Thursday, August 30

Warm Spots in a Cold Summer

Let's face it, this past summer was a pretty lame one as far as music is concerned. It was a struggle, but I was able to find 10 things about music this summer that were pretty good.

10) Amy Winehouse goes into rehab: When Amy Winehouse sang about going to rehab on her breakthrough album Back to Black, some critics thought it was an empty sentiment, and that Winehouse was trying to cash in on a demographic by creating a false persona. Well, OK, I thought that. All doubts were shattered however, when the British singer and her husband Blake Feilder-Civil checked into a drug rehabilitation center. The trip to rehab came days after Winehouse was admitted to a hospital for an overdose after taking a cocktail containing heroine, cocaine, ecstasy, alcohol, and ketamine, a horse tranquilizer. While this is no laughing matter, it does give Winehouse a level of credibility that some (read: me) had questioned before. The news of the rehab not only gives Winehouse’s music a new level of sincerity, but it shows that she’s a freaking trooper. I mean, horse tranquilizer cocktail? What a bad-ass.

9) Sean Kingston – “Beautiful Girls”: With big name acts like Kanye West, James Blunt, John Legend, and Alicia Keys taking the summer off to release albums later in the year, it was up to smaller acts and no-names like Sean Kingston to provide the people with summertime jams. The 17-year-old Kingston stepped up to the plate big time with his song about good looking girls breaking hearts, aptly titled “Beautiful Girls.” Sampling “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King, the song is one of the catchiest songs released this past summer. Kingston’s voice is reminiscent of Akon’s, but he brings a level of innocence to the song, making it the soundtrack to high school drama instead of baby-mama drama. Apparently, the rest of the world agrees, as the song is currently number on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Billboard Hot Digital Songs.

8) Bruce Springsteen gets the band back together: After releasing a solo album, 2005s Devils and Dust, The Boss is back together with his old crew, announcing that he will once again be paired up with the E Street Band. Not only have they recorded a new album to be released this fall, but the boys will be back in town soon enough, as a tour is rumored to be in the works for Bruce and the E Street Band. The album, which is set to be titled Magic, is the first album that Springsteen has done with the E Street Band since the critically acclaimed The Rising was released in 2002.

7) T.I – “Tell ‘Em I Said That”: While T.I’s 07 releases T.I Vs T.I.P was no where near as good as his 06 record King, it still served to show that T.I is one of the best mainstream rappers in hip-hop right now, and no song proves it better than “Tell ‘Em I Said That”. It boats sharp production centered on a dramatic keyboard, a capela lines, and a thermion to give it a spooky, threatening feeling. T.I is as sharp as ever as he calls out fake MCs everywhere, urging people to “run up on the suckers.” T.I may spend too much time calling out his opponents, but he sure sounds good when he does it.

6) Against Me! – New Wave: With the switch to a major label and releasing an album produced by Butch Vig, Against Me! will no doubt hear all the usual “sellout” accusations in the punk community. What those critics will miss is how far Against Me! has come as a band, and how good of a rock record they’ve made. The cleaner production and studio budget are all used to capacity on New Wave, as the band strives to push not only punk but rock music forward in hopes that music will matter again. If Against Me! can keep making tracks like the raucous “New Wave” or the power pop of “Thrash Unreal”, there is no doubt in my mind that they’ll pull it off.

5) Wal-Mart Sells DMR-Free Music Online: Not many people would be willing to praise a global conglomerate, but this time they did something right. Wal-Mart is now selling DMR free music at their online music store for 94 cents a song, a full 35 cents cheaper than on iTunes. DMR files have long been planted into music files as a means of slowing internet piracy, but problems with the songs and outrage by consumers has lead more and more companies to abandon the technology. This trend toward more open music sharing is more proof of the movement toward an all digital music market which is forcing more and more record labels to rethink how music is sold.

4) Rihanna – “Umbrella”: I don’t know how Rihanna keeps doing it. Last year, she rocked my cold, lonely world with “S.O.S”, a song that not only sounded better than ½ of the singles released that year, but also managed to make Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” relevant again, a feat that none had dared attempt since The Coneheads movie in 1993. Now, she found a way to bury herself in my brain once again, this time with “Umbrella”, which boats both the stupidest and catchiest chorus I’ve heard in years. You couldn’t turn around this summer without hearing the song blasting out of someone’s car, boom box, or ipod, and it never got old. If that isn’t the hallmark of a good song, I don’t know what is.

