recorded and a video made for The Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, which aims to support sustainable agriculture and family farming. The video itself shows three young boys exploring and vandalizing an abandoned farmhouse, only for the experience to hit close to home for one of them.


Matt & Kim, Andrew W.K. & Soulja Boy for Converse

This isn't the first collaboration between a seemingly random mix of musicians and Converse (and it won't be the last). A few years ago, the brand released "My Drive Thru" with Santogold, Julian Casablancas (of The Strokes) and Pharrell. More recently, Matt & Kim, Andrew W.K. and Soulja Boy released "I'm a Goner." I find it surprisingly awesome given that, while I love Matt & Kim, I'm not too big a fan of the other two. And, the collaborations are kinda fun. Next up is a collaboration with Gorillaz, which should be released in February of next year.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friendly Fires - "Hurting"

Just a pretty girl sashaying down the street and...ohmigod what the heck is that???

It's awesome!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Antlers cover The xx

Earlier this year, The Antlers released an album, Burst Apart, that is another strong contender for my year-end best-of list (might even be number 1). This Tuesday, they'll be releasing a follow-up EP, (together), that includes songs from the album in collaboration with Nicole Atkins, Neon Indian and Bear in Heaven. It also includes an incredible cover of The xx's "VCR."


The Antlers

The xx

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Martha Marcy May Marlene

I've skipped a couple of weeks on my personal Tuesday movie night, but picked back up again last night with Martha Marcy May Marlene.

The movie's been getting a lot of attention lately, due in separate parts to its being a Sundance selection, the subject matter and the pedigree of its star actress. This was actress Elizabeth Olsen's big film debut. She had, however, as a child, had bit parts in her older sisters' movies. You see, Lizzie is the younger sister of The Olsen Twins.

Despite the images (i.e., Grandma's House) that the name and family Olsen can conjure, the movie is dark and dramatic and the lead is incredible. The younger Olsen stars as Martha (aka Marcy May, aka Marlene), a young woman who escapes from an abusive cult and finds refuge with her estranged sister and her new husband. While living with them, she begins to grapple with delusions and paranoia stemming from her time in the cult, straining those relationships. The movie flashes back and forth between her time with the cult and living with her sister in the present-day.

It's definitely a surprising movie, in a good way. I didn't really know what to think given that the Olsen name was attached to the film, but the result is emotional and enticing.

Mini soundtrack:

Jackson C. Frank - "Marcy's Song"

Jackson C. Frank - "Marlene"

Beirut at Bogart's

Beirut and bright lights

The perks of living in a somewhat large city like Cincinnati just keep piling on. This past week, it was in the form of one of my favorite artists coming to town to perform. On 11/11/11, Beirut came to Bogart's a local establishment near the University of Cincinnati.

Beirut is one of those rare bands that manages to maintain the polish of their recorded material when performing live, something I had realized when I saw them at Bonnaroo back in June, and was reaffirmed of in Friday. The band started off the set with songs from the first album, Gulag Orkestar, and the early EPs, before launching into tracks from The Flying Cup Club and The Rip Tide, one of my early contenders for this year's best album list.

While I could have lived without their opener, a band called Ramesh, Beirut's was an amazing set and an interesting view of how excited people can get for the most unexpected forms and aspects of music. Heck, when I was in high school, the band kids were dorks, now one's on stage blaring an beautiful trumpet solo and the crowd goes wild!

I've seen them twice now and do expect that to be the last!

Mini setlist:

"Elephant Gun"

"East Harlem"

"My Night with the Prostitute from Marseilles"

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New Music Tuesday - 11/15/2011

Los Campesinos! - Hello Sadness

Los Campesinos! is one of the many British indie rock bands that appeared in the wake of the Arctic Monkey's success. Unlike many of the bands that showed up around the same time, however, they brought something unique to their sound, which is likely reason they're still on the "indie" radar. This is their fourth full-length release.
"Hello Sadness" music video

