Sunday, October 21, 2007

Spoon: Live At The Electric Factory

Hailing from Austin, TX, Spoon have really made a name for themselves on the indie circuit as of late. In fact, I would go so far as to say that with the release of their most recent album, "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga," Spoon have established themselves as the most consistent American indie rock band since Pavement. I got lucky enough to be able to see them play in Philly the past Friday night, and I can tell you that they were absolutely amazing.

I honestly didn't know what to expect out of these guys live when I first walked into the venue. Spoon are one of my favorite bands, but I did not have any grasp at all on what they would sound like live. Unfortunately, opening band The Ponys failed to show up, for some shady reason that I really don't remember. We then just stood around until 9:30 or so, when Spoon took the stage. They immediately jumped into a string of 4 or 5 songs, not even so much as taking a break in between.

When they did finally stop to talk with the audience, I was surprised at lead singer Britt Daniel's stage presence. At one point I could distinctly smell marijuana smoke, and not a few minutes later, Britt smelled it too and asked if someone could pass it up to him. It wasn't the greatest stage presence I've ever seen or anything, but he did a good job of keeping the audience amused.

I think they played about 26 songs overall: 8 from "Ga," a surprising 8 from "Gimme Fiction," 5 from "Kill the Moonlight," 3 from "Girls Can Tell," and two other songs, The Minor Tough, off "A Series of Sneaks," and the song they opened with, which I didn't recognize. Overall, as much as I would have liked more songs off GCT, the set was a solid mix between old and new. Their new songs are so good that it doesn't really matter anyway.

From where I was in the fourth row, the sound was great. I really thought that after the first few songs, the sound guys really got the levels perfect. Britt's voice sounded great, as did the rest of the band. Plus they brought out horns for a few songs off the new record. The horn section even played on Stay Don't Go and Jonathon Fisk, which were totally awesome because of it. Overall, this was a great show; Spoon really rocked it out. My favorite songs as performed were The Fitted Shirt and Jonathon Fisk. I recommend seeing them if you ever get the chance. I also recommend listening to these songs if you've never heard them.

Spoon - Rhthm and Soul
Spoon - The Fitted Shirt

Monday, October 15, 2007

TI apparently arming small militia

On the same day his record TI v TIP took home the Album of the Year at the BET Hip-Hop Awards, TI was arrested on gun charges. TI's bodyguard attempted to buy three machine guns, two silencers, and a pistol without registering them and was subsequently arrested. He claimed he bought the guns for TI, and a search of of TI's car turned up three firearms, plus six more found in TI's Atlanta-area home. Now we know why Mr. Clifford Harris was cast in a film called American Gangster.

Got the courthouse yellin', "Bring em out! Bring em out!"

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Radiohead: In Rainbows

It took four years, but it's finally here. And it's good. Really good. That pretty much goes without question. The big question everyone has been asking: "Where does it fall in the band's discography?" Tough to answer, but we'll get to that in a little bit. First off, let's look at the album's individual merits.

Musically, the Kid A/Amnesiac sessions may have been the band's final frontier. Even if I had not heard each track off In Rainbows (excluding "Faust Arp") months ago from live bootlegs, nothing here would have thrown me for a loop. At the same time, Radiohead manage to reincorporate aspects almost all of their previous works flawlessly, creating a familiar yet fresh set of tracks.

In Rainbows is the band's most straightforward, traditional set of songs to date, or at least since the 1990s. Sure, "15 Step" features that "Idioteque"-type drum beat, and "All I Need" is built on a deep, rumbling synth. However, for the most part, Thom Yorke's vocals and lyrics are as direct and clear as they have ever been, and while the multi-guitart attack remains beautifully intact, most of the songs feature an actual guitar hook (gasp!).

