Wednesday, November 26, 2008

video #67: Portishead - The Rip

Youtube / Island Records have disabled embedding for this video, so you'll have to actually click the link to view it, but it will probably play better on their page than on this cluttered and already media-overloaded blog. That probably works out for the best when you have a video as busy and detailed as this one, which you'll need to watch more than once if you hope to take in even half of its comically grotesque brilliance.

"The Rip" is one of my favorite songs of the year, one of the most stunning tracks on Portishead's departure as long-awaited return album, Third. It's a fantastic song in its own right, but even as it breaks from the sounds of 90's Portishead (especially the trip-hop of Dummy), it's perhaps not too hard to believe that it was recorded by the same band who wrote all the gloomy and spooky songs on their self-titled album in 1997. Perhaps, that is, if you're really ready to consider that Portishead, once the embodiment of some upper-class, idealized vision of 1990's coffeeshop "urban cool," could really mutate into a group capable of writing such a paranoid, socially withdrawn, possibly schizophrenic music. The turntablism and dusty beats they were once known for are almost nowhere to be found now, but if you understood them and particularly Beth Gibbons as coming from an especially introverted place that was never calling out for attention like Tricky Kid or Sneaker Pimps, their latest incarnation, or "The Rip" itself, might not come as a terrible shock.

That said, these lyrics will probably conjure up some fairly unsurprising (unsettling and dreadful at times, but unsurprising) mental images in most listeners' minds. Leave it to Portishead to not just release such an bleak track as a single, but to outdo everyone's expectations in the music video. Animated by Nick Uff, whose hand-drawn approach probably requires more work than any mouse-clicking Flash-jockey has ever done in his life. This is one of the most original and imaginative videos I've ever seen, and makes a good case for me to retire this ongoing survey of animated videos. I probably would, if only I didn't know that he has yet another done for Portishead that I've been saving for myself for several weeks now, and will inevitably have to watch and post here.

This video and this song feel like great accomplishments, and I haven't felt like saying that about much of anything in music or art for quite some time. Third wasn't an easy album to get to know, but as the year went on, it just made every other CD I bought, every other album I downloaded, somehow feel like products that would eventually live out their shelf life for me. So much music out there feels "of the moment," which is exciting and sometimes full of potential, but doesn't it feel like the last 5 or 6 years have been a series of replaceable sounds and fads? Excitement is rarely permanent, trends come and go and go and go, and "buzz" bands and their music almost never fail to disappoint if given a long enough (but not even unreasonable!) amount of time to settle into my mind. Third is something else altogether, immediate and essential to our time but not tubthumpingly-reactionary or "clever" in the way that bands try so hard to be these days. Even albums that sound as great as Microcastle or ExitingARM feel vaguely clouded by the sense that they don't really mean anything and that their creators might not actually give a shit about them at all. I don't even know what I mean by this (including my gripes with hyper-posturing bands, many of which I really love), only that it's hard to find any bands writing songs these days that don't seem like they're out to impress or lecture you. Portishead (or Third itself, which feels like an independent object unattached to and uninvolved with any group of people so caught up in the cycle of promotion, recognition, and celebrity as a band) seems unconcerned with pursuing any of these goals and despite this it's a powerful and personable record that's not at all charming but definitely irresistable. I don't know if I'll be "coming back to it for years" or not. Somehow that just feels like a silly question to try to answer right now.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Underground Resistance - Big Stone Lake

Underground Resistance - "Big Stone Lake"

I'm not sure when I first heard "Big Stone Lake," probably this spring at the earliest. tells me I've played it 50 times in the last six months. I sort of can't wait to go home and listen to it a few more times before bed. I don't understand why this isn't one of those classics that everyone knows, like "Chime," "Pacific State"/"Pacific 202," "Virtual," or "Little Fluffy Clouds." I know it's not really electronica, or part of that rave/acid house timeline that people too young to have remembered still get nostalgic for. It's Underground Resistance, still due for some kind of but it's hardly even techno, at least not in any way that Mills, Banks, or Hood would later help define the sound. Is it too lo-fi? To slow? Too black? Are young, white bloggers still allergic to any saxophone that isn't found in canonized jazz, bloated 80s pop, or "skronky" punk songs by guys who cut themselves?

I'm so sick of new music, this is really all I want to listen to anymore.

Monday, October 27, 2008

My Bloody Valentine, live!

I saw My Bloody Valentine exactly one month ago tonight.

After about 12 years of being in love with this band, this was a big deal. And it was a pretty great show and a good time out overall. For once, none of my usual social hangups or physical ailments (headaches, backaches, swollen bladder, etc.) threatened to ruin the experience, even through waiting for four hours outside the Aragon Ballroom and two hours at the very front of the crowd.

Good travelling companions, shitty scene kids in skinny jeans all around us, awful opening band, surprisingly quick and unexpected appearance by MBV after them, tears in my eyes a few times, the "Holocaust," after-show milkshakes, that feeling of closure after so many years of waiting for this... but maybe nothing else to say that wasn't already said by scores of fans in the weeks before the show. I'd rather not pour out my deepest feelings or personal opinions about it all here. No one is waiting to read them and every time I've ever shared anything personal online, I feel like I've lost something spiritually.

If I don't have anything interesting to say about this show, I should probably reconsider my future in blogging, or at least step back from this one for a while. It wasn't an amazing, life-changing experience, but I can't criticize it either. Reading comments online about the sound quality of the Aragon, the "boring" strobe lights, or the unadventurous set list just makes me tired of the Internet and blogger culture. What a horrible, distracting waste of time and imagination.

I guess that if it does lead me to blog less, then overall I should have an easier time completely extricating myself from the Internet altogether in the coming months. In that respect, maybe this was a life-changing experience.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

video #66: Belle and Sebastian - Another Sunny Day

By the end of this I was surprised to find out that it wasn't an official video commissioned by the band, but one made by a fan. If it wasn't for a school project, it might be easier to admire as a labor of love, but it perfectly captures the mood, the style, the complete mythos of Belle & Sebastian. Perhaps a little too well.

Part of me always wanted this idealized culture (bookish young Anglos on the dole) to become a participatory fantasy in the same way that steampunk, cosplay, or LARPing have. Or maybe I just really like girls in sweaters.

Friday, September 26, 2008

St. Charles, IL: the end?


This massive crater used to be the Manor Pancake House & Restaurant, where my family would go out to eat at least once a fortnight when I was a kid. It stood next to the Fox River on Main Street, and unless you count the Baker Hotel across the street or the clock tower that stands kitty corner across the river, the Manor was the heart of downtown St. Charles. Now you see what's become of it, a beautiful historical building torn down like a common crackhouse. I won't rant any further about this for now, I already said everything that I needed to here back when it was still standing but stood little chance of ever reopening.

I had the feeling this was coming for quite some time, and wasn't exactly surprised when the day finally came. What I wasn't expecting and had not prepared for was this horrible eyesore to suddenly appear on the banks of the Fox just a few hundred feet downstream.


Take a good look at this structure. Click on the picture for a higher resolution shot if you can stomach it. The half-million dollar townhomes in the area were bad enough, but they're positively progressive examples of smart urban planning compared to this luxury condo complex just off Main Street. Just look at those phony rooftops and fake facades. Disgusting. Reminds me of the storefront of Meijer on the corner of Randall and Route 38. In the middle of our current housing crisis, do we need more unaffordable housing, and some as tacky as this giant concrete box? Do people still romanticise loft apartments as hip, trendy status symbols? Do young turks and trixies still crave this urban sophisticate experience, even when it's housed in such a cheap and gaudy-looking giant shoebox? Are there that many potential buyers who want a piece of this lifestyle, but only when it's offered in the minority-free streets of the suburbs?

I used to love this city and every time I'd find myself walking down the street here I'd think about how great it would have been to grow up here instead of the one-horse little hick town 20 minutes to the west where there was nothing to do and nowhere to go. Even now I think about how much nicer it is than Aurora and how wonderful it would be to live here instead, even if I wasn't already working here in the first place. Now it seems intent on cashing in its charming but financially worthless "small town" feel to attract the kind of yuppies who consider themselves just too real to live in Naperville. Also, how many more bars does downtown need? Alley 64? Prop me up bro, I'm so wasted!

