Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bassett Furniture

Your furniture store failed.

You hired people to stand at busy street corners and hold dramatic signs announcing your going out of business sale.

You drive your gas-guzzling SUV with a giant, gaudy sign on top up and down the street here, all day, week after week.

It's too bad that your business fell on hard times. I feel bad for you, I really do. I can't vouch for the quality of your product but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and say that your American-made (I think) furniture itself wasn't the problem. You were just another victim of the times. The same goes for all your neighbors: Circuit City, Tweeter, Bennigan's, Office Depot, and plenty of other franchises on this street that have closed their doors over the past year. None of those are companies that I have any special feelings toward or will ever find myself missing. However, I have come to respect the (relative) dignity they showed in their final days. What we have here, in the case of Bassett Furniture in Batavia, Illinois, is something completely different.

Is the recession over? I'll leave it to the economists to decide that but from the looks of driving on Randall Road every day, you'd think we were entering the next Great Depression. Sure, everyone hopes that we're entering a period of recovery and growth (er, almost everyone). I'm sure everyone agrees that this is going to necessitate a growth in consumer confidence/optimism/"willingness to take risks"/etc. and that the saying "perception is reality" is the sort of thing that applies here. Putting a big vinyl banner up on your building's facade announcing your "GOING OUT OF BUSINESS" sale is one thing. Disseminating this message throughout the community, taking it to the streets and assigning people the demeaning tasks of holding your day-glo signs by the side of the road in the rain, well... this isn't exactly good for the mental health of our greater retail corridor.

The worst is over, or so I hope. But the longer Bassett draws this out their campaign of psychic terrorism on their neighbors, the more their own feelings of desperation and failure will start to catch on with everyone else like a virus. Is this a new form of pollution, sewing the seeds of economic angst and panic, or is it a mild form of shouting "fire!" in a crowded theater?

I know this is a lot of fussing over nothing but I'm just so sick of these people every day and their carpet bomb-style advertising infecting my daily commute. You would be too.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Belle and Sebastian - Fuck This Shit

Belle and Sebastian - "Fuck This Shit"

October 21, 2003 – Purchased used Ford Escort ZX2, 47,547 miles
vehicle price, license, documentation and tax: $7650.79

April 4, 2004 - ??,??? miles
new driver's side window

August 14, 2006 – 78,911
New transmission (reconditioned)
Torque converter
(12 months, 12,000 mile warranty)

June 2, 2008 – 105,128
Thermostat / thermostat housing
Gasket, coolant
Spark plugs, ignition coil
Plug wires
Timing belt, serpentine belt
Hood release cable
Water pump
(12 months, 12,000 mile warranty)

September 23, 2008 – 108,003
New transmission

October 7, 2008 – 108,583
Brake pads and rotors
Wiring assembly repaired

January 13, 2009 – 112,175
Battery cable end

April 28, 2009 – 116,146
Turn signal bulbs, license plate bulb
Left headlight

September 1, 2009 – 121,295
Right headlight

September 23, 2009 – 122,102
Thermostat / thermostat housing
Gasket, coolant

October 8, 2009 - 122,688 miles
Tests determine internal engine failure
General labor fees

October 21, 2003 - October 8, 2009
75,141 miles driven
(average 12,523 per year)

Not counting tires (6-8?), oil changes, coolant flushings, batteries (3?), total charge: $9,156.41 ($1,526.07 per year or $127.17 per month)

Final overall cost: $16,807.20

Friday, October 9, 2009

casual littering

A small survey of the shit people throw from their cars into the parking lot here at my apartment building. This only covers the east parking lot, none of the north or western areas or the yard out front.

1. Beer bottles

2. Energy drinks

3. Cigarette boxes

4. Condom wrappers

5. Plastic clips

on the rise: batteries, fast food cups, lighters, assorted 20 oz. drinks

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tortoise - Spiderwebbed

Tortoise - "Spiderwebbed"

Been thinking a lot about this band and what they've meant to me and to others over the past decade and a half. I didn't discover them until TNT in 1998, but that's probably been the most formative album I own, shaping my tastes and ideas about music more than any other recording. That's not to say that I became a post-rock fanboy or fancied them as one of the Greatest Bands of Our Generation or anything like that. Rather, and I realize it's become a cliché at this point, they really broke down the barriers between the worlds of rock, electronic music, jazz, etc. This was a lot more meaningful then than it sounds today.

Always held TNT in the highest regard, "DJed" housing a sick number of their best moments but not enough to raise Millions Now Living Will Never Die above it. Remixed was a landmark album and anyone who disagrees needs to have their Girl Talk and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah albums ground into powder and taken as a rectal suppository (impossible, I know, as none of these kids buy CDs anyway). Standards isn't as good as listeners thought it was when it came out. It's All Around You isn't anywhere as bad as critics said it was. And the new album is fucking great, and I say this as someone who wasn't expecting much of anything from it.

So there they are, and it's been about 11 years since I started listening to them. Despite my continuing fondness, I've tended to overlook their debut album, thinking of it more as a demo of sorts, necessary experiments they needed to take to find their "real" sound, a dense and sometimes difficult record that doesn't lend itself to the mental landscapes that further albums would paint. Now and then it's graced with a few kind words: the once-reputable Alternative Press ranking it #64 on their Greatest Albums of the 90s list/issue, Woebot placing it at #65 on his 100 Greatest Records Ever list. but since it was released in 1994, it's been eclipsed by its successors, never really lapsing into enough obscurity to ever be properly "rediscovered," maybe like Kraftwerk's Radio Activity, respected and enjoyed but seen as a stepping stone to more accessible and melodic breakthroughs, the more playable and "well-rounded" Millions and TNT.

