Wednesday, April 30, 2008

albums from 2008 that I love: Black Mountain

Ahhhhhhhhh. This record is like jumping into a big comfy time machine. It feels very nostalgic to me, but nostalgic for a time that was more than a decade before my own birth. I grew up on real nerdy, guitar-dork classic rock like Zeppelin and Floyd and Sabbath, stuff that is decidedly uncool as checkpoints for new indie rock. Sometimes this sound comes back in, and in recent memory bands like Wolfmother, Mars Volta, Muse, have mined the riffs and pomp of the Gods of dinosaur rock, to pretty uncool results. I normally try not to revisit this era of my musical taste, it being second only to my extensive foray into jam band fandom on the embarrassment scale. Black Mountain totally love Blue Cheer and Deep Purple (I'm guessing) and kind of sound like "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida." But this is really good! And everyone loves it. Strange how they managed to keep some of the lame stuff from 70s stadium/prog/psych rock and still keep it a cool indie rock album form 2008 - a pretty hard thing to do no matter what type of influences you're using. I mean, their web site is called!!!

I think what keeps the album fresh and easy to embrace is that the band doesn't simply rely on the Sabbath riffs for 80 minutes straight. There are plenty, but they're balanced out by beautifully restrained organs or passages of soft acoustic guitars and flutes or something like that. There's an equal emphasis on psychedelia as there is on brute force riffage. Songs like "Tyrants" switch from stompy prog to atmospheric psych at the drop of a hat, which helps to keep the band from sounding too stuck in one mode or the other. Even when they are getting pretty or trippy the Rick Wakeman synths and monster guitars aren't too far behind. A perfect example is "Wucan," maybe my favorite track. The shared vocals really save some of the songs from their stupid lyrics. "You've got to change your evil ways"!?!? Amber Webber's voice is incredible and so is the dude's. This album is totally badass in ways that albums really haven't been in a while; unabashedly rocking out in some parts but keeping it psychedelic and kind of druggy at the same time, not caring about "hip" influences, silly lyrics, alternating scary/beautiful parts, long epic tracks. It seems kind of anachronistic, but there is a weird thing going on in Vancouver with a bunch of dudes with beards who are in awesome rock bands. Big synths, kraut-ish grooves, Sabbath riffs aren't exactly ground-breaking, but I can't think of many indie rock records that are as unpretentious and listenable.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008

new GTA looks crazy

I wouldn't think that I'd be excited about a video game ever again, but this looks really awesome. The only way I could really care enough to sit down for more than 20 minutes and do something like that would be if the game is so ridiculous and offensive that it's actually like a subversive act just playing it. This looks interesting. Some nutbar conservative attorney in Florida (obv.) is demanding that Take Two be indicted and claims that the game is as big of threat to our children as Polio. Yeah. Sign me up (for the game, not Polio).

According to the article, the video above "strips the game of all context and merely shows scenes of sexual content and violence, one after the other...and since the acts are shown one after the other, the game can be portrayed as a nonstop sexual experience." it's nsfw obviously

I also thought this was funny: via wikipedia
"Grand Theft Auto IV takes place in a redesigned Liberty City consisting of four boroughs, based on four of the boroughs of New York City. Broker is the equivalent of Brooklyn, Queens is Dukes, the Bronx is Bohan and Manhattan is Algonquin. Adjacent to the city is the independent state of Alderney based on New Jersey and named after the Channel Island of the same name. A Staten Island-esque area is not featured in the game as Rockstar Games believes that game play in such an area would not be amusing."

so who's apartment am I hitting up tomorrow for some gangster sex and violence gaming???

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

new no age

I've been anticipating the new album from this band since I heard the news that they signed to Sub Pop. Their first LP, Weirdo Rippers, is one of my absolute favorite albums of the decade. I've listened to it a million times and they've become one of my favorite bands. I kinda wish every band sounded more like them: incredible melodies, NOISE, thrashing guitar and drums, honest and simple lyrics that are either sort of hummed and barely audible or shouted/barked.

Needless to say, I was kinda nervous about Nouns. A band like this is a fragile thing, and while they clearly had a ton of potential and room to grow there was also the enormous possibility of a let-down. Everything about the band was so perfect; a series of great EP's released on tiny indies, a small following, a scene. I was equally scared that they would come out with a clunker and hesitant to even think about the album's hype. Well, it leaked and I downloaded it.