Meanwhile on the west side of town, Costco sprung up seemingly overnight, building a spectacularly huge big box of their own next to the new Harley-Davidson dealership. As if that vast, energy-sucking blight on our suburban landscape wasn't enough, permanently scarring acres of land with asphalt and attracting scores of men in midlife crisis from all over the suburbs and beyond. I endured (what felt like) a year's worth of road construction to widen the Randall to three lanes in between Oak and Main Street, which I assumed was being done to simply alleviate congestion. Were they just making way for Costco a year in advance? Why do they need this store? Jewel, Meijer, and Dominick's are less than a mile down the road to the south, and the site of the old St. Charles mall remains vacant and strewn with rubble.

I know, I know. Somebody order me a Whaaaburger with a side of cries! But I've always had sentimental feelings about this town and I can't help but feel saddened by the forces at work in it today.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pulseprogramming - All Joy and Rural Honey


Pulseprogramming - "All Joy and Rural Honey"

Pulseprogramming: two Chicagoans (Marc Hellner, Joel Kriske), two albums on Aesthetics Records, one CD of remixes, and three years of little to no activity at all. What can you assume when a group goes silent for so long? That they're really so busy in the studio that they can't update their Myspace page more than once a year, or that they just don't give a shit anymore and have moved onto different responsibilities that don't involve maintaining a reputation online? Pretty much every band makes sure to let everyone know when they've called it a day, whether we care or not. So no news is good news, right?

Self-titled 1999 album: microsoundscapes, tiny bells and clicks, a few gentle piano melodies woven into some tracks, no real vocals to speak of except for a few whispers. Definitely a surprise after the positively banging "To the Expert Eye Alone" had made it to my ears first via a magazine compilation CD. Pulseprogramming is a pretty unassuming ambient album, not the kind that gets attention from, say, indie rock fans as a token genre CD that they'll download after reading some good reviews. Not being a landmark release of any sort probably makes it guilty of being aural wallpaper to many listeners, but if you enjoy such gentle sounds then maybe this is worth your time. I've fallen asleep to this more times then I can count.

Tulsa For One Second arrived four years later, displaying a completely different sound, perhaps even more confidence on the part of Hellner and Kriske, if you're inclined to notice or imagine such intangible qualities. The same glitch-induced mellow electronics permeate each track, but this time around they resemble real songs nstead of fractured "pieces" of sound. There's more vocals, even some from Lindsay Anderson, who's lent her voice to plenty of releases on Chicago's Hefty Records in addition to L'Altra and her own solo projects. This was released at the height of the "laptop pop" trend, which the band justifiably could have been a part of without necessarily following in the footsteps of Styrofoam, The Postal Service, et al. The album was too sleepy, too world-weary, too mature to fit in among the freshman-level ernestness of those groups, anyway.

I loved the cover art of the first album and the follow-up took it to the next level with a cardboard sleeve that folded out into a tiny house. Really hoped to get more from this band, and I guess we did with a remix album a year later, but brand new music would have been even better.

So what happened to this band? Not asking for any huge final concert for closure, but at least a bullshit press release or blog statement if they're done for like they seem to be.

But who knows? I saw a brand new Dianogah CD at Borders (!) last night, so anything is possible.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Comcast presents Ecobill

"Congratulations! Every day we're making better and better for customers like you. Now we're doing even more ... so you can do less. Because we've introduced Comcast's Ecobill™ process, an environmentally friendly way to view and pay your bill online that takes less time and uses less paper.

paperless is more convenient!
One less bill in your mailbox? Less clutter? Who doesn't want that? Now, with just the click of a mouse you can quickly review your entire bill from any computer. And we've made paying your bill even easier.

paperless is more green too!
Imagine, by eliminating paper bills (and the envelopes they come in) we'll drastically cut down on the total amount of paper we use. So together, we'll save more trees.

wow, that was easy!
We've also made paying your Comcast bill more green. Just go to and sign in. Then, in just a few steps, you can choose to have your Comcast bill paid each month, directly from your checking account. We also have other convenient options that make paying your bill fast and easy."

Three cheers for Comcast! Finally, a company that truly cares about the environment. So many companies today promising us that they're "going green," but at last, here's one that really practices what they preach! Comcast, I raise my canvas grocery bags to you in respect! Sorry, this is the first time I've blogged about anything not related to music, I usually abhor such lazy sarcasm but I'm feeling too cynical to resist it in this case.

Paperless billing? Good job. Now then, do something about all this shit you send to me and every single other unit in this building every single week, junk mail that is apparently impossible to unsubscribe to.

I've lived here for 2 years and have surely received more than 100 of these 6" x 11" fliers. They just keep coming, and there seems to be no way to stop them. Taking your name off their list? Not an option! Actually signing up for the services they offer? You'll still get the fliers every week. For every 1,000 of these that are sent out to individual addresses, does more than 1 go anywhere from the mailbox but straight into the local landfill? Surely Comcast has done the research and has found this carpet-bombing approach of a program to be profitable in reaching customers, even if its benefits are minimal.

I don't have a scale to find out how much each of these fliers weighs, but altogether I can only imagine the tonnage of paper per year that could go into producing these. Factor in fuel spent and man-hours wasted by the Postal Service to deliver each one and you've got an astoundingly wasteful program that merely serves to annoy potential customers, not to mention reminding existing ones how little their continued patronage matters in trying to bring about a stop to this nuisance.


Wouldn't cutting out this waste also cut costs? Is it really bringing in that much business every week? Wouldn't this be the best way to "go green?" It won't be long before everyone sees these empty gestures for the PR moves they are, and when "green fatigue" starts to set in, will the new consciousness emerging in today's consumers be squashed?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Colin Chastain Kellaway - Tell Me My Name

Colin Chastain Kellaway - "Tell Me My Name"

I ripped this song straight from the stream of the entire film on Youtube, hence the sound effects in the middle. It's not the greatest quality but since the soundtrack is long out of print -- probably never released on CD at all and only surviving in a few scratched up LPs -- there aren't many other options if you want to hear this song by itself. Such a cool opening theme, I can't think of anything else that sounds like this.

Image courtesy of this blog.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

video #65: Stereolab - Three Women

The new single from Stereolab, sounds kind of phoned-in and isn't getting me too excited for the new album. But the psychedelic animation in this really takes me back, like I'm 3 years old again and watching Sesame Street.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Cex - Retina

Cex - "Retina"

"Accessibility is like, really important to me," said R(j)yan Kidwell in a spoken interlude on his 2002 album Oops, I Did It Again. Kidwell's work as Cex had always stood with one foot planted in the impenetrably difficult world of IDM, but in both his live shows and the confessional, exuberant blog he kept regularly updated for several years on his website he made his desire to break out of the cult-like scene he was trapped in unquestionably clear. Being a solo laptop artist, albeit one of the first to give the genre a real personality, probably wasn't the best route to become the "#1 Entertainer" that he aspired to be. His metamorphosis into a brash but self-deprecating rapper would help him achieve this goal considerably, though the more accessible his work became, the more I lost interest in him as an artist.

Eventually expanding into an actual band with his wife and some other guy, the evolution of Cex from an ambitious and open-minded teenager into a career-minded and predictable young adult seemed complete. And yet... the most recent of his work that I've heard seems to have broken away from conventional pop structures and descended into a claustrophobic blend of mutant dub rhythms and looped samples that was probably never meant to play on, say, Jade Tree Records. Avoiding the indies altogether since his last album Sketchi, he's instead chosen to release much of his work over the past year on... limited-run cassettes from his own website.

The lo-fi, murky vibe of "Retina" feels familiar in the context of these releases, but surprisingly it first surfaced on a 1996 release, two years before Kidwell self-released Cells and four years before Role Model came out on Tigerbeat6. If this is all true, it means Kidwell was only 14 years old when he recorded it. I can't imagine trying to put together a track like this on a bedroom PC running Windows 95, or even a 4-track DAT recorder.

