Thursday, May 20

Department of Squandered Good Will: Streetlight Manifesto Edition

Artist: Streetlight Manifesto
Album: 99 Songs of Revolution

Comments: For a minute there, Streetlight Manifesto was poised to become the one ring of ska bands. One horn to rule them all, one horn to bind them.

The Sauron, the dark master of this strained metaphor, is Tomas Kalnoky, band leader and brainchild of both Streetlight and Catch 22 before them. After the success of the group's super-tight 2003 debut Everything Goes Numb, an album that succeeds with no small thanks to Kalnoky's songwriting and flair for punk-ish arrangements, the group developed a cult-like following who was chomping at the bit to buy whatever ska-morsels the band saw fit to throw their way.

Then weird. Like, totally bat shit weird.

Three years after Numb, the band opted to release a remake of Keaseby Nights, Kalnoky's other ska classic with Catch 22, enleau of a new album. The group eventually got around to putting out a proper followup in a year later, the diminishing-returns-factory of Somewhere In Between, a record that sounded just like their first one in all the wrong ways.

Now, after baffling moves and unreasonable delays, the few faithful have been rewarded album of ska covers! Woo.

If nothing else, 99 Songs of Revolution proves what many suspected after the band re-released Keasby Nights: Kalnoky is out of ideas. Creatively, the man has been treading the same ground since 2003, and putting out an album of covers isn't going to do much to reverse that perspective.

As far as the album goes, it's exactly what one would expect: fucking ska covers of popular songs. There's a Radiohead cover (now with horns!) and a Paul Simon cover (now with more horns!) and a Postal Service cover (with, you guess it, horns!). Truth be told, the cover of "Such Great Heights" is pretty good, if only to hear the band replicate the frantic opening techno notes with brass instruments. Otherwise, this album is a wash.

I mean, if you were waiting for a band like Streetlight Manifesto, a band totally capable of putting out classics, to get back to the business of making rock music, would you give a shit about their cover of "Punk Rock Girl?" Of course not. You'd put on Everything Goes Numb and imagine they broke up immediatly after its release. It would have been a much more graceful way to go.

Key Tracks: Punk Rock Girl

Buy, Steal, Skip: Skip

I'm not linking to the covers. Let's pretend it's 2003.

Wednesday, May 19

The Swedes Won't Stop Making Pop Music, No Matter How Many Small Animals I Kill

Artist: The Radio Dept.
Album: Clinging to a Scheme

Comments: The Swedes make good pop. The Radio Dept. is a Swedish pop band. Put two and two together. Review over.






OK, fine.

Clinging to a Scheme is the band's third album, and it's a dreamy little affair. Their tunes are not forceful or overly-bright as much as they are hazy and warm, free of urgency, with simple, almost lazy hooks. There aren't much drums to speak of, outside the occasional canned computer beat. Still, the lack of percussion suits the light, airy nature of the songs.

The album's best tracks, however, are the ones that are less simple strings of pleasant music and more straight-forward songs. Take, for example, the second single "Heaven's On Fire:"once one gets past the asinine quote about "capitalizing on you youth culture," the song kicks in with flirty guitars and a bouncy, easy keyboard melody that will set twee-hearts a-cuddlin'.

Things are a little childish on Clinging to a Scheme, never getting deeper than the skin, never getting darker than slightly overcast on moodier numbers like "Domestic Scene" and "The Video Dept.," and the sunny disposition of the album can get a little over-bearing at times. Still, its a fine album to just throw on and go about one's day with. It's so sweet and well-made that, when the occasional real song comes along a sticks to the ribs, it feels like an added bonus more than anything else.

And, come on, complaining about the twee-pop record being too cheerful is like complaining about the ocean being too wet.

The Radio Dept.'s latest is well-made, feel-good music for people who like to feel good. By no means a meal, it makes for a fine snack at any hour of the day.

Key Tracks: Domestic Scene, Heaven's on Fire, This Time Around, David

Buy, Steal, Skip: Buy

Tuesday, May 18

Crime In Stereo's Challanging Little Success

Album: Crime In Stereo
Album: I Was Trying To Describe You To Someone

As far as post-hardcore goes, no band is currently more true to the genre than Crime in Stereo. They used to play hardcore, and now they don't. It doesn't get much more straight forward than that.

Still, trying to pinpoint the sound on I Was Trying To Describe You To Someone is a fool's errand. The album is unlike any other I've heard in some time. It stretches the ideas of punk in new directions, resulting in something that sounds very modern and cerebral while still maintaining an aggressive edge through vocals and guitars.

So, yeah, this is a punk rock record. But it's a punk record the same way that OK Computer is an alternative rock record, or the same way that Illinois is a folk record. These albums, while technically just simple genre pieces, are actually much more for what they accomplish and how different they sound than anything else like them. I don't think Describe You will fall into the same game-changing category of the other two records, but it's just as good.

