Monday, February 28, 2011

Kanye vs. Nick Cave

Let's start with the loser. I've never been a huge Nick Cave fan, but this album - at best I found it boring, at worst, headache-inducing. A couple of songs like the title track and "We Call Upon the Author" kind of had a cool Talking Heads vibe to them, but not nearly as good. At first I thought that "More News from Nowhere" was decent, but when it was still playing the same continuous loop a full 8 minutes later, I was just bored. Plus, too many of the songs had the same incessant dirty guitar thing going on in the background, which is both boring and headache-inducing.
Kanye's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" is not typically my type of music, but it was interesting. I really liked the title track - very cool sampling and overall sound. Sure it's misogynistic and at various times obscene, but at least it's interesting. Plus, I had forgotten about that whole Taylor Swift controversy a couple years back and got to revisit that. I decided: no one disputes that Beyonce should've gotten the award - right? So really, Kanye just said what everyone else was thinking. Sure he was a jackass about it, but he was honest. Anyway - I wanted to keep listening - the music, the arrangements, and the lyrics were intriguing, very unlike "Night of the Locusts." Kanye moves forward.

Domakesaythink something! Anything!

I no longer believe in the Invisible Hand of Andrew.

Despite Andrew's protestations, I held off posting my review for a few days. Facebook, in its almighty wisdom, informed me of Andrew's birthday, and I wanted to wait with my review of DoMakeSayThink until after his birthday had passed.

I am a DMST nonbeliever. My first impression--if you're going to make songs approaching 10 minutes long, make them interesting. Perhaps I didn't get or like them because I heard them first while grading a stack of exams. On second listen, I still didn't find them memorable or interesting. "Bound to be that way" reminds me of Versus gone bad. There's not much more for me to say other than I'm open to giving them another try if someone provides a compelling reason.

On to Deerhunter's Halcyon Digest.

Joe was right. The cover art for Deerhunter is downright creepy. As a matter of fact, most pictures I found for Deerhunter look unhealthy. I've chosen a pic that makes me less uncomfortable.

Thus far because my reviews have been rather easy I haven't needed to try a numbering system. It's come down to this question: do I want to listen to this album again? For Deerhunter the answer was a clear yes. The songs are distinct (yes, I suppose that is a slam on DMST) and work well together.

Deerhunter wins! Now celebrate by loading up on a few more calories.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

"This is a warning; I'll spell it out for you."

 The Dirty 

Bitte Orca

A lot of people say that Bitte Orca really rules, though I didn't know that going into my critical listen. Musically, the album is very complete. The melodies interest me just at the right swing of monotony. The guitar strings seem somehow more poignant like flamenco strings, enjoyably so. Interjected claps spark energy and the "wo-OU who-OU" of electric on Cannibal Resource introduces a contended disposition! I couldn't help but love Temecula Sunrise's lyrical story seeings as it describes our present Brooklyn sublet life. Makes me say, "'No one has any good reason to live' CLAP! Come in percussion, we've been waiting for your offbeat disfunction."
The first time I heard Stillness is the Move was in a couchsurfing bed our first week in Barcelona. Steeped in jet lagged depression, Joe handed me the ipod cued with this song. Excellent. Made me wish we had a cheer-leading squad perform this at our wedding. Two Doves then puts me in a is-this-Belle-and-Sebastian-? state, not much to my pleasure; but I will say a definite hooray for female voice that is refreshingly regular.

So musically I vote yes for Bitte Ocra but I vote no for voice. I like abandoned voices but Longstreth deliberates too much leaving his inflections forced. B.t.w. does his voice remind anyone else of less controlled Morrissey's? No Intention would be better if he let Amber or Angel grab the mic. By the end, I am exhausted; and perhaps they are self-aware enough to give us Fluorescent 1/2 Dome at the album's conclusion, a sort of Bitte Orca savasana. 

Hot Chip 
The Warning

 We enter a sweaty boxing scene - a bit of blood, plenty of spit - with Hot Chip's first track Careful. I'm easily throwing punches at this get-go. Then A Boy from School sends me straight to the club for cool kids where bobbing and weaving, slight hand gesture bounce is OKAY.
"We try but we don't belong."
A great relief greets us with Colours and frankly anyone who admits colours keep them alive is a friend of mine. And back to the club with Over and Over. Hot Chip knows a great sarcasm about repetition, organ jabs, and dirty bass synths. The Warning definitely brought me to the land of Múm; fine by me. (Just Like We) Breakdown was a little too much "recycled disco" (Joe)  but gets quickly left in the dust by Tchaparian's drill sargent vocals accompanied by slightly panicked "o-o-oh" and tiny electric pinches.

Hot Chip throws us a great party with The Warning. Everyone's coo, no big complaints, probably some hot pants, deck shoes, and accepted silences!

  Let the confetti fly, Hot Chip's comin' through.

Friday, February 25, 2011

No, You Have One On Me

I have both of these albums. My brother talked me into picking up Have One Of Me, because Newsom is one of his favorite artists. When I listen to this album I feel like this album is a masterpiece. It sounds timeless. It reminds of British folk music.
The trouble is I don't feel like this music speaks to me personally. When I listen to it, I can appreciate it as great music, but I don't end up listening to this album frequently, and when I do listen I start listening to actively, but end up finding myself doing something else.

(For some reason, my album actually has a different cover than this). I acknowledge that this is Chan Marshall's greatest album. I think it all comes together here and she realizes her full potential. I just happen to personally like Moon Pix more and end up playing it more.

While Have One might be the better technical album, I'm picking the Greatest...come on, it's called the Greatest.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

TV on the Radio vs. Frightened Rabbit

After much listening, I've yet to be convinced of the worthiness of either of these albums. I pick TV on the Radio, Dear Science, begrudgingly...

TV on the Radio just stress me out. Too many things are happening, and I don't really care. I guess I just don't get the awesomeness.

Frightened Rabbit have a song called Keep Yourself Warm that totally sucks. Sample lyrics below:

"my hole, I'll get my hole, I'll get my hole
Get my hole, get my hole and I'll find out more
It's a choo-choo train, a rocket launch
If we have a hormone race
I'm bound to finish first."