I love any song that incorporates ocean sounds, especially waves and seagulls like "Retina" does. Or maybe it's just be static and sampled baby Metroid squeaks. I can't tell for sure. The production on this isn't anything like the clean, crisp IDM that showed up on Role Model or Oops, I Did It Again, two of the best albums of their era even though they've fallen out of favor these days. A review in Pitchfork asks "Does anybody actually listen to old Cex records?" Okay then: hardly anyone. But does that say more about Cex or about the cynical attitudes of trendy electronic music listeners today? How long before bloghouse becomes the next electroclash?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

video #64: Utada Hikaru - Passion

Animated by Koji Morimoto, who also directed the video for Ken Ishii's "Extra."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Neulander - Sex, God + Money

Neulander - "Sex, God + Money"

At this point I'm just trying to catch up with posting twice a week, while dumping a few songs here that I'd probably end up forgetting to post after I reformat my computer this week.

Love this song. Do you like Broadcast? Lali Puna? Um... Laika? Then you'll like this. Very Too Pure-ish sound, can't believe they're really an American band.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

video #63: Linkin Park - Breaking the Habit

Directed by Kazuto Nakazawa at Studio 4°C, who also produced the anime sequence in Kill Bill, making him more responsible than anyone for the endless "anime... the next big thing?"-articles that popped up everywhere in 2003. If by the next big thing they really meant the 2 a.m. ghetto of Adult Swim, crappy webcomics, and Erin Esurance, then okay.

Got a free promo of Meteora when it came out from another writer who despised Linkin Park. Too bad for him, 'cuz I'm pretty sure it's the best album from a mainstream, modern rock band this decade (White Stripes and the Strokes aside, since no one under 16 listens to them at all). "Faint," "Numb," "Somewhere I Belong," and this... has there been a better run of singles from a single album this decade? Certainly I was a fan, but between Fort Minor, the long wait for album #3, and the underwhelming feeling I got when I heard "What I've Done," I kind of lost interest in them, though I should give the new (er, 14 months old) album a fair shake first.

Ironically, Linkin Park were the last holders of the unofficial "biggest band in America" title that didn't actually aspire to be living cartoons.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Isley Brothers - For the Love of You

The Isley Brothers - "For the Love of You"

I don't listen to nearly enough R&B or Motown to know what I'm talking about, but this is such a great song. Always makes me feel so relaxed, so good, and I can play this on repeat without getting sick of it for a long time.

I can thank a crazy customer at Borders for introducing me to this. He wanted to find and order an Isley Brothers collection that had this song on it, and while we were searching through our inventory, he started talking to me about classic R&B, house and techno music, Man Parrish, et al. just out of the blue. After countless hundreds of disappointing and depressing encounters with customers up until this, this guy was genuinely interesting, and I had no problem letting my guard down and giving him my full attention. Then, suddenly he changed the topic, going off about all the fights he'd ever been in during high school, giving me blow-by-blow accounts complete with sound effects. These were long, intensely detailed stories that went on for almost ten minutes each, and since there were no other customers on the floor, no other employees nearby to rescue me, and nothing else pressing to do, I had no choice but to sit back and listen to him recount about all the times that he hit some guy so hard in the chest that he went flying back 20 feet or more. He ultimately concluded that in his prime he could have handily defeated anyone in the state of Iowa in a fight. In the end, I just didn't know what to say to this.

Later that night I went home and Googled his name, which I remembered from the order he'd placed. He'd been arrested several years before for possession of a large amount of cocaine. Still the most memorable and strange customer encounter I ever had, next to the guy with Tourette syndrome who kept calling me a nigger and sticking his middle finger up in my face as I tried to order him some Ace of Base CDs.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

video #62: U2 - Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me

We have a long way to go before these kind of products of corporate synergy disappear, but it doesn't seem quite so bad these days, at least as far as movies go. No Taco Bell tie-in meals, action figures, or horrible videos like this one this time around.

I actually had the soundtrack to this movie, which I listened to repeatedly on our family vacation to Minnesota back in 1995. (This was during the worst week of the Chicago heat wave that killed hundreds, which came as a huge surprise upon coming home after not watching or reading any news for a whole week.) It's kind of a disaster of an album that tries to be everything to everyone and impossible to take seriously as anything but a product of corporate groupthink, yet it's also an honest snapshot of music at the time and contains enough WTF-worthy choices to rightfully exist as a Batman-free collection if it were given the choice. Sunny Day Real Estate, Method Man, PJ Harvey, Massive Attack, The Flaming Lips... this CD went double-platinum?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Nobuo Uematsu - Fanfare

Nobuo Uematsu - "Fanfare"

June 5, 2004: Ronald Reagan dies and I play Final Fantasy VII for the first time. A pretty good day, I must say. Bought it used before arriving back at my apartment after a friend's wedding, came home and mixed myself a Jack & Coke, tore open a bag of Twizzlers, and sat down to begin the game that would eventually take me almost 3 years to complete.

This was the first proper RPG that I'd ever play, and when that first battle began I remember being confused and sure that I was about to die right away, just like I did at age 7 when I played Super Mario Brothers for the first time, running straight into the first goomba in World 1-1. Somehow, I surived this first encounter and managed to board the train heading to the Mako reactor. Little did I know, my troubles were only just beginning!

Anyway, emerging victorious from this fight, I twirled my sword in the air as the camera panned around me before cutting to the menu screen. This is a time-consuming and unavoidable part of the game that many players find quite annoying, though even from the very first time I sat through it, it had an afterglow to it that I found most pleasant. Who doesn't like collecting items and watching their bank account grow? Anyway, the music in this short break... endlessly repetitive, and I knew from that moment that I'd be hearing it at least a thousand times more before the game was finished. But it was so hypnotic, so comforting... had I been waiting more than seven years to hear this? It was like a bridge to the past, knowing that so many of my friends as far back as high school had played and loved these games. I never shared in any of that fondness with them firsthand, but in this timeless musical loop, we joined hands and raised our eyes towards the sun once more, separated by a thousand miles but together again in this one moment...

So many people just adore "Tifa's Theme," "Aerith's Theme," or whatever their favorite character's theme is. I watched a few thousand (?) people go apeshit when "One-Winged Angel" was performed twice by an orchestra and choir at the Chicago premiere of the Play! Symphony. It's probably laughable that this is my favorite piece of music from this game, but it is.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

video #61: Scissor Sisters - Mary

Officially produced (but not directed?) by Don Bluth. Apparently it's a commissioned homage of sorts to his work in Xanadu, which I haven't seen.

I know there won't be any comments on this entry so if you want some, just read these instead.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Joy Electric - Sugar Rush

Joy Electric 5-18-07
Originally uploaded by jdharvey1
Joy Electric - "Sugar Rush"

Getting into electronic music at the same time that my friends were getting deep into Christian rock gave us little common ground. Once in a while, a Christian dance group would show up on one of the compliations that came with their magazines -- names like Antidote, Cloud2Ground, and The Echoing Green come to mind -- though not even a CCM/7Ball stamp of approval was enough to keep them from skipping to the next ska-punk/southern rock band on the discs. Were they put off by these groups' lack of personality? Lack of guitars? Whatever it was, they certainly weren't alone. My journey to the dance tent at Cornerstone 98 brought me to an almost empty room with a few people sitting against the wall and a handful of kids exchanging glowstick-twiddling tricks in the middle of the room.

Only one artist seemed to stand out from this scene in a way that any of the X-tain rocker kids would ever notice. Ronnie Martin, AKA Joy Electric, was signed to Tooth & Nail (and later BEC) for most of the 90s. This got him into most of the big festivals and ensured that his records were available in most Christian stores. Listeners remained completely indifferent as generic ska-punk groups and tepid folk rock bands outsold his efforts 10-1. The first album I heard from Joy Electric was the presciently-titled album Robot Rock, which in all my teenage wisdom I thought was full of all sorts of interesting sounds and ideas but was clearly a confused affair by an artist in need of some direction. Of course, this was years before the electro revival, and I was really hoping to find more stuff that sounded like The Chemical Brothers. This just wouldn't do at all.