3) Lollapalooza:
The massive alt-rock festival was held in Chicago’s Grant Park for the third year in a row, and despite the fact the mammoth rock carnival no longer tours the country, people flocked to Chi-Town to watch up and comers like Tapes n’ Tapes and LCD Soundsystem play next to established acts like Modest Mouse, Daft Punk, and Pearl Jam. Regardless of personal tastes, Lollapalooza had something for everyone this year. From hip-hop acts like The Roots and Common, to pop singers like Amy Winehouse, to dance music from Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem, Lollapalooza covered all the bases. Not to mention producing some of the best live shows of the year. Tickets were a little more expensive than in past years (around $200), but people would pay that to see Pearl Jam, not to mention the 130 other bands at the festival. A success on all fronts.

2) Morrissey Turns Down 75 Million Dollars: In a time when has been rockers will get back together, embarrass themselves onstage, and shamelessly mine their back catalogue for a quick payday (cough The Police cough), Morrissey’s decision to not participate in a Smiths reunion is refreshing. The prolific singer and well documented sad sack reportedly turned down 75 million dollars to perform on a reunion tour set to take place sometime next year. Feelings about the Smiths aside, it isn’t often that a person will turn down money to do almost nothing, let alone 75 million dollars. Morrissey should be applauded for his decision.

1) Dan Deacon – Spiderman of the Rings: In a summer full of mediocre releases from second-tier artists, only one record stood out among the pack, fully embracing the ideal that summer should be loud, fast, fun, and over the top at all times. Spiderman of the Rings by Dan Deacon is as fun an album as I have heard all year. Deacon’s music is electronic ripped from the midi’s of childhood Nintendo games, cartoons, or whatever else happens to strike his fancy. Songs like “Woody Woodpecker” and “Snake Mistakes” push the listener just as much as they reward them; songs sometimes go into pitches that can be appreciated, but not enjoyed. Still, it is by no means a hard listen, as this is a party record for people with a nostalgic sense of humor and fun. The epic 12 minute trek that is “Wham City” is without a doubt the highlight of the record. Each sample lays on top of either other building to one giant, choral breakdown where everyone plays drums and sings. And in the center of it all is Deacon himself, every sound controlled and manipulated to suit his whims. Spiderman of the Rings is for the person who sees little kids playing with bubbles and thinks about joining in. After all, cutting loose is what the summer is all about.

Tuesday, August 21

LOTD's Next Big Thing: Hot Club De Paris

Album: Hot Club De Paris

Album: Drop It 'Till It Pops

Comments: Since the turn of the century, Europe has been kicking our ass at pop music. Radio has been importing their pop-rock from across the pond for years now, but with the popularity of bands like Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, and the Fratellis some people seem to think we are in the midst of a miniature British invasion. Even big name pop acts like Beyonce and Christina Aguilera are being out-sung and out-done by European acts like Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen. With the release of Drop It ‘Till It Pops, young upstarts Hot Club De Paris are making sure that this trend doesn’t change any time soon.

Drop It ‘Till It Pops is about as fun a record as I have heard this year. All the usual influences are heard in the music; the band borrows a little from XTC in the vocal work, a little from Wire in the guitar playing and song length, and has just as much youthful energy as anything the Futureheads or the Arctic Monkeys have put out. Still, what is really remarkable about the group is how well they play together. The clean, tight, efficiency of UK pop is long documented, but Hot Club De Paris is doing much more than power chords and 4/4 time. Opening track “Shipwreck”, would be nothing more than a faux sea shanty without the manic, light speed guitar line that anchors the song. The same can be said for the more somber, but equally catchy “Clockwork Toy.”

Songs like “3:55 AM: I Think We Should Go Home” and break neck “Sometimesitsbetternottostickbitsofeachotherintoeachother” explore the manic, almost desperate joy of being young and dumb; Hot Club De Paris play as if they are trying to beat the clock and get as many miles out of their youth as they can. Still, the band maintains a tongue-in-cheek stance throughout, taking serious issues as lightly as they can without making a joke of them. With song titles like “Snitches get Stitches”, its easy to see that this is a band that can take a joke.

