10.25.2005

Kid A+

Just some thoughts on a little big album released just around this time five years ago...

It seems like anyone who really knows Kid A can tell you how revolutionary it was in the rock world (not an exaggeration -- Radiohead might not have done anything too different from say, Can, but this time EVERYONE noticed), or how it either destroyed all their love for Radiohead or multiplied it exponentially, or how "Everything in Its Right Place" never fails to put you in a twitchy state of complacent paranoia.

What amazes me most about this album is how Radiohead managed to take a baseball bat to song structure, barely mumble some already very obtuse lyrics, experiment with otherworldly electronic noise, and STILL make what is essentially a fantastic rock album. "National Anthem" both bludgeons you with cacophony and pulls you into an irresistible groove, "Idioteque" is moshing disco for the bloodthirsty, and "Motion Picture Soundtrack" has Thom crooning a yearning, sing-you-to-sleep love song (even though it sounds like it's being sung to HAL or something). For every off-pitch tinkle in "Kid A" and anasthetic drone in "Treefingers," there is a catchy power-riff in "Optimistic" and grooving bodily sway to "Morning Bell."

Radiohead managed to stay, essentially, still Radiohead. And though the drasticness of the change caused them to lose a chunk of their fanbase, it didn't affect their record sales in the slightest. Many more picked up on the genius that was Kid A, and its follow-up, Amnesiac, sold even more in its debut week.

Kid A is my favorite Radiohead release. It is also one of the best albums of the decade so far, and even one of my favorite albums of all-time; if anything because it is so incredibly communicative -- even while remaining so incredibly mysterious. There is more to this record than the bevy of musical ideas Thom and his buddies think up.

Most fascinatingly to me, there is a bewildering impersonal warmth to it. As much as Thom Yorke insisted on being Mr. Doomsday at the time of its release, one can't help but feel a sense of an incredibly childlike hope deep, deep inside of this album. Whether this hope is more bitterly sarcastic than genuine is certainly debatable, and clearly the album is laden with premonitions of the apocalypse. On the surface, it seems that the sparkling electronic bubbling that finishes the album is the ultimate sarcastic moment that seals the deal for humanity as Radiohead knows it. But after repeated listens, I can't quite settle with this simplistic view of the record. And I can't pinpoint why not, either. Maybe it's the yearning of the strings in "How to Disappear Completely," or the ethereal, motherlike comfort of "Treefingers," or the way Thom's voice trembles in "Motion Picture Soundtrack." But the album as a whole glows with something unmistakably human, as though it were pregnant with a real flesh-and-blood Kid B.

Hmmm, potential 2006 release? I like it.

listening: "In Limbo" - Radiohead

10.22.2005

cracked out

XIU XIU blows my fucking mind. I've never seen or heard them live, but they are masters of the studio. Their instrumental arrangements are unlike anything, ever. The music and lyrics just drill into that yellow festering pus boil in some shadowy nook in your brain. It makes you tweak a little, maybe your stomach churns or maybe your face goes numb. You go cross-eyed and don't notice that you're drooling. And then Jamie Stewart lays his head on your barely-moving chest and just when you think he's going to fall asleep, he bites it. But lovingly.

I've recently noticed that I find myself drawn, for whatever reason, to performers with eccentric and histrionic musical personalities. I hold Xiu Xiu, Tori, The Microphones, and Bjork all in very high regard, and they all involve careening belligerently in the face of performing convention, especially when it comes to singing.

It's strange, because that is rarely the aspect of the music I like the most about them (except when it comes to Tori, who would be sort of boring if she didn't pant into the microphone). Jamie Stewart's melodramatics are both ridiculous and endearing. Phil Elvrum's voice just sucks, it just so happens to work in most of his sound experiments because it's so weird. And Bjork is Bjork, you know how that goes.

So what's up with the weirdos? Am I empathic, perhaps? Maybe. If I were a musical artist, I would probably croak into the microphone a few times, then sing with a heavy lisp for a while before I bust out some death-metal Slayer shit to cap the song. Yeah, that would be sweet.

listening: "Oh Lately It's So Quiet" - OK Go

10.19.2005

SUP BITCHES




This is what I was talking about the other week. Weird, huh? Yeah, not really when you think about it.

