Monday, April 27, 2009
I must say Saturday Night was one of the most fun shows I have ever been a part of. All the Bands were so good. I knew that Nurses and Jared Mees were going to spectacular (which they were), but I had not seen Dirty Mittens in a looong time. They were so good. NE Ways...
Monday, April 27th
Valentine's is having a show with White Rainbow, Chen Santa Maria (Oakland), Dan Friel (Brooklyn) and Grandfather Claws. I really like the kind of ambient-ish drone stuff that Adam Forkner of White Rainbow makes. He generally keeps good company so this show is probably worth checking out. Plus Valentine's puts on good shows. Good FREE shows. Things are set to start sometime after 9 PM.
Birdcostumes, Totallyripped (B.C.), Sexnegatives (B.C.), Captains Daughter. It should be interesting to see what the prismatic spay is all about. All's I really know is that Bird Costumes is really cool. Check out the bird mask in his myspace pics. Classic! The show is
The Wail is the venue that took over the space that Rererato used to be. I have yet to see a show since they reopened the space so I am pretty curious. Tonight they are having a show with Totally Ripped, Sex Negatives and Why I Must Be Careful. I have seen what Why I must be careful and liked their jazzy experimental spazzy whatever music (if the guys in the band read this and are offended, please give me a better way to describe your music as I am lazy sometimes). The ALL AGES show is $6 and starts at 7 PM.
Tuesday, April 28th
Holocene is having a show with extremely hip bands Vivian Girls (Brooklyn), Abe Vigoda (LA), and Explode into Colors. I still have not seen Explode into Colors (unless you count youtube) for myself. When I was on tour I actually had people ask me if I have seen them when they learned I was from Portland. I think I should catch them while I still can. The show is $10. The doors are at 8:30 PM (be early if you want to see this show).
Ed Forman Show. The reason I list this is because Blitzen Trapper is playing it and it is FREE. It is intented to be funny. Trio and Thuggage are also set to play. Funny, I have never heard of either of them. Unless it is Trio from Da Da Da fame (that would be rad). The show, like I said is FREE. It starts at 9 PM.
Wednesday, April 29th
Holocene is having a folk show. Hipster style! That is to say that Castanets, Michael Hurley and The Old Believers are all playing. Catenets play folk in a weird way. Michael Hurley plays it so old school its cool. And Old Believers mix the old with the new (I heard they covered a T.I. song once which is of course punk as folk). But really I guess it is all just some good music. Seriously, the Old Believers release last year is soooo good. The show is $7. The doors are at 8:30 PM.
Doug Fir is having a show with Maria Taylor (LA), Whispertown 2000 (LA?), and Matt Sheehy. These are all for a lack of a better term kinda soft bands. They are all good, but y'know...it isn't gonna rock or anything. Actually, last time I saw Maria Taylor she had a little but of rock going. So I take that back. But one of the bands is called Wispertown 2000 (I have a split 7" with Jenny Lewis, its good). Matt Sheey is a songwriter. Lately he has been playing in a band form (which is totally great, I mean they have a french horn and everything), but this is a rare solo set. When he plays solo it is just him and and a guitar...and some bass pedals...and a looping thing. It is pretty cool to watch. The show is $12 and starts at 9 PM.
Laurelthirst is having the last Two Beer Veirs for a while. Again this is where Laura Veirs covers old country songs with her friends. The show is FREE. The drinks are cheap? It starts at 6 PM.
Slabtown is having a show with St. Frankie Lee, Shoeshine Blue and When the Broken Bow. St. Frankie Lee is an awesome and large band (nine peoples on my last count). They know it is takes a lot to keep the attention of an audience and therefore tend to be deliberately entertain people by engaging them with music and more. The "and more" in the past has been themed shows. They teach you about a new subject every show. But last I heard, they are working on designing sets. Crazy. This show is FREE with doors at 8 PM.
Thursday, April 30th
The Cleaners at Ace Hotel is having a benefit show for PDX Pop Now! 2009 called Make it Pop! featuring: James Mercer (The Shins), Brandon Summers (Helio Sequence), Marty Marquis (Blitzen Trapper), Ryan Sollee (The Builders and the Butchers), Loch Lomond and Dantronix. This is a crazy good line up. SO good infact that they are charging $30 a head. "Admission includes food and beverages from the likes of St. Cupcake, Bakery Bar, Artemis Catering and Captured by Porches (if you're 21+)". I am thinking I might have to go. Someone want to loan me $30? The doors are at 6:30 PM.
Backspace is also having a pretty out of control ALL AGES show too. It is with Copy, Atole, White Fang, Mega*Church and DJ Linoleum. These are some prime Portland bands. I have been wanting to see Mega*Church for a mega long time. Plus Copy rules it and White Fang rules it. I looked a bit further and it appears that this show is to help raise money for an Atole tour. It is a mere $6 and starts at 8 PM.
For whatever reason Berbati's Pan is having a FREE Graves show. The Graves are a great pop band. They can get freaky, but they remain a pop band. The FREE show starts at 10 PM.
If you are in the SE and want to stay in the SE, may I suggest you go to Twighlight Cafe and Bar and see The Timbreines, New Century Schoolbook and The Neat. New Century Schoolbook lay it down. And when I say lay it down, I mean play music that makes you want to dance around a little. It is a mere $3 and starts at 9 PM.
So Say Hi, if you see me at these rad shows. It will be cool. Or at the very least awkard.
