Thursday, May 29, 2008

New Video: Weezer – Pork and Beans

Say what you will regarding the leaking-as-I’m-speaking album and Rivers Cuomo’s terrifying facial hair, but you must hand it to the =w= this time. The leadoff single Pork and Beans and its resulting video bring a dying band out of Beverly Hills and back into the realm of (le gasp!) rock credibility. And also into the Iraq.

While we’ve seen this concept before (Barenaked Ladies’ “Sound of Your Voice” clip,) it’s still an entertaining concept: Let’s pay tribute to the real heroes, the stars of YouTube! The video cameos/parodies ‘em all, from the Mentos and Coke explosion dudes to the Chocolate Rain guy. From Brolsma (Numa Numa dancer) to Kelly (OMG Shoes, betch!). Even CATS shows up to tell us that all our pork and beans are belong to them. If you are even remotely an internet nerd (which hey, let’s face it, if you’re reading an obscure music blog, then you most likely are) it’s fun to recognize the nods and nuances (hey, that opening sequence sure looked a lot like Canon Rock...). Just add this one with the Muppets and Elisha Cuthbert.

Weezer - Pork and Beans


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New Vines Single! Wait... Scratch the Excitement

As far as guilty pleasures go, 2006's Vision Valley was my quick stop and shop for rock and roll. The Vines' much-maligned 3rd album (following their much-maligned first and second albums) did its job, adequately playing guitar really loud for thirty minutes before getting the fuck out of the way. And it contained a hand-full of gems to boot; "Don't Listen To The Radio" is easily the best single in the band's repetoire.

LP4 for the Aussie trio is out on July 12. It's called Melodia, and based on first single "He's A Rocker", it's going to sound exactly like every other Vines album. So despite trying my hardest to feign an interest in Craig Nichols' work nowadays, that doesn't stop "He's A Rocker" from being a terrible, terrible song. If you thought The Vines' sound was generic beforehand, this completely lazy, incompetant effort makes half the cuts off Vision Valley sound like In Utero. Sample lyric: "Once there was a young man/ no one could understand/ wasting time every day/ he got nothing to say." Cue the chorus of "All he ever played was that rock and roll music, rock and roll music, yeah." Okay, so they're still a few albums away from their OK Computer, but hey, check out all those bands they beat out for the cover of Rolling Stone in 2002.

The full album review is coming in July, but with expected song titles such as "Get Out", "Hey", and "Scream", you can expect a lot of other songs that sound like "Ride." Until then, visit if you want to go off your "rocker" as well.


Friday, May 23, 2008

New Music: The Hold Steady, Silver Jews

The lead singles from two of the summer most anticipated rock records...yay! From the Hold Steady's forthcoming Stay Positive LP, we get "Sequestered in Memphis," which follows the Steady's typical Springsteen/Replacements blueprint, and from the Silver Jews forthcoming Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea, we get "Strange Victory, Strange Defeat," which follows the Jews' typical humorous, Reckoning-like blueprint. Yeah, no surprises here, but, hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

The Hold Steady - Sequestered in Memphis
Silver Jews - Strange Victory, Strange Defeat

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The New Beck Single is Hot (Wax Residue)

Okay, so Beck's forthcoming eighth major-label LP still doesn't have a definitive title or release date (though all signs point to it being called Modern Guilt and a June release), but he's released the first of the ten new tracks, entitled "Chemtrails", on his website. He's describing the album as "sixties-style rock", and the single is certainly a departure from the oddities of Guero and electro-rap psychojargon of The Information. Though its spacious structure initially brings Sea Change to mind, the paw prints of producer Danger Mouse are all over this one, bringing his usual abundance of cymbal crashes and effectively juxtaposing the chorus with Beck's lyrics of "so many people" with the dissonant image of one man alone at a polar icecap.... or something to that effect. Seems that Mr. Hansen and Mr. Mouse could well become a formidable team.

In other mid-90's rock news, temperatures are indeed rising at the rotten Oasis. The Brit-rockers have announced a new album in a catalogue that's qualitiy eerily resembles that of the six Star Wars films. Observe:

Definately Maybe/ A New Hope= new and exciting, critically acclaimed.
What's the Story/ The Empire Strikes Back= arguably better than its predecessor.
Be Here Now/ Return of the Jedi= initially worshipped, looked back on in reterospect somewhat unfavorably.
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants/ Phantom Menace: high expectations, dreadful results.
Heathen Chemistry/ Attack of the Clones: unfathomably awful.
Don't Believe the Truth/ Revenge of the Sith: alleged returns to form. In actuality, quite bad.

Someone should tell Noel there's a reason that George Lucas didn't make Episode 7.

Go to for all your "Chemtrails" needs.