Patches of this album are downright melodic. This record has been out since February, and I'm still listening to the guitar melodies and vocal hooks of tracks like "Type One" and "Drugwolf." Indeed, the vocals are a big part of why these songs work. Singer Kristian Hallbert doesn't do much more than scream, but he has a real sense of melody, and, along with the band's skill of playing off the quite-loud dynamic, his hooks are a big part of why the record is such a success.

Vocal dexterity aside, this is a guitar record. I've never seen Crime in Stereo live, but I'd imagine that its guitar players are some of those guys who have dozens of pedals at their feet. There is a lot happening from the six strings, and, honestly, I'm not sure how a lot of it is happening. There are a lot of little electronic, ambient touches, like on “I Cannot Answer You Tonight,” that are difficult to pinpoint but are paramount to the album's success. The straight forward riffs are mighty good, too.

I Was Trying To Describe You To Someone
is a fitting album name. It is nearly impossible to explain this record's greatness on paper. Punk rockers who come into it blind, expecting some straightforward rock in the vein of Bear vs Shark or Polar Bear Club will be disappointed. However, forward thinking rock fans will be decoding this mysterious gem for months to come, enjoying it all the while.

Key Tracks:
Drugwolf, Exit Halo, Not Dead, Type One, I Cannot Answer You Tonight

Buy, Steal, Skip:

Monday, May 17

Jim Ward is Pretty Good, Too

Artist: The Tallest Man On Earth
Album: The Wild Hunt

Comments: I don't usually go for singer songwriters. Too often I find their music to be self-indulgent, repetitive, devoid of ideas and delivered in a voice that is either emotionally absent, or so overwrought that I want to hurl my fist into someone's face. I don't like to chill out, man, so take that flaccid bullshit back to the beach bonfires and high-school basement parties.

Of course, there are a few exceptions to my distaste. Take, for example, the sparse and powerful tunes of The Tallest Man On Earth, whose latest album The Wild Hunt is like honey for my ears. By combining simple, enigmatic lyrics with an ethereal, almost rustic songwriting sense, the album is both familiar and excitingly new.

No, TTMON isn't re-inventing folk music; it is still just a man and a guitar singing about love through the lens of observation and fantasy. Still, it is hard to remember anyone doing it as convincingly, as enjoyably, as free of excess or pretense.

Maybe it is simpler than even that. Maybe there is just enough joy to be taken in a man who sings bravely and strongly, taking no time to whimper or whisper or wail. Surely one can just draw on the guitar playing, which is confident and firm despite its relative simplicity. Maybe it's just enough that the pretty songs are pretty, the rocking songs rock, and the lyrics are specifically ambiguous enough to apply to any situation.

Still, I say there is more. There is a comfort in The Wild Hunt, a domesticity, like meeting an old friend and finding them exactly as they were. And while the album will not yield new surprises on repeat listens, it will settle into your bones with all the warmth of November apple cider. Take note, young acoustic guitar players: this is what to shoot for.

Key Tracks: King of Spain, Love is All, You're Going Back, Troubles be Gone

Buy, Steal, Skip: Buy

Friday, May 14

I'm Going To Brooklyn This Weekend, But I'll Be Back For NBT

I hope I see these guys:

Or this dude:

Maybe I'll get to do coke with these cats:

I'll probably run into at least one of these dudes:

Jared will probably be there:

But don't worry, I'll be back in time for this

Thursday, May 13

I Don't Need To Write Rhymes, I Write Checks

The video for Diddy's "Hello Good Morning" was released earlier today. Keeping in line with all of the producer / rapper's other hits, the song is a catchy piece of pop-candy with a video that looks more like a movie than a companion to the song.

Now, I've got a lot of problems with Sean Combs, but there is no denying the man's gift for making boatloads of money off of mediocre talent, and his penchant for making over-the-top, hyper-stimulating videos. Below are a few of his career highlights, ranging from songs that are actually good (Black Rob, whatup!) to songs that are just catchy nonsense (...uh...Ben Stiller?).

Hello Good Morning - 2010

What's more impressive: Rick Ross suddenly being able to rap without drooling on himself, the soupy, keyed beat being saved by some solid drums, Diddy not changing his dance moves or rapping flow since 1998, or that Diddy can stiff afford explosions and helicopters in his videos (A HELICOPTER? In this economy?). Still, the track isn't bad. It falls apart in the third to an extend, largly because it doesn't have T.I or Rick Ross to pick it up, but it'll be another notch on Diddy's hit-belt.

COME TO ME - 2006

Considering that this track reached the top 10 in Billboards Hot 100 back in '06, and taking into account that Press Play debuted at number one, going on to sell over 100,000 copies in an increasingly world-weary music landscape, I suppose I'd have to call "Come To Me" a hit. Regardless, this is the first time I've heard this totally benign song. Further proof that Diddy should stay behind the mic. Oh yeah, there is a Pussycat Doll on this song. Fun.

