Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Shepherd's Dog


I'll be the first to admit, I've never been the biggest Iron and Wine fan. They were among my ex-girlfriend's favorite music, and as such, I was subjected to a great deal of Sam Beam's lo-fi acoustic dirges. While I did have a certain fondness for a few songs on the Woman King EP, most of his material sounded far too bland and dry for me. I guess I just didn't "get" it. And this is coming from me, lo-fi music connoisseur.

Anyhow, upon listening to Iron and Wine's new record, The Shepherd's Dog, my mind was changed. Sam Beam has taken the potential he showed on his first two full lengths and fleshed it out, into what I think should be amongst the competition for record of the year. Songs like "Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car" and "The Devil Never Sleeps" are essentially comprised of the same components Beam used on his first two albums, but they sound significantly more interesting when they are carried out by a full band. There are times on this record when Iron and Wine get adventurous, like the reggae sound of "Wolves (Song of the Shepherd's Dog)" and the African sounds of "House By the Sea." These are moments where this record shines, in my opinion, since they really show how far along Beam has come in his songwriting. They show a synthesis of the old Iron and Wine with new, interesting sounds.

Even songs as simple as "Boy With A Coin" sound interesting, in fact, that may be one of the best songs on the record, along with "Carousel." I love Carousel, it has an absolutely beautiful melody, and it may be my personal favorite on The Shepherd's Dog. Overall, I think this record justifies any acclaim Sam Beam has been getting for his music, and whatever flaws it has are well overcome by the great songwriting that is consistent throughout. I am going to see Iron and Wine this Saturday; I will be sure to publish a full report on that sometime next week.

Iron and Wine - Carousel
Iron and Wine - White Tooth Man

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Office: Season 4


At 9 o’clock on Thursday night, I will be gladly putting down whatever work I have to do and rush to claim the TV lounge in my dorm. For Thursday night is the night of nights. That’s right…the season premier of The Office. We have experienced three incredible seasons of tensions filled hilarity, and I fully expect the same from the fourth. So many questions will hopefully be answered this time around (or they might just be drawn out for a fifth season). Will Ryan help Dunder Mifflin rise above the competition? Will Dwight and Angela reveal their secret relationship? Will Kelly ever shut up? Is Snape with the Death Eaters? And the big one: Will Jim and Pam finally get together? I think we can assume that this will somehow be complicated as it is the backbone of the show. Personally, I think the show will be far less interesting if they are together…happily ever after. I look forward to the tension filled episodes.
Hopefully college kids everywhere will neglect their work for an hour on Thursday night to see the premier.
-Zack
If you need to see the first three season I will gladly lend them to you.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The World is Such a Wonderful Place



In the coming weeks, the big music industry guns are dropping hot new records--Vanessa Carlton, Dashboard Confessional, among others. Oh yeah, and there is this northwestern indie band named Band of Horses that has a new album, Cease to Begin, coming out on October 9. Lead single "Is There a Ghost" has essentially been engrained into the brain of every indie rock fan, but the rest if the album is good too.
______One or two of the tracks are a bit too country for my tastes, but most of Cease to Begin shoots for the stars and reaches them. "No One's Gonna Love You", "The General Specific", "Cigarettes, Wedding Bands"--the songs are epic, but never losing structure, intensity, or melody. Band of Horses certainly maintain Everything All the Time's style, but almost everything (all the time, I'm sorry) attempts to recreate the magic of "The Funeral". And, well, the hit-to-miss ratio is pretty good.
______The record will not likely contend for my Indie Record of 2007, considering the presence of Krug and two stupendous Panda Bear-affiliated records. However, I didn't worship the first BoH album like other indie fans did (I personally preferred Figurines' Skeleton) so who knows how well Cease will be received. The world is a wonderful motherfuckin' place:

Band of Horses - Ode to the LRC

iTunes pisses me off >:(

I just updated my iTunes/iPod software and now it has some of my artists re-arranged. Trail of Dead is now down by Animal Collective and Andrew Bird and the number artists are at the end. I have to go all the way down the list to listen to 50 Cent and 4 Non Blondes! (only half kidding) Not to mention the fact that A Tribe Called Quest now resides with the Rs and all my Blur song reviews have been reduced to one star. OK so that last one was me :)

50 Cent - In Da Club

4 Non Blondes - What's Up

Monday, September 17, 2007

Such a Bad Idea



The new CBS reality show, entitled "Kid Nation", isolates 40 children from adult society for 40 days, thus forcing them to feed and clothe themselves and interact peacefully with one another. Essentially, the concept is Lord of the Flies with cameras and slimy executive producers. I hate reality TV and the idea of people humiliating themselves for fame or money, not to mention the television networks who take full advantage of these participants. Nonetheless, I really have no moral objections to adults trying "survive" on an island in Australia or whatever, and I do watch Flava of Love. However, I really think Kid Nation crosses a line in embarrassing children in front of the world just to rack up some high ratings. Not to mention the parents who are putting their kid into that position.