St. Frankie Lee plays for FREE on Wenddesday. Shout out "cry me a River" See what happens.
Yeah you do! Read the Craig's listing here: Hot Topic
2. What is the first song in your iTunes alphabetically?
Mine is A-ha Take on Me.
3. Here is my current favorite youtube video:
"I'm not afraid to mess up. I keep my head up. That's what my momma taught me." -- Starla
So, we've been looking for a new drummer for a while. We posted on Craigslist that we were looking and I'm starting to think it might have been a mistake. Every no talent assclown has shown up at our practice space looking to "get their break". This one dude in particular keeps responding with new email addresses and showing up with his half ass Wal-mart drum kit and refusing to leave. I can't take it anymore. What am I supposed to do about this?
I often caution about being a dick. In general it's a bad practice. It can leave you with a bad reputation and generally screw your life up before you even notice. This particular specimen, however, deserves being yelled at. If you've told him no repeatedly and he continues to show up, he's not being persistent, he's being a douche. The fact is, he's wasting your time and keeping you guys from being able to get back to what you're supposed to be doing. Which is playing music. Not dealing with douches.
Now I don't know the particulars of what you said to your terrible tryout but if there's one thing I know it's that clear communication can resolve a great number of problems before they even mature. If you're trying out a new drummer and he can't play what you need him to, tell him clearly. Let's look at some examples.
- "You're just not what we're looking for." This is weak language. There's no reason to spare people's feelings. If they can't cut it, they can't cut it. Be direct, be honest and try not to be mean.
- "Look, honestly man. Your bongo skills are very little use to our speed metal band." Better! Direct! Remember to be specific about the reasoning behind your decisions.
- "I just don't think you'll work out." No. That's too vague. Be SPECIFIC.
- "You've been playing drums for two weeks. I don't think you can keep up with us guy." Good, good. It's harsh but honest.
- "Uhhhh, you haven't been able to keep any beat all night. I think we're gonna pass." Perfect.
So you can see it's a good idea to be forthright with these people. If a drummer can't keep a rhythm, what are they doing there? Which leads me to my next point.
In almost every situation it's a good idea to record every practice. Those random plastered moments playing reggae covers of TV on the Radio songs might lead to some serious inspiration. You never know....
This is especially true when you're trying out new folks in the band as you can listen to the session afterwords and make a well informed decision. In the case of someone who really doesn't fit the sound at all or just can't hack what you're trying to play you can play it back for them and give them examples of what you're talking about.
Now, there's a real difference between someone who doesn't fit the style and someone who just plain sucks. It's about substance and style.
- A guitarist shows up with his nylon guitar to your thrash lead tryouts
- Mr. 1980's synth player wants to be in your retro-folk trio
- Bongo Bob wants in on your electro-pop project.
- The Prog-Metal Prodigy thinks he can play country.
- The Noodler, a guitarist who can't resist soloing at inappropriate times.
- This bass player who doesn't own a bass.... ?
- A singer with really flat pipes. Flat like Florida. Flat like a table
- Bad rappers. Just really awful rappers. Oh gods, people can suck so bad at rap and not know it.
Differences always arise and the decision is yours to make. It's your band and if you don't want to play with someone it's your prerogative. I think as long as you're clear with people than you can't really be faulted for saying no. Some people just don't get though.
Leave Now Guy
I always see these parallels between dating and bands. This holds true when you're rejecting people. Some of them have been around for a while and take it all in stride. Some people will cry and whine and be extremely pathetic. Some people just get obsessed and keep signing up for new Hotmail addresses like some kind of V1A6ra spammer and won't leave you the fuck alone. Show up at your house without calling. Leave dead things on your doorstep. Don't let this turn into a news story. Nip it in the bud.
If they just don't get it you can always;
- File a restraining order: It might not be the rock and roll thing to do, but if it works for crazy ass exes, it'll work for these people.
- Yell: If it worked for your alcoholic stepfather, it'll work for you.
- Threaten them with some large blunt object: I always find that people respond well to the threat of immediate bodily harm. Sometimes the threat is all that's needed.
- Break an instrument over their heads: Of course, if they call your bluff; be prepared to cash that check you just wrote. A little time in lockup might stain your criminal history, but hey, one problem at a time.
- Hire Ninjas: You'd be surprised how many problems can be solved with the judicious application of these stealthy warriors.
- Hire Vikings: Not as subtle as the ninjas but just as effective. You may want to keep some gold on hand to pay them, though rare furs will do in a pinch.
- Punch Them In The Dick: Enough said.
Violence and yelling aren't often the solution to your problems, but in this instance I'd say a little measured aggression won't serve you wrong. Honestly, without using peoples genitals as punching bags or hiring ancient assassins to get the job done, being direct and honest with people will get the message across and hopefully spare you a recurring douche bag problem. If all else fails you, there's always a legal option. Or if you're me, you'll summon Demon Ninjas from Beyond to harass them at all times.
Legal Notice: Crappy Indie Music absolves itself of all responsibility for the use of this article up to and including the accidental punching of dicks, demonic possessions or hurt feelings.
Till next time!
Musical quandaries? Awkward situations? Keep sending me those problems folks! firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, April 24, 2009
If you are like me you get so tired. You think to yourself that you no longer wish to see live music. But let me tell you, I have yet to regret seeing a show that I wanted to see. Conversely, I have regretted not seeing many many shows that I wanted to see but convinced myself I didn't really need to go to. That being said, here are shows that I am interested in.
