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Saturday, September 30, 2006

(Announcement) Introducing

Attention all CITB!!! readers! (All 3 of you)

Come January 2007, I will have launched a new website that will essentially be Cale is the Balls!!! plus a whole bunch of other cool stuff that is related to all things media! But I need your help!

You see, I don't have a name for this swanky new site, and I need to get one set before I begin designing the site. If anyone has any ideas, please comment on this post or email me. Thanks!


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Friday, September 29, 2006

(Music) Emily Haines: "Knives Don't Have Your Back"

Any diehard Metric fan who is desperately searching for some new Metric-ness from Emily Haine's first solo album, "Knives Don't Have Your Back," should turn away and pretend this album doesn't exist. Honestly, "Knives Don't Have Your Back" is many things. But it is not a Metric album and with the exception of Haine's always-beautiful voice, there is nothing here that would even hint that this woman is partly responsible for the indie-rock sensation that is Metric.

No, this album is far different than anything we've heard from Emily before, and though it could potentially turn away many of her fans, a thoughtful listen will reveal the beauty of "Knives Don't Have Your Back."

Let's run through this real quick. Piano? Check. Emily's vocals? Check. Drums, guitars, and other instrumentations? *crickets* Cleverness aside, that's essentially what this album is; Emily playing the piano and singing. Sure, there's an occasional percussion track here and there and a hint of bass guitar or two, but for the most part, it's as simple as Emily on piano. The surprise here is that it actually works, and I can't imagine this album being a success in any other form than it is.

Emily's lyrics have been a bit personal from time to time, but she really opens up on "Knives..."

Take for example, "Numb is the new high, old memories die out 'til nothing and nowhere is golden" which is immensely more poignant and touching than any Metric song has ever been. But fans of Emily's biting style of social commentary will have no problem with this album, either. Having never shied away from telling it like it is, Emily comes off as brilliant with a line like "We don't know how to help. Only know how to hump," and even though it's presented in a manner that is the exact opposite of Metric, it's the same Emily Haines that Metric fans have come to love.

Enough on the lyrics. As I stated before, this album is really just Emily on piano. The thing is, with such great lyrics flowing through the heart of every song, the omission of a band really makes these songs all the more powerful and touching. It adds a bit of vulnerability to a woman who we've only seen rocking out with a bunch of boys. It's personal, amazingly personal, and Haines is really allowing herself to be vulnerable. But beyond that, there is actually some great music here, albeit toned-down and somewhat simplistic.

As a fan of Metric, and now of Haines, herself, I have to say that I was initially disappointed with "Knives Don't Have Your Back." It is definitely not a Metric album. But what it is, is beautiful, touching, personal, and, at times, heartbreaking. Any fan of Emily Haines' lyrical stylings should definitely check out this album. Although I can't see myself making this album a priority for months to come, I can definitely foresee it getting multiple plays in my stereo, if only as a soundtrack to the winding down of my days.

Recommended for fans of Tori Amos, Metric, and anyone who really wants to know all about the inner workings of Emily Haines.

Key Tracks:
1. "Our Hell"
2. "Doctor Blind"
3. "The Lottery"
4. "The Maid Needs a Maid"

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Friday, September 22, 2006

(Music) Of Montreal: "Satanic Twins"

I don't know why, and I suppose I never will, but there will always be a market for remix albums. In theory, the whole idea of a remix album doesn't make much sense. When songs are released, they are thought to have reached their fullest potential, never to be outdone or enhanced. Never to miss out on a single penny, however, record labels still insist on pushing these albums out at an entirely unacceptable rate even though they are, at their very nature, mediocre. This brings me to "Satanic Twins" by my absolute favorite band, Of Montreal.

As the name would hint, "Satanic Twins" is made up of 12 remixes of songs from their two latest albums "Satanic Panic in the Attic" and "The Sunlandic Twins." Any resemblance to the songs' electro-pop roots, though, is sadly missing. In fact, with the exception of "Forecast Fascist Future," these songs are barely listenable. What has been done on this record is not only a travesty to Of Montreal, but also to the devoted fans who will purchase it. Fortunately, however, "Satanic Twins" has only been released in limited edition vinyl, so the chances of this being anyone's first encounter with the band are slim.