Taking some time to return to this album now, maybe more willing to slowly absorb it than I used to be, and really feeling it for the first time this autumn. The mallet-driven Reich-isms of later albums are still in an embryonic state, melodies and cinematic flourishes not quite as distinct at this point. Later albums would conjure up sweeping Technicolor soundscapes either through the music itself or by song titles like "The Suspension Bridge at Iguazú Falls" and album covers like this. By contrast, the debut sounds like it was recorded in a series of underground tunnels. Like the songs, some impossibly vast and open, others claustrophobically confining. The band plays with a simple and snappy dubbed-out funk on most tracks, playful (despite their reputation at the time as stoic, robo-Kraftwerk clones) but understated in a way that's unfamiliar to "indie" music or experimental rock today. What constitutes a generational gap? Is 15 years enough time? This music isn't mindblowingly difficult, inaccessible, or from all that long ago but at this point it sounds like it might as well be from another world.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

10 hiLARious things to say when you're checking into a hotel

1. At the front desk, start things off with a good old fashioned "I believe I reserved the presidential suite" joke. Laugh hysterically afterwards or condescendingly lean in to the front desk clerk and tell us "I'm just kidding!" This also works with confirming your reservation for "the penthouse."

2. If you're asked for a credit card to cover incidental charges, guffaw uncontrollably and shout "Accidental charges!?! There ain't gonna be no accidental charges!" Another variation on this popular pun is "Incidental charges? You mean accidental charges!"

3. If you're checking in with a group of people, spend the entire time shouting your room numbers back and forth with your companions. Here's a good pattern to follow:
Clerk: "Okay sir, you'll be staying in room number..."
You: "Yo Jay Dawg, what room you in?"
J-Dog: "I'm in room 223, what 'out you?"
You: "I don't know man, how do you find your way around this place?"
J-Dog: "It's like a maze, ain't it?"
You: "No shit!"
Clerk: "You'll be staying in room number 240. To get there..."
You: "I'm in room 240. Where you at?"
J-Dog: "I'm in 223."
You: "223? That's gotta be just down the hall."
J-Dog: "Cool man, hey you goin' to the bar?"
You: "Shit, I don't know. I'm so exhausted. I just gotta crash for a few hours."
J-Dog: "Damn, I could do the same. I think we're gonna hit the bar anyway, have a few brewskis, you know?
You: "I feel that. Now I just gotta find out how to get to my room. Fuck, this place is huge. Which way do I go?"
Clerk: "Well, you'll be staying in building A, room 223, and that's just down the hall over here."
You: (Pointing in the opposite direction) "Okay, so I just go down the hall over here..."
Clerk: "Actually, you're down the hall in this direction, so just head down the hall, take the elevator to level 2 and..."
J-Dog: "Yo, what's your room number?"
You: "223, just gimmie a ring when you're goin' out tonight. Hey! Which way is the bar?"
Clerk: "That's going to be out the door next to the pond, just a two minute walk..."
You: "Okay, okay. Look, I'll figure it out. Yo Jay-Dawg, wait up!"

4. Ask for a room upgrade. When you're informed of the cost, say "You mean you don't give out free upgrades to extra nice guests like me?" There are a hundred variations on this "maybe you could make an exception this time" speil. Depending on what's most comfortable for you, you can try flattering the clerk with complements or by using a vaguely threatening "look, we can do this the easy way, or maybe I'll take this to the next level if you don't catch my drift" approach. There's no line you have to worry about crossing with this routine as long as you remember to laugh it all off when the effects of your poking and prodding start to visily wear the lowly desk clerk down. This effectively turns the tables in a "what, can't you take a joke?" sort of way. You might not get your upgrade but at least you got the last laugh.

5. When you're approaching an especially well-staffed front desk, look back and forth at everyone behind the counter, do several double-takes while waving your head and hands from side to side in an exaggerated "there are so many people working, I can't decide who I'm supposed to go to!" manner. It's really hilarious.

6. In a similar situation, waltz up and snidely comment "Well, you're all looking busy!" Slap the counter for added effect and shout "chop chop!" You're on vacation, after all. Or you're on a business trip and thus, are making at least twice as much money as any of the smiling faces being paid to stand around and help you with your every need, and are inherently worth twice as much as any of us.

7. When you're checking in and providing the credit card, ask "is this in case I trash my room?" Take a break from your check-in to discuss several possible room-trashing scenarios with your companions and have a good laugh over these hypothetical, alternate universe situations. In the same way, discussing a riotous "room party" with a probable "room trashing" outcome is always a great source of laughs. No matter how many times we hear this, it never fails to bring a smile to our face.

8. "Do you ever get tired of saying the same thing over and over again?" Glad you asked. Not at all! What I love best about this job is how I'm paid to recite the same lengthy spiel at least fifty times a day. Maybe I could be utilizing my college education in a career that's slightly related to my interests and skills, or at least not completely incompatible with my personality, but I get to meet so many interesting people here every day. And give them directions to their evening reception and sign them up for bus trips to go shopping! Your convenience and comfort is my number one priority. I just want to make this stop on your fast track to being a manager (hopefully by the time you're 30!) as easy as possible. I'm here for you, and I'll be thinking about you when I'm drinking myself to sleep later tonight. What can I say? I like to lose consciousness as fast as I can, it makes the time spent waiting to come back here and do it all again tomorrow go by so much faster.

9. "Ohmigod, this place is soooo big. Can we get Segways to ride around on?" Sometimes this request will be for conveyor belts in the hallways, sometimes for golf carts to drive from building to building. It's meant as a joke roughly half the time, though more often as a jab at the sprawling size of our facilities, not as a self-deprecating comment on the part of the person asking it on how they're really a lazy and worthless fat piece of shit who can barely suffer the strain and indignity of having to walk more than 5 minutes to get somewhere.

10. "Where are we, Oklahoma*?" Laugh it up, we are pretty far away from the airport and the city. What's that you spotted out the window on your limo ride here from the airport? Fields? A farm? That's fucking hilarious. I know, we're just a bunch of hillbillies, the people you fly over, silly yokels who could never do your job or understand your jetsetting lifestyle. But enjoy your week slumming it with us and try to manage. We'll keep grinning like the dogs we are, just happy to have simple jobs and to mingle with intellectual and financial elite like yourself.