Coldplay: Music Video

The music video for Coldplay's first new single Violet Hill is up on

Check it out
Violet Hill

Monday, May 19, 2008

New Release: Islands - Arm's Way

I couldn't get up the motivation to write a full review for the Islands' sophomore LP, Arm's Way, but I felt I should highlight it anyway, because it's pretty stellar. It's kind of a creepier, more menacing record than Return to the Sea, particularly due to the ominous, cinematic strings and Nick Thorburn (nee Diamonds) singing about getting stabbed and being evil and hemorrhaging and getting attacked by dogs and stuff. It's hard to feel intimidated by Arm's Way, though; Thorburn offers such joyful, irresistible melodies that the album just can't muster the malice for which its often aims. This doesn't make it any worse, just not quite as large a departure from Sea as some might have expected. Still, many of the songs defy orthodox song structures, sometimes ignoring choruses altogether to make room for spontanenous danceable, Calypso-tinged passages (check the end of "J’aime vous voire quitter") and Beach Boys-type harmonizing. Nonetheless, nothing ever feels indulgent, but rather amusingly loose and impulsive, and altogether fun and unassuming. Essentially, though it's not quite as playful as Thorburn's previous work, Islands fans will eat this shit up. And really, I hope everyone does.

Take a listen:

Saturday, May 17, 2008

New Music: Raekwon (featuring Ghostface Killah)

I've been a little light on the posting as of late, but of course I had to return for...Rae and Ghost! Yeah, this new joint, entitled "Jihad," is apparently off of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II, and while the beat is nothing to write home about, Raekwon certainly continues his hot streak. Ya know, the one that includes guest appearances on Ghost's last two records, his verses on 8 Diagrams, and his work on the fantastic lead single from Big Boi's upcoming solo record. Ghostface's rhymes are hardly his best, but he still spits some decent ones here in describing, uh, getting a blowjob, which somehow causes a rift between him and one of his boys or something. Anyway, and most importantly, "Jihad" provides some real and much needed evidence that OB4CL II may actually exist. But honestly, I wouldn't be shocked if it, along with Chinese Democracy and Tha Carter III, never sees the light of day.

(from the forthcoming Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Record Review: Death Cab for Cutie: Narrow Stairs

The popular indie pop band follows up their 2005 hit-or-miss affair Plans with a darker, more adventurous, more consistent record, one that occassionally falls short but always sounds more interesting than Death Cab normally does.

Rating: 3.5/5

I am not afraid to admit it: I was, in fact, fully and completely duped by the April Fools fake leak of Narrow Stairs. Eventually I looked up the lyrics to discover that, yeah, I had downloaded the Velveteen album. I was mildly annoyed at first, but then got over it, and ultimately the fake leak provided a valuable service. The Velveteen record is quite shitty, in my opinion, and really forced me to open my eyes and concede that Death Can for Cutie aren’t as run-of-the-mill as I sometimes make them out to be. Velveteen is mediocre; DCDC is an occasionally boring but often enjoyable indie pop band. I bitch quite a bit that Death Cab frontman Ben Gibbard should spend his time with Dntel working on a sophomore Postal Service record, but I tried to approach Narrow Stairs with an open mind and offer a fair and balanced view.

And ya know what? Narrow Stairs isn't bad. It's a somewhat adventurous, often compelling, very focused work that doesn’t always nail the target, but always knows what it's trying to hit. Overall, the record, as you might have guessed from the band’s comments, is a considerably darker batch of songs than we’re used to from Death Cab and, even if it isn’t as musically experimental as it was hyped up to be, frequently finds the band pushing their own limits through fuzzy guitars, prog-tinged instrumental stretches, and shadowy, despair-drenched lyrical terrain. Which is to say, this is the sound of unsettling.

When the more dangerous sound works, it works quite well. On opener “Bixby Canyon Bridge,” Gibbard’s gentle vocals float nicely above quivering guitars, then gradually fade back into the mix as the track smoothly and decisively transitions from a clean, quiet ballad to a feedback-driven jam. The evolution of the next song, the epic lead single “I Will Possess Your Heart,” is even more impressive: four-and-a-half moody, ominous instrumental minutes over which the band seamlessly, constantly gains momentum, perfectly setting up Gibbard’s menacing, almost psychotic performance on the song’s back half. Both “No Sunlight” and “You Can Do Better Than Me” nicely juxtapose sunny, upbeat backdrops with sad, hopeless lyrics. The heart-breaking “Cath…” is perhaps best of all, the tale of a woman trapped in a loveless marriage, a tale told superbly by Gibbard.