It has always been my opinion that remix albums should not exist unless they offer a new perspective on a song without completely crippling the original's spirit. "Romance, Bloody Romance" by Death From Above 1979, for example, offered a unique twist on the band's signature sound, and it worked. Unfortunately, "Satanic Twins" butchers these songs to the extent that they don't even sound like Of Montreal anymore. Even for the hardcore Of Montreal fans, like myself, who thoroughly enjoy their older, more-difficult, indie pop sound, this record just comes off as too difficult and too blasphemous to accept as a legitimate addition to the Of Montreal collection.

To Of Montreal fans, by all means, check it out. For everyone else, this album doesn't exist...

Recommended for Of Montreal fans, but only those who are desperately seeking for a reason to hate the band (Note: This can be can be accomplished by pretending that this is not a remix album, but a brand new Of Montreal album).

Key Tracks:
1. "Forecast Fascist Future"
2. "My British Tour Diary"
3. "The Party's Crashing Us"

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

(Music News) "Hissing Fauna..." Leaked

According to this entry on Wikipedia, Of Montreal's upcoming album, "Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?" has been leaked to file-sharing sites as of September 7th. This surprises me a whole lot because the album wasn't even scheduled to come out until next year. I did some searching though, and I was able to find the supposed leak fully available on the BitTorrent client.

If you're into illegally downloading music, check it out. Keep in mind though that this was leaked more than 4 months before the album is scheduled to release, so the odds of the final version differing are extremely high.

In other words, buy it when it comes out. It's almost sure to be awesome.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

(Music) The Mars Volta: "Amputechture"

When I first heard The Mars Volta back in 2003, I was instantly captivated by their intense progressions, diverse musicality, and amazing talent. As such, I was equally as delighted when "Frances the Mute" was released in early 2005. "Frances the Mute" was an incredible album by almost all accounts, but it was one that couldn't be listened to in small doses. It literally would not work if you just wanted to hear a song or two or say to your friend "Hey, check out this song!" It simply was not that kind of an album, that was the way The Mars Volta intended it to be, and, at least to me, it worked in that light. "Amputechture" is a very different story, however, and it seems that in many instances, The Mars Volta just got a bit lazy on this one.

Take, for example, "Tetragrammaton," a song that clocks in at over 16 minutes. But why? I've heard many hardcore Mars Volta fans describe this track as epic, but is it really? In my mind, it just seems to be long, for the sake of being long. In fact, at around 4:50 into this song, the musically literally stops for a split second and then picks back up again with a completely different progression and melody! It sounds as if you didn't like the song you were listening to, and you changed tracks. But this isn't what happened at all. What it sound like to me is that The Mars Volta liked both parts of the song but didn't feel like making a nice transition to accompany the change. It's not just an exaggeration, it's awful, it sounds lazy, and it completely ruins any momentum that the song has going for it.

It'd be one thing if this was a one-time occurrence, but this supposed laziness is all over the place. On "Day of the Baphomets," The Mars Volta again stops the song at about 4:35 and then comes in with a completely different song on the same track. What's worse, however, is that unlike "Tetragrammaton," this is literally a song change and the musical theme from the first part never actually appears again. It is a 100%, true song change, and nothing less. Why then does The Mars Volta leave it on one track then? Well, as I stated earlier, it really seems as if the band is trying to make songs long for the sake of being long. Sure, this could always be argued, but it is very apparent on "Amputechture" and it's one of the album's biggest drawbacks.

One more thing on the laziness note, neither "Meaccamputecture" nor "Viscera Eyes" have endings. It's just runs into the next track. No ending, no transition, just a track change.

Moving on, I really need to point out that there is some amazing stuff on this album. There are times when the riff is so amazing, or Cedric's melody is so dumbfounding, that you really just have to listen to it and be amazed. All of "Meccamputechture," for example, is thrilling, and is really the only song that utilizes all of it's time to the fullest extent. In addition, most of the 5-minute noise solo's (or "ambiance" as some would say) has been removed from "Amputechture," and when it is used it feels much more necessary than it did on "Frances the Mute. "

This is by far The Mars Volta's lightest album, though light for The Mars Volta is not saying much. Still, songs like "Vicarious Atonement" or "Asilos Magdalena" really show a "softer side" (please forgive the phrase) to the band that, with the exception of "Televators" from "De-Loused in the Comatorium," has been missing completely from their works.

