30 September 2008

REPOST by popular (& timely!) request

Ed Note: We originally posted this entry last year, but oh what a crazy year it's been. Those of us in the States have been overwhelmed with election coverage that rivals reality TV in its absurdity. We got Obama, McCain and a little lady from some Alaskan bridge to nowhere who essentially parodies herself. Might as well throw some rock stars into the mix. Oh and yeah, Don't Forget to Vote!

This is what happens when you have new graphic design software, not a lot of creativity, and a lot of time on your hands. (If you can think of any other great pairings or campaign slogans, pass 'em on and I'll see what I can do with it.)

This last one is for the greatest mashup of all time:
R. Kelly/Jens Lekman mashup - If I Could Rock (It Would Feel Like This).mp3

I know, it's truly difficult to imagine that Jens himself didn't write lyrics like, "the way we fuck gon' lead to chil'burfin'," and, "girl your booty so swole, how you get dem jeans around it," but it's true! You learn something every day.

28 September 2008

Finally a good use for your old REO Speedwagon LPs

Don't worry we're not about to get all art critic-y on you, but we do want to fill you in on this awesome new exhibit, which happens to contain albums that look better then they sound.

The brand-spanking re-opened Museum of Arts and Design (the awesomely acronymed MAD) in New York has an inaugural exhibition entitled "Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary". Basically it features mundane, household objects that have been imaginatively transformed into works of art. But needless to say we were most enamored with the butterfly records. Look at all those albums just flying away!

More info on MAD here

26 September 2008

Don't make yourself unhappy...

Sometimes all it takes is a line. Just one lyric and you're totally won over. The latest song guilty of conquering my heart - "Hey Love" by The Piano Creeps.

"Every day means one less happy ending"

I'm not exactly sure what a disillusioned music box would sound like, but I'm pretty sure the Piano Creeps come close. I can almost see the ballerina doll twirling before the jewelry box's lid shuts tight leaving her alone in the dark. Or to put it in more concrete terms, think Martha Wainwright fronting Beach House, except less funereal and more music-boxy. Their album is also aptly entitled Future Blues (For Me and You) and is due out this October on the Kora Records.

Hey Love - The Piano Creeps

24 September 2008

Ridiculous Cover of the Day

So you know that goofily bombastic anthem, the one with the crazy catchy/annoying synth riff that defies "earworm". Well some band I've never heard of called The Social Services completely reinvented it Beirut style. We're talking waltzing horns and lilting piano and a chorus of la la las, not to mention coyly girly vocals. It's a transformative work of staggering vulnerable beauty. My mind is blown. I wonder what Gob Bluth would think.

The Social Services - The Final Countdown (Europe cover).mp3

Super fun bonus video, Arrested Development style!

22 September 2008

When correlation and causation are close bedfellows

Our intrepid correspondent Katie forwarded a little gem to us today: A chart graphing music preferences related to SAT scores.

Here's a tiny peak at the chart (the vertical axis means nothing):

Click to make HUGE!

Might I take a moment to smugly note that the forerunner after Beethoven's commanding lead is... why, it's none other than Sufjan Stevens! Huh! How about THAT! Guster, Ben Folds and Radiohead also take strong and unsurprising leads on the intellectual front.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are people who list Lil' Wayne as their favorite artist. We also see a cluster of people too disinterested in music to narrow down anything more specific than an entire genre: pop, jazz, gospel, rock. Clearly, the people who just say "classical" without being able to conjure up a single name only want to appear smart. Tsk. (Apparently, if you want to appear smart, you should just tell people you listen to Sufjan.)

Also of interesting note are certain artists who are very tightly clustered at a certain point (John Mayer) while others enjoy a considerable spread (OutKast). Draw your own conclusions.

There're more than 1350 schools listed here from which these results were culled, including the Top 10 rankings in music for each school. Schools are ranked according to SAT scores.

Notes of personal interest: Jess' school, Vassar, is highly ranked (#32) but lists only three artists from the list as favorite. Ask her, and she'll no doubt claim it's because they're all listening to amazing under-the-radar stuff that doesn't gain enough cumulative popularity to make rank in a list like this. [insert eyeroll here] My own alma matter, Western Washington University (#414) has a strong showing for local heroes Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie--the members of which are all WWU alums themselves.

