Friday, March 31, 2006

Tv on the Radio- Summer Tour

Is anyone else confused about why Tv on the Radio is going to be on the Nine Inch Nails/Bauhaus tour? They just seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum to me. So if you miss Tv coming thru your town soon they will be coming thru again in the summer.
P.S. Tv on the Radio is gonna be in Dallas April 23 at the Gypsy Tea Room. They will be playing in the bar so you know it's gonna be a great show.

Imogen Heap - Speak For Yourself

Don't you love reviews that begin with disclaimers? Here are two for your enjoyment:
1. I didn't pay for this CD. Hold on there, RIAA, don't sue my ass for downloading... I found a promo copy in the reject box at KTCU.
2. I have a fetish for bubbling, gurgling electronic sounds in my music.

With those two items out of the way, I'll say I have enjoyed this CD for the past several months. Imogen has an interesting voice, and the CD has fun little details sprinkled all the way through. Repeated listens continue to reveal little nuances that I've missed in the past.

Imogen's music reminds me of Venus Hum. Yeah, I'm being journalistically lazy here, but I really don't know who came first -- I just know I heard Venus Hum prior to hearing Imogen Heap. I'll just say that they both owe a bit of a debt to Depeche Mode and Bjork, and leave things at that, K?

So while I really enjoy this CD quite a bit, I have two problems with it, and both of them are on the minor side of the problem fence, but they're still problems. The first is that so many of the songs sound like someone else. Yeah, there are songs such as "Goodnight and Go" and "Hide and Seek" that are undeniably Imogen. But there are other songs where my brain just starts saying "I've heard that before" and drives me nuts until I think of who Imogen sounds like at a given moment. A prime example of this is "I Am In Love With You," where the background and vocal pacing sound remarkably similar to the verse structure of Nine Inch Nail's "Closer." Yeah, she doesn't go near the patented Trent Reznor scream, but listen to the crunchy synth sound burbling underneath and sing "You let me violate you" across the top of it, and you'll hear exactly what I'm talking about...

The second problem I have is with the song order, which is obviously easily fixed in my iPod playlist, but 1. I'm too lazy to do that and 2. That ain't my job. The song order problem is mainly because the most amazing song on the CD is in the fifth spot. "Hide and Seek" is Imogen's voice filtered through vocal processors for a stunning A Cappella style track. This song has beautiful tension and release, and I love the way she uses really thick chords in parts and then pulls it back. We hit a bit of a groove in the middle of the song, and then she pulls it back. The song ends in a fragile bit that sounds like someone running away. The whole song does a great job of illustrating the give and take of a relationship. Hands down, "Hide and Seek" is the most majestic song on the CD, and while "Clear the Area" is a fun and funky song, it has the unenviable task of following it in the track order. It's the conundrum that mixtape makers everywhere face -- do I put the best song last to leave a glow when they finish the tape, or do I put it in the middle in case they don't make it through the whole thing? Imogen or her producer should have had more confidence in the other songs to believe that they would propel the listener to the end, and put "Hide and Seek" at the end of the CD.

Fun CD, good poppiness over electronic sounds... I'm looking forward to hearing more of Imogen's music.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics

The Flaming Lips are one of my favorite bands. For almost three decades, they've been able to remain cutting edge without losing their sense of humor. Albums like Clouds Taste Metallic and Soft Bulletin remain among my most-spun records, and I don't think I've ever cursed as much as when I missed the Lips' surprise gig at SXSW this year because I was stuck at a Beth Orton concert (stupid Beth Orton).

After the triumph that was Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, I was looking forward to the Lips' next release, however, when I got At War With the Mystics on pre-release a few weeks ago, I was dissapointed. The problem isn't with the record, though, it's a solid dics. It's with the expectations I put on it.

While songs like "Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" and "The W.A.N.D." harken back to the "Transmissions From the Satellite Heart" era, tracks like "Vein of Stars" and "It Overtakes Me" veer into the sleepy-head-ambient moments of Yoshimi that just weren't as strong as the rest of the disc. In other places, such as the first single, "Mr. Ambulance Driver," the Lips start to move towards (gasp!) adult contemporary.

On the whole, however, the disc stands up to Yoshimi or even Clouds, it's just not the Dark Side of the Moon I was expecting. Of course, Wayne Coyne and Steve Drozd already gave us one of those; it's called Soft Bulletin.

The denial twist

I'm going to admit something. It's something that I've never been able to admit before.

I like the White Stripes.

For years, I made fun of them. Of course, they made it easy with the tri-color get up, the celebrity girlfriends, and Meg White's drumming. I even agreed when Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke said he thought Jack White's dusting off of old blues records was boring.

But then they released Get Behind Me Satan, and something changed. All the sudden, the White Stripes got really good.