"Amputechture" is really a mixed-bag for Mars Volta fans, and new listeners alike. I don't want to give the impression that it is a bad album, because for the most part, it's a really good album. Unfortunately, it's not that good of a Mars Volta album. "Amputechture" could very well be considered middle ground between their first two LPs. For most of the album, you'll be listening to stuff that is very similar to their previous works. There are incomprehensible lyrics, brushes with greatness, a lot of "falling apart," amazing displays of talent, and, of course, the obligatory radio-friendly song ("Vermicide"). In that light, "Amputechture" should be seen as a good album, but a failure for The Mars Volta and a disappointment for their fans. Simply put, there is nothing new that is brought to the table here, and what is will wear thin on its listeners very very quickly.

Recommended for fans of The Mars Volta, but only those who are uncomfortable with change, and would much rather listen to the same ol' formula over and over and over again for ludicrous amounts of time.

Key Tracks:
1. "Tetragrammaton"
2. "Meccamputechture"
3. "Viscera Eyes"

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(Live Music) Sufjan Stevens

Okay everyone. It's time for a mathematical equation.

1 trombone player
2 trumpet players
1 drummer
4 violinists
2 cellists
1 guitar/bass player
1 Shara Worden on chimes, tambourine, triangle, grand piano, bass, guitar and vocals.
+1 Sufjan Stevens on grand piano, banjo, acoustic guitars, bells, and sweet vocals

If you do the math correctly, you'll get the only possible answer: music.

Sufjan Stevens is music!

I've been to my share of concerts in my time, some that I consider to be amazing. Of Montreal, Mars Volta, Blindside, and Incubus all stand out in my mind as some of the greatest shows ever! But now, they don't really seem to matter all that much. The reason is because Sufjan Stevens live is the most amazing musical experience I have ever taken part in! This isn't just because I'm a huge Sufjan fan, or that he's my absolute favorite musician ever! No, as it turns out, Sufjan Stevens live isn't just a silly show, it's an experience! It's like going to see an orchestra or an opera. It's majestic, it's beautiful, and it's entirely unforgettable!

So how did Sufjan commemorate his first real visit to the lone star state? Surprisingly, by not playing a lot of songs from "Illinois." In fact, he did 5 songs from "Seven Swans," one song from "Michigan," 4 songs from "Illinois," and two songs about birds, including one of my personal favorites "Lord God Bird." Going into the show, I definitely didn't expect any song from "Seven Swans" to be on the set list, but I'm glad I was wrong. These songs were more beautiful than they've ever been before, now with full instrumentation.

I don't think I can even begin to do this show justice. It literally was an amazing experience. All I have to say is, if you get an opportunity to see Sufjan Stevens live, do it! Even if you don't like him, do it! You will never forget it.

Key Performances:
1. "Seven Swans"
2. "Chicago"
3. "Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head"

5 out of 5 Stars

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(Live Music) My Brightest Diamond

I have a new hero. Her name is Shara Worden.

Long have I considered this girl to be the cutest person in the world and it was only recently that I added her to my list of favorite female vocalists, but now I'd also like to go ahead and add her to my list of "all-time coolest people." Why? She just doesn't care about what you think about her. Not in the kinda way where she'll go fornicate with 12 males and then kill a hobo in cold blood, but in the kind of way that she can perform "Freak Out," a song that relies heavily on drums and bass to make it bearable, and perform it without drums and bass while dancing around like a complete fool. I don't know of many people who enjoyed this part of the performance, but I loved it. I was cracking up the whole time.

My only complaint about My Brightest Diamond live is that she chose to do the first 4 or 5 songs of her set without drums and bass, although I'm beginning to think that the drummer may have been hit with a terrible case of diarrhea just before they took the stage and she chose to go ahead without him. When the whole band was assembled though, dang! "Something of an End" was much more powerful live than it is on the album (surprisingly) and "Workhorse" was by far one of the most amazing live performances I've yet to see in my life. One thing is for sure, Shara Worden is a talented individual!

It felt pretty awkward to be the only one at the concert who was familiar with her music, but I kinda felt special because of that. That being said, she didn't perform "Magic Rabbit," probably my second-favorite song on her album. But that's okay, because she did perform "Golden Star" perfectly, perhaps beyond perfect. Whatever that means.

Like I said, any brewing obsession with My Brightest Diamond has now been solidified within me. Shara Worden is great, and I can't wait to check her out the next time she comes back to Texas!