This allows us to consider certain degrees of "favoritism" among band-university relations: Christian bands are very popular at College of the Ozarks; Electronica and experimental music of all sorts is popular at, well, most schools with "technical" in its name.

This list could be a handy, handy tool. Can't choose between schools? Take a quick peek at rankings, then at music choices. (Hmmm, Maybe St. Paul's College, at #1351, wouldn't be such a good fit, listing only R&B, Rap and Lil Wayne).

Anyway. This was a long, narcissistic and perhaps somewhat irritating way of implying that this "proves" our Sufjan love somehow correlates with our high intelligence. Feel free to negate me, but I have to get back to thesis writing. It makes up for the low self-esteem.

20 September 2008

Making the world safe once again for tra-la-la-ing

I'm still shocked that the Pale Young Gentlemen come from Wisconsin, with their eclectic Eastern European instrumentation and gypsy-like theatrics. Like how is this geographically possible? It's like the same sorts of doubts people voiced when they first learned Beirut's Zach Condon was from New Mexico and not the Balkans, but hey they took to him, so now it's PYG's turn to be embraced. Seriously Who gives two craps about authenticity when the French horn and viola are being played this melodically??

The Pale Young Gentlemen's sophomore album Black Forest (Tra La La), out October 7th is even lusher, albeit a bit more subdued then their rollicking self-titled debut. The strings are especially gorgeous. The cello swells and violins sway in such an intricate way. Andrew Bird himself would be proud. They even manage to sing "tra la la" in a way that makes me totally forget Euro-trash phenomena Gunther exists. That ladies and gentlemen may be their biggest accomplishment yet.

Listen for yourself. Lots of songs streaming on their MySpace now

And download the catchiest of the bunch here:
The Crook of My Good Arm - Pale Young Gentlemen

I'm particularly fond of the coloured hearts on their chests.

…with a tone deaf singer. Honestly, these are the most annoying vocals i have ever had the displeasure of experiencing…”

Ah, this is like a siren call to me. The disgusted listener warning others not to buy an album on account of the vocals. It almost always makes me dive for my wallet (or the download button, whichever the case me be). I love the guy who “can’t sing.” Give me the Conor Obersts and the Alec Ounsworths; you can keep your pitch perfectly boring Chris Martins and Thom Yorkes. Because you know what? The dudes with the different voices have the better lyrics. I can’t explain it, I don’t know why, but the fact remains. (Which is not to say that guys that can sing don’t have good lyrics. Sometimes they do. Except Chris Martin. I hate that guy…)

The above review is taken word for word (and lower case i’ed) from an eMusic user’s review of “Puddle City Racing Lights.” It’s a 2007 album from a mob called Windmill. I’d never heard of them before, but the quirky album cover caught my eye. (Seriously, how cool is that cover?) And I figured with every review mentioning his voice (not all were as nasty as the above) I couldn’t go wrong. And I was right.

The lyrics are equal parts gritty confessional and dreamily surreal, and I love it. The music is gorgeous. The delicateness of Sufan Stevens meets the sweeping grandeur of Rufus Wainwright. And his voice… Well, yeah, it’s definitely different. The beauty of the music only amplifies his flaws, but, for me at least, it works. It creates a tension that is echoed in other parts of the album. In the pull between soft strings and heavy drums, in the pull between the real and the absurd in the lyrics.

I am at a loss as to how this album managed to slip under my radar last year. My only real beef with it is that’s its far too late to add it to my best of 2007 list, where it most assuredly deserves a spot.

Windmill - Tokyo Moon.mp3
“the drugs were doing things you already could…”

Windmill - Boarding Lounges.mp3
“you don’t want me, I don’t want you.”

19 September 2008

Ahoy! Here Be What ye Volume-Knobbe Be For!

Yar, it be Talk Like A Pirate Day here in the New Dutch West Indies. To be celebratin', me salty dogs, being the saucy wenches we be, hast compiled a wee list of tunes worthy of guzzling grog to. Weigh anchor!

Lambchop - Talk Like A Pirate Day.mp3

ye Mountain Goats - Pirates (So Long Lonely Avenue).mp3

ye Mountain Goats - Jenny (live).mp3
hi diddle dee dee, goddamn! the pirate's life for me!