*The most common state name of choice changed here for obvious reasons. I should do more to protect myself and keep my job safe but when it comes to these things it's really hard for me to censor myself anymore than I already do.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

why did I receive this in the mail?

And what happens if I'm incapacitated in a car accident tomorrow? If I fall down the stairs or slip in the shower and break my legs? Or worse? I really don't want my parents finding something like this in my apartment, or in future mail being forwarded from my address to their home.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

video #82: Mercury Rev - Butterfly's Wings

A wonderful little video from Mercury Rev. Try as I may, there doesn't seem to be any information on the Internet about who put it together, not even on the band's website. Quite a disservice to the creator(s), if you ask me. But also, you may ask: who cares? I don't know. I just don't know.

I started blogging about animated videos more than two years ago, if only just to see how many were out there as well as to deepen my knowledge of this once-rare species of video art. I certainly enjoy these things but, not having any stake in the present or the future of this form (i.e. being an animation student), I find myself at a loss for much to say about any of them anymore. Furthermore, simple exposure hasn't really enhanced my appreciation or understanding of them, so at this point I'm just kind of running through these entries without much thought or interest. I'd be of sound mind to just stop this pursuit altogether but from the beginning I had the idea that I would eventually do so once I reached 100 videos, and so it's with this same goal that I routinely press on and hope to reach it soon. With computer animation growing cheaper and more sophisticated with each passing year, there's no lack of material to cover. I still think it's an interesting topic, but the further music videos drift from prominence on television and further entrench themselves in the world of viral and disposable Internet clips, the less vital it all feels.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Closer Musik - Maria

Closer Musik - "Maria"

"Maria" might not get mentioned as a "key" Kompakt track in the way that efforts from Superpitcher ("Heroin"), Jurgen Paape ("“So Weit Wie Noch Nie"), Rex the Dog ("Frequency") or even Michael Mayer ("Lovefood") have as the legacy of the label and minimal techno in general is discussed by fans and critics these days -- each apparently eager to put all this silliness behind them and pretend that they were always into "big room" anthemic shit and sex-dripping "summer jams", but that's a different matter altogether -- but few of these "hits" can match the subtle pleasures of this song from the now kinda-legendary Total 4 compilation.

Maybe this was/could've been a club hit, but it was probably best-experienced at home, better-suited for experiences more personal or reflective than a sweaty club full of drunken hipsters. Of course, this is one of those songs that most people have just downloaded on their own and listened to on whatever speakers happen to be hooked up to their computer, thereby becoming music to "do things" to, be it writing papers, surfing the Internet, or whatever. This would probably be a good track to listen to on headphones, but it's not like anyone can be bothered to drop everything and do so anymore today than they might have back in 2002 when this was released. If it didn't set dancefloors on fire, "Maria" at least offered an alternative to the soon-to-implode laptop pop scene, proving that emotional melodies could speak volumes more than anxiety-ridden lyrics about relationships gone bad.

I guess I don't know how this track fits into any kind of greater narrative about minimal techno or the 00's, I've just always liked it and its simple, quietly restrained beauty, and I know I'm not alone.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

video #81: Moby - Pale Horses

Finding myself really tempted to buy this album, even though I only listen to Everything Is Wrong once every season or so and Play has slipped into a bi-annual rotation at best. Always rooting for Moby and when it appears that he's going back to doing what he does best, I want to support him just on principle, lest he go back to making really boring double albums and playing the role of meta-celebrity in a decade that doesn't need any more. I like this song but unfortunately I'm trying to curb my music spending and off the top of my head I could probably think of at least a hundred other CDs I'd rather buy before this. Good video, though.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Nuno Canavarro - Untitled

Nuno Canavarro - "Untitled (#5)"

I'm not going to pretend that I did any heavy lifting in "discovering" this artist or his one and only album. By 2009, the legend of Nuno Canavarro has been well documented and picked over on the Internet by the electronic music cognoscenti and "beginners" alike, leaving little more to say about the man or his work. A fine review of Canavarro and his work was published by Mark Richardson in 2002 and remains the best starting point as well as what seems like the final word on the subject.

Even so, Plux Quba remains a difficult album to pin down. Its murky songpieces resisting any easy categorization, melodies fading into view and disappearing before you're even cognizant of their presence, lengthy passages of what essentially sounds like synthesizer noodling/dicking around, which is probably what the average Justice or even Aphex Twin fan* would probably think the entire album is.

Track #5 is my favorite piece on the album. It's untitled, along with seven of the other 14 tracks. That's kind of a shame not just for how it messes up my stats, but how it denies the track a sense of identity that it deserves. Then again, the titled songs on Plux Quba don't sound any more meaningful than an average Autechre tracklist, so what would be the point? As far as describing how it sounds, I'm at a loss for words that don't inadvertently paint it as knob-twiddling wankery. It's not musical in the usual sense, though certain motifs begin to emerge as it unravels over its four minutes or so, songbird-like melodies floating over some filtered, muffled voices echoing from what sounds like a distance away, reduced to sinister but subdued-sounding growls as gentle synth tones ebb and flow with the kind of rhythm of ocean waves rolling into shore. None of these elements were new to electronic music but Canavarro goes beyond the simple pleasures of new age or ambient music and builds some truly alien worlds out of them. Maybe walking through the woods with this on headphones last spring created some indelible impressions on me that won't translate to every listener, but this never fails to invoke a goofy sense of wonder in me whenever I hear it.

