Friday, June 27, 2008

4, 3, 2, 1

I always wonder how Sally Seltmann feels about the ridiculous hubbub that surrounded Feist after that commercial confused every top 40 devoted tv watcher in America into thinking that Feist was the next Vanessa Carlton or some shit. I only wonder because Seltmann (who performs under the name New Buffalo) actually co-wrote the song which catalyzed Feist's catapult into the heart of the mainstream. Does this mean that Seltmann could have easily been in Feist's sparkly blue shoes? Seltmann could've performed at the Grammys! She could've played Saturday Night Live! She could've been on Sesame Street! Motherfucking Sesame Street! Now that the moment is gone, how will Seltmann ever fulfill her childhood dream of being eiffel towered by Bert and Ernie?*

Oh well. I'm sure there's no hard feelings or anything. New Buffalo and Feist are labelmates after all, and if there's room enough on one label for two earnest and delicate lady songwriters, then doggone it, there's room enough on your itunes.

New Buffalo-Cheer Me Up Thank You

*Yes, I realize this joke is excessive, I do not apologize. I should've called this blog Real Talk, with GossipMatthew.

Buy Somewhere, Anywhere

New Buffalo-City and Sea (Lady Nameless)
New Buffalo-While You're Away

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hands in the Dark

We are taking a walk in the forest at night, you and I. It is winter, and the night is not so dark because the moonlight is reflecting off of the ample snow onto the trees around us. We are talking about the past and smiling and laughing at the foolish things we have done. Sometimes the conversation turns serious and we talk about the things that we have left behind, the bad and the good, but we are always lighthearted in our nostalgia, comfortable in the life we have found ourselves in. We stop walking briefly to look at our surroundings. We gaze out at the midnight world, and watch our breath disappear silently into the cold air before we notice that we are surrounded by wolves. What is more awful than their shining eyes in the darkness, reflecting the same light that made the snow so beautiful, is that these wolves do not make any sound. Their paws make no sound as they alight on the snow, there is no growling that comes from their sharp, hanging mouths. The only sound is the thud of blood, arrived maddeningly to our faces.

So, there this moment right? Right before you see the wolves' eyes in the darkness, before you realize you're surrounded. Before you know that something is wrong, there's a moment when the world starts to feel dangerous. It borders on precognition, because it happens before you actually realize that everything isn't okay, but it's not. It's this strong feeling of danger right before you realize that you are fucked. This feeling however, is not unpleasant. It's like being touched unexpectedly by someone who you wanted to touch you. Any gratification that's coming from this feeling is coming because you know that it's not safe. This is what Bersarin Quartett's music sounds like.

German Thomas B's one man project has been tagged as ambient and experimental, and although it's maybe both of those things, they don't say anything about the mood of the music on Bersarin Quartett's self-titled album. The mood is driving around the outskirts of old cities at night. The mood is trees along the path that look like men standing still in the darkness. The mood is that excellent, freaky cover art up there. What does that little girl see? There is some kind of velvet fear in the darkness. It brushes up against you and it feels like a dream, until it doesn't.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

There's one thing baby, I don't understand: You keep on tellin' me I ain't yo kinda man.

What I am about to relate to you is spectacularly, fatally, embarrassing.

During one of the paralyzing, ephemeral, "end of times" infatuations that bejeweled the crown of my adolescence, I had the unique pleasure of being good friends with the object of my obsessive, honey-glazed, "A Whole New World"- informed affections.

Actually, I guess that's not unique. Special Agent Clarice Starling once observed that "We covet what we see everyday," and she probably got it from the bible, or some shit.

Nor was it a pleasure. There be few things on this here earth shittier than having something you want dearly dance just out of reach, day after day.

What was unique, I imagine, was that this girl was completely forthcoming to me about her affections for some other motherfucker. She would tell me about how badly she wanted to, "Put it in him," and those four syllables would ball themselves together and come flying at the scrote of my teenaged, melodramatic heart, dropping it to its knees, leaving it on the verge of achy breaky.

One day, heading to the same place, I saw her on the street. She asked me if I wanted to see a movie with her that night. Of course, I knew immediately that this was a friendly, "Wanna see a movie?" invitation, but that didn't stop my Richard Curtis, Hanks-Ryan, "Always Be My Baby" addled mind from dreaming up the most lurid fantasies of which my fairly expansive imagination was capable. And so, for the next two or three minutes I was allowed to live in a mental Disneyland of sorts, where seeing this stark, depressing, Gus Van Sant movie was a romantic touchstone for a whole fucking cornucopia of future bliss.