- Doug Fir is having a show with Jared Mees & The Grown Children, Y la Bamba, Dirty Mittens and Nurses. I know I know, I play in Y La Bamba and am somewhat bias. But I have written about all of these bands before. I have said many times that I think Nurses are really cool. I have said that Jared Mees and his Grown Children are one of the most fun bands to see live. I stand by those opinions. I hope to see you at this show because it will be so good. The show is $8 and starts at 9 PM.
- Someday Lounge i shaving a very close second best show with Joe Lally (of Fugazi), The Golden Bears and Grey Anne. I mean Grey Anne is one of my favorites too. And Fugazi? Come on, forget about it. I have not seen The Golden Bears but remember liking what I heard. The show is $8-10 and starts at 9 PM.
- The Know is having a show with Inside Voices, The Mean Jeans and Pillow Queens. This really dissapoints me because I have been trying to see Inside Voices for quite some times. They are near the top of my lists of Portland bands I wish to see. The show is FREE and starts at 8 PM.
- Krakow Cafe is having a show with Michael The Blind. So if you live in North and want to catch some good tunes at a reasonable hour (5:30 PM) I suggest you head on over. He is playing until 7 PM so I am sure he will hit all of his hits. It is FREE (I think). The cool thing about this show is that it is one of those where you can see this and then go catch another show afterwards (Am I the only one who does this sort of two show nights?). So again it starts at 5:30 PM
- Backspace is having the Failing Records compilation release party≤/a>, Palo Verde, The Metal Shakespeare Company, Southern Belle, Bark Hide and Horn. These are some good bands. And though I have not heard Palo Verde or The Metal Shakespeare Company, I love them based on names alone. The ALL AGES show is FREE and I think starts at 8 PM.
- Tiger Bar is having a show with the elusive Hello Damascus and Celilo. Hello Demascus was on a PDX Pop Now! compilation some years back and I really loved their song on it. I have been waiting to see them ever since. Unfortunately, they don't play very often (and more unfortunately, I am playing a show tonight). The show is at 9 PM.
- Rontoms is having a one of their Sunday night shows this time with Grattillium, White Hinterland and AAN. I have yet to see Gratitillium play but have met them and they all seem like good folks. Plus I dig on Nick's other music. AAN is also really good. I love what they do. It is kinda haunted folk with some cool electronic/effects pedal flourishes. The show is part FREE and starts at 9 PM.
- Valentine's s having a one of their Sunday night shows theirs with Pancake Breakfast (White Salmon, WA), Nate Ashley and Shake Speake. I have written about Pancake Breakfast and Shake Speake before. But I must admit that I really want to see Shake Speake. They are on that list I mentioned earlier of Portland bands that really want to see. Also depending on where you look Nate Allen is playing three shows tonight. This show is FREE and starts at 9 PM.
- Dunes is having an early show with Unwelcome Guests, Kelli Schaefer, Crun Pun, Nate Allen, His Name Shall Breathe . I have had the pleasure of playing shows with both Kelli Shaefer and His Name Shall Breathe and I think I am in the right when I say that they are both soooo good. Also this is another show that Nate Allen is playing tonight. The show is only $3 and starts super early at 4 PM.
So if you see me at any number of these awesome shows, please approach me and say Hi. I will be very pleased and probably tell you much I like whatever band is playing or something of the sort. It will be fun.
Kelli Scheafer is doing her thang' for FREE on Sunday afternoon/evening or whatever that time period post 4 PM is.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
I went to the show last night and had a relatively good time. Grey Anne was great (she even debuted a new song) and I got to see what good musicians A Cautionary Tale are. Plus as it turns out they were giving out their new album for FREE at the show. Crazy. But the real surprise was Sleepy Eyes of Death, the poorly named yet very good band from Seattle. They sound like the baby of M83 and Explosions in the Sky. At least that it what I remember. They had a guy in the band whose sole job was to work the fog machine and light show (there were a lot of lights). Good times. Anyway, this is what is happening tonight.
It is almost the weekend. Why not celebrate by going to see a show?
- Backspace is having a show with Amanda Richards, Amber Rubarth (Brooklyn) and Karli Fairbanks (Spokane). There is only one local. She's 'aight. I am mostly writing about this show because I think Karli Fairbanks is very good. I saw her last time she came through. Very good. The ALL AGES show is $6. The music is set to start at 8:30 PM.
- Edgefield is having a FREE show with Weinland. They have a new album out. I have heard a little bit of it. It is good. If you have a car it is probably worth the drive out to Edgefield. If you do not have a car I suggest you sit this one out as it is kinda far. The FREE show starts at 7 PM.
- The Know is having a show The Rippinest, Air War, and Extirpatients. I write about this show because I remember reading a post by Air War about how they are a wimpy metal band or something to that effect. I too play in a some what wimpy metal-ish thing so I checked it out. Pretty good. The Rippinest is pretty rock and Extirpatients is either Death Metal or Grindcore. I am not very good when it comes to heavy genres. The show is at 8 PM and is FREE.
It is the Weekend. Why not celebrate by going to see a show? I know if two that look real nice.
- Music Millennium is having an instore performance by Weinland for their new record, "Breaks in the Sun". I was at their Music Millennium Instore performance last year and it was great. Plus if you missed them on Thursday this is your second chance. It is ALL AGES and FREE and starts at 7 PM.
