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Tag: Beck

Air – Love 2

by on Dec.06, 2009, under Good Music

You know what brings the new Air album together? The drums. You read right. Not the beats. The drums. And Joey Waronker is the guy playing them on Love 2, the newest offering from the band.

You probably have heard of Waronker before. Aside from being a major contribution to Beck’s studio sessions and live shows, he’s also put in time with Smashing Pumpkins, Elliot Smith and R.E.M. among others. He’s recently been part of Air’s touring band so it seems natural that he would be the new, specialized, pseudo-secret weapon built on to their new album. And natural it does, indeed, feel as Waronker aids in lifting the band to organic new heights…at least on disc.

Of course, Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel, the founding backbone of Air, are also doing their part in this regards. There are some nice touches of vibraphone and brass that do well to emphasize the electronics, without feeling like electronics themselves. More importantly, though, is an abundance of rather fluid piano that seems to meander more than its rigid equivalent on their past releases. Throw in some dirty guitar and it becomes well clear that Air has matured beyond mere programming.

Of course, anyone who knows anything about their live show could argue that this evolution occurred with the band a long time ago. Considering the scope of these live performances, I wouldn’t argue with that. Now, however, we are finally privy to witnessing them exercise a few more detailed caveats in the studio. Whereas on prior Air records, things generally felt compartmentalized and distinct, here we have something that seems to extend out in a multitude of curvy, uneven directions. It almost feels like an album of improvisation.  Almost, I say.

They play well beyond the typical Air fare that we’ve come to love over the years. They still have they’re classic cheese (“Tropical Disease”) and it would be a shame if ever they lost that completely. (But they won’t because they are French.) Their creepy, lost-in-space kind of stuff is also here (“Do the Joy”) but it feels more expansive, particularly because of Waronker and that aforementioned dirty guitar. New to Air on this go around is the way they seem to touch on some very soulful combinations of sound that seem to resonate similarly to African-American music of the 60s, 70s and 80s. They channel Prince on “Missing the Light of Day,” The Sugarhill Gang on “Night Hunter” and the Delfonics on “Sing Sang Sung.” Pretty impressive for guys as white as France.

All of this comprehensive writing and arranging, floating effortlessly across the top of Waronker’s mellifluous pulse, makes for what may very well be the best offering from Air yet. Of course, that’s always going to be a relatively difficult thing to determine with this band. It’s like trying to pick a favorite Beatles record. You think Abbey Road is probably the best, but how can you really know? The fact of the matter is that their entire catalog is so colorful and unique that making definite choices of preference within it is pretty much moot.

Still though…

Joey Waronker on drums. That’s gotta count for a few gold stars at least.

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Charlotte Gainsbourg & Beck – “Heaven Can Wait” video etc.

by on Nov.19, 2009, under Good Music, Video

Just in time to combat the soul depleting evils of Beyonce and Lady Caca, Beck and Charlotte Gainbourg have released this stunning video on Beck.com:

The song is called “Heaven Can Wait” and it’s the first single from Gainsbourg’s upcoming release, IRM, which was written and produced by Beck. Judging from this track, there are some very good things around the bend. January 26th, specifically…in the states, that is. December 8th everywhere else, damn it.

Also in Beck news, later today Beck will also release a new track entitled, “Harry Partch,” a tribute to the late composer of the same name. The song will apparently employ Partch‘s 43 tone scale. That, too, will be delivered on Beck.com.

Lastly, in Beck news, and again on Beck.com, they are releasing videos and goodies to commemorate the ten year anniversary of his Midnite Vultures.

And you thought the Record Club was it? Pshaw. (Though it’s about time he started releasing the Skip Spence stuff he did with Wilco!)

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The Black Eyed Peas on SNL – Seriously…What the Fuck?

by on Nov.16, 2009, under Bad Music, Video

“Must get boring for the other two guys in Black Eyed Peas. How many hours a day can one spend thinking up awkward dance moves?”
                                                —Christian Finnegan

Back in college, I used to get together with my friend, Conan, for no other reason than sharing hip hop and rap music. To be honest, he would do the majority of the sharing, and as we smoked and talked in front of a computer, I learned a lot. Most of what he shared with me has since risen to higher heights. Perhaps none as much as the Black Eyed Peas.

I bought their 1998 release, Behind the Front, within days of my introduction to them. I was drawn to them for the same reasons as Conan. They were conscious, positive and completely against materialism and hype. They were real. They were part of the good side in the balance on which rap and hip hop teetered at that time. Would it end up there, embracing something earthy, unifying and mentally evolved? Or would the whole thing collapse into a racially degenerative, socially destructive, new age Amos and Andy dressed up as a fashion show?