"it takes more than fucking someone you don't know, to keep warm"

This kind of over-sharing is unforgivable. Does he want her to "peg" him? Who cares.

TV on the Radio win because they don't sing overtly about fucking.

hercules vs. dwight

Hercules and Love Affair is a largely electronic album of catchy tunes on the neo-disco/ classic house end of the dance spectrum. That's cool. It is on the excellent DFA record label. That's also cool. It is even co-produced by DFA big wig Tim Goldsworthy. Again, cool. Anthony Hegarty sings lead vocals on most of the album's tracks: NOT COOL. Repeat: NOT COOL AT ALL. Most of you will be familiar with Antony as Antony of Antony and the Johnsons fame . He has received lots of critical praise, and I think even won the coveted Mercury Prize in the UK. I'm sure he is a talented bloke. But no matter how you slice it, and no matter how many times I try to listen to him with an open mind, the dude just sounds like a freaky drag queen to me. And not just any old freaky drag queen but a freaky old drag queen with a particularly odd vocal resonance. Listening to him makes me feel like I am listening to gay cabaret, which I do not care for. Heck, I don't even like heterosexual cabaret. I just don't like cabaret. Or Antony's voice.

This album gets credit for some nice production and some truly funky beats, but Antony's voice puts a SERIOUS damper on the party for me and prevents any full-fledged enjoyment of the, er, love affair as it were. Eric Rating: 3.0

(Note: However, for Anne's sake, I would like to point out that I would gladly listen to this album over the Weakerthan's Reunion Tour any old day. It blows my mind, but it's true. And I would even more gladly listen to anything by the Beach Boys than either of the aforementioned albums...)

I do not know Dwight Schenk personally. I didn't even know he was a musician before listening to Natural Disasters. And I feel awkward writing about his album knowing that he is in the Death Match and will read what I have to say. But I am determined to be honest and fair. And so...

This was a good listen. Seriously. Lots of reference points jumped out at me, most obviously: Tom Waits. At times Dwight's gravelly voice also bears possible resemblance to David Johansen of the New York Dolls or perhaps the oddball Chuck E. Weiss. The album has a kind of Southern Gothic vibe going on, too, which reminds me of acts like David Eugene Edwards' 16 Horsepower or the quirky Floridian singer-songwriter Jim White. Some of the gentler tunes are reminiscent of Hayden (one of my favorite contemporary Canadian singer-songwriters), and the closing track sounds like a pared down version of a J. Spaceman song/ hymn.

While listening, I tagged 6 songs (half the album) as my favorites: the kick-ass opener "Ruckus", "Hiccup on the Mountain", "Ready for Judgment Day", "New Parade" with its pleasing addition of a female vocalist, the haunting and beautiful "Deeper Waters", and "Oh My Lord". I also tagged two songs as songs to edit off the album: the disorienting "On the Surface of a Flood" and the ear-piercing "Howling: Buffalo". I found both songs aurally, uh, challenging and felt they distracted from the overall flow/ vibe of the album.

Dwight is clearly a creative and often unconventional music man with an abundance of ideas and sonic tricks up the proverbial sleeve of his Canadian rock and roll jacket. I wish him all the best, as he and Natural Disasters advance on in the Death Match with an Eric Rating of: 3.4

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bums vs. Donuts

While I own and have at various times enjoyed both of these albums, they’re just not doing it for me right now. I keep thinking that, instead, I’d rather be enjoying actual doughnuts or nakedness. Generally speaking, I enjoy doughnuts in the morning and nakedness at night, but I suppose I have occasionally enjoyed nakedness in the morning and doughnuts at night (in both cases with Karl I believe). Either way, that just leaves afternoons for listening to these records.

The Sigur Ros album (I’m not even going to try; I’ll just call it Bums), starts off promisingly. A reviewer wrote that it sounds like Sigur Ros channeling Animal Collective, which is pretty awesome (both the channeling and the comparison). In my mind, the first two songs are easily the best on Bums, and the album does keep up steam until we hit the beginning of “Festival”. Let me first state that the end of the song--you know where that bass kicks in—is pretty rad (that’s right, rad). But my goodness, the first four and a half minutes are a slog to get through. Even though he’s singin in Icelandic, the beginning of this song sets off my “this sounds like it could be in a musical” alarm. The next tune, “Aksdfjdk” (okay, that's not the real name, it's just the keys my fingers hit) isn’t bad, but it begins the second phase of the album, all of it slow and not nearly as Animal Collective-like. We continue on with the worst song on Bums, “Ava Batur”, which definitely sounds like it could be in a musical and is so overdone with the boys choir and whatnot that it becomes almost a parody of itself. The last few songs are all individually pretty, but together they just drag. I think Bums would be so much better if the they had done a better job of sequencing the album or recording one or two more peppy songs to include towards the end. I can understand their thinking--“Let’s put all the super-amazing songs together at the beginning so it totally grabs the listener, and even if they listen to the rest of the album, they’ll probably just remember that”—and that might fly most of the time, but not if you want to make it in Death Match.

Whereas Bums is pretty uneven, Donuts is about as even as you can get. It consists of thirty-one tracks, each of which lasts on average about a minute and a half and which sound, at least to my ears, almost identical. The whole album is full of interesting and well-put together samples. On the whole, this reminds me of DJ Shadow, but while DJ Shadow takes time to develop ideas, Jay Dee/J Dilla (whatever) seems to delight in moving to the next sample before you’ve had time to really hear the first one. I personally feel like I have ADD when I listen to this record, which I suppose gives me more empathy for some of my students. Basically, I really enjoy this album if I only listen to a few tracks at time.

