Archive for March, 2011
The 90s: when major labels were still producing good music; when music videos were broadcast on MTV; and when boy bands coexisted with grunge, punk, and rap. A few weeks ago NPR predicted the return of the 90s: NPR’s “The 90s Are Back, Or Whatever”
George and I have been forecasting the revival of the 90s since the beginning of Aphera.
NPR missed some of these winners…
Marilyn Manson “Sweet Dreams”
Weezer “Say It Ain’t So”
Eminem “My Name Is”
Elliott Smith “Sweet Adeline”
Dr. Dre “Nothin But A G Thang”
Radiohead “Paranoid Android”
The Offspring “Pretty Fly for a White Guy”
Green Day “Longview”
Fatboy Slim “Rockafeller Skank”
Korn “Freak On a Leash”
Beck “Where It’s At”
House of Pain “Jump Around”
Beastie Boys “Intergalactic”
Sublime “Doin Time”
DJ Shadow “Number Song”
The Smashing Pumpkins “Soma”
We’re going to blame it on the food coma, red wine and hour of the night. George, Alexander and I wrote Aphera’s Top Ten Albums of 2010 on Christmas Eve at like 3 am after having consumed way too much of our mom’s delicious food and red wine. The result, we were so frantically trying to finish our list and go to bed, that we totally missed Santa delivering our gifts, and the several mishaps that occurred in our list.
So we’d like to apologize for the really inadequate writing that accompanied our list and some of the bizarre choices – Arcade Fire? You can take my word for it. I had nothing to say about the album. Please don’t go back and read the post.
In order to fix this catastrophe we are beginning a “Revisiting 2010” series. We are going to start this series with our greatest injustice – Not including MGMT.
Here is George reviewing MGMT’s Congratulations. The album is being placed at 5.5 on our Top Ten List. Below, George’s review and our reasons for touching something so sacred and eternal as a top ten list.
I can’t figure out if I want to reorder the list and put MGMT’s Congratulations in fifth to bump back Plastic Beach or behind Teen Dream to take seventh; it’s really grown on me as of lately so unfortunately I don’t have the hindsight to rank properly. Perhaps this defeats the point of doing a re-ranking at all but as for now I’m okay with merely undoing the injustice of leaving this album off the list entirely. This album reaches out to the listener in a very particular way that only a band like MGMT can. They were given prominent stages at festivals and radio airplay out the wazoo for their wonderfully poppy hits from Oracular Spectacular. This immediate stardom gave the Benjamin Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden of MGMT the means and the supposed right to make the next album with total creative freedom. The result shocked and repelled casual listeners. Most past reviewers of the album have touched upon this cautionary tale of premature development but I’m willing to take a different approach; the band did everything they could have and should have. The raw and expansive sounds of the album likely represent the true colors of the band and to disregard these and play into the demands of the audience is exactly the kind of thing that ruins bands. See beloved Thom Yorke on the subject here. Aside from the idealogical reasons for enjoying the album, it’s also perfectly playful and perfectly sentimental, full of Scooby-Doo moments, homages to the late greats, brilliant melodies and song structures like you’d expect Tarantino to come up with if he wrote music.
Middle of a gchat conversation:
“Not your typical ladykiller right?” says George.
“Ladykiller,” I think. “Where do I always hear that?”
The answer is Okkervil River’s “Girl In Port.” I scanned my itunes to find the song and immediately found myself re-hooked to Okkervil. What a great time to rekindle that relationship; Okkervil is schedule to release their new album this year on May 10th.
I was in Baltimore’s record store, Sound Garden, on Tuesday night. I was mad because I had clearly missed Wye Oak’s free performance celebrating the release of their album. When I ran into the record store they were cleaning up. I didn’t have a chance to let my head explode by my luck before I asked them,”Did you guys finish?” Jenn turned around gave me her hand and said “Yeah, we started at 7:30. I’m Jenn.”