Even though the album is only 30 minutes long, it can get repetitive. “Names & Names & Names” stretches the lighting fast and submarine tight playing almost to its breaking point, and the interesting but unsatisfying foray into beat boxing on “Bonded By Blood (A Song For Brothers)” is entertaining, but not more than a gimmick. There are two songs on the record that establish Hot Club De Paris as more than the typical scene band looking to cash in on a sound. The first is the excellent “Your Face Looks All Wrong”, which is a somber look at city living where ghosts complain of over crowding while the young punks navigate through burning buildings. It is a sobering piece about the sadder side of the city, and it’s delivered with a tender and knowing hand.

Still, if “Your Face Looks All Wrong” is sobering, then “Hello, I Wrote A Song For You Called ‘Welcome to the Jungle’” is a cold shower and a hot cup of coffee after a long, hard night. The curtains come down, the walls fall, and the man-boys of Hot Club De Paris expose themselves as people just looking for something, anything, to hold on to. The break-neck guitars fall away, the drums relax, and the bass line dances over tragic and accurate character sketches of the lonesome unwashed of the world, adopted children, and the power of women who look good when the walk away. It’s a crushingly beautiful song, and easily the best song on the album.

Even without the quiet moments of reflection, Drop It ‘Till It Pops is still worth a spin based on musicianship and sheer fun. Like the best things in life, it never lasts long enough, but the good news is that once it’s over you’ll want to put it back on again and again. I can only hope that the boys in the Hot Club catch on here in the states. As long as Europe keeps making music like this, I have no problem with this invasion.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Key Tracks: Clockwork Toy, Hello, I Wrote A Song For You…, Welcome to the Hop, Your Face Looks All Wrong.

Worth The Money: Absolutely

Hot Club De Paris - Hellow, I Wrote A Song For You Called "Welcome to the Jungle"

Wednesday, August 15

Twin Hotties Bring Brains and Beauty on The Con

Arist: Tegan and Sara
Album: The Con

Comments: I am not a very good looking guy. The most that can be said of me is that I am interesting looking. Besides being overweight, I’ve got a patchy, comical attempt at a beard, and a curly mess of long, thinning hair. I’m going to end up looking like the love child of Michael Moore and Doug Martsch before everything is said and done, and I am ok with that.

Being as I am on the ugly side of normal, I have always had a distrust of beautiful people. Sometimes it manifests itself into outright hatred (after a few drinks, I’ll be happy to tell that tanned, popped-collar-wearing gentleman how I feel about his frosted tips and pink shirt), and sometimes it will sneak up on me. For example, I have often felt suspicious of attractive women who talk to me, the fear being that they are just looking for a favor, or playing a cruel joke on me (not that beautiful women are knocking down my door, but stranger things have happened).

Personal insecurity aside, I will admit that I have had problems in the past because I assume that beautiful people have nothing to offer beyond their looks, a trait in myself that I don’t much care for. And I will also admit that when hearing about identical twin sisters Tegan and Sara, I thought that their music would either be bland tampon rock, or faux empowerment pop. However, after listening to The Con, I am pleased to report that T&S are much more than just a pretty faces.

The rap sheet on Tegan and Sara is pretty long, and kind of misleading depending on where you read it, so I’ll give you the facts that are pertinent to The Con. The twin duo started out doing folk rock, the kind of power chord, woman’s lib that makes Ani Difranco so popular. For recent albums, T&S dropped the chick rock and overt feminism for an electronic sound and more subtle, internal lyrics. The more restrained sound works on The Con, which was produced by Chris Walla (of Death Cab For Cutie, feelings-loving OC band de jour).

The Con is a relationship album at heart. Despite the bubbly beginning of “I Was Married”, the album treads some darker territory, especially on “The Con”, “Knife Going In”, and “Dark Came Soon”. The pair sings like salty veterans of one too many broken love affairs, and the music comes off with a personal sincerity that is both charming and disarming at the same time. T&S spend an entire album thinking about loss, redemption, love, hate, regret, and hope within the scope of finding someone. It’s the only topic, but its one that is covered well.