- Mississippi Studios is back and better than ever. They are having good shows in an area that has needed a "real" venue for awhile. Friday they have Richard Buckner and locals Dolorean playing a show. I think these two acts are top notch, for lack of a better term, Americana. I have been listening to Richard Buckner since 1998 when his brilliant album "Since" came out. His voice is so cool. Dolorean makes good records and is pleasant enough live depending on how many players they have with them (the more the better). The show is $12-14 and starts at 7 PM.
So say hi to me if you see me at any of these shows. I am the one with brown hair and a beard.
Weinland Video Review from NonStop Riot on Vimeo.
Weinland plays twice in the next two days. Nice.
Save your lecture about 'not being afraid of the Web' and economic singularity and the work of the ridiculous Jaron Lanier, because I'm going to the toys.
Does anyone remember the 808? You should, there have been enough odes to its sweet beats. How about the 303? These boxes helped make modern electronic music, both in the techno and rap world, and are rare enough these days to command hefty prices. So a few years back when Propellerhead Software released something called ReBirth, a lot of people were excited. Especially once it became free. Essentially ReBirth was a virtual suitcase, in which was mounted two 303 units for basslines or leads, and not only an 808, but a 909 as well, all topped off with some master levels and effects. It required a little virtual patching to get any useful recordables out of it, but at the very least you could just fire it up and boom, there you are, Mr. Bedroom Acid House Producer.
This leads up to a Facebook post from my friend Todd, the man behind the dearly departed MeowMeow, and brother to my even more dearly departed friend Tim.
Todd is afraid this will absolutely blow your mind: http://bit.ly/audiotool
So, it's ReBirth, as I have described before, but throw in a tone matrix, and a cubic ass-ton of emulated stomp boxes. ON A WEBPAGE. You can drag them around, reconnect, etc... ON A WEBPAGE. This is more like it. The recording and downloading of your musical creations is a work in progress, but I'm sure it will be awesome. At the very least, log on and start making some old school noise. Have fun! I wish more web pages... heck, my car loan payment page, were like this one. I wish more of the VST instruments I use to make music were this organic in interface. It's a small step in the perfect direction.
The same small steps are being taken in other places, such as the Korg DS-10, with its multiplayer support, and the various mods and hacks coming about for other platforms. Where I'd like to see all this transformation go is in the realm of collaboration. You and a few other people jamming out a couple of squoodly electro tunes on the tinny speakers of your DSs is all well and good, but honestly if I want my bandmate to sing up in Oly and I want to hear how it sounds through my Trueverb plugin here in PDX, there shouldn't be a flurry of emails and convertings. That may be an extreme example, but the point remains. I haven't checked out the online collaboration sites for a while- I was turned off by the 'latency makes us all play a measure later' methodology, but I am inspired by Audiotool to check out the current state of the matter. I believe that if more music apps look, sound, and behave in such a creative and cool way, then we will proceed in a much more direct fashion towards the kind of instant non-local participation that I'm sure we all dream about. Let's do it!
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Remember me? I am Ben I used to write about all the show that are happening in the Portland area. Then I went out for awhile. But I am back now. Looks like there are some shows that are happening this week.
It's Earth Day! See a show in Celebration.
- Roseland is having a show with Bloc Party and Menomena. I think that Bloc Party makes some pretty good songs. I think that Menomena, on the other hand, makes some pretty amazing songs. They don't play all the time so, why not try to see them when they do?
- Holocene is having a Sleepy Eyes of Death, A Cautionary Tale, and Grey Anne. It is the CD release for A Cautionary Tale, a band I know for a fact Goldie Loves. I think Grey Anne is great. There for it stands to reason that this show will be a good one. Its only$6. It starts at 9 PM.
- The Know is having a a FREE show with Stiffwiff and Neighborhood Stars. Stiffwiff is the sweet "jam" band featuring members of Graves and Carcrashlander. As I said the show is FREE. It starts at 8 PM.
- Laurelthirst Public House is having more Two Beers Veirs with Laura Veirs through April 29th. If you forgot, this is an event where she covers old country songs. Sweet.
- East Burn is having a show with John Vecchiarelli. He is a dud that I have heard and read about for some time. The show is FREE and starts at 10 PM.
So if you see me at any of these shows, please say Hi. I have been gone for a while. It would be nice to see you.
This is an example of what A Cautionary Tale will look like tonight at Holocene
Monday, April 20, 2009
I was walking through the grocery store the other day and ran into XXXX from XXXX shopping! I was so nervous, but I walked up and said hi anyway. I told him I was his biggest fan ever and gave him my demo CD. Good thing I keep some on me! He didn't really talk to me, he just sort of stared at the CD, said thanks and kept on walking. Did I do something wrong here? Why would he ignore me? I'm his biggest fan, I've been to like every show!
The answer is yes, you did do something wrong. See, the thing is, your local celebrity is a human being. I know it's sometimes hard to see, but this guy just probably just wanted to get his grocery shopping done and go home. At the risk of sounding rude, I must inform that you're being annoying. You see, the grocery store is one of those times where he just gets to be normal and boring and to someone who spends a great deal of time on stage and under the lights, it's a great relief. You just shattered his illusion that he is just a normal guy, buying food and deodorant.