This was of course, until we arrived at our destination to find the other motherfucker standing in the middle of the room.

And so, before she promptly danced over to him and invited him to come along, officially dashing my magic carpet ride dreams, I saw the truth: This had been the plan all along. She was not bold enough to simply ask him to a movie, I would only be there to maintain the illusion of harmless friendship. Only until, however, they were both comfortable enough with the large dark auditorium and the feverish chemistry of their young bodies. Then I would be silently put upon to leave.

Well goddamn. Fuck me.

I stood there, mouth open, watching her fulfill my prediction. 

Then something happened.

I silently straightened up, excused myself from the room, and went into the bathroom. There I calmly walked into a stall, lifted the seat, and commenced to vomiting in the toilet.

A friend of mine knows a girl who has never, not once, had her affections for a boy fail to be returned. I met her once, and to me she didn't seem remarkable; but somehow, through 20 years of life, she has had the impossible misfortune of always having her unrequited love... requited. Huh.

Misfortune because unrequited love is truly some awful, soul-rending, fucked up shit. Wait. Misfortune because unrequited love is the sirloin steak in the butcher shop of human emotions. Damn. 

MISFORTUNE because when I was fantasizing about how watching Michael Pitt portray a suicidal 90s rock star would somehow propel this girl and I into some kind of adoring haze; and then minutes later, when euphoria turned into misery, turned into despair, turned into nausea, turned into stupefying paroxysms of "what the fuck," that was blistering, rushing, freezing, burning life.

That was Mt. Everest at street level, leaving everyone to walk around with frostbitten hands, scrambling to hold on to ice picks in the middle of a midwestern July. That was not a pony, but a unicorn for Christmas, every Christmas, until you got old enough to want clothes and money. That was emotional fucking terrorism, if such a thing exists.

The intensity of just being alive that serious unrequited love produces is really a rare privilege, and maybe I say this as someone who, with emotional maturity seems to have lost the ability to develop unrealistic affection, but I honestly feel bad for anyone who's never felt as shitty and as simultaneously brilliant as unrequited love makes you feel.

This being said, I feel like there are very few good unrequited love songs. There are a ton of good love songs about feeling amazing, and there is a plethora of love songs about feeling absolutely awful, but it's difficult to straddle the line of ambivalent hope and misery, in the same song. Here are some of the few that get the job done.

I used to smile uncontrollably when I heard this song, it's so good. How Warwick goes to meekly confessing her dreams during the verses, and belting out the formulaic, but effective "forever" promises during the chorus, so effectively mirrors the topsy-turvy landscape of window-gazing at someone all day.

You know this song, and I know you know this song. But it's so perfect: When he sings, "that behind that little smile I wore/How I wished that you were mine," I dare you not to feel the ache. Ugh.

Just a simple song from earlier in Mariah's career, with simple production to match. Mariah's pretty sultry throughout, and you don't realize until the end that she's imagining all of this shit with some guy who she's not even with. Chilling.

This bare, stark, damn near a cappella track is characterized by the same kind of thin-voiced trepidation-fraught confession that lives inside of your Pretty in Pink heart. 

This is a really great song. The frenzied strings that come in at the end where Bjork keeps screaming, "I dare you," thoroughly belie the internal maelstrom caused by wanting with every nerve of your body. Hopefully it will ruin you like it does me.

Sometimes, when I would drive around with my Mom and my Godmother, a song would come on the radio, and they would say something like, "Damn, that's some hurt. You hear that? That's some hurt." I didn't hear it then, but I certainly hear it in this song.

Oh Fiona. So harshly realistic. Even where her own heart is concerned. Admitting squarely that she's "a mess that he don't wanna clean up." Oooh girl. Tell it. Tell it!

This is face-melting hope. Hope that makes you wish it was snowing outside, so Jones could be walking around in the lamp lit winter streets, singing this song to the falling white world. Pitch perfect.

This song is really quite sad, but it lets you revel in the bleak joy of wanting something that doesn't want you; a joy that's admittedly, hard to find most of the time.