Still, the one note songwriting is forgiven by the production. For an electronica album with rock sensibility, the music is top notch. The synth lines in the music are reminiscent of mid 80s indie rock, or more tender Nine Inch Nails songs. It’s a good listen, never getting too outrageous and never lulling to sleep. However, that shouldn’t suggest that the music is bland or middle-of-the-road. Each track is layered and textured enough to make the songs interesting, although not always memorable. The only complaint I have about the album is that it can run together at times with no real breakout track, but for the most part it is able to define itself somewhere between rock and electronica without ever sounding like its borrowing too much from either.

The Con works, either as background music or as a listening piece. As background music, it’s a pleasant soundtrack to personal moments, but I wouldn’t play it at a party. As a listening piece, it serves as a personal deconstruction of relationships for anyone who had something not work out. Tegan and Sara won’t change your life, but they will mirror your life, which is as good as anything. If nothing else, it proves that beauty and brains aren’t exclusive, and gives my messenger-bag-wearing brethren something to lust for.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Key Tracks: The Con, Kinfe Going In, Dark Come Soon, Back In Your Head

Worth The Money: Yes

Wednesday, August 8

Lollapalooza - Saturday Recap (Walk Around and Drink Some More)

After a 12 hour car ride, the dance rhythms of LCD Soundsystem proved to be the medicine to put a song in my heart, a spring in my step, and give me my spirit back. As I walked into the park at 12:30 in the afternoon, a sprawling mass of people before me and three of my four most anticipated acts awaiting me inside the confines of the ever-beautiful Grant Park, I decided that today would be the day that I would get drunk.

But first, there was work to do; people to meet, and bands to see. With Joe, James, John, and my old man close behind, we made our way over to the Bud Light stage to watch a band that none of them had any interest in besides me; the 19 piece feel good act I’m From Barcelona. We approached as the indie-pop act were getting their set started with one of the better songs from their 2006 release, a song called “Treehouse”, which prompted unfocused ridicule from Joe. Apparently, he was not on board with this.

I can understand why. From watching I’m From Barcelona, it’s easy to think of them as a tad gimmicky. Still, in a festival setting like this one, it goes over fantastically. Most of the band was just on stage to clap their hands, dance with each other, and run into the crowd with tambourines and high fives waiting for the audience (and a dude in a bear costume. No joke). So upbeat and happy are the songs, and so joyful are the people who play them, that it is easy to overlook songs about tree forts and chicken pox and just get caught up in the special of the whole thing. Songs like “Rec & Play” and “We’re From Barcelona” blasted over the crowd as everyone within earshot clapped and sang along with the mad scientist singer, whose fiery red hair and moustache made him look like some kind of crazed indie rock Einstein. As we walked away, Joe summed it up best; “I could never listen to it on an album and take it seriously, but it’s a hell of a thing to see live.” Well said, Joe.

As if my mood wasn’t good enough from the hippie love fest that was I’m From Barcelona and my decision to drink some points of my IQ, Tapes n’ Tapes decided to play an amazing set of songs from their first album, The Loon, as well as a number of new songs. Usually, I hate when a band plays new songs at shows (I am a huge fan of singing along), but I had no problem with Tapes n’ Tapes playing that card. Their new stuff sounded right at home next to older classics like “10 Gallon Ascots” and “Just Drums”.

What is most striking about Tapes n’ Tapes live is how big and hard their sound is. On their album, their songs are tight and produced with little room to walk. On stage, the same songs that sounded so planned and rehearsed on the album, now sound chaotic and dangerous in that way that striking rock music can sound. The lead Tapes, who usually saves his voice for the sweet melodies on the album, channels his inner Frank Black when he’s on the stage making his everyman voice sound twice as big and 10 times as sinister. Guitar solos, drum fills, and bass accompaniment are all kicked up a notch, turning the band from an indie rock such-and-such into a rock powerhouse. To really understand Tapes n’ Tapes, you’ve got to see them live. They will not disappoint.

Also, the lead singer had the best t-shirt I saw all weekend, with the exception of the guy who had an all black shirt that said “Fuckin’ Slayer” in huge bold font on the front.

