Archive for February, 2003

Bratty egomaniacs

Thursday, February 27th, 2003

This entry won’t mean anything to you if you don’t follow pop music: here’s is a neat quote I found from Freaky Trigger, in a piece where the author is talking about a Holly Valance song: “If I were a parent I’d be more worried about my kids liking this than liking Eminem (though even more worried if they didn’t like either).” Even better is this quote, stolen from the same article, this time where the author’s writing about Jennifer Lopez’s “Jenny From the Block”:

J-Lo’s calm, plainly pretty vocals are a real asset here cause the lack of inflection means you don’t really have to concentrate on the words she’s singing. Which are absurd certainly but sound much better if they’re just a hopscotch butterscotch nursery rhyme flowing over your forebrain and leaving no imprint. She’s not even being too dishonest – to have got where she is the original J from the B probably had to be a bratty egomaniac, rocks or no.

Extreme metal is good shit

Wednesday, February 26th, 2003

Strangely, I’ve been listening almost exclusively to extreme metal (mostly Dillinger Escape Plan and Cephalic Carnage) and the Cowboy Junkies (mostly Pale Sun, Crescent Moon, Lay It Down, and Black Eyed Man) lately. I found five (count ‘em) Cowboy Junkies albums and a Cephalic Carnage album in the used bin at the local CD store, which was really great. I also saw a copy of Krakatoa’s Togetherness there today, which absolutely shocked me. That’s a pretty rare find anywhere, and I certainly wouldn’t expect to randomly see it in a used bin somewhere. So anyone near New Haven, take note and get thy ass over to Cutler’s!

I’m finding that listening to extreme metal, for me, is almost like listening to ambient music. That is, I can either let it play in the background, and because it’s so consistently loud and fast and aggressive, it’s pretty easy to tune out and it turns into white noise (good for studying, for example); or I can listen to it actively, and there’s so much going on that there’s plenty to keep me occupied. This is a pretty cool trait of the music, I think; and maybe it’s not as weird as it first sounds, given the occasional affinity between the ambient and noise genres and some genres of metal.

So Massive Attack is doing some of the soundtrack for the new Matrix film, eh. It better be something a bit more aggressive than 100th Window. I don’t remember anything about the music for the first film, except for “Wake Up” by Rage Against the Machine at the end, which I thought was an entirely appropriate and bad-ass placement of that song.

I hate ELP because ELP sucks

Wednesday, February 12th, 2003

The new Massive Attack is a little disappointing, at least on first listen. I’m still itching to hear their collaboration with Mos Def.

There’s a pretty fascinating discussion over at ProgressiveEars about how younger prog fans tend to dislike ELP even if they dig the other big-name “classic” prog bands. Obviously, I’m included in this category (although I also have reservations about Genesis and I’m not so big a fan of Jethro Tull, more by lack of experience than anything else). There are some interesting theories about why this is. Sean says the ELP has just aged far less gracefully than the other “classic” prog bands, and presumably aren’t helped on by the subpar lyrics and vocals and Emerson’s “self-important” adaptions of classical themes. The ever-predictable L.Perez thinks it’s just a conspiracy of young, stupid prog fans combined with avant-snobs, and that ELP-bashing is trendy.

In the end, I dislike ELP for a lot of reasons, but chief among them is the fact that while other prog bands tempered their pomposity and, urgh, pretentiousness (I fucking hate using that word in this context), ELP didn’t bother. And so now it just sounds kind of silly. Besides, I really hate keyboards when they’re used Emerson-style, probably because that kind of sound just comes off as absurdly dated.

I’m not entirely happy with this explanation. More power to those listeners that can transcend the datedness of this music. Regardless, I really can’t stand ELP, period end of story.