I probably found it all just a little... too gay. Not in a homophobic sense at all, but it sounded too pop, too retro and not badass enough in the kind of strict break/big beat + funk + samples arrangement that I was finding so amazing at the time. "Sugar Rush" was the first track on the album, and what an audaciously cheesy way to begin. Maybe it was just my residual memories of the sanitzed grunge-era world in Empire Records and the final scene where Renée Zellweger steps out of her shell and gets on stage to fulfill her rock and roll dreams by singing the a song called "Sugarhigh." In a movie so high on themes of alienation and youthful idealism, seemed like she'd be singing about heroin or self-cutting instead. I don't know, it's been so long since I've first seen it. But I had the same problem with this song. Everything I was finding so progressive and futuristic and sexy about electronic music was reduced to a whitewashed song for kids where cupcakes and candy bars and simple chorus-verse-chorus pop too the place of MDMA and long instrumental passages. What was he thinking?

Martin's follow-up, CHRISTIANsongs, seemed even worse, like a silly compromise to appease kids who listened to shit like The Insyderz. I read further interviews where he stated his intent to stick to pure analog instruments for the album, which seemed like a silly limitation for someone who seemed like Christian electronica's best hope. I wouldn't come to appreciate this aesthetic until the MTV AMP era had ended and I'd listened to groups like Add N to (X) and Adult. The man was really ahead of his time and it's a wonder he stuck with his work long enough to build up a small but devoted following around the world, probably more with synthpop fanatics than with Christian listeners.

"Monosynth" is probably the better song on Robot Rock but I'm posting "Sugar Rush" simply because it offended me so much at the time, and now I can't get enough of it. One of the happiest songs ever recorded?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

video #60: Architecture in Helsinki - Like a Call

I know it's not a "twist" ending but it's still intended to shock us on some level, and when I can see it coming halfway through the video, well, that's not a good thing at all.

Not anywhere on the level as "Do The Whirlwind," but else what is? Probably best viewed here instead, if you can find it. Site always crashes my computer at home, browse at your own risk.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Nas - I Gave You Power

Nas - "I Gave You Power"

Just like "One Love," this track sends chills down my spine every time I hear it. One of my favorite Nas tracks. I'm still working my way through his albums in order, so I haven't heard any of his newer releases and at this pace, probably won't hear Untitled until 2015 or so.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

video #59: Architecture in Helsinki - Do the Whirlwind

Of all the annoying trends in online weaboo culture, few have gotten under my skin like the proliferation of bad digital sprite art that's saturated the domains of Livejournal, Deviantart, and Gaia, and splattered itself across the rest of the Internet. From NES character-inspired webcomics to customizable chibi avatars as means of authentic expression of the adolescent inner-self, it's a crude and persistent reminder of how far the Internet has fallen as a once-unique medium for geeks to congregate and share their once-unique interests. Ten years ago, the Internet was still largely text-based, and of course it still is, but the up-and-coming legions of illiterate, overmedicated, Naruto-addicted, 1337-speaking nymphochildren have proven that you can establish a vast social network despite having a vocabulary of 500 words or less, not to mention the peer-enforced title of ARTIST by simply by shifting a few pixels here and there. But why should I care at all? I don't know. I just lament the further (but inevitable) dumbing-down of a culture that means something to me, or would if I felt like I was really a part of it.

This aesthetic, if you want to call it that, is pushed to its absolute limit in the work of Paul Robertson. What I've seen of his short films and the artwork posted on his journal is nothing short of astounding in its excessive pileup of meticulously-detailed chibis coupled with seizure-inducing effects. The level of detail he puts into each frame of this work is amazing, from the backgrounds to the characters themselves. Its simple 8-bit-charm makes it all feel so familiar, maybe even evoking a little nostalgia for anyone who grew up with videogames like Double Dragon, River City Ransom, or Final Fight, but there's nothing retro about Robertson's take on the genre. In works like "Pirate Baby's Cabana Battle" and "Kings of Power 4 Billion%" (best watched almost anywhere outside of Youtube's image-compressing viewer), the epileptic-levels of violence is beyond the precedent of almost any anime or videogame.

"Do the Whirlwind," on the other hand, is just clean fun, and even made me love a song that I'd already shrugged off as MOR twee-indie hype when I first heard it. It's probably the best place to start with Robertson's work. Yeah, I'm taking it seriously enough to call it "work." But didn't I say I hate this stuff? Maybe I'm just getting old and it's the kids that I hate. I checked Robertson's birthday on his Livejournal. Born only three weeks after me but creatively indulging his ecchi, ultraviolent id and even getting paid for it. Sounds good to me.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Guitar - House Full of Time

Guitar - "House Full of Time"

You've never even heard this song so it can't mean a thing to you, but that summer it was always going through my head. Maybe never more than the times that we'd go to the pool. Floating on my back, my ears dipping below the surface and muffling the roar of all the jets flying in and out of O'Hare overhead, the sun blinding my eyes and warming my skin, your hands behind my head, cradling it so gently, I think I'd never felt so content. I'd never allowed myself a simple kind of peace like this. I'd never known it was possible until you showed me.

It's never quite the same in the pool over here. I don't know what it is, all the windows looking down on us, the threat of a horde of sugar-fed, screaming kids descending on us at any minute, memories of that disgusting hairball incident from last summer that I just can't shake... still, we should go more this summer. We'll regret it if we don't.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

video #58: The Notwist - Pick Up the Phone

Good video, good song. I need more of this band in my life. Hope their new album is as good as Neon Golden, might just pick it up this summer if it is.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Yu Miyake - Lovely Angel

Yu Miyake - "Lovely Angel"

Like I've said before, I don't play videogames very much these days. So three years ago I never expected that I'd ever find a game as endlessly addictive and joyful as Katamari Damacy. What's even more unlikely is that I'd somehow become a proselytizer for it without even realizing it. In the months after buying it, I showed it to my girlfriend and her family, who proceeded to not just buy it but also pick up the sequel (We Love Katamari) when it was finally released. The same goes for coworkers and a handful of friends on the Internet. I'm pretty sure I moved 5 or 6 copies of this game just by talking about it with other people. Did I really sound that excited about it? I guess so.

Everyone loves the music in Katamari, even people who'd never be caught dead listening to J-pop. And besides, the soundtrack really is one of those rare collections where there truly is something for everyone. There's not a single track I'm not delighted to hear whenever I play it, but one piece in particular always stood out for me. Wikipedia tells me that its name is "Lovely Angel," composed by Yu Miyake.

"Lovely Angel" isn't even featured in the playable sections of Katamari. (I really don't want to go into describing what the game is about or how it's played, in 2008 this feels as ridiculous as talking about "metrosexuals" or explaining what mash-ups are.) Instead, it's a post-level theme, played after you reach your goal and successfully complete any of the areas. Here, you (the prince) are beamed into outer space by your father (The King of All Cosmos). Essentially, you're coming face to face with God, and the celestial chorus that plays in this scene is everything you'd expect from an encounter with the Almighty. I can only imagine what this could sound like with a great surround sound system. Like the best videogame music, I could listen to this on a loop for hours. And now I can.

So much more I want to say about this scene and all the the possible intended and unintended deeper religious meanings in it -- what it means from a Japanese perspective, from a Western Judeo-Christian point of view, to me personally -- but I've spent the last two nights at work trying to figure it out but I don't think I have it in me. No matter how hard I think about it or how sincere I try to be, it all comes out sounding like the worst wannabe-Klosterman article ever, or a pale imitation of any of the entries in D.B. Weiss's "Catalogue of Obsolete Entertainments" in Lucky Wander Boy. Barf!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

video #57: Diverse - Escape Earth

Did the independent hip-hop bubble finally burst? I'm sure it still has an underground following bigger than I can possibly imagine, and that it would still be going strong even if the Internet hadn't helped push labels like Def Jux and Anticon to prominence in the early years of this decade. But the new audiences who flocked to those labels (Rhymesayers and Mush too, I guess) seemed to give up on it all around 2006. Was it too much to keep up with? Did anti-violence/Bush themes run their course? In listening to music that promoted the virtue of authenticity, did listeners begin to question their own as they struggled to reconcile owning CDs by El-P and The Shins? Does this even matter? Does "indie rap" need those listeners again? I'm sure some fans might find the very question offensive. I can't say I have an answer for it.