After Tapes n’ Tapes rocked my face off, I took the next hour off to do some drinking. While my friends did their best to encourage and oblige me in my nonsense, I was able to catch snippets of other acts. I watched Silverchair play a song, sounding like they were just happy to be back near the limelight, and I overheard Stephen Marley mining his father’s legacy for a crowd of pot smoking hippies and bros. Both sounded fine.

By the time The Roots took the stage, I was pretty well sloshed and letting everyone around me know just how much I thought the Roots “fucking ruled, man!” Still, I’d like to think that I would have been just as excited without the 6 beers fighting my liver for control of my body. Since my teenage years I’ve had a love affair with the Roots, and despite their reputation for being a great live act, I had somehow been able to avoid them my entire concert going career until this point. Truth be told, I had my doubts that they could live up to my expectations.

They exceeded them. Despite the short set, the Roots played as well, if not better, than anyone else I had seen besides LCD Soundsystem. It’s hard for me to describe exactly what makes them so good on stage. There’s energy, sure, and fantastic musician-ship from everyone, especially drummer ?uestlove and bassist L Hubbard (not the scientology founder, although that’d be pretty neat). But neither of those things alone can explain what is so satisfying about seeing them live. It might be nothing more than the combination of jazz discipline with hip-hop intensity. But whatever it is, it works, as the Roots have become a must see band in my mind. If they are anywhere within my city limits, I’ll be there.

Still, there is no finer joy in this world than being drunk and listening to bar-room poet laurite for the 21st century Craig Finn and his band of late-70s stadium rockers that combine to form the Hold Steady, who were build for the giant festivals and arenas of America and Europe. Fuck the Decemberists, the Hold Steady were made for the stage.

Screaming from the front of the crowd, I felt like one of Finn’s characters in his one acts about drugs, drinking, and the terrible beauty of being young and fucking around. Finn stumbles and shakes all over the stage, using his hands to clap, count, shake, point, and occasionally play guitar, all while the lead guitar stays in one spot looking bored until it’s his time to solo; the cool yang to Finn’s manic ying. As the band blew through the hits off their three albums, you could actually see the crowd getting stronger as the set went on, like a pitcher gaining strength towards the end of a perfect game. At the end of their set, Finn told the crowd that “there is so much joy in what we do on stage.” Everyone there saw it, and fed off of it because at the end of the day, the Hold Steady makes songs about hopeful beginnings masked as dark endings.

As the band strummed the notes to their closer “Killer Parties” and looked out on the sea of rockers with mile-wide smiles, you could tell they knew what everyone in the crowd knew; there’s a lot of joy in watching what they do, too.

Saturday, August 4

Lollapalooza - Friday Recap (What Makes a Good Show)

What makes a great show? The people of Lollapalooza would seem to think that its directly connected to the number of bands at the show. And while this did give me the freedom to see whoever the hell I wanted, numbers alone does not a good show make. And while I stood amongst the other alt rockers who had made the pilgrimage to watch their favorites bands under the breathtaking view of the Chicago skyline in the mammoth Grant Park, I found myself wondering what really makes for a good show.

A great show should transcend boundaries. Not in a universal, change-the-world sense (although that certainly helps), but in a much more physical way. A great show can look and sound and feel good in any place, from an elevator to an open park. Bar room bands and stadium rockers, if their product is good, should be able to switch venues at will and still have the same impact. However, this is not always the case, as Ted Leo and the Pharmacists showed me early in the afternoon yesterday. Ted and his pill pushers started off strong with "Building Skyscrapers in the Basement" and "Sons of Cain", and proceeded to play a passionate but sloppy set consisting of mostly new cuts off of Living With The Living. Sadly, energy alone couldn't carry the day, as Ted played some of the worst songs on the album, including "Colleen", "Bomb, Repeat" and "The Unwanted Things", although he nearly saved the show with an intense rendition of "C.I.A" to close the show. In the five times I've seen Ted, that was his worst set. The bottom line in my mind is that Ted Leo and friends were not built for the stage. Their place is the dark, poorly lit rock clubs of America where his music sounds bigger than life. Out in the open, he's just another act.