One final note: this album definitely has a cool factor. You know what I mean. If I were twenty-four, driving around on a summer day, wanting to impress the ladies—this is totally the album I would be bangin. I bring this up because my hesitation on this record might just be because I’m not hip enough to get it. I know that may sound like a back-handed criticism, but I really don’t mean it that way. What I really do mean is that this album might be over my head. I mean, here I am comparing it to DJ Shadow, but I really have no idea if that’s an apt comparison or not. I’m just not familiar enough with this genre to know how cutting edge or how derivative Donuts is. Sometimes I think, who cares? You either like it or you don’t. But other times I think that it’s worth taking the time to try and figure it out.
So I’m passing on Bums and I'm passing Donuts on. First of all, then Sarah or someone can explain to me why Donuts is great (or not). Second, sometimes you just got to go with the underdawg. Third, Bums is on Karl's list.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Yeahs VS Stevens

A few days ago, I wrote this long thing in a word document file and hoped to copy/paste it into this. I found out I couldn't copy/paste and immediately got frustrated and returned to my spider solitaire. If I had been able to copy/paste, It's Blitz! would have been declared the winner.
The next day, I drove in to work and heard a song from Illinoise! on the radio and remembered how genius I thought it was. Sufjan Stevens wins. Here's why:
While I love the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' album, It's Blitz!, I don't think it's genius. Genius isn't a word I throw around lightly. Oreos are genius. Tim Burton is genius. Jim Henson is genius. Beernuts are pretty genius. Spier Solitaire? Yep. Genius. But It's Blitz! isn't.
The reason I had originally picked it as the winner was a point system. I couldn't decide which album to pick, so I listened to each album and rated each song a number between 0 and 5 (5 being amazing, O being "Steal my sunshine"). The final score for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs was 38 out of 50 (76%) and the final score for Sufjan Stevens was 62 out of 110 (56%). Sufjan lost a lot of points because of all the extra little bits throughout this album that I tend to skip. The parts I don't skip are... genius! And I don't feel that genius gets rewared enough.
Let me be clear: It's Blitz! is super incredible. I love most of it. I do feel that in a few years it will lose a lot of my initial excitement. Illinoise! has been out for a while now, and I feel the same way about it that I did back in the day; genius!
I forgot to add Sufjan's latest album to my list. I love it too.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Whorehouse vs Do My Suck Thing

I got my review in first this round, what did I win?

1. “I want to grab you by the hair…..and hang you up from the heavens.” May be the worst lyric I’ve come across in either music tournament thus far.
2. which was immediately followed by ‘you know I look like a woman and I, I cut like a buffalo.” What am I missing here? Is this really clever, but I just don’t get it?
3. It feels like they’re trying to channel the movie dead man, but let me tell you, Horehound is no dead man (sidenote – wasn’t ‘way of the samurai’ an awesome movie? And, wasn’t jack White in JJ’s coffee and cigarettes? Everything is coming full circle.)
4. I did like so far from your weapon. 1 for 4.
5. The second half of the album ended up being much stronger, FYI, I was actually hoping to discover something really great with this album, and parts of it were solid, but ultimately it just didn’t deliver. It had some great moments (the guitar on bone house, all of 3 birds) but too often felt unnecessarily inaccessible, like they were worried about making their alt-country-blues-rock album too mainstream.
1. Do Make Say Think rock.

Ultimately though, my gut was telling me to go with my bias. And my bias was telling me to go with the album I was biased towards, rather than the one I was biased against, no matter how objectively great, technically proficient, or whatever whichever album was.

So Do Make Say Think move on.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Choices, choices, choices

Here are your new picks. You’ll notice the last person to submit their choice always gets left off the new list, so no Jeff this round (Joe made it just under the wire—surprise, surprise). Unfortunately, this means Eric Arnoys has to wait until Jeff makes his decision until he knows exactly who he is deciding between, but he can at least get a start by listening to Deerhunter. What else? Notice that Dwight picked Hercules and now his own album goes up against them. Interesting. Maybe we could do this in under two weeks this time?

Oh, and since we're now into the phase where winners are going against winners, I encourage you all to leave comments rooting for albums you want to see continue on or bashing albums that you think have no right to have made it thus far.

Joe: Crooked Saints – Beatrice vs. Feist – The Reminder
Joel: Girls – Album vs. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
Sarah: Radiohead – In Rainbows vs. The XX – XX
Karl: Kathleen Edwards - Asking for Flowers vs. Arcade Fire – Suburbs

Brad Allen: Ferraby Lionheart – Jack of Hearts vs. Avett Bros – I and Love and You
Brooke: Dirty Projectors – Bitte Ocra vs. Hot Chip – The Warning
Steve: Johnny Flyn – A Lauram vs. The Walkmen – You and Me
Andrew: Jay Dee – Donuts vs. Sigur Ros – The one with the bums

Dwight: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz vs. Sufjan - Illinoise
Anne: Nick Cave – Dig Lazurus Dig!!! vs. Kanye – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Andy: TV on the Radio – Dear Science vs. Frightened Rabbit – Midnight Organ Fight
Mark: Lady Gaga – The Fame Monster vs. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion

Bruce: Deerhunter – MicroCastle / Weird Era Cont. vs. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
Brian: Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me vs. Cat Power – The Greatest
Eric Arnoys: Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest vs. ?
Eric Smith: Dwight – Natural Disasters vs. Hercules and the Love Affair – Hercules and the Love Affair

And...they're back. Radiohead have just announced their eighth full-length record, The King of Limbs. Billed as the world's first "Newspaper Album," an extravagantly packaged version of the record will be issued on May 9; however, the music itself will effectively be issued on Saturday, February 19 when digital downloads become available to those who made pre-orders.

So Radiohead have set aside the "pay what you want" patronage model that dominated the conversation surrounding the In Rainbows release, yet have retained that album's more important business aspects: Packaging their music as a high-end collectable and controlling its leak, which has the effect of creating what these days is a rare, worldwide, collective listening experience. Once again, we all know exactly when we're first able to hear a new Radiohead record and therefore will largely all experience it together, something almost completely lost in today's pop music landscape. This in effect is also what Kanye West did so successfully with his G.O.O.D. Friday project.

Full information is quoted below, and pre-orders are currently being accepted at At present there is no track information.