It's a Job
You must realize that being in a band is a job. It's true. His role in the band is what he does for a living, even if it's not a full time job. So walking up to him in the grocery store and slobbering all over him is akin to someone walking up to you and demanding a spreadsheet of your time clock entries, or being told to make a sandwich. He's not "on the clock" right now. Don't expect him to jump up and down and thank you profusely for interrupting him while he's trying to select the right breakfast cereal. A few brief words introducing yourself, a handshake and an appreciative compliment is sufficient. Please, don't give out demos for your band or try and set up a show here in the cereal isle. If you're really interested and you think you've got a good chance to work together, feel free to give them your card and leave them in peace.
Frankly, this sort of worshipful fawning over someone at the grocery store is demeaning to you and can be very uncomfortable to the person you're worshiping. If you're really trying to impress this person with your music, act like a human being. Granted, there are people who enjopy this kind of attention and they are hollow, insecure shells and you probably belong together. If you are convinced that they will enjoy this kind of attention then don't do it halfway. Have a chorus of singers behind you, offer burned sacrifices, light candles and chant, waft incense over their body as you sing their praises. I mean really do it up. Offer them your first born child, show off that tattoo you got of their first album cover artwork, read them that tear stained poem in your back pocket you wrote in the darkest hour of your life for them. Worship them wholly and fight the police when they show up.
If you really are interested in this person that you worship so much, talk to them about food. Share a recipe, comment on the quality of their selections, amuse them with an anecdote about what they're buying. You'd be surprised by their reaction to it. A great deal of "famous" people lose the opportunity to have honest dialogue with random people and it's nice for them to not worry about being that guy on stage. When you approach someone, remember that they are a stranger. No matter how much you think you know about that person from their songs, you really don't know this person at all.
OK, Now You're Good
There are good times to drop a CD in someone's hand, or pay them more than a passing compliment on their work. A musician that just got off stage, is signing CDs or posters or is at an industry event is more than open to hearing about how much their art inspires you, makes you cry or fills your enpty life with meaning. This is the time they put aside to hear this kind of thing and interact with their fans. It's not wise to take up too much of their time still, remember you're a stranger and you don't have the right. So just play it cool, say what you want to and move on.
Please don't be offended if their is a luke warm reaction to your demo or contact information. Successful musicians deal with hundreds of people every day and if you meet them after a really long day they might not be in the best of moods. Don't be pushy, don't be rude. Just remember that they're people too and they have lives that don't involve music. Let the man shop.
Till next time!
Send me your inquiries and horror stories at email@example.com
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Thursday, April 16, 2009
The entire thing is so intimate and warm it makes me feel like Sam Beam is hitting on me while I'm sitting in front of a fireplace. He reaches over in between songs and fills my wine glass again. I reconsider my commitment to the heterosexual lifestyle as he winks subtly at me and picks up his guitar.
This brings me straight back to The Creek Drank the Cradle and falling head over heels in love with this mans voice and guitar style. It's not nearly as scratchy as earlier works (let's hear it for the cash of success!) but it still feels like a bedroom album, raw and unapologetically simple. It's good songwriting technique, filling an entire track with voice and guitar and only lending support to the song with other instrumentation.
The collection closes with "Resurrection Fern", my personal favorite track off of Shepherd's Dog and a lullaby of quiet beauty. Revisiting one of my favorite records from 2007 in it's raw state has been a great experience and I look forward to Around The Well, the upcoming collection of rare and unreleased Iron and Wine due on May 19th this year.
Available for free on Iron and Wine's website.
Released today: "The Trapeze Swinger" from the film "In Good Company"
Monday, April 13, 2009
There is no faster way to upset a musician than grabbing an instrument and playing it without permission. I am glad that you asked, but I must decline. You see, I don't know you and your breath smells like it could melt a hole in a battleship. I don't know what you're about to try and do with that guitar. Even if you posses skill, you might be inclined to play thrash metal and on my D'Addario Lights and you'll pop that low E in about ten minutes. You might want to fiddle with my amp settings and quite frankly, I'm not having it.
You say "Eriq, aren't you being kind of an ass about this? In fact, you may very well be a dick! I'm shocked." Well, I can understand and appreciate your concern. I pride myself in avoiding all manner of douchery here at Musical Etiquette. In fact, I'm here mostly to ensure that you don't participate in any kind of Weak Shit. So please, dear readers, allow me a chance to elucidate the reasoning behind my position and rest assured that by the end of this post, you won't be offended by me breaking your wrist as you paw at my nylon guitar like a drunken frat boy searching for a bra hook.
Good luck at the hospital!
Sunday, April 12, 2009
"Sunset" sounds exactly like that. Like the end of a great day, watching the sunlight wash over the edges of your life and lamenting the passing of another moment. For folks who aren't classically trained, they show a surprising depth of knowledge of tone and chord structures to convey a very specific picture. I like to know that a great deal of analytic music theory can be left by the wayside and the principles of human emotion remain easily accessible to artists.
At times it delves into the darkest mysteries of your mind, "Untitled Spaghetti Western Theme" is a brooding composition that takes what on the surface appears to be a fairly bright synth loop and weaves it seamlessly into a tapestry of drum beats just on the edge of existence. There is a halting and expectant quality across the entire record, like a finger wagging at you from a curtained doorway in the middle of the night.
It's alright, don't be afraid. Just go through the doorway and you won't be dissapointed. This lush album will treat you right. This is a painting of textures, emotions layered into one another and the sense that something great is just around the corner like Dntel's work on The Postal Service. Expectation is a very difficult concept to convey musically and Upside Down Astronaut has done an admirable job of bringing it into your eardrums. I recommend listening to this album while sitting on the edge of a cliff watching the sea fight off a storm as it approaches. It pairs nicely with dark clouds overhead and a large cup of coffee.