*I know that forcing these comparisons in order to prove my point is a lazy and misleading tactic and I'm trying to avoid it in speech, writing and thought, but you can't deny there are lots of dudes out there who still love "braindance" and think Richard D. James is "a total genius" who can do no wrong, but who'd rather listen to Squarepusher bass solos or the new Prodigy album than this.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

video #80: Ghostface Killah - Daytona 500

I've consulted a number of sources on this matter and as far as I can tell, this really was the official music video to this song, released all the way back in 1996. Then again, if Raekwon can drop references to Volton on 36 Chambers that people still love to quote, this video probably shouldn't come as a big surprise. No word on how this came to be or whether Ghostface was a closet otaku or what. I should dust off my copy of the Wu-Tang Manual one of these days and at least give it some time on my coffee table.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

TRS-80 - Fantasy Football is Stupid/Me and My Skills

TRS-80 - "Fantasy Football is Stupid"/"Me and My Skills""

I opened this entry with a 2,000+ word account of the time I was assigned to interview this band and the various misfortunes and setbacks I suffered as I struggled to complete this relatively simple task. But as I looked ahead to the end of this troubling recollection, it was clear that there wasn't going to be any real payoff for the reader or much of a point in sharing this story at all.

So then... TRS-80, IDM/breakbeat trio from Chicago formed in the late 90s, a few albums on local labels with good distribution, some good word of mouth online, reputation for interesting live shows with lots of video and other visuals... all that and $5.00 will get you a foot-long sandwich at Subway this summer! TRS-80's sample-heavy downtempo grooves, dusty found-sound samples and nostalgic and sometimes pastoral passages between tracks was a recipe that could have appealed to a wide group of listeners but never really caught on. Blame it on bad luck, the lack of any "Chicago scene" to grow in, or being signed to indie labels that either failed to generate any precious Internet buzz (File13, One Cell) or labels that catered to listeners of somewhat different interests (the industrial havens Underground Inc. and Invisible). The band was prominently hyped and promoted on the late, great, though the site never quite capitalized on the indie music goldrush of the early 00s and was eventually rendered obsolete by the rise of link-farming blogs and message boards. Its home page (presumably the rest of its content as well) remains forever trapped in the early months of 2006.

Longtime members Kent Rayhill and Deb Schimmel left the band within a year following their finest album, Shake Hands With Danger. This left drummer Jay Rajeck on his own, maybe hooking up with other musicians, maybe moving to Los Angeles... things get a little unclear after that. I comply with a request from someone at their new label to take down an old promo picture from the band's page that I'd uploaded years ago. Unfortunately, further "updating" of their web presence on their part also involved removing the old but brilliant "Community College" music video from their Youtube account. Most of the band's videos are still viewable, including many by associate Eric Fensler, best known for the now-legendary G.I. Joe PSA parodies, predating Youtube by several years but continually rediscovered by new viewers every day.

Here's a pair of tracks from their 2002 album Mr. Kickass, which wasn't necessarily their best work, but it's as good a place to start as any. If you like this then you might love their later albums. Or you could listen to Merriweather Post Pavilion for the 93rd time instead. It's up to you.

I can't help but think that the band could have used their talents to connect with (or exploit) the Adult Swim-viewing populace in the same way that MF Doom and Flying Lotus did. You've got to grab the bull by the horns if you want to get any attention these days. At least open an indie rock hot dog stand, start a blog about your own feces or talk shit about celebrities on your Twitter account, maybe then will run a feature on you.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

video #79: The Beatles - Here Comes the Sun

Keeping this dead blog afloat can be a chore. Auto-loading it full of AMVs every week would be an easy way to prop it up while sticking to the animated videos theme that I decided to try out more than 2 years ago, but that's cheating so it won't happen. Now and then, something unofficial might creep on (as it has in the past) and such is the case again today.

This gorgeous clip was lovingly put together by Mr. Daniel Chang, though I don't think it was his decision to have it uploaded to Youtube. "rayofash" never takes credit for making it but that doesn't stop him from getting the credit throughout the 500+ comments for it. I watched this at a public screening 5 years ago with a few hundred other people and it was a big hit. I guess another 167,156 views in the meantime can't be a bad thing, even if most of those viewers are leaving these kind of comments:

"Take Flight" was another good fan-made video in this vein but apparently it's been taken down from Youtube, the creator having never uploaded it to "The Org" and somehow failing to preserve a backup copy of their own. I'm not sure I'm buying the creator's reasoning behind its removal. Very difficult to feel sorry for someone who doesn't even bother to save their own work.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

U2 - The Wanderer

U2 - "The Wanderer"

I have no strong opinions about this band, who've written a few songs I've enjoyed at one point or another. I have no memories of how big they were at the peak of their popularity, or any real attachment to any of their albums. I get the impression that a lot of fans felt confused by the turns they took on Zooropa and utterly betrayed by the electronic sounds of Pop. As these were the first two (and as it would turn out, the only) U2 albums that I would encounter, interact with, and enjoy in any kind of non-nostalgic way, my chances of agreeing with the "real" U2 fans over just about anything are about as likely as Bono joining Dave Grohl on a charity album for AIDS denialists.

I'd like to think that even the most traditional fans -- the ones who remember all the words from The Joshua Tree and fondly remember the first time they saw "New Year's Day" or "Where the Streets Have No Name" on MTV -- didn't take "The Wanderer" for granted. The final song on Zooropa, it features no shimmery guitars, no vocals from Bono, none of the epic trademarks of the band's sound. Of course, it does have Johnny Cash on vocals, years before he'd assume his place as an honorary alt. rock hero. That's how we remember him now, thanks to the albums he recorded with Rick Rubin and released between 1994 and 2002. But before his rejuvenation and subsequent generational rediscovery, there was this song, giving the man a chance to lay it all down over the kind of refreshingly bare arrangement that the Nashville hitmakers wanted nothing to do with.

If you still buy CDs but hate U2, you can also get the song on The Essential Johnny Cash, where I heard it for the first time shortly after his death in 2003. A sad day for everyone, that was, losing a figure that everyone in music -- country, gospel, punk, probably even hip-hop -- respected, looked to for inspiration, and wanted to claim as their own. But at least he didn't live to hear this, right?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

video #78: Tim Exile - Family Galaxy

Warp Records has always championed a progressive visual aesthetic when it comes to their sleeves or videos. This clip for Tim Exile (one of their newest artists, but hardly a newcomer to the world of electronic music) won't give you nightmaes like any of Chris Cunningham's works for Aphex Twin, but it's a trip on par with any videos from Luke Vibert's "I Love Acid" or Autechre's "Gantz Graf."