"Radiohead's new record, The King of Limbs, is presented here as the world's first* Newspaper Album, comprising:

  • Two clear 10" vinyl records in a purpose-built record sleeve.
  • A compact disc.
  • Many large sheets of artwork, 625 tiny pieces of artwork and a full-colour piece of oxo-degradeable plastic to hold it all together.
  • The Newspaper Album comes with a digital download that is compatible with all good digital media players.
  • The Newspaper Album will be shipped on Monday 9th May 2011 you can, however, enjoy the download on Saturday 19th February 2011.
  • Shipping is included in the prices shown.
  • One lucky owner of the digital version of The King of Limbs, purchased from this website, will receive a signed 2 track 12" vinyl.


In the U.S., the mp3 version of the newspaper album is $48 and the WAV version is $53. In the UK, the two sets are £30 and £33; in Europe, €36 and €39; and in the rest of the world.

A digital-only presale version is also available:

"Radiohead's new record, The King of Limbs, is presented here with a choice of two digital formats:

  • MP3 version is a 320K constant bit rate file.
  • WAV version is a full CD quality uncompressed digital audio file.
  • One lucky owner of the digital version of The King of Limbs, purchased from this website, will receive a signed 2 track 12" vinyl.

The King of Limbs can be pre-ordered now and downloaded on Saturday 19th February 2011."

In the U.S., this version is $9 for mp3s and $14 for a WAV version. In the UK, £6 and £9; in Europe, €7 and €11

Saturday, February 12, 2011

"That's how fundamental they are." "Fundamental."

Walkmen V. Deerhunter

hey peoples:
my review is a few positions down
check it out
I think its because I started writing it a few days ago but then I fell asleep and started drooling into my computer
its Ok no one was hurt
cheers (that's like I'm British)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Yeah Yeah Yeahs "It's Blitz" vs. Midlake "Trials of Van Occupanther"

I just heard Scorpions "Wind of Change" on a TV show. They played that at my junior prom. I didn't go to my senior year prom because I was at a computer competition. True story. But when I close my eyes at night, I went to both proms, and danced all night to Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I lost Andrew's virginity to that album.

That's all I have to say about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for now.

On to Midlake. Immediately after listening to Van Occupanther I forgot it. No, WHILE I was listening. I looked in my brain under "van occupanther, midlake" cross-referenced by "what do i think of the album," and there was . . . NOTHING. Like, a Never-Ending Story kind of The Nothing.

Take "Head Home" (please). The little flute and piano hook, and I'm thinking, Hm, what's this? Sounds kinda cool! But then the band chimes in with the drabbest music barf co-written accompaniment I've ever heard. What an incredibly boring sound. Tired rhythm guitar. Boring lead guitar pluckings and uninspired guitar solo. A filler piano which only completes the homogeneity until every single bar of the song sounds like every other bar of the song. Were there drums? I don't even know. Melody and harmonies sound like a lifeless redux of Jayhawks and Pink Floyd. Really: Nooooothing going on here.

Young Bride, ditto. So utterly forgettable. Offensively tedious violin riff trying to sound like one of those Japanese stringed thingies. Tempo more monotonous and rhythms more repetitious than a trance remix of a trance song.

That said, I had a bit of an awakening somewhere in the middle of the fourth or fifth listen, I think on the title track. There are some interesting things going on here, and more interesting for being subtle. In fact, I daresay the exact same elements which bring on The Nothing in other tracks are really working for me on "Van Occupanther" and maybe "In This Camp."

One more good thing about the album: During "Branches," I briefly thought, "Oh, that sounds kinda like a band I actually LIKE!" (Radiohead, natch, which you'd know after listening to it for 4 seconds.)

But overall I think it's just the Stockholm Syndrome talking.

It's Blitz is a little too sexy rocky punky for me in the long haul, but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it. Advance, my young friend Yeah Yeah Yeahs! Advance like a young boy advancing through the fields!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Janelle Monae "The Archandroid" vs. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds "Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!"

I've been somewhat aware that Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds were continuing to make good music after The Boatman's Call, but I hadn't paid much attention to it. I think the thing I liked about that album was sort of the exception to much of their music. I like Cave's voice best when he's taming it and being sensitive, like in "Into My Arms." I enjoy the raw violent thing, too, just not as much.

When I bought this album, I think the first song kind of turned me off to it and then I didn't spend much time with it. I'm glad I got a chance to listen more closely. I like this album. Not love, but definitely like. I think the opposite of "Into My Arms" is the kind of monotone chanting Cave sometimes does, but a song like "Albert Goes West" has a nice mix of that and a more melodic chorus. Also, I like the whole isn't-the-brutality-and-weirdness-of-the-bible-interesting? thing. It seems like this album is probably somewhat conceptual, but I haven't spent enough time with it to see how.

I hadn't heard of Janelle Monae until I got this matchup. When I looked up the album and saw the cover, I was excited.

It looks like Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica and disco, but the best disco where the bass is an analog synth making noises that are almost farting noises. My expectations were unreasonably high.

I like the symphonic interludes and how it starts with strings. Too much of this can make an album seem too self-important, but this has about the right amount. The first song has a nice sound and a good beat and Monae has a wonderful voice. Neon Gumbo is a nice backwards sound novelty. The beginning of Come Alive got me excited that this was going to be the really great track on the album, but then it got all swingy like that Joni Mitchell song that is the one stain on Ladies of the Canyon. As the album goes on, though, there's not really that much variation, other than the song Of Montreal join her in, which just sounds like an Of Montreal song.

So The Archandroid is mostly okay and sometimes good, but the cover and title are the best things about it. Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! is good, not great, but that beats mostly okay and sometimes good, even if it has Star Wars disco running against it. Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! advances.

5 Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me vs. 12 Dirty Projectors Rise Above

It took me forever to post this because frankly Joanna Newsom's album is long.

At first I listened to both albums with the volume quite low, and thought they were both crap. I put some effort into turning the volume up and that made a lot of sense, as I quite enjoyed both albums then. So much so, that they've both received multiple listens.

And in thinking about who will win this matchup, I can't come up with any constructive criticism. Neither are the greatest ever, but certainly worthwhile listens. So I recommend both.

Rise Above is an interesting concept... trying to remember and record the Black Flag album Damaged. Certainly didn't result in a boring cover version, so that is a big plus.