None of this was Diverse's fault. One A.M. came out on the Chocolate Industries label back in 2003, featuring contributions from Mos Def, Jean Grae, Lyrics Born and Vast Aire, and production from Prefuse 73 and RJD2. All of these musicians have been raked over the coals by critics at one point or another since, either by failing to live up to past masterpieces (The Cold Vein, One Word Extinguisher) or by sullying their reputation with confusing career moves (The Third Hand, The Italian Job). One A.M. was widely-praised but seemed to do nothing but earn Diverse the status of "artist to watch" or "rapper on the rise" who would surely do great things, but not just yet. Chicago critics had visions of him riding Kanye and Twista's coattails to stardom. This never really happened.

I'm hoping this video is the first sign of a new album, and that Mr. Jenkins is still able to employ some of the credibility he earned with his previous releases. He's a great MC with a good ear for producers. Impossible to pin any kind of gimmick on him, either. That said, I don't expect that anyone on the Internet is still going to care about him. Enough of them sincerely seem to like 'Lil Wayne, though. Maybe I should give him a chance, too.

In the meantime, kind of an unfortunate choice of title here considering Chicago's Christian industrial pop perennials Escape From Earth, whose following was perplexingly huge last time I checked. Haven't heard from them in a while, maybe 7th Heaven beat them in a battle of the bands and the shame was too much for them to go on.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Kenji Yamamoto and Minako Hamano - Super Metroid (mix)

Kenji Yamamoto and Minako Hamano - "Super Metroid (mix)"

Four years ago I received a distressed phone call from my father asking me for my Super Nintendo. It was stored away in a box in their basement. He wanted to give it to one of his coworkers. To say I was taken by surprise by this sudden request was an understatement. I remember my dad being a decent Donkey Kong player when we had our first game system in the early 80s, the great Colecovision, but since then he'd shown no interest in videogames at all, likely only privately acknowledging them as the reason I never grew up to be a great baseball player like he almost was and probably always hoped I would become. Still, even after buying the original NES for me one Christmas and watching with dismay as it took up a perverse amount of my childhood freetime in the years to follow, my parents ponied up the money again and again for a Super Nintendo, a Nintendo 64, a Sega Saturn and a Playstation 2. Today, I've grown up into nothing more than the most casual of gamers, to the point where even sitting down for a quick game of Katamari Damacy or Tekken 4 by myself quickly bores me to tears. I still enjoy multiplayer games, though, one of the few social activities that I can say I love with no hesitations whatsoever. Maybe I turned out just fine after all.

But then this call, just minutes after punching out at work around 9:00 on a Saturday night, shook me to my core. He didn't tell me all the details, only that one of the guys he worked with was looking for an SNES, and that he knew how mine was gathering dust in the basement. This was true; I hadn't touched it for years and had no immediate plans to change that. I suppose I'd always imagined setting up all my old systems on one TV and getting back into all the old games that I'd lived with for so many years. I'd done this to one extent or another before, but three systems on one television set is a mess no matter how many power strips and cable ties you use. It seemed like a project for another day, maybe sometime in the near future when I'd have that great new job and that great new apartment with that extra room that I could use for such endeavours, perhaps helping to bring my life full circle in the process, or something.

He never told me why he needed it, but the strange urgency in his voice sent my imagination spiralling out of control. Was he getting a generous offer for it? Did this stand to help him advance professionally? Would it simply put him in the better graces of his blue-collar colleagues? I hastily agreed, forgetting that I probably could have slept on it and given him a more carefully considered answer two days later on Sunday evening. Later that night, I realized with horror what I'd done, but knew it was too late to go back on my word. Could I really bring myself to willfully take back that which I'd only kept cloistered away in storage for so many years?

The loss of my SNES and all the games I had with it was salved by my hope that getting another used system in the future wouldn't prove to be too hard. They're cheap and plentiful in Japan. Surely finding one here can't be much harder. Right? But more importantly, I still had three cartridges from it in my dresser drawer, the three that captured my imagination from the first time I sat down to play them and still flicker through my dreams from time to time today.

Shadowrun was an isometric, top-down futuristic RPG. Set in Seattle in 205X (?), you play an amnesiac struggling to recover his memories who finds himself the target of corporate-hired assassins. The dark, grimey settings were so beautifully detailed -- trash-strewn streets, flickering streetlights, dive bars and goth clubs -- capturing the sense of scuzzy urban decay and futurism gone bad that I'd always found myself drawn toward even when I was young. Battles were fought with guns and magic. You could hire orcs, trolls, shamen, shapeshifters, or just plain old mercenaries to fight alongside you in shady alleys, underground dungeons, and highrise office buildings. Now and then you'd have to take a break to hack into some computers to steal money (nuyen) and data. What a fantastic world this was. Even during the times I was lost and confused, just wandering around in the streets and in lonely corridors of buildings was still an involving experience that filled me with a sense of freedom that I was so desperately beginning to crave. Games like these were awful subsitutes for the real thing, but at times they were all I had.

A puzzle/action game with a vaguely similar premise to Shadowrun, Flashback was a collection of cyberpunk tropes that veterans of the genre knew all too well and were likely sick of by 1993. But it was all knew and pretty mindblowing to my impressionable young mind. If Shadowrun played like a William Gibson story, Flashback was straight out of Phillip K. Dick, with interplanetary travel and bizarre alien worlds. The animation is some of the smoothest found on the SNES, with physics so realistic that every leap across a gap takes perfect timing and risk assessment. Your character runs, leaps, and rolls in ways that are pretty pathetic compared to most backflipping, 20 foot-high leaping videogame characters, but kind of impressive by realistic standards. Flashback also has some of the longest and best-looking cutscenes I've seen in a pre-Playstation world, which feel like a great payoff rather than an annoyance each time you reach one. It's a thinking-person's adventure, extremely slow-paced and quiet, translated into English but still very, very French in its very essence.

Shadowrun and Flashback were ripe with borrowed ideas. Super Metroid, on the other hand, was just a bigger, more ambitious attempt on the same ideas found in its two predecessors. But those two games --Metroid for the SNES, Metroid II for the Game Boy -- presented a backstory that felt even more rich and epic than any pileup of iterary references ever could. The lengthy introduction sets the mood perfectly, and even though the false start at the beginning is really quite easy to pass, it introduces a sense of dread and apprehension that stays with you for the rest of the game. Silence, all except for the gentle but ominous hum of the space colony hallways (I'd love to fall asleep to this if I could find a long enough recording of it) and the sound of your own footsteps, is all that you hear from the start until the sudden first battle begins. Once the game really begins, as you touch down on the planet's surface and exit your ship, it's immediately the first thing you notice. Sure, it's all very cinematic and has a rich "atmosphere" and whatnot, but beyond such observations it's really the beginning of a very immersive and personal journey.

I've uploaded a mix of several of the game's tracks. It's maybe only about a third of the music in the game, but it's in chronological order and gives a good sense of how it feels wandering the chambers and corridors of planet Zebes, descending further and further into the unknown as the map slowly constructs itself, revealing the enormity of the world below you. If you grew up in the '90s and found yourself confined to an off-limits suburban existence of fenced-off lots or overprotective parental rules, maybe this was your world to explore. It's all so timeless and still sounds wonderful today. How much more for anyone who's plumbed the depths of this game. Music, sound, and well-timed lapses in each have never been used quite as well as this. If you've played Super Metroid, then you've surely come to notice and appreciate both in ways you never expected.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

video #56: Shugo Tokumaru - Parachute

I always wanted to try to make something like this. Not because I went through some "I want to make music videos" phase but just because. Video editing is fun. But the version of Windows XP I'm running doesn't come with Movie Maker, and my attempts to install it have completely failed. This computer can barely run Audacity without crashing, let alone a video editing program.