After my first few listens I was prepared to be officially disappointed. Nothing on it was as immediate as "Everybody's Down" or "Every Artist Needs A Tragedy." They also seemed to have changed their sound a little bit to a cleaner, more straight-ahead punk band sound. There weren't as many blissful, static-y moments like "Neck Escaper." But after a few more listens I've realized that this album is GENIUS. The new sound isn't as drastic as I thought. It's subtle, yes, but it's just as powerful as before, it's just more focused. Here, when they do noise, they do it for a full two minutes. When they write a song, they play it. When they thrash, they thrash and then move on to the next one. But when these sounds come together the band is at their most brilliant and sublime. On their early songs they would sometimes juxtapose two of these sounds together on one track, but there are moments on Nouns that get closer to that perfect fusion of noise and volume and power and melody. I'm really relieved and just happy that I have a new album to dissect and listen to over and over for the next few months. Thank you dean and randy

you should pre-order it

and also check out their blog
and go see them

Thursday, April 17, 2008

albums from 2008 that I love: Cut Copy

This one definitely took me by surprise. Back in 2004 Cut Copy's debut seemed like an 80s pastiche album from some fruity Australian guys who loved neon and synthesizers. While it may have been slightly ahead of the curve, it feels very much part of the whole new-rave thing that is still pretty much dominating indie and dance music. So it has been easy to lump them in with a bunch of other bands, many of whom are from Australia or even on their label Modular. Maybe I wasn't paying attention or maybe it's a new development, but at some point this band became really creative and ambitious, incorporating sounds and approaching territory that is pretty foreign to all those other bands in the hypem/remix/bloghouse continuum. They also got way, WAY better.

This inventiveness is apparent right off the bat with the opening "Feel The Love," starting with oddly hummed vocals and synth flourishes over strummed acoustic guitars. Right away it sounds slightly more psychedelic, more unabashedly joyful than what is expected of a band like this, and it's clear that it belongs to some other sphere of influence, with a melody too perfect and so many bubbling elements that it sounds like it has nothing to do with everything that's going on right now. "Feel the Love" is pretty enough to make me wonder if the band had suddenly gone hippie until the end finally brings in the beat. That's what everyone is waiting for anyway these days. But what makes this album stand out is the sticky sound that surrounds each element of the songs, not to mention the incredible melodies. Songs like "Out There On The Ice" and "Lights and Music" sound so genuinely New Wave that it's easy to ignore the fact that these guys made an album full of danceable, four-on-the-floor house-rock tracks that work much more strongly as an LP, that is as a great album.

One of the most engaging features of the album is the feeling of an ebb and flow that occurs throughout it. Songs like "Lights and Music," which is the new single and is a pretty direct dancefloor track, have these incredibly sublime breakdowns in them where the band lets the ever-present synths soar or bounce or just wash over you. The whole album is padded with a distorted wash of noise that comes and goes, sometimes giving way to powerful beats or serene breakdowns or odd samples. There are even several short, ambient instrumental tracks that act in a similar way, bridging moments of bliss with fuzzy atmospherics or pounding drums. They really don't shy away from the noise, either. "So Haunted," which was the first track to leak, alternates between pretty, lilting choruses and clanging post-punk guitar before giving way to a breakdown that sounds like it was taken straight off a German or French electro-house record. Seriously. And then there's "Far Away," which has got to be one of thee best songs this year. I don't really feel like saying much about it because it speaks for itself, but I would like to add that the breakdown on this one is one of my favorite moments on any recent album. That sample thrown in the middle of the song blows my mind, too.

In a million years I never would have expected this album. Somehow, Cut Copy became a truly original art rock band. Instead of straight ripping from their influences they built an homage to many of them. Everything comes down to influences these days, because it's so hard to sound new in an environment in which New Order and Daft Punk have as much influence as Prince and Brian Wilson. In Ghost Colours uses its influences perfectly, letting them in but allowing them to pass by freely without weighing the music down. This will hold up as a great album and will be hard to beat for my album of the year.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

mixtape monster


I love mixtapes like these that collect all of a rapper's recent guest spots and whatnot when they're in between albums. One of my favorite mixtapes from the past year was very similar to this, Young Dro's Purp By The Pound. Jeezy is having something of a renaissance right now, all of a sudden turning into an R&B love machine. His verse on "Love In This Club" is great because everyone can rap along to those first few lines ("Seshully, emoshunlly!") but it's a laughably simple and kind of stupid verse. Although I think he may have topped that one with his verse on this new Mariah track "Side Effects" which will probably be on her new album (EDIT: I'm retarded, it's already out). The verse is notable if only for its opening line, in which Mr. 17.5 exclaims that either he or the subject of his sexually seductive verse is "magnifical or should I say magnificent?" Amazing. There's also a track with The-Dream that I had never heard that is pretty awesome, but that's expected since it is The-Dream. I strangely haven't heard anything about a new Jeezy album but he's put out a bunch of good guest spots and remixes in the past year or so, and the remix of "Superstar" with T.I. has added to my slowly reversing opinion on Lupe (used to hate him, coming around...) Also, this mix has me checking for Slick Pulla, which is cool I guess. There's a track on here called "Fuck The Other Side" that I'm definitely feeling.