This gem is available at Kid Without Radio. A label I plan on keeping an eyeball pointed at. Take a listen at Upsidedown Astronaut's Myspace page.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Any decent musician has spent a huge amount of time listening to music; absorbing, reacting, analyzing and deconstructing their favorite recordings. They will have spent innumerable hours listening to their own work and the performances of others and reflecting on what they like about it. Likewise, they have an opinion about what they don't like. Taste is everything in music production. There is little doubt that what you listen to has a deep rooted influence on what you play, they are both extensions of your musical tastes and come from the same place. This is an inescapable fact of music. It doesn't mean that you can't innovate.
Derivative music is music without risk. It is the safe road, the comfortable pair of shoes. It is familiar and does not challenge the ear. Papa Roach is a perfect example of derivative music. Its actual worth as music can be debated endlessly, such things are the realm of taste but even a most ardent fan of their work must admit that there is little innovation present. Their music is a culmination of modern rock radio habits. The song structure that they employ varies by no more than 10% per song. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, out. It is a method that has evolved significantly in the last 30 years and left this particular canker sore of pop music behind. There is nothing distinctive whatsoever about this band, they pass through my ears like every other craptacular band with a Digitech pedal rig and a few bad ideas about songwriting that radio calls "modern rock".
In another sense music that, while derived from a great number of influences, fails utterly to either properly synthesize these influences or innovate upon them is just as bad. Ne-Yo is little more than a place marker sitting on top of twenty years of dull eyed, radio friendly R&B music. It is the culmination of a generation of mediocrity in soul, artists unwilling to take a risk with their sound or truly flex their vocal abilities; choosing instead to play to the least common denominator and appease the lazy listening habits of a pre-defined market. It is a grand example of the major label music form, as bland and lifeless as a bowl of cold oatmeal. The fact is, there is a great deal of room for innovation even within the context of soul music and performers like Ne-Yo fail to even recognize it's existence. If you don't believe me, go listen to Cee-Lo.
In that light there is merit to traditional forms. Soul music is becoming a tradition slowly, and it is still very young. If you want to see the progression of a traditional form that has a longer lineage look no further than bluegrass. Abigail Washburn is a banjo player of considerable skill. This is not why she stands out. Bluegrass is chock full of extremely talented pickers and the dexterity with which they play amazes me constantly. Her talent is in the arrangement of her material, her fine sense of timing and her inclusion of Chinese folk forms in her music. There are deep parallels between Celtic root and Chinese root music but I won't bore you with the technical aspects of this. Instead, look to the beauty and uniqueness of her art. One can draw a direct line between her and her influences and still, we must stand in awe of her brilliant fusion. It is what distinguishes her from so many other bluegrass musicians and it shows a deep commitment to progressing the tradition instead of keeping it locked away in a glass box to be admired from afar.
Broken Social Scene stands in as my example of truly excellent modern music. I can dissect the influences that lead into it, I can analyze the structure and it would take me far too long. It is a finely woven mesh of music, pulling from so many areas of culture that it takes in a life of it's own. It is transcendent art, recognizing it's past while embracing the future. Broken Social Scene is becoming an influence on music moving forward, which is the mark of true innovation. You could debate the relative worth of their contribution to music but one cannot escape the fact that they have made a contribution, which is more than I can say for the vast array of trite, boring crap that occupies so much of popular culture. Even within their collected recordings and side projects there is a remarkable amount of diversity and creativity. They give me hope, they make me think that I'm not doomed to listen to the same music over and over again until I die.
High quality modern music is more than the sum of it's influences. It is a unique synthesis of other musical forms but achieves far more than acting as a single point at the end of an extensive lineage. It expresses the personalities of the musicians involved and ensures that their voices come through in the song. It challenges our preconceptions of what music is capable of and keeps the lifeblood of art flowing forward. It synthesizes and improves on music we thought we knew so much about and keeps people like me from getting burned out and cynical. On occasion an entirely new form of musical expression will come along. Many times it is simply not worth listening to, a great deal of modern music theory revolves around concepts so cerebral, so disconnected from reality that it has little resemblance to an enjoyable experience. I would not presume to know the future history of musical innovation (who in the 60's could predict the rise of hip-hop?) but I can tell you one thing. Influence is no bad thing, there is a considerable amount of synthesis that has yet to be explored and music will continue to evolve. I hope we will always have artists that refuse to be derivative and take big artistic risks for the chance to make me wake up and pay attention.
Monday, April 6, 2009
There's this guy at the gas station that I'm totally crushing on ! <3 He's sooooooo HAWT and I totally don't know what to do. My BFF sez I should make him a mixtape to let him know how I feel. Should I do this or is it way too creepy?
Mixtapes are a wonderful tradition. It gives you a chance to let someone know how you feel about them with music and it can be a very special gift to receive. It's also a great way to share your musical tastes with someone you've just started seeing without an awkward romp through your record collection. Making a mixtape can be a very rewarding experience or the source of a very frustrating late night worrying about the meaning of every song and laboring over every decision you make. Relax! You're more than capable of getting through this process, you're awesome, remember?
