Thursday, March 31, 2011

March Mad-Libs: Dwight vs. Deerhunter

Unlike Slippers and Mark, Andrew and I haven't exactly been seeing eye to eye on this latest pick.

I suggested that we do a Mad-Lib style post for our choice between "Dwight" and Deerhunter. Andrew still hasn't responded.

Until he does, here's my contribution. I'm aware that Mad-Libs traditionally ask you for (a) a noun, (b) a verb, (c) a silly object, (d) an exclamation, etc., but maybe you all can offer Andrew some suggestions:

Well everyone, it’s been quite ________________. After_______________, and now that I’ve got my____________ out of my______________ , it’s on to a ________________ choice between “Dwight” and DeerHunter, Halcyon Digest.

The choice here is easy:__________________.

Once, in high school, while I was listening to _______________ and making out with ___________________ it occurred to me that some music really is _______________, but only when you’re making out with __________________. Just like Dave Matthew’s Band.

_______________ is the same way. It’s worth listening to if you’re_________________, but once you’re ___________________, forget it. You might as well hike up your skirt a little more, show the world to me, and keep making out with _____________________, because you’re never going to__________________, until the damn album is over.

__________________, on the other hand, is to music what __________________ is to being married and having a baby. That ________________ can ______________ all it wants to, but you know _________________ will never get in the way of ______________________, in the same way that _______________________ rocks earnestly, with great guitars, unpretentious vocals, an ambient sensibility, but also _______________.

Speaking of saxophones, whoever said that ____________________ was like ___________________ (a)never woke up after having made out with ___________________ , and (b) is unfamiliar with_________________and the E-Street band. _____________________ is clearly a riff on that, but with ___________________ and everyone can keep their _______________________ below their knees.

When I got my first__________________ at age thirteen, I knew that ______________________. One thing this tournament, and having to choose between _____________________ and _____________________, has taught me is that you never can _______________________ without______________________. At least with a shred of dignity.

Then again, ___________________ is such a good album on its own, that I’m okay with ___________________. And so is my wife.

music death match-maker 2011?

I'd like to thank the MDM gods for helping me find my soul mate. I have never met anyone who is basically me. Mark and I agreed on everything, right down to the tone of the room noise on these albums. To all of you who are having a hard time agreeing with your match-up, please find peace in knowing that the gods got it right at least once.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sour Sixteen

Boy am I pissed after that last round. It was even worse for me than my NCAA brackets and that's saying something. (Aside to Jeff: fuck this tournament, amiright?). I guess at this point, I'm just looking forward to a Vampire Weekend vs. Arcade Fire final match-up, so that we can all just admit that we've given up. As we become more and more middle-aged and as our kids grow up, we'll keep telling them about that awesome Decemberists concert we went to, and they'll be like, "Who cares?! You could have been checking out Fleet Foxes or The Dirt Projectors or K'naan." Whatever.

So this round is going to be different. There are only sixteen albums left, which means there are only eight choices left. Eight choices, sixteen people. At first, I thought I'd just reward those who got their picks in first like last year. But that was when most of you were exhausted from widdling 128 album down to 16. This year we went for the wimpy 64, and considering how lazy most of you are, I think that was wise.

So, here's what we're going to do: teams. As in the following:

Bruce and Sarah
Andy and Eric S
Anne and Eric A
Jeff and Brian
Mark and Dwight
Joel and Andrew
Karl and Brad
Joe and Brooke

Don't complain to me if you don't like your partner. I tried to keep married folks togehter so as to create the kind of tension a good marriage needs. Otherwise, I had to try some different combinations to make it so no one had a former pick or their own album. YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW HARD THIS WAS!!! (Thank-you Andy and Eric for being just about the only people not to have f*%@ing Arcade Fire on your list).

Each team is assigned a choice, and you must come to an agreement. I know some of you will be like, "whatever, go ahead and pick cause I can't decide/don't care" but others will be like, "over my dead body is Hot Chip advancing." In either case--through email or post-coital bed talk or whatever--come to a consensus and then post it. I encourage those of you who take the email route to include any hilarious bits or threats from those emails in your post.