Another group that was surprisingly unimpressive live was the Polyphonic Spree. I had high hopes for the Spree, given my love of twee pop and their supposedly great live show. And I have no doubt that if I were in a more intimate setting, or if I was closer to the stage that I would have had the time of my life. But from my spot 100 yards back from the show, the Spree looked like any other band. Doing a sound check for 24 instruments and 24 voices must have been a shit show, because the sound was off the entire time. Once again, I'm sure this band would have floored me in a different setting, but the open air of Lollapalooza was not the place for them.

A great show should suggest, but never force the listener to shape their thoughts with the band's to fully enjoy the music. Opinions can be changed through spirited performance and developed, inspired music, but not through shouting and soap-boxing, at least not at a rock show. Against Me!, former punk heroes and topic of discussion amongst the angsty, DIY'ers all across the nation, put on a surprisingly good show given their setting. Like Ted Leo, I expected the large festival setting to be a burden. Sure, they've played the Warped Tour a hand full of times, but this is no punk festival, and the indie rockers of this audience do not care how many teenagers have your t-shirts. However, Against Me! put on as good a show as they ever had, although they didn't play "We Laugh at Danger and Break All the Rules", which came as a bit of a shock. Still, songs like "New Wave" and "Stop" weaved well with older classics like "Walking is Still Honest" and "Rice and Bread". The only problem with their set was their political songs, which were preachy and underwritten, but that is the band's problem, and not a reflection of their performance, which was great.

Still, Against Me! didn't floor me the way Silversun Pickups did. Earlier in the year I somewhat wrote them off as the hot band of right now, but ultimately substance-less. Their live show made a believer out of me. Which is another mark of a great show; one should gain a new appreciation from it. Silversun's shoe-gazing guitar work, punchy bass lines, and flashy drum work had my head bobbing for an hour straight. The band seemed loose and utterly excited to be there, and it showed on stage. Their two song closer of "Lazy Eye" and "Common Reactor" nearly brought the house down.

Still, none of these bands, from the good shows to the bad shows (speaking of bad shows, Blond Redhead was fucking AWFUL) could hold a candle to the best show of the night, put on by LCD Soundsystem. This came out of nowhere. If you had asked me yesterday if I would have enjoyed a house band playing dance music, I would have told you to fuck off. Still, when James Murphy and Co. took the stage and opened with "Us V Them" off of his top ten record Sound of Silver based aspect of the culture came down, and everyone danced. We danced like out feet were on fire, with a kind of reckless joy that comes from passengers on sinking ships. We danced for an hour and didn't stop, all while a subdued Murphy called out our steps. Credit is due to his band, who were excellent, but it was Murphy's , I realized that a great show can take hold of you and protect you. A great show can make your insecurities and hang-ups seem small and stupid and utterly useless, at least for a little while. And that is what this show did, not just for me but for an entire audience filled with a subculture full of passive females and beta-males. The entire self conscious, appearancessubtle showmanship that propelled the show. Hands down, LCD Soundsystem won the day on Friday, even over french robots Daft Punk.

Here's the tentative schedule for today:

I'm From Barcelona
Tapes n Tapes
Motion City Soundtrack
The Roots
Hold Steady
Yeah Yeah Yeahs

We'll be back tomorrow.


Friday, August 3

LOTD & Lollapalooza 2007 - The Morning Of (With Apologiez to the Great State of Indiana)

Greetings from Chicago! I am coming to you live from dirty hotel room outside of O'Hare Airport at 7:37 mid-west time, only a few short hours away from the once proud festival that roamed the country calling out to the privileged-yet-disenfranchised suburban youth of America. Now, neutered and confined to the limits of beautiful Grant Park on the banks of Lake Michigan, Lollapalooza is much less a celebration (bitches) of community spirit and belonging, and much more a chance to see a bunch of bands that normally wouldn't play together in a million years.

The reasons for the decline in the once great Lollapalooza are numerous. Some people claim that the festival lost its true spirit of independent and underground thinking when festival big- wig and Jane's Addiction front man Perry Ferrell decided to bring Metallica in to headline the festival in 1996, which is the equivalent to inviting the stereotypical teen movie football star to the stereotypical high school anime club dance. Purists maintain that the flooding of alpha males into a temporary society of passive dudes was crippling to the idea of Lollapalooza.