Like most things in life a little knowledge and experience can help guide you through the darkest corridors of the dating world. Let's start out with why you're making this mix. You want to convey your emotions clearly, letting the other person know that you like them, love them or are stalking them at work.Though the goal is bold and clear, the way to achieve it is a delicate and nuanced process. You want to sketch around the space where your emotions lay and let the recipient draw the picture. If you're stalking someone, it can achieve a level of creepiness unlike anything shy of being in their house when they get home. Mixtapes are not a tool for direct communication. If that is your goal, I may recommend the spoken and written word, it has served our ancestors well in conveying concepts directly.
You are a wonderful person. Honestly if you're reading this post then you're already up in my book, you're seeking advice and being proactive! So when you're making this mixtape, I want you to express yourself as much as possible. Don't play to your beau's tastes too much. Obviously if your date only really listens to Jack Johnson and John Mayer you may want to avoid the Norwegian Black Metal tracks that remind you of them but don't choose songs solely on the basis of the other persons taste. It's OK to be different, why would you date someone that is identical to you in every way? Remember, this is a chance for them to learn more about you as well as an opportunity to express your emotions or be creepy as shit!
Don't Be A Cheap Bastard
You're not hollow are you? Then ensure that your gift has some meaning and depth to it. This is an expression of yourself, your tastes and emotions condensed into physical form not a recitation of someone else's idea of you. You may be using other people's art to express yourself but no one else can select and arrange these songs like you. Likewise the physical form of the mixtape should be a mirror of yourself. In an age of Amazon MP3 downloads and instant access to digital media, nothing says that you care like a hand made CD cover. If you prefer to use MP3s, I recommend a specially purchased USB drive that matches their tastes (a quick Google search should yield something suitable). An actual analog tape may be preferable depending on the person you're giving it to but be sure to check first, not everyone shares an obsession with archaic media. At no time is e-mailing a playlist acceptable, this is widely considered a Dick Move by experts in the field.
Balance Is Key
Keeping the mix balanced is very important. You don't want to bore them with a radio playlist and you shouldn't assume that they are interested in extremely esoteric music either. Filling a mix with Javanese Court Gamelan and Tibetan Throat Singing is appropriate for an exceptionally small fraction of the population. Likewise shuffling the track order of Britney Spears' discography might mean a better chance of recognition but shows a staggering lack of taste or care. The seriousness of the songs should keep an even balance, don't attempt to craft the greatest dramatically romantic soundtrack ever conceived but do not appear flippant and uncaring. The tempo of songs should vary as well. Mix upbeat tracks with mid-tempo and slower songs evenly without jarring the listener too harshly. Even the worst DJ in the world would balk at moving from Morphine into Yelle.
Order And Chaos
Figuring out the order of the playlist can take more time than anything else when crafting a proper mixtape. Each song is a sentence in this poem of your feelings and this is where many people get trapped. Often times the mixer is locked in their room at three in the morning, chain smoking and laboring over the placement of one song, rearranging the entire list 30 or 40 times before crying themselves to sleep in the dawn. Do not be this person! The way this plays out can be very important but remember that if you have balanced your selections out and picked out a good range of songs it can make up for many deficiencies in the arrangement of the tracks. There comes a point at which the mix is finished and it's time to let it rest. Learning the point at which this has come is the difference between a good mixtape and a legend.
Leave The Roses At Home
Romantic feelings are wonderful, they can have you flying high and smiling in one moment and digging through a stranger's garbage in the next. They are one of the largest sources of artistic creativity and expression there are. They can however be a little overwhelming if laid on too thickly. This of course depends on the situation. Making a mixtape for your spouse is a very different from a person you've been on three good dates with. Don't rush it! A mix of your favorite Whitney Houston epic love ballads is not the right thing to give that person you're just starting to stalk! You also don't want to shy away from songs that are honest about how you feel. This requires a considerable amount of good judgment, which many people lack. You're caught in the fog of hormones and emotions that cloud your judgment which is why you should:
Get An Editor
Let's face it. You're a wreck. If you're making mixtapes for a guy who you don't really know then you're probably in an unstable state and could use some advice. I can only help you so far from the Internet. What you really need is the advice of someone who knows you and the situation well to make sure you're not making a complete ass of yourself. Even the greatest mixtape artists in the world need to be checked and on occasion, checked into a psychiatric ward. Listen carefully to the advice of people who aren't completely awash in a sea of lust, they generally have clearer picture of the situation than you. For the more emotionally stable persons, I still recommend you have someone check your work and offer feedback, it can greatly improve your mixtape game.
I hope this helps you out, and keep the letters coming in!
Image: Awesome necklace from Maitreya at Craftog.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
A press release in my e-mail inbox announcing an April 2nd CD Release at Rotture was the first I’d heard of
Chores have been referred to as “pop”, but I would put them more in the category of rock \ post-punk. Repeating, guitar-driven melodies are topped by powerful female vocals, backed by men, sometimes sung and sometimes chanted, altogether reminiscent of X, Yo La Tengo, and a slight flavor of Siouxsie Sioux and the B-52’s. The first track, Welcome To The Public Hammock, has a woman speaking in French over some dreamy music – my French is not quite good enough to determine what she’s actually saying, but something regarding a hammock. The tracks after that are more straightforward, but with lots of variety. Track 2, “My Own Private Esperanto”, wins automatically just because of the title. It also happens to be a good song, with chanted vocals and several changes throughout the song, including a revisiting of the recorded French voice. Track 3, Make the world Go Away, has more powerful, belted vocals, and some references to the Internet. Track 4, Super Car, is referred to on the press kit as a song of “social import”. Maybe I’m not catching all the lyrics, but what I do know is it’s a super fun, metal-influenced (but in a good way) song about driving around in a super car. New New Deal, on the other hand, definitely is social commentary, with lyrics about working at Wal-Mart and in a
Chores are playing tonight (Thursday, April 2) at Rotture to celebrate the release of The Subtle Politics of the Public Hammock. Doors open at 8, Church plays first, Chores second, and Lesser Lewis third. The cost is $5, and if you go, you can buy their album for an additional 5. That’s a good deal.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Fred Nemo and Jef Brown by Goldie davich
1. Oh God, My Fucking Head
Even if I accept the high brow answer (ironic statements about modern culture and a dangerous aesthetic) I am left with a splitting headache and sour expression on my face after panning through this record. I can't get around it. It's a physical reaction. Was Aids Wolf going for this when they brought this concept to the studio? Are they in league with a manufacturer of anti-inflammatories? The motivation behind this is unclear to me, but one thing is clear to me. My fucking head hurts.