“Hi, I’m Larissa. Yeah I had a meeting and I was really trying to make it,” I said. She had no idea that inside my head I was screaming, “Oh my god! I was just reading about you on NPR?! and like.. your photo was there! And now here you are in front of me, talking to me!” I have this problem where I get really star struck.
Anyway, I totally got a signed free poster and shook their hands and even talked to Andy about how we’re neighbors. He lives in Hampden which is less than 2 min away from me. I even pulled out some of our sweet Aphera business cards and told them I’m a fan!
Then, I bought their CD and left. Just crazy! At the same time, so completely normal. In fact I wish I had been a little more effusive! It was all happening inside my mind. I think I was outwardly a little too nonchalant.
However, the point of this post is that I bought the CD(shown above). Music in hard copy form. I have so little of that. In December George and I purchased Kanye’s Dark Twisted Fantasy on CD and played it the whole drive home from Philadelphia. The piano trill in the opener was so much crisper, the beats were crisper – the sound was awesome. Since then, I’ve made a few purchases of some of my favorite albums: Merriweather Post Pavilion, Civilian, Psyence Fiction and Radiohead’s Newspaper album, whatever that may be.
CD purchases, I encourage that. Don’t have a great argument for it but it feels good to have something to show for the music you’re listening to. And it sounds good and maybe, like in The King of Limb’s case, there is artwork included.
“They Call Me Lupe”
Call me a late bloomer, my first hip-hop album was Lupe Fiasco’s 2006 release Food & Liquor. I first heard the album in a Hopkins rented van on the way to a debate tournament. Everyone in the van was complaining about our driver’s (fellow team member’s) taste in music – “he’s always listening to ghetto rap,” they said. He was also always getting speeding tickets and getting lost. That’s not besides the point; it took us four hours to drive from Baltimore to Philadelphia and more than a few times through Food & Liquor and Kanye’s Late Registration.
Despite being primed to reject our driver’s “ghetto rap”, I thought the music was the only thing that made the miserable four-hour drive bearable. I had formed some sort of bond with this rap – like we had gone through a hardship together. When I got home, I couldn’t remember the name of anything I had listened to so I shamefully asked our driver to disclose his musical taste.
He pointed me towards Lupe Fiasco – who was at the time an emerging artist. I think I was drawn to the singer-songwriter quality of Lupe’s music. He integrated his verses skillfully into his beats samples. It was as if his verses were cradled by the music. I also fell in love with Lupe in “Hurt me Soul” – “I used to hate hip-hop… yup, because the women degraded. But Too $hort made me laugh, like a hypocrite I played it.” As former hip-hop hater, he and I bonded over this as well. And what girl doesn’t fall for that line?
Lupe got me through freshman year at Hopkins. The music felt close to home – like I was listening to a high school kid rap about skateboarding and girls. In reality Lupe is only three years older than me, but he is also a chi town conqueror. Yet, something about Lupe’s music was relatable – maybe simply because it was so personal. No one else out there was going to write those verses. They weren’t just “good” or clever, they were unique to Lupe, his life, interests, observations and grievances.
Lasers has just moved so far away from the Lupe that I fell in love with. The political verses make it sound like not only things anyone could say, but things everyone does say. The full, overproduced choruses make the music easily identifiable with everything I hear (unfortunately) at clubs and bars. Finally, the “art” seems to careless and thoughtless – his verses are no longer “cradled” by the music and the singer-songwriter quality is gone. Instead, the songs are explosions of verbal ranting interrupted by loud choruses. There is a lack of finesse and personality.
What I love about the movie There Will Be Blood (easily in my top 5), is its pairing with Radiohead’s, Johnny Greenwood’s, mournful string, eerie dissonanced soundtrack rather than jolly honky-tonk one would imagine would accompany the visuals. This obscure soundtrack kept the movie from being an archetypal cowboy western about greed and oil. Instead it became one of the greatest tellings of the downfall of grandiose ambition.
