Friday, May 30, 2008

Sweet Sweet Fantasy Baby

I know I've said it before, but I am way too young to be outshined by people younger than me who are, you know, actually doing something with their lives. It's almost like there's something wrong with spending all day in front of your laptop, watching 24 online and eating croissants.

That being said, it's fuckers like Teengirl Fantasy who are out to make me feel bad about myself; they just finished their freshman year of college! Ugh. They should still be washing the amniotic fluid out of their hair, not making immediate, swirling, daydream-inducing IDM, like their track Portofino. Or hoopdreams, which starts like El Guincho, and ends like an acid trip. And they go to Oberlin College, a dinky liberal arts college in Ohio. Whatever. You might have this one interesting, progressive act, but at U of I we got more white boys with guitars than you could throw down a well. How about them apples?

Monday, May 26, 2008

I can hear something inside me saying/I really don't think you're strong enough

Mayhap the only thing about me that is remotely academic is my constant examination of the motives behind everything. I accept very few things at face value, I refuse to rely on the, "just the way it is" explanation for anything. Aye, if I did not despise math so much, methinks I would've made a good scientist, or apothecary.
One of the big questions I always come back to is, "what makes this song good?" Like the night I stayed up doing calculus homework and listened to "Game of Love" by Santana & Michelle Branch on repeat for almost an hour; what the fuck? I hate Santana, and I deleted "Everywhere" from my computer some time ago, so why is it that this trite, pubescent, factory-sealed track forces me t0 lip-sync the words every single time I hear it? To anyone who might be reading this, my heart goes out to you; what follows is a serious expedition into my personal musical mania. As Count Dracula says to Jonathan Harker, "Enter freely, and of your own will."
For me, belief is a very necessary component to being able to enjoy a piece of music. When I say belief, I don't mean that I go check Leviticus when I hear a new song, I mean that I require some degree of sincerity in order to appreciate a piece of music. Unfortunately, this leaves us wondering what the fuck is "sincerity," and how does an artist get at that?

Dipping into my obsessive fanboyism: people who are  acquainted with the music of Joanna Newsom are generally divided into two groups: those who are held in thrall by her serpentine lyrics and winsome melodies, and those who absolutely-cannot-fucking-stand her. Though the difference is definitely a matter of taste, I think that it goes a little deeper than that: the key difference between the two camps is that one completely buys her act, and the other doesn't. In the article that fellow Newsom-fanboy Dave Eggers penned for Spin Magazine in 2004 he wrote, "I picture her looking like Emily Dickinson. Newsom lives, I imagine, like a feral woman-child. Her dwelling is somewhere rural, and by a lake. But on a hill. On a hill, by a lake. The house is old, crackety. Painted red like a schoolhouse. Maybe it is a schoolhouse!" What Eggers is trying to get at in that passage is belief. 

For independent artists, their image is almost as important as their music, if not just as. Joanna Newsom's songs about sea creatures turned women (Colleen), seafaring beetle shells (Bridges and Balloons), and abusive inter-species relationships (Monkey & Bear) would just not fly if Newsom looked like a pussycat doll. Her pretty, yet vaguely elvish appearance, combined with her otherworldly voice and unconventional instrument choice (harp) lend her sincerity. They allow you to believe that Joanna Newsom is serious when she uses words like "chim-choo-ree" and "hydrocephalitic." Because grandiose, fanstastic, 16 min.+ intent like that is pretty difficult to deny when taken in earnest, what can keep the Newsom's critics outside of her world besides cynicism?

What I mean to say is, I believe the fuck out of Joanna Newsom. I believe her so hard that she has singlehandedly convinced me that magic is real. On the other hand, someone I don't believe is Of Montreal. I'm sure Of Montreal is a great band, and I have put a great deal of effort into liking them, but I just don't buy Kevin Barnes outlandish outfits and random nudity. Their music doesn't wake up the hobbits in my soul like Newsom's does (soul hobbits lolz). I firmly believe Dave Longstreth's musical insanity. I have no faith in Vampire Weekend's "white boys from nice backgrounds make good by riffing off of African music" brand of pop. And so on, and so on, and so on.

Of course, this "theory of belief" isn't strictly limited to *sigh* indie music. All of the top 40, radio friendly pop I like, I also believe.

Wait, considering the artist-centric discussion of belief before, how in the hell does someone "believe" in a pop song, considering that the inception of most pop music is owed more to 3 or 4 different songwriters and producers, than the person who actually performs it?

For instance, I fucking goddamn love the song "How Do I Live," performed by Leann Rhimes and then Trisha Yearwood; written by Diane Warren, who has never been married, and professes that she has never been in love. How can I believe a love song written by a woman who herself doesn't even seem to believe in love?

Unlike independent artists, pop singers aren't selling themselves. Indeed, I think that the vast majority of them place themselves as far away from the product as possible. Britney Spears is prime evidence of this. Britney Spears exists primarily as a piece of merchandise to you and me. There's a real Britney Spears, but she's so hidden behind executives and producers and songwriters who have determined for her what she's going to be, that she's more like Hogwarts castle than a person. You can't find it on a map, and the vast majority of people would just find ruins if they ever saw it.

But this is okay. Top 40 pop doesn't rely on the sincerity of the artist in order to validate itself. Pop music is music with a mandate, with a goal. It is saccharine, it is mass-produced syrupy schlock intended to send the parts of you pre-programmed to respond to words like "beauty," "pain," and "soul" directly into diabetic coma. The reality of the person singing doesn't matter, all that matters is how well the producers and songwriters have done their jobs, hitting the buttons that need to be hit in order for the me's of the world to sit in front of our computers at 4 in the morning, trying to do u substitution while lip-syncing along to inane, vapid analogies about love, baseball,  and candy stores.