It was the second single, "My Doorbell," that really hooked me. It's got all the makings of a great rock song: a foot-stomping beat, a downright-nasty piano hook and a goofy blues lyric ("I'm thinking about my doorbell and when you're ring it, when you're going to ring it"). Put simply, It's three minutes of bliss.

Satan has been out for at least a year, but as with many good things, I came late to the party. But then again, better too late than not at all.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Some of my favorite song titles

Some of my favorite song titles (so far):
1. "I got Ten Friends and a Crowbar that Says You Ain't Gonna Do Jack." - Underoath
2. "Champagne For My Real Friends, Real Pain For My Sham Friends." - Fall Out Boy
3. " Me VS. Morrissey In the Pretentious Contest (The Ladder Match)." - A Wilhelm Scream
4. "The Best Way to Beat A Mid-Life Crisis (Is To Be Dead)." - The A.K.A.s
5. "You Look Like I Need a Drink." - Against Me!
6. "The Freaks, Nerds & Romantics." - The Bouncing Souls
7. "Drink Drank Punk." - Anti-Flag
8. "San Dimas High School Football Rules." - The Ataris
9. "Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start." - The Ataris (nerds will get it)
10. "Red Head Vs. The Pretty Red Bracelet." - Bayside

New Anti-Flag cd

Anti-Flag's "For Blood and Oil"

I just got a chance to get thru the whole cd. The best I can say about the cd is that it is more of the same, that's not necessarily a bad thing in this case. If you liked Anti-Flag's "The Terror State" you'll love this cd. I have always been a fan of music that makes you think and this cd has plenty of songs that will stimulate the liberal mind. I learned from this cd that the US uses depleted uranium for bullets and that they are currently used in Iraq. These bullets remain radioactive and can cause radioactive sickness and deformities if people are exposed for long enough periods of time.
So far my favorite song is "One Trillion Dollars," a slower song with a real message. If you like this song I would strongly suggest Justin Sane's solo cd "Life, Love and the Pursuit of Justice."
So in summary this cd is a must for Anti-Flag fans or anyone who considers the war and the administration an attack on humanity. Over time Anti-Flag has transitioned from their "three-cord wonder" phase and have emerged as the Public Enemy of punk music.
Anti-Flag useless fact: On "The Terror State" the song 'Post-War Breakout" is a cover of an old Woody Guthrie song.

A bit of Marley confusion...

Bob Marley and the Wailers Live! is one of my favorite CDs, hands down... I know all the music critics say stuff like "Live albums are for hardcore fanatics" and stuff like that, but this was actually my first in-depth introduction to Bob Marley. I love a lot of Marley's music, but I'm more of a casual fan. I don't own everything he's ever released, but I listen regularly to this and a few of his studio releases.

I love the energy and freshness on Live!. This album was recorded in London in 1975, and it doesn't sound like he's worn down or tired, and the audience is right there with him. I've got the Live At the Roxy CD from a 1976 performance, and it's good, but it feels like a completely different band. Live! just has this amazing energy, and by comparison, Live At the Roxy feels much more laid-back and almost lethargic. I play both of them to suit different moods, but Live! gets played a lot more often.

So I was walking through Best Buy the other day, and I had $20 burning a hole in my wallet. Usually I just stroll through the CD section and then over to the regular DVD section, but I found myself in the music DVD section. Imagine my surprise when I saw Bob's Live! cover peering up from a DVD...

Like I said earlier, I'm a casual fan at best. I couldn't have told you where or when the Live! CD was recorded, so the addition of the small text "at the Rainbow" on the DVD cover art meant little or nothing to me. I just assumed that this was the concert I had on CD. Not so...

Yeah, it's great, but just not what I was expecting. The performance is really good. My only qualm DVD-wise is the way the extras are implemented.

But the real treasure here is the second disc with the BBC documentary Caribbean Nights from 1984. I'm a music documentary whore. I was the guy watching all those Behind the Music episodes on VH1 when they'd run a BtM marathon. This documentary does a great job of showing where Marley came from, and interviewing friends and relatives.

With the documentary and concert, this DVD serves as a nice complement to the Legends DVD. Just don't be misled by the cover art.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Yoshimi Battles the Hip Hop Robots

I came to the Kleptones a bit later than this. Thanks to BoingBoing, I came in for the delicious A Night At the Hip-Hopera. So I was extremely excited to see that the Kleptones website had reinstated the link to Yoshimi Battles the Hip-Hop Robots.

On their site, the Kleptones argue that this is more mixtape than art. Considering the intricacies of the average Kleptones release, I can see that. If us mere mortals were able to pull of something as smooth as Yoshimi, we'd be crowing like we'd just painted the frickin' Sistine Chapel ceiling. It's like watching the snowboarders on the half-pipe at the X-Games -- they just make it look effortless...