The assignments:

Bruce and Sarah: Kanye vs. Sufjan
Andy and Eric: XX vs. Arcade Fire
Anne and Eric: The Walkmen vs. J. Dilla
Jeff and Brian: LCD Soundsystem vs. Crooked Saints
Mark and Dwight: Vampire Weekend vs. Cat Power
Joel and Andrew: Dwight vs. Deerhunter
Karl and Brad: TV on Radio vs. Animal Collective
Joe and Brooke: Hot Chip vs. Avett Bros

Have fun???!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Johnny Flyn – A Lauram vs. The Walkmen – You and Me

Is this the matchup we're still waiting for?   Probably not, but in the event that it is, here is a legitimate, legal matchup.

Here's why it's legal... both Steve and Jeff have told me in the past that I have the best taste in music, and not only do I have a Colbert-I-can-feel-it-in-my-gut type of mastery over music, but I also have a Karl-is-a-math-ma-gician type of understanding of the science of music.   So my review of this match up is allowed.   Plus what the eff is taking so long!?

So what's the correct answer to this matchup?

A Larum is not bad.   My gut felt better after listening to it for a while...  It was a little queasy during the first few songs.  It really wasn't that bad... but it reminds me of being in a bar that I have no overt desire to be in -- beyond filling my gut with brain juice of course.

The ideal time to listen to this album can be understood when shown mathematically:   
g(A) + y(A^2) = y ∪ g
where A = 'this album is awesome'

strangely enough:   
g(A) + y(-A) = y - g

You & Me on the other hand, had my gut rumbling the notion that this album sounds exactly like all the other albums 'you people' seem to like.   What's with that?   While nothing stood out to me sounding anything like Kelly Clarkson, I tried to keep an open mind.  I did at one point have a feeling wash over me that I wish there were 40 Bob Dylan albums in this years death match again... but that quickly faded as I remember Bob doesn't sound like Kelly either. 

When I stepped back and really analyzed my position on these two albums, I, of course, realized my immediate thoughts were accurate.  Both have their merits, and are competent.  But only one succeeds where others have failed.  I tend to think that 'you people' on the whole have adequate taste in music, therefore The Walkmen move on.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What music do you have breakfast to?

(To be honest, I don't think of particular music I want to listen to upon waking. I like morning silence actually. But Joe seems to always have something in mind, acutely, when he rolls out of bed. This morning is Art Ensemble of Chicago and yesterday - King Tubby).

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bring it.

Andrew, my money is on Beatrice and her fingernails. You'd wilt and then run away screaming for Jane to help you.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Crooked Saints v. Feist

Ok peoples, sorry for the delay. I could use a bunch of lame excuses about my gangrenous guts, and moving into a new apartment, and no internet at home and stuff but I won't. OK, here is what you've all been waiting for:

Crooked Saints "Beatrice"
eist "The Reminder"

Crooked Saints are an up and coming band from the Grand Rapids area that to currently be on a hiatus. Their one full length album so far is called "Beatrice" and it is a very cohesive album that has a nice flow from beginning to end. The record begins on a nice and spooky tone with the quiet droning of strings leading into a meditative bluesy track "I am the Lion's Lamb." The energy grows over the next two tracks highlighted by the wicked guitar work on "Dark Charade" which builds to the brief and excellent Velvet Undergroundish freak-out at the end.
The following tracks are a good mix of quiet and loud, tension and release, and plenty of what might be the combo's strongest suit: the group vocals. Whether it is the calm and understated "I Am: Yer Life," or the big choruses like "Finding Station" the gang vocals act as a great unifying element throughout the album (the lead guitar kills on that song as well).
Another of this band's strong suit is the frequent use of the "vocal riff," a wordless yodeling type of singing that the band uses in places where others would normally employ instruments. Given the the relatively low recording budget that the band was working with, it is a great sounding record, including a very nice drum sound (played by Chris N. best known for his work in the 90's underground sensation Baxter).