Abney Park - Airship Pirate.mp3

And, the single greatest chanty about me scurvy scallowags ever written:
Ben Folds - Pirate Joke Song (live).mp3

16 September 2008

Sufjan rumors & gossip

Disclaimer: this is pure speculation! "My sources" say that Sufjan is working on not one, not two, but THREE new state albums right now! Here's what one email to me said:

I've heard that, too, but it doesn't seem to be rooted in anything solid. Can't find a source for it or anything. There was also a big whoop-de-doo about a month ago with someone saying that Sufjan's next album was going to be Pennsylvania. The story behind that was that a girl's relative was the owner of a record shop in Sufjan's home town (or one of his home towns) in Michigan, Sufjan visited him and chatted about a new record he was working on, and let out the secret that it was Pennsylvania under the condition that he tell no one else. Sounds crazy to me for a number of reasons, the biggest being that if Sufjan's been so uber-secret about what he's been up to for the past year I doubt that he'd just let it out during a casual chat in a record store. Then again, we know what Sufjan's humor is like. He's probably been the one planting all those rumors, lol.

At this rate, he could release an album of himself singing in the damn shower and I would spend a whole day weeping openly over it. BUT it does seem like we've been receiving an influx of Sufjan news lately, so maybe that's a good sign.

I still maintain--and am holding out for--the speculative new album "New Jersey Loves You," which will be a piano-based, bird-themed album! (Fingers crossed!)

In other news,
Danielson, Sufjan's old buddies who helped him start his music career, is kicking off a tour with Cryptacize, a band on Sufjan's label (Asthmatic Kitty) in NYC on Halloween. EVEN MONEY Sufjan will be in attendance--probably in some sort of costume. Go to the show if you can. It'll be good for you.

Sufjan Stevens - Toilet Paper Dolls Story (live).mp3

Danielson Famile - Did I Step On Your Trumpet.mp3

Cryptacize - Cosmic Sing Along.mp3

13 September 2008

Monster Bobby returns

We first met Monster Bobby last Summer when he opened for The Pipettes. (He conceptually engineered the polka-dotted, British girl group, btw). Just one look at his gleaming eyes and cheeky smile and we were in LUV.

And that was before we even heard his music - an infectious, yet brooding blend of lo-fi electro-pop and acoustic singer-songwriter fare.

"Work in the Morning" is his latest single off a split 7" EP. And it's just as strong as anything off his debut release Gaps. Also, for those of you lucky enough to live across the pond, Bobby's about to head out on a nice little jaunt across Europe. Wish I could make it. Why, why has teleportation not been invented yet? If it was, I'd catch every show and swoon every night.

Sep 18 2008 8:00P
Cosy Den @ Landet Stockholm, Stockholms län
Sep 19 2008 10:00P
Nationernas Hus Linköping
Sep 20 2008 8:00P
Debaser Malmö, Skåne län
Sep 22 2008 8:00P
Jolene Copenhagen
Sep 25 2008 8:00P
Haus 73 Hamburg, Hamburg
Sep 27 2008 8:00P
Gleis 22 Münster
Oct 5 2008 8:00P
Broadway Cinema Nottingham
Nov 23 2008 8:00P
Fanfulla101 @ CHUTE Rome

Work in the Morning - Monster Bobby
The Postcard - Monster Bobby

11 September 2008

More Cowbell!

This is possibly the most BRILLIANT website on the whole wide interwebs:

So here's the deal. You're listening to your fave songs. The ones you've heard a million times before. But sometimes even the best music gets a little old, and frankly a little boring. Well these guys will help you enliven it. They make even the best song better. All you have to do is upload it here:

and it instantly adds...MORE COWBELL

Cause every song is better with the most infamous of percussive instruments (as well as Mr. Christopher Walken sound bites!). Finally, a way to satiate your cowbell needs.

Please use wisely.

09 September 2008

Silver Jews @ Bowery Ballroom, NYC September 7, 2008

The Silver Jews only started touring two years ago. But you'd never know it from their impeccably tight and awesomely rocking performance.