Joanna Newsom had Roy Harper open for her on tour, and frankly that's a big plus too. Yes she's getting points for something that isn't related to the album specifically, but tough shit, Roy kicks ass.

I'm taking points away from each for producing albums that sound like crap when barely audible.

While I realize this write-up doesn't really have a lot of insight about the albums specifically (why start now), I would venture to say that this matchup produced two albums that I'm really glad I listened to. Both albums were better than expected. That's as good as it gets folks.

So who wins... in listening to Rise Above, I had to listen to Damaged, like any responsible gauge-r of music... and I noticed one glaring issue. I don't hear T.V. Party on Rise Above.

What the hell is that all about?

Have One On Me wins.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Walkman "Lisbon" VS. Deerhunter "Halcyon Digest"

I have liked a fair amount of what I have heard from the Walkmen. They have a distinctive sound that is their own. It’s got a Leonard Cohen(Canadian alert) trying out his Jeff Buckley voice while jamming with Interpol and

occasionally the Memphis horns on the upper east side (How’s was that Steve?). They play well constructed songs long on subtleties but a lot of their stuff doesn’t compel me too much. There were a few songs on older album that I liked quite a bit….but I’m just sounding like an old fart again.

This is the first listen that I have given to this the newest Deerhunter album. I must admit that I am a fan of this band so I may be a bit pre-disposed to like this album from the outset, but let us see. This album seems to continue Deerhunter’s trajectory of mellowing out from their earlier noisier days, and while not necessarily an improvement it is an admirable progression of their sound. In many ways it is more similar to Atlas Sound records (the other project of lead singer Brandon Cox) than previous records.

Deerhunter is a somewhat frustrating listen for me because frankly I change my mind on them a lot. Sometimes I’ll love it and at other times I think that some songs comes off as what Andy W. might describe as “mediocre indie-rock.” Sometimes the song writing seems just a bit too lazy. Brandon Cox records a huge amount of material and sometimes a lot of the Atlas Sound songs he posts for free on his website are better than some stuff on Deerhunter records, in my humble opinion (, check it out nerds, especially “Requiem for all the Lonely Teenagers With Passed Out Moms”).

For the time being, however, this album is growing on me big time and the real star is Lockett Pundt who steps up to the mic to deliver two stellar tracks. May he continue to do so and turn into the Lee Ranaldo/George Harrison of this band.

Hold it!!!…what...what was that??….all of a sudden on the second to last song there’s a saxophone solo. I’m sorry but 99% of the time saxophone solos in rock songs make me think “….and featuring G.E. Smith and the Saturday Live Band…..” and I can’t deal with the cheesiness. (Clarence is ok because he preceded it.) But perhaps that’s another reference to 80’s nostalgia that they were going for. That knocks it down a couple points but still…….

Deerhunter wins!!

Man, that cover creeps me out.

The Scottish vs. the Irish

Ah, so here we have the Scottish-

vs. the Irish-

Ok, so I have no factual proof that Neko is of Irish decent, but since she has probably the reddest head of hair I've seen, I'm going with this simplistic stereotype, until one of you can prove to me otherwise.

I own both of these albums, and I love them both. This is nearly an impossible task to choose one over the other. In fact I never thought about ranking one above the other before this match up was presented to me. Let me first talk about the the shared aspects I love about both these albums. 2. They both make for great listening on long road trips. 3. Both have jangly guitars here and there. 4. Neither album has many songs I consider filler material. 5. Drumming that is fairly conventional.

Now some might say that both of these bands are specialists at lyrical sportsmanship ,or just flat out professionals at lyrical B.S. Please don't consider me amongst that grouping though.

For me, my # 1 reason for enjoying both these bands is their songwriting that addresses and wrestles so well with the frailty of the human condition.

Consider these lyrics from Frightened Rabbit- The Twist

Let’s pretend I’m attractive and then
You won’t mind, you can twist for awhile
It’s the night I can be who you like
And I’ll quietly leave before it gets light
So twist and whisper the wrong name
I don’t care and nor do my ears
Twist yourself around me
I NEED company, I NEED human heat
I NEED human heat

and from Neko Case- Don't Forget Me
And when we’re older and full of cancer
It doesn’t matter now, come on get HAPPY
‘Cause nothing last forever
But I will always love you
Don’t forget me, please don’t forget me
Make it easy , only just for a little while
You know I think about you
Let me know you think about me too

Uplifting these lyrics they are not, but I really like their rawness and honesty. More of the same can be found on both of these albums. 
Now to some differences. On the whole, I suspect there is a significantly higher level of musicianship found on Neko Case's album than on Frightened Rabbit's. Neko shows impressive varied range both vocally and musically. Frightened Rabbit on the other hand, are very monotonous both in the straightforward guitars and pounding drums and vocals that sound so consistent from track to track, I almost wondered if it was for effect. Either way, these differences do nothing to make me prefer one band over the other.
Liking both albums so much, I was very conflicted, and at a real  loss as to which one to pass on through to the next round. I decided to look at the ungulates situated behind both of them in their photos above. Fortunately this transformed an otherwise impossible decision into a very easy one.
I would much rather go into battle with a moose, an eland, and a Thomson's gazelle than with a herd of Fallow deer.
Therefore, the Scottish defeat the Irish (American), and Frightened Rabbit advances to the next around along with their bad ass ungulate friends.

Most Likely to Win the Contest of Winning

Vampire Weekend’s album wins the following contests:

  • Most likely to be awesome driving music on a clear fall day.
  • Most super-fun, intriguing lyrics. “Mansard Roof” and “Oxford Comma” kill it.
  • Best at whoring itself for product marketing.
  • Most likely to blow over, a fad been had.
  • This bullet is not a contest, just a statement: I think the album loses some steam in the middle-ish tracks: “M79,” “Campus,” “Bryn.”