For instance, opener "15 Step" consists of little more than frantic, techno drums and an uncomplicated (yet instantly catchy) guitar line that rolls through the chorus. Sure, Yorke's vocals start to echo during the second refrain, a group of children scream out at a couple points (yeah, it's kinda weird), and the band (presumably Ed O'Brien) throws some background noise in during the track's back half. For someone completely unfamiliar with Radiohead, the song would hint that Kid A exists, but the eerie synths and various electronic bells and whistles that characterized much of their last three albums (not all of Hail, but a good portion of it) are either absent or taking a backseat to serene, R&B-tinged guitar. Yes, the drums sound like Selway circa 2000, but its the chill yet lively juxtaposing guitar that creates the song's dramatic chemistry and signifies the band's shift back toward old-school Radiohead.

These types of subtleties drive In Rainbows to superb heights. Radiohead have not lost their sense of structure or nuance over the four year break, as the record ranks among their previous works despite being the least aggressive of their guitar-driven material. For example, "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" moves steadily along with Jonny Greenwood's elegant arpeggios on guitar, but then brilliantly shifts to (what I believe is) a xylaphone when Yorke cries out "eaten by worms/and weird fishes". This lyric is the song's emotional focal point, and the ever-so-slight musical alteration breathes new life into an already mesmerizing track and perfectly highlights Yorke's key moment. The song never reaches that explosive climax (such as "Exit Music" or "Fake Plastic Trees"), but it doesn't have to in order to make its point. Essentially, In Rainbows asserts that the band may never return to the level of epic mastery once showcased on The Bends and OK Computer, but still kick everybody's ass by maintaining an extraordinary level of precision, focus, and artistic vision.

While viewing Radiohead albums as a whole is always vital, these songs are just as great taken as individual works. Many fans (including myself) love to hear the band throw themselves into overdrive for the grinding, relentless "Bodysnatchers". Believe it or not, the band can still rock, even if nothing else on the album comes close to matching this early adrenaline rush ("Reckoner" [fortunately] holds none of the punk fury that characterized its original version). Despite the refreshing high energy of "Bodysnatchers", the quieter moments are the core of In Rainbows, from the gentle yet unsettling, long-time-in-the-making "Nude", to the aforementioned "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi", to the startlingly catchy acoustic ditty "Faust Arp".

The two best moments are two tense Yorke ballads: "All I Need", which builds from a simple, cavernous synth to a tornado of piano, chimes, and clattering drums, marking one of the key emotional punches of the record. The other centerpiece, "House of Cards", marks the record's most creative moment as Radiohead exhibit shades of soul music for the first time in their career. This may prove divisive among some fans, but the track is undeniably Radiohead. Whether or not you like Jonny Greenwood's breezy guitar hook, it's hard to deny Thom Yorke's sweeping, heartfelt vocals. The track stands as the most touching moment on In Rainbows and one of the warmest and nakedly emotional tracks in the Radiohead catalogue.

Despite the musical comparisons many fans are making between In Rainbows and OK Computer (and there is some ground for such comparison), this time around the lyrics seem less apocalyptic, less about crashing airplanes, child abuse, technology's corruption of society, or star-crossed lovers dying and joining each other in everlasting bliss. Yorke's lyrics are often quite basic, distinguishably more focused on love than dystopia.

Still, these aren't typical love songs, as his pessimism, uncertainty, anxiety, and weary sarcasm dominate the mood. His proclamation of "You're all I need" seems likes a lovely lyric, but the song's verses (rich with unnerving animal imagery) express a desire to escape ("I'm just an insect/Trying to get out of the night") and a feeling of claustrophobia and suffocation ("I'm an animal/Trapped in your hot car"). Of course, it's a Thom Yorke (ie. consumed with doubt) song, so as soon as he screams "It's all wrong" he immediately fires back "It's all right". On "House of Cards", his sexual frustration is obvious ("I don't wanna be your friend/I just wanna be your lover") as he (seemingly) tries to draw a woman into a forbidden affair ("Throw your keys in the bowl/Kiss your husband 'good night'/Forget about your house of cards/And I'll do mine"). And yes, Yorke occasionally touches on larger-than-life, more philosophical material as well, such as the slightly melodramatic, death-obsessed "Videotape". Still, Yorke's weariness on "Faust ARP" may very well trigger the album's most entertaining line: "I love you but enough is enough."