Mp3s of my distress

Fugazi - Latest Disgrace

Besnard Lakes - Disaster

The Streets - Has It Come To This?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Coldplay Update:Because You Need To Know


Coldplay is currently in the midst of recording their 4th album with several producers, including Brian Eno. Coldplay's drummer, Will Champion, says they have been rehearsing the new songs for six months and are 60% done with the album.
I'm excited so that means that the seven of you who read this blog must be excited too.
-Zack

Calm Down, OJ Just Wanted His Shit Back



Yeah, so I don't know, OJ Simpson apparently tracked down some of his memorabilia which had been stolen and reclaimed the items. Whether guns were involved is disputed at this point, but OJ adamantly denies it being a robbery. As he reasoned with one of the funniest quotes I've heard in a while,"I'm OJ Simpson. Who am I gonna rob?" Well reasoned, Mr. Simpson. And furthermore, when has OJ ever lied to anyone, or done anything, ya know, questionable?

I'm not posting OJ-themed mp3s, but if I did....

Jane's Addiction - Been Caught Stealing

Music Felt So Empty Without Him: Eminem Working on New Album



While I appreciate his production of 50 Cent's "Peep Show," I think most people kinda would rather hear a new Marshall Mathers disc. I have not actually heard Encore but "Just Lose It" is Em's worst single, and album reviews were lukewarm, so I don't think I missed much. Even if the new one sucks, at this point rap music needs all the help it can get, considering Pharoahe Monch may walk away with the hip-hop record of the year. I mean, Desire kicks ass, but it's no classic. Anyway, old school Em and new school Monch.

Eminem - Kill You

Pharoahe Monch - Push (video)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Ra Ra Riot at Lehigh (Aug 30)


The six members of Ra Ra Riot are relatively new to the music scene, but have wasted no time in writing some catchy tunes for their self titled debut EP. The band has bounced back from the recent tragedy in the untimely death of their drummer, John Pike, in early June. They finished their summer tour which included a performance in our very own Laberton Hall at Lehigh University. Not really knowing what to expect, we (Erik, Mike, and myself) were greeted by a terrible opening band, who I won’t give the gratification of talking about. We patiently waited for Ra Ra Riot and we were greatly surprised by what we experienced. The band made a fantastic use of string instruments to add to their full sound. One member sported a violin while yet another wielded a Cello. Yes! Wielded a Cello! Many of their songs showed off the raw talent of their rhythm section. I have always been especially critical of drummers, but I was especially impressed with this one (even more so after learning he has only been a member of Ra Ra Riot since June). Songs like “A Manner to Act” and “Each Year” were a pick up with their feel-good sound. “Dying Is Fine” was clearly the crowd favorite as the more adventurous members of the audience strayed from the head bobbing to the full body dancing, and “Everest” flirted on the fringes of a mosh pit.
I think all 30 Lehigh students who were in Lamberton Hall that night left Ra Ra Riot fans.
Ra Ra Riot were a blast to listen to and I can’t wait for more.
-Zack

Ra Ra Riot - Dying Is Fine
Ra Ra Riot - A Manner To Act

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Clipse-Flashing Lights (Benzi "What Kanye Should Have Done" Refix)



Yes, "refix" not remix, according to Pitchfork. This reworking of Graduation standout "Flashing Lights" finds DJ Benzi placing Clipse verses (circa We Got it 4 Cheap, Volume 2) over Kanye's superb synth backdrop. The refix provides the rhymes that could have transformed Graduation into a classic, and suggests that if Clipse ever team up with Kanye, look the fuck out.

Clipse-Flashing Lights (Benzi Refix)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Best Music Week EVER: The Go! Team



Another great album being released this week is that of Brighton, England's The Go! Team. Entitled "Proof of Youth," it carries many similar elements from their first record, "Thunder, Lightning, Strike!" including the incredibly unique mixture of live and sampled instrumentation that is The Go! Team's trademark. The samples used here are fantastic and diverse; they include 80s funk/reggae band The Politicians, Glen Campbell, and even live vocals from the legendary Chuck D. That's not to say the songs aren't great too, in fact, I feel like this album is just as good as "Thunder, Lightning, Strike!" was, and perhaps even better in some ways. It's great to see them change their style up a bit on songs like "My World," which is an instrumental interlude reminiscent of something like James Taylor. I just read it is a cover of an Alan Parker song. I don't know him.