Low’s album wins the following contests:

  • Most likely to turn off potential listeners with its opening track. (I like Low, and have been listening to them on and off for more than a decade, but “Pretty People” reminded me of what I like least in Low: over-dramatic accusations; glumness so glummy it makes me giggle, like I do when I see a gothed-out tween.)
  • Most likely to inspire insensitive jokes about what an actual Sandinista would make of the song “Sandinista.” Okay, so I didn’t like this song either. Or “Your Poison,” for the glumness described in bullet the first.
  • Most likely to surprise me. I was expecting to be over Low, to dismiss them as one trick pony (knowing better, but hoping for an easy call). Holy crap, though: “Belarus” and “Breaker” wow me.

So the anti-commercialist crab in me says go with Low. The clever will always be with us. But the trying-to-be-less-dour side of me says go with Vampire Weekend.

Oh. I just came up with a way to make this easier: Which album is has the most tracks I’d routinely skip out of annoyance? Definitely, not even most likely: Low’s Drums and Guns.

Vampire Weekend is most likely to win.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Steve's review of Jay Dee vs. K'naan, which I should have posted a long time ago

I'm really loving Jay Dee. Maybe it's because I've cut out donuts in my diet...
I want to like K'naan. I really do. I know it's ridiculous to compare him to Emmanuel Jal because they are from different countries and have different stories...but the African tinge to their hip hop is in the forefront and when I listen to Jal, I feel like I'm flying. When I listen to K'naan I feel really blue for some reason. And I don't think I have to feel all wonderful when I listen to music...and K'naan addresses really important things, but I think he's a bit too much about hyping his MC's seems a bit cliche.

I love the creativity of Jay Dee's record. The samples are tasty and I feel like I can listen to this record in a lot of different scenarios. So it's the winner.

Better reviews from me to come, I promise. Andrew was right...I've been ill and sapped of energy.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Immortal Technique vs. Animal Collective

So, this was never going to be a fair fight. When I was first checking out Animal Collective, I found a bunch of stuff that sounded like manatees mating or something and thought: “Who chose this one?” Sure enough, my counter-culture, fight-the-man brother. Then I tried out Immortal Technique (aka Felipe Andres Coronel) and thought: “what about this?” ah – my “let’s shake things up” sister-in-law, Brooke. Fantastic match-up – which one do I want to piss off first?

Let’s start with Immortal Technique. I asked Eric – “how can I write this review without sounding too old, white, and cranky?” And he said: “Maybe you should start with that disclaimer.” So – there it is – I’m white, pushing 40, and have a 2-year old daughter. I am not Felipe Coronel’s target audience. That being said, I truly admire him. He’s probably the smartest rapper I’ve ever heard – I genuinely like the song “Harlem Renaissance” in which he superimposed a lecture by an old dry professor on the flowering of culture in the 1920s in Harlem to the current economic realities of gentrification which are forcing blacks out of the neighborhood today. He’s incredibly literate – he slams Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, the whole gamut. But – I tire of the songs quickly, and my mom-ears cringe at the sheer volume of f-bombs and other expletives. I don’t consider myself to be terribly PC, but here are 3 lines that made me cringe:

- “the movement was still fucked up like Parkinsons”

- “frustrating like watching a porno on 56K” (though really, really funny)

- “marry a Muslim girl and fuck her five times a day, right after we shower and pray.” (hmmm)

Basically, I respect his work, but I feel like a poser when listening to it – kind of like when I try out the Baltimore street slang that I learned from watching the drug trade on “The Wire.” It just doesn’t work. My dear sister-in-law may be hip enough to pull this off, but sadly, I am not.

After I took the time to actually find the right album from Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion, I found that I liked it much better than the manatee love songs that I’d heard before. It’s very ambient, lyrical, accessible – much more like my taste in music. Some songs, like “Summertime Clothes” had a retro, almost Beatles-like quality to them. A few songs seemed to go on too long, but the instrumentation was interesting and the vocal quality was good. There were a couple of songs – like “Bluish”, that seemed to take on an almost Beach-boys sound, which I didn’t care for, but overall, it was an interesting band. The lyrics aren’t profound – I mean, they’re no Weakerthans or anything – but I enjoyed listening to them.

Animal Collective moves forward. Sorry Brooke – you’re just too hip for me.

Choral Disaster

After much fretting, I've realized that I can't avoid my biases. I'm going to embrace them. I’m supposed to like Bruce Springsteen. I don’t. I hate The New Yorker. I won’t apologize for either.

This is how the Invisible Hand of Andrew works as it favors some albums and dooms others. I'm all for it.

Mountains' "Choral" is well done. From what I can tell, the musicians are good. But it bored me, even on the 3rd listen. It bored me to the point of writing short sentences. Others in this contest might find the music stunning. Or gorgeous. I can't listen actively, there are no songs that I think, "Oh yeah, this is that one at the beginning (or end)," and it doesn't work as background music. It doesn't grab me, but my biases (not necessarily its quality) are at fault. So be it.

The songs from "Natural Disasters" fell neatly into two groups. In the first group were those with a catchy baseline that may still be running through my head (check out “Ruckus”). I have not been able to escape “Come and Get It” all week...I catch myself nodding to it. Though the vocals aren’t a style I usually go for, and I don’t listen to more than a few of the tracks at a time, I keep returning to them.

“Spider to the web” typifies the second group, with the same melody-running-through-my-head tunes but gentler vocals. My decision would already be easy were it not for “New Parade.” My reaction to it can only be described as “Holy crap. Lions!” I’m taking the over on the times I’ve played it at 20.

Dwight wins. The contest was not fair.

Gaga Vs. Good Luck

I haven't actually listened to much Lady Gaga before this. I probably won't listen to a whole hell of a lot of Lady Gaga after this. The Fame Monster struck me as largely derivative; at one point or another on this album, Ms. Gaga sounds surprisingly like Madonna, Rihanna, Christina Aguilera, ABBA, Ace of Base, etc. And that's not saying that this music is awful (with the exception of the hideous "Speechless",which really does sound like Gaga is doing a bad karaoke version of some lost Queen B-side); it's just saying that it's not terribly exciting (with the exception of the gritty final track "Teeth", which actually got me grooving in my chair). If you're looking for an exciting new popular "dance" sound for the 2000's, I think artists like M.I.A. and Santogold have started something far more unique and booty-rousing. Rating: 2.5

I really wanted to like Good Luck. I wanted to like them for Joe LaGrand because he is a good guy. I wanted to like them because it would be so easy to knock Lady Gaga out early in the Death Match. I wanted to like them because in this match-up they are the little indie Davids taking on the big corporate music industry Goliath, or some crap like that.