Still, others say the decline of the traveling rock circus comes from the economy. People just don't have the money or the inclination to shell out 260 dollars for a one day show in their town regardless how many bands are playing. Others blames the shunning of Ozzy Osborne in 97 and his subsequent Ozzfest, a metal festival created out of spite for Lolla higher-ups saying that Ozzy was uncool, for the decline and crippling of the show. Still, it's probably just due to the fact that Lollapalooza was always a grunge festival at heart, and after 1997 grunge just doesn't sell anymore.

Still, I can't be totally right, seeing as the big draw for this year's festival is none other than grunge pioneers Pearl Jam. And don't let my above paragraphs fool you, I am significantly geeked out over this festival. Who cares if I had to drive 12 hours from Philadelphia to get here, the line up alone is worth the caffeine overdose, the flat, lifeless planes of Indiana, and having my butt fall asleep from sitting in one spot too long.

All weekend, the LOTD crew (including contributors Joe Gilson and James Keough) will be updating you good people on the goings on and happenings at this once proud, still awesome mega-concert. Here's a look at what we'll be (tentatively) checking out today:

The Fratellis
Chin Up Chin Up
Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
Jack's Mannequin
The Polyphonic Spree
Against Me!
Silversun Pickups
LCD Soundsystem
Daft Punk (!!!)

Be sure to check back periodically, as we will be updating as often as we can.

Well, I'm off to go watch some rock music and drink pricey beer with thousands of my closest friends. Until later!

- Mr. Dogg

Wednesday, August 1

Movie Star vs the Trap Star

Artist: T.I
Album: T.I vs T.I.P

Comments: This concept album-of-sorts from T.I is one of two things. It is either a bold yet flawed attempt at making an album that showcases the duality of his music, or it is a brilliant think piece that subtly highlights his persona by making sacrifices at the expense of the listener.

The basic idea behind T.I vs T.I.P is that there are two sides to the Atlanta born king of the south. There is T.I, which is his businessman side, and there is T.I.P, which is his hustler side. The album is broken up into three acts, with each half getting seven tracks and four more tracks in the third act where the two sides come together.

Abe Lincoln once said that a house divided could not stand. T.I probably should have brushed up on some history before making this record. There aren’t any terrible tracks on the record, just a lot of inconsistent ones. And that can be chalked up to the confines of the project itself. Because T.I is forcing himself to only speak through one half of his mouth for most of this record, it rarely gets really good.

From the (arguably better) T.I.P side, we have tracks like “Big Things Poppin” and “Da Dopeman” that highlight T.I’s gangster side, his villain side. While neither track can match the grandness or the confidence of anything on King, they still hold up and are just as good as anything else T.I has done. Just not great. Also worth noting in the first act is “Watch What You Say to Me” simply for the dynamite guest verse from Busta Rhymes of all people.

While the first half is not great, it at least sounds meaningful. The same cannot be said for the second, or the T.I act of the record. Seeing as this half of T.I is all about making money hand over fist, they come off with much less conviction. Making money is never as interesting as struggling and fighting for respect. Besides the overlong “Help is Coming” and the comical southern drawl Eminem adopts on “Touchdown”, this section of the CD is skippable.

However, it is the last act of the record that makes me think T.I is brilliant. Here’s my theory. T.I knows his limits and he knows what makes him good. He knows all along that he will only sound half as good when he’s only using half of his personality. But he does it anyway to prove the point. The point being that when he gets both sides working together, he really is one of the best rappers around. These four songs are all much better than anything else on the record, and as good as anything T.I has done, especially the banging “Tell ‘em I Said That”.

So is T.I brilliant? Or did he just make an uneven album based on an idea that would make for a good song but not a good record. That’s for you to decide. T.I vs T.I.P may not be his best work, but it proves that the crown of king of the south is his to lose. And when he puts everything he has into it, no one can touch him. It’s just a shame he doesn’t do it for a whole album.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Key Tracks: Big Things Poppin, Help is Coming, Tell ‘Em I Said That, Respect This Hustle

Worth the Money: I have to go with no.