R.E.M. - Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982-2011

Goodbye, R.E.M. After more than twenty years together, the band called it quits back in September. This is their last release as a band. The album is a greatest hits album, of sorts, that covers their entire career, including their best known songs. It's a well-timed (I realize, probably intentional) tribute to what was one of the greatest bands of the last couple of decades.
"Losing My Religion"

Tegan and Sara - Get Along

Alas, no new material from this Canadian wunder-duo, either. Get Along is an live album from the twins. It was recorded in Vancouver at Warehouse Studio. The album, as a whole, includes two tour documentaries, another film and the live recording.
"Alligator" (not the live version)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Greeks - "Is Tropical"

A co-worker showed this amazing video to me the other day. It features little kids and a ton of fantasy violence. It's an awesome play on a common childhood game.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

M83 - "Midnight City"

Superpowers are pretty cool. Somehow though, packaged in children's bodies, they become a little creepy. Maybe it's just the glowing eyes, though...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tom Waits - "Satisfied"

Tom Waits is here to show us all the correct way to sing and dance in an abandoned lot...or is he carnival barking without the carnival? Whatever it is he's doing, he's doing it right!

Monday, November 7, 2011

New Music Tuesday - 11/08/2011

Atlas Sound - Parallax

This album has been streaming on the New York Times entertainment blog for about a week and it has already become one of my favorites of the year. Like his band's, Deerhunter's, album last year, this release seems to have a more direct approach melodically. It does this without sounding like something you've heard before, though. It's officially released today, but I was able to pick up the vinyl (and associated mp3 download) a few days early. It's been spinning almost constantly.
"Te Amo"

The Bees - Every Step's a Yes

Sometimes, I hate the difference in release schedules between Europe and the US. Typically, an album will be released on a Monday in Europe and the following Tuesday in the US. This album was released abroad more than a year ago and is only now seeing the US release. Granted, I have been listening to it for about that time (I don't like to wait). The album has a similar Brazilian-inspired sound as Little Joy about a year before. Interesting, given that both albums were at least in part inspired by Devendra Banhart, who himself has developed a sound that often borrows from other countries.

Brian Eno - Panic of Looking

In corner one of the battle for this year's busiest musician is Brian Eno. Eno has already had two releases in the past year. The instrumental Small Craft on a Milk Sea was released late last year and a full-length collaboration with Rick Holland, Drums Between the Bells in July. As a producer, he also worked on Coldplay's recent Mylo Xyloto. This release is a continuation of his work with Holland, offering up six more songs with the poet.
"The Real" (from Drum Between the Bells)

Cass McCombs - Humor Risk

In corner two: Cass McCombs. Cass released a full-length album, Wit's End, only in April. This, too, is a full-length (no measly EP for Mr. McCombs). I was afraid that, coming so soon after his last release, this would feel half-assed. It doesn't, though. While it may not be straying too far from the sound on his last release, the songs remain perfectly nuanced, with the same sense of introspection.
"The Same Thing"

David Lynch - Crazy Clown Time

So...corner four belongs to this man, and for good reason. He seems to have dipped his finger into every pot. Directing, painting, design, music, even acting. Just this year, he has produced concert elements for Interpol and Duran Duran, released an album, This Train, with Chrysta Bell and opened a nightclub in Paris. This album is a solo one. It opens with an incredible duet with Karen O. I can't say, however, that the rest of the album has the same appeal. At times it seems to rely too much on vocal manipulation. It makes for an interesting, though sometimes inconsistent listen. Still, a great release from someone so able to create amazing work across so many media. With all of this, though, I would think the cover art would be better.
"Pinky's Dream"

Kurt Vile - So Outta Reach & Smoke Ring for My Halo deluxe edition

I've said it once, I'll say it again; I hate it when artists re-release albums only to add a few extra songs. If you bought it once, you probably don't want to buy it again. Kurt makes it a little bit better, by releasing the most of the new tracks as a separate EP with the deluxe edition of the album; which I think (hope, really) can be bought without buying the rest of it again.
"The Creature"