If you're going to watch this on Youtube, it's probably best to view it directly on the site itself, in High Quality and on fullscreen mode. Directed by Howard Kingston.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Original Rockers - Sexy Selector

Original Rockers - "Sexy Selector"

From the ambiguously titled Ambient Dub compilation released in 1992 -- a collection sure to be the object of awe or revulsion for many, simply based on the name alone -- comes this track from the original incarnation of the somewhat better-known Rockers Hi-Fi. It's not really ambient, or dub, or even trip-hop, but something from the murky depths in between. The rest of the CD kind of sucks but you'll want to turn down the lights and light up to the sounds of this early 90s slow burner. Really gotta find more stuff like this.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

video #77: Scratch Pet Land - Escargot Couleurs!

A solid entry in the French/German bleeps & bloops alliance, Scratch Pet Land carried on the Nuno Canavarro aesthetic as best they could with some help from "artistic collective" Qubo Gas for the video. Released years after MTV's retreat from music programming (perhaps it could have run on "AMP," as the show was apparently still on air as of 2000) but years before the Internet was in any shape to properly host and show such clips, it's unclear where this video was supposed to be seen at the time it was made. Looking not unlike the animations we made on Paintshop (?) during computer class in 3rd grade probably didn't speed it to the front of any program director's queue, either.

Scratch Pet Land's first album was to be their last but they've since gone on to a longer and possibly more visible career as Fan Club Orchestra. And that's about all I have to say about this. There was a time that I really loved this kind of stuff but that quickly came to an end after I purchased DAT Politics CDs in 2004 and quickly realized that I'd just wasted $15. This occasion prompted a gradual reevaluation of my standards for spending time and money on such immaterial products, something we've all thought twice about by now, I'm sure. What was the straw that broke your camel's back?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Luna - Dear Diary

Luna - "Dear Diary"

"We made an album called The Days of Our Nights. Our fifth studio album, it is possibly the worst of the seven that Luna made...

Of course, my least favorite song, 'Dear Diary,' was picked as the single. I came to hate singing "Dear Diary." The stupid "baa-baa" section. The bad lyric -- 'then you blew my mind.' I hated that lyric. It was one of those things that comes out of your mouth when you're singing gibberish, before you've written the lyrics proper. But then you find it's a phrase that you are incapable of replacing. You're stuck with it." -- Dean Wareham in Black Postcards

The Days of Our Nights was the first Luna album I heard, and remains my favorite of theirs today. "Dear Diary" is the opening song, sounding at once tossed-off but undeniably seductive and just too cool to care what you might think of it. That opening guitar lick, Dean Wareham's nasally Wellington-via-New York vocals, the instantly-repeatable chorus... it's a laid-back and class(y/ic) tune that already sounds like it's from another world, so unconcerned with placating our cravings for the yelpy, juvenile egoism that passes for indie rock profundity in 2009.

Front-to-back, this is a very good album, and to me it feels like the point where Luna really pulled it all together. Why then is it almost universally dismissed as the worst album of the band's career? A few reviews I was able to find online absolutely trash it as irredeemable and worthless. That's not to say that it didn't receive positive reviews as well, though those seem to range from offering backhanded praise to indifferent approval at best.

I'd say that I normally wouldn't care about this at all but when it comes to artists I'm particularly fond of, my tastes usually fall in step with whatever the masses agree on. OK Computer is my favorite Radiohead album. Trans-Europe Express is the Kraftwerk CD I usually go for. Isn't Anything isn't the the best album from My Bloody Valentine; not for most and not for me. And so forth. So when I happen to like something so much that so many other reasonable people think is crap (including the artists themselves), it gives me pause to wonder if maybe I'm really a horrible judge of what goes into a good song.

The Days of Our Nights remains out of print following the merger of Sire Records into London-Sire in 2000. Despite being an album they could conceivably still earn royalties from (any proceeds made from their releases on Elektra Records will go straight back into label pockets until past advances are paid in full -- read Dean's book and it'll make sense), Luna seems content to let it wither and die in the vaults. Finding a used copy was one of the best discoveries I've made in the past two years, and the album's helped get me through some strange times in ways a little too personal for me to want to air out in a place like this. And perhaps falling out of circulation wasn't so bad for this album after all. After an unpleasant introduction to the world that ultimately left it commercially and artistically disowned, it now lies between the cracks waiting for the right ears to hear it at the right time, hopefully belonging to the kind of people who'll love whatever songs on it they feel like without worrying about the consequences.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

video #76: Kid 606 - Mr. Wobble's Nightmare

The latest single from Kid 606, with a video from Joel Trussell. I was licking my chops when I first heard about another collaboration from them, hoping for another video like "The Illness", and certainly not expecting anything with stop motion. But this is another winner.

Do you need to know the background of this song to appreciate it? Probably not but if you haven't heard "Mr. Cook's Nightmare" then you're missing out on a 90's classic. The original source is bound to blow a few minds too.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

a pretty big day for this guy

I don't think I can possibly imagine the kind of happiness or excitement that he's feeling right now, much less hope to know it for myself one day.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Brad Fuller & Hal Canon - Marble Madness

Brad Fuller & Hal Canon - "Marble Madness"

I always thought of Marble Madness as a classic NES game, but its origins date back years earlier to arcades as well as various computer platforms (Amiga, ZX Spectrum,etc.). I played it a few times as a young child and never got far, but imagined that once you got the hang of it that it would reveal itself as a lengthy, deep and immensely replayable game. It wasn't until this year that I had a chance to play it again and finally find out for myself. Turns out there are only five levels, all of which can be passed in less than five minutes. Then that's it. No more levels, no hidden stages. That's just the end.