A tough competitor for this record is found in Feist's "the Reminder" I thought to myself.......or is it? I own this record(....or at least I have it on our Ipod, I can't be sure how it got there...) and I have listened to it I must like it. The Remainder seems to in the music collection of just about every music loving friend that I have, all the way to Jeff "up the punx"Bolt. It seems that it must be a pretty phenomenal album for its appeal to be so far flung. But as I gave it another spin I wasn't sure what there was to be excited about. The album has a pretty mellow vibe as a whole with a few exceptions. While I like a lot of "mellow" music, I normally enjoy stuff that has an underlying intensity just below the surface, like a Low or Cat Power or something. But much of this record seems simply "laid-back" and not too interesting to me.

In my book, her strong suit is upbeat songs as exemplefied in "I Feel it All" and "1234" (ok I know she like a total sellout for using it in an Apple ad, but that song rules). She should make a whole album of these kind of tunes.

Entonces.....the big winner is: Crooked Saints.

Now if they could write a tune to sell iPods they'd really take off.

No offense to the Baird Brothers. I love you guys and you rule in all ways musically and otherwise.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Top Fives

In an effort to combat lameness of this MDM, I've decided to use my music-thinking-about muscles. The criteria is who do I want to sing me "Happy Birthday" when I'm on my death bed (assuming I die in a bed on my birthday).

Top Five Female Voices:

1. Karen O. - Her version of "Worried Shoes" on the Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack is really all I need to hear. She has this kind of twang or something that I just totally fall for everytime.

2. Nina Simone - I remember seeing her in Ann Arbor in 2000 with my not yet wife and it was right before the Bush/Gore election. During Mississippi Goddamn she belted out: "Everybody knows about Bush/Goddamn" I'll never forget it. She really knew how to say goddamn.

3. Lykke Li - She has a kinda quirky voice, but still powerful in different ways. Good phrasing and soulfulness. Sounds original to me.

4. Marianne Faithfull - Mainly the later years for her. I know it's probably from smoking and drinking and stuff that her voice got all raspy. But it really fits her material. Favorites are Broken English, Sex with Strangers and Last Song from Before the Poison. Check out her version of John Lennon's Working Class Hero.

5. Victoria Legrand - She's the Beach House singer. I know she's really mellow but that's what I like. She calms me down.

Honorable Mentions: P J Harvey, Mavis Staples, Neko Case, Elizabeth Cotten, Stevie Nicks

Top Five Male Voices:

1. Harry Nilsson - Just so smooth. The music pours of of him. Or at least it used to, he's dead now.

2. Bob Dylan - His voice is a great mystery. I think he sang all shitty and gravelly on purpose and it killed his other wise normally sweet and sugary vocal cords, leaving him where he has been for the last 10-15 years, all croaky. If you listen to any of the stuff he made in high school, he sounds just like he does on Nashville Skyline. That's his real voice. Weird, huh. Columbia Records used to have a slogan: Nobody Sings Dylan like Dylan. Kinda says it all.

3. Johnny Cash - His voice from the 90's onward is perfect.

4. Jeff Mangum - His voice is just so...hip.

5. Leonard Cohen - He's really the only one who does what he does. There is so much precision. You can follow every word.

Honorable Mentions: Neil Young, Colin Blunstone, Ray Davies, Joe Strummer, Scott Walker

Thoughts? Disagreements?

Whatever a-holes.

I'm out

While we wait for Joe...

All time favorite solos, guitar or otherwise?

Monday, March 7, 2011

I vote for new listens. When do we get our new choices?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver vs. Girls, Album

I listened to these albums more than two weeks ago, and I forgot most of what I had to say about them.

I liked the Girls album more than I thought I would. But it also sounded a lot like Elvis Costello.

LCD Soundsystem is a party album that I'm not totally in love with, but its got a pretty purely LCD Soundsystem sound and it deserves to stay in this tournament.

Sorry, lame post.

No Depression R.I.P.