I think we all know what the outcome of that was. In case you are fortunate enough not to keep up with such things, I present to you exhibit A: The Black Eyed Peas on last week’s Saturday Night Live.

Okay. Maybe I’m being too much of a hater. The Black Eyed Peas are fun, right? Sure! And so is Hannah Montana. So is Britney Spears. I’m not hating on the fun. I’m pointing out the absurdity. I mean, what the fuck is this? It looks like a bunch of kids singing karaoke.

Of course, it’s not just karaoke…it’s backwards karaoke! Where in karaoke, the vocals are real and the musical accompaniment is canned, with the Black Eyed Peas, the opposite is true! There are musicians actually playing their instruments (presumably), but the vocals, if not lipsynched, are certainly autotuned. Either way, it’s completely brainless.

Why is this cool to anyone? Shouldn’t the band be in the spotlight since they are the only ones actually doing anything creative? Who are these four jackasses jumping around and blocking them from the cameras? Is this really what entertainment has devolved to? Better ask a 12 year old, I guess. I’m sure that’s what a Black Eyed Peas focus group would tell you to do.

And look at those stunning and pricey fashions. So much for being real. I guess they are the kind of “rappers” that are only against luxury, so long as they are unable to afford it. Obviously, these worries have gone away from them now…and taken with them all sense of purpose, depth and imagination. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s call a spade a spade. This is pure pop…brought to you by Dr. Pepper. Just try to find a casual snapshot of the Black Eyed Peas anywhere online. You can’t. All that exists out there is glossy, air brushed and tightly controlled PrOPaganda.

Don’t get me wrong. Music and money can be a beautiful thing together. Look at all that this combination has allowed acts like The Flaming Lips, Beck and of Montreal to throw down over the years. A part of me even wants to believe that the Black Eyed Peas really do want to be tuned into that ultracreative wavelength. But you know, it’s pretty fucking difficult to have an interest in their confetti without some kind of parade or circus to back it up.

Here is their third and final song from SNL:

Deep shit, huh?! Not at all. Not even interesting shit.

There was another song they did between these two, but I can’t find it online anywhere. This is most likely because, as hard as this may be to believe, it was even more embarrassing than the other two. “Frontman,” will.i.am, even picked up a keytar (yes a fucking keytar) and pretended to play it. Thank God he had on his big, douchebag sunglasses so we didn’t have to look him in the eyes. Now that would be awkward.

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Busdriver – Jhelli Beam

by on Oct.04, 2009, under Good Music

I can’t truly figure out Busdriver’s true propensity for “selling out.” He certainly has more talent then Lil Wayne, Yung Joc, Young Jeezy and 99% of all else on the idiot radio. This talent comes both in vocal ability and beats. He’s also been in the game much longer than most of today’s redundant rap robots. Yet there he sits, unknown to all the wealthy suburban thug assholes that eat up all the gangsta garbage and keep the money flowing. Busdriver deserves to be what everyone likes in a perfect world. It’s barrier breaking, catchy and far ahead of its time. He also rages quite blatantly about all those rappers contributing to the imperfect world they continually pollute.

So what is it, Busdriver? Are you truly so benevolent that pretzels and cheese are more than enough earnings so long as you can keep to the truth you’ve always perpetuated? Or is the rest of the world so simply ignorant that they have never given you the myriad of expensive possibilities you deserve? Busdriver is one of those entertainers that deserves to have millions thrown at him, all the while honoring his list of demands. You know…like Beck.

On the other side of the coin, the perks are these: First of all, Busdriver belongs to himself and his moderate number of fans. The Dave Matthews Band stink of a frat following does not exist here. Also, and most importantly, whenever he raps against the evils of the recording industry and the “entertainers” they support, there is nothing false about it. He does not simply state these criticisms, he practices what he preaches. Could Busdriver be the Jesus Christ of the rap game?

Okay. So Jhelli Beam is the newest offering from our beloved Busdriver. My first impression is that it’s very difficult to imagine that something so truly unique came out of Los Angeles…a land generally only as unique as the corporate destruction they impress on grassroots goodness from other lands. However, this seems to be the deepest digging yet from Busdriver. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if this is hip hop or…something else? As far as genre goes, it’s relatively undefinable in places.