Most people who initially bought Marble Madness unaware of its brevity were probably justified in whatever sense of disappointment they may have felt. Playing it in 2009 on a (probably) illegal disc full of classic Nintendo titles (none of which I paid a cent for), it's hard to justifiably feel cheated by the experience, no matter how unexpectedly short it is. Maybe that's partly because of the instantly addictive and unforgettable music. When you have a game with simple courses to run and few enemies to dodge, your attention will inevitably drift to other parts that would normally be filtered into the background of your experience, like the themes for the different stages. Fortunately the music is so original, fun, and befitting to the strange and wonderful polygonal world within the game.

I recorded all of these clips off of Youtube. They're of varying quality and perhaps from different ports of the game, but at least now you can enjoy them in the car, on the bus, or during your afternoon workout. Can't get enough? Go buy the game!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

video #75: Amadou & Mariam – Masiteladi

Here's an enjoyable song and video from Amadou & Mariam, probably the best-known Afropop band in America right now thanks to lots of good press and touring. Too bad they'll never actually get to watch this video. They're blind, but they can probably see the music and that's what really matters. Right?

Is it wrong that I enjoy this while not really bothering to check out most other African pop music? Do I only like this because it's indie-approved and touches on all the right kinds of western music that I feel the most? Not that I listen to Vampire Weekend or anything. But would I if they were from Mali? Haunting questions.

I've also been getting into Omar Souleyman, but is that okay if I don't have any intention of "getting into" any other Syrian music? If I don't, can I still like his music for the right reasons? Not even a half-decade of M.I.A. are we prepared to deal with these dilemmas.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Free Kitten - Never Gonna Sleep

Free Kitten - "Never Gonna Sleep"

1997 was a pretty good year for music. So many great albums! Here's one that's always been lost in the shuffle and commonly dismissed as a fun but inconsequential side project, but that's a mistake. This was way ahead of its time. Sentimental Education was all over the place as an album (which people hold against it for some reason) but this is one of its best tracks. Give this jam a chance and you won't be let down!

Kill Rock Stars was never the same after they started courting shit bands like Numbers and The Decemberists. I miss their old sound and their passionately feminist and gay (not fey and prissy and whiney, but homosexual!) and creative attitude. This same "old sound" turned out to be the sound of tomorrow. Too bad no one gives a shit today! Too busy blogging and listening to "quirky" (but serious!) bands dressed in their best steampunk outfits, I guess. RIP KRS (Grand Royal, too). Indie rock suuuuucks.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

video #74: Miracle Fortress - Have You Seen Your Dreams

This was going to be one of the longest entries I'd ever published on this blog but after a month of fussing over it and considering what it is about it that bothers me and what I think it all means within some bigger context or something, I was unable to form any real opinion about it or say anything truly interesting at all. My brain is rotting into a useless mass I'll be flipping burgers when I'm 40.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

video #73: The Rice Twins - Can I Say

I don't know who these two guys are or where they came from and outside of their rare and regrettably short releases since 2006, (if Discogs is to be trusted) they don't seem to be doing anything else on the side. But since their first release on K2 they've been Kompakt's secret weapon and I keep hoping that they'll eventually release an album, one we won't have to wait for as long as Rex the Dog's.

"For Dan" and "For Penny and Alexis" were the highlights of Immer 2 and Total 7, but only now am I realizing that I never actually heard Total 8 and, thus, missed out on this great track. Wistful but pounding, gloriously blissed-out and breezy, this won't make people toss their drinks at each other like Justice or MSTRKRFT or Basement Jaxx so that probably makes it dance floor poison by hipster benchmarks of 2009 but if you like shoegaze-y techno and haven't jumped on the "mnml sux!" bandwagon then this is for you.

Oh, I almost forgot. This is a really wonderful video, too. We're fortunate that The Rice Twins care enough about their music to support proper visual treatments of it (another of which I'll post sooner or later), because how many other artists in the realm of dance music who stick to putting out 12" releases on independent labels are bothering to? I got a big Watership Down-vibe from this. Whether this was the intention of animator Tommy Vilkensen is unclear. Grab some tissues and judge for yourself (be warned, big spoilers on the other side of that link).

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Jesper Dahlbäck - What Is The Time, Mr. Templar?

Jesper Dahlbäck - "What Is The Time, Mr. Templar?"

I first came across this track sometime in 2003. An internet acquaintance had burned a mix CD for me and had tossed in an extra burned CD-R labeled "Ellen Allien" along with it. This was around the same time as the release of Berlinette, and I was eager to hear more from her. This disc turned out to be a DJ mix, however, and with no title or tracklisting, hunting down any of the songs on it was an almost impossible task. It would be a few more years before had a through and accurate listing of all her releases, or at least until I would be patient/desperate enough to comb through all of them to identify exactly what I had. The Flieg Mit Ellen Allien mix was released all the way back in 2001, and of all the great tracks on it (mostly deep house, German techno, etc.) I was most interested in finding out what track #10 was. And here you have it, but things get even stranger when I tried to track down its precise origins.

"What is the Time, Mr. Templar?" is not officially listed on any release from Jesper Dahlbäck, at least not until earlier this year, when it was reissued as a 12" single. While online retail blurbs allude to it as a "classic item from the 90's," even in 2003 it seemed like it was ahead of everything else I was hearing from the Kompakt/Playhouse scene and still does today. Further investigation finds this clue from his 1997 release "The Persuader." At only four tracks long, I'd only been able to find and download the first three from it sometime last year. The final track is listed as 5:13 in length, the same runtime as the full version of "Templar" I was able to download elsewhere.