I can't afford any of these, but that isn't stopping me from constantly thinking about it anyway over the past week.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Barbara Manning - Mark E. Smith & Brix

Barbara Manning - "Mark E. Smith & Brix"

The first message board I ever belonged to was the Stereolab Correspondence discussion forum, which finally went offline sometime in 2002 or 2003. To get a quick idea of what it looked like, its closest cousin is the still-kicking Pavement Message Board, running on the same turn-of-the century template that SC used. It was a casual board -- the Internet wasn't Serious Business yet -- that didn't require registration, hadn't enabled image posting, and predated the rise of filesharing by a few years, so everyone had to come up with other ways to make it a fun experience. Thus, between 1999 and 2000, the Stereolab Correspondence tape-trading circle was born.

My mixes? Total garbage. And the shipping was a major pain given how my place in the circle placed me just behind someone in Australia. But once a month or so I'd get the coolest, weirdest tapes in the mail, full of songs that I'd never have heard otherwise, even today with the entire history of music seemingly at my fingertips. Sadly, though not surprisingly, the circle broke down within less than a year's time, though before the rise of Napster and other p2p programs. But no, it wasn't new technology that brought down our time-tested tradition. Just laziness.

I came into possession of 2 or 3 of the tapes by the end, which I continued to listen to for a few years' time before either losing them during a move or throwing them out during some furious cleaning session. Oh, how I wish I could find them again! I'm forever lost, trying to find some of the songs that I heard on those, and without anything more than a few fragments of melody in my mind to go on. It's a really terrible situation to be in, trying so hard to recall what was written on the back of one cassette in particular, remembering about half of the tracks, which included:

A Tribe Called Quest - Electric Relaxation
The Fall - Kurious Oranj
Barbara Manning - Mark E. Smith & Brix
Flowchart - New Radiolab Rip-off
McCarthy - Should The Bible Be Banned
Stereolab - Heavy Denim
Flin Flon - Upper Ferry

Towards the end of side two, there was a real dreamy, mellow track that was primarily instrumental, aside from some voices fading in and out of the mix, cooing and humming like some kind of male Cocteau Twins or something. There were keyboards and a nice beat; altogether, it sounded like Tarwater or Seefeel or some other Rough Trade-ish group, but despite all my research into this and other possibilities (To Roccoco Rot? Moonshake?) I still haven't been able to track it down. I remember enjoying it immensely during all the times I would play the tape in my room, in the car, and on the stereo in the bathroom while I'd shower, but either the tape was labeled incorrectly or it just never occurred to me to clearly look it over to see who the artist or artists behind this fantastic track were. Even if I had figured it out, the Internet was still years away from making this information very useful. Downloading music was still a huge pain and if there were lots of helpful mailorder sites out there, I wasn't able to find them.

At one point, I know there was a page (under construction?) designed to catalog and list all the songs on everyone's mixes. That was surely lost to time at least 5 or 6 years ago, if it was ever finshed at all. It's not linked to or mentioned in the archived pages of the forum, though my earliest attempts at boarding are faithfully preserved in all their incomprehensible and painful glory. The art at the top of this post shows off the misspelling that ran on all the board's banners for the first year or so before it was corrected. Whether or not this was an intentional pun is something I've always wondered but will now never know.

Anyway, I've tried my best to retrace my steps, to get in contact with members of that board who may remember the tape, should it have passed through their hands on the way to mine. I forget that most people out there, even the ones on music message boards, eventually find themselves with real lives and probably won't remember the tracklisting of a mixtape they may have heard in passing more than 8 years before. At least I remembered, or at least I strongly suspected, the screenname of the person who made the tape. She was the moderator of the discussion board, and after some creative cyber-sleuthing on my part, I was able to track her down.

She died more than two years ago. Looks like she was also part of a Belle and Sebastian mailing list/forum that's also long since passed. Hard to believe there was a time when fans actually made websites for the bands they like. Almost all of these have gone offline or been abandoned in recent years, replaced by cookie-cutter Myspace pages populated by manically-friending camerawhore kids. Yes, I understand that the spirit of an age is something to which one cannot return, but I can't help but mourn the past when I look at the state that we're in now. And I can't help but wonder if feelings like this are a good sign that I'm reaching the end of my Internet existence as I know it. As I try to keep up with the changing face of things, I feel a kind of cultural fatigue setting in and start to wonder if my ideals in the shadow world of the Internet are really worth pursuing any longer.

The Barbara Manning song that was on her tape is really good, and worth sharing here even though I have nothing to say about it. Now if only I could find the rest of the songs in the mix! Oh, if only I could whistle or hum the melody that's in my head, maybe then some helpful soul out there could point me in the right direction. The problem is, there are two or three melodies in this song going on at once, and faithfully reproducing just one of them is almost too much of a challenge in itself. Should I grow more desperate, I may attempt this, despite the promise that I'd look like an utter fool in doing so. This seems to be a quest that's going to take a lifetime for me to complete. I'm far from giving up my search, but how long can I keep on?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

video #55: M. Ward - Chinese Whispers

Another great video directed by Joel Trussell. I love his graffiti art style.

I've stayed away from so far M. Ward despite the chorus of hyperbolic praise heaped upon him by the adult indie masses. But this is rather pleasant and impossible to hate.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Add N to (X) - Live Recording with a Dead Thurston

Add N to (X) - "Live Recording with a Dead Thurston"

Taken from Thurston Moore's Root project, where he mailed out short guitar recordings sealed in vacuum-cleaner bags to a number of artists and musicians. What he wanted in return was never explicitly stated, so artists were free to compose remixes, responses, or even visual pieces. Collected together onto one CD, Root is a jarring album that's all over the map, and probably only for the most patient fans of experimental music. There's still lots of groovy B-side worthy material from the likes of Blur, Stereolab, Springheel Jack, and Luke Vibert, but much of the rest is punishing mechanical noise pieces. At nearly 80 minutes in length, this is not an easy listen. Some people might even say it... sucks.

There's no shortage of ear-grating noise pieces on the album, but most seem intent on getting under the listener's skin through unpleasant frequencies and irregular repetition instead of trying to knock them over with giant slabs of sound. Add N to (X) take the latter route and turn in one of the heaviest tracks I've ever heard, a huge, overdriven assembly of analog noise that sounds like some kind of terrible machine gone out of control. The group was always into merging the physical and the mechanical (as made obvious by their album covers and videos), and likewise there's an unsettling, living pulse beneath this inhuman racket. The end of this track always blows my head off. Brutal shit, this right here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

video #54: Kid 606 - The Illness

In which Miguel Depedro's fursona transitions from a long running label logo to an Indiana Jones-adventurer on a gabba-soundtracked quest for a magic laptop. Directed and animated by Joel Trussell, who's made a few more videos that I should get around to seeing soon.

Hard to believe this album is already five years old! I know that means nothing to most people but every time something passes a milestone that's divisible by five, it seems like a big deal to me. Anyway, having gone since 2006 without a single release, this has been the longest stretch of silence for Kid606 since he started making records ten years ago. This July finally brings a new album from him on Tigerbeat6. The title is Hooray Bass!, which is probably a clue that it's not going to be a mellow ambient album like Resilience or P.S. I Love You. We'll see!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Alice Coltrane - Translinear Light

Alice Coltrane - "Translinear Light"

Translinear Light was my introduction to Alice Coltrane and is one of the richest and prettiest albums I've heard in years. There's some really far-out stuff on this but the title track has a beautiful, meditative feel to it that just makes all other jazz I've heard over the past ten years sound like shit! I'm not just talking about Spyro Gyra or Kenny G, I'm looking at you, Wynton Marsalis.