Anyways, I had a really hard time liking this band. And not just because they seriously need to get a new name. My main problem: the lead vocals. I just couldn't get past that nasally voice. The musicianship here is strong, but I found the album's consistently rigorous tempo and intensity alternately monotonous and annoying. The lyrics didn't do much for me. Nothing was awful here, though. I rated every song on this album a "3" (i.e., "Decent.") or a "2" (i.e., "Meh."), giving it a final rating of 2.46 which rounded up to a Rating of 2.5

Crap. Math has failed me. Does this mean I actually have to make a judgment call? Crap.

For assistance, I consulted my wife Rebecca who had been listening to both albums in the background as they blared from our computer speakers. "If we had to listen to one of these albums one more time, which one would we pick?", I asked. "Whew", she said. "Tough call. I guess I'd go with the shorter one because it would be done and over with quicker." I liked her logic, and so...

Lady Gaga advances.

Living with the choir

I love it that this album is on this list. I can see how some people love it. This album has a lot of what's great about Neil Young...the loudness, the rawness. It sounds like some of these songs weren't even rehearsed. He really nails it when he writes topical songs (usually). But the choir. The choir just kills it for me. Some of the tracks it really adds to the song, but for the most part, the choir bugs the crap out of me. I would love to hear the album without the choir.

I almost put his "Le Noise" album on the list. I find it a fascinating listen, but I don't think I've spent enough time with it.

I think this album is over-rated, but it does have it merits. Some of the tracks are awesome. I just find this album a little too long, and a little too over-produced. The Chris Rock monologue bores me (and he's hilarious), I don't think I've listened to it without paying attention to it. It bugs me how much some of the vocals are buried in the mix. If it wasn't for the choir, Living with War would have moved on.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Deerhunter vs. Mum

First up, Deerhunter...

I always heard of these guys, but never heard them...I think something about the name turned me off...I think they got a shitty band name...but, oh's better than test icicles...microcastles/weird era cont. seemed to me to be fairly accomplished, if not a little boring/generic guitar indie rock...maybe it would grow on me, but after a few fitful listens, i've yet to be wowed...not bad or awful or anything, just kinda "in one ear out the other"

and now, Mum...

this seems like something I would listen to if I was bored in Reykjavik and wanted to look out a window or something...and it would be cold and I might have a cup of coffee...anyway, this is a pretty good album...nothing on it really annoys me or anything, but, like deerhunter, I was never wowed...

Since I have to pick one, I'm picking's just more my style...

Dear Science is the Winner

Upon listening to both albums, 2 very distinct flavors came into my mouth.
Beach House - Teen Dream: Sesame Bagel
TV on the Radio - Dear Science: Pop Rocks

You can all probably then conjure up those tastes to recognize what I think of both;
Teen Dream is familiar and somewhat wholesome, lacking surprise and kick.
Dear Science is edgy in concept, major key uplifts with dissolving moments and head bang 'n whip good.

Sufjan Stevens, Come On Feel This (8) over This Will Destroy You, Ditto (9)

So, I'm choosing Sufjan over This Will Destroy You.

But first I just want to complain about Sufjan Stevens.

This album is very 2005, no? A slight shudder runs down my spine when I remember shedding a tear for a song entitled "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." There's bodies under his floor, huh? Just like my sins? Meh. There's a lot of Xn Creative Writers' Workshop nonsense in Sufjan Stevens' Illinois albums; and while I really like some songs - e.g., the Chicago re-mixes on The Avalanche, the song about his friend who died who once let him kiss her - there's something distinctive about this early 2000's aesthetic: a manufactured not-kiddingness with a perpetual wink and a nudge of knowingness. In this sense, "Illinoise" should be placed alongside some other things that are quite good in their own right but which, to my mind, are all of a piece:

1. Dave Eggers' Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
2. This American Life
3. Slate
4. Royal Tenenbaums-Life Aquatic-era Wes Anderson
5. Paris Hilton jokes

And I like all of these things, just like I really like Sufjan Stevens' "Illinoise." (But let's be clear about one thing: there are certain sins that can't be atoned for with 25-minute long tracks that repeat "Boy, we can do much more together." Didn't the post-2008 election malaise and the healthcare debate remind us how pretty vacuous those kinds of refrains are?)

But I digress:

I choose Sufjan because the album is really original and complex. I'm overlooking "This Will Destroy You" because, while I really like the album - never heard it before, and would be totally prone to listen to it and enjoy it immensely - it sounds like everything I hear on Pandora when it won't obey me to start playing something other than Explosions in the Sky.

On that note, here's a pretty hilarious Onion piece:

Sorry, I think I've probably offended everyone with this post, including myself.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

And in this corner...

Let me spare you the drama--it was never going to be a fair fight. I mean, it’s called The Greatest for goodness sake. The name of the band is CAT POWER. And just look at that cover. How are you going to beat that? How are you not going to get K.O.’d? The Greatest also has horns, and I’m telling you that if I’m voting, nine out of ten times the horns are going to win.

