Tuesday, January 26

Rap Video Wednesday: Gucci Mane

Heard of Gucci Mane? Here are the facts:

- He's a cross between Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy.

- Dude makes a lot of mix tapes.

- He's going to jail soon, just as his career is starting to take off. Bummer, right?

- The second single from his latest album is "Lemonade," and it's a catchy / terrible / stupid / brilliant track.

Here's the video. I like it because my favorite color is yellow.

Monday, January 25

Jason Ward, I'm So Sorry, But I Don't Like Almighty Row

Artist: Jason Ward
Album: Almighty Row

Comments: If various internet sites are to believed, singer / songwriter Jason Ward has written over 350 songs between 2001 and 2009, with another EP slated to be released sometime early in 2010. Considering that most bands don't write that many songs over the course of a career, Ward can safely be classified as one prolific motherfucker.

While his output is certainly remarkable, his most recent full length Almighty Row is anything but.

The album, which referrers to a big ass fight and not some dudes trying to get down a river, is a sparse and depressing affair: its 10 tracks clock in at 31 minutes and the subject matter is almost entirely about being really sad or fighting with a loved one. Tracks have titles like "Just About Time (to Get Even)" and "Hinting Towards the Door." These cuts sound exactly like one would expect.

The songs are based around simple, repetitive piano lines and /or guitar chords. Everything is played softly: strings are muted, chords are hushed. They have one or two parts, and those parts are repeated for three or so minutes while Ward softly sings about breakups, fights and generally being bummed out about a relationship. Sample lyric from the song Sinkhole: “Enjoy your sinkhole / make it your home / you raise your kids there / and die alone.” So, yeah, not really a feel good record.

Look, no one wants to knock a guy who writes a shit load of songs, records them himself and puts them out for free on the internet. I mean, I do that. Shit, I was raised on punk! I fucking love DIY! I wish Jason Ward nothing but the best. That being said, most of Almighty Row is bland and forgettable. Though it never sounds insincere or forced, the tracks are too sparse, too simple, too samey to be of any substance. I want to recommend Ward on the strength of how he does what he does, but one would be much better off with Elliott Smith.

Assuming the Internet hype is honest, Ward isn't going to stop writing songs any time soon. I hope he doesn't. I hope he keeps making his simple, honest songs until the day he dies. I just don't expect I'll be listening to too many of them.

Monday, January 18

Haiku Reviews #4: "Not Enough Time To Write A Real Review Before Work Tomorrow Edition"

Haiku Reviews: In which Nate Adams uses the ancient art of (Chinese? Japansese? Mexican?) poetry and reviews albums in a 5-7-5 format. Is it laziness, or NEW ZEN CRITICISM? Be the judge or submit your own, assface! Contact Nate on Twitter or at mrdogg45@gmail.com)

Artist: The Bouncing Souls
Album: The Gold Record

Seven great anthems.
Some bad lyrics, two duds.
Happy Birthday, Souls


Artist: Badly Drawn Boy
Album: Is There Nothing We Could Do? (Music Inspired By The Motion Picture: The Fattest Man In Britain)

Soundtrack work is fine
for this one time wunderkind,
relaxed and laid back.

Artist: Passion Pit
Album: Manners

Attention teen girls:
Please stop liking bands I like,
it makes me feel weird


Artist: Banner Pilot
Album: Collapser

Sure, it sounds the same.
Best made pop-punk since D4.
Collapser: Must-Buy.


Artist: Do Make Say Think
Album: The Other Truths

The best post-rock band
makes another another album of
songs to help you live.

Sunday, January 17

An Open Letter to Ok Go

Artist: Ok Go

Of The Blue Colour of the Sky

Dear Ok Go,

Let me just start this letter by making it clear that I wish you nothing but the best. I like you guys. I think you are neat.

Your first two self-titled EPs were two of my favorite things to listen to in high school. Your cover of Adam Ant's "Ant Music" is one of my favorite covers to date. Your self-titled LP, though a little bit too concerned with commercial appeal, was a top-notch collection of well made, clever power-pop. I think that, had your career began in 1995 instead of the early 2000s, you would be kings of the world. I even liked that treadmill video that launched you into the public eye. You guys seem pretty cool.

That being said, what the fuck is happening on Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky?

I mean, what's the motivation behind this new production? You guys are masters of pop-rock, professionals at catchy, hooky, easily digested, fun rock music. That kind of music usually calls for a much cleaner, more straight forward production. This album is all distant and spacey, piled high with fuzzy bass lines, vocal reverb and way too little guitar. It sounds like the bass and drums were recorded in one room, and the rest of it was recorded across the street. Why the disconnect?

Its a shame, too, because I think, had you stuck to a more basic sound, these tracks would be really, really fun. I mean, it isn't as if you guys have forgotten how to write good pop music, buried under all that useless space and echo-y nonsense are some really solid pop tunes. Tracks like "This Too Shall Pass," "Needing / Getting," and especially "Before the Earth Was Round" have great qualities to them, they are just stuck beneath a lot of bad production decisions. Especially "Before the Earth Was Round:" this song would have been a total success if not for the weird, Frampton-esqu talk-box vocals.