I first heard "Translinear Light" on some NPR jazz show. Not the one that's hosted by the guy who sounds like he's 90 years old and likes big band music a lot. I think it was this one, which used to play lots of good great, classic, 60's stuff nearly every night but was forced off the air last year to make way for some radio experiment that's probably never going to get off the ground. Anyway, that was a year or so before she passed away, but how awesome to go out on top like this? I've since heard Journey in Satchidananda and Universal Consciousness and they have their own dark, moody vibe to them that I really enjoy more than anything I've heard so far by her husband.

Translinear Light takes the ideas of those albums and blows them up into a hi-fi mix, where every note is more immediate and the dark atmospheres are illuminated in the warm glow of a brighter and more organic palette of sounds. It's jazz, but anything but the pleasant and background music that jazz had become in 2006. It's spiritual as fuck, but honest and full of conviction in ways that the peddlers of so much new age pablum these days are incapable of understanding. It's a gorgeous, personal trip that should be a timeless classic if anyone cares anymore.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

video #53: Britney Spears - Break The Ice

Already three singles deep into Blackout we come to "Break the Ice," which actually isn't a bad dance track, for being as dumb and obvious as it is. Much better than "Gimmie More," which was just a boring pole-dancing song, even though lots of people into Robyn, The Knife, Annie, et al., seemed to think it was amazing. At least this song has a little bit of finesse to it. I know they're cranking out ones like this every day now but you could do a lot worse, I guess.

I won't speculate why there's an animated Britney Spears video in 2008 except to state the obvious in that it was probably a necessity. Watch for the shot-for-shot Ghost In The Shell ripoffs. Ponder the subtle metaphors in the narrative as Britney infiltrates the industry and destroys her other, fabricated self. LOL at another "anime" video being made by Americans.

Youtube has disabled embedding of all copies of this so you've gotta click the picture if you want to watch it.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

various artists - Laptop Pop Collection, volume 5

Various Artists - Laptop Pop Mix, volume 5

Having a handful of mix-worthy tracks left over from the last installment, I wanted to make one last disc in this series. Don't worry, it's not a collection of leftovers, but really a nice ending to this series.

Each of the other mixes was 15 tracks long. Volume 5 is 16 songs long, an incongruent abnormality that could have been remedied by lopping off the PlayRadioPlay! song. But from the first time I heard this kid on my local college radio station, it just seemed like a fitting end for this entire genre and a good way to end the whole project.

1. Mystery Palace - Rebelize
2. Mobius Band - Detach
3. Home Video - We
4. Mr. Projectile - You Need
5. E*vax - The Process of Leaving
6. Lullatone - Pajama Party Pop
7. The Bird and the Bee - Fucking Boyfriend
8. The Northern Two - Maybe Not For Someone Else
9. Psapp - About Fun
10. Faux Pas - For The Trees
11. Toothfairy - Kicked Outta The Band
12. Tone - My Mind Exploded
13. My Enemy - Khreis
14. Copy - A Slight But Delicious Warble
15. Childs - Marysal
16. PlayRadioPlay! - Decipher Reflections From Reality

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

video #52: Prozzäk - Sucks to Be You

Since I don't live in Canada -- where no less than 35% of music played on Canadian radio must be from Canadian artists -- I never caught onto this song when it apparently was a real hit. Now I'm hearing it for the first time, and it's probably the worst of the batch of Prozzäk songs I've been able to listen to online.

Their compilation Ready Ready Set Go was released on Hollywood Records when it came out in 2002, probably giving the duo the biggest push in America of their career. The album was released under the name Simon and Milo rather than Prozzäk, for reasons I can only speculate about. Was Eli Lily so afraid that they'd tarnish the sparkling image of fluoxetine hydrochloride, their signature product? Surely their lawyers must have learned a lesson from Panasonic.

Not the best Prozzäk video, has the same kind of aggressively ironic/"simple" animation style that all their videos have but it's not really in service of anything interesting this time. Yeah, I know I'm imploring a fake and possibly defunct band to try harder, and I understand what this probably says about me as a person.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

various artists - Laptop Pop Collection, volume 4

Various Artists - Laptop Pop Mix, volume 4

I'd already made this mix before seeing Hot Chip live about a year and a half ago. No laptops in sight anywhere on stage, so I doubt they'd make the cut if I was putting it together now. The mechanical precision and robotic soul of "The Warning" and other songs on their second album make me feel like they're still not out of place here. The goofy antics and bloated trickery on Made In The Dark make me feel like they just don't care anymore. I'm not sure I do either.

Track 13 is the alleged new song from The Postal Service that was leaked in August of 2006. It was never clear who recorded the song or penned the hilarious Ben Gibbard quotes that bloggers spread like herpes around the Internet -- "We plan on telling a story with this album. We don't know exactly how many tracks will be on this release; but we anticipate splitting up the ownership of the album three ways. Jimmy has been working with us [(sic) Ben Gibbard, Jenny Lewis "The Postal Service"] for some time now, and will be responsible for opening the story." -- but it seems to have originated at this blog, citing a quote in this alt weekly paper that either never existed or has been lost to time. I know, it's not a great controversy but I'm kind of impressed that whoever is responsible has been able to keep it to themselves for so long.

I'm fond of this mix, I hope you are too.

1. Ms. John Soda - Scan The Ways
2. Thom Yorke - Atoms For Peace
3. Feist - Mushaboom (Postal Service Remix)
4. Barbara Morgenstern - The Operator
5. Hot Chip - The Warning
6. März - Blaue Fäden
7. My Enemy - My Time Coming
8. Boy In Static - Bellyfull
9. The Aluminum Group - If You've Got A Lover (Slicker remix)
10. Tender Forever - The Feelings Of Love
11. Electric President - Snow on Dead Neighborhoods
12. Miniature Airlines - Pushpin Revolution
13. Unknown Artist - The Importance Of Being
14. Sia - Breathe Me (Ulrich Schnauss remix)
15. Lambchop & Hands Off Cuba - 4 º Gus

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

video #51: Prozzäk - Be As

I don't know how to properly enjoy this as a 28 year-old man while still holding onto a few shreds of dignity, but it was stuck in my head for most of today and I really didn't mind at all.

Apparently this video came out back when I was in college -- what a sickening sentence to bring myself to type -- and surely would have been denounced as evil, immoral, and positively sinful by most of my classmates at the time if it had ever penetrated their tiny spheres of awareness. Homosexual propaganda, they would have called it. Aimed at recruiting children. And they would have said this with a straight face, too. Always on the lookout for anything secular or postmodern, this would have sent them scrambling for Biblical warfare metaphors, strapping on their helmets of salvation and their shields of faith to battle for the soul of their culture. But hey, at least it's not about abortion!

Dropping in bits of interviews/testimonials from teenagers into the middle of the song is kind of cheesy but the innocent naivety of it feels refreshing, especially after 8 years of increasingly angry and hateful alternative rock (which had already been building up since the beginning of the decade anyway) since its release. Jimmy Eat World tried the same trick in "Work" but their song reeks of bitterness and entitlement. It's too easy to imagine JEW's troubled teens as a troupe of MTV reality show hopefuls, which the totally poignant music video suggests they just might be. But who knows, maybe some of them were the same kids from "Be As," now 4 years older, confident, cocky, and finally comfortable in the cliques they once resisted.

The video for Eminem's "Mosh" also features more animated marching in the streets, but looks pretty awful next to "Be As" despite what was surely an unlimited budget by comparison. Prozzäk videos have never featured the most impressive animation but almost anything is better than the Eminem's depressing politico dirge.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

various artists - Laptop Pop Collection, volume 3

Various Artists - Laptop Pop Mix, volume 3

Disc three: the inclusion of Laptop here is both a no-brainer and also pretty suspect. Also: do Husky Rescue or the Album Leaf really use laptops? Or any computers at all? I don't know. Seemed like a good idea at the time. More from Jimmy Tamborello, Morr Music, MacBooks, trackers, probable beards, and lots, lots more!