Speaking of their style, I believe that The Go! Team is one of the most unique groups out there today, if not the most unique. Never have I seen indie pop and hip-hop being used simultaneously to describe a band, but that is often the case here. I've heard of Beck being described as transcending genres, but The Go! Team actually does, blending 80s hip-hop/pop culture references and fun indie pop and everything in between, without missing a beat. But back to the new record, while it is by no means flawless, it's pretty damn good. It may just be the catchiest and most unique thing you'll hear all year. Go pick it up if you appreciate original music. At least listen to these songs.
-Erik

The Go! Team - Grip Like A Vice
The Go! Team - Fake ID
The Go! Team - The Wrath of Marcie

New Pornos YouTube thingy



So, yeah, apparently you can challenge the New Pornographers to any type of competition you want. That is, if you enslave yourself on their behalf and perform myriad tasks to prove your loyalty and post said tasks on everyone's favorite video site. I don't know about you, but my ideal grand prize would simply be a lock of the famous Bej-Fro.... Hehe.

The announcement video

Best Music Week EVER: KanYe West: Graduation


I meant to post about this yesterday, but believe or not, the man is not going anywhere, nor is debate over this album, so today should work. Last year, Nas, in a not-so-subtle-manner, proclaimed hip-hop dead. Essentially, he speaks the truth, as neither he nor Jay-Z can carry the game, nor Eminem, nor Wu-Tang, nor anyone still living that once ranked among the all-time rap greats.
______And here comes Kanye. Already with two of the decade's best records, West steps into the spotlight once more to pat himself on the back, shout-out to Jigga, and, on the sidelines, bitch about Britney performing at the VMAs. However, for as typical a star Kanye remains off-stage, in the studio he has cultivated a remarkably forward-thinking, even groundbreaking effort. He samples Krautrock, house, and a hell of a lot more in ways that other hip-hop producers have neither the skill nor balls to attempt. Graduation proves modern hip-hop can transcend "Huslin'" and "We Fly High" if it wants to, that rap can be sophisticated without being elitist.
______That's the good news. Unfortunately, the record has as many failures as successes, and contrary to Pitchfork's absurd overreaction to Graduation, inconsistencies plague the album. West hits his stride early with the excellent "Champion," matching an instantly memorable Steely Dan sample with Kanye's smoothest rhyme scheme. "Stronger" arrives immediately afterward, the extremely popular single that finds Kanye transforming Daft Punk's already superb track into a pop classic.
______However, K. West underestimates the importance of actually constructing rap songs, and many songs fail due to lazy, boring, or just plain stupid lines. He takes the record's most interesting sample, Can's "Sing Swan Song" on "Drunk and Hot Girls," and develops a ever-so-compelling track about, well, drunk and hot girls. "Barry Bonds" sports a decent backdrop but Lil Wayne shows up weakly on a album that so desperately needs strong guest rappers. "Homecoming" just kinda sucks, ranking drastically below Late Registration's great "Heard 'Em Say," and Kanye wastes "The Good Life"'s vibrant, futuristic beat by quoting 50 Cent and celebrating. Such celebrating succeeds when you rhyme "packagin'" with "practicin'" and "accident" in a perfectly executed rhyme scheme, but fails without any go-to one-liners.
______Thus, we arrive at the core problem: West's wit and linguistic agility has deserted him. "Through the Wire", "All Falls Down", "Gone", "Touch the Sky"...the pop rhyming and hilarious pop culture references always worked in perfect symbiosis with West's inventive production. Songs were not complete until he dropped lines about Anakin, the Ghost of Christmas Past, cutting your hair cut like Eve, groupies screwing Usher, etc. This time around, Kanye goes completely hook-crazy, providing memorable verses only on rare occassions. The wise-ass Kanye could be forgotten with ease if emotional Kanye showed to up to pick up the slack, but instead of "Jesus Walks" or "Roses", we get the melodramatic instrumentation and cheesy chorus of "Big Brother." No thoughtful commentary on AIDS, minimum wage, blood diamonds, or anything else worth talking about.
______Yeah, it is his worst yet, but also the most promising. Musically, he lands the deal; lyrically, Kanye needs to reel himself in, abandon arrogant-K and return to the more devoted confident-K, the rapper who realized he needed more than top-notch production to establish his legendary status. Maybe he has just exhausted his arsenal of clever quips, but Kanye will not be able to move forward unless he gets his mojo back and starts spitting lines "She got a light skinned friend, look like Michael Jackson/
Got a dark skinned friend, look like Michael Jackson".

Kanye West - Stronger

The Good Life (video)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Some Funny Pitchfork-related Shit

A funny article on theonion.com regarding a certain music criticism publication.