If you love it so much, why not buy the record? The original? An expensive collector's item. And the reissue seems out of stock everywhere online. For now I'll continue enjoying this for free, the time I spent looking for it already feeling like more work and fuss than I've ever gone through for almost any single song before. And no, I don't think this makes me any kind of hard-working mp3 crate digger or anything.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

video #72: Moby - Shot in the Back of the Head

Of course this sounds like Moby, or at least it's unmistakable when you go into it with the expectations laid out by Play, 18, or Hotel. Maybe even Last Night, but after its listless predecessor I gave up on the man and haven't attempted to give it a listen. But this new song, the first single from a surprisingly-quick follow up album coming out this summer, is blessedly free of any lyrical baggage and is just Moby doing what he does best. Chilled out, slightly mournful, but not sappy or trite. It all sounds a little too easy, perhaps, but it's a step back in the right direction for an artist whose past accomplishments should earn him a chance to redeem himself from recent disappointments. Even the album cover is a welcome return to form.

The video is directed, and apparently hand-drawn, by David Lynch!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Steve Reich - Music For 18 Musicians (Coldcut Remix)

Steve Reich - "Music For 18 Musicians (Coldcut Remix)"

Steve Reich remixed? A great idea, for sure, and a hearty bunch of attempts on this 1999 compilation. Unfortunately, it's all downhill after the opening track. Howie B? Tranquility Bass? Barf! There are a few more promising contributors, but even Ken Ishii and Nobukazu Takemura sound like they're phoning it in. Was Aphex Twin busy? John McEntire? This was a great idea that would probably turn out much better today. As it is, it's fodder for the used bins, not a bad album but a missed opportunity.

At least Coldcut get the CD off to a good start. Their remix of this solid little minimalist jam doesn't cover it up with dusty samples or cartoon sound effects like you'd expect, but preserves the original mallet percussion melody and adds some pleasant electronic pulses and swells. It sounds like the album cover looks, and if that floats your boat then you're going to be one happy camper when you give this a spin!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

video #71: KMFDM - A Drug Against War

"Do I really like this, or would I rather be listening to KMFDM instead?" That's probably the closest thing to a personal "test" that I have for any music that I can't form an immediate opinion about. Unfortunately, most of the time the answer doesn't fall in the favor of whatever hot new indie band everyone is talking about.

I can't say how authentic KMFDM's anti-corporate posturing was or how subversive their songs truly were or weren't. They weren't Throbbing Gristle or Negativland but obviously they were aware of this and for a popular band they had a rare self-deprecating streak about themselves that that would soon be lost on an entire generation (or at least whatever tiny fraction of it would actually hear them once their sound was left out of the Vans Warped Tour/Korn Family Values scenes). I think that's what troubles me most, the fact that they were essentially a joke but it was one their fans were in on. Today, they'd be crucified for empty "sloganeering" by bloggers but taken completely literally by everyone else. Just another sign why this decade has surely been the dumbest I've lived through so far. Of course, you can't take this stuff too seriously but why can't some mock-agitprop still be fun in these image-obsessed times?

The transition from the optimistic and culture-savvy 90s (when skepticism of the media and globalization seemed to be growing into a burgeoning movement -- though maybe I'm embellishing the past as everyone eventually does) to the comparitively retarded 00's (seemingly doomed to be remembered for awful television, butchered attention spans, and the shallow self-mythologizing and prejudice-reinforcement enjoyed by all on the Internet) didn't have to happen. I don't think I'm imagining it all either. I'm not nostalgic for the 90's (not in any meaningless VH1-defined sense of the term) but I truly believe that the thought process of the average person was radically different back then. Maybe I'll end up feeling the same way about this decade in another 10 years?

This video was (probably) directed by Aiden Hughes, whose iconic art appeared on pretty much all of KMFDM's releases, even 13 (!) years after this clip was first aired. Of course, this was when MTV actually played videos, which is almost impossible to talk about now without sounding embitteredly out-of-touch or furiously betrayed by its direction since. You can't even talk about talking about it anymore without using tired words like "rockist" or "oldster" and sounding like some 40 year-old who just discovered the world of online music criticism and is discovering how to use it to vent about his deepest-held values and prejudices. But don't act like it's all relative and there's no difference between progams like "120 Minutes"/"Yo! MTV Raps"/"Daria"/"Aeon Flux" and "MADE"/"Room Raiders"/"The Hills"/"Paris Hilton's my New BFF."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fleetwood Mac - Albatross

Fleetwood Mac - "Albatross"

Look, yet another classic song I've somehow never heard before! What's next, blogging about how totally great the Pixies were? Great bands you've never even heard of like Can or Joy Division? How genius the hook in "Toxic" is and how all you indie snobs are too busy stroking your chins and listening to Isan and Brothomstates to ever get it? Stop standing around with your arms crossed and get out there and dance! OMG, this "Losing My Edge" song is so good. I hate those kind of indie pricks! Lol.

A mellow instrumental hit from an era of the band that I pretty much didn't know about at all. I didn't hear it until renting Man on Wire a month ago and since then I've been hooked on it. Brilliant movie, though most of my chums online have a radical aversion to Mr. Petit's excitable recollection of the events portrayed within it, strong enough to keep them from sharing my opinion on the film.

Great song. A number 1 hit in the UK!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

video #70: Wagon Christ - Receiver

Luke Vibert's music has inspired a lot of great animated videos. Here's another one, directed by Tom Perrett.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Turn On - Electrocation Of Fire Ants

Turn On - "Electrocation Of Fire Ants"

I had no idea that this band even existed until a week ago. Turn On included Tim Gane, Sean O'Hagan and Andy Ramsay, with Laetitia Sadier contributing vocals to a track. Essentially, this line-up was Stereolab without Mary Hansen or Morgane Lhote, and releasing an EP at the height of the Groop's prime in 1997. I've done my best to follow the Switched On collections and other related projects over the years (Monade, UiLab) but this one slipped past me.

I was really into this track for about a week, but went a little overboard and don't know if I'll want to hear this again for a while. Don't get me wrong, this is mellow and pleasant, though not as inspired as the Lab's best instrumental work from the time. Oh well. Trying to track down as much abstract pop from this time period as I can, still searching in vain for something else like it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

video #69: Fol Chen - No Wedding Cake

Animated video for the latest Asthmatic Kitty band. Pretty tired of this kind of indie pop to say the least, but the video reminds me of Delphine games from the 90's and their somewhat-related imitators. Don't expect anyone else to conjure up those for a reference, though.