Also, I know you guys love the Pixies. I do, too. It's one of the things I like about you. But boo on you for ripping off "Hey" so brazenly on your slightly overlong "Skyscrapers."

I don't understand. You've always struck me as a band with an identify complex, like you wish you cooler than your public perception. Are these sonic changes an effort to appear more "hip" or "indie?" I don't want to discourage you guys from trying to experiment with your music, I just don't think this particular trial worked out.

I mean, it's not like Of The Blue Colour of the Sky is a terrible record, it could just have been a much better one had you guys stayed true to yourselves. It just feels like all the wacky studio noise takes away from what could have been a really fun album.

Nate Adams

Key Tracks: Needed/Getting, This Too Shall Pass, Before the Earth Was Round

Buy, Steal, Skip: Skip

Friday, January 15

Confessions Of A Hipster: Vampire Weeken Edition

Artist: Vampire Weekend
Album: Contra

Short Review: Vampire Weekend's Contra is a strong second album that overcomes occasionally stifling production with tight, fun Paul Simon-pop.

Long Review:
Contra makes me realize that I am a hipster.

One of the most tried and true moves in the hipster play book is backlash. It's an important one, because it a) establishes credibly about a band (ie: “Vampire Weekend? Yeah, I saw them back in 2007 with like 10 people at some college party up in Hartford. It was so totally authentic”) and b) allows for the “I-liked-them-before-they-were-cool” elitist abandonment. Backlash is the musical equivalent of the one night stand: like a band once until they get cool, then jump off the band wagon to seem cooler than the rest of the plebes who are just catching on.

I've felt myself slipping into preemptive backlash mode twice. The first time was before the release of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a movie i decided I wasn't going to like because I was sick of “that whole Judd Apatow scene.” Thankfully, I came to my senses, realized the man has never been involved with a movie I didn't love and now Forgetting Sarah Marshall is one of the only Blu-Rays I own.

The second time occurred in the weeks leading up to Contra's release. Considering how many of my other favorite blog bands had burned me in the past on sophomore releases (Cold War Kids, Tapes n Tapes, Clap your Hands Say Yeah), I felt I had a right to be skeptical in four preppy dudes who made tight pop songs that sounded like Paul Simon.

Just like with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I am pleasantly surprised to report that Contra is an album that is every bit as good as Vampire Weekend. Even if I am a hipster douche, I can still recognize one of 2010's better records.

The biggest change between Contra and Vampire Weekend is the production. Rotsam Batmangllij is all over this record, covering songs like “White Sky” and “Giving Up The Gun” with layers of programed drums, keyboard bloops and synth bleeps. Seems like his work with Discovery had a pretty big impact on the band's current sound. There are so many digital elements, it becomes hard at times to remember there is an actual band under all those computer noises.

While it can be a little disarming to hear so much sound that it boarders on overproduction, these songs work because, at their core, they are just well written, catchy, breezy pop songs. If you liked the first Vampire Weekend record, there is no reason not to like Contra, which boasts some immediate hits and some slow burners. For example, “Cousins,” the well-traveled second single for the record, is a frantic, goofy, kick ass pop song in the same vein of “A-Punk” and one of the album's most immediate tracks. Then there are songs like “Taxi Cab” and “Giving Up The Gun,” tracks that take a few listens to stick but make them all the more satisfying once they take.

Really, besides the hype and the new-fangled production, Contra is a spiritual continuation of Vampire Weekend's sound. Both albums have songs to hook a listener. Both songs yield new benefits with repeat listens. Both albums make for top notch party music. Both albums feature the best indie-pop being made. Sure, this album sounds a little less like a full band effort because of all the keyboards and synths, but that doesn't take away from the strength of the songs.

Putting things down makes people feel cool, and feeling cool is always a big temptation for people who obsess over music. I urge anyone interested in Vampire Weekend to overcome the urge to backlash and give Contra a fair shake. The rewards outweigh the cool feeling one gets from being a dick.

Key Tracks: Cousins, Giving Up The Gun, California English, Taxi Cab, White Sky

Buy, Steal, Skip: Buy

Thursday, January 14

So...Many...Guitar...Solos. So...Much...Hippy...Bullshit!

Artist: Citay
Album: Dream Get Together

Short Review: Citay's Dream Get Together is hippy bullshit, and I mean that in the best way possible.
Long Review: Citay is comprised Erza Feinberg and a revolving door of musicians. Their focus, it seems, is to combine elements of folk, psychedelia and sunny '60s-style pop into the longest guitar jam possible.

Considering how many current bands are leaning on digital elements to create their sound, Citay's commitment to the guitar is almost endearing. Every song on the album is more or less structured the same way: the band starts on a simple, friendly pop progression (think a few simple chords being played on repetition). Base of the song established, there might be singing (or there might not be, we'll cover that in a minute). After that, its just nonstop guitar solos.