Best Music Week EVER: Animal Collective: Strawberry Jam




This week is pretty the mother of all musical excitement: the highly anticipated showdown between 50 and Kanye, the return of the Go! Team, the re-emergence of Black Francis, the stateside release of Simian Mobile Disco's super-duper Attack Decay Sustain Release. However, above the else, the record that may be 2007's best finally hits stores.
_______Whether the mainstream acknowledges it or not, Animal Collective is undeniably one the best half a dozen bands of the 21st century. They demand your full attention as they switch up their sound every album while simultaneously taking you away to their tribal paradise, and at the end of it all, you may not know what hit you. But you know it was good. Really good.
_______Strawberry Jam may be their best yet. The album's perceived "accessiblity" may gain the band a wider audience, but a record's approachability does not always translate into success. However, the record does triumph over the band's previous spectacular efforts due to its direct, unmuddled melodies and nakedly emotional vocals and lyrics. Much of Sung Tongs, as good as it was, found Avey Tare and Panda Bear harmonizing and fusing their voices with the record's swirling acoustic backdrop. As it turns out, the Collective may simply be better when offering conventional, climactic indie pop, fully imagining what Feels standouts "Grass" and "The Purple Bottle" hinted at.

Of course, this is not a revelation for most indie fans, who may have picked up the record months ago. Still, if you have not tasted the Jam yet...please try some.

Animal Collective - Winter Wonderland
Animal Collective - Fireworks

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Watch Your Motherfuckin' Mouth



Throw the "W's" up, folks! The Shaolin octet (no love for Cappadonna, sorry) finally returns in November with 8 Diagrams, the first group effort in 6 years. The GZA has proclaimed hip-hop is lacking "a main element," and that the Clan is hungry to fill the void. As he humorously described on www.wutang-corp.com, "What you heard on 36 Chambers was the hunger and the thirst," GZA analyses. "Wu-Tang Forever was quenching that thirst - like, 'Aaah, that water and food tasted so good!' I would say The W was on some, 'Let's eat again, I'm kinda hungry again.' But Iron Flag was probably like, 'Man, I don't wanna eat that right now, I'm kinda full." Apparently, for a while there, you could get away with fucking with Wu-Tang...BUT NO LONGER! Rumors originally circulated that the album was coming out in July, but now the actual release seems imminent, and we've got a track to prove it. Watch your motherfuckin' mouth....

Wu-Tang Clan - Watch Your Mouth

And just in case you forgot how silly dope mid-90s Wu was:
Wu-Tang Clan - Bring Da Ruckus
Wu-Tang Clan - Triumph

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Flying Club Cup



Little did I realize how far the process of going to college would put me behind in the music world. Due to my mind being preoccupied with other things, I somehow failed to realize that the new Beirut album was being released on September 4th. As you may have guessed by now, Beirut is one of my favorite artists. This coupled with the fact that I never miss a leak made this all the more shocking to me. Anyway, I got The Flying Club Cup a few days ago, and I think it's easily as good as Gulag Orkestar, at least after two listens. It's much lighter on the gypsy style of the first record; it gives off more of a folksy vibe to me. Anyway, enough pontificating on my part, just listen to Guyamas Sonora, which is an absolutely beautiful song.
-Erik

Beirut - Guyamas Sonora

Bout damn time



Up until yesterday, the "forthcoming" Radiohead album seemed like a mere myth. Sure, song titles have been thrown around, live bootlegs have circulated, and Thom Yorke has hinted at album's actual existence (amongst his dozens and dozens of environment-driven blog posts). Now, the band has actually "finished recording," according to guitarist/superman Jonny Greenwood. Now, of course, the real fun begins: editing, mastering, finding, you know, a label to release the thing. Here are two of the ballin' tracks that will (presumably) appear.

Radiohead - 15 Step
Radiohead - Bodysnatchers

The Year Thus Far

With two-thirds of 2007 gone already, some of us have a lot of catching up to do. Instead of trying to listen to every Pitchfork recommended record, here's a brief recap of what you should have heard as of September 8. Check it.

Simian Mobile Disco - It's the Beat

Panda Bear - Bros

LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends

The Field - A Paw In My Face

Battles - Atlas

Spoon - You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb

M.I.A. - Paper Planes

Menomena - Wet and Rusting

The Besnard Lakes - Rides the Rails

The emergence of the greatest blog the world will ever know...

Okay, a bit of an overstatement. Nonetheless, a blog named after the hilarious scene in spiderman 3 involving james franco and his love of pie can only be of a ceratin high quality. Like most modern blogs, I intend on delivering breaking news and hot new mp3s ranging from indie rock (duh) to dance (maybe just M.I.A., if you consider that dance) to hip-hop (you know, if anyone actually releases a worthwhile rap record this year). At the same time, I and my fellow editors may spontaneously post whatever older material we feel is worth hearing. You may even see a random chapter of "trapped in the closet" posted sometime.

"Artist of the Week" Video: Ghostface

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