Directed by Nancy Jean Tucker.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Telefon Tel Aviv - I Lied

Originally uploaded by kirstiecat

Telefon Tel Aviv - "I Lied"

News of the passing of Charles Cooper hit the Internet last week, first in a post by bandmate Joshua Eustis on Telefon Tel Aviv's Myspace page. News was quickly picked up by local sites like The Reader, Chicagoist, and Gaper's Block, not to mention Pitchfork and a bunch of other music websites (most of which had been gleefully happy to shit on the band's faces for most of the past 5 years, if only for making pleasant electropop that wasn't 100% groundbreaking or part of some trendy and easy to write about revival). Even at this point, details about Cooper's death have not been released to the public, though that hasn't stopped some from not only speculating on what they might be, but also on the appropriate response of his family and friends.

Checking the band's page, I'm kind of shocked that they have as many listeners as they do. They were never very hyped or given an overwhelming push by either Hefty Records or Bpitch Control. I'm glad to see that it looks like they had, in fact, found their audience, one that had surely been eagerly anticipating their new album, out mere days before Cooper's disappearance had been reported.

Here's a song from their second album, Map of What is Effortless, which helped get me through many long nights at my last job (and still could at my current position if only music were allowed).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

video #68: Kanye West - Good Morning

Original animation by Takashi Murakami, never released as a true music video but displayed as part of his own travelling exibit.

I do enjoy his work, which I guess makes me a trend-hopping hipster kid, though you'd never catch me dead in a patterned hoodie like the rest of them.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Iron Maiden - The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

Iron Maiden - "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

From the Chicago Tribune:

Gov. Rod Blagojevich began and ended the day of his impeachment on literary notes. Whether they were high or low ones is yet to be decided by English teachers.

Upon completing his morning jog Friday, Illinois' embattled leader mentioned a short story from the late 1950s to the media gaggle outside his Northwest Side home.

"I feel like the old Alan Sillitoe short story 'The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner,' " Blagojevich said.

Freudian literary critics may note the hero of that story is a petty criminal who finds solace in running, eventually competing on the track team of a juvenile-detention facility.

Monday, January 5, 2009

I Wanna Be Your Dog

Not to single out these particular breeders or anything, I just saw this sign while on the way to work today and couldn't help but feel like it all seemed so familiar.

Friday, January 2, 2009

some great blogs

Most blogs on the Internet, including the one you're reading right now, are, more or less, fairly terrible. But once in a while I find a few that aren't. It's then that I'm reminded why I wanted to start a blog in the first place, and the enthusiasm that I felt when I first began. Along the way, I was sure, I'd find lots of other people online who'd feel the same way, or that I'd somehow find my place in the greater blogosphere and really hit it off with a bunch of other writers.

This never really happened, probably because finding and keeping up with other blogs takes actual effort and curiosity, which I wasn't feeling very much in the past year. I had a blogroll on this page listing a few blogs from people I vaguely knew from message boards (half of which died in the past year). It was a placeholder that was meant to be temporary until I found my own place in the greater blogosphere and had some real contacts that I could promote or throw up at the top of the page like a worthless list of Myspace friends. I'm probably not going to put it back up or try to assemble a new one. If I did, however, it might look something like this:
You already know this man, probably no need to say anything about him as a writer. But since his hip injury left him bedridden this past spring, he's ran a blog that's showcased some of his most personal and entertaining writing. Unsurprisingly, most of his entries focus on film but it's the ones that don't that are the most compelling and/or hilarious. Read his entry on rice cookers and see if you don't find yourself dusting off yours or wandering over to Amazon to buy one. Or his piece on the post-irony consuming our culture. His belated and unofficial "review" of Ben Stein's documentary Expelled is one of the most calculated but brutal takedowns I've ever read on the Internet. Ebert has been a regular presence in my life ever since I started reading papers at 13 or 14. How lucky I feel that he seems urgently compelled to write even more with each passing year.
One-third of the Twisted Misters, Andrew has grown into such a prolific writer that one blog can no longer contain him! A walking encyclopedia of pop culture, his blog is a treasure trove of insights on television, films, music, and lists. Lots of lists.
Honestly, I don't know how often I'll be coming back to this, but every time I do I feel a little bit smarter, even if it's all advanced math and computer topics that I usually don't completely understand. The author wrote this great book, which I just bought as a Christmas present for someone else but wish I could still read for myself.
Still reading this from the very beginning like an epic novel. I'm almost halfway through it and I can't imagine what's going to happen next. His idiosyncrasies and musings on his identity grow more pronounced with each passing year. I really can't begin to describe what this is about, you'll just have to find out for yourself.
The journey ended four years ago, New Year's Eve, 2005, and the blog has been hit and miss since then. Still, Dan Freeman's quest still inspires us all to this day.
Good geek blog. Gives me a little bit of hope that anime fandom can stretch into one's thirties with no terrible side effects, even peacefully existing alongside family and a career. Good to find more intelligent people who like Makoto Shinkai and Yoshitoshi ABe. His enthusiasm is contagious.
Deep insights and wandering thoughts on anime, manga, and other otaku obsessions. You'll never have a hard time finding Western bloggers who think they know everything about the industry or what their fellow fans should like, but here's a rare blogger who knows what he's talking about and also isn't an abrasive weaboo snob about it.
A simple anime blog that's only updated very sporadically, hope to see more from it this year but who really knows what the author has planned.
Rolling compendium of unnecessary quotation marks from around the world. "Updated" daily.
Another dead blog that's probably not rising from the grave any time soon, but for most of 2007 this was blog that turned the Internet upside down! Did they burn too brightly, too fast? There will never be another...
Straight outta the Canadian wilderness comes the long-running blog from metal expert and personal Internet acquaintance Adrien Begrand. Reader comments don't seem to be enabled anywhere, but that's okay. They're just for insecure attention-addicts and blogs look better without them!