Busdriver has always dealt in obscure samples and rich, multi-layered textures. On Jhelli Beam, though, every single phrase of sound at least feels like something new. It is as if a painting, with a new flourish of color for every three inches or so of canvass. He tackles sound structures that are highly unconventional for rap or hip hop. There are tempo changes (“Scoliosis Jones”), minimalist jazz drumming (“World Agape”), African roots fusions (“Manchuria”) and nonsense that dares to be poetic, rather than hokey (“Unsafe Sextet”). Verbally, Busdriver’s cadences are always sharp, thoroughly versed and on-point. Listening, it becomes painfully obvious that neither an autotuned asshole like Kanye West nor a generally sensible bigwig such as Jay-Z have the base talent to keep up with them, let alone mimic them.

Jhelli Beam is everything that rap and hip hop could have been and should have been. Unfortunately, it was hijacked by cocaine corporate interests and watered down to the sad state it exists in today. Lil Wayne may be content to program a simple, repetitive beat loop, say a bunch of repetitive, unaffecting words over it and cash his checks. Busdriver, however, is dedicated to the craft more than the millions…and it shows.

Please do the world a favor and reallocate your money as necessary.

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Danger Mouse and James Mercer form Broken Bells

by on Oct.02, 2009, under Good Music, mp3

brokenbellsThere aren’t really any details at the moment, but the news is refreshing: Danger Mouse (producer if Gorillaz, Beck and Gnarls Barkley among others) and James Mercer (of The Shins) have begun a new project.

Said project is called Broken Bells. Officially, Danger Mouse will be using his real name, Brian Burton, for this project. They already have a website up, too, but it’s not much to look at so far. Bookmark it, though, because I’m sure it will deliver in time.

Burton and Mercer have worked together already on the track, “Insane Lullaby” from the Danger Mouse / Sparklehorse collaboration, Dark Night of the Soul. It’s certainly one of the better tracks from the disc. If that’s any indication, Broken Bells just might be well beyond expectation.

MP3: “Insane Lullaby” by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse with James Mercer

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Thom Yorke to debut supergroup of sorts

by on Oct.01, 2009, under Good Music

thom yorkeThe other day on the Radiohead blog, Dead Air Space, Thom Yorke made the announcement of a yet unnamed new band he has assembled to perform the music from Yorke’s solo disc, The Eraser. Apparently, their first public jaunt will be two shows at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles on October 4th and 5th. (Geeze. Thanks for the short notice, asshole.) If you’d like a ticket, knock yourself out here, you lucky bastard.

And just who will be playing in this group of super friends? Here’s a list, with accolades:

Flea – of the Red Hot Chili Peppers
Nigel Godrich – producer of Radiohead, Beck, Pavement, Paul McCartney, etc.
Joey Waronker – long time drummer with Beck
Mauro Refosco – David Byrne collaborator

I suppose it is worth mentioning that Refoscoe is also in a band called Forro in the Dark. They’re not too everpresent yet, but are working on it and making great strides.

So that’s that. Let’s hope it goes over well enough that they can maybe get that act going somewhere other than stupid Los Angeles.

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The Flaming Lips – Embryonic

by on Sep.17, 2009, under Good Music

Flaming Lips - embryonicHey kids! It’s that time of your life again! The Flaming Lips have a new album! Where would the Lips go this time? Though ever innovative, they seemed to grow less discombobulated and more processed with each release. At War with the Mystics was okay, but it lacked the pathos of Yoshimi. When I read frontman Wayne Coyne’s unwarranted, assholish jabs at Arcade Fire and Beck, I grew weary. When “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” ended up in a salad dressing commercial, I grew worried. It seemed like any direction they could go was going to hurt them, and ultimately myself (and presumably other fickle fans). Which door would they choose?

I’m glad to announce that we can all breathe easier now. The Flaming Lips did the right thing. Embryonic embodies all of the best attributes of the dirty psychedelica we could only taste on past releases. Where At War with the Mystics sometimes depressingly embraced a 70’s nostalgia, Embryonic takes us back to the moment in the 60’s when there was no nostalgia because nostalgia was our parent’s bullshit. And though it’s underpinnings are certainly reminiscent of the better parts of that decade, the whole of the thing is definitively fresh and futuristic – the whole of the thing is definitively Lips.

Coyne seems to have taken a step into the shadows on this one. Virtually gone are his upper range, shiny happy vocals, replaced by effect drenched call outs from some black hole. Here it does not seem to be his words that affect, so much as his voice, itself. Finally, it has come into its own as an instrument unto itself, rather than overt narration. It’s not that his positive musings are no longer present. They’re there. It just seems that the message is now being conveyed by the entirety of the music as its own cohesive unit. It’s expansive and reckless, giving the listener the feeling that they just got together and did the damn thing rather than wanking through some diplomatic process of what sounded good where. The record overimpedes and distorts all over the place, and it sounds fantastic.