But let’s talk a little about Past is Prologue:

This is an ambient album or a downtempo album, I think. Who am I kidding? I have no idea what downtempo means. I did end up really liking this recording even though the first couple songs didn’t do much for me. I knew that Cat Power had the advantage, so I decided to do what I could to give Tycho a handicap. For starters, I listened to it intently—no spider solitaire, no chores, no playing with Wendell. I just sat there and listened to it. I realized about half way through that this may have actually put it at a disadvantage. This is probably great music for studying, doing chores, making love (well, maybe not), or falling asleep to, but I just didn’t find it interesting enough to sustain my attention. That’s not to say it’s bad. Really, I don’t think it’s any better or any worse than the handful of ambient albums I already own. At its best, like on the eponymous track “Past is Prologue”, it reminded me of Four Tet. In some places it also reminded me of Boards of Canada. I like Boards of Canada, but I find their music makes me feel down. For some reason, their sound reminds me of watching cartoons on Global TV. Up in Canada, on Sunday or Saturday afternoons, Global would replay episodes that had been on the previous Saturday morning. For some bizarre reason, though, the colors were faded and it made the Care Bears and Inspector Gadget look like the most depressing images on earth. I realize I’m way off topic, but I’m trying to give you an idea of where my mind wandered off to while listening. Also, Past is Prologue has a track called “PBS”, which relates somehow in my mind. All in all, this is a good, solid ambient album. I bet Jeff would like it.

Back to CAT POWER:

I may disagree with Jeff about the merits of Cat Power, but I do understand why Jeff doesn’t like her. Moon Pix has some great tracks but it tends to drag a bit too. Last year I wrote about You Are Free as an underappreciated album, but the truth is that I still need to be in exactly the right mood for it (preferably sitting in an apartment in a hip neighborhood while reading The New Yorker). This doesn’t apply to The Greatest though. This is easily my favorite recording of hers. I think there was quite a bit written when The Greatest was released about how this was a period of reinvention for Ms. Marshall. On the mag covers, not only did she not look depressed, but she actually smiled and seemed playful. Now, I don’t really know much about this and I don’t really care that much, but whatever happened it certainly worked for her musically. The Greatest still has those slower, meditative songs like “The Moon” and “Hate”, but here they’re balanced out by the other tracks. She’s always been a great song-writer, but now the aforementioned horns, the organ flourishes, and the Booker T. sounding guitars give tracks like “Could We” and “Lived in Bars” more, well, life. There are also a number of tunes that blend soul and country in the easiest of ways. All this to say, I think Jeff might actually like some of this record—high praise indeed.

Cat Power moves on to fight another day.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Hercules VS M83

I think that good people are like good albums; not everyone is going to like you just cause you're good. That being said, I like these good albums. Never heard them before and this is why I love Music Death Match. This was a really fun match. Both albums were strong, light on guitars, youthful, inspired, not for all occasions (but what is?) and they both have pleasing album covers that have great bodies folded up on them - front and center. But what did I really think of them?

Hercules and Love Affair. Sounds so tough. I mean, come on... Hercules! and Love Affairs? Don't even get me started. Don't EVEN get me started. There really is some fresh ideas on this album. It's all about the crotch. Make it move. Make that drink taste a little saucier. Make that sweat pour a little saltier. Make that super drunk babe over in the corner look a little more drunky. And it works. I mean, I was playing spider solitaire whilst listening and all of a sudden, the Queens are all winking at me. "Watch you looking at?" I says. Wink Wink, they say. You get the idea. We. Got. It. On. To. Hercules! So what did it for me? The bass lines and the beat. Simple. The vocals were okay most of the time. Super other times. The horns reminded me too much of Groove Armada and the datedness (word?) of them. But the bass lines were super pooper funky disco, picked with the largest pick in the world. It was like the bass player said to the recording engineer, "I don't care if you can hear the notes! Can you hear the pick?!"

All jerking off aside, some of this album got on my nerves. Not the best album to listen to whilst playing spider solitaire (which I plan to do whilst listening to all these match ups) but I imagined myself on a dancefloor with a powdered nostril and a wad in my back pocket. It worked, although, in the end, I went home alone and masterbated... thrice!

Now, let's get to the rad cool stiffy: M83, Saturdays = Youth. What a trippy fun album. it was such a good listen. (especially whilst spider solitairing) Not a perfect album, but a perfectly flawless one, except for the terrible lyrics. I thought, if there's one thing you can rely on with electronic music, it's the clever lyrics. But, no. Not here. Halfway through I had to restart the album cause I had gone in expecting superb lyrics, so I had decided to ignore everything else. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

All being a jerk aside, some of this album was heaven. It's not a party album. It's more of a birthday party album. I had a birthday party once. It could have used this album. I didn't think that there were any new ideas or sounds, but there didn't need to be. It was just... cool. Like a trip to the cabin with some buds and buds. Like the sunday morning after a friday night party. Like a phone call from your oma, where she says, "I want to tell you about the first time I went skating." I didn't know I wanted that phone call, but I got it, and it was... cool.

I like M83's album cover better, but Hercules wins, cause they (he?) came to party.

Your new arrivals

Hey folks,

Everyone has their picks in now except for Steve (he's been sick--cut him some slack), so we're moving on. Nice work on that first round--I feel like a sufficent number of people got their hearts broken. Here are your new assignments:

As Brooke so aptly put it: BRING IT BITCHES!

1 Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz vs. 16 Midlake - Trials of VanOccupanther

Andy W:
1 Deerhunter - Microcastle/Weird Era Cont. vs. 16 Mum - Go Smear the Poison Ivy

2 Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion vs. 15 Immortal Technique - 3rd world

2 M83 Saturdays = Youth vs. 15 Hercules and Love Affair - Hercules and Love Affair 12.04

3 TV on the Radio - Dear Science vs 14 Beach House - Teen Dream

3 The Walkmen - Lisbon vs. 14 Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest

4 Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy vs. 13 Neil Young - Living with War

Andrew Z
4 Cat Power - The Greatest vs. 13 Tycho Past is Prologue

5 Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid vs. 12 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!

5 Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me vs. 12 Dirty Projectors Rise Above

6 The Dead Weather - Horehound vs. 11 Do Make Say Think You, You're a History in Rust

6 Neko Case - Middle Cyclone 15.00 vs. 11 Frightened Rabbit - Midnight Organ Fight

Eric S
7 Good Luck - Into Lake Griffy vs. 10 Lady Gaga - The Fame Monster

Eric A
7 Dwight - Natural Disasters vs. 10 Mountains - Choral

8 Sufjan Stevens - (Come on Feel the) Illinoise vs. 9 This Will Destroy You - This Will Destroy You

Sarah: 8 Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend 14.63 vs. 9 Low - Drums and Guns 14.55