That Jeezy cover is just TOO ILL though! I woke up to great news (news? whatever) and this is just hitting the spot. I wish I could have done Rap Mixtape Cover Art as the subject of my Multimedia Graphic Design 15-page research paper because I think it's one of my favorite media for graphics in the world right now. Some of my favorites that are out right now:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

ryan leslie "diamond girl"

I can't decide on this song. I guess I like it. Sometimes synths are just not that great, too much of a good thing maybe. I also think he's kinda forgettable, especially on the rap at the end...I'll still take The-Dream or even "Sexy Can I" over this.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

a review of the Dipset (12)

It's been a while since the Dips have been relevant, and they've sort of become uncool. I have the feeling there are a lot of people out there who are pretending they weren't into this in 2004-05. But they were. And it's still great stuff, no matter how many internet rap cycles away we are. The height of the movement is long gone, but I'd like to just remind you of how dope it really was to see these crazy dudes giving NY rap some excitement and originality for the first time in so long. I mean, who's ever gonna touch the Dips on the swagger levels alone? Didn't they birth that whole thing anyway? I think it's almost a good thing that they imploded so they never got too crappy while they were still an official unified group. Although Killa Season flopped and the two More Than Music comps were pretty forgettable (too many shitty second tier dudes), they went out the same way they came in: quick and confusing. I think it's just important to remember that they created some of the weirdest music of the decade.

This post is to commemorate the greatest moments in Dipset audio/video history

Cam'ron "Hey Ma"
The first real Diplomats moment, the coming out party. Not much to say about this. They're like a bunch of comedians in this one. The dance is amazing, of course.

Diplomats "Bout It Bout It...Part III"
Crazy old video from the first Diplomats album. A relic of the throwback jersey era, incredible outfits with matching hats and bandanas all around. Looks like they got all of Harlem to come out for this. A remake of an old Master P and TRU track, with the Ice Cream Man in the video. Classic and grimey as hell.

Juelz Santana "Dipset (Santana's Town)
Juelz first real solo smash. Not a real hit but a Dipset classic nonetheless. Great pink moment in the beginning with Cam in the car, bandanas around the neck and wrist. This song is too ill, a perfect example of the Dipset sound: hammering Trackmasters beat, chanting chorus, stuttering verses with a lot of words that rhyme with themselves.

Diplomats "S.A.N.T.A.N.A."
God I love this one. IM BAAAAACK...The high pitched little kid sample is so recognizable and weird and just out there. The whole thing sounds like it was made by some aliens or something, especially the beat. The furs in the video, the whole NYC setting, the driving...This was Dipset 2.0 at its best. (sorry about the AOL videos, it's impossible to find this one on YouTube)

Jim Jones "Crunk Muzik"
This shit is just frightening. Amazing track, one of the hardest ones they ever made. The quintessential Juelz verse, a hillarious "Tuttie frutti" Cam verse and a sick hook. This should have been a bigger hit... The video is really dope, too, probably my favorite. Great Warriorz theme with Sizzurp bottles.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

albums from 2008 that I love: Atlas Sound

OK, here's the first in a series of posts that I've been meaning to start. It shouldn't be that hard because there really aren't many albums coming out that I like enough to even bother with, but so far Atlas Sound has been my favorite album of the year. I never thought I would like Bradford's solo album as much as I love last year's incredible LP/EP output from his main band Deerhunter. I usually don't like sad-sack music that much and I'm really not into all the new indie that comes out every week and takes the campus by storm (although I'm thinking about going to see Blitzen Trapper and Fleet Foxes tonight and they're both pretty damn indie and the latter is pretty sad-sounding). But something about Bradford Cox has got me hooked on his music. He has a schtick, that's for sure: high-pitched, aching, overdubbed vocals over swelling, gauze-packed shoegaze drones. I always go for sound and style first and content/lyrics/whatever well after the fact, so maybe that's why I love the warm, fuzzy, electric pillow-ness of the music, because if I was paying attention to the lyrics more I would probably want to kill myself.

Bradford is known to have a thing for pills, and I know that the feeling of being on anti-depressants and/or anti-anxiety medication has influenced his sound a lot. Whether or not this has had some sort of druggie subconscious attraction for me is unimportant really, because even if I don't enjoy hearing a dude basically nail my own fucked up anxiety-ridden thoughts with every lyric, I KNOW I love to soak in the sonic equivalent of it. It's like if a violent, sociopathic necrophiliac sat around listening to Cannibal Corpse everyday for the lyrics, it probably wouldn't help him curb his problems. I prefer that I can't understand what he's saying sometimes because I'm afraid I'll go off the deep end if I paid attention too hard. It strikes a great balance between being about what I feel and sounding like how I feel, which is way more important to me. Sure, sometimes I feel like "Chokes me 'til I'm dead / There are places in my head / That I could never conquer"... But I'd rather just hear guitars and distant voices and gently tapped keyboards wash over me and try not to think about it while I focus on other stuff.