One way or another, what you take from In Rainbows lyrically honestly does not matter nearly as much as what you are certain to take from the record's gloriously lush backdrop. The band's abandonment of glitchy, atmospheric pieces like "Backdrifts" and "The Gloaming" means a reemergence of Thom Yorke as a songwriter as opposed to just another element of the group's electronic landscapes. Thus, In Rainbows marks a return to form of sorts and stands as the most gripping, compelling Radiohead record since Kid A.

This is not to say that Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief are not superb, because they undeniably are. Most artists' faults result in a fall from good music to average music; Radiohead's missteps translate into a fall from ridiculously good to simply exceptional. Still, when dealing with a band of Radiohead's caliber, the slightest missteps can cost an album a higher spot on the discography depth chart. At times, even with a near perfect band dynamic, Radiohead seemed to be running out of creative steam. The post-"Knives Out" section of Amnesiac lagged in comparison to Kid A and the album's first half, while Hail occasionally felt interesting and well-executed without actually being great. On In Rainbows, the band feels reenergized and liberated, a group of musicians fully comfortable, perhaps even creatively enhanced, without a record label and the accompanying pressures. The tight tracklist and extensive recording time has resulted in one of the bands most consistent and rewarding albums.

Yeah, so In Rainbows probably lands at about a 9.4 or 9.5, for those Pitchforkians who like to quantify music. It's a distinguishable step up from the last two records, but bands very rarely ever return to their absolute best after slipping even the slightest bit, and Radiohead is no exception. Don't say it's as good The Bends, OK Computer, or Kid A, because it isn't. Album of the year? Maybe. Considering how juiced up 2007 has been (two albums in particular which I will not mention right now), I probably would not take it over the field right now, but I would take it over The Field (I'm sorry, but how often do I get a chance to make jokes related to electronic minimalism?). One way or another, In Rainbows adds yet another thrilling chapter to the career of one of the greatest bands the world will ever know and reminds us all that Radiohead is 100 times better than any other band on the planet. The bonus disc better be bad, because it would be just unfair for Radiohead to be any better.

You want mp3s? Just go get the album...for FREE!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Brain malfunctioning...on third oh about your house of cards, and I'll deal mine.

Full review soon.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Onion: the hilarity that never ends

After Pitchfork gave music a 6.8 and the State Department warned people about high threat levels due to the airing of "that Full House episode where they meet the Beach Boys", The Onion delivers another gem. Read it and laugh:

Favorite quote: "When he came home, he did not characteristically stomp into the house and grumble about how the 'stupid American people should just be shot,'" Mrs. Cheney said. "Instead, he bent down to scratch the dog behind his ears instead of kicking him, and kissed me off-camera for the first time in 10 years."

Friday, October 5, 2007

A Couple Months Behind, But Still Worth Mentioning: El-P

The new El-P dropped a couple months ago, so I'm a bit behind, but it was one of those records I picked up and then didn't get a chance to listen to. However, I finally gave it a spin, and it kicked ass. Unsurprisingly, I immediately recalled Funcrusher Plus and The Cold Vein, for the record rides the typical Definitive Jux, gritty, apocalyptic sound. However, all the lurking, unsettling, otherworldy synths and bells and whistles would all be just chaotic if not for El-P's intricate, visionary production. It's still chaos, but it's calculated and focused.

This overall focus drives a record that would be great as a solely instrumental one, but is ten times better with the El-P's perfectly accompanying flow. His words are pessimistic, agressive, wrenching, and over the course of the album paint a vivid, highly thoughtful picture of a dystopian future. As with 2002's Fantastic Damage, critics have (accurately) labeled I'll Sleep When You're Dead as a post-9/11 record, one that explores the fear, uncertainty, and paranoia of the world following the terrorist attacks.