1. B. Fleischmann - Le Désir
2. Laptop - Ratso Rizzo
3. Jeans Team - Arthur
4. Bobby Birdman - I Will Come Again
5. Album Leaf - Eastern Glow
6. The Blow - Knowing The Things That I Know
7. Bitmap - Someone To Call My Own
8. Applied Communications - Let's Make My Bed
9. Triangle - Ordinaries
10. Beth Orton - Carmella (Four Tet remix)
11. Figurine - IMpossible
12. The Dissociatives - Somewhere Down The Barrel
13. Styrofoam - Couches In Alleys (Feat. Ben Gibbard)
14. Husky Rescue - Sunset Drive
15. Nautilis - It's Lonely in the Streets

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

video #50: Prozzäk - Strange Disease

Despite being the first fully-"animated band" (or at least beating Gorillaz to the punch by a few years) I've never bothered to check out Prozzäk before now. I can see how they would have fit in well with the turn of the century pop like Len or New Radicals, but I'm pretty sure they've never charted in the U.S. or even got any airplay here. Even today, they seem almost unknown here, and even on the Internet I haven't seen them get very much attention. So I don't know what to make of a scene like this. Is this what Canada is really like? I never would have imagined.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

various artists - Laptop Pop Collection, volume 2

Various Artists - Laptop Pop Mix, volume 2

Disc 2 of the laptop pop set, kicking off with a mellow instrumental version of "Temptation" (which works really nice coming off of the Fennesz cover/edit of the The Beach Boys on the last disc) before moving into a string of great/less-obvious songs that probably make this disc the best of the bunch. I know no one will take Linkin Park seriously here, even though there's no categorical difference between "Breaking The Habit" and, say, "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight."

1. Kid 606 - Temptation
2. The Notwist - Pick Up the Phone
3. Dntel - (This Is) The Dream Of Evan And Chan
4. Blue Ribbon - Eagles Fly
5. Lali Puna - Micronomic
6. Herrmann & Kleine - Kickboard Girl
7. Telefon Tel Aviv - I Lied
8. Schneider TM - The Light 3000
9. Benjamin Diamond - Let's Get High
10. Linkin Park - Breaking The Habit
11. TBA - I
12. Headphones - Hot Girls
13. Manitoba - Jacknuggeted
14. Pulseprogramming - Blooms Eventually
15. Mice Parade - The Days Before Fiction

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

video #49: Gorillaz - 19-2000

Video #2 from Gorillaz, again directed by Jamie Hewlett and Pete Candeland. And what a fun video it is, even though hardly anything happens in it at all.

I've had a CD-R of this album for years and didn't even know what this song was called before today. It probably could have been a bigger hit if only it had been called "Get the Cool Shoeshine" or pretty much anything other than "19-2000."

Summer seems so far away right now.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

various artists - Laptop Pop Collection, volume 1

Various Artists - Laptop Pop Mix, volume 1

As part of a series of genre-specific mixes that were being commissioned for a certain message board about two or three years ago, I assembled a two disc compilation of what many at the time were calling "laptop pop." Over time, I kept up with it and assembled what I think is a pretty good overview of the genre, if it even lasted long enough to reach such status. Does it deserve such treatment? Plenty of people who somewhat-deservedly mock Ben Gibbard from the safety of 2008 would roll their eyes and say no. But when you start exploring beyond the 3 or 4 artists that everyone came to namedrop and know, you can find some surprising and unexpected stuff.

There's a lot of problems with this mix, the biggest being one that hangs over each and every disc of it. Lots of these artists, on lots of these songs... don't use laptops at all. I tried my best to find out for myself before including them, but a few tracks slipped through the cracks anyway. Cornelius doesn't employ laptops, as I found out when I saw him and his band earlier this year. And having seen this performance when it originally aired, I should have already known that Radiohead really don't either (though "Idioteque" still remains their signature track from Kid A -- despite not being a single -- and has probably influenced more artists from this spectrum of music than anyone has ever cared to discuss). The Holden & Thompson track came from a generic "chill out" compilation full of trance artists, which they themselves most likely are for all I know. I haven't heard anything else from them but get the feeling they probably aren't running Powerbooks, but the song fits in great here so I don't care.

But I did my best with what I could find at the time. Download and enjoy. More to come soon!

1. Maurmari - Birch Beer Forest
2. Radiohead - Idioteque
3. Octet - Hey Bonus
4. Capitol K - Pillow
5. Broken Spindles - Matte
6. Bright Eyes - Time Code
7. The Postal Service - Such Great Heights
8. Cornelius - Point Of View Point
9. Decomposure - Whose Side Are You On?
10. Marbles - Out Of Zone
11. Her Space Holiday - Meet The Pressure
12. Junior Boys - Birthday (Manitoba remix)
13. Holden & Thompson - Come To Me
14. Múm - Green Grass of Tunnel
15. Fennesz - Don't Talk Put Your Head On My Shoulder

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

video #48: Gorillaz - Clint Eastwood

Here's where it all started. Hard to believe this is really seven years old now. I really wasn't into this "band" at all when they first came out, even coming dangerously close to falling in with the idiots who labeled them as nothing more than a big gimmick. But by the time Demon Days came out, which I've probably heard 200 times or more by now, I was a full convert. I wouldn't say I'm obsessed with them -- I don't own a single Gorillaz book, DVD, or figurine -- but if it weren't for Gorillaz, I probably wouldn't have had the idea to start exploring animated videos like this in the first place. This blog would be something very different now.

Between "Clint Eastwood" and the rise of Clinic around the same time, it seemed like we were on the verge of a great melodica revival. What happened?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Jim O'Rourke - Bad Timing

Jim O'Rourke - "Bad Timing"

I don't have much to say about Jim O'Rourke. I've tried to come up with something but it all sounds like "back in 2000, this guy was everywhere!" or "is there any style he hasn't played?" or even "so this is from one of his 6,438 albums, but who's counting!?"

This is the title track from his 1997 album, which I just got into a few months ago after finding at the library. I don't know how to describe it; I remember the label "acoustica" that was getting thrown around to describe artists like Air or Beth Orton but it feels more appropriate for something like this. More good music to study to.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

video #47: Chage and Aska - On Your Mark

Easily the most ambitious animated video ever made. Really, it's no contest. I know that Daft Punk had a feature-length movie, and that Gorillaz have... well, "their" whole career, but c'mon.

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, a Studio Ghibli production.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Steve Reich - Electric Guitar Phase

Steve Reich - "Electric Guitar Phase"

I've always loved Reich's compositions with percussion, especially mallet instruments, but his works translate just as well to other families of instruments.

"Electric Guitar Phase" clocks in at around 15 minutes, but makes me lose all sense of time whenever I listen to it. Joe Satriani meets Manuel Göttsching, or something. Great study/chill out music. I'm always irked when good music is "praised" like that but you know what I mean.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

video #46: Pearl Jam - Do the Evolution

Can I say anything about this that hasn't already been said? There's a lengthy Wikipedia entry on it already, which I just read and would be plagarising anyway. I've never been a big Pearl Jam fan, and on top of that I only sort of know who Todd McFarlane is. I don't have any business blogging about this at all, but it's pretty well-known as an Important Video and anything that makes people reconsider the place of "Money For Nothing" or "Sledgehammer" in the Greatest Animated Videos canon is a good thing.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Luger - Pass Agent

Luger - "Pass Agent"

The first two releases on the Leaf Label were from Boymerang. This was the label's third release. More classic breaks, I get the feeling there are dozens of other records out there like this that I've never even heard of. I wonder if the other groups he was in are worth checking out? Who knows!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

video #45: Cornelius - Wataridori

Probably the only time I've ever cried at a concert. Beautiful, wonderful song, perfect video. Directed by this group.

The Youtube stream was pixellated and awful-looking, so we have the larger, cleaner embedded video straight from the label instead! I was sad to see him leave Matador -- Sensuous could have used more publicity than it got -- but at least the move to Everloving hasn't forced him to sacrifice any of the visual aspects of his work. Still one of the most creative artists of our time. I only wish I'd gotten into him sooner than last year. Even though I'd heard and enjoyed many of his remixes years before, I had a hard time taking anyone seriously who was always being called "The Japanese Beck." But that was my loss.