Some songs are more rock-oriented ("Careful With That Hat"), some songs have a world-music feel to them ("Secret Breakfast"), and some songs have a Grateful Dead-like folk appeal ("Fortunate Son"), but every song has got a bitching guitar solo.

As for lyrics, Citay doesn't put a very high premium on them.

Of the album's eight tracks, only three feature any kind of meaningful vocal presence. "Dream Get Together" and "Tugboat" are the only two songs that boast traditional structure and verse / chorus / verse singing. Incidentally, those two songs, the only ones that clock in under four and a half minutes, are the best on the album. The former is a cheerful, upbeat interpretation of '60s-psych pop and the latter is a restrained, haunting love song that boasts this overly cute, nonsensical lyric: "I just want to be your tugboat captain."

You can bet your ass I'll be saying that to my girlfriend sometime soon.

If "Dream Get Together" and "Tugboat" are examples of how good Citay can be with a little focus, the rest of the album is an exercise in over-indulgence. Most tracks are nothing more than extended instrumental pieces that serve as a medium for the listener to see how kick ass guitar solos can be. Sure, there are entertaining sections ("Careful With That Hat", "Hunter"), but most of the album is a hazy blur of faux-trippy '60s revisionism.

One's enjoyment of Dream Get Together will depend greatly upon their appreciation for good jam sessions. Jam sessions are fine after all, but it's hard not to be a little disappointed in Citay after hearing the disparity between what they are capable of and what they want to be.

Key Tracks:
Dream Get Together, Careful With That Hat, Tugboat

Buy, Steal, Skip: Steal

Wednesday, January 13

To Boldy Go...

So I was going to write about the new Citay album last night and post it this morning, but then Star Trek: The Next Generation (my favorite show ever) came on last night and I got a little side tracked.

So THEN I thought, "Hey, Stupid, why not just write about whatever episode comes on next? Sure, it's not music and, yes, it'd be silly. Maybe it'd be fun or funny though."

SO I WAS GOING to write a running diary of the episode. Seeing as most of the TNG episodes are chalk full o' craziness, I thought I would be a breeze.

Turns out it was that suckass episode where Riker can't get any sleep and Data has a poetry reading. What. The. Fuck.

So no update today. Check back tomorrow.

Image courtesy of the Riker Blog

Tuesday, January 12

It's Official, Dudes: Girls Want You To Pull Your Dicks Out In The Club

Artist: Ke$ha
Album: Animal

Listening to Ke$ha's hyper-sexual, misanthropic disco debut Animal is a lot like watching an insecure college freshman try to heal deep emotional scarring with alcohol and promiscuity. On the surface it's all about the hedonistic pleasures of living fast and fucking anything that moves, but underneath those layers of makeup and random hookups lies an empty, lonesome core.

Animal is predictable, well made pop-radio fare. Ke$ha moans, giggles, coos and cat-calls like an immature Lady Gaga or the female answer to 3OH!3. Her songs utilize simple pop structure, oil slick electropop production, dabbles in autotune and talk-rap with simple, almost nursery-rhyme like word play. Which is to say, most of these songs sound a whole fucking lot like 3OH!3, Those useless fuckers even make a brief and totally forgettable appearance on "Blah Blah Blah," a track that boasts this memorable lyric: "Don't be a little bitch with your chit chat / just show me where your dicks' at."

Ke$ha isn't reinventing the wheel by any strech of the imagination, but she has her share of catchy would-be hits. Album opener "Your Love is My Drug" is a fun little disco tune, and current radio burner "Tik Toc" is no better or worse than anything else on the FM dial. She's even able to surprise on "Animal," an honest-to-goodness dance track unburdened with the undercurrent of promiscuity that runs throughout the rest of the album.

While it can be fun to hear Ke$ha tread on the kind of opposite-sex objectification that is usually reserved for the boys (again, I'd like to point to that song where she encourages dudes to shut up and whip their cocks out), that novelty wears off quickly, especially on simplistic and outright stupid tracks like "Take it Off," "Boots and Boys" and "Party at a Rich Dude's House." The first sounds like something you'd hear on a playground, but not in a good way. The second is a weak analogy that stretches too long to fill three minutes. The last is just a shitty song about spilling wine on some one's couch.

There are a few songs about rejection and heartbreak, too. Those willing to take things deeper than the surface could make a point that these songs of loss and self-defeat say more about Ke$ha than her tracks about brushing her teeth with whiskey. While that might be valid, any attempt at depth is obliterated by the reminder to just shut up and pull out your junk. Besides, this is easily digested pop music, not great literature. Don't try to see the forest through the trees, just dance.

So that's Animal. An occasionally fun, occasionally catchy pop record that will log a few hits, move a few units and ultimately be forgotten once this particular pop trend goes the way of Crunk, Snap Music, the Power Ballad and all the other castoffs in the ever-expanding pop graveyard.

Key Tracks:
Your Love is my Drug, Animal, Tik Toc

Buy, Skip, Steal: Skip