This is a wrecking ball. I know a lot of people don't like My Bloody Valentine's work, because the more palatable, pop elements of their music get drowned out by distortion. I feel that way too, even though this song is no different. The difference for me, is that that approach is just so fitting for the subject matter. Kevin Shields sings standard pop fluff like "I don't know/how you could not love me now," while guitars threaten to drown him out entirely. It's as if, the lyrics and the melody are just barely managing to keep the distortion in check, to stop the song from falling apart. If you listen to this song the right way, that is; in the dark, laying down, with the volume way up, it will gut you. Just like a really terrible crush.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Orion Rigel Dommisse's music immediately begs the question: where does this shit come from? For some reason is telling me that Marissa Nadler is a "similar artist," but the only thing they have in common, maybe, is the same kind of provincial, middle of nowhere feel. The serious difference however, is that Marissa Nadler is resigned and whistful, while Orion Rigel Dommisse is freaky as hell.

Not freaky in a 90s r&b "I wanna get freaky with you," way, freaky in a "must have suffered some terrible trauma cause all of her songs are on some fucked up, other shit," way. And I do mean other shit. Four out of the ten songs on her debut LP, What I Want From You Is Sweet directly mention death in the title. I imagine this is all because Dommisse is actually a character from Tim Burton's 1999 Sleepy Hollow,  because all of her songs have the same intense, studied, macabre feel as that film. If you were to have a conversation with her it would seem like she was somewhere else, but that's just because she would be staring intensely at a spider crawling on the wall behind you. Then she would probably leap up suddenly, grab the spider and eat it, Renfield style. Yup, that sounds about right.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Like a Horse and Carriage

Jane Dowe and Hank Hofler

For the State Championship in debate my senior year, we had to go to Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal. During our off-time we walked around downtown Normal, looking for something to do, a place to eat, something. It was then that I concluded that Normal, Illinois had to be an absolute pit. I think there were two bars, and a pizza place that had to have the worst pizza I've ever eaten. Ugh. Boo to piss-ant college towns, from which nothing good can come.

Apparently I was wrong, because married duo Oh Astro hails from Normal, and they're pretty on the mark. Using software written by Dowe, the band's album Champions of Wonder is composed largely of altered audio from other sources, and the result is pretty dope. Unlike other sample based musicians, Oh Astro alters their samples to a point where the source material is something far divorced from the product. Indeed, you've gotta listen hard to catch the strains of Lionel Richie's "Hello" in Oh Astro's "Hello Fuji Boy"

Some of the songs on Champions of Wonder don't really subscribe to the conventional pop forms used in a lot of electronica; it just seems like Hofler and Dowe were having as much with the software as possible. Like their cover of "Xanadu" from, you guessed it, Xanadu; or the tracks where they just fuck with their children's voices. Even when the result isn't something with a bridge and a chorus, it's still pretty interesting to listen to. Genuine sonic expedition like the kind that Oh Astro is churning out on this album is both satisfying and hard to come by, so you should get it while you can.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I like cheese.

Not a band.

In what must've been the first or second week of my freshman year of college, I was coming back to my room from the bathroom when I heard really loud music coming from the room next door to mine. It was about 11 at night, so I went to investigate. I found the above azns with their door open, speakers at full blast, dancing passionately to something that sounded a lot like j-pop, yelling these lyrics: "THERE'S A PLACE IN MY HEART/FOR THE FRIENDSHIP THAT WE SHARE/CAN WE EVER TRY FOR MORE/CAN WE EVER TRY FOR MOOOOOORE?"

Turns out they weren't listening to J-pop after all. They were listening to the now defunct Girlsareshort, a hip-hop/Sesame Street influenced electronica band from Montreal. They put out their LP Earlynorthamerican in 2004, and apparently never looked back. 50% of the group, AL-P, is now 50% of MSTRKRFT, so it would seem that Girlsareshort is dead.  A shame, because Earlynorthamerican is actually a really promising, pleasant listen; especially the song my hallmates were belting out, Mississauga Theme. Clearly J-Pop influenced, with lyrics about unrequited love that threaten to be drowned out by the heavily distorted guitar in the background, it's straight sugar. Imagine "Sometimes" by My Bloody Valentine, but bouncy.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Cat Pubes

Surprisingly, I had never done a google image search for Cat Power before today. I was looking for this remarkable picture of her I saw on earlier. I'm talking about this picture:

That's an absolutely "goddamn" picture right?

However, it is not the first search result. This picture is:

I guess that picture's a lot dirtier in a real way, and she looks a lot more "rock star," or whatever the fuck, but it also features pubes.

Considering the pretty fucked up nature of the internet in general, I'm sure that the presence of Chan's southern savannah is the reason why that picture is the first result. Plus the fact that she appears to be holding her shirt up, and she looks kinda wasted.