So download this while it's still available, especially you Flaming Lips fans. And while you're at it, grab the new one, 24 Hours. I haven't heard it yet, but the Kleptones are always worth it...

Saturday, March 25, 2006

La Bohemian Rhapsody

La Boheme
Fort Worth Opera
March 24, 2006

La Boheme
has long been one of the more popular offerings in the opera world. For many people, it serves as a flashback to a certain time in their lives --a group of young people following their artisitc whims while living in poverty, falling in love, and living in the big city. La Boheme is more popular than ever, thanks in large part to the Broadway adaptation Rent. Just as Miss Saigon enhanced Madama Butterfly’s popularity, and to a lesser extent, Elton John’s version of Aida helped it’s namesake, Rent has helped push La Boheme to the top of the popular opera heap. Maybe we should call it a “popera.”

La Boheme is fun to watch, and the Fort Worth Opera assembled a marvelous production. The sets were visually stunning. The apartment scenes were shown in a smaller box raised above the stage, and made the audience feel slightly voyeuristic. The smaller apartment set also helped the audience experience the claustrophobic feel of four guys living on the cheap. In contrast, the cityscapes seemed enormous. When the curtains rose to reveal Cafe Momus in Act 2, there were (literally) audible gasps from the audience, followed by applause. Yes, the audience applauded the sets and costumes. Special props to TCU's LaLonnie Lehman for the costumes -- they were stunning. (Can you give props in an opera review? Shout-outs?)

Which brings me to this: Fort Worth symphony and opera audiences are clap-happy, and have been for years. That's okay. It's nice that you're showing your appreciation for the performers, even if it's during an inappropriate time of the opera. I'm cool with that. But yelling "Bravo!" and whistling during every applause break? Sorry cowboy, but you need to save that stuff for A. the very end of the performance, and B. performances that actually merit it. Yes there were some extremely strong vocal performances in this La Boheme, but I heard "bravos" and whistling during every applause break, and the applause breaks were many... Tip: if you give everybody a gold star, it ceases to mean "excellent job!"

There were a few sound problems during Acts 1 and 2. On several occasions, the orchestra was drowning out the vocalists, and there was a noticeable low level feedback coming from the speakers, but all of the sound problems were ironed out by Acts 3 and 4.

It was a good season for the Fort Worth Opera, and the company seems to have returned to form following a few years of ill-advised "edgier" productions. While I enjoyed La Boheme tremendously, my vote for best opera of the Fort Worth season goes to Dialogue of the Carmelites. Though it was a strong season, I'm still on the fence whether or not to re-up my subscription for this new "festival" format in 2007...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Jack Johnson : Semi-guilty pleasure

I used to be a music elitist, and I still hold onto a lot of those tendencies. To be honest, I'd rather the first review be of some obscure band from some obscure country that nobody has ever heard of, but I'm trying not to be a pretentious musical bastard anymore. So instead I'll review something that I've been listening to a lot at work.

A good work CD needs to be light and airy enough to play in the background, and lively enough to add a bit of joy or fun to the atmosphere. Unfortunately that rules out a lot of the stuff I usually listen to. But Jack Johnson's music fills that role admirably.

Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies... has some nice, upbeat songs that work well, such as "Upside Down" and "People Watching" but really seems to hit stride with "Jungle Gym." This is followed by a nice, somewhat sentimental cover of "We're Going To Be Friends".

My personal favorite is "The Sharing Song". It just sounds like something from an old SchoolHouse Rock. It's got the fun, impromptu feel of a group of friends just hanging out and singing together. It's not too polished, and it segues nicely into a version of "The 3 R's" that uses a chunk of "Three is a Magic Number."

I've been listening to Jack Johnson for a bit now, and was very worried when I saw that his next album would be a soundtrack -- especially to Curious George. But this is one of those projects that's more than a soundtrack. It stands on it's own, and is a fun listen.

I know that I now have zero indie cred, but oh well...

Are we rolling?

Yeah yeah, another music-oriented site on the web. We know there are plenty of sites with reviews and news and all that, but we just want a little place to call our own. We'll use this space to review, vent, and spew forth opinions on all sorts of music, so you never know what sort of music you'll be reading about.

We're not here to be pretentious or to try to impress you with how much we know. We're here because we occasionally have things we want to get out of our heads. It's probably selfish to say, but this space is really more for our benefit than anything else. We're not trying to become internationally famous music critics or anything -- we're just here to vent.

So here it is -- chaos. No pre-determined publishing schedule, no pre-determined music genres to be covered, no promises... Just a few people writing about music. We'll see if anything blooms out of the chaos.

Who are we? Just some rabid music fans. Most of us pay for our own music at the record stores, so we're pissed when we blow $15 on shit. But when that $15 pays off, it's worth so much more...

Thanks for stumbling onto us, and I hope you'll check back in when we've got things off the ground.