Being a person who espouses principles of shalom and restorative justice much more so than vengeance and retribution, I decided to put these values to practice in this listening exercise. This match up featured the Avett Brothers, I and Love and You, and Ferraby Lionheart, The Jack of Hearts, who had in my opinion unjustly knocked out the Weakerthans in the previous round. Now don't get me wrong, I still feel the world is slightly off kilter in light of Ferraby displacing the Weakerthans, but I endeavored to give him a fair listen and resolved to do my my best to enter into a right and proper relationship with this young man.  To be clear this doesn't equate necessarily moving him through to the next round, it does mean hopefully an end to my gnashing of teeth, wailing hysterically and donning an ashen sackcloth as a sign of grieving when I hear his name mentioned in the future.

First off, and this is meant to be a great compliment to both artists, listening to both  these albums made me miss dearly my favorite music magazine of all time, the venerable but sadly out of print- No Depression

In fact perhaps a future contest lining up our favorite print music magazines against each could be in order? Anyhow, both these bands would have been favorites of No Depression, in fact Avett Brothers were already featured heavily in No Depression print magazine for a number of years

Ferraby's music definitely fits in the roots/Americana vein that No Depression championed so well. It is fair to say that this genre allows for enough musical expression that various instruments can be featured prominently within this category of music. Ferraby's instruments of choice are varied, using drums, guitars, multiple types of stringed instruments, and I think multiple types of keyboard instruments thrown in as well. Most importantly there is his voice that sounds like honey to my ears on almost every track. Perhaps almost too sweet and polished for my ears, but delightful nonetheless. The total effect is songs that have almost an orchestral pop quality to them. Although put on on an indie label, everything about this album has a refined feel to it, with very tight sound and production values. I very much liked these songs- Pocketknife, Sweet Tanzini, and Drag me Around . I found a number of other songs to be solid but not of stand quality out for me. I really dislike track 4 Arkansas and I found the last track Minuteman unremarkable, more of a filler tune for me.  In summary I would count The Jack of Hearts as a classy honkytonk album of a high order. Most importantly Mr. Lionheart and I are now in a right and proper relationship, no more gnashing of teeth or wearing of ashen sackcloth for me when I here his name or his music.

The Avett Brothers use many of the same instruments as Lionheart but the effect and tone of their music is much different for me. They do add in some banjo on some songs as well, which is a happy addition for me. Overall they have more of a hootenanny approach and less tightly constructed sound. Although I will say I and Love and You is more structured than much of their earlier material . Furthermore the vocals of Seth and Scott Avett are ragged and have a beer and cigarettes tinge rather than the honey flavor tones of Ferraby. It is uncommon for me to listen  an album and not find at least one or two songs to be filler or uninteresting, so this album proves the exception to the rule since I like along the songs on this album. Some real highlights for me are Head Full of Doubt, The Perfect Space, Kick Drum Heart and Slight Figure of Speech. Unlike the last reviewer of I and Love and You, I find this album to be an absolute gem. As such I have to cannibalize bands I like against each other in this round, just as I did in the last round. 

The Avett Brothers advance to next round.

Kathleen Edwards "Asking For Flowers" vs. Arcade Fire "The Suburbs"

Listened to each of these 5 times or so in the last week. Arcade Fire wins; the proof is left as an exercise for the reader.

Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience

Don't worry: the title is as far as I'll go invoking William Blake. Though, hey, both Radiohead and The XX are Brits, so it's all about the countrymen.

The title does describe my dilemma. Do I choose the newbies: the homely, zitty, brit-punky kids who have crafted a sound both new and evocative, managing to make homely, zitty, and brit-punky sound hip beyond hip? I heard them on satellite radio at the dentist's office while having my teeth cleaned and even that didn't turn me from them. I know it is partly the look of the lead female singer, but I can't help thinking of earlier Brit pop pioneers Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt of Everything but the Girl in their youth. (I chose this picture to purposely leave out the other two band members, because then my comparison seems more apt, right?) Back to the dentist's office: I could choose this album as the soundtrack for about anything, and it would make that anything more palatable. And way to have a million (okay, most of eleven) ruling tracks. I would go into detail, but then I wouldn't be posting this today.