Key Performances:
1. "Something of an End"
2. "Workhorse"
3. "Golden Star"

4 out of 5 Stars

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Monday, September 11, 2006

(Music) First Impression - The Decemberists: "The Crane Wife"


It's a word that can mean many things, depending on the context in which it is used. As of right now, I'm not sure what it means right now. I just finished listening to The Decemberists' upcoming album "The Crane Wife" and I must say that I am impressed.

For their first 3 albums, The Decemberists put their albums out on the Kill Rock Stars label. Now that they are rock stars, they switched over to Capitol and every change you would expect a band like The Decemberists to make with a major label debut have happened. Long gone are the crazy sailor songs, or songs about uncles holding their entrails in their hands. "The Crane Wife" is a much more audience friendly album, but that's not to say it's bad. In fact. I'm gonna go ahead and say that this is their best album to date!

The reason for this is simple: it's accessible. Whereas their first three albums contained some great songs, each album seemed like it was more of a vessel for 2 or three songs than a complete work. This problem has been solved this time around. These songs are great. It's pop rock done Decemberists style, and I couldn't be happier.

Look out for a full review when the album releases next month!

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

(Music) August In Review

Seven music reviews in one month! I do believe that is a record. It's not that I was with a lack of things to do, or that school wasn't starting back up. There was just a lot of music released in August that I felt was worth reviewing. There were also a few albums that just didn't make the cut (Pharell, The Roots), primarily because I wasn't too into them. But that's okay. I got through a lot in August, and I feel rather accomplished!

The month began rather slowly, so I spent my time at the movie theater, catching up on a bunch of movies. Once Cursive released their newest album, though, the month took off! It was followed, rather poorly, by both Paris Hilton and Christina Aguilera who released rather mediocre albums. One reader was pretty upset that I gave both ladies 2 out of 5 Stars. He apparently thought that Christina deserved more, simply because she has more talent. My response to this is that Paris Hilton's album is like Snakes on a Plane. It has novelty value in that it is something so awful that it can be enjoyed. Don't get me wrong, I really wanted to give "Paris" a 1 out of 5 Stars, but it just didn't happen. Anyways, I digress.

A little trip by the Asthmatic Kitty website led to my discovery of My Brightest Diamond, and my now-apparent infatuation with Shara Worden. If you still haven't heard "Bring Me the Workhorse" yet, go check it out now! This album is fantastic! Two less-fantastic albums were Hellogoodbye's debut and ex-Sixpence None the Richer front-woman Leigh Nash's "Blue on Blue." Sure, they weren't Paris or Christina bad, but they weren't exactly Worden-quality either. One of the most pleasant surprises of the month was definitely Headlight's debut album "Kill Them With Kindness" which I received as a free gift from Under the Radar Magazine for renewing my subscription! This one is another "must-listen!!"

It was a great month! September looks as if it will be rather slow for me. There are a few major-label releases coming out, but besides Justin Timberlake and John Mayer, I don't anticipate reviewing anything. Look out for my full review on The Mars Volta's new album, which drops on September 12th, and be sure to check out the consequent raping it gets from the TMV fanboys on who will be upset that it doesn't get 5 stars from me (which isn't set in stone yet). It'll be a slow month. Take the time to catch up on all the great music from August!

August Rankings:

1. My Brightest Diamond: "Bring Me the Workhorse"
2. Cursive: "Happy Hollow"
3. Headlights: "Kill Them With Kindness"
4. Hellogoodbye: "Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs!"
5. Leigh Nash: "Blue on Blue"
6. Christina Aguilera: "Back to Basics"
7. Paris Hilton: "Paris"

3.29 out of 5 Stars

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Friday, September 01, 2006

(Music) Headlights: "Kill Them With Kindness"

You know that part in an album, any album, where about halfway through you begin to tire of the music you are listening to? I'm not saying that the music is necessarily bad, or even that you are bored with the album, but inevitably, every album has a moment in which the music seems to dwell quietly in the back of your mind. You lose focus. You momentarily tune it out, only to come back to it later. Essentially, you are not paying as much attention to the album as you were when you first listened to it. You know that part?

Forget about it!

That's pretty much what Headlights is saying with their debut album "Kill Them With Kindness." What begins as a nice, overwhelmingly lush, atmospheric, indie pop-rock album suddenly transforms itself into a sunny-pop album along the lines of Rooney or The Most Serene Republic. Though you might question whether or not the song "Lions" is the same band that's playing the song "Pity City," ultimately Headlights maintains a pretty solid sound throughout the album, satifying any doubts you may or may not have.