I NEED A GIRL PT 2 - 2002

This song, however, I do remember. Quick story: I used to play football in high school, and one of the more, ahem, feminine of our wide receivers used to play this song all the time in his Escalade (yeah, I went to the kind of school where kids had Escalades. Not me, of course. I used to ride around in my buddy Mannion's two-door coup, listening to Tha Block Is Hot and Bringing Down The Horse on a boombox in the back seat.). Incidentally, that same wide receiver used to get blow-jobs almost gratuitously in his car, usually with this song or one like it playing. If that doesn't make it a hit, fuck if I know what constitutes "a hit."


Now we're getting somewhere. "Bad Boy For Life," with its Travis Barker and its Ben Stiller and its Dave Navarro and its Scooters, was a super-mega hit, far outdistancing the superior "Let's Get It" in popularity. Its a shame about "Let's Get It," which is still, to this day, one of my favorite rap songs ever. If there is one thing the world needs more of, it's nasty mugs like Black Rob. Even G-Dep comes off like a champ on the song, spitting my favorite line ever: "Shit I was born ready / And I was already on fish and spaghetti." Amen, G-Dep. What ever happened to him?

DIDDY - 2001

Another single off The Saga Continues..., an album that was way more huge than I originally realized. I could talk about The Neptunes beat, a marker of the group's fast-approaching high water mark, or I could talk about how, once again, Sean Combs needs to get off the mic. But I'd rather talk about how much time it took for me to find this video on YouTube (try searching "Diddy" on there and see how long it takes you).

Satisfy You - 1999

This track is off Forever, also known as The P-Diddy Album That Time Forgot, and it really only worth mentioning because the beat is great. So great, in fact, that I wish someone, ANYONE else was rapping over it. Sadly, we get Diddy. The man can make a hit, but he cannot rap to save his life.

Victory / Mo Money Mo Problems / All About The Benjamins / Been Around The World - 1997 (Aprox)

Listen...I'm not sure what to say about "Victory" other than it is the most extravagant, over the top, extreme rap video of all time. It should be required viewing for anyone over the age of 10, and is the benchmark against which all bat-shit insane videos should me measured. Truly a work of art, truly a classic.

Here is the video, and another with just the audio, in case you want to hear the music over the EXPLOSIONS!

The rest of Diddy's 1997 hits range from Iconic (Mo Money Mo Problems) to Hilarious, but listening to these songs, it isn't hard to see why dude made so much money. Dude was, and is, a hitmaker.

Music Videos by VideoCure

This rock remix is...just...the best lil' video. Things start out insane, then get EVEN MORE INSANE.

Wednesday, May 12

Ratatat - Party With Children (And Other Things Worth Looking In To)

1) Ratatat are at it again.

The electronic-duo are gearing up for the release of their fourth album, the aptly named LP4, and have released a video for the album's lead single, "Party With Children."

It is, far and away, the best anti-video since "Bastards of Young."

2) Jay Electronica released a new song last week.

"The Ghost Of Christopher Wallace," is really good for a couple of reasons:

A) The beat is, as the kids say, bananas
B) It features Diddy shouting a bunch of nonsense, which is always fun.
C) It's a new Jay Electronica song, idiot!

Speaking of Diddy, some might say his presence on this track, as a close personal friend of BIG, is a blessing to Jay Elect to use his name. Some other, more cynical people might say it is a continuation on the part of Diddy to cash in on his dead friend. I'm not going to weigh in, but I think its the second one.

Either way, good song.

Tuesday, May 11

Drake: Possibly Bitch Made?

Its hard to know what to make of Drake. On one hand, its very possible that he might be a legitimate dude to watch, rap-wise. On the other hand, he might just be an R&B jokester with a little heat, benefiting from the Lil Wayne vaccume.

Either way, here's his new video for "Find Your Love," presumably a single from his forthcoming album. The song isn't bad: it has a prototypical Drake R&B beat, but the vocals owe a lot to both Rhianna's singing on "Run This Town," and Kanye West's 808s and Heartbreaks album. The video is a mini-movie about Drake trying to find a hot woman he likes in a country of foreign origin. It even has a twist ending!

So, yes, this song will probably be popular, as will his soon-to-drop album. But, will it be another pop record, or will it be a worthwhile piece of hip-hop? Too soon to tell, but I'm leaning towards the former.

Monday, May 10

Sorry, Dudes. My Bad

So, I haven't been updating this blog in the last week or so.

My blast.

Been working on some shit, trying to get a job an all that chocolate hobnob.

So, with the whole "being unemployed" thing, I don't really have much money to buy new records. At the same time, with this new computer and all, I'm not in a rush to go out and pirate shit, either.

So here's the plan. I'll borrow CDs from friends. I'll listen to streams. I'll write about the backlog of shit I've got on my to-do list. I'll try to do news updates. I'll link to other, more successful blogs. Whatever.

The people will have Left of The Dail! this fan-made video of a Say Anything song a good enough apology?


Fuck you, then!

You'll see! You'll all see!