Dudes, everything else I thought I knew about Madonna has blown up before my eyes. Upon reading Z's LJ post that is. My world done turned upside down.

listening: "Spotlight (Aphex Twin mix)" - Wagon Christ

10.15.2005

at least it's not "american life"

It's sort of disappointing that Madonna chose to take the easy - I mean, REALLY easy - way out of her pop music rut. She went with what was safe, which I guess isn't that bad of a thing, except what's safe for Madonna is pretty boring.

"Hung Up," her new single, was leaked the other day. It loops an ABBA single, puts a dance beat behind it, and has Maddy singing some of her worst lyrics since... ever. The melody is junk. The production is okay; nothing to write home about.
I'm sure there will be some amazing remixes in the future, but couldn't she have churned out a better single cut? It won't set any trends, all it does is follow them. Fuck, this could have been on Erotica and we would be none the wiser. I mean, come on. This is fluff. It's dull. It's derivative.

But it's still Madonna. SO it's going on repeat all afternoon!

listening: "time goes by... so slowly" (repeat ad nauseum)

10.14.2005

poop cab for emo

Saw Death Cab for Cutie tonight at the Michigan Theater. I was expecting to get bored halfway in, but they actually put on a pretty entertaining show. They totally repped all of their albums, and even a b-side, which is really cool. Not enough artists pull from their catalogue anymore, it's too much "let's play our entire new album and the singles from the old ones." So yeah, I was really surprised to hear so many We Have the Facts and Photo Album tracks. Fuck, they even played a song off of Something About Airplanes, and that album kind of sucks! So, good job Death Cab.

Also, halfway through "I Will Follow You Into the Dark," some guy yelled out in to Ben, "I WANT YOU!," which completely echoed my sentiments just then. That song made me want to pounce him. And Ben Gibbard is not an attractive man. So that just goes to show you the power he holds in those little man boobies of his!

listening: "Lightening Rod, Run" - Deerhoof (kind of weird because "Transatlanticism" is still playing in my head. mashup anyone? hmmmmm)

10.11.2005

"Enjoy the Silence. PLLLEEEEEAAAAASSSSEEEEE." -Ian

I finally got around to listening to indie-ubiq Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! I was expecting another trendy indie band that is all style over substance (*ahembrokensocialsceneahem*), so I was surprised to discover a pleasant mix of the two. It's not groundbreaking stuff, it's just really well-executed. So I'm keeping this one in heavy rotation for now.

Wolf Eyes - Burned Mind. Ummm yeah. THIS one is going into heavy rotation, too... right... or maybe I'll wait until I want to kill myself first. It's well done, but I don't think it has a place in my life right now.

Xiu Xiu, La Foret, sauntering up my mental Best-of-2005 list. I love you, Jamie Stewart.

The new Imogen Heap album is way underwhelming. WAY. I think I will stick with "Hide and Seek" thank you.

I keep trying to make myself love Boards of Canada, but it just ain't happening. The Campfire Headphase is good, but I can't see myself listening to it all that much.

And finally -- I want a new Dntel album FUCKING NOW.

listening: "Invincible" - Ok Go

10.09.2005

it's like if god's eyes got thrown against my living room wall

May I just take this opportunity to say that Good News for People Who Love Bad News is easily the most heartbreaking Modest Mouse album of them all? I know I change my mind every time I listen to their last two, but um seriously y'all, this one is the shit. Talk about the ability to occupy a unique and specific sonic space with universally remarkable songwriting, yet also to be able to transfer that to any mode of living and personal dramatics with the greatest of ease.... It just melds with the paradoxical zeitgeist of jadedness and emotional volatility of our generation so simply yet so brilliantly. Oh man... Happy feeling in the abdomen of my philosophimusical craniumz.

10.05.2005

this is not about love

"'Cause I am not in love."