Of course, the machine can still misfire. Take for instance Madonna's new single, "4 Minutes." This is the woman who made "Borderline"! I want to like everything that she does ever. Alright, so we got "4 Minutes," already sounds awesome. Four minutes to turn around until you lose me forever? Four minutes to make you love me? Four minutes alone with your embittered ex-lover until the two of you are done for good? Wait, what? Four minutes to save the world? What the fuck? Is this the Armageddon soundtrack? Why do we give a shit about saving the world? What about my beating, melodrama-obsessed heart? Timbo! You who gave me "Are You That Somebody?"! What is this beat? This shitty Casio-horn-propelled beat? NO! NO! NO! Where are the crying babies? Where are the slick synths that I loved in Futuresex/Lovesounds? What is there for me to belieeeeeeeeeeeeve?


I love loving music. I hope that all of that made sense. If it didn't, I'm not going to explain; believing music is like Apple Jacks. If you need to have it explained to you, then you just won't understand.

At any rate, these are some songs that I seriously fucking believe. Maybe if you listen to them, close your eyes, think happy thoughts, and click your heels together, you'll believe them too.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

sing it back to me


If you're anything like me, then b96 was a really serious part of your musical education. b96 is the reason why Mariah Carey is such an important part of my life, and is really the basis for the way I feel about music in general. Laugh if you want detractors, but pop matters, and the indelible influence of top 40 on my young, musically impressionable mind has got to be a part of the evidence.

For instance, b96 played the club hit "Sing it Back" by Moloko pretty frequently in 90s, so all you former b96 listeners are probably already familiar with the above lady in red, Roisin Murphy (sort of pronounced Row-sheen). Murphy was 50% of the duo, accompanied by producer Mark Brydon. Despite some moderate success, they parted ways in 2001. Murphy didn't quit though, she signed to EMI and released two pretty well received solo albums, 2005's "Ruby Blue," and 2007's "Overpowered."

So, Murphy should be doing fine right? She should be fast approaching Minoguesque success, right?
Despite having released two, critically acclaimed, catchy-as-fuck, single-potential-filled albums, Roisin Muprhy is not anywhere close to having Justin Timberlake grab her ass on national television.
C'mon now.
I don't get why everyone goes gaga over Kate Nash, and Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse. They've all got some good tracks on their respective releases, but  in the end I was thoroughly underwhelmed by all of them. On the other hand, here is Roisin Murphy, on a major label, attractive, making CUTS with a capital K, and no one really seems to give a shit.

Sadness, mad sadness.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Velveteen Rapper

I feel like I'm kinda late on the vaguely disturbing and terrifically obscene art rap of the deceptively attractive Bunny Rabbit. I feel like all of the little kids outside my house probably know all of the lyrics to "Pussy Queen" by heart. Why do I feel this way? I have no idea.  And what the fuck is art rap? Calling something "art" anything is basically an easy way to imply that it's unconvential to such a degree that most people wouldn't understand or like it. What the fuck people. Do you motherfuckers not like art? Ugh. Fuck calling anything "art" something. That's some bullshit. Bunny Rabbit really seems to be a collaboration between Bunny herself and producer Black Cracker, who she seems to be in a relationship with (i.e. they fuck). Do lesbians actually scissor, or does that only happen in porn. Porn has fucked me up irreparably. Why am I so angry? It's probably all of this Bunny Rabbit I've been listening to. Ugh. I just need to go do some pcp and sexually assault an animal *possum* and then I'll be good. Fuck.

(note, if you download Dirty Dirt, you must listen to the entire track, because the end is intense)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Reverie Sound Revue

Lisa Lobsinger

Considering the (relative) success of bands like Broken Social Scene, Feist, Stars, Metric, Apostle Of Hustle, and Do Make Say Think, it would be simple to assume that any artist associated with that particular Canadian crew might have some modest success in their solo projects, right?

Tell that to Reverie Sound Revue.

Despite the presence of Lisa Lobsinger (the chick with the sorta crazy hair that you see at Broken Social Scene shows), the band has yet to make it past the "whisper" level of internet buzz. Likely, it has more to do with the fact that after a fairly listenable, 8 song EP released in 2003, the band hasn't really toured or released any new material. Jeez Reverie Sound Revue, get with the program!

The band's myspace promises that an album will be released this year, and I guess those of us who would appreciate some more lazy, summery, glazed-over pop songs will just have to trust the internets on this one. Oh well.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Excellent song, terrible video.

I know that things were different in the 80s, but come on. How cheesy is that mushroom cloud during the chorus?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Band that the 80s forgot

Does anyone listen to the Cocteau Twins?

They have the same vaguely obscure alternative band from the 80s UK appeal as My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and Mary Chain, but I feel like they have a much smaller listenership.

Dealing in the same kind of ambient pop as My Blood Valentine, minus the "listen to how much feedback I can make with my guitar" elitism, Cocteau Twins were a trio hailing from 80s Scotland,  formed by Robin Guthrie, Simon Raymonde, and Elizabeth Fraser (who sang vocals on Massive Attack's "Teardrop Symphony" on the Mezzanine LP).

Considering their 80s appeal and shimmering, overwhelming, dream-inducing sound, I don't really understand why they don't seem to get as much attention as other bands from their era. Maybe it's the fact that Elizabeth Fraser more often than not employs her fantastically operatic voice in a language that she made up, which might turn off people who need to be able to understand the lyrics (people who by the way, I've never understood).

I don't know. I doubt that I'll ever get into a marshmallow-filled pillow fight which a large group of impossible beautiful Pablo Neruda scholars dressed like the girls in the Teenagers video for "Homecoming", and listening to the Cocteau Twins with my eyes closed is probably the closest I'll ever come.