And then the old heads: Radiohead's In Rainbows. I'll fess up to being tired of Radiohead. I have loved them in the past, and I acknowledge they continue to be relevant and pioneering, which can't be said for most bands seven studio albums in. In Rainbows also strikes me as less moody, less esoteric than many of their releases. I hadn't listened to the album in a while, and I forgot about that. My dread for spending time with sullen Yorke (must be I'm in a less sullen mood myself these past few weeks) was replaced again by awe. However, however: I wouldn't put this in my top three Radiohead albums, even though it can kick the ass of most bands' top albums. That's what Radiohead gets for being at the top of their game too often.

Time will tell which album is the better album, and it may very well tell us In Rainbows. But I'm having too much fun with The XX to be terribly concerned. Congrats, newbies. Don't make me regret it.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Deerhunter MIcrocastle/Weird Era Cont. Vs. Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend

Yeah, I listened to these right away, too and managed to take forever. Part of that is laziness, but part of it is that this is a pretty difficult decision. First, I don't really care for any of the album covers in this matchup, so I've replaced them. I say "any" because the Deerhunter album is two albums that, as far as I understand from a brief scan of the Wikipedia article, came out at different times.I hadn't heard Deerhunter at all before this, but I was fairly familiar with Vampire Weekend.
Vampire Weekend is, as has been noted elsewhere, super infectious. I think that's why I quit listening to it not long after I first heard it. I get these little bits of their songs in my head and they just won't go away. But while I'm listening to them I really like it. The lyrics are usually smart and the sound is awfully original for being so poppy. They keep it pretty simple and light and it sounds like fun times.

Like I said, I hadn't listened to Deerhunter, and I'm glad I got them in this matchup. The double album thing is kind of problematic here and I'm having a hard time thinking of them as one unit because they seem distinctly different to me. Microcastle seems like what I'd expect to be considered good music right now. It has a mix of moody, atmospheric songs that sound like the album cover looks (too bad it's not here, huh?) and some nice beat-driven stuff with drumming that's just fuzzy and haphazard enough to feel warm, but good enough to complement the rest of the music well. I really like how the song, "Microcastle," does both. But then I just get kind of bogged down and everything kind of melts together.
The second album, "Weird Era Cont." has a more unified feel to it. It sounds kind of like if Jack White produced a Shangri-Las album today. Kind of echoey psych rock and all pretty enjoyable without being too light. I definitely like it better than Microcastle. Vox Celeste is great - kind of reminds me of Yo La Tengo's "Sugar Cube."
So, it's kind of a dilemma here. I think if it was just "Weird Era Cont." against "Vampire Weekend" I'd choose Deerhunter, but both Deerhunters together? So then I thought, "well if you're going to kill Deerhunter, you'd better look over Vampire Weekend more, because you didn't really say anything about those individual songs." And now I've looked it over again and it's because they're all solid. I think "I Stand Corrected," and "Walcott" might be my favorites. I'm pretty sure I'll remember this album for a long time.
Actually, I kind of like the Vampire Weekend cover. It looks like a bunch of people at a fun college party in an old house, but the puppet rock opera from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I mean...
Vampire Weekend wins.

Lady Gaga – The Fame Monster vs. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion

Ah, I'm super late with this, I listened to these albums the day after they were assigned, yet apparently found it much too difficult to type anything for for a few weeks.  Terrible.

As someone who is far more impressed with Jeff's beard than either album, I find it difficult to offer anything of value in this debate.  In fact, I don't think there is a debate to have.

The Fame Monster is just not my cup of tea.  It was a little too much Madonna + George Michael for me... and while I don't mind either of those artists, I really don't want to listen to them either. 

Merriweather Post Pavillion didn't do anything for me either.  Nothing.  I'm pretty sure I had my volume adjusted correctly, and I wasn't doing anything else of substance while listening.  The one positive I'll give this album is that I kept asking myself why it isn't doing anything for me.

Animal Collective moves on, if only because I'm probably not smart enough to understand it.  Whereas Lady Ga Ga makes me feel like I'm buying Art at Best Buy.