At first listen, I was a bit unconvinced. Headlights didn't sound as if it differentiated itself from the current overflow of indie rock out there, but I gave it another listen, which soon turned into listen after listen after listen. Quite simply, I can't stop. The songs on this album range from the beautiful ("Songy Darko") to the fun ("Hi-Ya!") and, more often than not, somewhere in between these two sentiments ("Owl Eyes"). In every aspect of the phrase, "Kill Them With Kindness" is a blast!

I recently read another review on this album from a pretty respected website that reviewed the album fairly poorly, based largely on the album's diversity and purported "lack of focus." I disagree entirely. Diverse, sure, but Headlights maintains its focus throughout the album, never sounding like they can't decide what kind of music they want to play. This isn't Fountains of Wayne's "Welcome Interstate Managers," arguably the most unfocused album of all time with country, punk, rock, and pop all on one album (which the aformentioned website gave a higher rating than "KTWK," by the way). No, Headlights has managed to craft a delicious little indie-rock gem. "Kill Them With Kindness" is one of the most refreshing albums to come out in 2006, and one of the freshest debuts of recent memory. Keep an eye out for these guys.

Recommended for fans of Rooney, The Most Serene Republic, Rogue Wave, Rilo Kiley, and anyone who is interested in hearing one of the best indie-rock albums of the year.

Key Tracks:
1. "Put Us Back Together Right"
2. "Songy Darko"
3. "Owl Eyes"
4. " Lions"
5. "Hi-Ya!"

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(Television) 2006 MTV Video Music Awards

I haven't seen a music video on MTV in quite some time. I believe the last time this phenomenon occured was sometime in May at 4:30 am. It saw "Kick Push" by Lupe Fiasco. I think if you're in the mood for a good music video nowadays, you have to set your alarm to some equally ludicrous hour of the morning. Of course, there's always TRL, but that show has more or less become an outlet for all the Top 40 nonsense that billion dollar record labels can throw at you. A few weeks back, when MTV announced the nominations for the awards, I laughed quite heartily. Having Shakira and Panic at the Disco sharing a nomination for the top honors at the show was nothing short of humorous, but thus is the current state of MTV and, in turn, pop culture.

That being said, the only thing good about the awards this year was that MTV decided against having the show in Miami for the third year in a row. Returning to Radio City Music Hall was a much needed return to sanity for pretty much everyone. That's about it though. Jack Black was surprisingly dull, though not as dull as Jack White, who was so drastically numb that Black's joke regarding their names was completely wasted. Way to play along, ass! Possibly the funniest moment of the night was Sarah Silverman, even though her minute-long act was so toned down for censors that it didn't even come off as hysterical as it should have. Then you have the Jackass clowns persistently bag-tagging one another, because everyone knows that if you can't be funny, you can at least fake funny by hitting a man in his privates! Oh, how fresh!

The award for most unnecessary presenter of the evening goes to Pink who just had to sing "Mr. President, did you not get enough attention as a kid?" OH SNAP!! Did she really go there? That is so aweseome!!!! It just goes to show, if you can't make decent music, you can always make music that bashes the president, and stupid people will eat it up like it's the hottest crap to ever flow from a human's mouth (enter Pink, Eminem, Green Day, Madonna, Rolling Stones, etc.). The coolest performance of the night goes to OK Go with a spot-on rendition of their video for "Here we go again." Honestly, I wouldn't have a problem with these guys being the saviors of pop music. They seem to have what it takes to break away from stereotypes and label confines, until of course the flood of copycats comes in. The Raconteurs, by the way, were an excellent house band, and the idea of a house band should be carried out in future shows.

By far, the greatest moment of the night is when "Sixx," an unknown audience member rushed the stage and stole the microphone from Jennifer Lopez. Unplanned and classic, Six is, as Jack Black said, "the new Soy Bomb."

The Awards:

Best Moment:
Sixx Rushing the Stage

Most Unnecessary Moment:
Axl Rose, existing.

Best Presenter:
K.G. as a Black Eyed Pea

Worst Presenter:

Best Performance:

Worst Performance:
Missy Elliot, sorry Missy.

Most Deserving Winner:
Chamillionaire, Best Rap Video...H-Town!!

Least Deserving Winner:
Beyonce, Best R&B Video. I don't care how you spin it, "Check On It" is not R&B.

Funniest Moment:
Sarah Silverman

Least Funny Moment:
Al Gore, preaching about global warming

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