And really, Gibbard owns this album. Yeah, his pop hooks and emo-ish tenor have been the stars of every Death Cab album, but on Narrow Stairs’ highlights, Gibbard steps his game to a new level, poetically contemplating decaying idealism, broken dreams, forest fires, and other sources of loss, fear, and uncertainty. Nothing here matches previous DCFC standouts like “Pictures in an Exhibition,” “Tiny Vessels,” or “Soul Meets Body,” but Stairs features more good songs than any Death Cab record has in quite some time, largely due to Gibbard’s stirring words.

Still, the album also offers several songs that are merely okay, not bad by any means but relatively pedestrian nonetheless. “Your New Twin-Sized Bed” is a mildly catchy but unspectacular typical Death Cab joint, while “Long Division” stands as the album’s one true lyrical misstep, a tale of a troubled relationship that Gibbard cringe-inducingly represents through the metaphor of long division (“And they carried on/Like long division”). The exotic drumming that begins “Pity and Fear” is an interesting sonic touch, but neither the refrain nor the distortion-fueled back stretch really demand repeated listens. “Talking Bird” is well-written and solidly executed, but sounds flat and purposeless when sandwiched between two superior cuts.

That being said, the gap between the crests and troughs of Narrow Stairs really isn’t that large. The weakest moments are listenable, the highlights aren’t mind-blowing, and overall, Death Cab’s latest LP is a consistent, slightly challenging slice of indie pop. I’m still waiting for Give Up II, but that doesn’t overshadow the fact that Death Cab for Cutie have made a decent album, one that commendably takes the band a little bit out of their comfort zone.

Death Cab for Cutie - I Will Possess Your Heart

Buy: Amazon Insound MySpace

Monday, May 5, 2008

Frank Black Cannot Possibly Have Fallen This Far

Frank Black is opening for the newly reunited Stone Temple Pilots. There's soooo much wrong with this situation. To sum it up into one tidy statement, Frank Black is a god among men, and Scott Weiland is still, a decade and a half after STP conquered the world with hits like "Plush," "Interstate Love Song," and the "Half the man I used to be" song, a thoroughly coked out Cobain wannabe.

(slowly shaking head in despair) How the mighty have fallen.... :(

Record Review: No Age: Nouns

The LA-based noise-punk duo releases its second album, its first on Sub Pop.

Rating: 4.5/5

Weirdo Rippers was good. It was enthusiastic, raw, focused, simultaneously pretty and aggressive, and, clocking in at barely over a half hour, easy to listen to. No Age perfectly interspersed the album’s gentle, buzzing drones with moments of melody and three chord punk energy, and while the record’s style was neither revolutionary nor complex, it was loose, approachable, and not at all indulgent, allowing it succeed where many noise rock albums fail.

However, not everyone loved No Age’s static-y, lo-fi aesthetic, and to many listeners that album likely seemed downright boring, even oft-putting. Nouns features the same general approach, and thus, like Weirdo Rippers, may have a limited fanbase. At the same time, the album offers a tighter and more pop-oriented songwriting style, and may appeal to some of those listeners who couldn’t get into No Age’s debut. Even with singer Dean Spunt’s vocals still submerged in a wave of fuzz, melody shines through on nearly every song, with drone kept to a minimum and hooks taking center stage throughout the record.

Of course, a pig in a dress is still a pig; that is, a more pop sensible, structured sound means nothing if the songs themselves aren’t good. Nouns’ success rides on the fact that these songs are, at their base, quite terrific, and that the duo doesn’t try to overextend itself at any point. Time after time, No Age does things Psychocandy-style: find a simple yet catchy melody/chord progression, bury it in distortion, and draw each idea out to its natural conclusion, never, fortunately, pushing a song past two or three minutes. No Age isn't as spastic or unpredictable this time around, and there is a relative lack of Rippers-type minimalist, subdued moments on Nouns, but the slight (and it is truly slight) shift in style ultimately makes this record more enjoyable and consistent than its predecessor.

And occasionally, such as “Keechie” and “Errand Boy,” the due does revisit the whirring ambience that characterized much of thier previous work. However, tracks like lead single “Eraser” steal the show. “Eraser” doesn’t kick into gear until nearly a minute and a half in, and even then the lyrics are near indecipherable, but No Age sound so invigorated and inspired during the final minute, and like they’re having so much fun, that it’s hard not to enjoy it. This song, and the whole album, is just a seamless showcase of No Age’s ability to channel their emotion and liveliness into tight, irresistible, feedback-driven blasts.

Two albums into their career, No Age have already elevated themselves into the noise rock elite. Their genre may be well explored, but No Age never sound like any old Sonic Youth/Pavement/Spacemen 3-derived newcomer. Rather, the duo’s dirty, fuzzy bursts are entirely their own, exhibiting two musicians in tune with each other and in command of their forceful, exuberant sound. Weirdo Rippers was good, but Nouns not only one-ups No Age’s already strong debut, but also stands as one 2008’s best albums thus far.

No Age - Eraser