2. When would I actually want to listen to this?
As a listener of music I have to wonder, "When would I want to put this on?" and the only answer I can come up with is coming home from a spectacularly successful and fulfilling day and feeling some sort of guilt at my excellent mood. I would think to myself guiltily, "I haven't suffered nearly enough today. I should give myself a really good splitting headache to be miserable and angry about." I can honestly say I've never felt this way so I'm uncertain about when I'd really ever pick this up out of my musical collection as "what I need right now'. Perhaps there is a listener out there who can enlighten me as to another compelling reason to want to listen to this screeching nightmare.
3. Seriously? This is serious? Is it?
If you checked out the PDF I linked to before, you can surmise that these guys are serious about what they do.....maybe. It's a diatribe about the nature of badassery through history. Is this tongue and cheek? Is this serious work? They skirt the line between pretension and absurdity, a concept that while laudable in it's intent fails to impress with it's aesthetic. I like structure, I like melody and I like harmony. I don't think I'm alone in this and this recording lacks any sense of any of these things. This is a Dadaist interpretation of music and as much as I appreciate what the finger pointing and laughing did for the field of visual art, I don't follow any Dadaist work past the first glance because it bears no repeated interpretation. Dadaist art is much like this album, it is a one note joke pointed at modern culture. I am reminded of the Downtown Music scene pioneered by Yoko Ono/Fluxus and frankly, when Yoko Ono starts popping up in my analysis, I run the other way.
4. What's the point?
Anti-art is boring. There, I said it. I think anyone who has traveled around the art and music world enough gets to a point where they are disillusioned with the surface level, meaningless pretension and fevered egos tainting the collective unconscious. I know that I have. The way I see it is if you're sick to death of the entire bullshit, fake-ass, over commercialized hype machine that is modern culture; quit bitching about it and make something honest. Hijack the machine and bring culture back down to the ground where it belongs. Make a record that makes me stand up and pay attention. An album that makes me angry, sad, sexy, happy, wistful or fuck; anything but confused. Make me think, make me feel dammit. Don't stand in the corner laughing at the makeup ridden overproduced people chattering mindlessly at the party. Come join the real conversation over here and contribute to it.
I suppose there's people out there who like Aids Wolf and their kin. If their wasn't then their career would be short lived and from the looks of it they're actually doing pretty well. I'd love to hear from someone who's a fan and give me some context to work from. Especially if you go to this show at The Aristery. All I can say is that it was a unique experience and one I don't care to repeat. Oh yeah, and this album is fucking terrible.
Aids Wolf plays live in Portland April 2nd, 2009 at The Aristery.
$6.00 7:30 PM
4315 SE Division St
Portland, OR 97206
I was greeted with a swaggering deep rock track that blew half the cars in my neighborhood up into the air. "Laywayed" does not fuck around people. You can almost feel the power and resistance of the music, it's so thick it takes a few seconds for it to come out of the speakers. This gives way to the body of the album which feels like I'm sitting at the crossroads drinking bourbon and dropping acid with Morphine, Alice In Chains and Pink Floyd. "Maker", the title track for the record, is a haunting and intensely cerebral song that fills the space in your heart that used to hold your fear of the dark. Clocking in at damn near 13 minutes, I feel like this could go on for another half an hour and I'd still be listening. I like a band that says "fuck you" to radio friendly formatting and goes all out. The extended length makes the song, no doubt about it.
The solo work on this album pierces the gloom of this southern Gothic acid trip like the headlights of a car on a dark country night. Reading the copy from Thrill Jockey I learn that guitarist Van Carney blew out two amps during the recording session that gave us this album. This makes perfect sense as I'm watching the Richmond Fire Department try and battle the sexual blazes erupting all around my ruined neighborhood and my friends are all stripping their clothes off and getting down to "Honey". He bleeds into his guitar in every track, you can feel the sweat dripping down his chin in the tiny 12x12 studio they built to get this monster on tape and the smell of fried electronics wafting through the air. This track could seduce Leonard Cohen, it could burn a hole through your bed and make a Tibetan monk chuck the saffron and join the orgy. If you're ever feeling sexually repressed, I prescribe a healthy dose of Pontiak to get you through the night.
All in all, I say hell yes. Pick this thing up and grab a glass of bourbon, get your earthquake kit in order and crank it up.
"Maker " comes out on April 7th on Thrill Jockey Records. Be an anachronist! Buy it on the limited release (1000) vinyl! Remember kids, limited edition vinyl is worth 14 Indie Points a copy.
UPDATE: It's up for listening on Last.fm