Yale Percussion Group puts on a fun show

Sunday, February 9th, 2003

Being sick is a pain in the ass. Last Wednesday I was supposed to go to the Dismemberment Plan show at the Bowery Ballroom - one of my favorite bands on their last tour at a great venue - but I was too sick to make it. Fuckin’ A. On the upside, the group has indicated on their website that although they won’t be recording anymore, they might hang around long enough to play a few more live shows. I hope so. Although I have to say, it’s a little tough to motivate myself to go see them now, despite how much I love them, since I’ve seen them three times and they haven’t written (or played live, to my knowledge) anything new since the last two.

I made up for it a little bit by seeing the Yale Percussion Group on Friday. This is a group of School of Music grad students banging on shit. They’re pretty cool; although I could only stay for the first half, they did a Ligeti piano etude arranged for two marimbas that was pretty cool, John Cage’s “Third Construction” (which I saw them perform a couple years ago - it was as fucking awesome this time as it was then), and a really interesting piece called “Village Burial With Fire” by James Wood. They closed the concert with a Bartók piece, but I didn’t get to see it.

Best used finds I’ve had in a while - Whatever You Love, You Are by the Dirty Three and Pale Sun, Crecent Moon by the Cowboy Junkies.

“Cleansing” music

Monday, February 3rd, 2003

The Best Song Ever Right Now: Beck, “The Golden Age”.

I’ve had this urge lately to make a list of music that I would describe as “cleansing”. I think this would be a totally useless list, except for the interesting connotations that I clearly ascribe towards the word. Hmm:

  • Avant Garden - the entirety of Maelstrom
  • Godspeed You Black Emperor! - I dunno, a lot of stuff
  • King Crimson - “Starless”
  • Mogwai - “Mogwai Fear Satan”
  • NeBeLNeST - “Nova Express”
  • Pink Floyd - “Echoes”
  • Sigur Rós - “Popplagið”
  • Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - “Sleepytime”
  • Uzva - “Drontti”

Obviously it’s something to do with lots of noise with melodies hidden inside, or long tension-and-releases, but I think it’s more complicated than that too, given the inclusion of some jams etc…

The cynical genius of Shania Twain

Saturday, February 1st, 2003

A few weeks ago I bought a copy of Shania Twain’s new album, Up!, for two reasons: it was on sale new for nine bucks, and I was curious about this concept of selling two versions of the same album, one “pop” and one “country”. For those of you who don’t pay any attention to popular music, Up! is a two-disc set - both discs contain the same 19 songs, but one is mixed as a pop album and one is mixed as a country album. I was rather disappointed to hear that they’re not really substantially different: the country disc replaces some synths and electric guitars with banjos and shit. But the vocals on both discs are exactly the same; only the backing instruments are changed. That’s weak, man. It’s also kind of a cynical statement on the part of Shania and producer/husband Mutt Lange on how close they think “country” music is to pop these days.

How about the music itself? I was thinking about writing about it, but then I read the (rather overly lengthy) review at The War Against Silence, and dude - those are exactly my thoughts. So no need. The best line? “Up! requires no preparation or acclimation, and rewards no dedication, unless you count getting the fold-out poster off the booklet staples.”

I will say this, though: whoever writes Shania’s songs (does she write her own? probably at least some of them, I’d guess) is a fucking genius in his or her own way. The album is so full of ridiculously catchy melodic hooks that it’s, well, ridiculous. Practically every song has two or three melodies that are somehow instantly appealing on some base level. No wonder she’s one of the top-selling artists in the past decade. Of course, there’s nothing there past the hooks, but I guess sometimes that’s enough.

Should I get an iPod?

Saturday, February 1st, 2003

And here’s an interesting musing about iPods from that same site. My brother got one of those things, although one of the 5GB models. It’s pretty sweet. I think I’d love to have one, if I had the cash to spare, but the thought of how much my listening habits would change is actually a big deterrent. Besides, making the transition from CDs to MP3s would be a big pain in the ass, even though I’m partially doing it already since I bought a CD/MP3 player for Christmas.

I have plenty more thoughts on this, but not right now.