David Berman’s facial expressions were almost as charming as his acerbically witty lyrics. He cast multiple smirks toward his wife, bassist and back-up singer Cassie, with an occasional wink to the audience. “How much fun is a lot more fun? Not much fun at all,” he sang in his dry, trademark tone. Berman sure fooled us.

My only complaint: they only played for an hour and fifteen minutes. For a band that tours as infrequently as the Jews I was hoping for a bit more. Oh well, maybe next time around. Whatever, I still love them to the MAX!

Strange Victory, Strange Defeat - Silver Jews
I'm Gonna Love the Hell Out of You - Silver Jews

08 September 2008

The Death of This Summer

It's past Labor Day, the weather has turned suddenly cool (with no small thanks to Hurricanes Hannah and Ike drenching the western Atlantic coasts), Primary election day is tomorrow, and students have begun to settle into their routines.

So, two songs: a rather silly but totally appropriate one, especially for those of us who have returned to finish a post-bac degree several years after our peers have completed theirs. *cough.* This one's for us you:

Avenue Q - I Wish I Could Go Back to College.mp3

Finally, a 26-minute dance mix, made by Jens Lekman. It kicks off with a remix of his own song, "Into Eternity," then magically transitions intro almost a dozen other songs and looped samples--familiar cuts from the 70's, Afro-Caribbean beats, even soft and languid acoustic guitar. But the nonstop beat will keep you on your feet enough to barely notice or care that our warmest season has once again slipped away.

Jens says:
Sometimes I get stuck in the recording and writing but instead of cutting my wrists I open the window, bring out my records and put together little mixes for my friends. This one is a mix of some of my favourite songs from this summer and previous ones, some are cut up and put together into new songs, new remixes or whatever. They form a perfect response to the death of this summer.

Jens Lekman - The Death of This Summer.mp3

06 September 2008

This just in: You have low self-esteem

The BBC just released this gem of an article:

Music Tastes Linked to Personality

No, reeeeeally. Thanks for clearing that up BBC!

The article goes on to dissect personality by genre, claiming those who prefer "indie" music have "low self-esteem, are creative, and not hard-working and not gentle". Of course this begs the tired question: what exactly is "indie". Some argue it's an aesthetic, while others claim it's mode of economics and business ethos. My cynical self is convinced it's neither. "Indie" is nothing but a marketing niche and consumer identity that's been co-opted and re-appropriated by mainstream media outlets for crass commercial purposes.

I'd normally take offense to being told I'm not hard-working and have low self-esteem on the basis of vague and flawed terminology and write an articulate letter to the editor. Perhaps I'll do that later. For now I'm just going to sit here alone, mope in my room and listen to The Smiths.

Miserable Lie - The Smiths

03 September 2008

Results of experimenting with sleep deprivation on bloggers.

Sometimes you need only the slightest, most vacuous reason to post something you love. For me, it's this endlessly amusing picture, leading into a serious of "things I found while Googling NMH for the umpteenth time":

Draw your own conclusions about deep meaning. In the meantime, here's a random live cut for you:

Neutral Milk Hotel - Mother (live with Chris Knox).mp3

This you have (probably) seen:

...but if not, BREATHE INTO A PAPER BAG IF YOU NEED TO; I'M SURE IT IS PHOTOSHOPPED. I mean, it just HAS to be, right?? Paris probably thinks "Holland, 1945" is a perfume. ZING!

Neutral Milk Hotel - Holland, 1945.m4a


for the love of God, they better BOTH be photoshopped. Otherwise, I might either have to start liking Paris, or disliking NMH. Both are too intolerable to consider.

...and these two are just plain WRONG:

I am soooooo going to sleep now.

01 September 2008

Nothing makes my heart swell like a cello.

It's not due for release until September 9, but if you see a copy Horse Feathers' album "A House With No Home" floating about the internet, pounce on it. It's a beautiful and complex album, the kind that grows richer with every listen. And the interplay between rich, atmospheric string arrangements and accoustic-y guitar is amazing. I mean, seriously, download this album for the strings alone. Fans of the 'Firefly' and 'Serenity' score will especially love them. Gorgeous stuff. (And don't forget to actually buy the album on September 9, the band deserves your pennies).

Curs of Weeds

Working Poor

(For more Horse Feathers, check out their Daytrotter Session).