The sonic effect of the music is what grabs me. This album has served as a fuzzy counterpart to all the other stuff I've listened to this year, which has been all pounding bass, sharp drums and upfront vocals. Even though it's a complete emotional detachment, which is the theme of his writing and his sound, this is the only type of thing I can listen to for an emotional resonance without wanting to throw up. He never gets heavy-handed, always staying within the range of the repeating noises or echoing whispers that flow throughout the space of each song. Even when he says "I'm trying to make friends but I'm always on guard," you can barely tell it's there. If it weren't for the beautiful and comforting setting he creates for each song then the impact wouldn't be half as strong. Even the instrumentals, such as "Ready Set Glow," have as strong of a cathartic coziness as a song like "Quarantined," which, in addition to being one of my favorite songs on the album, has arguably the most apparent meaning of any of the songs here. I can't decide if I have found such a close resonance with his music because I often feel so much of what he sings about or if it is because the sounds he creates have filled some empty space in my listening with the warm, static-y goodness that it needed. Or could one not exist without the other?

Monday, April 07, 2008


a T. Howard filmette

Sunday, April 06, 2008

dope Lupe art on a Moleskine

So I'm the intern for EtchStar, who get really good artists to do dope engravings on shit like this Lupe Moleskine honoring one of the only songs by dude that I actually like! Love the different fonts for each city. By Nathan Cabrera

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long live

this gave me chills. Bun is like my favorite dude alive right now, second to maybe Ross. Can't wait for II Trill to come out and looking forward to the video for "That's Gangsta" (pictured)...R.I.P. Pimp C

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

know what's goin through your mind, boosie he retarded

Lil Boosie - Da Beginning mixtape

The above line from the hook on "Somebody Gonna be My Victim" is the type of thing that makes me love Boosie right now. While it clearly has a different meaning when used by the man himself, many people can't take Lil Boosie seriously and look at me like I'm crazy when I tell them I listen to his music, without irony. It's not just his shrill, cartoonish voice that makes people scoff at him. He's a raw, unapologizing version of the Southern rapper; materialistic, violent, loud and unconcerned with anything except money. But he's really one of the only honest and fresh voices in rap, unafraid to put what's on his mind onto the ridiculously critical hip hop stage. Coming from Baton Rouge and having such incredible talent surrounding him (beats and rappers) helps him stand out, of course. But Boosie is all personality, talent and execution.

The new mixtape is a classic waiting to be adopted by the nerd-rap blogosphere, especially since Trill Ent. has been crowned the next rap dynasty. On Da Beginning, the production is so refreshing that it makes Boosie's rhymes so clear and even a little bit humble. Every track has some toned down, homemade element, like flutes, organs, hand claps, bluesy guitars or horns. All sounds that are strikingly different from the current state of rap production. In fact, Trill Entertainment's in-house producers produce banging club tracks on the regular, which makes this even more intriguing. I'm not sure who did the beats here (I don't hear Mouse's "Mouse ont he track, it'll make ya bounce back" tag?), but whoever it is was clearly listening to a lot of Pimp C. As we all know, Chad Butler (RIP) put these dudes on, but I've never really felt the influence of Pimp C as much on any other Trill Ent release as on this one. The woozy organs, laid back beats, guitars all sound perfect for a styrofoam cup and a big ass Cadillac.

Whoever is on the hook on "They Hatin" has the greatest nasally drawl ever, and the track is a perfect little posse cut to show just how dope this camp is. What's so exciting to me is that they can make songs like "Zoom" or "Wipe Me Down" but also they can make MUSIC, stuff that truly carries on the tradition of Pimp and Bun. "They Hatin" sounds like it's from some old mixtape by a bunch of Houston dudes that I've never heard of from 2000. Noz already told you about the political one, "Dirty World," which is another perfect example of why people who scoff at Boosie are mistaken. But it's not just the overt political track that proves Boosie's got stuff to say, he does it all over this mixtape. "I Ain't Comin Home Tonight" is a great storytelling track, a break-up song, and a sober moment for the perpetually flossing rapper, all in one. "Take My Pain Away" is a drug ballad about how he prays instead of whooping his bitch when things get rough. "Doin This 4 U" is the 'giving back to my hood' track but holds a little more poignancy knowing just exactly how hugely important this guy is to a whole lot of people in Baton Rouge and the rest of the South right now. This guy just basically threw his personality all over this thing and I'm eating it up completely. It's the type of thing that really tips a rapper from a regional sensation to a star, and maybe his recent spot on the cover of Fader is a sign. Either way, he deserves to be appreciated much more than in just a cursory, ironic sort of way.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008