While he commands skill on the mic, the lyrics themselves and not the delivery make the album so compelling. Essentially, it's pure poetry, at once urgent and articulate, both emotionally charged and perfectly expressed. On "Run the Numbers", he spits, "The boys and girls club of unemployable liars squadren/Silly peasant pathetic plus dirty mutt of the ages/OK dystopia, these fuckers are ripe for containment/Half dead man slut ever ready to love my leader/Servitude is contagious". This is just one of the gajillion instances I could highlight, for El-P seems to have an endless pit of things to say.

And I'm not talking about fifty different ways to say "I got shot nine times" or "I get money". This is real rap music, a reminder of how artistic hip-hop can be when it wants to. El-P's still rocks considerable wit on the mic ("C'mon, ma, can I borrow the keys?/My generation is carpooling with doom and disease/Buckle up, skipper/The new american Asterix/You're riding shotty with Jesus of Nascar-eth"), but does so without any bullshit. And for all you indie hipsters out there, Chan Marshall drops in for album closer "Posenville Kids No Wins / Reprise (This Must Be Our Time)". How you like them apples?!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Good Arrows

I often find myself criticized for disliking folk music and singer songwriters. Sometimes it's just tough for me to find the "beauty" in someone crooning over soft acoustic guitar strums. If more folk artists want me to listen to their music, they should take a quick lesson from Tunng. The British collective use some traditional folk structures, but add their own distinctive twist.

Tunng uses an array of percussion "instruments" which include anything but a traditional drum kit. Driven by this unique percussion, electronics and other instruments are wielded to add more depth to Good Arrows. This electronic instrumentation is not new to Tunng; their previous work has appropriately earned them the classification of "folktronica."

What is new to Tunng is consistently good songwriting. On previous efforts, songs seemed to be stretched to fit the obscure instrumentation rather than the instrumentation fitting great songs. "Bricks" exemplifies this change as it begins with guitar bends over a reversed sample. An acoustic strum is introduced and quickly accompanied by bells, synthesizer, percussion, and more reversed samples. Relaxed and melodic vocals fill not only this song, but the entire album with catchy melodies and perfectly placed harmonies. Personal favorite "Bullets" is driven by a beat that sounds like it is carried out through rattles and stomping and a bouncy bass and synthesized horn section.

In addition to almost perfectly crafted songs, Genders' lyrics are spot-on. Just like music, Genders perfectly fits unique imagery to the songs. "He crawls into her aorta / To pull him out of his reverie / And mentally puts her back together / With sticks and glue until she breathes" he sings on "Hands."

Tunng has put together a very solid effort here, truly exploring the bounds of folk. Meshing together a multitude of samples, percussion techniques, synthesized sounds, and consistent songwriting, Tunng gives us one of the better releases of the year. Perhaps I should give folk more of a chance - no - Perhaps folk artists should be more like Tunng.

Tunng - Bullets

Beatles' sample wasn't anything to fuck with

OK, so the original report that Wu-Tang used the first legal Beatles sample on their new single "Heart Gently Weeps" was erroneous. However, the RZA didn't need it to create a kick ass beat, as "Heart Gently Weeps" trumps the other new Wu track "Watch Your Mouth" by a couple miles. While his Cuban Linx-enthusiasm seems to have permanently passed away, Raekwon shows dishes a better verse here than on "Watch", while Method Man meanwhile shows up for a brief, effective appearance. Still, Ghostface (mostly rap, partly sing) drives the track alongside that infectiously catchy xylophone (maybe piano? vibraphone?) line that lends the track the emotion and flavor that "Watch Your Mouth" sorely lacked. Unfortunately, the release date for 8 Diagrams has been pushed to December, but it's not like anyone needs anything to listen after October 10.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

It was not my intention to hurt any one's feelings with my list of top 10 Electioneers songs. I am very proud to have once called myself a member of the band and I am very impressed by what they have accomplished. I meant what I said in the comments about each song and I am not apologizing for them. I just want to make it clear that I was not writing this because I was out to get anyone. I actually like these songs.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Iron And Wine: Live At The 9:30 Club

This past Saturday I took an excursion down to Baltimore/DC to see Iron and Wine in concert. The following is a summary of the events that took place.