Noel Gallagher - High-Flying Birds

Liam Gallagher recently said that Noel (his brother and former Oasis bandmate) was no good without him. Having heard Liam's Beady Eye releases and this, however, I think the opposite is the case. Considering he was the primary songwriter for Oasis, it makes sense. He seems to do a better job of pulling from British traditions in rock and even Oasis' own catalog. Both brothers tend to be more egotistical towards each other than is really warranted, but I say Noel is winning this battle...for now.
"Everybody's on the Run"

Sigur Rós - INNI

I'm kind of using this as my introduction to Sigur Rós, though I dabbled around a bit with the album Von. This is a live album that encompasses both an audio release and a video release. It also represents the only new work from the band in three years, though only one song, "Lúppulagid," is actually new. The rest of the tracks span the breadth of the band's work. Considering this, it should be a good place to start to get a bit more into their work,

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Kitty album covers

Get ready for cute overload. I found a new blog yesterday named The Kitten Covers. The blog takes iconic album covers and replaces the subjects with kitties! The results are pretty amazing, and all cute. Some of my favorites follow.

Pop art kitty!

Velvet Underground and Nico

Kitty Stardust!

Kitty Bjork (looks freakishly like the original cover).


Kitty Nirvana (this might be my favorite)!


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Avey Tare - "Oliver Twist"

Although I've never read the book, from what I know about Oliver Twist, I don't really see what this song has to do with the story. It's still a great song, though. Avey Tare, of Animal Collective, recently released a trippy animated video to go with it!

Not really sure what the video has to do with the novel, either.

Friday, November 4, 2011

How to make horrible music

I haven't been writing much about America's Next Top Model this season. While a large part of that is due to a much decreased focus on fashion, it's also because this season is ridiculously horrible. Although...I am still watching it. It plays well to my cynical side, I think, especially since this is the "All-Star" season, bringing back the "best" and "favorite" past contestants. In other words, it's a parade of delusion!

At least one of the judges is officially over it.

This week's episode had the girls writing, recording and creating viral videos (because that is totally something you can force) for songs based around a beat. Oh, and they have to incorporate "pot ledom" ("Top Model" backwards...sooooo clever, right?) into each of their songs. That's made it awkward for Allison, who chose to write her song about her recently deceased father.

The first part of the process involved hearing the beat and writing the lyrics. It was our first glimpse at just how horrible these tunes were going to be. This also served as the episode's challenge, with Lisa, the crazy recovering alcoholic, winning. Apparently, she's actually an aspiring recording artist (God, help us all).

The next stage was recording the song, which showed us that the girls are not just horrible songwriters, they also can't sing! No challenge here, I think they were just setting up to showcase the magic of modern technology.

Finally, they filmed the music video, which showed us that the girls can't write, sing or...model (totally non-required here). But it did prove that the show got their hands on some amazing auto-tune equipment. For the most part, the videos, directed by The Game, fulfilled the basic music video cliches (anyone else remember that show on MTV??); diva hair-whipping, creepy girl on swing, rubbing butt on car and cutesy sitting on bed writing in diary. Just to make sure the videos were especially horrible, Tyra herself appeared in each one with Keenan Cahill (apparently, he's an Internet sensation, but I'd never heard of him), lip-syncing to the songs and "dancing." Both wore outfits emblazoned with the "Pot Ledom." When Tyra thinks of something, she is fully unable to let it go.

Needless to say, the results were horrible, but strangely enticing at the same time. The final results showed that the majority of the episode's budget went towards an auto-tune machine. Granted, the songs and videos, aside from "pot ledom" and Tyra's cameos, weren't much worse than what's out there now. Allison ended up winning with the only song that managed to be slightly better than horrible. I would say that these girls should stick to their day jobs, but...

If you feel that you could sit through all of the videos, you can watch them here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What does that even mean?

Do you ever sit around, listening to your favorite hip hop songs, wondering what the heck some of the lyrics even mean? Well, wonder no more! Rap Genius is a new website that lets you find out the true meaning behind some of your favorite rap songs!

Just enter the artist or song name, click on the questionable lyric and, voila, you now know what it means.

In all seriousness, this is pretty awesome. They now need one to decipher all of the weird symbolic lyrics in much of indie music!