Fiona wrote some damn good songs for Extraordinary Machine, so leave it to the performance and production to make it or break it. Fact: Fiona sounds much better on the old (Jon Brion) version of EM. Fact: I find Jon Brion annoying. False: "OMG, the new version is sooo much worse!" Fact: Both have their strengths. I am personally inclined towards the new ("more accessible!") version. I like many of the new arrangements; I also find a few far inferior to Brion's. The new "Parting Gift" is quite nice. And if anything, I'm glad the real release finally happened, because it gave me an excuse to listen to this album once again. And what's more, I let my iTunes run right into When the Pawn... as soon as EM was over, and it reminded me of how great that album is, as well. Perhaps her best? Whatever, it brings me back to sophomore year of high school and all those really confusing emotions. And they look awfully funny from this perspective.

listening: "Get Him Back" version 2.0 (again!! it's that good.)

10.03.2005

iHeart iTunes

How many total songs? 8492

Sort by Song Title - first and last?
first: ­"'97 Bonnie & Clyde" - Tori Amos
last: Zwei Stücke für Violincello und Clavier (II) - Anton Webern

Sort by Time - first and last?
first: Lucky (rap) - Joni Mitchell
last: Sonata for String Quartet - Brian Fernyhough

Sort by Album - first and last? [only on tracks where the album is listed]
first: ! - The Dismemberment Plan
last: You Forgot It in People - Broken Social Scene

Top Ten Played Songs: (this is skewed because I recently updated my library, so these are the top 10 played since like, 3 weeks ago)
"I Will Follow You Into the Dark" - Death Cab
"Int 10/34" - c
"The Ice Tree" - Gravenhurst
"Today Has Been ok" - Emiliana Torrini
"2d2f" - Erlend Oye remix
"Tunnels" - Gravenhurst
"Through Time" - Roisin Murphy
"By This River" - Brian Eno
"Trashing Days" - The Notwist
"Diamonds from Sierra Leone (remix)" - Kanye

Find "sex," how many songs show up? 57

Find "death," how many songs show up? 73 (almost all Death Cab!!)

Find "love," how many songs show up? 290 (Hounds of Love, The Love Below... so many Love albums)

Find "peace", how many songs show up? 5

Find "rock", how many songs show up? 71
___________________________________
1.Total amount of music files on your computer? too much work

2. The last CD you bought was: actually bought? uhh... No Flashlight and Singers by Mount Eerie.

3. What was the last song you listened to before reading this message? "Fast Car" - Xiu Xiu

4. Write down five songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you.
"Float On" - Modest Mouse
"Fog Round the Figurehead" - Gravenhurst
"The Luckiest" - Ben Folds
"Blue" - Joni Mitchell
"Crazy" - Tori

10.02.2005

they never saw the sign

I got to check out the upcoming Gravenhurst LP, Fires in Distant Buildings, today. It's a far fling from Talbot's last album, as he seems to be consciously striving to get away from the Nick Drake comparisons and represent his more prominent influences, namely Husker Du and Sonic Youth. Naturally, I don't like this shift a whole lot. What made Flashlight Seasons so affecting was its naked beauty, in both lyrics and instrumentation. You know that it's intensely personal, yet he pulls it off with such delicateness and melodic knowhow that it never once strikes you as pathetic (see: Elliott Smith. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Elliott, but the last thing we need is another one of him in sheep's clothing). Fires, in contrast, is far from delicate. The production is more lo-fi with plenty of distortion and power-chord-ish riffs. It also does not come off as immediately personal at all. For one, the lyrics are far more engaged in storytelling than his previous stuff. What's more, two of the eight tracks are entirely instrumental, and another two are mostly instrumental.

I'm not a huge fan of instrumental rock.

Complaints aside, I don't dislike the album. As bad as the Gravenhurst-meets-post-punk thing sounds in theory, he pulls it off with a great deal of believability. And of course, I'm not going to react very favorably to such a drastic shift from one of my favorite albums of the decade so far. I think there's a lot more to be discovered in Fires, so I will keep you updated on what I find.

In the meantime, you should still listen to Flashlight Seasons if you haven't already. This new Gravenhurst made me nostalgic for the old, so of course I played it the whole way through. It hasn't lost anything. It's SO. FUCKING. GOOD.

***

I finally got around to getting the M.I.A./Diplo collabo Piracy Funds Terrorism. Anyone else think it's way better than the frequently annoying Arular? I love the Braza Funk!! It makes me want to check out Diplo's other delvings into Brazilia. I bet they're damn good.

listening: "Louven" - Shipping News