10:30 AM: I embark on a mission to find myself an FM transmitter, in order to listen to my iPod on the way down. It's a 2.5 hour drive from my house to Baltimore, and I wasn't about to go without music. Of course, the Radio Shack I've gone to in the local mall for 19 years is now closed, unbeknownst to me, so I spent the good part of an hour looking for outlets which sell such a transmitter. Once I finally found one, I was ecstatic; I plugged it in and got on my way.

1:20 PM: I innocently begin to listen to OK Computer for the first time in months. I like to think this had some effect on Radiohead's earth-shattering announcement regarding In Rainbows.

2:15 PM: I finally arrive at MICA in Baltimore, where my good friend Emily attends college. Emily and I, as well as her mother and her friend Nick, were the ones who were going to the concert. I got a parking pass, parked my car, and went over to Emily's apartment. I must say, it's a lot nicer than what we have here at Lehigh. But anyway, once Nick came down from his apartment upstairs, the four of us got into Emily's mom's car, and we set off for Silver Spring, MD. The show tonight is an early show.

3:45 PM: We arrive in Silver Spring. We are traveling to DC via the metro, and we can park for free in Silver Spring. The waiting for the train took forever, but luckily Emily and Nick had enough art school stories to amuse me for the time being.

5:00 PM: We arrive in downtown Washington, DC; U Street to be exact. We quickly stop at a cafe, since I have not eaten since the morning, plus doors don't open until 6:30. I get a grilled cheese.

6:30 PM: Well, the moment has arrived. Even though it is no longer in the same building as it was back in its heyday, I have always wanted to visit the 9:30 Club. It is essentially Philly's Electric Factory, but it utilizes the space it has a lot better. We go on the upper level and take a seat for the opening act.

7:23 PM: Arthur and Yu come on to warm us up for Iron and Wine. Unfortunately, they were rather bland and generic; their studio layering I read about didn't translate for them well live. They also played 10 songs for about 50 minutes, which is too much for an opening band. Especially one that didn't captivate me. Sorry, guys.

8:41 PM: Finally, what we had all been waiting for: Iron and Wine. We headed down to the lower standing room level for them. I have always pictured Iron and Wine as just Sam Beam, but on this tour he is apparently playing with an 8 piece band, which is awesome. They played most of the new record, including such songs as "Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car," "Carousel" and "House By the Sea." Actually, I'm fairly confident they played at least 10 songs off the new record. But they also played many old favorites, like "Sodom, South Georgia" and an awesome sped-up version of "Jezebel." Keep in mind that all of these songs were played by a full band, which makes for a very interesting sound, especially on "Wolves (Song of the Shepherd's Dog)," where the faux-reggae jamming turned out to be very cool. As Nick said, it "sounded like Matisyahu."

9:52 PM: Sam, by himself, comes out and gives us an encore of "Naked As We Came." It was absolutely beautiful, similar to when I saw Sufjan Stevens. He was also with a rather large band, about 20 piece, and he came out by himself to encore with "The Dress Looks Nice On You" and "To Be Alone With You." That's still my favorite encore of all time. But this one was good too.

12:30 AM: Emily and I arrive back at MICA, both completely exhausted, so we go to sleep. As I lay on the half-size futon in her living room, I look back on this great concert. And I can't fall asleep because her roommates are playing Katamari Damacy at an obnoxious volume.

Iron and Wine - Naked As We Came

PS. I apologize if any of my remarks in the Electioneers post below were taken seriously. I legitimately like all of the songs I put on that list; I don't seriously mean half of what I said. I can't speak for Zack, however.

Radiohead?? Psh, whatever.