Wisely and fittingly, The Lips decided to unveil their new monster on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. Performing as a six piece, they tore through the album’s opener, “Convinced of the Hex.” As if that wasn’t enough, they are also streaming the whole thing on Stephen Colbert’s website, colbertnation.com. It’s only there until Monday, September 21st, so check it out while you can. If you don’t, you may have to wait until its official release on October 13th.

Here is a tracklisting for those who want to keep up:

1. “Convinced of the Hex” – 3:56
2. “The Sparrow Looks Up at the Machine” – 4:14
3. “Evil” – 5:38
4. “Aquarius Sabotage” – 2:11
5. “See the Leaves” – 4:24
6. “If” – 2:05
7. “Gemini Syringes” – 3:41
8. “Your Bats” – 2:35
9. “Powerless” – 6:57
10. “The Ego’s Last Stand” – 5:40
11. “I Can Be a Frog” (featuring Karen O) – 2:14
12. “Sagittarius Silver Announcement” – 2:59
13. “Worm Mountain” (featuring MGMT) – 5:21
14. “Scorpio Sword” – 2:02
15. “The Impulse” – 4:06
16. “Silver Trembling Hands” – 3:58

And not streamed are two final tracks:

17. “Virgo Self-Esteem Broadcast” – 3:45
18. “Watching the Planets” (featuring Karen O) – 5:16

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Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse – Dark Night of the Soul

by on Sep.09, 2009, under Good Music

darknightofthesoulMaybe you have heard and maybe you have not.  The deal with this album is supposedly as follows…

Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse get together with a steady slew of above average vocalists and record an album.  Enter David Lynch providing photography for an accompanying, limited edition, one-hundred page book and DAMN.  This is  going to be  completely bad ass.

All systems ready to go until mega-recording label, EMI, pulls the plug entirely for some undisclosed legal reasons.  How does the ever-innovative Danger Mouse handle this little snafu?  He releases everything but the music – including the CD.  Once released, it will actually be a writable CD-R (and packaging) which will be branded with the label, “For Legal Reasons, enclosed CD-R contains no music. Use it as you will.”

The idea here is for interested listeners to seek and pirate the music, burning it to the CD-R and circumventing EMI altogether.  This is not a difficult task already, as it’s been leaked through all the standard bit torrent sites.  A minute and a half of looking around, and it should turn up somewhere.  For those not familiar with torrenting, NPR has a stream of the disc, which you can access by clicking here.

All that aside, what of the music?

Well, the touch of Sparklehorse is definitively there.  In the case of Danger Mouse, it’s a bit more ambiguous.  Danger Mouse is a pretty damned expansive artist and producer.  He makes up one half of the cartoony Gnarls Barkley, and has also produced albums for the likes of Gorillaz, Beck
and The Black Keys.  He initially earned his notoriety for The Grey Album, a mash-up of Jay-Z’s The Black Album with The Beatles’ The White Album. All that behind him, his Midas touch on Dark Night of the Soul is there.  It’s just difficult to figure out which specific elements are affected.  This is possibly to his credit, though.  We know a Van Gogh without having to analyze the direction of his brush strokes, right?

The songs all stand alone just fine.  Side by side, however, there seems to be a bigger picture to the thing as sometimes it is difficult to tell that one song has ended and another has begun, but for the change of vocalist.  And how about those vocalists?  The Flaming Lips contribute to the ambient, Phil-Collins-if-Phil-Collins-was-cool(er) opener, “Revenge.”  Frank Black and Iggy Pop lay it down on two of the more rocking tracks (“Angel’s Harp” and “Pain”).  Julian Casablancas of The Strokes chimes in on “Little Girl” and James Mercer of The Shins lends his voice to “Insane Lullaby.”  Suzanne Vega and Vic Chesnutt rise from relative obscurity to sing on “The Man Who Played God” and “Grim Augury.”  Then there is David Lynch, himself, popping up on the eerie title track, as well as “Star Eyes (I Can’t Catch It).”

Musically, it mostly compliments Lynch’s macabre visual style.  There are, however, moments on Dark Night of the Soul, which are anything but dark.  Sometimes these moments last for two or three song stretches.  Sometimes these songs sound so colorful and touch something so intangibly comfortable (despite their lyrical content), that a person might want to shit himself in gleeful abandon.  And yet again, it all works as a rather well arranged whole.

Though it may seem difficult to top Gorillaz Demon Days or anything by Gnarls Barkley, for that matter, Dark Night of the Soul may resonate as Danger Mouse‘s finest production yet.  Likewise for Sparklehorse.  It is certainly their deepest.

 
 
The whole disc is freely streaming on NPR’s website. Currently, it’s the only legal way a person can listen to it. Click here to check it out.

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