This is why I have reservations about Greenwood’s upcoming soundtrack endeavor – released this week for the Japanese film Norwegian Wood. I am not doubtful of Greenwood’s skill or the resulting musical product, only its pairing with an already batshit crazy story. I may be wrong, this may turn out to be as fruitful of a coupling as There Will Be Blood + Greenwood, but from what I remember of Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on The Shore – eerie music and equally over the top visuals can tip the scale. There Will Be Blood does not break the laws of physics or tip toe into the supernatural the way that Murakami does.
Thus, we won’t get the same unexpectedness with Murakami that we did hearing dissonance and sad violins behind a western. However, I have not read Norweigian Wood – so this criticism may be hasty.
Whatever the case, I am still unbelievably excited to see a film adaptation of a Murakami novel and to hear another Greenwood soundtrack! It seems all the good releases had to wait until this week! We have Johnny Greenwood (previews available here!), R.E.M. and Wye Oak!
Not that there’s anything wrong with relistening to Spoon Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and Gimme Fiction on a rainy Sunday but I feel it’s more out of coercion that choice. I complained to George while “I Summon You” gloomily reminded me of the “weight of the world”, that there were simply no decent recent releases!
By this time last year, I remember incessantly playing LCD, Beach House, Vampire Weekend, Yeasayer, and revisiting Passion Pit, Discovery, Metric… the list is longer! And forgive me if I’m a bit anachronistic, the point is, the array of choices didn’t force me to comb through my massive itunes library and rekindle old flames.
Today, out of boredom more than curiosity, I listened to everyone of Pitchfork’s songs on their “Playlist”. And as usual, I was disappointed with every pick except Radiohead’s “Give Up Ghost”. Pitchfork seems to be promoting this, let me quote, “twinkling, moonlit R&B protestation all made the more sensual by an anonymous, butter-dripping voice challenging a lover’s relationship with suggestive come-ons.” In other words, most of the stuff on the playlist is either really poor 90s grunge revival or this “slow-syrup” swanky lounge music. I can only imagine myself in D.C., sitting in a red velvet couch, sipping a drink, and watching a victorian chandelier twinkle above dancing people’s heads. This is not where I want good music to take me.
Good music can create various vignettes of emotional experiences, like The Knot, one of our 2009 Top Ten Albums did. Breaking my music doldrums is Wye Oak, releasing their new album on March 8, 2011. Celebrating this release, they are playing a free show at Baltimore downtown record store, The Sound Garden. Their blog announces the show to begin at 730 pm on Tue evening. Although, I’m too busy to make this show – I may skip our of my previous obligations in order to dive into a fresh music scene. Check out this album titled single!
I <3 NPR so much when they offer exclusive first listens for great bands like Wye Oak. Click for NPR’s first listen to the new album.
I could not be more excited for the new R.E.M. album. How can I even begin? R.E.M., they’re like that kid you know with the perfect resume. Everything they do wows you.
One of Radiohead’s greatest influences, producers of quality albums time and time again, unbelievable live, and Michael Stipe are just a few of R.E.M.’s finest qualities. But what may be most telling about this band is that they don’t care about stuff like credentials. “Losing my religion”, perhaps their most famous song, is about how fame can pull the ground out from underneath a band. Michael Stipe, he’s avoided losing his religion and instead become one of the greatest voices in the world.
I don’t want to read any of the many reviews out already for R.E.M.’s new album, Collapse Into Now. I’d rather come to my own conclusion regarding what the loaded title may mean. Their last album was a personal favorite, because like Plato, their metaphors seem applicable to both the self and the state. Stipe is probably often commenting on society as a whole, but I like to think Accelerate is speaking to me personally. “Living well is the best revenge” was my motto for the couple months I listened to Accelerate on repeat.
Collapse Into Now is out March 8, 2011 in the U.S.!!!
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