With the announcing of their new album, Radiohead is on most of our minds right now. But we (Erik and Zack) would like to take this opportunity to remind Radiohead of its place in the hierarchy of musical artists. And the only way this can be done is by making the list of the top ten greatest Electioneers songs ever written and performed.


Honorable Mention: Spoonfed
Matt Gasda perfectly captures the uncertainty and disbelief that are synonymous with one's teen years through his epic lyrics.
10. Skywriter
An Electioneers classic.

The first song which showed that Mike's vocal ability was almost as good as Matt's.

8. I Thought Red Light Meant Go
This song always reminds me attention to traffic control devices.

The captivating story of Tom and his younger brother dreaming about the sky and the sea.
6. Go Slowly
This is the only Electioneers song where Matt's organ actually compliments the music. Just kidding...

Great vocals and excellent piano make this Matt Gasda's finest effort.

4. So Much for the Sun
This song is the reason that The Electioneers desired Ethan Stevenson as a band member. For his...saxophone.

An unreleased gem.
2. Saved
I've always been a fan of Matt's piano in the verses. Also, great drum work.

I really Mike's guitar work and the drumming...and basically everything about this song. (It's actually not that great, but it's still the Electioneers' best song.)


Honorable Mention: Lights Lay Down
A good low-key song that handicapped each band member and allowed Mike to show off his fiendish guitar skillz.
10. Skywriter
A fusion of everything that was right about the Electioneers.

9. Driving at Night
A rhythmic song that warned us about the possibility of making a wrong turn and dying.

8. Untitled
Good guitar work. Enough said.

7. Be
Terrific song. Mike's vocals really compliment the melody well. I also liked the layered drumming. Especially since the beginning of the song starts with one drummer and picks up halfway through with another drummer. Evidence of a transitional period in Electioneeers history.

Matt's piano is very good in this song. He also works the vocals in nicely. Good drum fills, which I can appreciate. The jam towards the end is a good way to end the song.

5. Saved
I have to admit that my ranking of this song is very biased. I like the drumming...ha. And this reminds of the good ole days when getting kicked out of bars for being underage was a norm. The live performance of this song is brilliant because of 2 things...Ethan Stevenson...and a tambourine. This song would have been higher on the list if the top 4 weren't stacked with instant classics.

4. So Much for the Sun
Mike really makes this song with the guitar solo. I like the rhythm piano throughout as well. Both of these are complimented by a fantastic saxophone performance by Ethan during live shows. Really the only thing preventing this song from being higher on the list is the mediocre drumming.

3. Go Slowly
A good rock song. The piano and guitar work very well together in this song. I really like rhythm section and the buildup in the verse. Well placed claps as well. Very impressed with Mike's vocals.

A little darker as far as Electioneers songs go. The layered guitar helps this song out a lot. Matt's piano during the chorus is very cool too. I never really appreciated it until recently. Great song overall.

This has always been my favorite Electioneers song. It is a brilliant rock song and was always the most fun for me to play. I think it's just a very energetic song and is enjoyable to listen to.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Don't Talk to Me Until After October 10-In Rainbows is here

Words cannot describe how awesome Radiohead's announcement was. No label, no waiting period, and-the best part-no price! I personally paid a reasonable eight dollars to support the greatest band in the history of mankind. The whole situation is really quite surreal and fascinating for multiple reasons. Pitchfork summarizes it quite nicely: "What Radiohead's doing here is actually pretty cool. Rather than preface their new album's release with the usual three months of press ballyhoo, only to have it leak at some random time before it comes out, they've kept it completely under wraps, then essentially gone and leaked it themselves. What's more, they've turned this into a moral question of sorts, by giving us the freedom to pay actual money for what amounts to an album leak."
______On top of this, we will get another disc of brand new material when the deluxe edition becomes available in December. So essentially we'll have two albums worth of Radiohead material (most of which was superb on live bootlegs) and presumably we'll get tour dates at soem point. Score one for the good guys.

Live R-Head: